The Kingdom of Christ, the New Evangelical Perspective

I recently wrote a book on the topic of Making Kingdom Disciples and concluded that the kingdom is a missing framework in that process. With that in mind, I was eager to read this book on the kingdom. I read an early manuscript version with much interest and enthusiasm.

In my studies and research on this topic, I have become more aware of the confusion on the subject of the kingdom of God. In some cases I have found complete neglect of the topic where it is obvious that it should be foremost. After all, what was it that Jesus came to preach and do? He preached the Kingdom and brought it in. Still, much confusion has existed about this kingdom, ranging from historic dispensationalism, to liberalism, and even to evangelical and reformed theology.

To do Moore’s book justice and to highlight its strengths and weaknesses would take far more space that we have in Equip for Ministry. However I will give a brief overview and end with a strong commendation, particularly to pastors and teachers. First, in Christendom, there is a wide range of teaching regarding the kingdom, from those who believe there is really no connection between the church and the kingdom, to those who believe the church and the kingdom are synonymous, to those who think that the kingdom has already come and those who believe that it is yet to come.

There are several strengths to Moore’s work. First, is the history of the church’s development since the 1900s, which represents an important time, especially for the evangelical church. Second, there are 120 pages of footnotes and bibliography. I did not enjoy however, having to turn to the back of the book so often to read the notes, but I did appreciate their inclusion. Third, Moore dealt clearly and fairly with the concept of the “inaugurated kingdom” (George Eldon Ladd) which means that it came with the coming of Jesus but not yet. The phrase is “already, but not yet.” Moore opens up that study in a most helpful way. Fourth, he does a credible job of showing the role of Carl F. H. Henry, who wrote an icebreaking book, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism, which began to challenge American evangelicals to see the Kingdom in a broader light with a broader Kingdom focus, as it relates to crafting a theology of sociopolitical engagement.

In my book, I attempt to summarize where the Church and the Kingdom are alike, but where the Kingdom has a broader assignment while the Church’s role is more focused, having been assigned the task of making Kingdom disciples in such a manner as to live out their faith in all areas of life. Moore is helpful is demonstrating the concept of taking our Christian faith into the marketplace, the sociopolitical arena, and serving Christ the King of the Kingdom in all of life.

I also appreciated Moore’s development of how traditional dispensationalism and what he calls “traditional reformed covenantal evangelicalism” have modified their positions over the years and brought them a bit closer together. He calls the two “progressive dispensationalists” and “modified covenantalists,” whom he represents with men such as Geerhardus Vos, Edmund Clowney, Vern Poythress, Richard Gaffin, and of course John R. Murray in the reformed camp.

My biggest concern, which does not cast a dark shadow on this excellent book, was how he handles what he calls the traditional covenantalists and the modified reformed covenantalists. He seems to think that the difference deals with the eschatological position being somewhat modified. It also has to do with, according to Moore, how the two comings of Christ are so intermingled. He quotes Vern Poythress of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.

“This growing commitment among Reformed theologians to an explicitly eschatological understanding of the present reign of Christ may be seen in the reconsideration, led chiefly by Gaffin, of the eschatological meaning of the resurrection of Jesus.”

This basically underscores the “already, not yet” nature of the kingdom.

Though the concept of the Kingdom is broader than Moore’s following statement, he helps us understand the important developments on the Kingdom topic.

“The evangelical consensus on the Kingdom of God provides a first step in establishing a coherent theological foundation for social and political engagement in the public square.”

If we understand the reformed covenantal understanding of the Kingdom, we will better understand the Church’s spiritual role in equipping people to live as Kingdom disciples. For example, to quote Moore,

“…the biblical truth that the Kingdom is not just about personal salvation, or “spirituality,” but is also about the vocation of the believing community, the worldview of the church, and the salvation of the cosmos,” page 177.

This is a good book to help us understand where both liberalism and dispensationalism went awry and how the reformed covenantalists stand in the gap and keep the balance while respecting the role of the church today.

To bring this back full circle, Moore correctly states that the move toward a Kingdom theology answers the problems raised by Henry in his book Uneasy Conscious of Modern Fundamentalism, a book which, by the way, is still in print and available from the CE&P bookstore. You will appreciate this book and it will help you expand your understanding of the Church and the Kingdom of God.

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Charles Dunahoo pastored churches in Georgia and Alabama before being called to his present position as Coordinator for the PCA of Christian Education and Publications (CEP).

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