Saturday, January 16, 2010

Ladd Parses the Kingdom

Given the pervasiveness of the concept of the kingdom of God in the teaching of Jesus and of the Synoptic Gospels, I think the church should still be capitalizing on George Ladd's work to get a handle on the meaning of the kingdom. It's a much thicker feature of the Lord's teaching than not a few churches let on.

In A Theology of the New Testament Ladd treats the kingdom as an integral part of the two-age dualism underlying Jesus teaching. By speaking of a "two-age dualism" he attempts to express only that the people of Israel expected a divine deliverance which would change all the facets of human existence under the rubric of eschatological blessing, distinguishing the present age from the age to come. Ladd champions an "inaugurated eschatology" in which the inbreaking of the kingdom is launched in the mission of Christ and awaits its future consummation. He unpacks the multiple layers of the concept of the kingdom along three lines: 1) "the kingdom" may indicate simply the rule of God; 2) "the kingdom" may indicate the eschatological act of God in which he brings judgment and salvation and thus manifests his kingly power; and 3) "the kingdom" may indicate the future realm in which we will enjoy the blessings of salvation (p. 68). Ladd adds that the kingdom can also be construed as the present realm of salvific blessing or even the present gift of eternal life (pp. 68-71).

For my money, this kind of exposition of such an important theme is pregnant with possibilities for shaping the church's and the Christian's self-understanding between the two advents of the Lord. Has anyone heard a really rich sketch of the kingdom in the local church? Any other thoughts on this?

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