Imminent Domain | Ben Witherington III

The cover of Witherington's Imminent DomainKingdomtide was launched in the 1930s by the Methodists along with some other Protestant churches. The church season begins on the Sunday closest to August 31 and runs until Advent. It’s during this season that the church is invited to reflect on the Kingdom of God—or, as Witherington III calls it, the Dominion of God.

Witherington III uses the term “Dominion” rather than “Kingdom” because the latter implies place where the former stresses rule. The Greek term basileia as well as the Aramaic malkuta favors the second emphasis. When we pray “thy kingdom come,” we’re praying for the effective rule of God, not the annexation of a territory that already belongs to the Creator.

Having just read McKnight’s Kingdom Conspiracy, this book raised a fundamental point of tension. McKnight challenges the idea that any and every good deed is “Kingdom work” by stressing that church = Kingdom. Witherington III, on the other hand, assumes that Kingdom/Dominion > church just as Kingdom/Dominion > Israel.

What is crucial to bear in mind at this point is that’s [sic] God’s Dominion is a larger concept than either the church or Israel. (5)

I’m not sure how real the disagreement between McKnight and Witherington III is on this issue, since they both approach the ontology of God’s Kingdom for different reasons. Witherington III continues, “wherever God’s people can be found, there is the Dominion” (4). I suspect he is using kingdom/dominion > church to emphasize that we can’t limit the effective rule of God to that which happens within our own churches.

The sticking point is whether or not God’s Kingdom/Dominion requires human subjects in order for it to exist. If so, then McKnight; if not, then Witherington III. It would be interesting to hear the two discuss this point!

Imminent Domain is a slim book (85 pages) that is suitable for a church Bible study. Witherington III makes this theological topic relevant and interesting as he argues for a revival of the season of Kingdomtide in our churches.

—Ben Witherington III, Imminent Domain: The Story of the Kingdom of God and Its Celebration (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009).

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