Comments 6

  1. Thank you Professor Roth for engaging our mind with “operative thinking!” A favorite metaphor of mine is “and the lion will lay down with the lamb!” That reduces all tension and directs us to peace that we pray to see now and will see later.

  2. Donald, this is a provocative article. You say that “while we may resonate with both of these metaphors at different times in our lives, we will never resonate with both equally at once.” But I think that Kuyper did in his Lectures on Calvinism. The “pilgrim” metaphor is peppered throughout. From the second lecture: “He is a pilgrim, not in the sense that he is marching through a world with which he has no concern, but in the sense that at every step of the long way he must remember his responsibility to that God so full of majesty, who awaits him at journey’s end.”

    Even more telling his use of the metaphor in the fourth lecture, on science. He compares medieval Catholicism to early modern Calvinism, and says of Calvinism: “Christian life as a pilgrimage was not changed, but the Calvinist became a pilgrim, who, while on his way to our eternal home, had yet to perform on earth an important task. The cosmos, in all the wealth of the kingdom of nature, was spread out before, under, and above man. This entire limitless field had to be worked at once.” I see this as Kuyper playing with both metaphors at once.

    1. I appreciate the comment, Josh.

      The key part of that quote is the “equally.” I affirm the truth of both metaphors, and I think both are biblical, but this ties to the way that I think this fits into the already/not yet antinomy that I write about in the larger Pro Rege piece. The idea is that we find ways to reconcile these two concepts when it comes to the kingdom, but our vision (imagination) of discipleship will inevitably favor a more realized vision of the kingdom or one which is still more distant from us. We may feel the pull of both, even strongly, but I don’t think we will view them equally, mostly because I think at least practical, if not logical, elements of the tension between already/not yet make that impossible.

      That means it’s far from impossible to utilize both metaphors, but your affinity to either the already or not yet will create a tendency to add meat to the bones of discipleship (operationalize) primarily through one metaphor or the other. In the quotes you’re mentioning, I agree that Kuyper has both concepts in mind, but he is operationalizing discipleship through a pilgrim lens. That is, he’s certainly fleshing out the concept of pilgrim, but he’s primarily describing Christians as pilgrims.

      Putting it a different way, I know that I resonate more with the pilgrim metaphor, but I do so largely in the way Kuyper describes there. I think we have a deeply important task we are charged with on this earth yet, and I am much more in favor of cultural engagement than retreat; however, I feel a deep sense of not quite fitting in, a longing for the eternal that prevents me from attaching too tightly to the world around me. Ultimately, I think this gives me a view of our task as disciples than some of my brothers and sisters in Christ who resonate with the “kingdom” metaphor. Howard Schaap and I play this out a bit when we lead a session on this with Core 399. I’d invite you to come by sometime and observe that part of the course, if you’d like.

      Does that help address your point? What pushback do you have?

  3. This article is most appreciated. I’m preparing a Bible Study for a small church in Los Angeles, discussing various metaphors used to describe discipleship. The tension between these two Kingdom metaphors should be an interesting discussion.

    1. Steve, I’m so glad you found this useful. Some of my ideas around this are still getting ironed out, but if you have interest/questions, I’m happy to correspond further and share some resources. (

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