In Scot McKnight’s latest book, Kingdom Conspiracy, he has an axe to grind. He’s doing some honest complaining. The way he sees it, the word “Kingdom” has become muddled. The phrase “Kingdom of God” has lost its moorings. It has come to mean many different things to different people within the Christian world. As a result, the word “Kingdom” has lost its impact. And McKnight thinks this word is too important to the Christian mission to get sloppy with. I think he has a righteous complaint. So right off the bat he starts with a metaphor in which he explains the problem. He divides the two most dominant camps of understanding the Kingdom into the “Skinny Jeans Kingdom” people and the “Pleated Pants Kingdom people.” The Skinny Jeans people understand “Kingdom” to mean good deeds, done by good people (Christian or not) in the public sector for the common good. Kingdom reaches not only beyond the purview of Christians and the church, it really does not need Christians (as narrowly defined) or the church. Kingdom happens wherever justice may be found. That is God working. Let’s join in with that! This is the world of mainline Protestantism (over-generalization). It is also the world of many progressive Christians including evangelicals. McKnight asks these people, “did Jane Addams do Kingdom work?” The Skinny Jeans people would say “yes.” McKnight would say “No!”
The “Pleated Pants Kingdom” people, on the other hand, understand Kingdom to mean the dynamic redemption of God in Christ. It is not a place, or a space, or a social realm with boundaries. It’s location is nowhere and everywhere at the same time. It is God working now to redeem people’s lives in Jesus Christ in this world. It takes place in specific redemptive moments in people’s lives. The Kingdom is the rule that has begun in Christ and it is an inbreaking dynamic. There are evidences of it in the things the redeemed do for the Kingdom. This Kingdom will be completed at the Eschaton when it arrives in full. This is the world of many post-fundamentalist evangelicals. For McKnight, there are good things in this view of the Kingdom as well, but it is not the Kingdom.
The two worlds then, which focus on social activism through the public, political processes and focus on redemptive moments of the gospel “fall substantially short of what kingdom meant to Jesus” (p. 18). We need, according to McKnight, seriously engage all over again what the Bible means when it speaks of the Kingdom. This is what the rest of the book in essence does.
McKnight is doing something here in this book I applaud. He is seeking a closer more interdynamic relationship between the church and the Kingdom. I couldn’t be more on board!! But will his solutions meet the challenge? Will he go too far? I hope to explore this in depth over next couple weeks. I hope to explore what I view as the sliver of difference that exists between me and McKnight on his solutions to this problem (and why he dedicates the book “To Fitch”).
But before I move on further into this book, what do you think about McKnight’s characterization? Do you think he’s right? Do you think “Kingdom of God” has lost its moorings? Do you think it means everything and anything, applying to all justice causes? Give us some examples of who the Skinny Jeans people are (authors etc.) versus the Pleated Pants people. I have spilt some ink on this subject. It blows my mind how disparate the views are of the Kingdom and its relationship to Jesus and the church. What say you?
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