Steve Jobs’ Legacy: Kingdom Work?

Steve Jobs’ Legacy: Kingdom Work? November 3, 2011

The word “kingdom” is perhaps the flabbiest term being used by Christians today. In fact, many who like “kingdom” would rather they not be called “Christians.” This good word of Jesus’, which he inherited from his scriptures and from his Jewish world, has come to mean two wildly different things today: for some it means little more than personal redemption, that is, it means submitting personally to God as your king and Lord. Let’s call this the redemptive kingdom. For yet others it means the ethics connected with the kingdom, that is, it means wherever there is peace, justice, goodness, freedom, liberation … you name it … there is kingdom. Let’s call this the justice kingdom.

Before I raise my hand and speak from the floor in a way that many simply don’t like, I want to make two things clear: Yes, the kingdom needs to be connected to the redemptive powers at work in this world, and this can be found at times in Jesus’ teachings when he says things like “if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28). And Yes there is an ethical dimension to this term, besides ideas like righteousness and zealous commitment and joy (as in Matthew 13), but also flat-out ethical categories like justice, as in Romans 14:17: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” So, Yes, it is reasonable to see a redemptive kingdom and a justice kingdom. (The latter has much less support in the language of the Bible.)

My beef today is that too many today have abstracted the ethical ideals from Jesus’ kingdom vision, all but cut Jesus out of the picture, and then called anything that is just, peace, good and loving the “kingdom.” The result is this equation: kingdom means goodness, goodness means kingdom. Regardless of who does it. My contention would be that kingdom goodness is done by kingdom people who live under King Jesus. I applaud goodness at large. This is not a question of either or but whether or not all goodness is kingdom goodness. Some say Yes, I say No.

Here’s a really good example and I use this post on a blog because the author sent it to me and because it’s a great example of what we are talking about. I’m not picking on this piece and don’t want this conversation to be about this piece or about what this author says about Steve Jobs. I only want to show how goodness or usefulness and progress in society is sometimes called “kingdom.” In fact, Steve Jobs denied Christianity and was a Buddhist. This guy says Steve Jobs’ contribution to our society was kingdom.

In his words:

There are hundreds of millions of people who can trace a tangible improvement in their livesdirectly to the labor of this man. In reflecting on that, without adequate mental categories for it, erroneous conclusions abound. Whether one concludes that Steve Jobs was a demigod, or that his life’s work to revolutionize the way people can interact with information was a petty and trivial waste of time, there seems to be a lot of confusion. I decided to write this essay because I think that the reflexive eulogizing of those hundreds of millions of people has roots in something more profound than delusional worship of the creator of the smartphone.

Why did Steve Jobs’s life work strike such a personal chord with so many people? I’d like to suggest that the answer has to do with the kingdom of God….

At the risk of over-simplification, the kingdom of God is the realm where God’s will is done—where things work the way God wants. It requires some vivid imagining for people stuck in a bitterly broken world to conceive of such a kingdom. But if you let your mind roam, you might be able to sketch some outlines. Start with the obvious: no more meaningless suffering, no more inexplicable pain. No more sickness, no more death, perhaps not even any decay. Purpose and meaning are woven into the fabric of all experience. Work is productive. Love is the prevailing character of all interaction. Everything works the way it’s supposed to, for everyone. And at the heart of it all, there is perfect goodness—a person of inexplicable beauty and wisdom and perfection, sustaining the economic, social, physical and spiritual dynamics of all that takes place. In other words, words can’t do it justice, but it’s good.

But what does Steve Jobs’s life have to do with this kingdom? One of the things that Jesus taught was that the kingdom of God was “at hand.” Again, this probably means a lot of things, among them that people are called to participate in bringing the kingdom of God with us, “on earth as it is in heaven.” To labor with the goal of making things work the way God wants. Whether by taking a stand for social justice, or by fighting oppression and poverty, or by opposing all things that set themselves up against the way of God. By unlocking the spiritual and psychological chains that stunt people, or by pointing people to the path of freedom and maturity, or by working for the restoration of the natural world. By pleading with God to set things right in individual instances, and once and for all. The way I see it, Steve Jobs did this type of work.

For the immensity of his impact on modern life, he participated in the work of the kingdom in a small, but noteworthy, manner. He recognized the importance, and profound good, of having access to information – for solving problems, for connecting with other people, for experiencing music, for creating. You might say he recognized that, in the kingdom of God, the barriers to information and communication would be dissolved. And he realized the poignancy of creating truly beautiful tools for people to use for these purposes. Jobs was, to borrow a phrase from philosopher Dallas Willard, “free and powerful in the creation and governance of what is good.”On Tuesday night people publicly recognized, at the rate of 10,000 per second, that this was the story of Steve Jobs’s life.

Get out your Bible and find the references to kingdom and you will discover that it refers to a society in which God’s will is done, with Jesus as the King, where the Story of Israel finds its completion in the Story of Jesus and where that same Story of Jesus shapes everyone. Kingdom refers to that Davidic hope for the earthly world where God sets up his rule in the Messiah and where people live under that Messiah as God’s redeemed and liberated and healed and loving and peaceful and just people.

Yes, feeding the poor is good and it is God’s will for this world, whoever does it. But “kingdom” refers to that special society that does good under Jesus, that society that is buried in his death and raised in his resurrection and lives that Story out in our world today. It makes no sense to me to take this word of Jesus that he used to refer to what God was doing in and through him at that crucial new juncture in time and history and use it for something else.

At this point I want simply to mention that when the early Christians did “good” in society, they didn’t call it kingdom work but “doing good” or “benefaction” and 1 Peter has a few examples of this, including 1 Peter 2:13-15:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. [Italics refer to those words of benevolence in the public realm.]

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  • Scot, you make a very valid point. In addition to concerns about the increasing dominance which technology has in our lives, and the questionable practice of assigning too much value to often exclusive technology and branding, this post from pastor and author Craig Goodwin (‘Year of Plenty’) may add some additional backing to your critique as well – “Steve Jobs’ “Do what you love” Advice Doesn’t Work for Low-Wage Chinese Workers That Built Apple Empire”: – Ben D.

  • “Kingdom goodness is done by kingdom people living under King Jesus.”

    That nails it.

  • Stephen W

    I’m not saying that I agree with the idea that Jobs did “Kingdom work”, however I’m not sure about your argument Scot that “‘kingdom’ refers to that special society that does good under Jesus” or that “[it refers] to what God was doing in and through him [Jesus] at that crucial new juncture in time and history.”

    In Luke 17:21 Jesus says “The Kingdom of God is within you”. Note he says this to the Pharisees, so this isn’t directed at believers.

  • Scot McKnight

    Stephen W, “in your midst” and there is a major group of scholars who read that as “I, Jesus, am in your midst” or “God’s new society, kingdom, is now present.”

  • This is an interesting perspective, Scot. Thanks for posting it.

    For me the overwhelming truth is that the Kingdom is the region in which the King rules, the places in my life where I do what he commands. And this in turn requires that I am listening to him and understanding what he tells me. If I don’t hear and understand how can I obey?

    See (particularly Wolfgang Simson’s remarks about the Kingdom).

    Also Julian Treasure on listening

  • Christopher


    Here’s an idea. Everyone knows that the phrase “kingdom of God” is a much debated term with respect to what it means. Shouldn’t we let the Lord’s prayer define it. The prayer defines it as God’s “will being done on earth as it is in heaven.” Doesn’t this open up the term to refer to a lot of things? Can’t the Spirit, in addition to making us to alive to the Messiah Jesus, convict people of righteousness? Can’t the Spirit convict a man like Bill Gates that we should care about people in Africa suffering from malaria? Isn’t that God’s will? And if so, isn’t that God’s reign being brought about by the Spirit, who is being sent through the Messiah Jesus into the world?

    That being said, I am not sure how ipods, iphones, ipads and macbook pros are in and of themselves kingdom work. Apple is an empire, as Brad notes.

  • Scot McKnight

    Christopher, thanks. Common grace is distinct from the kingdo
    of God. The latter begins to enter with Jesus while common grace has been with us from the beginning.

  • Paul W

    Scot, as a non-evangelical reader of this blog and also someone who works in “human services” to end homelessness, I am often suprised at the comfortable manner some can speak of “kingdom” without reference to the reign of King Jesus.

    I think your spot on in recognizing that Jesus used the term “kingdom” to refer to what God was doing in and through him at that crucial new juncture in time and history. It is baffling to me that followers of Jesus would speak of “kingdom work” with such a disconnect. How can one speak of “kingdom work” without reference to God establishing his rule in connection to the work of king Jesus and its continuation/extension in connection with Jesus’ people living out that reign and bearing witness to it/him?

  • Stephen W


    “In your midst” – I know that this is one of those particular translations that causes much debate, but as I understand it “within you” is by far the most obvious and simple translation. There may well be a major group of scholars who read it as “I, Jesus, am in your midst” but there are also plenty of scholars who disagree and argue that it means “within you”.

    It’s one of those issues that I’ve recently become interested in (thanks to Erwin McManus) and I can’t find a consensus as you seem to suggest. I’d be obliged if you could lay out why exactly it should be translated as you suggest, given the alternative doesn’t involve jumping through hoops.

  • scotmcknight

    Stephen, not at all “by far.”

    I’m boarding a plane but take a look at Beasley-Murray’s discussion. The word entos is not the same as en. Entos naturally goes toward “among” and not “inside you.”

  • Christopher

    I know the KOG and common grace distinction. But are you saying something fundamental has not changed to the world with the coming of Jesus? The presence of the Spirit seems to be limited prior to Jesus BUT now the Spirit seems to be more present in the world. Jesus says that the Spirit will convict the word of righteousness. Do we have to limit that to salvation? I guess I am saying that King Jesus is dispensing the Spirit in bigger ways bringing about God’s reign even BEYOND the church’s activity. Isn’t Jesus reigning and will reign UNTIL all of his enemies are brought into submission? Isn’t malaria an enemy of life? So, I think it is unnecessary to make a distinction between common grace and kingdom of God. Of course, people do not realize Bill Gates spearheading a war on malaria is the work of King Jesus BUT the kingdom is like that. But one day the world will see it.

  • Stephen W


    According to A.T.Robertson “entos” only ever means “within”. Thus “Entos Humon” means “Within you”. He also argues there is no example in Greek literature of “entos” ever meaning “among”. It would seem strange that only in the context of Luke 17:21 would it mean “among”. Even within scripture, the only other example is Matt 23:26 where it is translated as “within”.

  • Greg M

    Stephen W.,

    The problem is that the “kingdom within you” idea doesn’t fit the understanding of kingdom anywhere else in Luke’s Gospel (see Luke 1:33; 12:32; 13:28; 19:11; 22:16-18, for instance), in the other gospels, or as the fulfillment of the kingdom groundwork built in the OT.

    The use of the word entos is not fixed but only has appropriate meaning within a specific context.

  • Stephen W


    I would argue that the “Kingdom within you” doesn’t fit certain theologies, not that it doesn’t fit Luke’s gospel 🙂

    Look at it from another pov, Luke is translating what Jesus reportedly said (presumably either in Hebrew or Aramaic). He chooses the word “entos” to represent in Greek what Jesus was saying. Elsewhere in his gospel (14 times in fact) he uses “mesos” to mean “midst”.

    The only other time he uses “entos” he means “within” or “inside” (Matt 23:26). But because of a theological belief that Jesus didn’t mean “the kingdom is inside you”, some translators argue for a different meaning of the word “entos”. A meaning that exists nowhere else, either inside or outside of scripture.

    That then is an example of allowing your belief to dictate the translation, rather than allowing the translation to inform your belief.

  • Diane

    This is an interesting post. For someone like Bonhoeffer, who I am deeply immersed in at the moment, a society that practiced “good” in a commonsensical, ethical way might have, in a “religionless Christianity” sense seemed a “Kingdom of God” to him–yet he left the “ethically good” US in 1939 after a month to return to Nazi Germany. He found the KOG in a community of flawed believers within an ethically compromised society. Interestingly too, Thomas Kelly, author of A Testament of Devotion, travelled to Germany in the summer of 1938, where he had a spiritually transformative experience in Cologne and, though he was greatly grieved at what he saw under the Nazis, became deeply dissatisfied when he returned to the “good and ethical” USA –and wanted to create something akin to Bonhoeffer’s seminary communities here (though he never met Bonhoeffer). So for those who have had the transformative experience of, to use a shorthand, being “born again” (though both men would have recoiled from the term) mere ethical goodness is not synonymous with the Kingdom–and is in some sense a sham. However, because of the common grace you mention, a deep part of my heart says that yes, a person like Steve Jobs can contribute to building the KOG–I do believe one can help build the Kingdom while choosing not to enter it. That being said, I would agree that the KOG is not merely individual redemption (for people like Bonhoeffer and Kelly you could no more be individually in the KOG than individually married) nor is merely ethical goodness.

  • T


    Honestly, I think you’re missing the point of the passage regardless. The kingdom, according to the NT is within (joy in the Holy Spirit) and outside of us. But the point of that and several other passages isn’t whether its “in them” or not. The point is active presence right then.

    Scot, I agree that “kingdom of God” is by definition something happening in conjunction with the king/Messiah. It’s an inherently Messianic phrase. Further, the Messiah, is (by definition) “anointed” by the Holy Spirit. The Messiah acts with and through God’s Spirit. In both texts you cite, the Spirit is the one making things happen. He is both powering Jesus’ healings and exorcisms and also bringing righteousness peace and joy. The work/presence of the kingdom is tied to the work of God’s Spirit.

  • RobS

    Steve Jobs was an amazing innovator whose success was rewarded by the capital markets and by those who purchased his products. However, to say that he did “kingdom work” is really a far throw. My understanding is he didn’t return much of his financial gains to society or champion bigger social causes. He didn’t preach, teach or encourage the Gospel of Jesus Christ (as stated, he was a Buddhist)

    But the post does a great job to reinforce Scot’s statement: “My beef today is that too many today have abstracted the ethical ideals from Jesus’ kingdom vision, all but cut Jesus out of the picture, and then called anything that is just, peace, good and loving the ‘kingdom.'”

    That’s spot on. To do good & help out at the soup kitchen is appreciated and I’m happy if someone is doing that. But to be motivated by the love of Christ and living to carry out His commands and encouragement is different than being motivated to sell smart phones with cool touch screens.

    Listening to podcasts of pastors that spend 40 minutes teaching on social justice but not hearing anything from the Bible or relating those teachings to Jesus and His mission is disturbing.

    Jobs was an amazing businessman who we can learn some things on leadership, innovation, and thinking about our target market. He’s not one to emulate for spiritual guidance, giving, or living one’s life for Jesus Christ.

  • Stephen W


    Not at all. I can see different ways of understanding the passage even when translated properly :p

    I’m really just playing devil’s advocate. I’m not convinced that you could argue that what Job’s gave to the world was “Kingdom work”, and broadly I think Scot’s probably right.

    From an inaugurated eschatology standpoint, and much as I’m a fan of Apple’s products, I don’t really see the iPhone 4S as an example of the future complete and full reign of Jesus breaking into the present 🙂

  • scotmcknight

    Stephen, I’m traveling. But what I’m opposing is that it means an inner experience.

    T, on Spirit. I’d say the same. Something very new at Pentecost but that is a Christian grace.

  • Scot,
    Thanks so much for your thoughtful response to my weblog post. I’m a huge fan of what you’ve written in the past (in particular, the Blue Parakeet), and will give serious thought to your perspective. I am not a theologian, and I appreciate the hazards of a non-expert weblogging about applied theology in this way. That said, I really meant what I wrote, so I’ll need some time to digest your feedback before I can say whether I still do.

    I appreciate your effort to make the conversation less about me and what I wrote than about the ideas I was writing about. That said, if anyone is interested in seeing what I had to say in its entirety, they can follow the link in your post, or visit

    While this statement may or may not drive you nuts, I’m a firm believer that thoughtful, humble conversation is one of the primary means for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. So thanks for advancing this discussion, and the Kingdom, in a material way.

    Respectfully Yours,

  • TSG

    Steve Jobs… setting things right in individual circumstances, once and for all, is very much similar to being a child of Rosseau.

  • Amanda F

    I’m just writing by the seat of my pants here, but could it be that we’re not giving common grace enough credit here? Common grace, it seems to me, prepares the way for the KOG. We don’t need to feel threatened that the work that is done outside of the church (even by Spirit indwelled believers) isn’t strictly the kingdom. This work prepares the way! That is wonderful! Don’t be discouraged! But it seems what Scot and others here are getting at, is that many believers have lost the sense of the uniqueness of the Church, and the fact that Jesus commissioned the church, empowered by the Spirit, to be THE mechanism in which the KOG will be brought about in its fullness. A Kingdom that isn’t just good, or peaceful, or without suffering, but under the all consuming reign of Jesus the King! Am I off base?

  • Scot, This is a great post for an important debate. If I may, it reflects on your earlier post – where you said, “How we frame the gospel determines everything, and I mean everything.”

    How we frame the Kingdom determines everything. Those who frame the Kingdom as God’s reign in individual hearts have a different view than those who frame it as God’s reign in societal structures and those (like yourself) who frame it as God’s alternative society of people have yet another framework.

    Perhaps the Kingdom encompasses all these things at the very same time:

    God in Christ is King over the entire cosmos, and wants it all reconciled back to himself in Christ (Colossians 1:20). The way by which he lays claim on his Creation is through the redemption of His people, creating an alternative society made up of individuals who have been changed from the inside-out by the Spirit of God. God’s primary way of bringing all things under his reign is through this redeemed people. But God is also at work beyond those redeemed people, bringing goodness into his creation through his Common Grace which shows itself through the work of those not redeemed in Christ but still bearing God’s image, for “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:7). Whether or not to call the work of Steve Jobs “Kingdom” comes down to this: If you frame the Kingdom to just the society of God’s redeemed people, then all of God’s other good work would need to be called… what? Pre-Kingdom, or Extra-Kingdom, or Non-Kingdom? What?

  • T

    Let me say this in line with some other comments. Paul has said in Romans, “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.” So Paul acknowledges that God has imparted a sense of right and wrong on all people, and “sometimes” we all do good. Clearly, though, Paul would not say that all these people who do good, even though led to do so by the God’s imprint on their hearts of his law, have already entered the kingdom of God and Christ. “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father.” This is true regardless of the human vehicle. All that said, I think Scot is right that we need to distinguish the Messianic hope of God’s kingdom coming from the minimal imprint of goodness that God has put within all people as being made in God’s image. I think we can rightly thank God for lots of good that is done by people who do not know Christ by name, but we can still proclaim the king and his kingdom to them and invite them to enter and receive it.

  • Luke Allison

    Dr McKnight,

    At what point does character play a role in “kingdom work”, I wonder? From all accounts, that’s something Mr. Jobs was sorely lacking, unfortunately.

    I wonder if we haven’t gotten so enamored with “big stuff” that we forget so many of Jesus’ words had to do with the “significance of insignificance”. Is there any room for insignificance in our kingdom views?

  • Scot McKnight


    Whenever I bring this topic up people want to talk about things outside the church, and for me “common grace” is a fine and decent term for all of this, and it’s been used for centuries.

    As you know I’m trying to connect church and kingdom, while many today are doing their dead-level best to disconnect the two.

    All of this comes from years of studying kingdom language and I’m convinced that a solid synthetic read of the Gospels leads to these sorts of observations:

    1. Kingdom is connected to Jesus and is never used for anything not connected to Jesus.
    2. Against many, it is not reduceable to inner experience of God’s reign.
    3. Instead, no Jew could say “kingdom” and not think “society.” For me, it is the formation of a society under Jesus, as God regent king on this earth.
    4. My own view is that what Jesus called “kingdom” Paul called “church.” They are not identical, but they are not as separable as many want, as if kingdom means “wherever God reigns” while church means “where Jesus reigns.”
    5. Kingdom isn’t reduceable, either, to the morals Jesus taught: this is the grand liberal failure. Jesus’ kingdom means justice, but not every sort or instance of justice (or goodness) is kingdom. They are not reciprocal expressions. Kingdom justice entails obeying the King as Messiah and Lord and Savior.

    All this but also this: reducing gospel to justification is also a failure since the gospel is about the King, who has a kingdom, and who calls his kingdom people both to embody the kingdom and to be on kingdom mission.

    I can’t connect Jobs with kingdom because of the above. But neither do I connect American liberalism, democracy, or good things in global reconcilation to be kingdom.

    How’s that, Bob? Not very Reformed, perhaps, but it is anabaptist.

  • Richard

    “Common grace is distinct from the kingdom of God. The latter begins to enter with Jesus while common grace has been with us from the beginning.”

    I think this is too much separation. Jesus describes the manifestation of the Kingdom as revealing a mystery that has always been present, not the importing of something new.

  • Matt

    I think the problem is that when “kingdom” becomes separated from Jesus kingship, it won’t be long before “kingdom” devolves into an early 20th century, post-millennial optimism about what humanity and its “goodness” can do/achieve. We know what that amounts to …

  • Amos Paul

    First and foremost, the idea that, “In fact, many who like ‘kingdom’ would rather they not be called ‘Christians,'” is, IMO, a rudely uncalled for assertion. My impression is that there are far more professing Christians who prefer the Kingdom language than ever, these days.

    However, departing from that, I disagree with you not merely on an exegetical level–but on a fundamental theological/philosophical level. It seems to me that you want to distinguish between Jesus’s rule/reign and morality/goodness. I deny this very premise. Any truly substantively good thing is synonymous to being in subjection to the rule of Christ who is the Word of all Creation.

    For instance, if we think that, despite professing Buddhism, Steve Jobs impacted the world in a substantively good manner–then I would call that Kingdom work (for being defined as good = Christ’s power in Creation). However, if we think that Jobs’s Buddhist beliefs or whatever impacted his work in enough of a negative way to make his work not thoroughly good–then it would not be Kingdom work even if *some* good came out of it. Kingdom work is the realm of Christ’s power and goodness.

    Indeed, I am extremely uncomfortable defining ‘Kingdom’ as Jesus’s ‘society’ because that makes the definition of Kingdom contingent upon Earthly people–and not upon the King. The King and his authority/power is what defines Kingdom.

    Colossians 1:13, “Colossians 1:13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.”

    1 Corinthians 4:20, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.”

    The Kingdom of God is *not* our profession of the WORDS Jesus Christ (or Yeshua HaMashiach to the contemporary Jews). It is the power of Christ’s identity at work in Creation expressed in a variety of languages, but defined by the redemptive power of Jesus Christ. True morality only exists and proceeds from the rule of Christ. We cannot separate the two. That’s why they go hand in hand with His power.

    Indeed, I look at Mark 9:38-39, for example, where the disciples complained that some other guy not following Jesus was casting out demons (Christ’s power) in His name. Jesus says in verse 39, “Do not stop him… No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me.”

    And, by name, I mean the traditional philosophical definition of an identity, not the nominalist/post-modern construct of a mere word. Therefore, this man was invoking the identity and goodness of Christ to drive out demons by His power. This man’s action was participating in ‘the good’ (the casting out of demons was evidence of this). And thus, Jesus says, the conclusion of his action cannot, necessarily, also particpate in ‘the bad’ at the same time–which is that opposed to the name/identity of Christ.

    Mark 9:40, “For whoever is not against us is for us.”

    Conversely, I challenge you. Where do you think Scripture equates the terms ‘Kingdom’ and ‘Church’ to be indicate literally and completely the same thing? I only ever see church realizing the Kingdom, but not defining it.

  • Thanks, Scot, for the reply and the clarification.

    I actually feel that the Reformed-types have historically done a poor job of differentiating the Kingdom from the Church, which has caused all sorts of problems with conflating the mission of God for his creation (His Kingdom) and the means for doing so (His Church) – most notably the desire to wield ecclesiastical power over societal institutions in the name of the Kingdom of God. What I appreciate about the Anabaptist tradition is that it calls out these efforts and points people to an upside-down approach, rejecting the lure of power and replacing that with a sacrificial, cross-centered means of bringing the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, especially for the sake of the poor and socially excluded.

    I guess I can be placed in the George Eldon Ladd camp, where we see the Church functioning *for the sake of* the Kingdom of God, not *as* the kingdom. Over the centuries, when the Church has placed itself at the center of God’s plan for the world, things get off-mark. It seems to me that God’s plan is the reconciliation of all things to himself, where all things again submit to the rule of God. This is the Kingdom of God.

    Have you ever written anything interacting with Ladd’s contention that the church is the people of the Kingdom but *not* the Kingdom itself? In chapter 8 of _A Theology of the New Testament_, he has this outline: (1) the Kingdom creates the Church, (2) the Church witnesses to the Kingdom, (3) the Church is the instrument of the Kingdom, and (4) the Church is the custodian of the Kingdom. “The Kingdom is God’s reign and the realm in which the blessings of his reign are experienced; the church is the fellowship of those who have experienced God’s reign and entered into the enjoyment of its blessings.” (p. 117)

  • Another thought provoking post. Your observation that not all goodness is kingdom goodness is something many, IMHO, intentionally ignore. Indeed, maybe pushing harder than needed but I am not convinced our concern and desire to define what is good is appropriate and may itself be a detriment to grasping this idea. If there is a desire to be listening to Jesus, and being submissive/obedient to His will (of course how that is done is another essay), I suggest any work being done in that vein is by essence a good work – regardless of how we or larger society may view it. With all due respect to the OP conflating Jobs’ activities with Kingdom work seems to be in disregard of King Jesus.

  • Amos Paul


    I love how Ladd got the ball rolling on Kingdom talk among Evangelicals (and the 4 part definition you presented)–although I was very disappointed in how his book seemed to try and force a Historic Pre-Millenialism alongside the Kingdom theology.

    What did you think about that? Whether or not you take the view, do you think they are somehow connected?

    I came into Kingdom theology from the Vineyard camp, so that’s one ‘tradition’ (if you can call it such) that generally doesn’t see any particular millenial view as necessarily relevant to the Kingdom theology… though, I think that there’s more amillenialism than not that runs around Vineyard circles (this may simply be due to my preferance, however).

  • Stephen W

    Scot #19,

    So because you oppose the idea that Kingdom has anything to do with an inner experience, that informs the way you translate the verse?

    And if Jesus actually did mean that the Kingdom was (in part) an inner experience, you would be closed to that idea because it doesn’t gel with your theology?

  • Dana Ames

    Christopher, way back at #6,

    I don’t know what else contributed to Bill Gates giving money for the eradication of malaria, etc., but istm that he didn’t start a foundation which would do those kinds of things with an intentional plan until after his marriage to Melinda, who is a devout Roman Catholic Christian.

    So it may be that Bill’s money is funding the work that Melinda is doing as a subject of the King…


  • Greg

    “Not very Reformed, perhaps, but it is anabaptist.”

    Sounds a tad two-kingdomish to me. Hart/VanDrunen might find some agreement here.

    As for Anabaptist, which one? Hauerwas/Yoder might agree, but what a Muntzer? Anabaptism is no more a monolith than any other tradition, no?

  • Sean LeRoy

    How can anyone that’s had a hand in creating such a closed eco-system be doing kingdom work? =)

  • solomani

    I always understood Biblical “kingdom” as “Christendom”. That is before the return of Christ a collection of institutions, peoples and law that reflect the ethos of Christianity – each individual working as a repentant Christian ongoing transformation. When Christ returns it would translate to a literal kingdom with a literal king – with people and institutions directly reflecting the king without the filter of sin.

    Either way, Jobs wasn’t doing kingdom work. But he certainly reflected God’s creativity especially in his combination of emotion and product. Lots of people care about their iPhones, iMACS etc but care little to nothing about other products they own. Will people mourn the passing of Bill Gates in a similar way? Doubtful. Steve Jobs did touch people with his creative genius for technology and that’s definitely Christ like.

    He was otherwise a jerk to be honest.

  • John here, the author of the original post Scot was responding to above. For those who are interested, as I promised in Comment 20, I’ve penned a few thoughts in response to this blog in a new post here:

    Your thoughts, feedback, and comments are most welcome.

  • Hi Scot. I definitely am on the other side of your argument (you may find it on my blog under today’s date or in the “Kingdom” section). It’s apology is short-and-sweet.

    However, I rather preferred to spend more time on the KOG itself. Because you do make an important distinction between the KOG in its ethical vs. its redemptive imports. This is something that cannot be underscored enough. Thank you for this significant reminder.

  • plymouthrock!

    “The result is this equation: kingdom means goodness, goodness means kingdom. Regardless of who does it.”

    But Jesus confirms the idea: “for whoever is not against us is for us.” Mark 9:40

    Please advise