Scot McKnight’s Kingdom Conspiracy: The Bible in Two Stories

KingdomConspiracy2We’re discussing Scot McKnight’s latest book Kingdom Conspiracy: Returning to the Radical Mission of the Local Church.

Scot points out that both the local church and academia have learned — finally — to read the Bible as story. One such story might be summarized as C-F-R-C: the story of salvation in the Bible.

(And this is very much the story as related by Scot in his excellent The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible, which we covered in this series.) The story goes like this.

* Creation: God created the heavens and earth, and they were very good. He created man, male and female, in his image.

* Fall: Man, male and female, sinned and so fell from Eden, leading to a cursed world.

* Redemption: God makes a covenant with Abraham and then with Israel. Israel fails to be faithful to the covenant and so is sent into exile. Jesus came, died on the cross, was resurrected, and so provided grace by which we — fallen mankind — may be redeemed. This establishes the beachhead for the Kingdom — it’s here but not fully here, but the complete victory of Jesus is certain.

* Consummation: Jesus will return and establish the Kingdom in its fullness, and all the redeemed will join Jesus in the completed, full Kingdom.

Scot criticizes this approach as true but very incomplete:

Those who read the Bible solely through the C-F-R-C plot have an annoying propensity to read Genesis 1– 3 to get their C and their F in place, but then they skip all the way to Romans 3 or to the crucifixion scenes in the Gospels to get to the R. This skips 99.5 percent of the Old Testament. Some, too, tend to omit any serious discussion of Israel or church or the people of God as the locus of what God is doing in this world. Why? Because the focus of the C-F-R-C story is on personal salvation, it is also a focus on the salvation of the individual.

(p. 25). And that’s true. There is nothing in this telling of the Story that explains the purpose of Israel or even the church. It’s about as un-Kingdom a telling as is possible because it’s as individualized as possible.

That doesn’t make it false, but incomplete. Jesus loves me. But he loves a lot of other people, too, and he would really love it if I would love them, too. And where is that in C-F-R-C?

As an alternative, Scot offers an A-B-A’ theory. Back when I took math classes, that apostrophe after the second A was pronounced “prime.” I assume the same is true in theology.

This approach to the gospel is borrowed from Scot’s book The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited (reviewed here).

In Kingdom Conspiracy, however, he reworks the idea into this easy-to-remember structure:

Plan A extends from Adam and Abraham to Samuel. The period is marked by one major theme: God rules the world through his elected people, but God is the one and only King.

(p. 28). From Eden until Samuel, God served as the only king of his people.

(Deu 33:5 ESV)  5 Thus the LORD became king in Jeshurun, when the heads of the people were gathered, all the tribes of Israel together.

The period ends when the leaders of Israel ask Samuel for a king. You see, Samuel was the last judge, and he appointed his own two sons to serve after him, but they proved to be corrupt. In effect, Samuel attempted to establish an inherited judgeship — an entirely new thing.

The leaders of Israel were desperately unhappy with this situation — and understandably so.

(1Sa 8:4-5 ESV)  4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah  5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 

The problem is that the elders saw no solution other than to be like their surrounding nations. They had no desire to return to God’s rule through judges.

God allowed Samuel to anoint a king — Saul — who proved an effective military leader (he defeated the Amalekites), but morally empty. He really was like the kings of the surrounding nations.

(1Sa 8:7 ESV)  7 And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.

Scot concludes,

Plan A has four characteristics: God alone is King. Humans, from Adam and Eve to Abraham, are to rule under God. Humans usurp God’s rule. God forgives the usurpers and forms a covenant with Abraham.

(p. 29).

And so God instituted Plan B — which is rule by David and his descendants under God. The problem is that David’s descendants rarely came close to the stature of their ancestor.

Scot summarizes this phase:

So there are six elements in Plan B:

  • God alone is (still) King.
  • Israel is to rule God’s created world under God.
  • Israel wants to usurp God’s rule.
  • God accommodates Israel by granting it a human king.
  • The story of the Old Testament becomes the story of David.
  • God continues to forgive Israel of its sins through the temple system of sacrifice, purity, and forgiveness.

A human king on the throne, even David, was still Plan B.

(p. 31). So, inevitably, this leads to Plan A’ — a better version of Plan A. Jesus announces that the “kingdom of God” has drawn near.

This is not the kingdom of Moses or Samuel or David or Solomon or any other of the kings of Israel and Judah. This is the kingdom of God as it was before Samuel’s fateful request and God’s accommodation to Israel, and yet this new King will be modeled on David. Jesus is announcing that God once again has established divine rule in the land.

(pp. 33-34). David’s throne remains David’s throne, but now it is occupied by the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth — who both human and much, much more than human.

Here, then, is Plan A Revised: in Jesus, who is called Messiah (which means king), who is also called Son of God (which also means king), God establishes his rule over Israel one more time as under Plan A. Here are the major elements:

  • God alone is King.
  • God is now ruling in King Jesus.
  • Israel and the church live under the rule of King Jesus.
  • Forgiveness is granted through King Jesus, the Savior.
  • This rule of Jesus will be complete in the final kingdom.

Jesus is all of Israel’s major leaders, and more: he’s a new Moses and especially a new David and a new Solomon and a new Servant and a new Son of Man and a whole new redemptive order. Joseph and Mary name him Yeshua because he will “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1: 21). The story is that in Jesus God now rules, and God’s kind of ruling is saving, rescuing, atoning, justifying, and reconciling.

(pp. 34-35). The reason the Kingdom draws near when Jesus walked the earth is not merely a matter of time. The Kingdom was established when Jesus became King. The Kingdom is centered on Jesus and so always “at hand” wherever Jesus might be.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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13 Responses to Scot McKnight’s Kingdom Conspiracy: The Bible in Two Stories

  1. Gary says:

    Nowhere in Scripture does it say that Jesus is now seated on his throne which is also called David’s throne. On the contrary we have Jesus’ own words in Matthew 25:31 as to when Jesus will be seated upon his throne. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him then he will be seated on his glorious throne.” I’m quoting that from memory but I think I have it substantially right. We do know from Revelation that Christ is now seated with the Father on the Father’s throne but Jesus told us that he would be seated on his throne only upon his return. Christ is not now the ruler of this world. His rule over this world awaits his return when he will usher in what Hebrews refers to as the “coming world.” Paul tells us that Satan is the ruler of this world.

  2. Gary says:

    Saul’s kingship might well be seen as a Plan B but I don’t think scripture supports the idea of the Davidic throne as God’s Plan B. The Law of Moses specifically anticipates a monarchy over Israel and the angel Gabriel prophesies that Jesus will be seated on the throne of David when he appears to Mary. That sounds like Plan A to me. McKnight seems to be following the well trodden path of “Everybody got it wrong before me.”

  3. Ephesians 1 reminds us of what God has done: “That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” “Raised” and “seated” are past tense, as are “placed” and “appointed”. “Head over everything” seems unequivocal, as does “far above all rule and authority”. To deny Jesus’ present rule requires a very thorough revision of this passage; in fact, one would have to render it unrecognizable.

  4. I would also recall the language of the parable in Luke 19, which I find significant in regards to the kingship of Jesus.

    “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas. ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’

    “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

    “He was made king, however, and returned home.”

    In this parable, the “man of noble birth” went far away, was made king, and then returned home. He did not have to return home in order to become king. That event took place in that “distant country”. His kingship was clearly territorial, as are all kingships, not a matter for voluntary decision by his subjects. His subjects opposed his rule before he was appointed. When the king returned, it was not to become king, it was AS king. This state of affairs reads consistently with Paul’s description of Jesus’ rule.

  5. Gary says:

    Charles, Christ is now reigning over his church. That is how the Kingdom of God continues to invade this world that is hostile to God. But Christ is now now reigning over this world. If he were, wouldn’t this be a far different and better world? We now rightly blame many of the conditions of this world on it being fallen. If Christ is now reigning over this world then the blame would be his. No, we are looking forward to a different and coming world where righteousness dwells or is at home. Righteousness is not at home or natural in this world. Also, Paul states outright that Satan is the ruler of this world. Christ and Satan are not reigning together.

  6. Gary says:

    Charles, the servants in Luke 19 correspond to an unfaithful church or unfaithful Christians and not to the world. As I mentioned previously Christ is now reigning over his church. To whatever extent Christ’s reign is not being accepted by his church then to that extent the church is unfaithful.

  7. Gary says:

    Charles, regarding Ephesians 1, Christ having all authority and exercising that authority are two different things. Christ is not now exercising his authority over this world. If he were, we would now be living in the new heavens and the new earth. Listening to the news on any day lets us know that that coming world has not yet arrived.

  8. Gary says:

    The best analogy I can think of is the depiction of England in the Robin Hood story which some of us watched growing up. King Richard was certainly the King but he was away fighting in the Crusades. In his absence the evil Sheriff of Nottingham was the ruler in that part of England. When King Richard returns he exercises his rightful authority and wrongs are righted.

    So I agree with you that Jesus is King now. In the liturgical calendar the last Sunday before Advent is Christ the King Sunday which I always look forward to. The question at hand is not whether Jesus is now King but where he is now exercising his authority as King.

  9. Monty says:

    God has always ruled over his universe(which includes of course the Earth and all it’s inhabitants). Our God reigns everywhere, except in the hearts of men who He gives the freedom of choice to reject Him. The Earth and all it’s fullness belong to God. The cattle on a thousand hills belong to God! Satan had to gain permission to hurt Job and his family. That permission was granted by God, who reigns. If Satan were ruling, he wouldn’t need permission. God is sovereign over all. He is so sovereign that he can give men the freedom to choose and to act on their own, and HIs will and plans will still come to fruition. Talk about sovereignty! Satan is the ruler of evil. He rules in the hearts of evil men. He rules in a limited(by God) way, over an evil worldly system. God could squash Satan at any moment, but for now He is allowing things to play out according to His sovereign plan, and no one and nothing can thwart His plan. God isn’t away fighting a battle and unaware that an evil ruler is subjecting his people in his absence.

  10. Gary says:

    Monty, what is your understanding of 2 Corinthians 4:4 where Satan is referred to as the ruler or the God of this world?

  11. Dwight says:

    In Eph. Satan, although not mentioned by name, is referred to as the prince and the power of the air as also related to the course of this world. The difference is that Satan is in this world, while God and Jesus is not, but in heaven, even though they command this earth and all things. Man initially follows the things of the world, but with Jesus intervention the things of the Spirit. Satan exerts his grip on the worldliness of man, while God exerts His grip on the heart and soul of man and we are the battle field in which we have control on the victor.

  12. Dwight says:

    Many of the same themes are repeated over and over again from the OT to the NT…Deliverance and Atonement. God delivered the Israelites and sought to bring them closer to Him. God delivered us from sin and seeks to bring us closer to Him. There will be battles, but trust in God always prevails if we let go of our plan and fully buy into God’s plan.

  13. Larry Cheek says:

    Gary,
    The story above does not have any application to God’s or Christ’s ruling. In fact a substitute. ruler has all the authority of the ruler. When the king returns he will resume ruling, if the substitute has not ruled according to the kings desires he will answer to the king, but the king he is not bound to aright all of the wrongs that the substitute had done, in fact He could not aright the wrongful death that had been administered by the substitute.
    Your definition of whether Christ is ruling over this world or not, is not the same criteria that has been used by God. God has always been the ruler over this world (earth) the fact that he has allowed Satan to deceive men does not demand that he has relinquished any of his rule. I do not find where the scriptures ever identify Satan as having a kingdom. There are only a few verses which portray a relationship that Satan could have a kingdom but that is not what Christ stated. I’ll present one of them.
    (Mat 12:26 KJV) And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? Satan’s followers are not described in scripture as an organized kingdom. Satan is described most commonly as just a deceiver.
    You do realize because it is portrayed in your example that a ruler or king of a kingdom does not have authority over any other kingdom or territory. A king cannot make rules or laws or demand anyone outside his rule to obey him. When you claim that Christ only has rule over the church, then you deny his authority over anyone else in this world which would deny many scriptures.
    This was Christ who made this statement was it not?
    (Rev 1:18 KJV) I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. 19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
    Does this book explain events of this world that will affect those who are not in the church? How could this be if Christ has no authority in the world?

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