We are continuing the Q&A between myself and prolific theologian, author, professor and blogger, Scot McKnight, about his new book, One.Life. You can check out a number of his award winning books and blog here.
Andrew’s Question: In the chapter Kingdom.Life you talk about Jesus’ understanding of kingdom (God’s dream for this world come true) versus our Christian cultural understanding of kingdom today (personal experience with Jesus). Can you explain for us more about a ‘kingdom’ that encompasses the society and community of God rather than an experience-driven kingdom of God?
Scot’s Response: There’s a history here, Andrew. The foundation for most of what evangelicals think about “kingdom” is a scholar named George Ladd. George Ladd was fighting old guard dispensationalism, for whom kingdom was (for Ladd) too much about a place and an earthly arrangement with a king. So Ladd pushed for the kingdom meaning “God’s dynamic reign.” The next thing you know, evangelicals colonized “kingdom” into our personal experience of salvation. That is what kingdom means: God’s personal reign in my life.
I’m not a dispensationalist (and there aren’t many classic dispensationalists left), but they had a view of kingdom that pointed to something that is coming much more into focus today: kingdom is about God, about land, about citizens, about a law, and about King Jesus. In other words, those early followers of Jesus didn’t say “Jesus is talking about kingdom. Come along, guys and gals, and we’ll get saved.” They thought “Wow, the promises to David are about to happen. Jesus is the Messiah.” The first word was “Messiah” not “salvation.”
Which brings me to this, Andrew: when Jesus talks about kingdom he is talking about a society shaped by God’s will as taught by Jesus, about a society where Jesus is king, a society where we are his citizens, a society marked by doing justice and peace and love and grace and forgiveness and holiness and righteousness. The word “kingdom” always and forever will be a society – and never just a personal relationship with God.