We build on certain premises:
1. God has revealed how the world could claim His blessings. The entry point for those blessings is the Covenant of Noah. Beyond this covenant, there is much more people could learn if they were willing.
2. The world is unwilling to go even so far as Noah. This means we are cast into a world that wallows in the Fall. While we are committed to that “much more” that God has revealed, there will be hindrances from a rejecting world.
3. The mission is to pursue our faith and calling with an eye to the tactical necessities, the balance point between where we are and where God says we should be. The balance point is a moving target because human affairs move forward along some invisible path God alone knows.
4. We rely on His promise to keep before us a vision of what He wants us to do on the path to His promises. It’s realistic in the sense that He will most certainly grant certain things in each context if we are committed enough to claim it by faith.
I’m pretty sure I can get a lot of people to buy into that much. Where it starts to get sticky is when we explain that even just embracing Noah means a lot more than is explicitly stated. The whole business of Biblical Law assumes certain unstated prerequisites.
First is to reinforce the understanding that we could change the world, but God has said we shouldn’t waste time on that. Instead, our whole mission is to assume we can do precious little to help this fallen world. Instead, we focus on escaping it. But so long as we occupy fallen flesh, that escape is limited. What we do in this life is prepare our souls for what comes after this life. That means a blended existence, one that cannot be explained in concrete terms.
How do you keep track of that living balance? The answer is found in rather blunt statements in Scripture about faith and convictions and living by your heart, not your intellect. Our problem is that Western minds keep reading back into the Bible their Western cultural bias about the heart. It’s not a repository of sentiment, but the seat of faith and conviction. It is the repository of your will, your commitments, those things written into your character that you cannot change, because it’s all by the finger of God.
Your heart is designed to read the moral purpose of God woven in to the fabric of Creation itself. God as Creator acted according to His own character, so it stands to reason that all things work accordingly. You are capable of reading the moral truth in the world around you, if you can just get your intellect to stand down and submit to the leadership of the heart. This is a direct contradiction to the Western obsession with reason and intellect. In Western culture, anything that isn’t reason is either sentiment or superstition, because the lore of Aristotle asserts quite vehemently that reason is the highest faculty of mankind. But God says He won’t speak to your mind, only to your heart.
And if you listen to your heart, you will recognize that God’s plan for living in this fallen world demands first that we embrace the fundamental moral pattern for humans: the covenant feudal nation. Every Law Covenant discussed in Scripture assumes a peculiar brand of Ancient Near Eastern feudalism. It’s where everyone in the community is either family, hired servants, or slaves. God portrays Himself as Ancient Near Eastern feudal lord. You get to be family by accepting His covenant; He adopts you into His household. And what forms from this is a tiny nation, a tribe.
He parcels out His nation among elders. You could substitute other terms like chief, king, etc., but the main point is how that is supposed to look in real life. Every church (household of faith) has at least one elder and is limited in size to something like 50-75 people. After it grows beyond that, it is subdivided and allowed to grow again. (The number is subject to debate, but there is wide agreement among those who pursue the science of organizational theory; it’s about as many people as one leader can effectively lead. Scripture does mention “captains of 50”.)
In ancient times it was always little tribes of people related by DNA or by covenant. The business of shared DNA has faded into the background, pretty much put away when Christ died and the Covenant of Moses was retired. Now it’s almost entirely a matter of tribes by covenant.
So in order for any church to claim the full measure of shalom God offers, it must first and foremost be the modern incarnation of an Eastern covenant feudal tribe. All those notions based on democracy, presbytery, or European feudal kingdoms are wrong, wrong, wrong. Those other styles of organization cannot lay claim to the full range of their divine heritage.
Whatever it is we do on this earth toward building a covenant community of faith requires the presumption of heart-led people in a covenant feudal tribe. And the whole mission is not growing in size, resources or facilities, but growing closer and more tolerant despite the wide variations people bear in their souls.
This is what we teach as the foundation for taking full advantage of the promises of Biblical Law.