The Kingdom of God in American History

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Elias Boudinot, Founder of the American Bible Society

Ralph Keen is writing for us this week from the annual meeting of the American Society of Church History in New York City.  Keen is Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation Chair of Catholic Studies and Professor of History at the University of Illinois-Chicago. In 2018 he was president of the ASCH. Here is his latest post.  Enjoy!

The Kingdom of God was the focus of a session in which Rhys Bezzant (Ridley College, Melbourne) brought to light the importance of Kingdom language in Edwards. In Bezzant’s view, the Kingdom was both an element in Edwards’s own conversion and the systematic “scaffold” of his theological edifice. The language of the Kingdom serves as a key to understanding Edwards’s pastoral agenda. Caleb Maskell (ASCH exec sec) then offered an account of the 1816 founding of the American Bible Society, tying it to a narrative of eschatological anticipation promoted by elite “formalist evangelicals” who felt it their God-given duty to Christianize the young nation and protect it from the “dangers” of democracy.  Vince Oliveri (Bristol) offered an analysis of Bonhoeffer’s 1932 essay “Thy Kingdom Come” with attention to its critique of both otherworldliness and secularism. Bonhoeffer’s understanding of the German church crisis of the 1930s was, in Oliveri’s view, strongly influenced by his experience of the Black church in NY.