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More on Christianity Today, Trinitarian Theology and N. T. Wright

December 18th, 2006

I am somewhat stunned that more has not been discussed about Wright’s statement concerning Jesus ignorance of his own Deity.  To find it in a letter to an editor in Christianity Today is disturbing at best and a much broader statement about where we are in theology in the church today.

Christianity Today, N. T. Wright and trinitarian theology

December 16th, 2006

Mid-December 2006, letters to the editor of Christianity Today highlighted something for me  that to  this point was unknown about Wright. Randy Newman of Christian Leadership Ministries’ Academic Initiative wrote of his disappointment with James Sires’ review of Wright’s book “Simply Christian”.  Newman’s main criticism was aimed at page 119 where he addresses Wright’s statement, “I do not think Jesus knew he was divine..in the same way that we know we are cold or hot, happy or sad, male or female.”

Wow, that says it all doesn’t it.

Bonhoeffer and N. T. Wright

December 6th, 2006

I remember speaking with a German friend in seminary in the early 1970’s.  We agreed that there was a Dietrich Bonhoeffer cult in seminaries at that time.  In many ways, rightly so.  After all, Bonhoeffer was a martyr– a man worthy of respect, emulation and high regard.  N. T. Wright represents the contemporary example of this in some ways.  There are two differences however: 1.Wright is still alive and  not a martyr 2.History has not passed its verdict on Wright [and his thinking] yet as it has done with Bonhoeffer.  As I write this though, it is somewhat surprising to see that good evangelical seminaries are so quickly jumping into the parade to follow the Wright band wagon.  No question, Wright is a giant.  He is the contemporary theological Bonhoeffer–whether this is right or wrong depends on ones perspective of the parade.

Jesus, the Gospel of John and 2nd temple Judaism

November 29th, 2006

Working through John again reminds me of how different Jesus was in showing them that he really was the fulfillment of so much of what they held dear.

N. T. Wright and the New Testament Book of Hebrews

November 17th, 2006

I taught Hebrews recently in Canada.  I found an interesting discussion by Wright in The New Testament and the People of God on the hero list in chapter 11.  He states that the book of ben Sirach had a similar list exalting the high priest.  Interesting that the high priest is exalted in ben Sirach and Hebrews tells us that we have a better High Priest forever.

The Worldwide Community of Jesus

June 9th, 2006

“Paul, too, believed himself to have a special unique role within the overall purposes of Israel’s God, the world’s climax – that had been done in the death and resurrection of the Messiah – but rather to perform the next unique task within an implicit apocalyptic timetable, namely to call the nations, urgently, to loyal submission to the one who had now been enthroned as Lord of the world. Paul believed that it was his task to call into being, by proclamation Jesus as Lord, the worldwide community in which ethnic divisions would be abolished and a new family created as a new creation had been launched and would one day come to full flower”. N.T. Wright, Paul in Fresh Perspective, pg 157.

This is a follow-up to my previous post. Like Paul, and his missionary calling, our task is also to call the nations to loyal submission to the Messiah. We do this by going and proclaiming. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Trinitarian baptism), teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age”.

Christianity is not a ghetto religion. We are not allowed to stay in our comfortable religious ghettos, but are order out into the world (this does not mean you need to cross the ocean). We are also called to make disciples of the nations (this is not an individual salvation kind of deal, but rather we are to disciple whole cultures…this my friend will take some work to accomplish). We are to make members, through baptism, into the Trinitarian fellowship (The Holy Catholic Church). And finally, we are to follow Jesus, and His ways, through this new age into the future history of the new age.

Steve

The Age to Come…according to N.T. Wright

June 9th, 2006

Taking up Wrights eschatology, once again, we see he writes in Paul in Fresh Perspective, pg. 147;

“…we are able to see more fully why it was that Paul held and developed his critique of Israel – the point at which so much debate about the so-called ‘new perspective’ has simply got stuck. The point was neither simply that Paul saw Judaism as a religion of legalism and Christianity as a religion of grace (the old perspective); nor simply that Paul found salvation in Christ and therefore deduced that it wasn’t available in Judaism after all (Sander’s own version of the new perspective). It was, first and foremost, a matter of eschatology: God had acted in Jesus the Messiah to usher in the new age, to inaugurate the new covenant, to plant the seeds of new creation. The preaching of the gospel was the means whereby the Spirit worked in the hearts and minds of both Jews and Gentiles not just to give them a new religious experience, nor even just to bring them salvation, but to make them the people in whom the new age, the Age to Come of Jewish eschatological expectation, had come to birth.”

I mentioned this the last time, but I think it is important we understand this aspect of Paul’s thinking. Paul would have believed he was walking in the same faith of the fathers of the Jewish faith. Christianity for him was not a new faith, or even all that different, rather it was a world-wide fulfillment of faith. In Jesus the promises, for both Jew and Gentile were fulfilled. What were these promises? Those promise revealed to our spiritual fathers (Jews) through the spoken word and the written word. We live in the fulfilling of God’s promises to Abraham.

Everyday I am reminded of the international nature of our faith. At our missions training facility, we are hosts to Christian people from every continent (no penguins though). During a prayer time this week for Nepal, four us were praying for that nation, one of members broke out into Nepalese to pray (no it was not tongues…just his native language). I was reminded of how great God’s work has been. Nepal has grown from 1 known Christian in about 1955, to well over 150000 believers today. That my friends is the New Age to Come.

“Thy kingdom, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. Steve

New law or new age?

June 1st, 2006

N.T. Wright states on pages 147 and 148, of Paul in Fresh Perspective,

“This is why Christian ethics is so much more than keeping a new law. It is living in the new age. In particular, that is why, in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul expounds the life of love not so much as a new duty but as the Christian’s new destiny: faith, hope and supremely love are the things that will last, the qualities which, as fruits of the Spirit, are the bridges into the new world, and by learning to cross those bridges we are already living by the rule, as Paul can still sometimes call it, of God’s new creation. This is why, too, though Paul does not always mention the Spirit when he says such things, he can claim that the one who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of the Messiah.”

I know I touched on this yesterday, but Wrights words are probably a lot more eloquent than mine will ever be. Today I would like to point out the continuity/discontinuity aspect to the covenant. On this side of the Atlantic we usually over-emphasis the discontinuity of the covenant. There once were Jews, with their book and culture, living in the Promised Land and making sacrifices in the temple. Jesus died on the cross. And now there are Gentiles, with their book and culture, living in the western nations, who worship in small churches and take communion. The God of the Jews is, as I have heard over and over again from evangelicals, “not the God I know”.

There are things that did change at the death of Jesus, not the least of which is temple worship, sacrificial system, dietary laws and the rules of membership in the community (baptism instead of circumcision for instance). We could discuss many changes, which occurred between the crucifixion and 70 AD, but time would not allow such a discussion.

Yet how radical was the change? We still have the Lamb of God as our sacrifice. The temple has been moved, but worship still continues. Membership has alwasy been open to non-Jewish believers. Our scriptures are exactly the same as during Jesus life, with the exclusion of the New Testament writtings. There is no great break in the covenant community that I can see, other than a growth in beauty and fullness.

It is the continuity of the covenant that is important to us in Wright’s writings. By and large, the basics of biblical faith have never changed, in spite of Jewish faithfulness or unfaithfulness. Much of the history, and promises, of God’s people was an unfolding of God’s plan of salvation and redemption. The early people of God did not fully understand this plan when they too were Gentiles (was Abraham a gentile? Or Noah?). But the mystery of God was finally revealed in all its fullness through Jesus. This is part of the continuity of the scriptures and community of God. Trust in God, through Jesus, has been and always will be the path to salvation.

As to the law, little essentially has changed, though it may have been redefined through the Spirit. The outward expression of our faith has been, and will continue to be, whether you were of the Jewish people, or the new community of Christ, to love the Lord your God and love your neighbor. Steve

It was for freedom that Christ set us free…

May 31st, 2006

N.T. Wright discusses walking by the Spirit in the following fashion;

“This brings us to Galatians 5, where the point of the passage about the Spirit and the flesh is by no means to be reduced to a set of rules for Christian observance. Paul constantly gives us signs that that is the wrong way to read what he is saying. His main point, rather, is that if you are walking by the Spirit you are clearly already part of God’s new age and his renewed people, part of that inaugurated-eschatological family who have been delivered from the present evil age – and, as such, you are ‘not under the Torah’. The Torah has nothing more to say about you. As he says later, having just described all kinds of character traits which the Spirit produces, there is no Torah against such behavior”. Paul in Fresh Perspective, pg. 146-147.

The margin footnotes in my bible, at the start of Galatians 5, declare this passage to mean, “Call to freedom from the bondage of the Law”. Is it really a call to freedom from the Law, or is it a call to freedom in the Spirit? Certainly one should argue that the fruit of the Spirit is the central theme in this chapter, and not the deeds of the flesh. It is not that the Law was evil, but rather ‘the new covenant work of the Spirit, transforming the heart so as to enable it to keep the commandment of the Torah’ (pg. 146 above cited passage). Our heart is being changed into something new and the Spirit of God is doing it, not by commandments.

Every time I consider the works/grace discussion, I am reminded that Jesus declared the essence of the Law to be two fold. Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself. And John says in 1 John 3.23-24, “And this is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. And the one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And we know by this that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us”.

The main point is that we not free from the Law so much as we are free to, or in, the Spirit. It is not the Law at work in us to do good, but it is the Spirit of God who is transforming us. We are being transformed to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our life must reflect this aspect of the Law, but it is not done by our works so much as His sanctification. This is the new age that the Spirit of God is at work in.

That God may be all in all.

May 26th, 2006

“…then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death. For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when he says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all. And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all.” I Corinthians 15. 25-28

“…it is now God’s intention both to reconcile all things to, through and for him and to sum up all things in the Messiah, he is standing firmly against all kinds of dualism which would envisage a final state in which the present created order was abandoned as worthless. Just as at the end of Revelation the new heavens and the new earth are joined together, so in Paul’s thought the triumphant goal of eschatology is that there should be one future for the one world made and loved by the one God. For God to be all in all, as in 1 Corinthians 15.28, it is necessary that, through the Messiah’s victory over death itself, the ultimate corruption of the present world and its inhabitants, creation can be set free from its bondage to decay and share the freedom of the glory of God’s children. Thus the picture is complete: Paul has reimagined every single aspect of the first-century Jewish eschatology around the Jesus the Messiah and his death and resurrection”. Paul in Fresh Perspective, N.T. Wright, pg. 144.

Wright mentions a little earlier that its not that Jesus is coming, but the curtain between the physical and spiritual world will be rolled back for all the see the reality of the Kingdom of God. The creation will continue, but be changed. In other words, we understand, currently, very little of the created order and Christ’s rule.

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