A Colony of Heaven in the Country of Death
So, why church? The short answer is because the Holy Spirit formed it to be a colony of heaven in the country of death… an appointed gathering of named people in particular places who practice a life of resurrection in a world in which death gets the biggest headlines: death of nations, death of civilization, death of marriage, death of careers, obituaries without end. Death by war, death by murder, death by accident, death by starvation. Death by electric chair, lethal injection, and hanging. The practice of resurrection is an intentional, deliberate decision to believe and participate in resurrection life, life out of death, life that trumps death, life that is the last word, Jesus life.
Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection
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So, create new nations, civilizations, marriages and careers? All four are great options, but only three may be necessary.
Could you help me with the rest of the quote (I find the writing in this quote disjointed)? It sounds like Peterson is advocating for the church to participate in a present-day resurrection of dead people. This can’t be right. Whatever Peterson’s intent was, I definitely could use some help with his words.
I don’t really understand the first part of your comment. I think in mentioning careers, civilizations, marriages, etc Peterson is simply acknowledging that as human beings we are well-acquainted with things coming to an end and the pain associated with that.
Re: the second part, I’m quite confident that Peterson does not have anything quite that literalistic in mind. I think he is simply expressing, in a poetic way, the basic reality that the church, by virtue of its existence and the content of its proclamation, points to an alternative interpretation of reality and an alternative conception of hope in which death is not the final word—whether biological death, or any of the other “deaths” we experience throughout our lives. To “practice resurrection” is to consistently live according to that hope.
I think your analysis of what Peterson probably meant to say is correct.
I think Peterson appeals to liberal leaning evangelicals more than he does to plain liberals and to conservative evangelicals.
In this quote, I think we can assume that he meant literally “the Holy Spirit formed it to be a colony of heaven,” the way a conservative might speak. On the other hand, I think we can assume that he was writing figuratively about resurrection, in the way you described, when he wrote about the church practicing resurrection, the way Bultmann did.
My impression from his writing is that he does not really take the Holy Spirit or resurrection literally. He is a mild, old-fashioned, mid-twentieth century liberal or neo-orthodox guy. He demythologizes while keeping much of the mythical language in his expression. He appeals to evangelicals in his piety, especially those who lean liberal theologically while not quite wanting to say so, perhaps not even to themselves.
To a liberal he sounds insincere and dishonest. To a conservative he sounds like a sneaky liberal. To a liberal leaning evangelical he sounds pious and not overly literal. He sounds gentle. He reassures liberal leaning evangelicals that they are yet okay even if all they once believed is not true.