Friday, July 22, 2005

Conversion Theory

In his latest posts, Scot McKnight does a good job of summarizing his excellent book: Turning to Jesus: The Sociology of Conversion in the Gospels. One of the more recent posts looks at consequences of conversion. I'm really hoping to explore this more. I have yet to read any historical Jesus scholarship about what repent & believe might mean politically and socially.
Wright explores this within a Jewish matrix in JVG but doesn't grapple with what this would mean within the Roman Empire. Maybe we need a "Fresh Perspective" on Jesus' call to discipleship as counter-imperial? If Augustus was worshipped as god, and sacrifices and loyalty were required for him and to him, then surely Jesus' message of "repent and believe" [which I would better conceive as "embrace and entrust"] would be politically significant, even dangerous? Maybe this is my doctorate, just waiting to be conceived and written!
If the gospel, is the royal announcement of fantastic news, then the summons to join Jesus - embracing him as the King/Messiah - would have had to have had political implications. Did Jesus think about this? Was this part of his aims and intentions? If his mission was to the Gentiles, would this constitute a mission to convert the Empire to the rule and reign of YHWH himself, through and in the mission, message and person of Jesus?
Thoughts? Comments? Criticisms?


Scot McKnight said...

Nice of you to link to my site and respond to it. Maybe one source for you would be to look at my A New Vison for Israel, where I develop the political implications of Jesus' message.

Michael F. Bird said...

Scot's book is good and worth reading on the political dimension's of Jesus' message. Don't bother trying to think of Jesus trying to convert the Roman Empire to Israel's God - Jesus' mission was to restore Israel! But a transformed Israel would transform the world!!! Note also, I think Wright's interpretation Paul's gospel is skewed since he takes into account Rom. 1.3-4 (announcment that Jesus is the Messiah), but fails to grasp 1 Cor. 15.1-8 where the gospel is also Christ's death and resurrection. Gospel must include christology AND soteriology (cf. 2 Tim. 2.8). Wright focuses narrowly on the former. I think the background for Jesus and gospel is Isaiah/4Q521/Pss.Sol. 11.1-4.

Sean du Toit said...

Thanks Scot, I've actually read your book, and will be reading it many times on this issue as this is one of the only books that I've found that explicitly deals with the issue of conversion. But while I think you do an excellent job of showing the national implications for Israel, I want to look more at how Rome would have perceived this Jewish prophet, aiming to liberate Israel.

Sean du Toit said...

Yes Michael I do agree that Jesus had no intentions of going after Rome and trying to convert her to Israel's god, YHWH. However, when the opportunity presents itself [Matt 8, et. al.], Jesus is very open and intentional about making the gospel for them as well. Of course I agree that Jesus' primary mission and aims were to Israel, but I think Jesus was definitely looking further than Israel -> to the Gentiles. And there are enough comments about the Gentiles and nations both in the texture and substructure of Jesus' teachings to warrant a full blown investigation. Sense?