Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Jesus: More Than We Expect

So I am on a big NT Wright kick lately.  For my devotional I am reading his "Mark for Everyone," a verse by verse commentary on the book of Mark that is, well, for anyone.  It is very accessible but several times I have had my mind blown.

Today I was reading about the raising of Jairus' daughter and NT Wright said something that I thought was important for all of us to hear: "Why doesn't (Jesus) prevent awful things like the Holocaust from happening in our own day?" This is the type of question that causes many to stumble on Christianity.  How can God be a good God and yet let bad things happen? I come across this question all the time in my ministry.  Wright has a great answer: "Just as Jesus wasn't coming to be a one-man liberation movement in the traditional revolutionary sense, so he wasn't coming to be a one-man emergency medical centre.  He was indeed bringing starting a revolution, and he was indeed bringing God's healing power, but his aim went deeper; these things were signs of the real revolution, the real healing, that God was to accomplish through the death and resurrection."

A powerful reminder that our human nature wants to reduce Jesus to a 'fixer' when Jesus wants to be so much more.  And wants us to be so much more.  I think also Jesus doesn't fix our problems because he is calling us to work through the kingdom and by God's grace and spirit to help heal the world. If it is done for us, we would never learn or appreciate the gift.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Two Distractions

I am continuing my reading of Surprised by Hope, by NT Wright and I just wanted to reflect on two big distractions of Christianity. These are two worldviews that can somewhat be developed from scripture, however, they are not what the Bible actually teaches about the end of all things.

The first is the myth of progress.  This enlightenment way of thinking essentially says that know that we have reached a point of our existence that humanity can see what needs to be done, God decided to step out of the picture and allow humanity to do the work.  This way of viewing the world was especially prevalent in the late 1800s and early 1900s but was deeply wounded by the two great wars of the 20th century (and all of the things that happened in them like the Holocaust and Hiroshima). NT Wright says, "the myth of progress fails because it doesn't in fact work; because it would never solve evil retrospectively; and because it underestimates the power of evil itself and thus fails to see the vital importance of the cross, God's no to evil, which then opens the door to his yes to creation." Our media and our politicians tend to push this concept for their own ends and not for the gain of God.

The second myth is Platonic in origin.  Plato believed that this world - matter in all of its transience was inferior to another world - a spiritual world.  The goal of this life was to escape creation. This thinking infected Christianity through the Gnostic way of thinking (another proto-christian group) in the first centuries of the Church.  It has, however, regained strength recently in popular Christianity.  Whenever we talk about 'getting saved' so we can go to heaven and escape this world - we are following this myth of souls in transit. Wright says this worldview "encourages precisely attitude: the created world is at best irrelevant, at worst a dark, eil, gloomy place, and we immortal souls, who existed originally in a different sphere, are looking forward to returning it as soon as we're allowed to." This myth causes us to have little care for the problems of this world today and focus on 'saving souls' for the afterlife.

So what is NT Wright's understanding of a proper view? "The central Christian affirmation is that what the creator has done in Jesus Christ, and supremely in his resurrection, is what he intends to do for the whole world--meaning, by world, the entire cosmos with all its history."