Who is the saviour of the world?

Who do you trust to sort out all that’s wrong with the world? It matters where you place your faith.

To say Jesus is Lord is to say that he is the rightful ruler of all. Every power, every authority, every government answers to him and is under his direction. Jesus is not saving souls to take them out of this world to a disembodied existence in the sky. He doesn’t plan to leave this world to the devil.

To say that Jesus is the saviour of the world is to say that ultimately the world as we know it will not be saved by anyone else. Vladimir Putin is not the saviour of the world. Despite what some Russians hope, he is not the saviour of Russia.

Donald Trump is not the saviour of the world. Despite what some Americans hope, he is not the saviour of the USA. To trust him as the one who will save us is to betray the true Saviour. Those who hope in him will be put to shame.

Miroslav Volf is all too familiar with the kind of political fighting that divides people. He was born in Croatia. Yesterday he tweeted a request for Christians not to compartmentalize our lives: we cannot follow Jesus in our souls but follow conflicting agendas in the real world.

Here’s what he said:

Some of you have been puzzled by the shifts in my original post yesterday on “following Trump” to “following Christ”: from “followers” to “supporters” and then back to “followers.” Both are correct, but “followers” is the better word for what I had in mind. The ferocity of some of the response on this page as well as the emotional tonality of Trump supporters throughout the election — ecstatic cheering in his presence, viciousness and meanness against perceived sources of threat (Trump’s own recent description of his “followers”), aggressiveness against political opponents (“lock her up,” mentioned also by Trump as an example of viciousness and meanness) — all this and more suggests that many did not just vote for Trump, or support him as the “better option” of the two, but that they saw him as a political “savior” (not an unknown phenomenon, especially from the mid 20th century). Those who see him as a political savior therefore “follow” him; they are committed to him and his vision. That’s not the stance a Christian should have toward *any* politician. But whether one “follows” Trump in this sense or merely “supports” his character and political vision, on is still on a collision course with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now it could be that Trump’s Christian followers/supporters believe that Christ has nothing to do with politics, but only with the state of human soul. Many comments on this page seemed to go in that direction. I believe that this is a profound misread of the gospel (and Karl Barth rightly insisted it in its Lutheran version some 80 years ago during the reign of Nazism). The kingdom which Christ preached *was* personal, of course; but it was unmistakably political as well. New Testament is clear on this and most New Testament scholars agree. Remember also that the goal of entire history of God with humanity is a “polis” – new Jerusalem – rather than only a soul’s union with God. Remember also that the coming of this new polity is preceded by the fall of another “polis” – Babylon. Christ is the measure of politics as he, the Incarnate Word, is the measure of all things. (For an argument for political character of Jesus’ message and the Christian faith, see the first two brief chapters of “A Public Faith in Action”).

If Christ is the measure of politics, then every person who aspires to follow Christ has to be able to show how the political vision he or she espouses can be justified by appealing to Christ’s life and teaching or, at the very least, make an argument that it does not collide with the life and teachings of Christ. My claim was and continues to be that

  • most of what was important to Jesus is openly despised [by] Trump;
  • and most of what is important to Trump was condemned by Jesus.

Some may disagree with this statement. But I would like to see the argument against it. (And at this point, don’t bring in HRC; she is off the stage.) From now on, the focus must be on what Trump and the new administration intends to do and how they intend to do it. For a Christian to support them, both the goal and the means must be measured by the yardstick of Christ’s life and teaching. The goal is not kingdom, and certainly not “kingdom now”; only Christ himself can bring this about (as seen in the New Jerusalem “coming down” from heaven). But the goal must be to strive to align our political vision with the vision of Christ’s kingdom. If not, let’s just come out clean and say: our soul may be Christian, but our politics is pagan.

Miroslav Volf is professor of theology at Yale Divinity School, and author of several books such as Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Abingdon Press, 1996).

Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

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