Sunday, June 30, 2013

Review of R. Alan Streett's Heaven on Earth

R. Alan Streett, the Senior Research Professor of Biblical Exegesis and the W.A. Criswell Endowed Chair of Expositor Preaching at CriswellCollege, contends in Heaven on Earth: Experiencing the Kingdom of God in the Here and Now that pastors have missed the core content of the gospel when they focus solely on believing in Jesus and then when you die you’ll go to heaven. Streett contends, rather, that the content of today’s preaching should be focused on the kingdom of God and its relevance for contemporary life. Heaven on Earth challenges several notions evident nowadays in America’s pulpits by introducing the findings of several streams of contemporary New Testament scholarship, especially historic empire studies. This book, written at a popular level and designed to introduce the meta-narrative of scripture with regard to God’s kingdom, surveys the canonical material while highlighting the social implications of several of these key texts. In discussing the social implications of the gospel with regard to kingdom discourse, Streett enters an ongoing debate evident in Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel and Tim Keller’s King’s Cross. Streett builds on the already and not yet approach to the kingdom of God but focuses the majority of his argument on the already aspect of God’s kingdom. This allows him to address several current issues related to church life including the centrality of the miraculous ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, an over-identification with political involvements, and the nature of a kingdom-focused approach to ministry. He concludes with an insightful discussion on the earth as the ultimate destination of the kingdom, a discussion that addresses some of the eschatological themes anticipated in the earlier canonical materials. For those interested in the hermeneutical debates concerning covenantal and dispensational approaches to scripture’s meta-narrative, they will find in Streett one who emphasizes the continuity of the canonical context and one in which the influence of Gregory Beale is felt. While the nature of the book does not allow for extended critical engagement, a reader could turn to Streett’s forthcoming Subversive Meals for that, it does offer a survey for those interested in living out the social implications of scripture’s focus on God’s kingdom. For those individuals, Streett’s book offers a window into the subversive nature of the canonical material with regard to its original empire context and what it means for Christ-followers today to leave in alternative ways in the context of various contemporary empires.