This book offers a fresh and powerful message to today’s world, a world bristling with its many challenges. Each of these challenges has different causes but, as Jones well knew and spent his life explaining, all challenges—whatever their cause—find their solution in the soul of a person who knows their place in the Kingdom of God.
Is the Kingdom of God Realism (1940)
Preface to the 21st century edition, by Anne Mathews-Younes
To think that God not only offered us himself in the person of Jesus Christ, but also offered us His Kingdom, a master plan for the our lives and our world—this is indeed true and E. Stanley Jones reflects with depth and precision on the implications of this gift. This Kingdom master plan is not something that we ‘build,’ for it has been built into the framework of the world, and what’s more, it is a gift. Jones writes:
A note of warning must be uttered against the idea of “building the Kingdom.” The New Testament never tells us that we are to build the Kingdom. We are told to “see,” to “enter,” to “receive,” and to “proclaim” the Kingdom, but never to build it. What is the difference? The difference is profound and far-reaching. For if we are to build the Kingdom, then it is something that we bring into life, something that we produce. But the Kingdom is already in existence; it is a fact, so it is something we “receive” …. We are to build the Church, but not the Kingdom, for the Church is a relativism built more or less after the pattern of the absolute, the Kingdom of God …. The idea of building the Kingdom comes out of misplaced idealism—that the Kingdom of God is an ideal. This idea is deeply embedded in our modern Christian thinking and must be rooted out at all costs if we are to make progress. (Jones, Is the Kingdom of God Realism?, 100-102)
Read further, to grasp the significance of this gift as you explore Jones’ insights into the Kingdom of God:
When we look at the gospel as a whole, there are four great emphases: Matthew emphasizes the Kingdom; Mark, the Person of Christ; Luke, the human side of Christ; John, the experience of life. These four things are the Kingdom in four phases: Matthew throws the framework of the Kingdom around the whole movement and it is a movement to project the Kingdom into the whole of life; Mark presents the Person of Christ as the concrete illustration of that Kingdom, the Kingdom in perfect operation; Luke lets us see this new Kingdom taking hold of raw human material and refashion it; John reminds us that the Kingdom is synonymous with Life. (Jones, Is the Kingdom of God Realism?, 89)
Robert Tuttle, Emeritus Professor of World Christianity at Asbury Theological Seminary, has finished a new biography on Jones which will be published shortly, notes the following:
By the early 1930s Jones was increasingly identifying the central message of the New Testament Gospels as the Kingdom of God and affirming that God’s kingdom is realism, not idealism and finding his justification for this realism in the pages of the New Testament. The book, Is the Kingdom of God Realism? written in 1940 is Jones’ answer to this self-imposed question. – Robert Tuttle, For a Time Such as This: The Life of E. Stanley Jones
Jones began to use the word totalitarian in reference to the Kingdom of God. His use of the word was intentionally provocative, hopefully making conventional Christianity uncomfortable with its watered down views of the demands of what it means to be the body of Jesus Christ. After all, the Russians (communism), Germans (Nazism) and now radical Islam (ISIS) fully understand the implications of totalitarianism. They know that their convictions should extend to every walk of life, politically, socially, and ‘religiously.’ Christianity , as the Kingdom of God, must embrace every human characteristic of body, mind, and spirit and every personal and institutional relationship. Unlike other forms of totalitarianism, however, the Kingdom of God (are you listening?) draws inspiration and strength from God and is thus able to affect total and permanent change in all of these human characteristics and relationships.2 Stanley was not afraid to test his understanding of the Kingdom against the ways of the world, ironically, and this is only one of the reasons that Stanley is incredibly relevant today. The Kingdom of God is needed by both the East and the West. Moral decay threatens us all and Stanley says that the ‘new morality’ is nothing more than the old immorality demanding acceptance and public approval. As far as I can tell, today Christians have no master plan of their own. What do we do to bring life together? All of our so-called political answers seem tawdry and cheap, divisive and impractical, all except one, Jesus’ answer — the Kingdom of god. Perhaps God is applying shock treatment to ring us back to a reality of a true totalitarianism.
This book offers a fresh and powerful message to today’s world, a world bristling with its many challenges. Each of these challenges has different causes but, as Jones well knew and spent his life explaining, all challenges—whatever their cause—find their solution in the soul of a person who knows their place in the Kingdom of God. I am deeply grateful to Leonard Sweet and Howard Snyder, both scholars of Jones’ writings and profoundly committed Christians, for their generous commentary on this seminal presentation by Jones of the Kingdom of God and its perennial relevance. I took the liberty of annotating many of the names that Jones referred to in his book, names that would have been familiar to readers in the 1940s. All biblical quotations are taken from The Bible: A New Translation by James Moffatt. This book could not have been reprinted without the assistance of the Rev. Shivraj Mahendra whose publishing, editing and theological skills were essential to this project’s success. I don’t know how Shivraj finds the time to move these E. Stanley Jones reprinting projects forward with his customary speed, expertise, and precision. I am deeply grateful to him. Andrea Wesson, trained at the Rhode Island School of Design, created the innovative and symbolic cover illustration. Nicholas Younes contributed his considerable editing expertise to ensure that the text is clear and doggedly pursued the needed annotations. Barbara Hubbard brought her years of experience as an English teacher to double and triple check the grammar and punctuation. I am surrounded by gifted people and I am blessed because of them. I trust that in turn you will be blessed by this book.
ANNE MATHEWS-YOUNES, ED.D., D.MIN.