Community Theology of the Kingdom: a book review

The proclamation of Jesus was that ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand.” However a lot of ink has been spilled trying to explain what the ‘Kingdom of God’ actually is. The classical liberal position was that the Kingdom denoted God himself in his power. Others (like Walter Rauschenbush) implied that the Kingdom was embodied by righteous life and action. Liberation theologians and others  claim the Kingdom is a challenge to current social structures while theonomists and reconstructionists argue that the kingdom is a restoration of Israel’s law (21-23). The great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, understood the Kingdom of God as an idealist ethic which we ought to live out.  Emergent Christian definitions of the kingdom often denote a present reality without much of a future orientation. Certainly there are aspects of truth to all of these models but none does justice to the richness of the Biblical material and theological tradition.

The Kingdom of God edited by Christopher W. Morgan and Robert Peterson

Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson have edited a book on the kingdom of God, which they’ve creatively titled,  The Kingdom of God. This book is part of their “Theology in Community” series (from Crossway) which gathers together a team of biblical scholars and theologians to reflect on particular themes. Their conviction is that theology is done best in teams. I have not read the other books in the series, so I cannot comment on how successfully they achieved their aim, but this book is exceptional for the depth, insights and cohesiveness. Each of the scholars in this book  affirm that ‘the kingdom’ implies ‘the reign’ of God and ‘the realm of God (his presence and sphere of influence). They also agree that the kingdom of God is both a present reality and a future hope (the already and the not yet). However they all bring their own unique insights from their fields of study (Old Testament, New Testament, Historical Theology, Systematic theology.  Theological ethics, etc).  The rich insights spill from one chapter to the next and force you to consider the meaning of the kingdom from several different angles.  The book begins with a short introduction from Morgan and Peterson which describes the theme and structure. Stephen Nichols explains the variegated understanding of the kingdom in Church history and in contemporary contexts (chapter one).  Bruce Waltke puts the Kingdom in the context of the Old Testament and the covenant (chapters 2-3). Robert Yarbrough examines the variety of references to the kingdom in the New Testament (chapters 4-5). After Waltke and Yarbrough have laid the biblical foundation, the subsequent chapters turn to theological matters. Clinton Arnold discusses how healing and exorcism in the New Testament demonstrates a ‘breaking in’ of the Kingdom into the present reality. However all miracles are transitory and point forward to a future fulfillment (where God’s in-breaking is the norm not the exception).  Gregg Allison relates the concept of church to kingdom and what it means for mission (particularly the ministry of reconciliation).  Gerald Bray explores eschatology and the Kingdom. The final chapter is by Anthony Bradley and explores the ethical implications of the Kingdom (orthopraxy). This book will enrich your understanding of what the Kingdom is and will further evangelical, scholarly discussion. It is a tribute to a book that upon finishing it, I found myself re-reading parts of it immediately. There is a lot here to reflect on and process. Stephen Nichols and Bruce Waltke’s chapters are particularly good (but there is not really a weak essay).  Whether you are wanting  to beef up your theological understanding of the Kingdom or gain some exegetical insights, this is worth reading. I give it five stars: ★★★★★ Thank you to Crossway publications for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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