Tag Archives | Church

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).

Church Membership | Chuck Klosterman

Chuck KlostermanNothing depresses me more than hearing an organized religion worry about membership. Do they think Jesus is somehow impressed by voter turnout? Do they think God gives preference to religions that appear especially popular? It’s not like God only allocates federal funding to religious organizations that meet a quota.

—Chuck Klosterman, Killing Yourself to Live: 85% of a True Story (New York: Scribner, 2005), 104.

Kingdom Conspiracy | Scot McKnight

The cover of McKnight's Kingdom ConspiracyKingdom Conspiracy brings some much needed clarity to an important question: what is the relationship between the church and the kingdom of God?

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:

Kingdom means
good deeds
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).

The Church is Mission | Howard A. Snyder

Early Christians believed not that the church “had a mission” but that the church was God’s mission in the world—the living body of Christ, the actual visible embodiment of the good news.

—Howard A. Snyder with Joel Scandrett, Salvation Means Creation Healed: The Ecology of Sin and Grace (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011), 7.

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