Oh man..I hope I am not losing you all with my nerdy book reports. If I am, move along today my friend, but please please PLEASE….come back tomorrow because I have a guest post treat for you that you will not want to miss!!!
Que the last summary for February’s reads.
N. T. Wright is a Bible scholar of incredible depth and former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England. He stretches me with his thoughts, level of insight and non-slangish, non-American use of the English language.
He outlines the point and purpose of this book in the preface and I will share his words, as they are better than what I could stumble around trying to express.
He is referring to the voice of the early Christians, those who formed the Church following the Resurrection of Jesus. He is speaking about death and heaven and life here on earth and life after death.
“But, whereas I obviously have a lot to learn firsthand about all these matters, I think I have made up for it by soaking myself, in a way that many don’t have the chance to do, in the life and thought of the early Christians. As I do that I regularly return with a sense that their voice has not been disbelieved but simply not heard at all. My aim in this book is to bring their beliefs to light, and I hope to life, again in the conviction that they offer not only the best hope but also the best-grounded hope that we have and, what’s more, a hope that joins up, as I have said, with the hope that ought to energize our work for God’s kingdom in the present world.”N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope; Harper One, 2008. Pp. xii-xiii
The book works through the ways the Church, particularly the Western church, has moved away from understanding that when Jesus was resurrected, God’s Kingdom on earth was brought to us here.
It has been established here on earth and we, who are followers of Christ, are supposed to be living it out here on earth. He talks a lot about how many churches, particularly Western churches in both England and the United States, have placed the goal of “saving souls for heaven” over and above “Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”
You would have to read the book for yourself, but he definitely opened my eyes to realize some key points that:
I am not saved just for heaven…I am saved to start my eternal life HERE as I prepare for His Return, when earth itself will be reconciled back to Him with a new heaven and a new earth. We aren’t going “up there somewhere”. He is coming HERE to finish what He started when He reconciled us back to God. He will redeem the world and creation from the curse of the Fall.
I have always wondered about Jesus’ resurrected body and how it was in many ways both much like His human body and yet different. He was recognized by the disciples, though not always right at first. So He had to appear very much human and yet something was different about Him.
He was able to eat, yet we would have to assume that His resurrected body used food perfectly and not as our current bodies do. He was able to pass through solid matter yet was of physical substance. We know that His wounds could be touched and felt as He invited Thomas to do so.
Right there is a thought. His wounds in His hands and side were still visible, yet obviously the bloody scars of the crown of thorns and lashes were healed. Something to ponder and meditate on, for sure.
Those last few paragraphs are my musings in the past that found some answers in this book
N.T. Wright does not do away with the need for sin and injustice to be dealt with. He addresses that we have missed the point on both the far right of faith and the far left. We have focused on salvation to go to heaven, instead of salvation to serve the purposes of God’s Kingdom advancing here and now (and yes, we are saved for eternal life, but that is not the one and only reason).
He also points out that we are to be at work for justice and mercy and caring for others, but if we simply institute a social justice gospel and ignore that there will be judgment and a making of all things wrong into right, we have again missed the point.
Let me close with another quote from the book that I felt was the Key of the whole of it’s writing.
(Referring to the writings of Paul urging us to see that our individual salvation story is part of a bigger God story) “And that in turn makes us realize that the question of our own destiny, in terms of the alternatives of joy or woe, is probably the wrong way of looking at the whole question. The question ought to be; How will God’s new creation come? and then, How will we humans contribute to that renewal of creation and to the fresh projects that the creator God will launch in his new world? The choice before humans would then be framed differently; are you going to worship the creator God and discover thereby what it means to become fully and gloriously human, reflecting his powerful, healing and transformative love into the world? Or are you going to worship the world as it is, boosting your corruptible humanness by gaining power or pleasure from forces within the world but merely contributing thereby to your own dehumanization and the further corruption of the world itself?”N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope; Harper One, 2008. Pp184-185
So there you have a small peek into a book that has me looking at the way I have viewed heaven and earth and is challenging me to go back to the New Testament and read the writings of the apostles in a fresh new way.
This season of Lent, I feel I will be listening and reading with a new perspective of what was accomplished in the suffering, death and resurrection of my Lord and Savior.
I pray we all would continue to search the Scriptures as we take advantage of the writings of others who have been gifted to teach and exhort us to dig deeper and apply truth to every day life.