Krister Stendahl on ‘the People of God’

Krister Stendahl, “Formation of Christian Folks in a Plural World: Response by Krister Stendahl to the paper “Formation of the Laos” [by Godlind Bigalke],” May 10, 1997, Le Cénacle, Geneva, 7-10 May 1997, World Council of Churches

Godlind Bigalke

As Barbara Schwahn makes so clear in her reflections on “The People of God” (Document No. 6, p.10), the laos theology needs the full context of the whole creation as a corrective. Jesus’ choice of the Kingdom as the aim and end of the whole enterprise, i.e., the Mending of the Creation (what Jews call Tikkun Olam) is paradigmatic. The laos, when faithful and creative, is supposed to help in that mending not only of itself but of the world. And the imago dei, i.e. that all are created in the image of God, is the common bond of humankind, and a fact more decisive than the tarnish and brokenness that have occured subsequently and that varies in degrees according to various doctrinal traditions.

Beyond and prior to all religious covenants that constitute communities of faith and of culture, there is the bond of common humanity, in the image of God, which should not be belittled in the interest of glorifying one’s own special revelation.

Thus I hail Godlind Bigalke’s instinctive choice of the imago dei as the starting point in considering the topic for formation/transformation/yea restoration. To which I add the Lord’s Prayer, the extended cry for the coming of the Kingdom, the mended creation.

Godlind Bigalke, “Formation of the Laos,” May 7, 1997, Le Cénacle, Geneva, 7-10 May 1997, World Council of Churches

4 thoughts on “Krister Stendahl on ‘the People of God’”

  1. Of course I can’t tell if I already shared this. I had Stendahl in college in a course on “Scandinavian Literature.” I had no idea who he was. I have no idea why I took Scandinavian Literature either. I wrote on “Kristen Lavransdatter” and had a pleasant response to my paper. Nice man.


    1. How interesting! I’ll confess I wasn’t familiar with him before I read Barbara Brown Taylor’s “Holy Envy,” but I’ve made up for it since then — everything I’ve heard about suggests he must have been a wonderful teacher, and I’ve been working my way through the available books and articles. I especially like what he says about Paul — he clarifies some of the concerns I’ve had about justification, salvation, forensic atonement, etc., that whole ball of wax.

      Once a long, long time ago I read “Kristen Lavransdatter,” too. I liked it at the time, but I remember just about nothing about it.


      1. I was laughing when I wrote that to you. I was so clueless when I was at Harvard in the late 60’s that I had no idea that my professors were men of renown. I actually thought they were selling us their books to make money not because they were the experts in their field! I never read him, but am glad to at least know who he is now.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sounds just about exactly like my college experience! What’s the old saying? The Lord looks out for children and drunks? I changed majors in grad school from history to English primarily because there were more teaching assistantships available in the English department, but in retrospect it turned out to be exactly the right decision.


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