Tuesday, January 15, 2013
It has been nearly forty three years since Robert Shank published his seminal work, Elect in the Son, and that being ten years following his examination of perseverance, Life in theSon. Both are books that I have previously read in years past and recently the topic of election sparked a renewed interest, on my part, of Shank’s contribution. Dr. Shank suffered great rejection and whispered condemnation among many of his Baptist brethren when he first published “Life”, made all the more remarkable by the lack of any substantial repudiation of his exegesis and conclusions. To this day I have not found a credible rebuttal of his work and I hope that opinion is not shaded by any excessive Arminian sympathies on my part. To that end I have undertaken a re-reading of both volumes. During the first introduction to Dr. Shank, I was quite firmly in the Wesleyan camp and his conclusion reinforced much of the theology I was accustomed to. Since then, the classical Arminian position holds a greater sway theologically and this new exploration of these great books should give me an opportunity to better evaluation the conclusions and exegesis presented.
As I started reading “Elect in the Son”, the first chapter captured my attention for a couple of readings and I want to record it here for future reference and consideration. The comments struck as profound and worthy of meditation.
“Thy Kingdom Come”1
In a day when the foundations of society are crumbling, a day of gathering storm and deepening gloom, a day of unprecedented peril in which thoughtful men speak of the collapse of civilization and the possible annihilation of cities and nations – even of mankind, the sovereignty of God is an unfailing encouragement that lights the path of the just and affords assurance to all the faithful, who take great comfort in the words of James in the historic council of the church at Jerusalem: “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18).
God, who has “declared the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done,” has said, “My council shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa. 46:10). He who “works all things after the council of His own will” is at work in the world in these momentous times, moving inexorably toward fulfillment of an eternal purpose that antedates creation and gives meaning to human history. History, by divine appointment, is teleological, and the sweep of human events, whatever the sound and fury, moves toward the appointed end: “Thy kingdom come.”
Nothing in the course of events can alter the appointed outcome. The unfolding of the days and years, whatever their number, ultimately will issue in all that was foretold by the prophets of old, by our LORD, and by His Apostles. The witness of history past, confirming “the prophetic word made more sure” (2 Pet. 1:19), attests that the human events ever move toward the inevitable denouement on which creation itself is predicated: “the coming of the kingdom prepared from the foundation of the world”.
There is, of course, a sense in which the kingdom of God is eternally present rather than prospective, coexistent with Him who “before the mountains were brought forth or ever He had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, is God” (Ps. 90:2). But the kingdom of God, as proclaimed and anticipated by both Jesus and the Apostles and the prophets of old, is yet future and awaits its manifestation at the end of the age, to appear in a moment of spectacular divine intervention at the coming of Christ in power and judgment … but appearing also as the consummation of a long process, as implied by many of our LORD’s parables
Why a long process? Why not, instead, instant kingdom? Could not God, in the act of a moment, have created the everlasting kingdom He purposed from eternity? Are not all things possible with God?
All things are indeed possible for God, but only within the limitations of consistency with His own nature and being. God cannot lie, for example, nor can He change, nor can He deny Himself. We may reverently assume that, for the kind of kingdom He intends, God is following the only possible course: the process of human history.
The process comprehends all that God has done, beginning even before His mighty acts of creation when He “laid the foundations of the earth and the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:4,7). It comprehends the creation of man in the image and likeness of God and the entrance of sin into human experience in the disobedience of man to the world and will of his Creator.
The process comprehends the moral self-discoveries and the redemptive revelations and encounters experienced by the patriarchs of old and all the faithful of their generations. It comprehends the experiences of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and a nation descended from them, and the judges and kings and prophets who appeared among them.
The process comprehends the redemptive mission of Jesus, unfolded in His incarnation, life, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and ultimate return in righteous judgment. It comprehends the labors of the Apostles and the witness of the Church to Christ and His saving Gospel in all generations until the coming of the King and the kingdom.
The process whereby God is creating the kingdom which He purposed before the world began comprehends “all nations of men … on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26) and involves every man. Human history in its totality is the milieu in which the everlasting kingdom is being wrought … and in which the election determined by God from before creation – an election wholly identified with the kingdom – is being realized.
“Thy kingdom come” – the kingdom which was the concern of Jesus in the days of His flesh, the burden of His preaching, the subject of splendid promises and solemn warnings, and the central theme of all His teachings from the beginning of His ministry to the time of His ascension (Acts 1:3). Thy kingdom come!
And blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen, and Amen – Psalm 72:19
1 Elect in the Son, Robert L. Shank, Bethany House, Bloomington, MN 1970, 1989, pp 21-23