Very well done.
Very well done!
Thanks for that.
Hey Tim, I’ve got a question or two for you about this. I don’t pretend to have all this figured out in the least. I liked DeYoung’s post years ago that showed what he perceived as strengths and weaknesses of both the “two kingdoms” and “transformationalist” camps. I feel a bit stuck on this issue and have been for awhile.
If we got together and built a hospital for the glory of God or started a quality movie studio (both which would be good things, I think), would you say that our useful hospital or movie studio are themselves part of the kingdom of God? Were we building the kingdom when we built those things? What if a non-Christian built an ethically staffed hospital or founded a movie studio that reflected a high moral conscience? Would those cultural institutions built by unbelievers be part of the kingdom? Would they be the result of kingdom influence? Do pagans build the kingdom of God when they behave ethically, according to consciences that are heavily influenced by common grace? Are the socially beneficial and lawful good works of pagans *kingdom* works?
I’d love to hear your thoughts brother. Thanks for this post and for the regular stimulation and challenge you provide in your posts!
Great to hear from you. You have asked important questions, and I would like to answer them and then provide a brief comment.
If we got together and built a hospital for the glory of God or started a quality movie studio (both which would be good things, I think), would you say that our useful hospital or movie studio are themselves part of the kingdom of God?
Not necessarily. I would argue that the renewing work of the gospel through citizens of the kingdom is manifested or exhibited through the building of a hospital providing mercy to those in need. In fact, the Reformation is a great example of this. When the gospel was rediscovered in 16th century, what followed? Colleges and universities were established. Hospitals were built. Political systems were infiltrated. Whether education, arts, or politics, you see the renewal citizens of the kingdom bring in the world that represents the kingdom of God, albeit in an unfulfilled manner.
Were we building the kingdom when we built those things?
As I said above, I would not use the words “building” the kingdom because that refers to a postmillennial naiveté. I would say that it manifests the kingdom as citizens bring the reign and rule of Christ to bear in the outworking of the gospel implications in their lives.
What if a non-Christian built an ethically staffed hospital or founded a movie studio that reflected a high moral conscience?
I would attribute this to common grace and evidence of the imago dei, not reflected as an import of kingdom ethic born from kingdom citizens. Granted, they can look familiar on the surface, but the motivations and trajectories are altogether different.
Would those cultural institutions built by unbelievers be part of the kingdom? Would they be the result of kingdom influence?
I would say no. Being a part of the kingdom implies entrance into the kingdom, which only comes about by regeneration of the Spirit and conversion by repentance and faith. They could indirectly be a result of kingdom influence, presupposing they got their convictions from Christian influence (whether books, friends, leaders, etc.). But I would not say it was a direct result.
Do pagans build the kingdom of God when they behave ethically, according to consciences that are heavily influenced by common grace? Are the socially beneficial and lawful good works of pagans *kingdom* works?
Again, I would argue no. I don’t think anyone in the “transformationalist” group would argue that. Now liberal postmilliennialists would. But the two are not the same. I would not say the lawful good works are kingdom works. I would say they are representative of God’s universal order preserved by common grace and His restraining grace. Through we are all sinfully depraved, that depravity does not mean that sinful beings cannot do anything virtuous. In other words, totally inability toward God does not mean total inability of doing things that could be classified as “socially beneficial and lawful good works.”
Regarding the video, what I understand him arguing is the embrace both of “the gospel of the cross” as well as ‘the gospel of the kingdom.” They are not two gospels but one. I think Keller helps us a great deal in his article “The Gospel in All Its Forms” to bring this out. Those who are in the transformationalist camp emphasize the “gospel of the kingdom” while others only emphasize the “gospel of the cross.” Scripture emphasizes both, and I see both emphasized in the video above, which I found helpful.
Tim thanks for the reply and for your help. I like the distinctions you’ve made and agree with them. I understand you to be saying that Christ builds His kingdom by making kingdom citizens, all of whom have received the gift of redemption. Kingdom citizens manifest kingdom power by faithfully motivated kingdom works in every square inch of creation. Sound right to you?
I really would like to elaborate on this more, but time and space are lacking right now, so please forgive me for the brevity on such important questions. Regarding your question, yes, I would agree with that. A disciple of Jesus formed by the gospel will seek to have the implications and applications of the gospel define his life in every other sphere of life–father, husband, citizen, neighbor, plumber, etc. That’s why I believe mature disciple-making will bring about genuine renewal as brought about by Christ through His people empowered by His Spirit. Societal transformation is not guaranteed through inaugurated kingdom, but I believe we should not be surprised when it happens. It is simply the Great Commission maturing through the whole church bringing the whole gospel to the whole world (to reference the video above).
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