A Kingdom without a King? Evaluating the Kingdom Ethic(s) of the Emerging Church -- By: Todd L. Miles

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 12:1 (Spring 2008)
Article: A Kingdom without a King? Evaluating the Kingdom Ethic(s) of the Emerging Church
Author: Todd L. Miles

A Kingdom without a King?
Evaluating the Kingdom Ethic(s) of the Emerging Church1

Todd L. Miles*

*Todd L. Miles is Assistant Professor of Theology and Hermeneutics at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Miles received his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has published articles in The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology and in The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.


The missional impulse of the Emerging church has generated much publicity and has challenged the evangelical church to rethink its views on culture, gospel presentation, incarnational living, and social action. Many Emerging church leaders have chosen to utilize the Kingdom of God as the paradigm for their revisioning of church theology and praxis, rightly noting the biblical emphasis on the Kingdom of God, not least of which appears in the teachings of Jesus. When one looks at Scripture, one is forced to admit that the church in most of its evangelical expressions has not shared the Kingdom focus that seems to permeate the Gospels and New Testament epistles. But naked reference to any biblical teaching could amount to theological theme-dropping that is void of content. When this is the case, “Kingdom” references could be just a means of justifying a shift in priorities, while not being faithful to the biblical witness. In this article, I want to evaluate the Emerging church theology of the Kingdom. I will conclude that, though the impulse to have the Kingdom of God shape church praxis must be affirmed and heeded, the Emerging church’s deficient understanding of the Kingdom will invariably lead to an abandonment of the gospel in favor of theologically empty social action.

What is the Emerging Church?

Trying to define the Emerging church is a bit like herding cats. The movement is constituted by individuals and communities that resist labels and categorization on ideological grounds. Nevertheless, there are some characteristics common to the Emerging church. In their book, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures, Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger describe Emerging churches as “missional communities arising from within postmodern culture and consisting of followers of Jesus who are seeking to be faithful in their place and time.”2 Lauran A Kerr describes the Emerging church as

a movement that seeks to “reach and engage the emerging culture” by leading “missional, kingdom-minded” lives, recover early church tradition and vision, operate organically with fewer constrictive structures, focus on its members as a community and a collective e...

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