by Jude Saxon

Set Your Hope On Heaven: Living Inside The Mission Of Jesus Ascended

This article is designed to connect Christological insights with some contemporary matters of Christian life and the realities of church practice.

Echoing­ a comment by John Webster, I will claim this: “What follows is halfway between a theological essay and a homily; but we should not be particularly troubled by its homiletic tone,” for theology can well be understood as itself shaped by, serving and even enacting the Church’s task of gospel proclamation.[1]

To begin with the churchly pole: language of “discipleship” is increasingly common in discussions of Church life in traditions such as my own Anglican polity. When discussing the education of future ministers and leaders, or the goal of the work of such leaders, “discipleship” is mentioned by Pākehā, Māori, and Pasifika people alike. Similarly, as participation in conferences and seminars bears witness, the connection between mission and discipleship is much under discussion in wider circles. At the same time, recognition that mission is not something that God’s Church undertakes as an optional task, and that mission belongs to the fundamental frame of obedience, is increasingly widespread. So, the Church of England Working Group report published as Mission-shaped Church reads: “The Church is both the fruit of God’s mission – those whom he has redeemed, and the agent of his mission – the community through whom he acts for the world’s redemption.”[2]

Of course, faithfulness and obedience to the living God is a richer reality than can be described or realised merely by saying “missional” and “disciples” louder or more often. Important questions remain to be asked and, unless we clearly think through our call to obedience, with the grain of the gospel, the advances made in thinking and acting may be rather limited. We may all say “discipleship,” but we may not quite know what we should mean or how it all plays out in action.[3]

The discussion that follows is focused in this way: the content of discipleship language must be derived from the fundamental matters of the gospel, and in particular the goal of the call of God in “union with Christ.” We will need to note two specific dangers in this regard.

The first danger is that that discipleship can be construed in a fashion which has Christians following the example of Christ, as if His humanity is exemplary in a mode which makes Him somehow imitable in a straight-forward fashion. We can talk in a way that expects disciples of Christ to be people who simply do what Jesus did. That this is mistaken is part of the argument of this article – not because imitating Christ is at all a bad idea, but because attention to Jesus’ risen and ascended life must shape an understanding of the way in which Christians can and are to imitate Him, and ways which they cannot and should not attempt to do so. In particular, a common approach to imitating Jesus, which bypasses His risen lordship while attending only to His historical example, will lead directly to Immanuel Kant and to a recovery of classic nineteenth century liberalism, as I explore below. Such Kantian style ethical religion and accompanying theological liberalism is all too common, especially in “developed world” settings and parts of Aotearoa-New Zealand.

A second problem is a failure to attend to the absolute authority of Christ, His otherness, and the nature of the Gospel as “the intrusive word.”[4] Inattentiveness to the lordship of Jesus Christ (the reign and authority of God) can easily allow a reduction of Christian calling to a vocation to greater and greater experience of “Christ’s benefits.” A rendering of the gospel that focusses on specifics goods or experiences that come to us in and from Christ can easily miss the deep reality of union with Christ as the way and the goal of reconciliation in Him. Union with Christ undoubtedly yields an array of “goods” – peace, joy, hope, and life are not small matters. However, they come from the true goal Himself and are not the goal in themselves. This will have implications as I seek to offer a conception of Christian vocation as union with Christ ascended and serving in His self-witness.

In this discussion of the Christian vocation, I will be guided by attention to Colossians, with a particular focus on the hinge point around 3:1-4, as it offers in brief form a very clear description of Christian life between Jesus’ ascension and return in the eschaton.[5] My chief theological resources are Karl Barth and his treatment of vocation in Church Dogmatics IV/3 and John Webster in his essay “Where Christ is: Christology and Ethics.”[6] The work is thus intended to connect key theological insights to an area of practical theology, rather than to focus on the theology for its own sake.

Jesus Christ the Ascended Lord and the Life of the Christian

In the space where missional practices are being sought, discussed, and enacted, I wish to echo this warning from Karl Barth: “Jesus Christ cannot be absorbed and dissolved in practice into the Christian kerygma, Christian faith and the Christian community. He cannot be replaced by Christianity.”[7] In the same vein, Jesus cannot be replaced or absorbed into missional discipleship or any of the most earnest Church practices.

I am not suggesting that these things are unimportant. Rather I am beginning to discuss in what fashion they are important and how therefore they are to be pursued. Discussion of Church practices and of mission-shaped discipleship is an instance of moral reasoning to be undertaken inside the frame offered by the gospel of Jesus Christ and therefore via attention to Scripture as the concrete manifestation of God’s self-witness.

Significant recent theological treatments of the realm of churchly activity show considerable concern to elucidate the nature of Christian life as expressed in community, as earthed in certain forms of virtue, and therefore, as based in certain practices and habits.[8] Commendably, these efforts are usually directed against the intellectual habits of modernity and post-modernity which emphasise the individual and a sort of unfettered autonomy. One of the most vital questions for any such writing is this: how are human actions and endeavours, including the fostering of discipleship and involving character and community, related to the action and lordship of God and especially to Jesus Christ as He is ascended? In addressing this below, I will take care to avoid the description of Jesus’ continuing agency from being absorbed into description of churchly practices.

In anticipation of the argument to follow, the position I take here stands against maintaining human freedom and agency in some sort of competition with the agency of God in Christ, as if human agency needs to be protected from being overwhelmed by the greater power of God.[9] “Competition” here means that we see Christ’s agency in and over Church and Christian activity as somehow displacing the agency of the Christians involved – a view that it is either Christ or it is the Christian who is the agent. At the same time, I seek to maintain an absolute priority on the agency of the ascended Son. Barth usefully describes a fellowship of action between the risen and ascended Lord and those who obey Him: “the Christian, as he lives in Christ and Christ in him, exists in this fellowship of action and its order.”[10]

Thus, the command of Colossians 2:6 – “As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in Him” – is then developed throughout Colossians 2. Paul recognises the union of Christ with His people, who are buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him also. The outcome is that they are born anew into transformed existence. In this transformation they are freed from empty philosophies and “the elemental spirits of the universe” and released to live the reality of union with Christ. This comes then to a tremendous gift in the command, “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is … for your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:1, 3).[11] The absolute union of the Christian with Jesus, who is ascended, produces the fellowship of action which Barth recognises, so that this human agency is established by the all-sufficient power of the Lord to create participation in the triune mission. One important reason that human and divine agency are not to be construed competitively arises from incarnational insight. Jesus Christ is God and humanity is united in His one new person. Indeed, the creation of a new humanity takes place in Him and in the particulars of His human obedience, carried all the way into ascension. To understand that He has essentially remade humanity and reconnected humans to the life of God is to understand that in Him we are given newly redeemed selves, including renewed and genuine agency as the children of God.[12]

Of course, the human agency thus established is quite particular, and even odd – for this is not just any human agency. It is the agency of the only truly human One, Jesus Christ. The One who has redeemed and re-created true humanity, the human in communion with God, is the One in whom human agency is re-created, and so established.

Jesus Christ is the absolutely existent one and, by virtue of that absolute existence, the one in whom creaturely reality in its entirety coheres … And so to invoke the name of Jesus Christ in a moral context is to indicate the one by whom [all things] are moved, the one in whom creaturely action has its ground and telos. Creaturely moral action is action in the economy of grace, the ordered disposition of reality in which in Jesus Christ God’s goodness is limitlessly potent.[13]

In Him we are granted freedom to live truly and fully as those who are creatures of God. Ascended, He is hidden with the Father and ever comes forth in self-revealing, reconciling agency, as He incorporates us into His own life.[14]

The union of a Christian with this ascended One, in “fellowship of action,” takes that same shape that is the heart of the Gospel: “For you have died, and your life is hidden” (Col 3:3). Jesus Christ, who died and is risen and ascended, is the true human agent, the true actor. All genuine and true human life and agency is found in Him, and it is in union with Him that all others may become truly agents. Equally, human agency that rejects Him must finally be regarded as a false autonomy that is judged by the true life of Jesus Himself.

Further, as Webster notes, the present time is that time between our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection and the coming revelation of who we are in Him.[15] Because our life is hidden in Him we are to “seek.” That is not because the life given in union with Christ requires us to make it real – in fact, because it is real, we are to seek it in seeking Him. What is also true is that Colossians takes seriously the absurd reality that Christians are capable of living as if we have not been raised in Him, and as if we are our own makers. This is absurd both because of the undeniable power of God at work in Christ’s resurrection and because we somehow do actually deny it! As Webster has it:

The believer is no longer a participant in the unregenerate life-realm; that history is now closed. If it lives on – and the exhortation of the letter assumes that it does so – it can only be as a half-life, an absurdity, a lack of conformity to what has been made of us.[16]

The call to die, carrying in itself the call to risen life in Chris, is not superficial or partial. No part of human being lies outside the frame of that death and resurrection. If we hold that our redeemed selves must be somehow recognisably continuous with our former selves, we do not decide what “recognisably continuous” means, we do not get to establish the core of ourselves, whatever loves, hopes, gifts, desires or goodness we may have in mind. To be Christian is to knowingly receive oneself from the grace of the ascended One.

In all this, the emphasis on Jesus’ present activity is obviously central. Taken from sight into the cloud of God’s hidden presence, He is the “coming One” who moves with absolute authority in the gift of the Holy Spirit. The living Lord is the agent not only of the objective reality of reconciliation in Him, but also of the subjective realisation of that reconciliation in the death and resurrection of those who are “in Him”.

Discipleship is therefore not a matter of following a teacher who is essentially past, or of undertaking the practices through which we can reshape ourselves toward the ideal we have in our mind. Immanuel Kant taught that the purpose of religion, and the task for which he would recommend it, was purely ethical. In this regard Kant offered Jesus as the great moral exemplar who taught and embodied, and therefore offered to all others, the imperative to a pure and altruistic existence: “The Teacher of the Gospel revealed to his disciples the kingdom of God on earth only in its glorious, soul-elevating moral aspect.”[17] What is important about Jesus of Nazareth is the purity of His earthly life and teaching, and the way in which others can emulate Him. The power to emulate does not itself come from Jesus, but from the human capacity for moral life.

This is in no way adequate, and in fact ties fallen humans to an impossible and destructive standard with no hope of redemption. But the Word of the Lord is living and active, neither mute nor static, but in Himself, He is full of the possibility of our obedience. Barth notes that as the Word incarnate, Jesus Christ, is the Word of God about humanity (the humanity He Himself is and makes manifest).

Because Jesus Christ is God’s begotten Son, “of one substance with the Father”, therefore His human nature too, His human being, is an event in which sovereign decision is consummated. His humanity is humanity indeed, the essence of all humanitas. Not as a concept or an idea, but as a decision, as history. Jesus Christ is the man, and the measure, the determination and limitation of all human being.[18]

On this basis, our particular history occurs inside of His history and we do not have to invent ourselves, or the Church, or create a work for ourselves to do. Neither do we need to somehow justify the possibility of our agency or of Christ’s over us. All this is given in a beautiful imbalance of power between Him and us. It is an absolute good, and itself an extraordinary gift, that we are not equal to Jesus Christ but rather subject to the gracious inequality made visible in “the power of His indestructible life” (Heb. 7:16) and His absolute Lordship.

However, when Jesus is construed as essentially past, so that He sets an example which we are to follow, discipleship becomes focussed on moral life grounded in our self-generated activity. The specifics of Jesus’ teaching may become the focus, or it may be that ideals derived from perception of the meaning of His life are central. On that basis, we might concentrate on justice, love, tolerance, grace, purity, and holiness, as examples. Whichever it is, or some combination thereof, the result will always owe more to Kant than Holy Scripture and will bypass the New Testament focus on Christ as the living author of our agency.[19]

The mission of Christ ascended and the mission of those who are “in Him”

What then may be said regarding the goal of Christian calling? How should we describe the “whence” of vocation in union with Christ? Again, Barth offers useful insights, particularly in questioning a common answer – the answer he describes as “classic.”[20] If we ask after the goal of God’s work in us, a ready answer lies in the benefits which flow to us from Christ – this is easily conceived in terms of the gifts of faith Christians are given to exercise, the joy, hope, eternal life, and indeed personal healing which undoubtedly flow from Jesus Christ and of which Holy Scripture speaks fully enough.

But the question remains: are these benefits the goal of our vocation? Let us begin again from Jesus Christ, ascended and coming forth, the One to whom the Christian, and the Church is united. What is it that Jesus is about?

As above, the Word of God is Jesus Christ who is not merely past but living and active. The Word that He is cannot merely be seen as the object of our search or investigation, and in the best case, the object of our knowledge. For Christ to be our object would mean knowledge of Him would put His identity and reality at our disposal, as a datum of historical investigation, for example. But He remains subject – that is, He remains the active personal power, the Lord. Jesus Christ is met and known in the power of His own speaking. Such speech is therefore far more than an event of knowledge being donated and received. The Word Christ speaks is directed to us in the power of His authority in such a way that genuine hearing of it incorporates us into Him, putting to death and raising to life. In this way His speaking is His saving of us.[21]

As the living and active Word, Jesus is Himself the Witness, the One who is speaking forth the Gospel. Witness captures most fully His work in the time that He is ascended, as He calls all people to belong to Him. Indeed, that calling brings about the vocation of Christians – the people who hear His voice and belong to Him, incorporated into His ascended life. In belonging to Him, there is all the joy, peace, healing, refreshment, comfort, and so forth that we can mention – but it is belonging wholly and utterly to Him that is the goal of our calling.

As Barth claims, if the benefits that accompany our calling come to be understood as the goal themselves, then the danger is nearby that Jesus Himself becomes the necessary aid to the goal – absolutely necessary and piously praised and honoured – but not Himself the goal.[22] Notwithstanding or for a moment denying the great weight of scriptural promise regarding all these benefits, we are faced with the fact that it is Jesus Christ who is the goal of everything, for whom all creation is made and toward whom all things are moved by God. “He … is before all things … the head of the body … the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything” (Col 1:17-18). A view that makes the goal of God’s work the good things which flow to humans in belonging to Christ cannot compete with the view that Christ Himself is the goal. Biblically, it is absolutely clear that Jesus Christ is the goal of all God’s works and the goal of everyone’s calling. It is absolutely clear that because this is so, there are these benefits that flow in union with Him, which are entirely to be treasured and desired. Indeed, He is to be praised for the giving of them. But the ordering of the matter is clear: Jesus Christ alone, in His union with the Father and the Spirit, is the goal.

Colossians directs us to the One who is the origin and goal of creation, the firstborn and the One who is to have first place in everything. Thus, in the face of all sorts of practices, regulations, rules, and religious undertakings, we are called to “seek things that are above, where Christ is.” In the face of all kinds of wisdom, intelligence and philosophy we read the instruction to “set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:2).

What then of vocation in union with Him? As He is Himself active and ever coming forward in His own self-revealing agency, as He is Himself the great Witness, so those united to Him are given a work to do – the Christian and the Christian Church do not exist in a static mode any more than Jesus Christ does. United to Him, Christians are servants of His self-witness, participants in His great proclamation of Himself as origin and goal, life and life-giver.

So, we track finally to mission and the inalienable connection of anything we may call discipleship to the reality of witness to Christ. All obedience to Christ is the setting of our vision upon Him, ascended and coming, and as such all obedience bears witness to Him and proclaims Him. A statement such as the Anglican communion makes in its Five Marks of Mission is important and useful.

To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.

To teach, baptise and nurture new believers.

To respond to human need by loving service.

To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation.

To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.[23]

At the same time this statement runs the risk of making proclamation one matter alongside four others, where it should rather be understood that proclamation of Jesus Christ and participation in His self-witness is everything, and that every aspect of obedience to Him is service of His mission. The justice and righteousness of God are as central to mission as evangelism. Indeed, this is a danger which the Anglican Communion itself notes in regard to the five marks it lists.[24]

In a letter such as Colossians the matter of proclamation might seem to receive less attention that a reader might expect, although the theme is by no means absent.[25] There is strong reference to Paul’s own calling to proclaim Christ, but perhaps that is a particular vocation for the Apostle, rather than all? However the exhortation of Colossians concludes in 4:2-6:

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert with thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us as well, that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should. Conduct yourselves wisely towards outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.

Is prayer incidental to a scriptural view of the life of God’s people? Certainly not, and the command here is of significant scale – “devote yourselves to prayer” – while only occupying one small line of the letter. Equally, what follows, with its focus on Paul’s witness and the witness of the Colossians, is no less significant for all that it is brief – perhaps its very centrality is masked by the fact that on this occasion it does not need much recommendation. Perhaps this is an area where they were not subject to confusion? Whatever the case – just as a Christian is always a person called to pray, so a Christian is a person who is Christ’s witness – actually co-opted into Christ’s self-witness and seeking to make the most of this time.

What of the practices of discipleship? What of worship, of prayer, of the Church as a particular community? Especially, what of the development of obedience over time, of personal and communal transformation across the histories we embody? In what I have said, does it appear that our histories, agency, and practices are so much overcome by Christ that they are without meaning? What too of skill in evangelism, in preaching, and in proclamation?

Let us return to the theme of a “community of action” in which our union with Christ empowers genuine action on our part. The import is that our lives are derived from His life, and because they are derived from Him, they are authentically our own and the product also of our own agency (in union with His). Colossians 3:16 speaks of the consistent presence of the Word of Christ, “Let the Word of Christ dwell among you.” Webster comments, “the Word, that is, engenders practices in the community of saints which form their moral agency: teaching, admonishment, singing, prayer.”[26] Not that the Word is reducible to the practices it engenders, as Webster continues, for it remains the Word “of Christ”, but His Word “vivifies the enterprise” of the Christian community.[27]

Much must be said about such practices. In fact, our agency – our action, our practices, our habits and lives – is dignified and raised to the heights of God by the very fact that our lived reality is united to Christ in the power of His indestructible life. We matter, and our doings matter, because in grace we are commanded and therefore made alive by the gospel of the eternal Son. Because much should be said about such things, it matters what we say, and we therefore recognise that what is said may be relatively better or worse, helpful, or detrimental.

What should be clear is this: the measure of better or worse, helpful or not, comes from the subordination of all our talk of habits, disciplines, obedience, and agency to the reality of God in Jesus Christ. Is witness made to Him, or some other reality? In our desire to see the Church go forward, even to see the gospel proclaimed, do we proclaim the Church, or the Lord of the Church? Do we promote practices, or promote the One obedience of whom the practices are designed to enable?

Colossians contains those commands to seek and to set our minds upon, and indeed to pray – activities in which we turn ourselves towards the One who is Himself turning us. Such activity occurs over time and through intentionality. The point remains that understanding the derived nature of our lives as we united to Him – understanding that what we are is not self-evident, and that the goal of all is not merely the benefits we receive – will profoundly shape our view and shape our actions.

Set your minds on heaven, where Christ in glory reigns – for you are hidden with Him – but when He is revealed so also will you be – in glory!

Andrew Burgess is the Dean of Bishopdale College. He has a Doctorate in Systematic Theology from the University of Oxford, UK. Andrew has been ordained for over twenty years, and has served in churces in Blenheim (NZ), Oxford (UK), and Nelson (NZ). He is currently undertaking further research into the connection between God's judgement and God's grace. 

[1] This is itself, of course, a theological decision. Webster continues: “The clear distinctions which some members of the academic theological guild draw between proclamation and critical reflection are part of the pathology of modern theology: our forebears would have been distressed by the way in which theology has succumbed to the standardisation of discourse in the academy and the consequent exclusion of certain modes of Christian speech.” See John Webster, Word and Church: Essays in Christian Dogmatics (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2001), 211. A key point for Webster is that subservience to secular norms of reasoning and argument will, at least at times, alienate us from the very matters theology must address: for our “thinking and speaking themselves need to be reconciled to God by God.” (Ibid.) See further John Webster, Confessing God: Essays in Christian Dogmatics II (London: T&T Clark, 2005), 11–31. For an example of Thomas Torrance’s strong teaching in this regard see T. F. Torrance, Theological Science (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1969), 25–54.

[2] Archbishop’s Council on Mission and Public Affairs, Mission-shaped Church: Church Planting and Fresh Expressions of Church in a Changing Context, 2nd ed. (London: Church House Publishing, 2009), 85.

[3] It is a central argument of this article that discipleship and the obedience of Christians is a product of the agency of humans who submit to the lordship of Christ and at the same time the product of Christ’s agency in the Holy Spirit, without any need to view these two agencies in a competitive frame. This means that we do not need to assume that it is either the Christian or Christ that is the agent of our righteousness. On this basis we are correct to inquire into the gains we may make both in thinking and acting.

[4] The title of a well-known and provocative text: William H. Willimon, The Intrusive Word: Preaching to the Unbaptized (Grand Rapids, MI.: Eerdmans, 1994).

[5] The image of “hinge” for Colossians 3:1-4 is intended firstly to illustrate two connected aspects of this brief passage as it provides a transition point. First there is a definite shift to a more focussed treatment of ethics in what O’Brien calls the “major hortatory section of the letter.” See Peter T. O’Brien, Colossians, Philemon, WBC (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1982), 159. Secondly the “hinge” is equally connected to what has gone before, so that with Lucas we can note “the extraordinarily close connection between this new section and what has gone before.” Dick Lucas, The Message of Colossians and Philemon, TBST (Leicester: IVP, 1980), 134. Thus, Nicholls and Wintle call this section a “bridge”. See Bruce J. Nicholls and Brian Wintle, Colossians and Philemon (Singapore: Asia Theological Association, 2005), 140.

[6] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/3ii (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1961), §71 “The Vocation of Man,” 481–680; John Webster, God Without Measure: Working Papers in Christian Theology, Volume II: Virtue and Intellect (London: T&T Clark Bloomsbury, 2016), 5–27.

[7] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV/3i (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1961), 349.

[8] Stanley Hauerwas stands as a prolific and important writer in this regard. For his early and seminal work see S. Hauerwas, Character and the Christian Life: A Study in Theological Ethics (with revised Introduction) (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994). Other more recent writers include Gregory Jones and Timothy Gorringe. A particularly significant example is Timothy Gorringe, God” Just Vengeance: Crime, Violence and the Rhetoric of Salvation (Cambridge: CUP, 1996).

[9] The instincts of modernity and postmodernity, based in an assumed polarisation of autonomy and heteronomy, readily generate this sort of suspicion of God’s power overwhelming genuine human agency. Thus, the concern of ethics with human decision making can lead to suspicion of theological emphasis on Christ’s authority. In contrast, Oliver O’Donovan offers an excellent discussion of Christ’s resurrection authority over all created reality and over His people realised in the ethical life of the Church and individual Christians. It is Christ’s gospel authority, founded in His resurrection, that creates the genuine ethical life of His people, so that human freedom and agency are the fruit of His exercise of authority. See Oliver, O’Donovan, Resurrection and Moral Order: An Outline for Evangelical Ethics, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), esp. pp.140-162.

[10] Barth, CD IV/3ii, 598.

[11] The commands and instructions of the Lord are always gift, for in them the One who commands gives Himself to us and fills up our being with His own life and Spirit.

[12] This specific christological truth itself reveals the more generally put truth that God made creatures for this relation, anchored as it all is in the priority of God and His will. “And so creatures and their acts … are referred back to the anterior reality of God, a reference in which alone their substance and continuing operation are secured.” John Webster, The Domain of the Word: Scripture and Theological Reason (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clarke 2012), 7.

[13] Webster, “Where Christ is,” 17.

[14] Barth on the being and action of Christians: “The resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ have taken place. On this basis they are already members and participants of the new world created by Him. … They are in Christ; and it is in the totality of this their hidden being, which is none other than their actual human and creaturely existence here and now, that in the way described they are put under the commandment to love God.” See Barth, CD I/2, 408.

[15] Webster, “Where Christ is,” 24.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Immanuel Kant, Religion Within the Bounds of Reason Alone, trans. Theodore M. Greene and Hoyt H. Hudson (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1960), 125.

[18] Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline, (London: SCM Press, 1949), 89.

[19] As an aside, but of extraordinary importance: this is a pastoral nightmare, casting us back upon ourselves instead of upon the grace of God, so that we are required to somehow find the resources to be like Christ without the living power of Christ Himself, by His Spirit, renewing us. Traditionally the Church would call this Pelagianism.

[20] Barth, CD IV/3ii, 562-599.

[21] For the sake of absolute clarity: God’s speaking in Jesus Christ – the reality of revelation – is far more than merely noetic. To know God in Christ is to belong to Him in a such a way that we are the branches grafted into His living tree (or vine) and we transformed by the judging grace that flows in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

[22] CD IV/3ii, 567-8.

[23] These “marks,” accompanied by a discussion, are readily available on the Anglican Communion website (

[24] Ibid.

[25] See Colossians 1:6–7, 23–29, and 4:7-17 with the references to co-workers.

[26] Webster, “Where Christ is,” 20.

[27] Ibid.