Let me begin by provoking with a question: Is Russell Moore’s proposal in chp 3 an emerging proposal? Is his proposal that there is a way beyond traditionist dispensationalism and traditionist covenant theologians a “purple” theology? Is it post-dispensational and post-covenantal? Probably not an emerging theology, but I do think Moore’s proposals in this chp can pave the way for many in the emerging movement on seeing a macroscopic kingdom vision for Christians today.
This chp is too long even to give a fair overview in a blog like this. Nor is it written in such a way that makes it easy to summarize. When an author chooses to write with 50 page chapters, it would be much easier for readers if the author used outline divisions — or at least italics to let the reader know where the reader is in the flow of the book. Having said that, however, it is not that the prose is particularly dense, though at times he does pull together abstractions like the best of European theologians. I say this only to let you, the reader, know what you are in for in reading this chapter: it will be a challenging, dense ride.
Essentially, this chp contends that a kingdom soteriology provides a way beyond the debates that have bedeviled evangelicals in both traditionist dispensational and traditionist covenant theology. I’m not sure Moore really defines “kingdom soteriology” in a neat formula, but he clearly sees the following elements as central to a responsible biblical kingdom soteriology:
1. It must be Christocentric.
2. It must be Cosmic.
3. It must be Holistic.
Each of these points is demonstrated (1) from the Bible and (2) in the writings of both progressive dispensationalists and progressive covenant theologians.
And Moore contends that such a kingdom soteriology, when worked out in a thoroughly-consistent theological and political manner, can lead to a comprehensive vision for Christians. I applaud his effort; I applaud very much of what he does in this chp; and I’m glad he’s seen the unifying capacities of a kingdom soteriology.
I especially applaud Moore’s trenchant and regular (if repetitive) observation that a kingdom soteriology is more than individualism, more than personal decision, and more than being saved from sin in order to get to heaven. Moore goes after this constellation of factors with a full head of steam. Over and over. Constantly. And he should do so.
Which means Moore genuinely does have a holistic theory of salvation — even if he prioritizes that soteriology through a personal decision grid (I don’t know how this can be done in any other way). Even if one advocates a radical holism, one will eventually get to the point that a personal conversion of some sorts ignites the work of God through that person.
I have two major criticisms of this chp.
First, as I mentioned before, I said to myself over and over “what’s new here?” This is not to say that Moore’s got it wrong, but it is to say that Laddian evangelicals have worked out much of the lines of Moore’s thinking for fifty years. In particular, many of us would point to Ronald Sider as a good example of what Moore is pointing to, and we would contend that Sider has had this stuff on the table since the 70s. And this is where I think Moore’s work is a bit skewed: his conversational partners are dispensationalists and covenant theologians, mostly of a progressive sort, and they are not, in my judgment, the ones who have led the thinking on this very idea of a kingdom soteriology. I sense that Moore is saying these two groups are now ready to propose such a kingdom soteriology, when I would say that such a kingdom soteriology has been on the table for a long time, but it has been articulated by other groups. And I would want also to point to the many, many Wesleyan theologians who are both thoroughly evangelical and thoroughly kingdom-like in their soteriology. So, my point is this: the book could have found support from a host of theologians who have made similar proposals.
This is not to say they’d end up in the same camp either theologically or politically. They wouldn’t. In fact, some of them would end up more to the left than the right. But, they have worked out this christocentric, cosmic and holistic kingdom soteriology.
A second issue I have with this chp, and one that may very well be remedied in the next chp, is that there is not enough pneumatology in this chapter. A kingdom soteriology needs a pneumatology; in fact, it requires one. If this does not come up in what follows, then we have pointed to a genuine need for more thinking; if it does come up, we have anticipated the direction of Moore’s thinking.
I could point to other things: while I think his holism is to be commended, I sense that his gospel tends still to be a little too individualistic in the framing of specific issues; his socio-political views lean (lean is understated) to the right; the issues he chooses to focus on are special issues to a specific branch of American evangelicals (he brings up husband-wife issues but nothing on war, that sort of thing). And I disagree with his choices and his views at times, but I will say this: this is the finest proposal I’ve yet seen from this dimension of the American evangelical churches on integrating a kingdom soteriology.