Wednesday, August 29, 2018

We are the kingdom

“The Kingdom of God in History” is a rather narrow book, summarizing how various theologians throughout Church history have viewed the concept of the kingdom of God. The author is a Dominican, but has a rather free and critical approach to the Catholic tradition. His interpretation of the Kingdom strikes me as a compromise between premillennialism and postmillennialism. On the one hand, the kingdom is the literal earthly rule of the Son of Man, descended from Heaven. On the other hand, the advent of this eschatological kingdom or millennium can be hastened by the Church and individual Christians fighting for social justice and peace in the here and now. The author bases this on the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46.

Alternative interpretations rejected by the author include the notion that the Kingdom is identical to the Church, to a temporal empire such as Byzantium, or that it is “within us” in a spiritual-mystical sense. However, Viviano is also uncomfortable with the combination of utopian thinking and apocalypticism, apparently preferring a more “reformist” approach to solving society's ills. He also rejects liberation theology as too Marxist, quoting Joseph Ratzinger's criticism of the same. The Social Gospel is also up for criticism, since it completely forgets the eschatological-apocalyptic perspective in favour of purely this-worldly reforms.

I don't think this little tome is suitable for the general reader, but it could perhaps be a good introduction to the problem for theology students. The book ends with an extensive literature list for further study.

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