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Toward an evangelical social justice : an analysis of the concept of the Kingdom of God and the mission of the Church
This thesis analyses a diversity of Christian understandings of the Kingdom of God in relation to the church’s mission for social justice. Its central argument is that the Christian praxis of the eschatological reality of the Kingdom is the church’s alternative to philosophical and ethical theories for social justice. Through an in-depth analysis and evaluation of previous scholarship, this study examines secular philosophical and ethical theories of both ancient and modern times as means of transforming the systemic injustices of society, and affirms their inadequacy to attain the highest good for humanity without a true knowledge of the justice of the sovereign God. Through a hermeneutic approach to the biblical material, the study finds the fundamental concept of God’s justice in narrative and thematic form throughout the Bible. God is the source of love, power, righteousness and justice, and practising justice is a divine mandate for believers. Critical analysis of the diversified concept of the Kingdom of God finds that each view of eschatology, whether premillennialism, postmillennialism, or amillennialism, has its unique characteristics and insights, but without a comprehensive, coherent and integrative conceptual framework for the Kingdom, any one view of eschatology poses difficulties and jeopardizes the advancement of the Gospel of the Kingdom. The study finds that the two-kingdom doctrine of Luther and Calvin, together with Barth’s doctrine of Law and Gospel, support an understanding of the universal Lordship of Christ over both the church (the spiritual realm) and the world (the civil realm), that Ladd’s ‘inaugurated eschatology’ appropriately synthesises the views of ‘consistent eschatology’ and ‘realized eschatology’ as ‘one redemptive event in two parts’, and that E. Stanley Jones’ ‘total Kingdom’ concept effectively summarises God’s comprehensive plan for human life. For the last century, however, the evangelical church has been preoccupied with an overemphasis on individual pietistic experience, vertical relationship with God, personal conversion and over-reaction to the social gospel movement. The relative non-participation of the evangelical church in action for social justice evidences an uneasy conscience; their narrow interpretation of the Kingdom of God has resulted in the church’s withdrawing from social involvement as well as obscuring the horizontal relationship between humanity and creation. The study concludes that Christianity is not an abstract concept but is concerned with the eschatological hope of the Kingdom of God and with its embodiment through the church on earth, which implies the formation of a renewed socio-political reality. The church is thus the prototype of the Kingdom of God, with a mandate to display God’s justice as the divine redemptive plan that will culminate in the restoration of the communion of all humanity in God. In seeking a balance between this concept of the Kingdom and the church’s mission of evangelism and social justice, the study finds that there is a need to call the evangelical church to incarnate the Word of God in proclamation and action – an integrated mission of evangelism and social justice.
- Theology