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Jon Ruthven

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Jon Ruthven is a Professor of Systematic Theology at Regent University School of Divinity, Virginia Beach, Virginia.

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Articles > Charismatic Theology > Can a Charismatic Theology be Biblical?

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    b) The Kingdom of God The doctrine of the kingdom of God provides an Evangelical/ charismatic theology with its most under-cultivated ground. But in traditional systematics this doctrine is drastically distorted from the NT pattern in that it has been identified primarily with the church: either the visible organization, as in Roman Catholicism, or the invisible church of the Reformation.[23] Both believed that the Kingdom expressed a kind of divine realm which was to be totally realized at the end of this age, usually through the victorious and complete extension of the church over all the earth, or essentially suspended until the coming of Christ.

    By contrast, biblical theology's recent portrayal of the kingdom of God is much more complex and charismatic: [24] that the dissemination of the Gospel of the kingdom of God was central to Jesus' mission; that the terms, "kingdom of God/ Heaven/Christ" are referentially identical; that the primary idea of kingdom is the act of ruling, rather than a territory ruled: a reign rather than a realm; that the kingdom of God is not, as with old liberalism, a man-made social organization, or even an intuitive experience, but a divine gift of God's power; that the nature of the kingdom was spiritual, not political; that the central action of the kingdom consists of undoing and restoring the destructive works of demonic power, whether spiritual, ethical, or physical; and that while the kingdom of God was eschatological in nature, it is not simply future, but is already partially manifested in the ministry of Jesus and those who followed him. [25]

    A charismatic theology is greatly strengthened from recent studies in biblical theology with respect to the Kingdom of God. Jesus' central mission in the New Testament is seen to inaugurate the kingdom "in power" and "in word and deed" (Lk. 4:23-27; 24:19).[26] His signs and wonders are not mere "signs," in the English sense of extrinsic value, merely "pointing" to the truth of the "gospel" or its bearer.[27] Rather, miracles are the gospel, manifesting the essential core activity of his mission: to displace the physical and spiritual ruin of the demonic kingdom by the wholeness/ shalom of the kingdom of God.[28] In fact, the roles are reversed in most NT cases: preaching articulates the miracles and draws out their implications for the onlookers.[29];

    Such "miraculous" charismata as prophecies, exorcisms and healings, continue not only through Jesus' earthly ministry, but He bestows them upon his followers all during his exaltation. [30]

    Content analysis would indicate via programmaticstatements that not only was Jesus' mission of the Kingdom centrally charismatic (summarized in Lk 4:18-21,43; Acts 2:22; 10:38) but the fact that he specifically repeats the emphases of his own mission in the commissions to his disciples (Mt. 10; Lk 9 and 10[31] and Mt. 28:19-20, cf. 24:14, "until the end of the age.") This same charismatic emphasis grounds the whole Book of Acts where the Church's commission (1:5-8) is to present the kingdom in the power of signs and wonders and the preaching of the word.[32] The repeated summarystatements of Paul's mission (Acts 15:12; Rom. 15:18-20; 1 Cor. 2:4; 2 Cor. 12:12; 1 Th. 1:5), show the continuation of this normative pattern of presenting and living out the gospel of the exalted Christ in "word and deed."[33] Here the implications of believers inaugurated, but not yet fully realized, "vice-regency" with the exalted, gift-bestowing Christ could profitably be explored.[34]

    Crucial to the discussion of charismatic theology is the NT emphasis on discipleship as imitation. Based in part on the rabbinic model, the life and actions of a teacher, not simply his words, as in our culture, were to be replicated precisely in the lives of the students.[35]Hence, failure to "do the works" that Jesus does is a failure to fulfill the Christian mission of his Father (Jn 14:9-14; 20:21). This implicitly pedagogical pattern emphasizing the miraculous ministry of Jesus becomes explicit in the many commands repeated throughout the NT to employ it[36] via repentance, faith and prayer.[37] This leads us to note that in no other area are the implications of biblical theology and content analysis to traditional Evangelicals more explosive than in soteriology, which seems to go to the question of "another gospel."

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