I recently came across a phrase that startled me: “God’s inevitable kingdom.” After I read it, I found myself thinking is God’s kingdom really inevitable?
When something is inevitable it is “certain to happen.” Is the active rule of God over all creation certain to come to pass? The answer is, of course, yes. The purposes of God cannot be thwarted and they can be resisted only for a time. At the same time, the words sounded strange in my ears. Why?
At least four reasons come to mind:
- We often inevitable with a negative connotation. “It’s inevitable that you’ll get sick at least once this year.” Inevitability is rarely positive in our parlance. Inevitability is a word associated with unpleasant things that we escape only for a season: eventually they catch up with us.
- Inevitability is passive. In our cultural language, inevitability is passive. It described a quality of something that happens to us. It’s often a word of resignation and seldom a word that communicates the need for effort or for commitment.
- Ministry leaders often downplay positive inevitability. Much of contemporary ministry involves connecting volunteers with ministry opportunities. It’s to our advantage to downplay the inevitability of God’s purposes because of our (mis)understanding of the word.
- God does use secondary means. God’s purposes and plans shall come to pass, but he uses secondary (or instrumental) means, like us. God works through our gifts, efforts, and suffering to bring his kingdom into being in the world. It’s both inevitable and the result of effort. The hyper-Calvinists of the 19th century–who opposed world mission–were guilty of thinking that the inevitability of God’s purposes was independent of God’s church and this was an error.
- Inevitable seems an intellectually lazy word. “Change is inevitable.” “Evolve.” Those of us who profess a historically-anchored, confessionally orthodox Christian faith are repeatedly informed of the inevitability of essential tenets shifting over time in order to “reach” the culture of which we’re a part. Same sex marriage, extramarital sex, biblical infallibility, authority–all these things have to change to accommodate the culture of the day.
The inevitability of God’s kingdom is stronger than the inevitability of change. It’s critical to affirm both the inevitability of God’s purposes and energetically and passionately engaging in advancing that purpose.