I was hugely looking forward to this module – thinking through in a rigorous academic context how the Bible speaks to contemporary culture and can bring about social and political transformation. I brought in some ideas that I was aware of but not really fully up to speed on, like liberation theology, it was an excuse to read some Christian Marxists and Anarchists and looked in more detail at ideas like Jubilee that I’ve been involved with previously.
Because of the mix of the class, we had a good chance to challenge our own and other’s views from a whole spectrum of political views and hermeneutic approaches. However, with so many huge questions – from ‘church and state’ to slavery, to ‘just war’ – we were bound to end up with fewer answers than we started!
In a similar way to how many of the modules operated, we each were given a week to lead, which inevitably meant that the session we studied in the most depth became the source of our essay title. My session fell on my birthday – God’s new community – the Church and my title:
In what ways might the community life described in Acts be relevant to the church today?
Given the feedback from the marking, it seems I spent too much of the essay trying to understand how the community life in Acts came to be and what it was like, and not enough time talking about what it might mean in our contemporary context. I found it fascinating to look at the connections between the life ‘on the road’ that Jesus practised with his disciples (not just the 12, a group that included women too), the Essenes and the early church. It’s also interesting to look at the arguments as to whether this was a temporary, one off thing or a model for the future, since the sharing of goods seems to be found only in the first few chapters of Acts, and almost not at all in the letters.
It’s my suggestion that the radical sharing of property is both a hard thing and a rewarding thing to do. I’m not sure that we have the cultural position to do it on a large scale in the UK church, perhaps as Paul found in the gentile contexts he founded churches. But the attitudes behind are just as important and resonant with contemporary culture. Starting simply, by sharing food and time makes the ‘communion’ service into a real meal of fellowship with one another and with God. It removes barriers of exclusion, in the spirit of Jesus and Paul, building a family atmosphere that would be welcoming to anyone who comes in.
BST Essay – download a .pdf file of the full essay.
This essay by Jon Rogers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at www.jonrogers.co.uk.