Tag Archives: kingdom of heaven

Book Review: God-Soaked Life: Discovering a Kingdom Spirituality, by Chris Webb

God-Soaked LifeChris Webb’s God-Soaked Life: Discovering a Kingdom Spirituality is a beautiful and encouraging reminder to live with eyes to see and ears to hear the reality of the kingdom of God right now. Disciples of Jesus are not called to wait until they “fly away” somewhere; they are called to live in the kingdom now until we are fully united with God in the new heavens and new earth. What does that mean? Living and acting now in such a way that embodies the future kingdom that is “already among [us]” (Luke 17:21) and “not from this world” (John 18:36)—a kingdom and worldview that originated in God, not a human mind or institution. This way of love is not merely a suggestion; it’s a command. But if all we’re being are rule followers, then we’ve missed the entire point of loving God and neighbor—the kingdom.

Webb presents perspective on and life in the kingdom of God in practical and accessible ways. The book is divided into seven sections (The Invitation, Heart Renewal, Fearless Honesty, Close to the Father’s Heart, God in Everyday Life, Creating Community, and The Politics of Love), each containing three substantial chapters followed by a concluding fourth, which includes seven helpful and introspective questions based on particular readings of scripture. These questions may be pondered and answered all at once or, as suggested, taken a day at a time for a week’s worth of introspection and devotional time.

I will be recommending this book to my students, as well as many others (including you!). If it were scheduled to be published a month earlier, I would have had it on a reading list. Alas, it will be released too late, but never too late to recommend!

Grace and Peace to you all, and may you have eyes to see and ears to hear the kingdom of God in which we already live!

 

*I received a temporary, unpublished digital copy (hence no page numbers for included quotations) for review from InterVarsity Press via NetGalley.

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Book Review: Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals, by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw

Jesus for PresidentIn 2014, my good friend Zach bought us both a copy of Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. He had heard good things about the book and wanted my opinion as we went through it since we had been studying political theology for about a year in church. Unfortunately, we didn’t get past our first meeting with our combined busy schedules, but I’m glad to have finally come back and finished reading it myself.

I want to first point out that no one should be approaching this text from either a “liberal” or “conservative” political stance. This, unfortunately, has been the stance from which many have reviewed the text. We should first see how Jesus calls us to live, and then work out pragmatic application in our own context, regardless as to whether it may be perceived as “liberal” or “conservative.” In Jesus for President, Claiborne and Haw approach a number of controversial subjects from the initial perspective of being a citizen in the kingdom of God first. Many cannot separate their national and political affiliation from their Christian affiliation—framing it this way may seem harsh, but it’s what Jesus called us out on; we’re all in, or we’re not—and this will be the foundation of much disagreement and debate. So, I would encourage the reader to stick with them and make as much an attempt at thinking from a kingdom perspective first as able. This does not mean he or she will always agree or disagree with the authors—I certainly didn’t agree on all theological or practical points—though I do think one may be better able to appreciate their arguments, and perhaps learn and grow into being a better disciple of Christ.

It’s widely understood by my friends and family that I am a pacifist and am far more in favor of living in community than is my individualistic, privatized, American culture. I believe this is what Jesus asks of us. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that I agree with the authors on much of what is presented; however, I do not always come to the same conclusions as to how we go about demonstrating these things. Nevertheless, I do and will recommend this as a beautiful and interesting introduction to how we engage with one another and the world.

Book Review: Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church, by Scot McKnight

Kingdom ConspiracyScot Mcknight’s latest book, Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church, takes on contemporary understandings of the “kingdom of God” and offers his own. He initially sets up two straw men: 1) the social justice loving “Skinny Jeans” kingdom, full of millennial youngsters who (according to McKnight) simply focus on working toward the “common good,” and 2) the heavy thinking, not-so-pragmatic “Pleated Pants” kingdom, associated with scholarly theologians, typified (according to McKnight) by the kingdom interpretation of “God’s rule.” It is rightly pointed out that, at least in so far as they are generalized, these two exaggerations (they are exactly that) don’t learn from the other and have both, in fact, missed it altogether. McKnight offers his understanding of “kingdom” as a proper balance of “definition” and “doing” in its appropriate context. The problem here is that McKnight does not bridge the gap between the straw men, but, if we are to only consider these three perspectives, creates a third point on a triangle, in the center of which the actual kingdom of God may be found.

The most hammered and significant point McKnight makes concerning the kingdom of God is that it is the church, noting no distinctions between the two and arguing a great deal against those who have differing perspectives about how the may indeed be referring to two distinct things, the most common being that the church is a part of the kingdom but is not the kingdom. He argues that anything done without the sole purpose of trying to convert someone to Jesus, and consequently coming to that end, is not “kingdom work,” rather it is only “good work.” It is also to be understood that anything outside of corporate, local church work is not kingdom work—individuals cannot do kingdom work; kingdom work is only the work of the church (because they are the same thing). McKnight attempts to work out a number of nuances, but never satisfactorily equates “kingdom” and “church,” but does continuously remind the reader of the equation to further his larger work.

Admitting that a kingdom needs a king, people, land, and law, McKnight offers the following: Jesus = King (sufficiently noted in Scripture); church = people (by definition); wherever a Christian is standing = land (no support offered, only a claim and never mentioned again); law/Torah = the Sermon on the Mount (no support offered, only a claim, though used later in the book). However, even after acknowledging all of this, even if in passing, he keeps coming back to “kingdom = people = church,” arguing throughout the book from this perspective.

Ironically, McKnight, through arguing against other perspectives, provides much support for perspectives contrary to his own. On a number of occasions he contradicts his own conclusions, yet fails to see it, even to the point of writing that “the kingdom is the church, and the church is the kingdom—that they are the same even if they are not identical” (206). I preordered book hoping to use it for a course I’ll be teaching, but even though there is a lot of good stuff here (I really appreciate his work on varying assumptions of the kingdom that was to come by those before and during Jesus’ life, especially by not shying away from apocryphal texts to illuminate the culture of a particular time in history), there’s just too much inconsistency and unhelpful material to include it in the required reading. However, if I were emphasizing an extended exercise in critical reading and wanted to increase the level of debate, I think this would be a great book to critique.

McKnight shows his hand at the end of “Appendix 2: Kingdom Today,” wherein he takes on liberation theology and notes the real intent of writing the book: to oppose the “social gospel.” Perhaps a shorter and better book could (should) have first been written to this end, but it likely would not have garnered the attention a book about “Kingdom Conspiracy” would have for marketing and sales. I recommend reading at least chapter 13 of Ken Wytsma’s book Pursuing Justice: The Call to Live & Die for Bigger Things for a well-articulated argument and explanation of the controversy between “social justice” and “social gospel,” which may be helpful in better understanding the positions of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as it concerns “good work” and “kingdom work.” There ought not be an equating of “kingdom” and “social justice,” but there can also be no separation. (My review of Ken’s book may be found here.)

As a whole, I cannot recommend this book to just anyone, though I would certainly use parts of it. Just as McKnight, in support of his own arguments, often cites N. T. Wright and Christopher J. H. Wright, both theological giants and neither of whom would in my estimation concur with McKnight’s conclusion, I would cite McKnight in support of my own while knowing full well he would not agree. We both believe in our Lord, Jesus Christ, bringing his love to others through pacifism and peacemaking, and desire others to want the same. May all our efforts be for the glory of God and the furthering of his kingdom, even if we disagree on its definition.