The Greatness of the Kingdom Part I -- By: Alva J. McClain

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 112:445 (Jan 1955)
Article: The Greatness of the Kingdom Part I
Author: Alva J. McClain

The Greatness of the Kingdom
Part I

Alva J. McClain

[EDITOR’s NOTE: This article begins the series by Dr. McClain, President of Grace Theological Seminary, which constituted the W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectureship, November 9–12, 1954. In expanded form this series will appear as part of a volume in a projected set on Christian Theology by Dr. McClain.]

The title chosen for these lectures, a phrase found in the seventh chapter of the book of Daniel, will indicate the general thesis which I hope to establish, namely, “The Greatness of the Kingdom.” For a long time I have had a growing conviction that much of the disagreement over the subject of the kingdom of God has arisen out of narrow views as to its character. This situation obtains, of course, in more than one department of Biblical theology. Men have gone wrong, not so much in what they affirmed, but rather in what they denied or neglected.

This tendency has been given impetus by that natural bent of the human mind, best represented by the philosophers, which impels men to search for one principle or idea that will explain everything else. While this motive, held under legitimate restraints, has often led to fruitful results; it nevertheless is always attended with certain hazards. In the first place, there is the danger of omitting matters of importance which may stand outside our neat little formulas. In the second place, thinking now of the field of Christian theology, this passion for oversimplification may cause men to miss the richness and infinite variety of Christian truth in the interest of a barren unity. It was William James who once suggested that, considered from a certain abstract viewpoint, even a masterpiece of violin music might be described as “the scraping of horses’ tails over cats’ bowels!” Such a definition of course has the merit of simplicity; it gets rid of all the mystery of personality and genius, but the residue is not very interesting.

Now I feel strongly that the Biblical doctrine of the kingdom of God has suffered considerably from this tendency

toward oversimplification. Men have forgotten the greatness of the kingdom, its richness and complexity, in the interest of their own partial and inadequate explanations. What I am saying is underscored by the very small place given to the subject of the kingdom in some well-known and honored works by conservative theologians. For example, in the books on Systematic Theology by A. H. Strong, Wm. G. T. Shedd and A. A. Hodge one looks in vain for even any mention of the term kingdom in their indexes. It is to the everlasting credit and honor of my dear friend, the late President of Dallas Theological Semina...

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