Monday, June 26, 2017

The Day the Revolution Began, by NT Wright #2

WrightThis is my second week for reading through, for my New Testament devotions and study, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion, by N. T. Wright. This post will look at the first half of part 2 of the book which looks at the crucifixion through the lens of the Old Testament story of Israel. I am also posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 4, The Covenant of Vocation, begins Part Two: "“In Accordance with the Bible.” In this section Wright says that we have taught an incomplete view of salvation because we have asked the wrong question. The issue is not just sinful acts which separate us from God, but a failure to live out the vocation for which we were created. Jesus’ death does not just provide us with Christ's good works/morality, but it restores humanity to its vocation and defeats the supernatural powers to which we ceded our position as the "image of God." Thus, Jesus' death begins this process of restoring all of creation to being the "temple" in which God dwells, and humanity is restored to being the "priesthood" whose "vocation is “image-bearing,” reflecting the Creator’s wise stewardship into the world and reflecting the praises of all creation back to its maker." (76)

The “goal” is not “heaven,” but a renewed human vocation within God’s renewed creation. This is what every biblical book from Genesis on is pointing toward. 74

The book of Revelation says—shockingly, of course—that the ancient vocation had been renewed in a new and revolutionary way through the death of the Messiah. Once we get the goal right (the new creation, not just “heaven”) and the human problem properly diagnosed (idolatry and the corruption of vocation, not just “sin”), the larger biblical vision of Jesus’s death begins to come into view. 79,

The problem is that humans were made for a particular vocation, which they have rejected; that this rejection involves a turning away from the living God to worship idols; that this results in giving to the idols—“forces” within the creation—a power over humans and the world that was rightfully that of genuine humans; and that this leads to a slavery, which is ultimately the rule of death itself, the corruption and destruction of the good world made by the Creator. 86

In chapter 5, "In All the Scriptures," Wright insists that we must place the meaning of Christ's death "for our sins" within the story of Israel in the Old Testament. The Old Testament tells the great story of how God breaks into this sinful world, first through Adam and Eve, and then through the nation of Israel, the family of Abraham. The problem in each case was that the means of rescue also became corrupted and needed rescue. Instead of worshipping and serving the Creator, they worshipped and served idols and thus went into exile. The Old Testament ends with Israel in the land, but still in exile without a king, without the presence of God and without the blessings of the Promised Land. The hope that was held on to in the Old Testament was that God himself would come to rescue Israel and accomplish His plan through them for the world. The cross must be understood within this idea of God restoring humanity to its vocation of being the image of God and making the whole world an "Eden" and a "Promised Land," with all humanity as God's representative "priests."

Only when we give full early Christian weight to the phrase “in accordance with the Bible” will we discover the full early Christian meaning of the phrase “for our sins.” And this means renouncing the Platonized views of salvation, the moralizing reduction of the human plight, and ultimately the paganized views of how salvation is accomplished. The first blunts the leading edge of the revolution. The second treats one part of the problem as if it were the whole thing. The third produces a distorted parody of the true biblical picture. 94

Just as the Creator chose the covenant people to be the means of rescuing the human race, so now, with the chosen people themselves in need of rescue, God might do the same thing again. He might act in a new way to call from within exilic Israel a remnant, perhaps even a remnant of one, through whom he would deliver Israel. 97

The basic “sin” is actually idolatry, worshipping and serving anything in the place of the one true God. And, since humans are made for the life that comes from God and God alone, to worship that which is not God is to fall in love with death. 102-103

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