Thursday, January 12, 2006
The Kingdom at hand or distant future?
I do believe that Dallas Willard is a far better writer than speaker. Some would argue that he is much more of a philosopher than theologian. I don' t think that he would disagree with that. My thoughts on the matter would be that in it's essence, philosophy is theology. For me, they go hand in hand. Willard seemed to concentrate his three sessions primarily on the idea of the Kingdom of God and our place in that Kingdom. The entire conference was focused on small groups so Willard approached the subject from that standpoint. Our lives are realized in relationships. Often times those relationships are formed in small group settings. These may not be "formal" small groups, but they are small groups none the less.
I want to deal with the question that this post asks. Is the Kingdom of God at hand or a distant future? What have you been taught? According to Willard, New Testament scholars agree that the Kingdom of God (or the Kingdom the Heavens) was THE essential teachings of Jesus Christ. (Matt. 3:2, 5:3, 6:10, 33, 7:21, 11:11, 13:24, 31, 33, 44, 45, 47, 16:19, 18:23, 19:24, 24:7, 14, 34; Mark 9:47, 10:14, 10:23; Luke 10:9, 12:31, 17:21; John 3:5, 18:36)
This past Sunday evening I asked my students, "What is Christ speaking about when he speaks of the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven?" The majority responded with the same answer that I would have responded with 2 years ago. "Well, Christ is obviously talking about eternity or the Millenial Reign! Duh!" Is he? Is that what Christ was saying? Did Christ say that the Kingdom of God will be like a mustard seed, or did he say that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed?
Unfortunately, we have confused or substituted the real Kingdom of God with the idea of the Millenial Reign or eternity. This can't be correct. Let's try it. Matt. 6:33 and 8:12 are examples that gives us language that make little or no sense: "Seek ye first the millennial reign of God" and "the little children of the millenial reign shall be cast out." It doesn't work.
Willard tells us, "If , by contrast, we understand the kingdom of God to be simply what God is actually doing [in our lives, right here and now]...then the "kingdom" passages in the Gospels all make sense, and yet leave plenty of room to deal with future dimensions of the kingdom, including a millenial reign of a political nature." (brackets mine)
I'm going to leave the remainder of the conversation open for discussion and see where it takes us. Thank you for being patient with me. Be aware that I take no credit for any of this. I need help. I am simply a pilgrim on a journey trying to find my way.
Grace and Peace,
I would agree with you. God's kingdom already exists and we are invited to enter into it through the power of the holy spirit and Christ. Christ said, 'Follow me,' through the door to the Kingdom.
In response to Andy I think that the Kingdom is something that both comes to us (as in the prayer) and receives us in as we enter it. Though it is mysterious, one thing that the Kingdom is not is passive.
On another note, I'm about halfway through "A new kind of Christian". I'll let you know how I feel about it when I finish.