Saturday, October 11, 2014

Book Review: McKnight's Kingdom Conspiracy

Now it's Brazos Bloggers' turn. This is a brief review -- well, brief for someone used to 1200-to-2000-word reviews, anyway -- of Scot McKnight, Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church (Brazos, 2014).

I enjoy reading Scot McKnight's work, even when I disagree with him (usually on relatively minor points). And I don't disagree with him here, for the most part. What he's trying to do, and largely succeeding at, in his new book is to reconcile two Christian views of "kingdom" -- as theology, as language, and as activity -- that have tended to diverge over the past century and are doing so again today. McKnight casts one stream of thought and practice, which tends to aim its "kingdom" work toward "the common good," social justice, and culture-making, as "skinny jeans kingdom" people, and the other, the kingdom-as-personal-salvation camp, as "pleated pants kingdom" people (including, cleverly, "the arch-Pleated Pants scholar" George Eldon Ladd, p. 10). Those who recognize themselves as falling into one camp or the other will find their views and practices represented well here, both in strengths and weaknesses. For those folks, and for the rest of us who find ourselves somewhere between the two extremes, this book serves as a fine biblical theology of church, kingdom, and mission. It's very readable, too: the most challenging words in the body of the text are perhaps eschatological and parabolic, while readers who want to go deeper can plunge into sources recommended in the endnotes (as when McKnight notes Tom Wright's recent two-volume work in its entirety in partial support of a point on first-century use of "Son of God" imagery, p. 132!).

Throughout Kingdom Conspiracy, McKnight nicely balances his attention to many facets of kingdom thought and action, including the tensions of its growth in this world (classically, the "already" and the "not yet", and as both "realm" and "reign"); the biblical (and deeply contextual) story that it encapsulates; and what it looks like to live out the kingdom in mission, in vocation, and in public and political presence -- or, simply put, what it means to embody the kingdom in and as the church. There are moments when the author nearly loses that balance. I wish he'd added more nuance to his study of the New Testament's view of "the world" and Jesus' confrontation with its idolatrous worldviews (pp. 17, 60): a brief focus on the way that Rome saw the world (as the oikoumenē, the inhabited world/culture that it had inherited from Greece) might have strengthened McKnight's discussion of culture and counterculture, both here and through the rest of the volume. But that missing nuance does little to hurt his overall argument. This book is highly recommended for anyone -- no matter how close or distant their relationship with "church" -- who has ever struggled with how the church is to embody God's kingdom in the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment