In Kingdom Conspiracy, Scot McKnight challenges Christians to get their stories straight … or should I say … their Story straight. Christians growing up in the West, under the tutelage of the protestant Reformation, have primarily read the Bible (and seen the world) through the CFRC story. The primary chapters of CRFC Story are Creation, Fall, Redemption and Consummation. We interpret all of life through these categories. McKnight suggests we look at another Story. He doesn’t suggest CFRC is false. It is just not the main story of the Bible. It is in essence a sub text to the much larger and more dominant story of God in the Bible, the story he names as ABA’. For McKnight, The ABA Story goes like this: Plan A was Adam, Abraham and Samuel. Here God reveals that He will rule through a people but God will remain King. He will share His rule with Adam and Eve. They are created in his image and appointed as sub rulers to rule under God. Yet they fall from this task. They seek to rule not under God but in autonomy from God. You see Adam and Eve are usurpers. To end the mutiny, God kicks them out of the garden. He then chooses one man Abraham and makes a covenant (p. 32). There is no human king in this covenant because a human king is by definition is a usurper. But he shall work in and with (and among) this covenant people to reconcile the whole world to Himself.
But God’s people Israel prove to be more difficult than planned. They want a human king. So God makes a concession. Even though God warned against such a king, He gives them a human king anyway (1 Samuel 8). This was plan B and this king was was ideally going to be David, an Israelite king, who would rule under God in dependence upon God. But this too failed. The human propensity to usurp God and fall into abusive sin plays itself out again. The Israelite kings fail over and over again. Israel fails.
Hence comes plan A revised. The original plan A takes on new form. God sends the Son, in Jesus to fulfil this Kingdom. This is the Kingdom of God envisioned before Samuel’s fateful request and God’s concession and yet this new King will still come in the lineage of David. In Jesus, God is announcing that God is back in charge (p. 37). He rules and He invites us to join in that rule under Him. God has inaugurated the plan to restore the whole world to its ultimate fulfillment as the place of God’s rule and presence with His people. So in summary, parroting McKnight, Plan A Revised is still Plan A. God alone is King. Yet God is now ruling in King Jesus. Israel and Church live under rule of King Jesus as the harbinger of where the whole world is going. Forgiveness is granted thru Jesus. This rule will be completed in final Kingdom (p. 38).
The contrast in these two stories is huge. ABA’ resets the entire gospel story into its historical Jewish context. It refuses to extract it and universalize it in Euro Reformation terms. It brings out nuances we lost in the CFRC story. It puts the Kingdom of God at the center of what God is doing. It expands the gospel beyond personal salvation and yet keeps personal salvation there as the rightful personal participation in God’s Kingdom, Jesus Lordship, the reconciliation, forgiveness and renewal of all relationships, not our of coercion and usurping, but in ther person and work of Jesus Christ as Lord.
ABA’ plays on some of N.T. Wright’s ideas that are part of the new perspective on Paul. Wright’s idea (as McKnight makes note of) was that Israel, at the time of Jesus, still saw itself in exile longing for the true Kingdom restored. Jesus was proclaiming that Kingdom was now happening in Him, in a way they could not have been expected. According to McKnight, until we learn to tell the story that leads us to the gospel claim that Jesus is the Messiah, we don’t have the Bible’s story right. This is the traditional blindspot of Reformed theological interpretation of the Bible
But ABA’ is also part of the Anabaptist heritage. It explores deeply how reconciliation, overcoming hostilities, the violence and usurping of fallen relationships, is at the heart of what God is doing in the world. The undoing of hierarchy, violence against one another, and the restoration of God’s presence in Christ, the healing of the breach between humans and God, humans and humans, is the future of the world in Christ. This understanding of the Bible Story affects the way we see the whole world and the way we understand God at work in His church. And it is so stunningly Biblical.
I first encountered this interpretation of the Old Testament in John Howard Yoder (RYCF). It is dispersed throughout his writings. Then it was put together nicely in a book (and dissertation) by John Nugent called Politics of Yahweh. (a dissertation done at Calvin 🙂 ). It changes the way we see politics, reconciliation and the personal salvation we have in Christ which always participates in His Kingdom, the practice of being God’s people in the world for the redemption of the world, and things like the overcoming of hierarchy and the inclusion of women in ministry.
So McKnight’s book is a challenge to us all to examine the Story that dominates your read of the Bible. It forces the reader to examine CFRC in light of ABA’. He shows how ABA’ is deeply faithful (more faithful) to the Biblical text. It is deeply evangelical offering a view of conversion to Christ as Lord as the entry point to a way of life with God in His Kingdom. He is highlighting an issue that is at the core of the contest between Anabaptist and Reformed readings of salvation, justice, church/world relationship. So will evangelicals read this book? In this nice Cliff Notes version, will we examine the two Stories? Will you examine his case for ABA’ versus CFRC? See if you are not taken up with the most compelling story in the world, what God is doing amidst the suffering, brokeness and violence of the world, to bring His Kingdom of peace, reconciliation and renewal of all things through Jesus Christ. If you’re interest is piqued, delve deeper. Read Nugent (my first recommendation). For all my Reformed bros and sisters, you may just get saved!! ;).
Have any of you responded to the altar call to convert from CFRC to ABA’? Are you thinking about it? Any flaws in the distinction between CFRC and ABA’? Let’s talk!
Looking to study these things in depth? With McKnight and other scholar practicioners? Check out the newM.A. in Theology and Missionat Northern Seminary.