Kingdom of God Posts
November 1, 2012 by Jason Hood
One of the themes of my current research is the role humanity plays in the Kingdom of God. It’s a theme that first arises in Genesis 1 and appears throughout the Bible. (You can see an older post on this theme here.)
As Chris Wright notes, “Only when we link the kingship of David and his successors to the kingship of God can we make sense of texts that envision the reign of David over the nations or even over the earth.” (Mission of God, 345). Wright particularly cites the Psalms as the source of this emphasis.
In the introduction to his commentary on Psalms, James Mays explains the significance of this theme for the Psalter’s approach to Messianic Psalms. Psalm 2 has a central role to play in the Psalter’s overall message. This Psalm shows that the establishment of God’s anointed human king is
the response by the kingdom of God to the kings and rulers of earth. The king represents the kingdom of heaven on earth and will extend the reign of God over the unruly, rebellious kings of the world.
Despite the devastating failure of this mission, highlighted especially at the conclusion of Book III in Psalm 89, the Psalms continue to develop the theme, and in such a way that these psalms function as messianic prophecy.
[I]n Psalm 110, the promise that the king will represent the kingdom of God the nations of earth is renewed.
In these psalms . . . the entire history of kingship in Judah has been collapsed into the question of God’s steadfast love to David as the secret of God’s coming rule in the world.
Mays goes on to cite the way in which the assocation of Psalms with David adds one more important Christological piece. Citing Psalm 22 in particular, these psalms produce a surprising shift in the view of the Messiah; he is not just the king who bears God’s kingdom, he is
one of the lowly, beset by all of the predicaments that belong to common humanity, vulnerable and needy. . . . The prayers even imply that it is in the travail of his human nature that this David mysteriously will carry out his vocation . . .
August 9, 2012 by Jason Hood
Here’s part two of my interview with Jonathan Pennington, Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction, coming in October 2012 from Baker Academic. (For more on the book, including killer video introductions, see the book’s website.) Part one is available here.
(4) What are some of the “big picture,” redemptive historical ideas that shape the way you read the gospels?
From how I’ve defined the gospel above you might rightly surmise that the kingdom or reign of God is central to my thinking, as it seems it was to Jesus’ as well, if his preaching and teaching are any indication!
At the same time, I am convinced that the goal of Holy Scripture (which I spend some time discussing in the book) is our personal transformation through God revealing to us both our brokenness and the full-orbed redemption available to us in the gospel. So, I think a wise reading of the Gospels will not only ask theological and redemptive-historical questions about the kingdom, but also about the nature of God and his redeeming ways with his people. Again, the Gospels are heavily-laden, low-hanging fruit-filled trees on these important matters. At every turn the stories of the Gospels reveal Christ’s gracious greatness and our need for redemption.
(5) Are there any under-appreciated or underexplored aspects of the theology of the kingdom for church today? Are there elements where we haven’t quite gotten the message of the gospels right (i.e., preaching, ethics, evangelism, political engagement, building a worldview or a biblical theology)?
This is obviously a huge question. I will just tackle one small part that is related to what we’ve been discussing. I think we have largely misread the Gospels as if they are the historical data while the rest of the NT is the theological and ethical interpretation of Jesus’ life. This is quite mistaken at many levels. The Gospels themselves are finely-tuned, well-honed, fully-theological and practical interpretations and applications of Jesus’ message. They are, in my opinion, more universal and comprehensive than the epistolary literature, which is largely occasional in nature.
As a result, I believe our understanding of NT theology (and biblical theology overall) is often somewhat pear-shaped by preferencing a certain way of reading Paul and not taking into account the whole NT witness, including the vast bulk of it: the Gospel accounts. When we begin to read the Gospels as theological (even homiletical) messages it will potentially affect how we articulate many things including our worldview, political engagement, evangelism, and ethics.
I absolutely agree, Jonathan, and I don’t think I’m alone. I have been teaching OT of late, I’ve noted the same problem with the way we read the OT books. We take them as historical accounts (to be defended or critiqued, depending on whether we lean left or right) while downplaying or overlooking the theological and pastoral purposes of those books.
Strangely enough, your criticism is the opposite criticism employed by Bultmann and the early Barth against 19th and early 20th century liberalism. That movement was guilty of over-emphasizing the gospels (but by mining for acceptable moral gems and reconstructions of the historical Jesus, famously categorized by Schweitzer as looking intently for Jesus only to find we’re looking into a well and seeing our own reflection) and downplaying soteriological concepts found in Paul and Luther.
(6) A hypothetical student in “old school” dispensationalism picks up this text. What will he or she encounter that will be challenging?
Well, if they truly are old school dispensationalists then they won’t appreciate the fact that I think the Gospels’ teachings are the Church’s teachings! That is, as I was just suggesting, the Gospels are post-Pentecostal interpretations of the Christian faith, not time-bound data about the historical Jesus in his own dispensation nor teachings for Israel in the millennium. This is, according to my understanding, a classical dispensational view. I know it is not the view of today’s “progressive” dispensationalists, thankfully.
Indeed, the edgiest part of RGW is the final chapter where I boldly suggest that the fourfold Gospel book should be understood as the epicenter or keystone of the archway for all of Holy Scripture. I don’t suppose this fits overly well into an old school dispensational view, nor indeed into most evangelical views! You’ll have to read the book and evaluate the arguments for yourself.
Bruce Waltke answers the question, “What is your favorite book of the Bible?”: “Whichever book I’m currently studying.” I imagine your text will help students dig into the gospels so that they become favorite texts for many, Jonathan! Thanks so much for your time, and best wishes on this new publication and your new position as Director of the PhD program at Southern Seminary.1 Comment
August 8, 2012 by Jason Hood
Friend of SAET Jonathan Pennington has a new textbook coming out on the gospels: Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction, coming in October 2012 from Baker Academic. I recently asked him a few questions about this work and his approach to the gospels. (For more on the book, including killer video introductions, see the book’s website.)
(1) You’ve been teaching gospels for how long now? What are some of the key elements you want students to take into the pastorate?
I’ve been teaching from the Gospels at several levels for about ten years now – everything from church seminars to Greek Exegesis of Matthew, from Sunday preaching to NT Survey courses.
I want my students and all readers of this book to grow in their love for the theological and literary depth and beauty of the Gospels – and of course, for the Subject of their narrative. I want students to learn how to read narrative texts well and how to apply the narrative portions of Holy Scripture theologically and personally. Most importantly, I want to see the Church rediscover the central role that the Gospels can and should play in all our teaching and preaching.
(2) I still have your ground-breaking dissertation, Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew (click the title for an impressive slate of reviews) on my desk for fast reference. What’s the connection between that work and this present work? Obviously one is a dissertation, the other a textbook; but are there links would someone see and identify as the seedbed of the “Pennington” school of thought?
Very funny and rather scary idea that there would ever be a “Pennington school of thought”! But it is a good question about what connections there are between my earlier work on Matthew and Reading the Gospels Wisely. The biggest difference is that RGW is written as a rather far-reaching, supplement textbook on how to read the Gospels overall.
There is a similarity in approach in that I still primarily read the Gospels through a literary and theological lens; this is evident in both books. But while Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew makes a sustained argument for the existence of a particular literary theme in Matthew, RGW covers a range of hermeneutical, historical, and theological issues concerning all the Gospels. In many ways it is really an ecclesial hermeneutics book for the Gospels.
(3) Your promotional video has a bit of a provocative edge to it, pushing back against “small” gospel. How do you situate your book with respect to the wider conversation in evangelicalism on the definition of the gospel? How does your experience as a professor of the gospels shape your definition of the gospel?
Yes, I suppose there is a bit of an edge in that video, but I hope a nice, smooth edge, not a jagged one! Though the scope of RGW is much wider than the issue of how to define the “gospel,” I do address this issue in the first couple of chapters and I do care about this important current discussion.
My study throughout the years has convinced me that the Gospels – intertextually rehashing Isaiah in particular – help us see that the “euangelion” (good news) of the Bible is the message of God returning to restore his reign. It is, to use Matthew’s unique phrase, “the gospel of the kingdom” (Mt 4:23; 9:35; 24:14). The shorthand version is that the gospel message of Scripture is the story of God’s reign coming from heaven to earth, from creation to new creation, centered in Jesus the Christ. There is no place in Holy Scripture where this is more clearly or fully developed than in the fourfold Gospel book.
Stay tuned for part two of the interview, coming tomorrow.1 Comment
April 29, 2012 by Jason Hood
Or at least, one of the most important keys: when the OT prophets speak to their audiences, they often speak of an ongoing redemptive process that began in their era and continues forward to our own and beyond to New Creation.
Willem VanGemeren, Interpreting the Prophetic Word, was one of my favorite textbooks in seminary, and now I get to return the favor for my OT students. Here is one gem of an observation, from p. 316:
[T]he new covenant is an eschatological reality whose fulfillment takes place in the progression of redemption, including the postexilic era, the renewal of covenant in Jesus Christ, and the present church age.
He then cites Calvin at length:
Hence the Prophet here intimates that God’s favor would be certain, because he would not only give leisure to the Jews, when they returned, to plant vines, but would also cause them to enjoy the fruit in peace and quietness. . . . He extends God’s favour to the country and the villages, as though he had said, that the land would be filled with inhabitants, not only as to the fortified towns, but as to the fields…Now, were one to ask, when was this fulfilled? We must bear in mind what has been said elsewhere,—that the Prophets,…included the whole Kingdom of Christ from the beginning to the end. And in this our divines go astray, so that by confining these promises to some particular time, they are compelled to fly to allegories; and thus they wrest, and even pervert all the prophecies. But the Prophets, as it has been said, include the whole progress of Christ’s Kingdom when they speak of the future redemption of the people. The people began to do well when they returned to their own country; . . . It was, therefore, necessary for them to look for the coming of Christ. We now taste of these benefits of God . . . We hence see that these prophecies are not accomplished in one day, or in one year, no, not even in one age, but ought to be understood as referring to the beginning and the end of Christ’s Kingdom.
Calvin is commenting on Jer 31:5, 24 (emphasis is WVG’s). We can also cite similar comments from Calvin’s commentary on Isaiah 52:8.
When he restored the Jews to liberty, and employed the ministry of Zerubbabel, Erza, and Nehemiah, these things were fulfilled. Yet at the same time they ought to be continued down to the coming of Christ, by which the church was gathered out of all parts of the world. But we ought also to go forward to Christ’s last coming, by which all things shall be perfectly restored.
April 24, 2012 by Jason Hood
Joseph Frank identifies something important about Dostoevsky and Christianity, which is neither full-on acceptance of the status quo nor the cold self-serving shrug:
If we place The Idiot in the perspective of Dostoevsky’s work as a whole, it may be considered his most courageous creation. Not, however, because he tackled the almost impossible creative task of presenting a “perfectly beautiful man” within the limits of a novel form he wished to respect.
It was courageous because, in doing so, he was putting his own highest Christian values to the same test as those to which he had been most opposed. The inspiration for his best novels, before and after The Idiot, had been provided by his polemical relation to the doctrines of Russian nihilism….[In Raskolnikov et al] Dostoevsky had dramatized the disastrous consequences of such nihilist ideas if taken to their ultimate ideas in human action. But this is exactly what he ends up by doing in The Idiot as well–except that the values in this instance are those that he himself cherished with a fervor made more ardent by his full awareness of their fragility.
With an integrity that cannot be too highly praised, Dostoevsky fearlessly submits his own most hallowed convictions to the same scrutiny that he had used for those of the nihilists. What would they mean for human life if taken seriously and literally, and lived out to their full extent as guides to conduct?
The moral extremism of his own eschatological ideal, incarnated by the prince, is portrayed as being equally incompatible with the normal demands of social existence as the egoistic extremism of his tormented and tortured nihilistic figures.
November 9, 2011 by Matthew Mason
Jesus comes preaching the gospel of the kingdom. Paul could summarise his ministry as “testify[ing] to the gospel of God’s grace” or, equally, “proclaiming the kingdom” (Acts 20:24-25). Similarly, Luke summarizes Philip’s evangelism as “preach[ing] good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus the Messiah.” (Acts 8:12). To preach the gospel preached by Jesus and the apostles, we must preach the kingdom. Well and good. But what is it?
When evangelicals discuss the kingdom, it’s common to pose a dichotomy between reign and realm. That is, to say that God’s kingdom isn’t a geographical entity (realm). Rather, it’s a dynamic relational concept (reign).
Joel Willitts, a fellow in the SAET’s first symposium has been addressing this helpfully on his blog. Let me supplement his proposal with five provocatively framed theses. If I think of another ninety, I’ll let you know.
Thesis 1. Reign or realm? This is a political question, so let’s learn from the politicians—don’t accept the premise of the question. The kingdom of God must be both: reign and realm. Otherwise it’s not a kingdom. At least, not one worthy of the name.
Thesis 2. To reject thesis 1 requires a dichotomy between nature and grace that is found nowhere in Scripture.
Thesis 3. In reality, both sides of the debate believe the kingdom includes a realm. The question is, how big? Does it encompass the kingdoms of this world? Or does it only include the one square foot of real estate between my ears?
Thesis 4. Building on Thesis 3, I suspect that the differing definitions of the kingdom expose a deep fault line between competing implied anthropologies. To state the matter provocatively, are we embodied beings, or would I be as truly me if I were simply a brain in a jar?
Thesis 5. Kingdom of God: reign or realm? When David’s Son is on the throne, what does it look like? One way to answer the question, a way that should be regarded as indispensable, is a close, imaginative reading of 1 Kings 1-10.0 Comments