Leithart's future-end of Protestantism VI: rippings and scatterings with a key to the Scriptures...

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Paragraphs One Through Four, "The Future-End of Protestantism":

Protestants often act as if the Reformation were the end of history, the moment when the Church reached its final condition. For these sorts of Protestants, the future of Protestantism can only be more of the same. This cannot be. God is the living Creator, still at work in his world, and that means that the Protestantism of the future will be something new, and, given the pattern of God's creativity, something better. (emphasis in original)

In the beginning, God created the world in six days, and each day improved on the previous one. He spoke light, separated light and darkness, and said it was good. Come the next day, and first-day good was not good enough, so he separated the waters below from the waters above and inserted a firmament between. After he tore the waters and called earth to fruitfulness, he said that was good too. Another evening and morning, and again good was not good enough, so he spent the fourth day hanging lights in the firmament, the fifth calling swarming things to swarm in the sea and birds to hover on the face of the sky, the sixth filling the earth with animals and creating man male and female in his image. Each day was good, but each was followed by darkness and dawn that made good better. When he finished, Yahweh God pronounced it very good and rested in what he had made.

Something of the same rhythm continues after the Fall, with God's judgment a critical addition, with God tearing down in order to build up. After the scattering at Babel, he tears Abram from among the nations and sends him wandering through a land not his own, offering sacrifices at oaks and oases. The Lord mid-wives his son Israel through the travail of Egypt and carries him to Sinai, where he teaches him to worship in his tent and live in the land of promise. Solomon reorganizes tribes into districts and builds a temple, a well-watered Eden on Mount Moriah, with the king's palace hard by Yahweh's. Divided, the people of God take a new name, Israel-and-Judah, until Yahweh tears them from the land of promise and melds them together in exile into one new man, now all Jews, now all "Judahites," incorporated into the royal tribe. Through the cross and Resurrection, we are all separated from our native tribes and nations and grafted into the people of God, taking the name Christian.

God creates Israel as tribes, then as a kingdom, then scatters them among the nations, then sends them to the nations, each good, each followed by the darkness of the tomb, each bringing good brighter than the good that preceded it. At each juncture, God calls his people to shed old ways and old names, to die to old routines and ways of life, including ways of life God himself has established.

"Each good?" I don't want to be a naysayer, but what does Dr. Leithart mean by "each good?" Sure the phrase is cheerful, but to what does "each good" refer?

"Each good" is simply to say that everything God does is good.

But isn't this a kinda "duh" statement?" Who would argue? Is Dr. Leithart simply saying...

that "all things work together for good...?"

"Each good" is followed by "each followed," "each bringing," and "each juncture," so Dr. Leithart is not simply expositing God's sovereignty, but continuing the theme of his previous paragraph in which he attempted to set up the spatial movements of God's people—both together and apart—as a series of steps toward God's master plan of unity. Here in this next paragraph Dr. Leithart repeats "each" in order to link God separating Israel into tribes, God putting those tribes under one king, God punishing His people by sending them into captivity, and then His commanding His New Covenant people to "go into all the world and preach the Gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15).

His goal is not to teach the providence and sovereignty of God so much as to marshal these four periods of Israel's history as four further steps of God's rippings and shreddings and scatterings and callings of His people to sheddings and dyings as Divinely-ordered steps toward one world through one church.

According to Dr. Leithart, God's "pattern of creativity" reveals "always better" to be the explanation of every last moment of history. Each of those moments leads inexorably toward the one world being formed by one church. In fact, if you keep your eye on the ball, as you dig deeper into this article you will come to realize that Dr. Leithart himself is a part of this grand project because it is he himself who is calling us to leave our tribalism, joining together with the Roman Catholics and Orthodox to form one Church.

And we know this is the will of God because God is always tearing and scattering and shredding for the purpose of oneness. The oneness of the Fall. The oneness of the days of Noah. The oneness of the Flood. The oneness of Babel. The oneness of the Babylonian Captivity. The oneness of the Twelve prior to the departure of Judas. The oneness of Antioch. The oneness of the church in Corinth. The oneness of Euodia and Syntyche. The oneness of Paul and Barnabas with John Mark between them. The oneness of the church in Galatia. The oneness of the church in Phillipi. The oneness of the church in the second century. The oneness of the church in the third century. The oneness of the church in the fourth century. The oneness of the church in the fifth century. The oneness of the church in the fifteenth and sixteenth and seventeenth and eighteenth and nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Oneness everywhere!

So much oneness I can barely breath for the wonder of it all! Oneness all the time—except those nasty occasions when there was division. Like the Fall, Cain and Abel, Noah, Babel, the Babylonian Captivity, Judas stealing and plotting and kissing, Antioch, Corinth, Euodia and Syntyche, Paul and Barnabas with John Mark between them, Galatia, the Council of Jerusalem saying "no" to the Judaizers, the Church saying "no" to the Arians, the Western church saying "no" to the Eastern church, the true Church saying "no" to the heretical Roman Catholic church born through the apostasy of their Council of Trent...

Dr. Leithart's metanarrative of always better is in the service of his particular brand of millenarianism he originally titled, "The End of Protestantism."  It might be more fair to say Dr. Leithart's millenarianism is equally aimed at Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Protestants, calling all of us to unite in one eucharist, one baptism, and one church, all under one Lord. What Christian would argue with that? Christ cannot be divided, can He?

Not to be pedantic, but Who is Christ and what is faith? What is Baptism? What is the Lord's Supper and who should be seated at His Table? Or rather, who should be barred from His Table? What is the true Church and are there marks by which She may be known?

In Dr. Leithart's grand scheme, these are all trivialities. Norman Vincent Peale, Robert Schuller, and Joel Osteen were right after all. We're not to get bogged down in the details, but to jump on the Train called Hopeful. 

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!