a christmas of revelation!

FIRST off, MERRY CHRISTMAS!! I hope that you thoroughly enjoyed this Christmas season with your family or whoever you celebrated this season of Christ’s birth with.

SECONDLY, get ready for a long post. Don’t be discouraged by the length! Please read on! If you’ve clicked on a link to get here, then you might as well spend at least a couple minutes reading what’s been on my mind, no?

A couple of Sundays ago, Ryan Paulson – college pastor at Emmanuel Faith Community Church – referenced the Christmas story as mentioned by John in Revelation 12; The Woman and the Beast. I had never heard of this account of Jesus’ birth and loved his lecture on it. If you haven’t read that chapter, I encourage you to read it from this perspective sometime; HOWEVER, this is not the topic of my post! Tricked-cha!!!

The topic of my post is actually about this man:

This is N. T. Wright.

Who is he?? Here is a small excerpt from his site:

He is one of today’s best know and respected New Testament scholars. Born in 1948, he studied for the ministry at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and was ordained as Junior Research Fellow and Junior Chaplain at Merton College, Oxford. From 1978 to 1981 he was Fellow and Chaplain at Downing College, Cambridge, and then moved to Montreal as Assistant Professor of New Testament Studies at McGill University. He returned in 1986 to Oxford as University Lecturer in New Testament, and Fellow and Chaplain of Worcester College, Oxford. He became Dean of Lichfield in 1994, and Canon Theologian of Westminster Abbey in 2000.

In other words, this guy knows his New Testament (N. T. Wright). He is, at the current time, probably the most reliable source of New Testament history, culture, and background information in the world. His intricate knowledge of how Greeks, Romans, and Jews thought, wrote, and behaved during this time period is unrivaled in theological circles. Having been exposed to him in my Christian, Life, Faith and Ministries class through the book Simply Christian, and having been referred by my cousin, Matthew Grimes (who is currently working towards his doctorate in organizational studies at Vanderbilt), to read some material of his, I picked up one of Wright’s books at the Family Christian Store to gain an idea of who this guy was and where he was coming from.


The book is called Surprised by HOPE: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. Boy, does he have some interesting things to say, and I’m only half way through the book! If I believed everything this wise scholar had to say, there would be no basis for my desire to become a missionary! That’s pretty radical stuff. I agree with the general thesis of his book, which I’ll explain later, but some of the explanations and reasoning behind this thesis of his come out of nowhere and I must disagree with him.

From what I’ve gleaned thus far from reading it, the basic outline follows the message of Jesus’ resurrection. He makes the claim that the emerging church is so heavily insistent upon a disembodied “soul” that will one day spend eternity in heaven. This hope, according to Wright, is a false one. Instead, the hope that should be the excitement of the church is the hope that one day all believers in Christ will be resurrected in BODILY form with Him and rule and reign on earth…the new earth that is. This is just an oversimplified version of his thesis, but you get the idea.

Well, truth be told, I agree with this theology! HOWEVER, little bits and pieces of his doctrine began surfacing as I read it that made me question his validity. He is a “Kingdom of God” preacher, so he will tell you that “the Kingdom of God is at hand” and we must be a part of God’s kingdom here on earth by taking care of it, feeding the hungry, caring for the needy, giving money to the poor. These types of acts are even mentioned in James 1:27.

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

What is the definition of religion? I was told that religion is man’s best way to get to God. So what was the first organized religion? Adam and Eve tried to cover their sin before God by covering themselves with fig leaves once they realized they were naked = first religion.
SO visiting orphans and widows is the most pure and undefiled way of man’s best efforts to get to God. BUT IT DOES NOT SAVE YOU. Nor is this salvation. This idea is not Biblical. What happened to the “grace as a gift of God, not by works lest any man should boast,” mentality?
Now that is not to say that we shouldn’t care for the sick, feed the hungry, and give money to the poor. This was a part of Jesus’ ministry…but it didn’t end there. Jesus did not come to provide temporary comfort. He came to die so that all might have the reach to grasp eternal joy in Him and with Him!
So I was wondering where in the world these ideas of Wright came from…he gave no explanation of why he believed this. No background. No nothing.
Well, I had the privilege of talking about this with my dad and Phil de Martimprey tonight and gained some important insight about N. T. Wright: he is an Amillenialist (I highly disagree with this notion). In other words, he believes that Christ’s reign will not be an actual 1000 year reign after the tribulation. Instead, we are now experiencing the thousand years in the church age. This information is the key to understanding some of the weird theology that I have never heard of in this book, but now it all makes sense, I just disagree with some parts of it.
BUT WHAT DOES AMILLENIALIST MEAN TO THE STORY?
That means that, yes, the Kingdom of God has come already. That means that those who will be saved are saved and those who are not will not be saved. That means missions is no longer necessary, but rather WORKS WORKS WORKS!!! Political justice is what the church should focus on! Sure, we should strive for political justice, but this is NOT what we are working towards.
What happened to Jesus’ ministry of seeking and saving the lost…the spiritually lost?
So the conclusion that I came to is a quite broad one: There are some excellent authors, theologians, pastors, and teachers that are backed by all sorts of ethnos that have some excellent things to say about God’s Word, but that does not mean they are undeniably right about everything they might have to say, nor do I have to agree with them. For instance, N. T. Wright has some incredible commentaries on the culture of the Jews and how they viewed resurrection before and after Christ. I agree with him! Just not concerning the Kingdom of God philosophy. John Piper is probably one of the most amazing pastors I have ever heard speak. He is so in tune with God’s Word that you can feel his passion flowing out of his sermons, but I do not agree with his complete supremecy of God theology. God is supreme alright, but I don’t agree with predestination. Rob Bell has some great things to say as well, but I don’t have to agree with everything he says either.
The important things to keep in mind are this:
  • God was and is forever
  • He created the universe
  • Man became inherently sinful after the fall and needs a Savior
  • God sent His son in human form (fully God, fully man) born of a virgin to redeem the world
  • Jesus lived a perfect sinless life and died and rose again, defeating death and providing a way to the Father for those who would repent and be forgiven
    anymore?? let me know if I forgot something =]
    Without these beliefs, one cannot call themself Christian. Within the boundaries of these doctrine, the extemporaneous beliefs about how long it took God to create the universe, post-millenial vs. pre-millenial, and all arguments concerning the book of Revelation (sarcasm) are not extremely important, or rather “life and death” important.Lord, gives us an ear for wisdom and a heart of understanding! You give freely to those who ask for discernment. Let us not ask in vain Lord.
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    • Nikkie
    • December 27th, 2008

    wow Miles that was a long one…but good as i expected =] …you have great points Miles and always something good to say and worth reading…and i doubt you forgot anything ;]
    -Nicole(since last time Nikkie was someone you didn’t know lol)

    • Michael
    • December 27th, 2008

    Hey Miles,
    Very interesting post! I never heard of that guy before, but I was able to see Merton College when I was in Oxford. (That’s the same college J.R.R. Tolkien was at.) And the title of that book you mentioned reminds me of a book by another GREAT Oxford scholar: “Surprised by Joy” by C.S. Lewis. Maybe next on your list if you’ve not read it yet… 🙂
    Michael

    • hyperhobbit07
    • January 6th, 2009

    Miles,

    This is a great post! In our Life and Teachings of Jesus class this past semester we actually had to write a paper on one of Wright’s books called “The Meaning of Jesus.” So I totally know what you mean – radical stuff! But thanks for sharing your insights! Sometimes it’s hard for me to hear so many opinions on theology that differ in so many different ways. But I love how you bring it all back to the basics… and that’s what really matters. Thanks again! 🙂

    Alicia 🙂

    • Ryan Paulson
    • March 10th, 2009

    Hey Miles – great thoghts on the book. I am only about 100 pages in right now, but I am thoroughly enjoying it. I love reading people that I don’t wholly agree with, they challenge me and encourage me to think about what I truly do believe.

    You are right in saying that Wright’s view of heaven, and the resurrection have a lot to do with his Ahmillenialist theology, however I’m not too sure Wright would go so far as to say:

    “That means that, yes, the Kingdom of God has come already. That means that those who will be saved are saved and those who are not will not be saved. That means missions is no longer necessary, but rather WORKS WORKS WORKS!!! Political justice is what the church should focus on! Sure, we should strive for political justice, but this is NOT what we are working towards.”

    (forgive me if that is what he says in the second half, like I said I’m only 100 pages through)

    I think that Wright would affirm that the Kingdom of God is both “now and not yet.” That we have the abilityt to live in the kingdom of God when we affirm the values of the kingdom – caring for the foreigner, the fatherless, and the widow. I think he wrestles with the statement of Jesus, “the kingdom of God is here,” and tries to amkes sense of it, but I’m not sure that most evangelical churches have wrestled with this statement.

    Also, I’m not sure that Wright would say that missionary work should stop, but I think he would suggest that we need to embrace a more wholistic view of salvation. Meaning that salvation is not just something that will happen when we die, but that salvation has a bearing on how we live and act today. He would say that salvation is through the blood of Christ and by grace alone, but that the implications are reach much further than most evangelicals will give it credit for.

    Anyway, probably way too much for a blog comment, but I would love to get together and grab a cup of coffee next time you are in town and talk about it. I will be blogging about the book over the next few weeks!

    Later man!

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