The Kingdom of God
A Primer on the Christian Life
Publisher: Banner of Truth
Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team
W. Tullian Tchividjian, founding pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church (EPC) in Margate, Florida, has shot to the top of A-list Christian authors by virtue of two-pronged name recognition: not only is his Patristic/Armenian name singular among American Presbyterian pastors, he is also Billy Graham’s grandson – hence the unused initials W. G.
Tchividjian’s first published solo effort, The Kingdom of God is one of the latest in Banner of Truth’s long line of almost 40 booklets written on the subject of the Christian experience. Topics addressed in the series run the gamut from general expositions of biblical worship, the importance of Scripture, and the reformed faith, to specific issues such as cremation, the invitation system, and the use of the Psalter in the assembly. Authors range from Presbyterians Sinclair Ferguson and John Murray to Baptists Tom Wells and Ernest Reisinger.
In The Kingdom of God, Tchividjian’s aim is to spell out the nature of the Christian’s identity as a kingdom subject, especially in view of the prevailing postmodern cultural climate. Considering this aim, a more appropriate subtitle for this booklet would have been “A Primer on the Christian Identity.” Its current subtitle is simply too broad-ranging given its content. I also felt the booklet suffered from an inordinate number of external quotations, including one particularly unhelpful Robert Webber quote.
Objections established, the actual content is very helpful. The Introduction establishes the nature of the kingdom of God based on firm scriptural support. The kingdom Tchividjian describes is already but not yet, present though future, invisible and internal now, worldwide and visible at its consummation. Using delineations introduced to him by his former professor Richard Pratt, Tchividjian chronicles the kingdom in three stages: inauguration, continuation, and consummation.
Part 1 explains the characteristics of kingdom citizens from the Beatitudes, which Tchividjian understands to be descriptive of the Christian life, not prescriptive. Part 2 goes on to explore the function and outward-orientation of kingdom citizens: “We must go out in order to bring in.” After dealing with the usual ‘salt and light’ texts that this subject calls for, Tchividjian is particularly helpful at the end of this section, demarcating the difference between God’s Old Covenant community, which was primarily centripetal (“instead of Israel going to the nations in order to give blessing, the nations came to Israel in order to receive blessing”), and the New Covenant community, which is primarily centrifugal (“instead of the nations coming to the church to receive God’s blessing, the church is to go into the world to give God’s blessing”). Part 3 suggests that the Church as the kingdom of God will experience opposition both from outside and inside. Significantly, Tchividjian spends much more time on the threat from within – false prophets – than from without. While I suspect some who read this booklet will be inclined to pooh-pooh Tchividjian’s attentiveness to false prophets in the Church as an outmoded concept (“Don’t be too hard on poor so-and-so, he’s well-intentioned and sincere), I for one appreciated the decision to end on this note. After all, every kingdom faces its sieges, and most sieges prevail because of sabotage. While the kingdom of God will never be defeated, many citizens will fall away from the truth, and that is a tragedy.
A note on style and technique: Tchividjian is especially proficient at setting up the manifold juxtapositions that exist between kingdom life and wordly life – the latter of which cannot properly be called ‘life’ at all. As he says, “The kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world are moving in opposite directions, and we who are citizens of God’s kingdom can expect that the unique characteristics we bear will make us different from the world around us and that this difference will bring about discomfort (2 Tim. 3:12). But it is a discomfort we can glory in because it is the same discomfort our King experienced (I Pet. 4:13).”
William Graham Tullian Tchividjian (whew!) has done the church a service with this little booklet, which is an excellent primer on the Christian identity.