« Jeanne Assam, Fasting for 3 Days, Kills the New Life Church Shooter | Main | Waiting for Christmas »

December 11, 2007



Beautiful! You go guy

I just went and read that post over at 9 Marks - I didn't find anything wrong with Derek's statement of the gospel. It looked to me like the guy who blogged it was trying to bait the conversation in a negative fashion but I was pleased that Denny Burk didn't run with it as he might have. I think he showed some good restraint although his suspicions about Derek showed through.

But, as others pointed out, Derek's words are in line with Scripture and Keller has said similar things (so that settles it, right?).

I fear that we think the reformers sewed up the truth into a full and complete package that shall never be touched, even by the Scriptures themselves.


In my estimation (for what it's worth), you're right. This was my contention after Derek mentioned this attack post and comment thread to me. I could scarcely believe my eyes as I read through the post and comments.

It's bad enough that supposedly "Reformed" thought leaders don't know their own tradition on the Kingdom of God (Ridderbos, anyone?), but it's far worse that they are so woefully ignorant of their inerrant Scriptures. This is what happens when 1) people in the 21st century live their intellectual lives in the 16th century, and 2) allow systematics to inhibit accurate exegesis.

A story that relates...

A friend of mine, "J", who is friends with at least one of the principals of this blog & comment attack fest on Derek, tried to create space (in an email) for his friend's perspective. J explained his friend was reacting against Derek's answer to the interview question because of the context of NT Wright challenging justification.

I appreciate "J's" attempt to make peace and to stand by his friend. However, the context of turmoil occasioned by the New Perspective on Paul does not excuse the near total blindness to the high level importance of the Kingdom of God in Scripture. In my reading of this particular blog post and comments at 9Marks, and reading and discussing such matters generally by and with **some** staunch Reformed guys, it appears to me that a good number are so out of balance in the commitments to systematic theology that they are unwilling and/or unable to see the centrality of the Kingdom

It seems to me Denny made a basic error in looking away from the kingdom as the gospel:

To cite 1 Corinthians 15 to prove that the kingdom isn't central to the gospel makes a mistake of not fully reading the quote.

"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures"

Christ is not Jesus' "last name". Its his kingly title. That the king that we follow and the kingdom we are ruled by is the kingdom a dying and rising again king is the Gospel all by itself.

You can't look at 1 Cor 15 and extract out the dying and rising part apart from the kingdom part. Its in Jesus' title.

Brothers, Thank you for your care in wanting to get the gospel right. Pray for me that I would be teachable and would also grow toward a deeper and better understanding of the gospel. Several thoughts in response to the above blog post and comments.

1) Glenn's friend "J" alerted me to the attention given to the infamous Derek Webb post from August all the way into November. I had no idea. I had watched the comments for maybe a day or two (through my conversation with Denny), and then forgot about it. One thing was evident in what ensued: many of the comments made the conversation about Derek Webb, when my original intention was to have a genuine conversation about the substance of that particular statement. I have no idea of what Derek says elsewhere about the gospel. I honestly wasn't trying to evaluate Derek and his views, as such. I was simply interested in examining that particular statement, and asking whether or not it was a sufficient explanation in answer to the question, "What is the gospel?" I certainly never meant to "attack" him. Nonetheless, I am more than happy to concede that I handled that post carelessly, and I hope I learn from that. I do think there is a place to publicly discuss the substance of what someone has publicly stated. The challenge then is to not make things personal. And again, I could have exercised greater care in how I framed the discussion. Honestly, thank you, brothers, for your chastisements ;-)

2) If I may offer several comments on the substance of Glenn's post above: I affirm every positive remark Glenn makes about the content of the gospel, esp. with regard to the kingdom. In other words, there's nothing (I don't think) that you're placing into your definition of the gospel that I would want to take out. I would simply encourage Glenn to place into his understanding of the gospel a number of things that an epochal and canonical reading (taking from Richard Lints' categories) of Glenn's cited texts would require.

Canonically speaking, how would you interpret the cited verses in light of Genesis 3? In light of Genesis 6-9? In light of the Passover meal in Exodus? In light of Levitical system of sacrifice (esp. Lev. 16)? In light of the failure of the old covenant to teach obedience and clear away guilt once and for all (latter chapters of Deuteronomy; the prophets; Hebrews)? In light of all the emphasis the psalmist, Isaiah, Zechariah, and others give to the suffering servant? In light of Jesus' many remarks about the fact that he came principally to die (from the parable of the tenants to his body being destroyed and raised up in three days to passages like Mark 10:45)? In light of the clear narrative emphasis all four gospel writers give to the passion? In light of the epistles' reflections and interpretations on Jesus life and work, i.e. what does the Pauline corpus seem to think was important about Jesus' ministry? Paul, interestingly, doesn't use the word "kingdom" as often as the gospel's do. Did he miss it? Or is he simply interpreting it using a different vocabulary? If that latter, what does Paul teach us about how to interpret Jesus' words about the kingdom?

By suggesting that we need to read Jesus' words epochally, I'm saying that Jesus' words need to be interpreted in light of what epoch he was in when he made those remarks, i.e. where was he in redemption history when he said those things. Plainly, he hadn't died and risen yet. And clearly, nobody--least of all the disciples--was prepared for him to die, much less were they ready to understand the meaning of his death. Think of Peter's reaction to Jesus' announcement of his death or their arguments about who would be first in the kingdom! Think of the fact that it's not until the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 that Jesus explains to the disciples from the OT Scriptures why the Christ had to die. In other words, the text's Glenn cites are "foundational" or "preparatory" texts for understanding the gospel. The rest of Jesus' ministry, death, and resurrection are then needed to "fill in" or "build upon" those foundational or preparatory words (and, again, the narrative's emphasis on Jesus' death in all the gospels suggests as much). In short, it's not enough to just say "the gospel is the kingdom" without explaining what the entire Bible's preparatory (OT) and backwards-reflecting (epistles) emphasis on the king's death has to do with that gospel. It’s not enough to say the gospel is the “kingdom.” What is the kingdom of God? Probably everyone would agree that the kingdom of God, generically speaking, is the redemptive reign of God having arrived in Jesus’ ministry. But it’s precisely the “redemptive” part that’s in question. What is Jesus redeeming? Societal structures? Sinners? Both? How? Once you start pressing in to what Jesus actually taught about the kingdom it takes you right to the cross and resurrection of Jesus on behalf of sinners.

Yes, that gets us into a conversation about theories of the atonement; and here I'll only say that some theories do a better job of accounting for Scripture's repeated and consistent concern with sin, guilt, wrath--and not just corporate and structural sin, but individual sin--than are provided by New Perspective presentations of the "kingdom gospel" as well by other concrete statements from other the-name’s-not-important leaders on the Christian music scene that (the statement) represent certain schools of thought worthy of substantive discussion for the sake of edifying all. ;-)

Again, I'm grateful for you brothers, your concerns, your passion for the gospel, and your prayers for my humility and teachability. I need those prayers!


Sorry for the delay; I've been wanting to get back into this discussion but work has been fully absorbing of my time for too many days.

I have some preliminary thoughts, but rather than accidentally misconstrue some of your questions, may I clarify something. In your reply to me, are you assuming that I'm representing a NPP or some alternative theological perspective? I'm not assuming that you're assuming (that sounds weird to say), but I wonder. I am tempted to infer, perhaps incorrectly, that you think NPP or contemporary alternative concerns are driving my "The Gospel is the Gospel of the Kingdom" perspective. Maybe you think no such thought, but I thought I'd ask.

Glenn, sorry for the even longer delay. We went away for the break. I avoided the computer. Then was getting caught up. Yada yada.

Uhh, I can't say exactly what I was thinking, but I don't think I assumed you were NPP. I think I was just responding to your post. But honestly I don't entirely remember what I was thinking. Sorry.

I will say, my impression is/was that your original post seems to accord with NPP, but I recognize that NPP involves far more than what you discussed.

Is that helpful?


Thanks for your reply. I do understand that the segments of this sequence of posts, both your original post and the one here at CGO, and comments, all took place in the past. Also, at least I experience (maybe you don't) that a lot of other things in life are crowding out memory and time to address these matters.

While I've thought about your 12/14 comment many times, I think I'm going to have to delay responding to it in any depth until February, given the responsibilities that I have. You raised good questions that merit a response, and I neither want to give them short shrift in a quick reply, nor neglect to reply.

I think I can have something composed for February 4, so I'm shooting for that. Sorry for the delay, and thank you again for the questions about the Kingdom of God.


I look forward to your reflections!

In the meantime, I heard the following quote in Sunday's sermon, which I thought offers some good food for thought. The following, amazingly, was published in a Department of Defense journal by an expert DoD analyst trying to come to terms with the differences between Christianity and Islam for the sake of formulating U.S. policy toward Islamic terrorism. The author writes,

"In no other manner are the differences between Muslims and Christians more sharply contrasted than in the difference between the characters and legacies of their prophets. Perhaps the contrast is best symbolized by the way Mohammad entered Mecca and Jesus entered Jerusalem. Mohammad rode into Mecca on a warhorse, surrounded by 400 mounted men and 10,000 foot soldiers. Those who greeted him were absorbed into his movement; those who resisted him were vanquished, killed, or enslaved. Mohammad conquered Mecca, and took control as its new religious, political, and military leader. Today, in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, Turkey, Mohammad’s purported sword is proudly on display . . . .

"Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey, accompanied by his 12 disciples. He was welcomed and greeted by people waving palm fronds—a traditional sign of peace. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because the Jews mistook him for an earthly, secular king who was to free them from the yoke of Rome, whereas Jesus came to establish a much different, heavenly kingdom. Jesus came by invitation and not by force. One of Jesus’ disciples, the Apostle Peter, learned this lesson even during Jesus’ apprehension by the Roman authorities. When Peter saw Jesus being taken away by the Roman legionaires and temple guards, he drew his sword and attacked one of the Jewish high priests servants, cutting off his ear. Jesus, stopping Peter’s aggression, healed the wound, and told him to put away his sword: “‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to Peter, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.’” Shortly thereafter, Jesus was arrested, tortured, and crucified.” (Stephen Lambert, “To Gain Strategic Perspective” (Aug 2005), p. 7).

My point in posting it is simply to suggest that whatever we do with the idea of "kingdom" and what role it plays in our understanding of the "gospel," we Christians have a radically different conception of kingdom--one that must take into account why the king had to die.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Welcome to CGO

  • Welcome to Common Grounds Online. Readers of Common Grounds have suggested a website to continue the explorations they began in the book. In keeping with the interactions of Professor MacGregor, Brad, Lauren and Jarrod, the theme of this site is ‘learning and living the Christian story.’

    I have invited friends, and a few friends of friends, to communicate aspects of the Christian story that have been significant in their own lives. We’re all trying to find joy and pleasure in this life and the next, but often we forfeit the joy that could be ours by living out foolish, competing scripts. What distinguishes Common Grounds Online Contributors is not our own goodness, achievement or service, but rather the recognition of our need of God’s grace abounding in our lives.

Follow Us

CGO Contributors