A Kingdom Manifesto, by Howard A. Snyder (InterVarsity, 1985, 132 pp.; $4.95, paper). Reviewed by Timothy K. Jones, pastor of Christ Our Peace Church of the Brethren, The Woodlands, Texas.

Christians often view the kingdom of God as a grand finale to the story of God’s workings in history—a far and future reality, “something,” says Howard Snyder, “to consider after all other doctrines have been treated.” In this provocative book, the author of The Problem of Wineskins asks why we think “that our theology should end with the kingdom, when Jesus began with it?”

Snyder finds kingdom teaching running as a “key strand” through the Bible. He argues that the recovery of kingdom thinking is “crucial for the church in general and for evangelical theology in particular.”

In this book, which the author calls “more a tract than a treatise,” one finds little back-patting for North American Christian lifestyles. Snyder writes in his preface, “Many people who have been converted to Jesus seemingly have never been converted to his kingdom message.”

In a telephone interview, Snyder explained, “The main problem is not evangelicalism’s scriptural rootedness, which I affirm, but its cultural limitations.” This narrowing of horizons has led to a worldly, accommodating stance to society, blurring the distinction between what is merely cultural and what is truly biblical.

But Snyder is still hopeful. “In fact,” he writes, “I believe there is more hope for a dramatic inbreaking of the kingdom of God today than at any previous time in history.” As Christians begin hearing and obeying the good news of the kingdom, Snyder believes, the church will permeate society with transformed values like justice for the poor and care for the earth.

Call To Action

Throughout the book, Snyder calls the church to action. One section explores kingdom implications for foreign policy (for example, he thinks the U.S. role in Nicaragua is an example of “unjust intervention”). Another chapter suggests that not only have we “been given peace with God through Jesus Christ, we can be his peacemakers in the world.… The church can [combine] in one community both personal evangelism and involvement in peace concerns locally and internationally.”

Snyder thereby lays out a practical answer for the “common hang-up” between evangelism and social action: discipling believers to involve them in “effective, Spirit-guided evangelism and social witness, both of which find their justification, focus and goal in the kingdom of God.…” In this vision, some will be involved in evangelism, others in servant and justice ministries, and others still in worship.

With this combination of theory and practice, it is not surprising to discover that Snyder is immersed day-to-day in a church community trying to model the kingdom vision. “When you look at the book,” he said, “it is important to recognize that it grows out of not only theological reflection, but also pastoral concern. It would have been a different book if I hadn’t been involved pastorally in an urban church.”

Despite Snyder’s practical sensitivity, some proposals need refining. Snyder can speak more authoritatively as a “pastor-theologian” than as a social scientist. But his strategies and proposals merit further debate.

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