The next chp of Russell Moore’s study of kingdom concerns ecclesiology: With the new unity being achieved beyond traditional dispensationalism and covenant theology, there arises the issue of what the church should look like. Once again, Moore has landed on a most important issue for emerging theology and for evangelicalism in a general sense.
Carl Henry knew that the protest of evangelicals against modernism led to a significant sense of interdenominational cooperation and parachurch proliferation — which continued to aggravate its sense of what the church is. Readers of this blog will know that I have at times claimed that evangelicalism has no ecclesiology. Moore zeroes in this very issue in this chp. What the evangelical movement had to do was figure out the relationship of Church and Kingdom in order to differentiate itself from the Social Gospel and Fundamentalism.
The most important issue, theologically speaking, in the emerging movement is the relationship of the Church to the kingdom. Hence, Brian McLaren’s new book on the kingdom of God; hence the critique so many of us have of the Church (in its current form); hence, the concern in the emerging movement for social justice. Just what is the relationship of Church and kingdom? Russell Moore’s chp deals with this issue.
The secret that gets Moore beyond Fundamentalism and Liberalism is the both/and of the “here” but “not yet” of George Ladd’s understanding of the kingdom of God which is seen in Carl Henry’s own writings. The Social Gospel pits the Church against the kingdom, while dispensationalism turned the kingdom into the millennium making the Church something distant from the kingdom.
The Church, Henry argued, is the closest thing there is to the kingdom of God. The Church was to model the kingdom but not to take over.
To Ladd Henry turned: the Church is not the kingdom but is the agent of the kingdom. God’s kingdom creates the Church.
Tomorrow I’ll look at how dispensational and covenant theologians have looked at a kingdom ecclesiology. (I ran out of time to give Moore a fair reading for the rest of the chp. I want to do this book fair because I think it deals with very serious topics in such a thorough manner.)