N.T. Wright

I have written before (A New Universalism, No One is going to Heaven) about the relationship between heaven and our life after death.  In that post I came down quite clearly on the side that heaven is not a place where we are going to go, but is the place where god lives.  I also supported that through an analysis of every verse in the New Testament where heaven is mentioned.

But, many people look at the thief on the cross and believe that Jesus is indeed referring to heaven when he says “today you will be with me in paradise”.  This says a couple of things.  First, it says that it will be today  and second that Jesus will be wherever this place is located.

N.T. Wright has discussed his view of life after life after death on many occasions and most notably (for common folks like us) in his book Surprised by Hope which I highly recommend.  In there he does refer to this life after death as being in paradise, and in being with Jesus.  I believe that Wright comes down on the side that it is still a bit of a mystery since all we have are sign posts pointing to what that future will be like, and no clear pictures of the actual location.

I also watched this video N.T. Wright – Rethinking Life After Death today.

In it Wright again discussed his view on heaven, hell, the resurrection and what the core beliefs about these subjects for Christians today.  I recommend that as the best summary I have seen on the subject.  But there is something else he discusses that I found quite useful.

Literal or Metaphor?

In the video, starting at about 12:30, he discusses the use of the words metaphorical and literal as it relates to the bible and interpretation.  I find myself regularly debating the meaning of various parts of the bible and find that much of the controversy comes down to whether people think they should be interpreting a particular part as metaphor or literally.  Wright says:

“There is a problem with those words, literal and metaphoric, those are words about the way words work.  If we want to talk about the actual realities we ought to talk about concrete and abstract.  Things are either concrete, in the sense that they are actually there, solid, or they’re abstract, in which case they are ideas.”

Now that offers a bit different perspective on the debate because it gives us new vocabulary to use about the contents of particular passages.  He uses the example of Daniel 7 that has a part where 4 monsters will come out of the sea and Danial discusses what these monsters are like.  Clearly everyone would read that and recognize that there will not be 4 actual monsters coming out of the sea, those are not concrete parts of the metaphor.  But the fact that there are four of them is something that we would start to believe refers to four actual things.

People get hung up on stating that something is metaphor or literal.  This gets particularly nasty when someone refers to something like Genesis 1 as poetry.  There are many who will argue that Genesis 1 does not fit the definition of what poetry looks like in ancient Hebrew.  And I think they may be right.  But they go on to say, therefore, it cannot be metaphor and must be read literally.  At that point I disagree and Wright helps me with the language he uses in this video.

Genesis 1 is largely abstract representations of concrete happenings, in my view.  It may not be poetry, and it may be inappropriate to refer to it as only metaphor, but it seems that the concrete and abstract language applies wonderfully.

Wright does not use Genesis as the example in the video, he uses the rapture text.  He clearly feels the Thessalonians text is talking about an abstract idea, not something concrete.

I hope that this language can help.

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Interim Post – The Reading List

by Dave on November 12, 2011

in General, Theology

It has been awhile since I have posted, but it has been because I have been busy and not lazy.  As far as thoughts, ideas and Christianity, I have read or am reading a couple of books.

First, I cannot recommend too highly Scot McKnight’s new book, The King Jesus Gospel.  This book largely makes the whole concept of my site irrelevant since it tells the true story of the gospel.  Exactly what I was looking for.

Next, I was intrigued by the historical Jewish approach toward many of our modern problems.  Richard Friedman and Shawna Dolansky have written a very readable book about subjects such as homosexuality, abortion, women, capital punishment and the earth (actually that covers the whole thing).  Their book, The Bible Now looks at the bible in the context of having to make decisions about these issues in today’s environment.  Although there are no new testament considerations since the authors are Jewish, the book is a must read for those of us who want to understand these decisions and absolutely required for those who hope to influence others.

I have also started to study the letter of James.  Although I already had the Tyndale version of the Doublas Moo commentary on James, I was looking for something a bit up to date.  For those who do not know, Moo has written two versions of a commentary on James and apparently I have been reading the inferior of the two.  After talking with appropriate theologians, I got Scot McKnight’s (I really like Scot) fairly recent and quite comprehensive tome on James.  If you want a comprehensive study I highly recommend it.  The historical and biblical research and interpretation is impressive.

I have also been trying to finish Scot’s Community Called Atonement, but that repeatedly goes to the back in light of the more recently publish works.  But it is quite good and recommend it.

I also have read and re-read a couple of times the John Piper response to N.T. Wright’s book on Justification.  The Future of Justification, A Response to N.T. Wright is a Calvinist rebuttal to the new perspective exposition of Tom Wright.  I am not a 5 point Calvinist, actually I am a zero point Calvinist, but I often find that counter arguments to concepts provide good illumination into the context under scrutiny.  In this case I am just further reinforcing my view that the Calvinist movement simply misses the point as to what Christianity is all about.

I have also read twice, Pope Benedict’s wonderfully illuminating book Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration.  I know that many of my protestant friends will be reluctant to read  an obviously Catholic book, but it is well worth it.  This book is not full of church dogmatics, rather it is full of substantiated reason and exegesis of the core biblical texts.  Well worth the time.

I also went through N.T. Wight’s Paul for Everyone Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians (New Testament for Everyone) with a study group of a couple months and found it amazingly useful.  Reading Tom Wright’s translation of the bible has me waiting eagerly for his new, personal translation.  The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation actually has come out!  As I am writing this I just ordered it, I can’t wait.  (and as I am still writing I got confirmation from Amazon that the book is on its way!)

The reading pile has gotten bigger with various other titles, but the one I most looking forward to is the classic by Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged.  I am into the first couple of chapters and quite entertained.

I hope you all enjoy some of these as much as I have.

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I picked up the N.T. Wright study guide; Paul for Everyone Romans a few weeks ago in anticipation of going through this Epistle with a study group that I have attended for the better part of a year now.  I had high expectations that Tom would present his ideas in a clear and compelling way and his book has lived up to my expectations.  The book comes in two volumes with chapters 1-8 and 9-16 separate.

Not only does Bishop Wright interpret the text for us, but he also provides his own translation of the text that is consistent with his interpretation.  I think this is key since part of the problem of Romans is that the language has changed so much and is so embedded in the culture of the day that a word for word translation is not adequate.  Here is an example from Romans 1:

I am under obligation to barbarians as well as to Greeks, you see; both to the wise and to the foolish. That’s why I’m eager to announce the good news to you, too, in Rome.  I’m not ashamed of the good news; it’s God’s power, bringing salvation to everyone who believes – to the Jew first, and also, equally; to the Greek.  This is because God’s covenant justice is unveiled in it, from faithfulness to faithfulness.  As it says in the Bible, “the just shall live by faith”.

This can be compared with the NIV 2011 translation:

Post continued, click here…

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The Lost Codex – N.T. Wright Edition

by Dave on February 26, 2011

in General, Theology

I have N.T. Wright’s Paul In Fresh Perspective, audio version, and I have been through it more than 5 times.  Tom Wright is my favorite theologian and he has done so much to expand and explain the Christian faith.

One of the most revolutionary things about Bishop Wright’s discussion of Jesus is how he frames up the gospel.  So here it is, the short gospel per N.T. Wright, I love it.

The good news is that the covenant had been fulfilled and that new creation had begun.  The great apocalypse had occurred revealing Jesus as Israel’s Messiah.  Jesus was, therefore, Lord of the world and Caesar was not.

N.T. Wright, Paul In Fresh Perspective

Dave

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As I said in the previous post, I started out with McKnight.  I am a big fan of Scot now and his Blue Parakeet is in keeping with my high expectation for him.  However, his book is only in printed form whereas the Piper apologetic is in audio.  So while I am halfway through with Scot’s Parakeet, I have finished Piper and am on the second time through.

Initial Thoughts on Piper’s Wright Rebuttal

I am greatly enjoying Piper’s work.  With each succeeding chapter he further convinces me of the insights of N.T. Wright.  I must say that Piper seems to continue to rely on the fact that Christianity has taught it differently as his most obvious tactic to dissuading the reader of Wright’s right.  But it just further emboldens me to find the meaning in Wright and see the folly in Piper.  Too bad.

It is a good thing, however.  I feel that I am learning more about Wright and his views by facing the critical arguments in Piper’s book.  His view of justification seems quaint to me now.  Almost like he believes in magic and refuses to let his belief in magic sway his view even though we have been shown how the tricks are done.  I have to listen to it at least once more this week then will start back into my not Tom Wright book.

Thoughts on Scot McKnight’s Blue Parakeet

My wife and I are fairly well read when it comes to different worldviews and different views on religion.  Both of us love to come across a new concept on a way to view the fundamental nature of the world and a new way to look at life.

I showed my wife Scot’s book today and had her read part of it, and she had her typical comment , “nothing that I have not heard before”.  And to me, that is the brilliance in Scot’s book.

Scot presents a clear and articulate concept of the relationship of the bible to our life today.  He goes right for the difficult subjects and deals with them in a way that almost all of us would say that his thoughts make sense.  But the issue comes when many read the conclusions and realize that his making sense leads to conclusions that are outside of the current paradigm of belief.  Way to go Scot!

I am more than halfway through, but cannot wait to get to the end, read it again, and try and get others to read it.  Enjoying a lot.

Dave

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