The Politics of Representational Rule

My latest post over on Political Theology Today is a discussion of the lessons that we may learn about political representation from Paul’s teaching about the Church in 1 Corinthians 12:1-11:

Woven throughout the passage is an account of both unified and unifying divine action. The Spirit is given by God and is the one through whom God gives to form the body of Christ (verses 8-11). The Spirit of God bears witness to the Lordship of Christ (verse 3). All activity finds its origin and end in God (verse 6). Diverse spiritual gifts publicly manifest the shared Gift of the Spirit; differing ministries are devoted to the common service of our one Lord; varied operations are all brought about by God’s effective working. As the Church and its members are caught up in something greater—the divine mission—they will become partakers in a divinely wrought unity.

The unity that Paul describes is not one clearly apparent to sight; it requires a spiritual act of recognition. This act of recognition transforms both our perceptions of ourselves and of our spiritually gifted or office-holding brothers or sisters. In particular, Paul’s approach involves a reconception of the other party: no longer am I to regard them as the private owner of some peculiar spiritual possession or privilege, nor as one enjoying office by virtue of some spiritual entitlement or individual expertise. Rather, I must learn to appreciate their gift as a re-presentation and ‘manifestation’ of the one Gift that has been given to all of us in the body of Christ, a re-presentation and manifestation that exists for the ‘common good’ (verse 7).

Conversely, Paul’s teaching requires a transformation in the self-conception of spiritually gifted and ordained persons. Those with particular spiritual gifts must learn to perceive their exercise of those gifts as differentiated manifestations of the one Gift that has been given to us all, to serve the benefit of everyone. Likewise, the office-bearer within a church must recognize themselves as re-presenting the one ‘pre-structured’ and unitary witness and service of the Church in an particular and institutionally structured manner.[4] Neither the spiritually gifted person nor the ordained minister create or establish a new reality: they present ‘something which is already there’—the common Gift and ministry of the body as a whole.

Read the whole thing here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in 1 Corinthians, Culture, Ethics, Guest Post, NT, NT Theology, Politics, The Church, Theological. Bookmark the permalink.

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