Books

Cover Image: The Kingdom and the Power

The Kingdom and the Power:
Rediscovering the Centrality of the Church

Peter Leithart (Presbyterian & Reformed, 1993)

Blurb Review

Blurb

This is a book about God's Kingdom on earth. It is a book about the church and its power as Christ's agent on earth. It's a book about war - holy war. This book is not about Christian political and social activism. It is not about fighting the cultural war, per se. What Leithart argues in this enlightening read is that the real war we need to fight is the holy war - not an evangelical jihad, but a war in which our weapon is the gospel. Leithart does not believe that this war is unrelated to politics, but that the main political task of the church is to be the church. This holy war against Satan and the powers of this age is the war behind the cultural war. It is the cancer beneath the societal symptoms of weight loss and nausea. The real conflict is not between pro-life activists and abortionists, but between God's Kingdom and Satan's. The outcome of this more cosmic conflict will determine the outcome of the cultural war.

Leithart defines God's Kingdom as the new world order that Christ established in His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, a new order of things that will be fully revealed and established only at Christ's return. This is a more holistic definition of God's Kingdom than Goldsworthy's narrow and simplistic definition of God's people, in God's place, under God's rule. What Leithart, which Goldsworthy fails to do, is to take in to account the many and varied ways in which God's Kingdom is spoken of in the Bible, particularly in the gospels. (See his very helpful essay on this website The Kingdom of God for further insight).

Historically five models of the kingdom of God have been held in the church: millennial, eschatological, ethical or social activist, mystical, and sacramental or liturgical. Leithart believes that each model has captured a genuine biblical insight, and therefore in arriving at a biblical model of God's kingdom we must take into account the varied aspects as represented in Scripture. However, he does argue in his book that, "What is lacking in evangelical discussions and evangelicalism in general is an adequate appreciation of the emphasis on the validity - in my judgment, the centrality - of the ecclesiastical or sacramental model of the kingdom." It is this ecclesiastical model that has been neglected in the discussions. For Leithart the Kingdom of God is seen in the church. And it is as a church that we fight this war.

This point in itself helps us to see what war we are fighting. In our modern world the church is obsessed with trivialities, our forefathers were obsessed with more weightier and important matters. The issue is not - what should we do with Saddam Hussein, but what should we do with a modern day Arius? Such a person remains a greater threat to this world than a Saddam Hussein or a Bin Laden. "We have permitted the idolaters of power and mammon to set our priorities for us; we have let them convince us that the really big issues confronting the world are political, and that they can be solved through political means. We have inverted the biblical stress on the priority of holy war over normal war." And so Leithart concludes: "This book is not a summons to retreat from the world, but a rally cry to conservative Christians to engage the world - not as isolated Christians or as an interest group, but as the church. It is the burden of this book to stress the primacy of holy war, which, being translated, means the primacy of the church."

Each main chapter includes a mini biblical theology of each particular aspect of the kingdom of God as it unfolds in the Bible. In a day when the great debates on the news are about how we should confront dictators, evil, terrorism, and threats to national security, or about how we should deal with the increasing rate of teenage pregnancy and abortions, Leithart gives us a timely reminder of the war behind the war, and brings us back to the place where both wars will be won. This book is a must read, despite its hideous cover!

Contents

Introduction
1. What is the Kingdom of God?
2. I Saw Satan Fall
3. One Like the Son of Man
4. In the Heavenlies
5. The Torn Veil
6. The King's Table
7. After the Feast
8. The People of the Kingdom
9. On Earth as It Is in Heaven
10. Into the Political Arena
11. Against the World for the World

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