The Polity in

In the scriptures, the eschatological fulfillment of Augustine's "city" is "the kingdom of God." But this political characterization of the eschaton is throughout the theological tradition paired with a characterization that is at first thought quite different: the fulfillment of human existence as "deification" or the "vision of God" (the first term is, of course, dominant in the East, the second in the West). Also, this notion is scripturally supported, since "eternal" life, "perfect" righteousness, "infinite" love and the like - all biblical evocations of the eschaton - can in fact only be God's life, righteousness, love, and so forth. If we are to have eternal life this can only be if we are to share God's life, for God not only is eternal but is eternity, according to the rule that God is identical with his attributes.

But if both eschatologies are true, then somehow entry into the kingdom of God must be entry into the triune life of God, and vice versa. That is, entry into the kingdom of God must somehow be entry into a polity that God himself is in himself. And that is indeed what is to happen, for classic doctrine of the triune

God displays precisely a perfect polity. The following hardly describes what most religion thinks of as God, but it is indeed the way the doctrine of Trinity identifies the specific deus christianorum, the strange God of the Gospel and the church.

There is in the triune God a plurality of social personae: Father, Son, and Spirit each genuinely have a different role, both in God himself - the Father begets and is not begotten, the Son is begotten and does not beget, the Spirit frees and is not freed - and in God's works, in the doing of which "All action . . . begins with the Father and is actual through the Son and is perfected in the Holy Spirit" (Gregory Nyssenus 1958: 125). The three are nevertheless not three gods, precisely in that their communal virtue or righteousness is perfect; for each subsists at all only as complete investment in self-giving to the others. This righteousness is not a silent perfection, but occurs as a discourse, for the second identity, in whom God knows what God is, is a Word. Moreover, decision occurs in this discourse, since God is who and what he is freely, and so in his own eternal decision to be who he is (Jenson 1997: 221-3). The divine "nature" that each has with the others so that they are God instead of something else, and which is thus identical with their righteousness, is the common Good of the three; for to be God is to be the Good, first of all for God. And finally, in consequence of all the above, the eternal triune life is a space of moral action: there are "source, movement, and goal" in God himself and not just as adaptation to his relation with us. God is not eternal because he lacks such poles but because with him "there is no conflict between them" (Barth 1957: 690); because with him they are not steered by the libido dominandi.

The created Polity of God can enter this eternal political life of God because Jesus the Son brings the church with him. Drawing one last time on Augustine, it is the risen Jesus with his body the church that is the totus Christus, the "whole" Christ; there can no more be a person who is "the head" without a body, then there could be a person who was a "body" without a head. Thus as the fact is, whatever might have been, the second person of the Trinity is eschatologically a communal reality that includes a created community. The entry of redeemed humanity into the life of God does not transform God from a Trinity into a multiplicity, because we enter only as those in whom the Son invests himself and with whom he identifies himself. But the investment and identification are real: the Son truly is not without his disciples, also not as an identity of God.

How, then, are we to think of the End? We are to think of a human polity whose enabling common good is God, as is now true of the church, but with two differences. Making these differences is the work of the "Last Judgment."

First: The kingdom's members will belong to no other communities; for whatever is to be the final value of the communities of this world will have been gathered into the kingdom. Here we must stop for a fundamental point about eschatology. Eternal life is not resuscitation; the saints do not simply pick up and go on with their lives. With death, "the moving finger" writes indeed a last line; only so does a temporal life make a whole, which can have a meaning. Eternal life is rather the infinite appropriation and interpretation of accomplished lives within the discourse of the triune life. Just so, also the accomplished mortal communities of this world, its polities and its families and its civil societies, their glories and their horrors, will be matter for the communal discourse of the kingdom.

Thus citizens of the community of the kingdom will not be divided in their mutual righteousness by membership in other communities. It is of course poesy when Christians speak of longing to check a point of philosophy with Socrates, or to hear the angels play Mozart, but it is a poesy that speaks truth; and the point for our present concern is that the saints will not need to turn to any other intersecting community, to find all created beauty and truth. Continuing with eschatological poesy, to delight in "jasper . . . , sapphire . . . , agate . . . , emerald . . . , onyx, carnelian . . . , chrysolites" and the like, they will not need to look away from one another to a separate community of commerce or art, but simply to "the foundations of the walls" of their own city (Rev. 21: 19-20).

Second: The animation and shaping of the created polity's life by that of the divine polity will be immediate. In this age, the church is the body of Christ only in that Christ is present bodily within it as an other; an other, moreover, that is apparent only to faith. Neither Christ's word as spoken in the church, nor his body and blood as present on the eucharistic table, nor any other of the church's mysteries, look or sound like what they are; the presence of Christ in and to the church. Christ's presence in the church in this age is indeed - to use another piece of Augustine's language - the "sign" of the church's true being, which is Christ's presence for the world. But this sign, Christ's presence in the church, itself requires to be signed by audible and visible signs if it is to be apprehended at all, and is as much hidden by these signs' native visibility as seen in it. In the kingdom enveloped in the triune life, the bread and cup, the water, the audible preaching, and all such mediations will not be needed: we will know ourselves as Christ's body as directly as we now know the signs of bread and cup.

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it. . . . People will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will enter it. (Rev. 21: 22-7)

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