During the twentieth century, the rise of the social gospel and liberation theology has created an environment where people feel free to disdain the local church while at the same time claiming to serve the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God has in turn become a very vague notion. In modern terms:
done by good people (Christian or not)
in the public sector
for the common good. (4)
In harsher terms:
Contemporary kingdom theology tends mostly to be liberation theology articulated by white people on behalf of the oppressed and poor and marginalized, who (by the way) more often than not have themselves moved beyond anything whites have to offer. (254)
For McKnight, this anemic kingdom isn’t good enough. He believes, simply stated, church = kingdom.
Kingdom mission is church mission, church mission is kingdom mission, and there is no kingdom mission that is not church mission. (96)
The kingdom of God is made up of citizens who serve the king. While people outside the kingdom can do many good things—some that even coincide with kingdom values—they cannot do kingdom work. All genuine kingdom work is more than social.
Kingdom mission offers holistic salvation in the context of the church of the redeemed, those who are being redeemed and those who will be redeemed. Kingdom mission forms communities of the redeemed. Any kingdom mission that does not offer this kind of redemption is not kingdom mission. (158)
One underlying concept in the book was the story of the kingdom. We are used to thinking of the story of the kingdom in terms of creation-fall-Israel-Jesus-church (as N. T. Wright memorably put it, a five act play in which we are improvising the final act). McKnight takes a different approach: A-B-A’.
- A: God rules the world as king
- B: God allows Israel to have a human king, culminating in David
- A’: God rules the world again in King Jesus
This simplified approach to the kingdom story is interesting to think through, although I find Wright’s five acts more compelling.
Kingdom Conspiracy is a great resource for Christians who want to think biblically and honestly about their engagement in the world.
—Scot McKnight, Kingdom Conspiracy (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2014).