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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"Kingdom Conspiracy" (Scot McKnight)

TITLE: Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church
AUTHOR: Scot McKnight
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2016, (304 pages).

In this book, McKnight continues to offer up counter intuitive ideas about basic Christian beliefs and practices. Like what he had done for gospel and evangelism, he is doing the same for Kingdom and the mission. In his earlier book, "King Jesus Gospel," he critiques with vigour the faulty evangelistic models that reduce the gospel to a series of spiritual laws, salvation culture, or merely saying the sinners' prayer. Likewise, in this book, McKnight offers up a critique of some common usage of the word "kingdom." After studying the various approaches by "skinny jeans kingdom people," he summarizes their understanding of kingdom as, "Kingdom means good deeds done by good people (Christian or not) in the public sector for the common good." In other words, kingdom work means social justice, world peace, good works with a tinge of Biblical principle. That is not all. McKnight takes to task the "Pleated Folks" perspective that is incorporated into two statements:

  1. Kingdom as present and future
  2. Kingdom as rule and realm
These two statements make it seem like kingdom is everywhere, nowhere, anyhow, and anywhere. Indeed, if everything is kingdom, we are not really going to learn much about what kingdom is anyway. Readers are urged to be patient and to let the author guide us. After clearing the decks, McKnight presents what he calls "returning to the radical mission of the local church." The clue is to bring together the practical helps of the "Skinny Jeans" and the concept of "Pleated Folks" to tell the two stories of the kingdom, the CFRC and the ABA. This is storytelling the Bible. 
People of the Kingdom will know the story of CFRC: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and the final Consummation. It is remembering the gospel summary in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 that, Christ died, buried, raised on the third day, and appeared to his disciples. Like the King Jesus gospel, the kingdom is about Jesus. He agrees with NT Wright that the kingdom story must incorporate our identity (who are we?); our locality (where are we?); our calamity (what is wrong?); and our destiny (what to do?). 

The second story, the ABA brings us through biblical theology, with:
  • Plan A - story of Adam to Abraham to Samuel
  • Plan B - story of Israel
  • Plan A - Jesus
Thus, kingdom is storytelling about conversion, about discipleship, and about the eschatological hope in Jesus. Kingdom work is telling these stories in the contexts we live in. Kingdom work must be in the contexts of the Bible, the Church, and the mission of God. McKnight retells the kingdom as story. In fact, like the King Jesus Gospel, this kingdom story is the Story of stories. The kingdom today is embedding this story in our everyday contexts, so that we do not fragmentalize our Christianity any further. He advocates active engagement in our everyday community, The kingdom is also about countering the prevailing worldly stories in our culture. Instead of contexts swallowing the gospel, we needs to provide an alternative worldview. We do so remembering that kingdom is people, to people, by the people of God. Chapter 12 provides a very good summary of the entire book. McKnight also closes with some fascinating overview of other prevailing theses of kingdom concepts. I am surprised that McKnight excluded the works of Lesslie Newbigin, Darrell Guder, and Charles van Engen, who had lots of good perspectives with regards to kingdom, the mission, and the gospel in the pluralistic society. 

So What?
The two paradigms in the book essentially present two ways of telling the gospel story. It brings together both the Old and the New Testament as one integrative whole, which is what biblical theology is all about. I thought that the ABA paradigm could have one more element: Church. He has some chapters dedicated to explaining the relationship between Church and Kingdom. Unfortunately, at some point, I get the sense that kingdom seems to be used for nearly everything, which can be confusing for some readers. On the one hand, he talks about the need to see the kingdom in the story of God. We cannot kingdom-everything to the point of superfluous referencing. Gradually, he falls into the same trap of elevating the kingdom to the point that kingdom is indeed everywhere. Maybe, it is the title of the book that has defined his own limits. My own summary is that McKnight does a great job in deconstructing the common perceptions of kingdom. When it comes to re-constructing what kingdom really means, he is not as laser-like.

Sometimes, I find McKnight's work becoming too "counter-intuitive" that we may fail to see the merits of the other kingdom approaches. The casual reader may mistakenly see McKnight as throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There are good ideas in the works that McKnight has critiqued. After all, no one story works through the ages. Only the biblical story remains the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. the difference is in the contexts we live in. Thus, the way I see it, McKnight's work will speak more deeply to those of us who are experiencing  "kingdom jargon" fatigue. It is also a good wake-up call that any talk about kingdom has to be more biblical than mere good works, more theological truths than theoretical excitement, and more about being a people of God instead of non-stop activities. If you have enjoyed "King Jesus Gospel," you will like this book.

Rating: 4.75 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Brazos Press and Graf-Martin Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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