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Theology

A Reformed Theological Perspective on Politics

by Richard W. Mouw

What is the relationship of the city, viewed eschatologically, to present urban realities? This is a crucial question. How should the biblical vision of the future shape our present attitudes and actions?

The relationship here is a complex one. consider again the vision of Isaiah 60. We might think of this prophecy as being fulfilled in three different stages. The first stage has already occurred for Old Testament Israel. Yet it was for them only a partial and fragmentary realization. This Scripture promised the restoration of Jerusalem to Jews in exile or just returning from exile. They, or their children, were to rebuild Jerusalem as the home of Godís chosen people and as a center of international commerce. Nevertheless this Jerusalem never really approached the grandeur of Isaiahís vision.

We might consider the New Testament church as the second stage of this fulfillment. Here the body of believers could be seen as a city drawing inhabitants from many nations. In this new city the gifts of many peoples are shared, power and authority are transformed, and oppression is lifted. This fulfills another part of Isaiahís promise: "You shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise."

But the final denouement is yet to come. Until then the people of God await the city which shall embody the riches of their "Redeemer, the Might One of Jacob."

We, like Abraham, look "forward to a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Nevertheless, and this is the key, we wait as those who are already delegates of that city. This is our time of exile, but even in exile we are still a holy nation and a royal priesthood under our King, Jesus Christ. Many of the blessings of the promised city are already ours, with more for the asking.

Now, what we hope for in the future city, and what we presently realize in the body of Christ, is also what God wants for all human beings. while we are called to witness to the coming of Godís city, biblical visions of that city can also guide and inform our present efforts to establish urban justice and righteousness. We can legitimately work for the elimination of oppression and the transformation of culture as the first fruits of Godís rule over the city.

Richard W. Mouw, "A Reformed Theological Perspective on Politics," in Signs of the Kingdom in the Secular City, edited by Helen Ujavrosy, Chicago: Covenant Press, 1984, pp. 42-43

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