George Eldon Ladd’s Gospel of the Kingdom, and Golden Rule Democracy

24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” – Matt 13:24-30

I had occasion today to sit down and read some of George Eldon Ladd’s Gospel of the Kingdom, a wonderful book recommended to me by a good friend who I dub “OTS” (Old Testament Scholar) in these blogs. As I read Dr. Ladd’s exposition on the parable of the wheat and the tares I was struck by the similarity of his interpretation of the activity of the Kingdom in the world today and my views on Golden Rule Democracy. I’m going to quote at length from Dr. Ladd tonight, and hopefully I will not run afoul of “reasonable use” of his text:

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This is the mystery of the Kingdom: that the Kingdom of God has come among men and yet men can reject it. The Kingdom will not experience uniform success. Not all will receive it. This was a staggering thing to one who knew only the Old Testament. When God’s Kingdom comes, it will come with power. Who can resist it? Who can withstand God? But precisely this is the mystery of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is here, but it can be rejected. One day God will indeed manifest His mighty power to purge the earth of wickedness, sin and evil; but not now. God’s Kingdom is working among men, but God will not compel them to bow before it. They must receive it; the response must come from a willing heart and a submissive will.

God is still dealing with us in this same way. God will not drive you into His Kingdom. It is not the business of those who are called to the ministry of the Word to speak with authoritarian compulsion. We speak as emissaries of God, but we plead and do not demand, we persuade and do not drive. We implore men to open their hearts that the Word of His Kingdom may have its fruitage in their lives. But man can reject it. They can spurn the Gospel of the Kingdom. They can scorn the preacher of the Word; and he is helpless.

The parable of the tares or weeds illustrates another facet of this same truth. A man sowed wheat in his field but his enemy sowed weeds. When the weeds were discovered the servants wanted to pull them out, but they were told to let both wheat and weeds grow until the harvest. Then the separation would take place. Until harvest time, weeds and wheat must grow together.

It is of utmost importance to note that “the field is the world” (v. 38). Where do we get the notion that the field is the Church? Jesus Himself said that the field is the world, not the Church. It is a misinterpretation of the Word of God to say that the parable teaches that in the Church the good and bad, the regenerate and the unregenerate, are to grow together until the harvest and that we cannot exercise church discipline since it would disrupt the order of things. Our Lord said no such thing. He was not talking about the mixed character of the Church but about the world.

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And thus, Golden Rule Democracy. The Church may well exercise discipline within the Church – but to attempt to exercise discipline within the world runs expressly counter to the Lord’s teaching.

Thus, I contend, that whatever “enforcement of morals” arguments we construct for government intervention against sin are suspect, to say the least. The Church may well enforce benevolence, but to justify forced benevolence in the world (through democracy) is out of bounds. The Church may well enforce sexual morality, but to justify forced sexual morality in the world (through democracy) is out of bounds. The Church may well enforce a Biblical definition of marriage, but to justify forced marriage definition in the world (through democracy) is out of bounds. The Church may well enforce substance morality (though many disagree on what it means), but to justify forced substance morality (through democracy) is out of bounds.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” – Matt 7:12

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