The Kingdom of God: Building vs. Preserving


There’s a great video on kingdom building over at The Resurgence. The video features an interview with Dr. Michael Horton, a theology professor at Westminister Seminary California.




Horton is asked when humans first attempted to build God’s kingdom on this earth, and Horton’s answer is that we’ve been trying since the beginning of time. As an example, he points to the Tower of Babel. As Horton sees it, striving toward earthly kingdoms is simply part of our nature.

It’s part of our native fallenness, he says. We want to be the builders.

Horton then discusses Acts 1, where Jesus (after His resurrection) appeared to His disciples over a period of 40 days. Luke writes that during this period Jesus spoke to the disciples regarding “the things concerning the kingdom of God” and then urged them to not leave Jerusalem but to simply “wait for the gift my Father promised.” Here Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit (which would fall on the Day of Pentecost shortly after).

There was no scheme to overtake the Romans. There was no book on how to construct a new economic system. There was no blueprint for how the Church should use multimedia and drama skits to gain followers.

Nothing.

Jesus simply told them to wait for the Holy Spirit.

However, even after 40 days of what Horton describes as “intensive training,” the disciples are still wanting and expecting Jesus to bring about the kingdom of God in an earthly way. Right before the Ascension, the disciples ask,  “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

As Horton explains: “They are still thinking in terms of a geopolitical empire with a revived temple and theocracy and everything.”

Horton’s overall point is that we continue to make the same mistake as the disciples. We want to fit Jesus’ mission into our own systematic plans or a structures that will meet our earthly needs as we see them.

Horton then goes further by tying this part of our nature into American culture, saying that we like to start up things rather than join them. We like to build things rather than just “be stewards for a little while.”

The Ascension of Christ by Garofalo

The Ascension of Christ by Garofalo (1510-20)

I slightly disagree with Horton on this point. The desire to build and construct rather than join and steward is not endemic to Americans — it’s endemic to humans. In America, we have simply maximized the ability of individuals to pursue their desires, which is accomplished primarily via “construction” of some sort. Perhaps this is what Horton meant, but either way, is this such a bad thing? Isn’t liberty and maximization of free will the sole driver of our prosperity?

I don’t think it’s a bad thing, and I don’t think Horton necessarily thinks it is either. He says we need to “preserve,“ “belong,” and “mature,” but then he ends by saying we need to “go out into the world and fulfill our callings.”

I certainly agree with the first part, but don’t our callings necessitate building things on this earth?

Here is where I think we find the crux of the issue.

If God has called us (as individuals) to be fathers, mothers, preachers, teachers, inventors, bankers, and, yes, even politicians, how can we reconcile those God-given builder roles with our role in preserving the kingdom of God as manifested through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?

If building is “good” from an earthly standpoint, is it simply that we should keep our views of earthly endeavors distinct and separate from our heavenly ones? But if we are called to simply “preserve” God’s kingdom, who is to say that we shouldn’t try to also preserve our earthly systems, as well?

I think the answer is that we must preserve the kingdom of God in its design, but must also strive to build its membership, which requires using earthly tools and earthly methods effectively.

God put the creative spirit in us for a reason. We just need to make sure our building is a focused on enhancement rather than fulfillment.

What do you think?

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  • Anonymous

    Interesting. The only thing that popped into my head is this:

    For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. (1 Corinthians 3:11-13)

    Not only do we need to choose our materials carefully, we need to make sure we’re building on the foundation.

  • akagaga

    Interesting. The only thing that popped into my head is this:

    For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. (1 Corinthians 3:11-13)

    Not only do we need to choose our materials carefully, we need to make sure we're building on the foundation.

  • http://www.remnantculture.com/ Remnant Culture

    Great verse! Thanks for contributing.

  • http://www.remnantculture.com/ Remnant Culture

    Great verse! Thanks for contributing.

  • http://www.remnantculture.com/ Remnant Culture

    Great verse! Thanks for contributing.