Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Mere Mission | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Christianity Today presents a fascinating interview with Tom Wright, (Anglican) Bishop of Durham. I read Wright's "Simply Christian" this summer -- I don't know if it was consciously styled on Lewis' "Mere Christianity" or not, but that was the sense I got. It's not the same book, of course. And I did find it to be repetitive (often, very) at times. But, a very compelling vision of Christianity in the 21st century -- one that is concerned as much with piety and orthodoxy as well justice and "putting the world to rights." Mere Mission | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction Here's some neat quotes:
There's an old evangelical saying, "If he's not Lord of all, he's not Lord at all." That was always applied personally and pietistically. I want to say exactly the same thing but apply it to the world. We're talking about Jesus as the Lord of the world—not the Lord of people's private spiritual interiority only, but of what they do with their money, with their homes, with the wealth of nations, and with the planet.
On historical-critical scholarship
My major work has been designed to refute the wilder claims made by some so-called historical critical scholarship. Because now we see only too clearly that the whole historical critical movement was not, as it tried to claim, a neutral, objective, scientific account of the Gospels. It had its own agendas that were heavily driven by the philosophy of the Enlightenment. The movement really started out with the assumption that if there is a God, this God does not intervene in human affairs. In other words, the Enlightenment has already settled Lewis's question one way. It has decided that any Jesus who said John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life," would be completely out of his skull. Therefore, Jesus couldn't have said it, because we know he was a good man and we want to follow him for other reasons. It becomes a circular argument. Lewis breaks into the circle by simply ignoring the critical possibility.
There's a certain kind of modernist would-be orthodoxy, which uses the word God in something like the old Deist sense. He's a distant, absentee landlord who suddenly decides to intervene in the world after all, and he looks like Jesus. But we already know who God is; now I want you to believe that this God became human in Jesus. The New Testament routinely puts it the other way around. We don't actually know who God is. We have some idea, the God of Israel, or of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Creator God. But until we look hard at Jesus, we really haven't understood who God is.

That's precisely what John says at the end of the prologue: No one has ever seen God; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the father, he has made him known. John's provided an exegesis for who God is. And in Colossians 1 as well, he is the image of the invisible God. In other words, don't assume that you've got God taped, and fit Jesus into that. Do it the other way. We all come with some ideas of God. Allow those ideas to be shaped around Jesus. That is the real challenge of New Testament Christology.
And now, on Gnosticism
The Gnostic conspiracy theory says that orthodoxy hushed up the really exciting thing and promoted this boring sterile thing with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And of course there's a great lie underneath that. In the second and third centuries, the people being thrown to the lions and burned at the stake and sawed in two were not the ones reading Thomas and Judas and the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary. They were the ones reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Because the empire is perfectly happy with Gnosticism. Gnosticism poses no threat to the empire. Whereas Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John do. It's the church's shame that in the last 200 years, the church has muzzled Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and turned them into instruments of a controlling, sterile orthodoxy. But the texts themselves are explosive.
He's as hard on the "Right" (worshiping Mars and Mammon) as he is on the "Left" (worshipping Aprhodite). Intriguing and thought-provoking. Do read it!

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