Skip to main content

Special book offer for donors on Giving Tuesday. Learn More 👉

The Spiritual Visibility of the Kingdom of God: A Reply to Sessions

December 20th, 2010 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

David Sessions, on my review of The Next Christians:

I’m not going to endorse Lyons’ theology without having read his books, but I balk at this tendency to over-theologize the Christian gospel, to make it about an abstract spiritual concept rather than one that can be touched and felt on the earth right now. What is grace if not a response to brokenness? To me, the pain of the world in front of us, the sense that this is not the way it ought to be, is perhaps the only context in which the gospel makes sense.

Well, yes.  My point wasn't that the Gospel is an "abstract spiritual concept."  While it is a spiritual concept, it's one that can, as Sessions puts it, "be touched and felt on the earth right now."  That's the point of Christmas and of praying "on earth as it is in heaven." The Kingdom has a visibility, but as John Webster has said in a different context, it is a spiritual visibility--namely, a visibility that is shaped by the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit who conforms us to the pattern we have in Jesus Christ.

My suggestion was slightly different, though.  There is  tendency in the younger evangelical emphasis on Kingdom-theology to neglect the fact that the point of the Kingdom is not healing brokennes per se, but the King.  To quote R.T. France on Matthew 5:16:

"The subject of this discourse, and the aim of discipleship which it promotes, is not so much the betterment of life on earth as the implementation of the reign of God.  The goal of the disciples witness is not that others emulate their way of life, or applaud their probity, but that they recognize the source of their distinctive lifestyle in 'your Father in heaven.'"

One more point on this:  the grace which is a response to the brokenness of the world is nothing less than God himself.

Addendum: This bit was also enormously kind of David to write:  "Matt’s  upcoming book is available for pre-order on Amazon. I promise it will be worth a read."

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.