In the dissertation that I completed for my MA last month, I examined why the restoration movement did not have a greater impact on society, as its theology - of kingdom here and now (see here) - might have indicated it could have. There were various reasons that I considered but central to my conclusion was that there was a lack of an understanding of the centrality of the Cross in our theology of the Kingdom; I now think that this is central to any engagement with society and attempt at social transformation. I quote the key paragraph below (commenting on what I saw as a tendency to triumphalism and a 'proclaiming the answers' model to social engagement):
It is possible and likely that this model arose as a result of the excitement of moving from an eschatology of defeat and escape to a positive one of victory and world transformation; from one of retreat to one of ruling. It was a positive and welcome kingdom theology but the results of my reading, research and reflection have caused me to conclude that its adherents didn’t always fully grasp or expound the countercultural and crucicentric nature of the kingdom of God. A book that was an early influence on some in this movement was The Community of the King (Snyder, 1977) which argued that the church did not exist for itself but as the means of the transformation of society – a kingdom community. But Snyder specifically warned in this proposition for a theology of social transformation that the cross must be kept at the centre of the kingdom vision:…the present expression of the Kingdom demands crucifixion ethics not triumphal ethics. The Church today must not live as if the Kingdom were already fully established: it is called to live the paradox of the King who ended up on a cross. (Snyder, 1977, p.30)
My contention would be that a failure to realise this paradox in its call to social engagement ultimately hindered that engagement. The principle of selfless service and sacrifice expressed in the cross is the essence of the unique and countercultural nature of God’s kingdom. It was not that such a truth was never expressed (see Mansell, D, Jan-Feb 1992, pp.24-28; and Wright, 1986), but it was not sufficiently emphasised. A crucicentric perspective on the kingdom enables an engagement which puts the emphasis much more on serving than ruling, on transformation through identification with a fallen and suffering world rather than simply through proclamation to that world. This creates a basis for an approach to public dialogue and the finding of common solutions for the common good that is much more conducive to public theology.