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R.D. Moore’s Kingdom of Christ 1

posted by xscot mcknight

What do Russell D. Moore, a professor at Southern Seminary, and Brian McLaren, a major voice in the emerging church movement, have in common? A lot I will suggest today — and it that “a lot” has to do with three words: “Kingdom of God.” They differ, rather markedly it will be seen, on what these three words mean. But this series will look at what I think may become a watershed book in conservative evangelicalism’s interaction of Church and State.
There are three major moments in the development of conservative evangelicalism’s theory of Church and State. The first is Carl Henry’s The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism (1947), the second (which I’m not sure Moore gives quite enough attention to) is the impact of Francis Schaeffer, especially his A Christian Manifesto and his project What Then Shall We Do?, and the third is Russell Moore’s 2004 book, The Kingdom of the Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective.
Moore’s opening chapter re-states, in new terms and for a new context, how the call of Carl Henry needs to be undertaken still and he also states that a new day has dawned. It is of no small pleasure to me that Moore is smitten with Carl Henry, as I have had dozens of lunches with Carl Henry when I was teaching at TEDS. Moore’s essential drive is to carry on and re-enliven the legacy of Henry’s vision for a more robust theology that can drive social interaction.
The opening salvo contends that the rise of the Moral Majority was social activism without an adequate theology, the re-entering of politics and agenda into the evangelical movement without sufficient foundations for knowing why, how, and to what end such engagement is to take place. In some sense, then, this book is an indictment of previous attempts by evangelicals to enter the public forum.
And what I like about this book is that it promises to do so on the basis of a robust theology of the kingdom of God. Moore contends that conservative were so at odds with one another theologically that they could not come to terms with one another on the meaning of the kingdom, which was demanded for any meaningful engagement to occur. In particular, he builds his case on the stalemate between traditionist covenant theology and traditionist dispensational theology. He contends that the progressive wing of dispensationalism (Blaising, Bock, etc) and the new shifts in covenant theology (Hoekema, Poythress, etc) has ushered in a new day for conservative evangelicalism once again to find common ground to build a biblical theology of the kingdom.
Before we move tomorrow to the substance of his proposals, I wish now to give an impression in scanning those with whom Moore interacts: it seems clear from the index that Moore will not engage with the evangelical left sufficiently. I see very little attention given to Jim Wallis, Ronald Sider and even John Howard Yoder, whose books on the Church and State have been profoundly influential for those in the evangelical left and even for those who are evangelical moderates. I will also now register that I think experts will have to assess whether Moore has co-opted Henry or remained faithful to Henry. Many on the left, we all know, have claimed his book as powerful in their own thinking. Time will tell, and I surely am not rendering any kind of judgment at this point.
I will say this though: I’m excited to read this book because I think this issue is the center of the debates within evangelicalism today.



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Ochuk

posted June 1, 2006 at 7:37 am


Interesting. I have been wondering about this book for a long time. I look forward to your reviews.



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Denny Burk

posted June 1, 2006 at 8:07 am


This is a great book. I’m glad you’ll be writing about it.



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Bill

posted June 1, 2006 at 11:28 am


You have sufficiently piqued my interest. I’ll see if I can put my hands on the book at one of the local bookstores. Your challenging posts are an encouragement to us all to spend more time in study. Thanks! -bw



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Sean LeRoy

posted June 1, 2006 at 11:55 am


Any sense for how Moore integrates the theme of the Kingdom accross testaments? This integration is what I find somewhat lacking in Yoder.



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Celucien Joseph

posted June 1, 2006 at 4:03 pm


Moore’s Kingdom of Christ is a great piece! It was one of the required texts in an Advanced Christian theology course at southern I took about a year ago with Professor Bruce Ware.
I look forward to reading your comments.



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Celucien Joseph

posted June 1, 2006 at 4:09 pm


Furthermore, I encourage to read Carl Henry’s work, “The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism” prior to Moore’s. It will greatly help to understand Moore’s thesis.



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Hunter Beaumont

posted June 1, 2006 at 5:47 pm


Scot, I’m so glad you’re reviewing this book. I’ve been chewing on it for over a year since it first came out.
Also, JETS published an article by Moore last year entitled something like: “Leftward Toward Scofield: The Eclipse of the Kingdom in Post-Conservative Evangelicalism.” He argued that post-conservative theology as molded by Grenz could actually undo some of the consensus on Kingdom that he writes about in “Kingdom of Christ.” I’d love to read your thoughts/response to that article too.



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Hunter Beaumont

posted June 1, 2006 at 5:51 pm


As for your last point on the evangelical left’s use of Henry, I have often wondered why conservative evangelicals have so often applied Henry’s vision to politics, with other applications (i.e. social justice) getting less attention. To me, Henry’s “Uneasy Conscience” was calling for much broader social engagement than politics. AND, I wonder if the evangelical left did not hear that call better than the evangelical conservatives did.



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