In chapter 12, Scot McKnight summaries the themes of Kingdom Conspiracy in fifteen theses. Theses 5 and 6 expose the Constantinian Temptation, which is to use state power to impose Christian values.
The church’s historical temptation is to make “kingdom” public by aligning itself with the state or the powers of culture, often called the Constantinian Temptation. In the United States, both the Moral Majority (or the Christian Coalition) and the Christian progressives have succumbed to Constantine; that is, they are tempted to use the state’s force (even if of the majority) to legalize the Bible’s teachings and its arena to carry out their battles.Thesis 6
The historical context of much of Christian activism today is rooted in the social gospel, which turned Christians into public advocates for the poor and powerless, and this was often propped up by political or social progressivism’s theory of political action. The social gospel then morphed in the middle of the twentieth century into liberation theology, which turned the Christian toward economic systems at work in the world. In particular, Marxism (or neo-Marxism, or softer forms) shaped much of liberation theology. Then liberation expanded into a message liberating all who are oppressed (women, African Americans, etc.). Most notably, building somewhat on the social gospel, liberation theology decentered the church and made the church an arm of the government’s progressivist aims. It is not unfair to see conservative Christian politics as a conservative liberation theology rather than its opposite. Either way, each side of the culture war has succumbed to Constantine and operates with the mistaken belief that the most important arena of God’s mission in the world is the political sector.These two theses are the most important in the book. This is the kingdom conspiracy that Scot McKnight is worried about.
I agree with his concern. Collusion between religious and political power is always dangerous. What Scot seems to miss is the destruction of political power is a key message of the Daniel and Revelation.
I explain how the collapse of political power changes the authority situation on earth in Chapter 14 of Kingdom Authority.
Towards the end of the Times of the Gentiles, political power will be expanded and centralised. This concentration of power will further empower the principalities and powers.
The kingdom of man will be unable to deliver on its promises and will eventually collapse.
When the time is right, Christian prophets will also announce God’s judgement of this political empire. Their prophetic words will release the power of the Holy Spirit to destroy human government and political empires throughout the world. Big powerful government will sink like a millstone thrown into the sea, never to be seen again (Rev 18:21). Its destruction will be so horrifying that the people of the world will never trust it again.
When human rulers and empires collapse, the principalities and powers that have amplified their power through them will be shattered. With no place to stand, they will become common evil spirits defeated by the cross. When political leaders lose their power, the spiritual forces will be fragmented and weak.
When human governments stop functioning, a power vacuum will exist. Those who have trusted in democratic government will be desperate for something different and better. With human government crushed by events it could not control, people will be desperate for a saviour who keeps his promises. They will welcome the Kingdom of God.
As human political powers are swept away, authority will return to families and local communities. Political power will be chopped up, pushed down and spread around to people who trust Jesus and walk in the Spirit. The kingdoms of the world will disappear and be replaced by the Kingdom of God (Rev 11:15).