I’m reading Scot McKnight’s new book Kingdom Conspiracy. McKnight talks about the enormous influence that George Ladd had on him as a student and a scholar. He describes Ladd’s book, A Theology of the New Testament, as “a transformative book in [his] life.” (40). But he notes that he’s not alone.
“In 1984 Mark Noll did a survey of evangelical professors and found that most of them fell into three major groups: the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), the Institute for Biblical Research (IBR), and the Wesleyan Theological Society (WTS). One of his questions was about who was most influential in their thinking. The ETS group listed first John Calvin and second George Ladd; IBR members listed George Ladd first and F.F. Bruce second. Within ten years Ladd’s Theology had exercised a profound influence on major segments of evangelicalism.” (40-41) “Predictably,” he adds, “the Wesleyans listed O. Orton Wiley and John Wesley at the top; Ladd was not on their list.” (264n.25)
This is important to note since McKnight will contend that Ladd was wrong, yet very influential, in some of his ideas regarding the kingdom. In particular, Ladd reduced kingdom to the “reign” of God and said it should not to be equated with the church. McKnight argues that “kingdom in Jesus’ world would have meant ‘a people governed by a king.'” (66) He continues, “Any suggestion, then, that ‘kingdom’ means only ‘ruling’ or ‘reigning’ cannot satisfy what the Bible explictly affirms.” (70) Indeed, so tightly does McKnight tie the kingdom to the church that he boldly affirms “there is no kingdom now outside the church.” (Emphasis his. 87)
I’m still just scratching the surface of McKnight’s book but he’s already pulling apart some of the threads on my concept of kingdom which, like McKnight and many others, has been highly influenced by Ladd.
George Eldon Ladd (1911 – 1982)