The Church and the Kingdom

One of my colleagues here at Taylor Seminary, Len Thompson (adjunct professor, as well as founder and Director of the Urban Sanctuary, which is located on the Taylor campus), came by my office this morning to have a bit of discussion on the distinction between the church and the kingdom.  He brought me an article to read to find out what my reaction might be.  I told him that I would be very happy to read the article, as it would give me an excuse to avoid doing other things that I really ought to be doing.  The article is entitled, “The Kingdom of God and the Church: A Baptist Reassessment.”  One of the authors, Russell D. Moore, was, at the time of the article’s writing (2008), a Vice President and Dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, but has since moved on to other positions.  The other author, Robert E. Sagers, was one of Moore’s assistants and also a PhD student at the seminary (I don’t know what his current position is).

I read the article with great appreciation and delight.  In my opinion, the article does a fantastic job, not only of articulating the relationship between church and kingdom, but also of demonstrating how the authors’ understanding of this relationship informs us as to what the church should look like.  And, important from the perspective of this blog, the authors arrive at their conclusions, largely, by way of biblical theology.  Now, I have a few quibbles with the article: (1) some things with which I do not agree; and (2) some things with which I think I agree, but don’t really consider to be all that important for their arguments.  But I still find it to be a fine piece of ecclesiological reflection.  In light of my not having quite finished part three of “What Is Biblical Theology?” I thought I would strongly recommend your careful reading of this article.  I’d be interested in your reactions.  And thanks to Len for what turned out to be a very pleasant distraction.

Jerry Shepherd
September 11, 2013

2 thoughts on “The Church and the Kingdom

  1. Jerry, always happy to provide a distraction but more importantly, I am happy to always be given apt attention. Thanks for putting together this blog as it now gives me an excuse not to get off my chair and ask you my questions through cyberspace. That brings up another question occasioned by the topic of how the church and the kingdom relate to each other. It is easy for either systematic or biblical theologians to leave out major sections of biblical material. Those who emphasize the kingdom may ignore the pastoral epistles, while those who champion the church might not appreciate the repeated emphasis throughout the Bible on the kingdom. Is there any way to guard against tunnel vision while doing biblical theology?

    • Excellent question, Len. I don’t think I’ll try to give a detailed answer right now. Part Three of “What Is Biblical Theology?” will address this issue. But I will give a very quick and rough answer. While you are certainly correct that the mistake you describe is possible for both systematic and biblical theologians, I believe it is quite a bit less likely for biblical theologians. There are a number of reasons for that, and I’ll discuss them in more detail in that “Part Three.” But one reason I can give immediately is that biblical theologians, by the very nature of the discipline, are committed to a “whole-Bible” theology, while systematic theologians are often not so committed, and face greater temptation to develop their theology by isolated proof texts. More to come.

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