(Image used by the permission of the author).
Scot McKnight is fed up, and with good reason. He is tired of terms like kingdom and church being bandied about and slapped as a label onto any good or worthwhile thing or causes whether or not there is any Biblical justification for doing so. Here’s the Amazon summary of what’s going on in his book Kingdom Conspiracy which came out last year:
“According to Scot McKnight, “kingdom” is the biblical term most misused by Christians today. It has taken on meanings that are completely at odds with what the Bible says. “Kingdom” has become a buzzword for both social justice and redemption so that it has lost its connection with Israel and with the church as a local church.
“McKnight defines the biblical concept of kingdom, offering a thorough corrective and vision for the contemporary church. The most important articulation of kingdom was that of Jesus, who contended that the kingdom was in some sense present and in some sense in the future. The apostles talked less about the kingdom and more about the church. McKnight explains that kingdom mission is local church mission and that the present-day fetish with influencing society, culture, and politics distracts us from the mission of God: to build the local church. He also shows how kingdom theology helps to reshape the contemporary missional conversation.”
If we want to get down to brass tacks, Scot says on the last page of his book (p. 255)
“Kingdom Conspiracy” attempts to reconstruct a kingdom theology rooted in church, and not the public sector.”
I entirely understand this concern, and basically agree with it. The attempt to say Kingdom work is over here and church over there will not do. The Church, at the very least is the locus where one is most likely to see Kingdom work going on, and indeed when we get more specific, since kingdom work has to do with King Jesus, it is indeed necessary to look for that activity to be happening where Jesus is recognized and worshipped as Lord. Things get a little sticky however when Scot tries to define Kingdom, and here we have some differences.
Scot has chapter titles like ‘Kingdom is People’, and the like, and when he defines kingdom it looks like this–‘a people governed by a king, in a place and governed by a teaching or law’. For Scot kingdom people are church people and church mission is kingdom mission, to such a degree that they are basically synonyms. This is not quite nullus salvatus ex cathedra, but it’s close.
The further I got in this book, the more it became clear that while I agree with Scot that one cannot hermetically seal off or divide kingdom from church or kingdom mission from church mission, clearly enough we have some differences on what is meant by the term kingdom, and also what the nature of the church is. We will get into that as we go along. For now, I will say this is an excellent read as it makes you think long and hard what you mean when you talk about kingdom and church and what the connection is, and it certainly sounds the death knell on bad theologies that want to trash the church and exalt whatever their doing as kingdom work, as if that could be something entirely independent of church mission and work.