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Resurrection or Kingdom of God?

I have just begun an intensive reading of liberation theologians and, in particular, Jon Sobrino. From time to time I will post interesting/provocative passages or ideas I find. Here’s one:

In this passage in Jesus the Liberator, Sobrino looks at two “all-embracing” realities which could function as the ultimate, eschatological reality for faith and the governing center for theology: the Kingdom of God and the resurrection. After providing a number of affirmations of how the resurrection could fulfill this role (and the resurrection as an eschatological reality will, of course, be central in Christ the Liberator), he nevertheless  concludes:

If Jesus’ resurrection is to function as the ultimate for a theology [of liberation], an immense interpretative effort is clearly needed, which is not necessary if the ultimate is the Kingdom of God. The resurrection of itself possesses great power for expressing the ultimate meaning of history, final utopia, radical hope, but it does not possess so much power for showing how we have to live now in history and guide it toward utopia.

Furthermore, as happens with any symbol of the ultimate one chooses – including that of the Kingdom of God – the resurrection also has its limitations and dangers, not maybe as a pure concept, but in practice. There is no need to be shocked by these words, since anything we human beings touch, however good and holy – prayer, the struggle for justice, the very idea of God – is subject to our limitation and concupiscence. So history shows that a precipitate and one-sided penchant for the resurrection can and usually does encourage an individualism without a people, a hope without praxis, an enthusiasm without a following of Jesus: in short, a transcendence without history, a God without a Kingdom…Liberation theology is particularly sensitive to this danger.

All this has to be understood correctly. Of course I am not saying that Jesus’ resurrection is not a central reality for faith and for theology, and liberation theology in fact gives it the greatest importance and uses it as an expression of the ultimate. Jose Miranda criticizes Marx precisely on the basis of the resurrection, accusing him of not daring to conceive a transformation of reality that goes so far as to include ‘the resurrection of the dead.’ All I am trying to say is that Jesus’ resurrection is not considered as apt a reality as the Kingdom of God for featuring as the ultimate and organizing and ranking the whole of faith and theology. The resurrection will be very much taken into account, but from within something more all-embracing, the Kingdom of God.

Jon Sobrino, Jesus the Liberator, 124-125

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  1. myles
    June 25, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Does Sobrino see the resurrection working in excess to ‘kingdom’? The reason I ask is that there’s the temptation in this passage, I think, to empty ‘resurrection’ into ‘kingdom’, such that there is nothing but what is kingdom, and that, within ‘time’, such that the eschatological fulfillment of kingdom is simply that which is possible from within time.

    • Todd Walatka
      June 26, 2010 at 12:26 pm

      The last line of the quote would indicate that the resurrection is understood within and not beyond the Kingdom. Nevertheless, I do not think that the Kingdom is simply the perfection of history within time. This is clear particularly in Christ the Liberator when Sobrino talks about hope for justice for the victims of this world – including dead victims. His emphasis is on building the Kingdom and raising the crucified from the cross in this world (the language of utopia), but full Christian hope goes beyond this.

  2. Elizabeth
    June 28, 2010 at 3:26 am

    I think it might have helped Sobrino’s case if he could have found a way, ultimately and ideally, to speak of resurrection and kingdom in non-contrastive terms. It is understandable that he particularly underscores the kingdom in light of the Christian tradition’s near-exclusive and rather self-satisfied emphasis on the resurrection, and its concomitant myopia regarding the social and political ramifications of true Christian hope in God’s action in history. However, to articulate the issue of final realities, as an either-or, at least in this passage, will ultimately make things more one-sided than they should be, I think. Perhaps the best thing that we can say is that resurrection and kingdom are two categories which we don’t really understand but which we have been given the promise of in revelation, and they must go together to interpret each other mutually, to show the fullness of God’s final action and humanity’s call to responsibility in history. The kingdom may, in some sense, be a _broader_ category than the resurrection (I guess in the sense that it includes more possible content and seems helpful for calling humans to action?), but it seems that we’ll miss the boat on the depth and mystery of the kingdom if we in any way de-emphasize the resurrection thereby. They should be understood together as part of the fullness of God’s gracious action for a humanity that needs to respond.

    • Todd Walatka
      June 28, 2010 at 8:24 am

      Elizabeth,

      I think you are absolutely right. As I begin to re-read Christ the Liberator I am going to have this quote from JL and all of the questions it raises in mind. In the end, I think the Kingdom is seen as more ultimate for Sobrino for two reasons: 1) it is the direct aim of Jesus’ life and preaching; 2) it has an inherently concrete, this-worldly signficance.
      I posted this passage because it is so provocative. As I noted in the introduction, the further context does point to the value of the resurrection as ‘ultimate’ and I am sure that CL will provide further balance. It will still be interesting to see, however, how much actual content ‘resurrection’ adds to his account of the Kingdom.

  1. June 27, 2010 at 11:06 am

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