Christianity: The Religion of the Landless

A very interesting quote by Daniel L. Smith:

Exodus is the road to nationalism and power.  But there is another biblical paradigm.  It is a warning against Exodus theology.  In the place of Joshua the revolutionary conqueror, it points to Jeremiah the prophet of subversive righteousness and Ezra the priest of a radically alternative community.  In the place of David the emperor, it points to Daniel the wise.  In the place of Solomon’s great Temple, it points to the perseverance of singing the Lord’s song in a foreign land.  It is a religion of the landless, the faith of those who dwell in Babylon.

The Religion of the Landless, pg. 205.

On the one hand, I like this comment very much as it wards off triumphalism and an over-realized eschatology.  On the other hand, I’m not sure that the Exodus analogy must (or should) be used in favor of “nationalism and power.”  Rather, since Christians are those on their way to a place they’ve never been (i.e., a new heavens and a new earth), neither “return from exile” or “life in Babylon” seem to adequately describe our pilgrim journey in this time between the already and the not-yet.

In all of this, however, Smith seems to strike at something that is often missed amidst evangelical choruses of “Onward Christian Soldiers.”  This Exodus is not followed by a conquest.  In our case, the conquest has preceded the Exodus.  This conquest happened on Easter Sunday some 2000 years ago where the new Joshua vanquished the foes of sin and death in his resurrection from the grave.  While there will be judgment (Rev 14.17-20 portrays this pretty graphically), this is not done at the typological hand of a human army, as was the case in Joshua.

Thus there is a benefit to imagining the Christian life as a land-less life.  When Christ returns, this will no longer be the case, but for now, with our harps hung in the willows, we sing the songs of Zion amidst mocking.  This might seem defeatist or under-realized eschatology, but perhaps God’s words to the apostle Paul (though slightly out of context) are nevertheless appropriate: “…my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12.9).


1 thought on “Christianity: The Religion of the Landless”

  1. Agree with you that the “nationalism and power” reference is a bit over the top, but a good point made nonetheless. I think most of us are more comfortable with exodus than we are with exile.


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