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.”

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Posted by 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.

3 Comments

  1. I wonder if it’s slightly unhelpful to say either that the healing of brokenness is the point of the kingdom or that the point of the Kingdom is the King – I honestly cannot see how you can have the latter without the former: the expression of the glory of God in his Son is seen in his grace and truth; the Son glorifies the Father by offering his life in fulfilment of his work as Messiah. We don’t have a theology of God in abstraction from his creatures in the Bible, do we?

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  2. Dick,

    I agree you can’t have the Kingdom without the King, but it’s very easy to focus on “the way things ought to be” without speaking of the one who can make them that way. The order of being and knowning are reversed for God–so we may know him in relationship to us as creatures, but his existence and perfection precedes his relationship with us as creatures.

    I was going to start making distinctions between “ends for their own sake and nothing else” (like God)and “ends for their own sake *AND* the sake of something else” (like the Kingdom) but I figured that would have been a little too technical. But I think that language might help clarify my point.

    Also, Sanders’ Deep Things is really helpful for thinking these things through, I think.

    matt

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  3. Got Sanders on my Amazon Wish list – sounds like I ought to move it into the cart! Cheers, Matt.

    Reply

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