Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective

Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective

Article excerpt

The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective. By Russell D. Moore. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004, 320 pp., $15.99 paper.

Russell Moore's study provides an invaluable gauge on contemporary evangelical theology. It is well written and comprehensive in range. Though selective with respect to bibliographical sources, the book nevertheless contains an outstanding compilation of material, weaving together many strands of evangelical theological discussion in illuminating fashion. As a "traditional covenant theologian" reviewing this book (so the author has identified me), it would come as no surprise that I have significant differences with Moore's case for evangelical theological consensus. Even Moore is quite unsure what to make of the mosaic of contemporary evangelical thought. The book closes by questioning his opening thesis. Perhaps greater attention to and comprehension of the writings of Reformed covenant theology-and hence less attention to progressive dispensationalism (if only to be more evenhanded!)-might have given the author himself more opportunity to rethink and refine his own position, commendable as it is in many places. Interesting is his system of labeling theological positions across a very wide spectrum of evangelical opinion. At times, Moore's assessment and categorization are too neatly drawn; in actuality, the issues are far more complex and far more convoluted than his analysis would lead his readers to think. Two examples: Moore's misreading of the Christian political theory of Edmund Clowney and his misreading of the amillennial covenant theology of Vern Poythress. As a consequence, Moore's argument for evangelical "consensus" becomes flimsy and somewhat forced. Much more distinction and refinement in statement are needed.

The author is a devotee of Carl Henry, a giant in twentieth-century (neo-) evangelicalism and a staunch defender of biblical authority. (Moore rightly laments Henry's failure to carry through his conviction by retaining the doctrine of biblical inerrancy as a theological nonnegotiable within conservative Protestant theology.) The heartbeat of The Kingdom of Christ is concerned with the intersection between evangelical theology and political engagement. In my judgment, American evangelicalism has inherited a quasi-Constantinian, and therefore unbiblical, understanding of the relationship between Christian ethics and social politics, a subject of intense, growing conflict, especially in recent years-ever since the Jimmy Carter presidency. Agreeably, all Americans, whatever their religious conviction, strive-or should strive-for peace in the world. In addition, evangelical believers seek-or should seek-peace in the Church. But Scripture clearly indicates that peace will not ultimately be obtained in this present (evil) age, not in the Church and not in the world. Discord and disharmony are the fruit of sin; they will not be fully eradicated until the consummation of history. What concord and harmony are reached is often short-lived. Peace is elusive; to think otherwise is delusive. (Only the coming Prince of Peace will achieve this blessing for time eternal.) One final observation before moving on: Peace in society and peace in the Church are two entirely different objectives. Peace in the Church requires unity in the (essential) fundamentals of Christian doctrine. Whole-hearted obedience to the Word of God in faith and in practice is basic to the Church's witness. Christian ethical behavior and church discipline are descriptive (and prescriptive) of life within the community of faith, not in society-at-large. But this takes us well ahead of our summary review of the argument in The Kingdom of Christ.

After introducing readers to his topic of study, "evangelical theology and evangelical [political] engagement," Moore treats us to an analysis of the three defining doctrines informing his book: eschatology, soteriology, and ecclesiology. Simply put, in Moore's words, "the failure of evangelical politics points us to something far more important that underlies it-the failure of evangelical theology" (p. …

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