Monday, December 1, 2008

SURPRiSED BY HOPE [helpful tid-bits, interaction, review, and reflection]

After discussing prayer in general as a part of the church's mission, Wright says that there are four roots of biblical prayer: transcendence, intimacy, celebration, and covenant.

He expresses his frustration with how Easter Sunday is treated theologically and ecclesiastically. Wright says that

Easter week ought to be an eight-day festival, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before, with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don't throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don't do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn't take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom?
Regarding "new creation" as a hermeneutic we employ rather than a experience that is simply spiritual, Wright relates justice, beauty, and evangelism to this "new creation" hermeneutic and Jesus' resurrection. Of beauty, he states,

We are moving away, I think, from the old split in which it was expected that good Christians couldn't be good artists and good artists couldn't be good Christians. We now have, thank God, some wonderful Christian painters, sculptors, and even poets who are showing the way forward. I want to offer a proposal about where the artistic endeavor belongs - within the discipline of the Christian mission, within the map of creation and new creation.
[Along these same lines, my father-in-law is an art professor. He always says that the first thing anyone knows about God when they read the Bible is that He is an Artist: "In the beginning, God created..." There's some aesthetically satisfying image-bearing that needs to happen because that is true.]

Wright's subtitle is: "Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church." His purpose in this book is accomplished. He gives excellent and corrective insights throughout. However, Wright also seems to ease the weight of a couple issues that should be equally related to eschatology, resurrection, and mission.

Concerning the rapture, he dishes out some academically tactful blows to those who swear Tim LaHaye and Hal Lindsey should be canonized. Isn't it logical to study how the apocalyptic genre functioned in Second Temple Judaism rather than interpret Revelation with the lens of CNN? Wright does excellent Jewish and Roman background work to bring many of the second coming passages to light. Speaking on 1 Ths 4.16-17 and how Paul mixes metaphors when speaking of Jesus' coming, Wright says,

In the next chapter, 1 Ths 5, Paul says that the thief will come in the night, so the woman will go into labor, so you mustn't get drunk but stay awake and put on your armor. As the television programs say, don't try this one at home.
Overall, this is a great read. Tom Wright's correctives are quite helpful. I thank God that the world's leading New Testament scholar is not a flaming liberal whose denial of the supernatural is as simple as eating and breathing. On several occasions, Wright says things like, "I am compelled by the New Testament..." We should be as well. Don't be a stuck-up Calvinist and hate him.

[He is also friends with
Bishop John Inge, who did my wedding. He gives "Uncle John" a shout-out in his last chapter. This gives me 4 cool points.]

Lastly, thinking critically and spiritually is a challenge. It is also a necessity. It is what I tell my students they must do, it is what all Christians must do, and it is what I feel that Tom Wright does in his new book. Take that approach and go read. Shalom.


andrew.lewis said...

Thanks for this. You've intrigued me, sir; I now have a new book to add to my reading list.

Brandon said...

n.t. wright lived in Canada for a few years... I live in Canada... that gives me at least 2 cool points...

I desperately need to go back and read this book with a more critical/understanding eye... i kinda zoomed through it without thinking much...

I did start rereading What St. Paul Really Said which I zoomed through a couple of years ago... thus far, its a really good read... i'm always impressed with Wright's ability to write in a very conversational tone even concerning very deep/complex topics... I haven't gotten to the parts about justification, but thus far, he's changing my perspective on Paul... I guess I have a new one... a New Perspective on Paul, that is...

jim thompson said...

i was going to only give you 1.5 for that, but your beard is really hot so 2 is fine.

WHAT ST PAUL... was a good read. his understanding of paul didn't replace my own, but nuanced it. i don't see justification different in a completely new sense, but in a broader sense. our brother piper went academic again and wrote a response to him that is good. i don't think wright's view and piper's view are exactly opposed but can both, under the pauline rubric of "in Messiah", be included.

tis a false dichotomy. it is similair to making human responsibility against sovereignty. yes, God is TOTALLY sovereign. yes, man is TRULY responsible. this doesn't appear to be a significant problem witht the biblical writers.