“Our task as Christians is not to try through social action or labors or endeavors of one sort or the other to usher in the new heavens and the new earth ourselves. We’re not the agents of that. That’s something God’s going to introduce Himself, at the last day.”
I remember Guy from seminary, and he was always a delightful person. But he can’t really mean what he seems to be saying here. Surely he’s been taken out of context. If he is saying what he seems to be saying, then he should have spent more time in the missions department. I mean, what would Harvie Conn say? What kind of missiology is this? What kind of ecclesiology?
I have been thinking about this quote by Guy Waters and want to ask you a few questions about it. I just returned from a weekend visiting friends and their emergent church that they go to. The person, “the grassroots pastor”, who leads this emergent community reads a lot of Richard Rohr, Rob Bell, Brian Mclaren, especially Greg Boyd, and surprisingly N.T. Wright. In fact, almost every spiritually conversation I had, someone mentioned something about N.T.Wright. And in those same conversations the favorite phrase that always jumped out most was “the kingdom of God”. Now here is a reactionary community that is rebelling from pietistic fundamentalism which taught them their Christian lives are only as meaningful as their involvement in evangelism. This same emergent community now seeks to justify all their lives in terms of the service and being “agents of the new creation” to spread the “kingdom of God.” On Sunday morning the “grassroots pastor” said “the kingdom of God” essentially means everybody doing their share and “serving their brains out”. At the end of the service, the pastor pointed to the table in the back where United Way provided hundreds of ways to volunteer in their local city. And he encouraged everyone to sign up for at least one volunteer organization. The “grassroots pastor” said Christians are in the business of serving people, of volunteering, of ushering in the kingdom of God, of being conduits of the new creation. He said Christians are to be “ministers of the reconciliation.” This was a sermon full of imperatives. And I left feeling condemned especially because I am not “serving my brains out.” So my questions are:
1.To what extent does God call us to be agents of new creation involved in spreading the kingdom of God?
2.Does preaching like this, with emphasis on “serving our brains out”, fall under preaching Law and not Gospel?
3.Does serving the poor or doing other charitable work means someone is being a “minister of reconciliation” or does this phrase have a different meaning in the Bible?
4. What would you add to better explain what Guy Waters meant with his quote above?
These are huge questions.
I don’t think I can really address them in a combox.
There have been a lot of posts on the HB about the KOG and our relations to it. Search for the terms “Two Kingdoms” (there’s a category for that too) and “Kingdom of God” and “Christ and Culture.” I’ve done a number of “resource” posts (just listing of links and books etc).
You should also take a look at David VanDrunen’s new book on natural law and the two kingdoms. It’s available through The Bookstore at WSC. That would be a great place to start.
This is a category of analysis that the emergent guys, who are really just pietists with hip glasses, don’t have. They assume a transformationalist model of social engagement. My question is this: where in the NT is social transformation unequivocally taught? I can show where we are clearly and unequivocally taught to do our work in this world quietly but I’m hard pressed to find a single, clear, unequivocal command to transform society.
No question whether God is sovereign over all things. The question is: how has God willed to administer his sovereignty over all things? I would say that he has willed to do so in two distinct spheres. The KOG is primarily (solely?) manifested in the visible, institutional church to which he has given the keys of the kingdom. Christians also live in what we may call the common realm or which Zacharias Ursinus called the kingdom of God most broadly considered — that is the realm of his general providence. In that realm Christians serve Christ but not by “transforming” the common but by being faithful in the common realm to their vocations and to the Lordship of Christ. Christians are Christians 7 days a week but not everything they do is under the Kingdom narrowly considered.
Here’s a Heidelcast on the distinction between narrow and broad:
Here are some resource posts:
Thanks Scott, those resources are really helpful that you mentioned. I am trying to anticipate some questions my emergent friends will ask me. And I think they will say that the “command to transform society” begins in youtube videos like these in which Brian McLaren talks about KOG http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4NtgjNLNpao and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pFz3IATU8w&feature=related , and in passages like Mathew 6 in which Jesus says,”Seek first the kingdom and righteousness of God and everything will be added to you.” McLaren translates righeousness as justice which means the right use of power. So McLaren insists we are to seek justice. Or as N.T.Wright would say, ” putting the world back to rights.” Furthermore, emergent types will go to passsages like Mathew 25:31-46 and say, “Look there, Jesus says “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'” So they will say helping the poor, the powerless, the widows, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned is a major part of spreading the KOG. Another words as the “grassroots pastor” mentioned, “serving our brains out” is the way the KOG spreads. How would you respond to these issues I raised above? Thanks.
I wouldn’t trust Brian McLaren to help me understand anything let alone God’s Word. See this critique:
“Whosever Will Be Saved: Emerging Church? Meet Christian Dogma,” in Gary L. W. Johnson and Ronald N. Gleason eds., /Reforming or Conforming: Post-Conservative Evangelicals and the Emerging Church/ (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008).
See also Mike Horton’s several critiques.
If the KOG is as they say then why isn’t Jesus unrighteous? How many people didn’t he help whom he might have helped? How many did he leave unhealed? How many dead did he leave in the grave?
The truth is that the whole over-realized eschatology proposed by BM is no more than modern day revival of the Anabaptist eschatology.
Show me one concrete, unequivocal, passage where were are called to transform society. I didn’t ask for a deduction or an inference. It can’t be done because it doesn’t exist. The NT never once called Christians to transform anything. They are called to be transformed. The church as such is called to be transformed and Christians are called to fulfill their vocations in the world before God under his Lordship.