For Thine is the Kin-dom?

Several times a week I drive past a certain church, and recently I was moved by curiosity to find out what their services were like. Since our province is currently under lockdown and gathering for Christian worship inside is against currently the law (yes, you heard that right), many churches make their services available through live-stream. This church did too, which allowed me to visit them online and observe their services. At one point in the service the Minister said the Lord’s Prayer, which was subtitled on the screen for the hearing-impaired. It began, “Our Father-Mother who art in heaven” which, given that the denomination was quite liberal, did not much surprise me. But soon the Minister prayed, “Thy kin-dom come”. At first I assumed that it must have been some sort of typo, since there is no such word as “kin-dom”. Being a bit deaf myself, I also thought I must be hearing him wrong. But it appeared again at the end of the prayer as well: “For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen”.

Never being one to leave well enough alone, I immediately Googled “kin-dom”. There it was. It was not a freaky typo, but a real thing after all. On the webpage of Christian Feminism Today, in an article by Reta Finger, I read the following: “The term ‘kin-dom’… replaces the male-oriented, imperialistic word ‘kingdom’ that we find in the Lord’s Prayer and elsewhere in the New Testament…Many Christian feminists have been using [this term] for several decades.” Of course. The idea (to quote Ms. Finger) was that it “better reflects the kind of society Jesus envisions—a shared community of equals who serve each other.”

There is some truth to that, of course. In the Church there is a kind of egalitarianism wherein “you all are brethren” (Matthew 23:8 RSV). We in the Church are to not use authority as the world uses it. The Lord said, “You know that those who supposed to rule over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (Mark 10:42-44).

That said, we are still told by the Lord not to pray for a “kin-dom”, but a Kingdom—a βασιλεία/ basileia—for the reign of God which is emphatically imperialistic. God is not some sort of group facilitator. He is the βασιλεύς/ basileus, the King, the Emperor, one who brooks no rivals and who demands complete and universal submission. Our salvation is contingent upon our freely offering to Him this complete submission. Whatever sense of shared kinship we have with each can only exist and thrive after we first acknowledge His absolute authority.

The first sign of such submission to Him is that we do not tamper, edit, correct, or otherwise monkey around with the prayer which the Lord Himself gave us. He instructed us to pray that His Kingdom may come—a reign in which all souls submit to Him. We are not free to alter this prayer because it flies in the face of current feminist fads. God revealed Himself as a Father, not a Mother, and His rule over us is a Kingdom. If we would be a part in that Kingdom, we must begin by putting aside our current theological obsessions and enthusiasms and accept what He has said, however much they might conflict with the dogmas of our secularized age.

Accepting that our Father is our Basileus and King also means accepting that our reality is hierarchically ordered. That is, God’s authority is mediated, and comes to us through a chain of authority, so that the authority of those above us ultimately comes from God.

We see this in many ways. For example, in our government. Whatever my government’s flaws (and they are many) its authority ultimately comes from God. The true alternative to governmental authority is anarchy, the rule of the jungle, wherein the schoolyard bully and his gang run everything, and the weak and helpless are crushed. That is why St. Paul said, “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1-2). That does not mean that we must passively submit to every tyranny. We may protest tyranny, corruption, and incompetence, and here in the West anyway, may replace rulers through democratic process. But it still means that the rule of law has been established by God as the only real alternative to anarchy. God rules and restrains evil through human government, however flawed that government may be.

We see this in the family as well. We respect the human authority of our parents because they are endowed with divine authority, and so abuses aside, disrespecting their authority means disrespecting God. That is why the Scriptures says that we should rise up in respect for the person whose hair is white with age, for this shows our respect for God (Leviticus 19:32). Again, this does not mean that one may never disagree with one’s parents, especially if they use their authority unwisely or abusively. But it does mean that the authority they have comes as a gift from God.

We see this also in the Church. All authority in the Church is delegated authority, and despite the fact that all Christians are brethren and are ontologically equal, they must respect the hierarchy that is over them. To respect the church leaders is to respect Christ who gave them their authority. That is why we are told to obey our leaders (Hebrews 13:17). When we welcome and accept the authority of the person Christ sent, we welcome and accept Christ (Matthew 10:40). All reality is hierarchically-structured, and so the Church is hierarchically-structured too. That is what it means to say that God is our King. Criticism of church leaders is allowed and even necessary at times, but it must be combined with a certain respect for the office itself.

One of course is always tempted to look around horizontally and not look up vertically, to focus our attention not upon the God above us in all His perfection, but upon those below Him and around us with all their flaws, those to whom He delegates His authority. God has said we must stand up in respect before the person whose hair is white with age. We can hardly keep from asking, “But what if the person with white hair is an idiot?” It doesn’t matter. Stand up in respect anyway. Criticism is easy, and rebellion can always find quick justification in the flaws of those we see around us. I could easily point out to anyone interested the flaws of my father, as my children could easily point out mine. That is why rebellion is a perennial temptation for the fallen children of men. It is also why God warned us in advance to respect those who are over us. They may be our kin, but they are still in charge.

Democracies are wonderful, but the Church is not a democracy. It is a hierarchy, a Kingdom. It is so in this age, and will be so in the age to come. A “kin-dom” is not going to come, however much some may pray for it. A Kingdom is.

 

 

13 comments:

  1. If the authorities that exist are instituted by God, and if those same authorities are overthrown by unconstitutional means or in a malicious manner, then which authority do we owe allegiance: The original one, or the new one in power?

    If, as you write, the rule of law has been established by God, and if the authorities in power disregard or undermine or pervert that law, can one still claim that those authorities have been instituted by God?

    Regarding Romans 13, you write: “That does not mean that we must passively submit to every tyranny.” – If one claims that the authorities that exist have been instituted by God, then how would any support for an opposition candidate, any law suit against the government or its agencies, any newspaper caricature making fun of the head of government not automatically become a rebellion against God?

      1. To my understanding, it is not part of the Creed or Symbol of Faith to take certain scripture verses at face value.

        If one takes Romans 13: 1-2 at face value, that can lead people to acquiesce, indeed become an accomplice to, unspeakable injustices and atrocities.
        So I would give Romans 13: 1-2 as much prominence as statements about tongue-speaking.

        But that is only my personal opinion. Anyways, I believe in the Creed, which includes believing in the Church. The creed does not include divine institution of earthly authorities.
        Does believing in the Church trickle down to a requirement to adhere to a given interpretation of specific verses in the Epistles?

        1. You are misusing the Creed; it was not intended to serve as a compendium of basic teaching. Many things are a part of the Faith that are not in the Creed.

          1. Father Lawrence,

            You write:
            “You are misusing the Creed . . .”

            I am not doing any such thing.

            1. In my original comment, I did not offer any views of my own; I asked questions. In your reply, instead of answering those questions, you asked me how I understand St. Paul’s words. My subsequent comment was in response to said question. I did not advertise my opinion, I did not promote it, I did not even justify it. I just stated it.
            So: I did not “use” the Creed for anything, and consequently I did not “misuse” it. I just stated my position in response to your question.

            2. My wording: “Does believing in the Church trickle down to a requirement to adhere to a given interpretation of specific verses in the Epistels?”, (incidentally another question that you have not answered) makes it clear that I am aware of the fact that belief in the Church will entail belief in things which are not explicitly stated in the Creed. I did not say, and I did not imply that the Creed serves as a “compendium of faith”.
            So, again: I did not “use” the Creed, and I did not “misuse” it, and I am not quite sure on what grounds someone can state that I did.

          2. You suggested in your original comment that because “taking certain scripture verses at face value” was not in the Creed, it was not required of Christians. This implies that things not mentioned in the Creed are not required. This is indeed to misuse the Creed. To answer your question “Does believing in the Church trickle down to a requirement to adhere to a given interpretation of specific verses in the Epistles?”: Yes. Whatever is taught in the Epistles is required of Christians. St. Paul teaches in Romans 13 that government authority is divinely given and this must be believed. Of course the practical implications may be debated, but the basic principle must be accepted. No one suggests that whatever governments do is right.

  2. Salute the uniform
    Respect the office.
    Individuals may not be worthy of the office, in our opinion, but they may not be long in holding it.
    Furthermore-
    Who are we to judge ? We may be entirely wrong in our estimation. It has been known!

  3. Father, I struggle with the idea that all government is ordained by God. Historically there have been many instances of illegitimate government and certainly as in our own age corrupt governments who arrogate power to themselves. Clearly our martyrs testimony is that there is a limit to state authority.
    The glory of God is often served, it seems, by saying no to state authority. There are consequences but there are times when government becomes illegitimate and no longer given deference much less obedience.

  4. Fr. Farley, Irenaeus, others…

    I was just in a friendly debate over Romans 13 recently. I do not believe Paul is being specific when he says governments are ordained by God – at least not entirely specific. The presupposition is often that Nero was already persecuting the Christians by the time Romans 13 was written, but this is not substantiated. On top of this, a predestination motif is read onto the passage. If it is a general affirmation that governments are good, versus full blown anarchy – and therefore do not go out of your way to be antigovernmental: pay your taxes, be a good citizen, do works that glorify God – then Paul’s train of thought seems to be much smoother. Because in Romans 13 the focus is not on governments, but on Christian living starting in Romans 12-16.

    So, while yes, God has specific purposes sometimes with Pharaoh and others, He does not ordain all of their choices. God ordains marriage but not every choice within a marriage, etc. God gives us government, and those who enforce such government – generically – sometimes specifically – so that we can live in peace during the time of our exile, at least some of the time. And this is what Paul tells us to pray for in regard to civil government, so telling Christians to live within the bounds of such a government generically, fits perfectly with the prayers for local/civil government.

    Yes, God is still sovereign, and we may not know how God’s “hand” and “plan” are working things out, but the idea that God chooses every choice of a government is too much Calvin for me. Therefore, when a government is in hostility to Christians, there is at least the possibility that when Christians are equal members of a country, that we not acquiesce while realizing ourselves as an eschatological reality and not within a “this world is our home” non-Christian way of thinking. We can both realize ourselves as not belonging to this present world, yet not acquiescing to hostility against us.

    This is really why we need Bishops to speak when it’s their time to weigh in.

    In Christ,
    Matthew

  5. Matthew, you state the way my thoughts were trending but much better. Thank you.

    With regard to COVID I find certain restrictions troubling like the latest CDC guidelines for Easter (western) celebrations. The say that all those who are vaccinated may attend without a mask while those not vaccinated must stay home and watch.

    The proof of vaccination is becoming a sign that one can participate fully in society. Not good.

    1. I’m aware. I wish to remind these people that no one is truly being vaccinated, as the “vaccine” is not truly a vaccine. Two vaccinated people can give each other COVID. But it seems this will be a litmus test for all sorts of things related to being a decent human being. The thing is though, that while God may not meticulously choose the choices of a government, when we dissent, it will often bring about suffering, and this God generically chooses for us – to suffer for righteousness sake. It’s a hard call knowing which hill to die/suffer on. And I think, after using that phrase and thinking about it, we need to be sure it’s in alignment with “for righteousness sake”.

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