Saturday, January 24, 2015

Kingdom Conspiracy (1) Scot mcKnight

I have just read Kingdom Conspiracy by Scot McKnight. Having just published a book on the kingdom called Kingdom Authority, I am interested in what other writers are saying about the topic. I have studied the Kingdom for a long time, but I can always learn something from others.

When I first began writing thirty years ago, no one was interested in the Kingdom of God. Most Christians just saw it as another word for the Church. In the last ten years, all that has changed and “Kingdom” has becomes a favourite adjective among Christians. This is great, but there are dangers as well.

Scot McKnight has two concerns about the interest in the kingdom. He describes these in the first two chapters of the book.

The first has the view that the Kingdom of God is just another expression for heaven and that the gospel is about how sinful people get a ticket to heaven. Kingdom work is evangelism to get people saved and into heaven.

The kingdom has been boiled down to specific redemptive moments, moments when God’s redemptive reign breaks into to save, to restore to reconcile to heal (chapter 2).
Scot has already dealt with this issue in his book the King Jesus Gospel, so he does not focus on it in this book. I agree with his concerns. Jesus came to put right everything that sin and evil put wrong. An escapist gospel that is limited to rescuing Christians from the world is severely truncated.

The second approach that Scot McKnight challenges is the common view that everything done to make the world a better place is “kingdom Work”. He gives a couple of examples to illustrate this shift.

Another pastor told me that on any weekend he wants he can solicit large buckets of money and lots of volunteers if he needs them for “kingdom work” and social activism, for compassion for the poor, for AIDS, and for building water wells in Africa. But, he said to me, “If I ask for money for evangelism, I am lucky if anyone gives a dime”
A missionary wrote this to me recently: Religious work in Africa is very interesting. Almost no missionaries are doing bible teaching, evangelism, discipleship, or church planting. We’re all doing orphanages or trade schools or working with the deaf or HIV/AIDS education, etc. I am puzzled as to why that is our reality”. He did not say it, but I suspect that those missionaries who are doing these good deeds think they are doing “kingdom work” (Chapter 1).
This shift changes the gospel.
Kingdom means good deeds done by good people (Christian or not) in the public sector for the common good.
Boiled down to its central elements, kingdom mission in this approach is working for social justice and peace (Chapter 1).
I agree with Scot on this issue. He argues that in recent decades that a form of liberation theology has moved surreptitiously into mainstream evangelicalism. I presume this is why he writes about a “Kingdom Conspiracy”. The consequence of this shift is that the gospel becomes a political eschatology.
The location of God’s work is in the world. In essence, the church gets replaced by Washington, DC, and the ethic of Jesus is translated into Western liberalism’s noble ideals. Kingdom work, then, is when good people do good deeds in the public sector for the common good (Chapter 1).
This problem infects both the Christian Left and the Christian Right.
The Christian Left and the Christian Right are doing the same thing—seeking to coerce the public or, more mildly, seeking to influence the public into their viewpoint through political agitation and majority rule (Appendix 1).
Scot McKnight makes his point emphatically, by saying that there is no Kingdom outside the church. Many will disagree with him, because it is common to say these days that the kingdom is much bigger than the church. However, there is some truth in what he is saying. If the church consists of all Christians, and only Christians can do Kingdom work, then the Kingdom work must be done by church people. It cannot be done by those who do not belong to Jesus.

I go beyond this in one way. The kingdom is about authority (McKnight does not quite get this). When a person who is not a Christian submits freely to a Christian, either for pay or because the respect their wisdom, the activities that they submit are part of the kingdom, as they are under the authority of Jesus. The Kingdom extends beyond the church in this way, but not very far. I explain this in Kingdom Authority chapter 13.

I got frustrated with this book at times, because it does not seem to go far enough. It is better at identifying problems than providing solutions (I think my book Kingdom Authority is superior in this respect). There are some important spiritual issues that Scot seems to miss out. Nevertheless it is an important book. It challenges some really bad ideas that have taken hold in the Christian world. Many Christians will read it and be pushed into the right direction. I think my book is better, because it gives solutions that will work, but many people will not read it because they will find it a shift too far, so I will be glad if they read Scot’s book and begin the shift.

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