Q&R with Brad Jersak – Does the Bible demonstrate an evolving understanding of inclusion?
The Bible seems to demonstrate an evolution of inclusion. The OT has a strong sense of who is in the nation of Israel and who is out. In the NT it wasn’t immediately obvious to the early church that the good news was for those outside the nation of Israel. It took until Acts 11 just to crack that pattern of thinking to include gentiles.
I think Paul evolves inclusion further with “neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” But throughout the NT the OT pattern of categorizing in terms of who is in and who is out seems to be retained, they just widened the criteria for inclusion without giving up the category of exclusion.
Do you think that the evolution of inclusion was completed in the first century or are we to take the circle of inclusion beyond where the New Testament left it? In other words, do you think that the shape and scope of God’s inclusion are presented in its final form in the NT, or has it been left for the church to continue to discover how wide, and long, and high and deep is the inclusion of Christ?
My approach would be to ask how, just as the gospel is already there in Genesis 3:15, we might find inclusion overtly seeded from the beginning. Or to mix metaphors, there is a consistent stream of inclusion flowing alongside the slowly evolving and expanding worldview.
For example, God’s covenant with Abram is about raising a nation through whom every family in the earth would be blessed. Their chosenness was an election of mission for the world. Israel’s vocation was to priest (verb) the goodness of God to all without exception. Here is Genesis 12:2-3:
2 “I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
We also see inclusion flowing strongly alongside David’s tribalism in the Psalms. He regularly speaks in globalized terms poetically. And then no one seems to have a broader vision than Isaiah 2:2, as the nations are streaming to Zion and ascending the Mount for the great banquet “for all peoples.”
- 2 In the last days
- the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established
- as the highest of the mountains;
- it will be exalted above the hills,
- and all nations will stream to it.
So it’s not so much that inclusion develops but rather, that it persists even as our embrace of it has fluctuated repeatedly. So when we forget and then recover the vision, we’re repeating what we see in Scripture and hopefully tapping back into Christ’s vocation as the Seed of Abram and the worldwide blessing promised in Genesis 12.