SNAPSHOT: “Fall of the Church” Roger Hayden Mitchell

From Publisher

This book prepares the way for the practice of kenarchy: a humanity-loving, world-embracing, inclusive approach to life and politics. It does so by identifying two conflicting streams in Christianity: the love stream that the stories of Jesus portray and many of us desire to follow, and the sovereignty system that much of theology, church, and mission represents. Explaining how the two streams arose in early Western history, The Fall of the Church demonstrates that far from being complementary expressions of Christianity, the sovereignty stream embodies the very system that the Jesus of the gospels opposed. The fall of the church is described in terms of its embrace of the sovereignty system and the subsequent history of the West is explained as the story of the resulting partnership. If transcendence is truly like Jesus, then, rather than abandoning the empire system, God has remained within the church and empire in order to empty it out from the inside. Mitchell argues that this divine strategy has continued throughout the history of the West and is coming to a head, right now, in our contemporary Western world, and that the time is ripe for an incarnational politics of love.

Table of Contents

1 A Contemporary Conundrum

(A) INTRODUCTION: SETTING OUT THE CONUNDRUM

(B) FOUR STAGES IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CONTEMPORARY PUZZLE

(1) Christian faith and political power

(2) The subsumption of transcendence by sovereignty

(3) The circumstances and effects of the fall of the church

(4) Modernity, postmodernity, and the rejection of transcendence

2 The Story Unfolds

(A) THE CENTRALITY OF SOVEREIGNTY

(B) THE DEVELOPING COMPONENTS OF THE WESTERN SYSTEM

  1. Salvation and empire
    (a) The necessity of monarchy
    (b) The role of law and creed
    (c) The centrality of appeasement
  2. (2) The hidden gospel of the West
  3. (3) The gospel according to Christendom
    (a) Securing sovereign power
    (b) Constituting sovereign law
    (c) Transacting sovereign payment
  4. (4) King Billy and the Bank
    (a) Multiplying sovereignty

3 The Progress of the Love Stream

(A) QUITE ANOTHER STORY

4 Biopower Meets the Holy Spirit

(A) THE COMMODIFICATION OF LIFE ITSELF

5 Myths and Obstacles

My Rough Notes

There are six interrelated objectives that have guided the eventual form and content of this book. The first is to show how the historical alignment of Christianity with the dominant law-hierarchy-temple system and the consequent displacement of Jesus helps account for the contemporary conundrum of the sense of marginalization felt by both Christian and secular people.

The second separates out two conflicting streams in Christianity: the love stream which the stories of Jesus portray, and the sovereignty system that much of the theology, ecclesiology, and mission of the church represents.

Thirdly, it attempts to explain briefly and succinctly how these two streams arose in the early stages of Western history.

Fourthly, its purpose is to demonstrate that far from being two partly complementary, or at least alternative expressions of Christianity, the sovereignty stream embodies the very system of governance that the gospel story shows Jesus opposing and bringing to an end.

Fifthly, it makes clear from the story of Jesus in the context of its Hebrew history and Gentile Greco-Roman present that, rather than confronting the empire system in its own violent, dominating spirit, God has remained within the church and the empire in order to empty out the domination system from the inside. This is how God has worked in the cycles of history, consistent with the way that God stayed with Israel and its neighboring imperial powers during the fall of the Jews. The book indicates that this divine strategy continued with the fall of the church and is coming to a head, right now, in our contemporary Western world.

Finally, the purpose of the book is to prepare the ground for the emergence and practice of kenarchy: the humanity-loving, world-embracing, inclusive approach to life and the universe introduced and explored in the soon-following companion volume Discovering Kenarchy.

HOW THE BOOK SETS ABOUT THESE OBJECTIVES The book is arranged over five chapters.

The first unpacks the background to the already mentioned conundrum of why both Christian and secular people feel similarly marginalized yet perceive the other to be in the position of greater power.

Chapter 2 begins to tell the story of what I discovered from my four investigative case studies. It sets out the way that the exercise of sovereign power came to be seen as the means to peace for humankind from its beginnings in the days of the early church historian Eusebius and his partnership with the emperor Constantine. It explores the operation of sovereignty in the conflict and division of the authorities of church and empire throughout the Middle Ages after the fall of Rome, and it traces the progress of the Christendom system in the multiplication and diversification of sovereign power through war, law, and money. It culminates in explaining the modern rationalistic rejection of transcendence as the carrier of universal sovereign rule.

Chapter 3 briefly relates the history of the love stream as it paralleled the partnership of church and empire, examining how and why it so easily defaulted to the domination system.

Chapter 4 then explains how war, law, and money, identified as the currencies of sovereignty, are coming together in a present-day fullness that political philosophers and analysts call biopower. I suggest that the Holy Spirit is both on the inside and outside of this system; within, in what the neo-Marxists call the potential power of immaterial labor, and on the outside, in the egalitarian grace of Pentecostal outpouring, terms which the chapter carefully unpacks. The chapter explains how these two factors might activate the seismic shift in the Western mindset necessary to break free from the sovereignty system at last.

Finally Chapter 5 addresses some of the most resistant obstacles to the repentance required if we are more completely to engage the contemporary world with radical love.

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