This is from NT Wright's newest (and absolutely fantastic) book, Surprised by Hope
. It sums up the whole point of the book very well:
This book addresses two questions that have often been dealt with entirely separately but that, I passionately believe, belong tightly together. First, what is the ultimate Christian hope? Second, what hope is there for change, rescue, transformation, new possibilities within the world in the present? And the main answer can be put like this. As long as we see Christian hope in terms of "going to heaven," of a salvation that is essentially away from this world, the two questions are bound to appear as unrelated. Indeed, some insist angrily that to ask the second one at all is to ignore the first one, which is the really important one. This in turn makes some others get angry when people talk of resurrection, as if this might draw attention away from the really important and pressing matters of contemporary social concern. But if the Christian hope is for God's new creation, for the "new heavens and new earth," and if that hope has already come to life in Jesus of Nazareth, then there is every reason to join the two questions together. And if that is so, we find that answering the one is also answering the other. I find that to many - not least, many Christians - all this comes as a surprise: both that the Christian hope is surprisingly different from what they had assumed and that this same hope offers a coherent and energizing basis for work in today's world.
Labels: NT Wright, theology
posted by Mike Clawson at 12:23 AM | Permalink
At 3/21/2008 12:12:00 PM, adammoore
this definitely makes me want to read the book. i wasn't a huge fan of "simply christian" so i wasn't sure if i wanted to read this book or not - now i think i will.
At 3/21/2008 01:29:00 PM,
Does Wright see the new heavens and new earth as something that will be brought about through human effort (albeit human effort aided by God)? Or does he see it as something that is ultimately not achievable by human effort and which will necessitate God "stepping in" at some point in a more dramatic fashion, to remake/restore creation as it was intended to be?
I heard Wright speak on the topic and still can't figure out what exactly he believes.
At 3/21/2008 04:27:00 PM, Mike Clawson
Both Karl. He attempts to take a middle way between "God's going to do it all for us, so we just have to sit back and wait" and "We have bring about the Kingdom ourselves." He basically says we need to work for the Kingdom while also recognizing our inability to fully achieve it on our own, in anticipation of Christ's eventual return to finish the job as it were. I'm still not sure if this approach totally works for me, but at least he is recognizing two important things: 1) that we can't simply be inactive, and 2) often our best efforts are going to fall short.
At 3/22/2008 08:25:00 AM, Helen
Karl, from reading a lot of NT Wright over the last few years (although not so much lately) his general approach seems to be that God works through humans as humans step out in faith.
This is even how he writes about Jesus. Jesus believed God was going to bring the Kingdom through him so Jesus taught and acted in accordance with that and as he did, God did bring in the Kingdom through him. Or at least initiated a new phase of it.
I like now NT's approach keeps the focus on, what is our current responsibility, rather than 'what beliefs must I have in my head to be approved by God?'
At 3/24/2008 09:13:00 AM,
Thanks for the clarification Mike. That doesn't sound radical to me - it sounds biblical and pretty consistent with the understanding that classic reformed theology has had of the coming of the Kingdom of God and the participation of the people of God in God's work.
It does though, sound very different from the eschatology common in white bread low church evangelicalism - especially in non reformed circles.
Disclaimer: I'm not one of the rabid "true reformed" folks. But I've found some things to be appreciative of in reformed theology.
Helen, that does indeed sound like Wright. I've read several of his books, but haven't read his book on Christian Hope. The talk that he gave on the subject a couple of years ago left me wondering exactly what he believed because he wasn't explicit about believing "both" as Mike puts it. He kind of talked around the subject and said more about what he doesn't believe, and then jumped to the implications of our Christian Hope (that we are called to do God's kingdom building work here), than explicitly saying what it is that he does believe. But it was the final talk in a weekend of talks by Wright, and I have to admit my attention may have drifted a bit - he might have been more clear on what exactly he believes than I remember.
At 3/24/2008 12:09:00 PM, Mike Clawson
I don't think Wright was trying to be "radical", nor are his views exclusively "reformed". As I understand it, he was attempting to articulate historically orthodox and biblical doctrine of the bodily resurrection. It's only because the Western church has gotten so sidetracked into dualism that this could ever seem "radical". And if the reformed camp also happens to hold these views, great, but they didn't come up with them.