McLaren on the Kingdom of God
"I was having lunch one day with a well-known
scholar ... I was sipping my hot-and-sour soup when he said, 'You
know, most evangelicals haven't the foggiest notion of what the
gospel really is.' I considered myself an evangelical, so I felt a
bit challenged by his statement. In response I started at my soup,
hoping he'd resolve the issue without asking my opinion, but he was
too good an educator for that. 'What would you say the gospel is,
"I answered by quoting the apostle Paul in
the New Testament - statements about justification by grace through
faith, the free gift of salvation, Christ being a substitutionary
sacrifice for my sin. 'That's exactly what most evangelicals say,'
he replied, letting the tension hang for what seemed to me like a
long, long time. I looked up from my soup and asked, a little
defensively, 'Well, then what would you say the gospel is, it it's
not that?' I was preparing myself for heresy, not for enlightenment,
since I was quite confident in my quotations from Paul.
"'The kingdom of God is at hand. That
was Jesus' message. Don't you think we should let Jesus tell us what
the gospel is?' His reply confounded me. Of course I had to agree
with him. But I could see no connection between the message of the
kingdom of God and the gospel as I understood it from Paul.
"How did I deal with the tension? I didn't.
Somehow, I just put it aside. I sat on it. I ignored it. It was
several years later, when I began the quest that led to the writing
of this book, that 'the hot and sour soup conversation came back to
me. ... I don't think Paul is the enemy, I think our
misinterpretations of Paul are the enemy. I think Paul is actually a
friend of the gospel of the kingdom, perhaps its best friend since
Click here to read
McLaren's exegesis of Paul on kingdom.
The Secret Message of Jesus,
Brian D. McLaren, Thomas Nelson, 2006, p. 90-91.