What Is the Gospel? N.T. Wright Explains In New Book

N.T. Wright:

jpeg-3So how might we in turn summarize the good news…? The good news is that the one and true God has now taken charge of the world, in and through Jesus and his death and resurrection.

The ancient hopes have indeed been fulfilled, but in a way nobody imagined. God’s plan to put the world right has finally been launched. He has grasped the world in a new way, to sort it out and fill it with his glory and justice, as he always promised. But he has done so in a way beyond the wildest dreams of prophecy. The ancient sickness that had crippled the whole world, and humans with it, has been cured at last, so that new life can rise up in its place. Life has come to life and is pouring out like a mighty river into the world, in the form of a new power, the power of love.

The good news was, and is, that all this has happened in and through Jesus; that one day it will happen, completely and utterly, to all creation; and that we humans, every single one of us, whoever we are, can be caught up in that transformation here and now.

This is the Christian gospel. Do not allow yourself to be fobbed off with anything less.

   —Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good, p. 55. (Book forthcoming. Stay tuned for review. Italics original, line breaks mine.)

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Is Joy a Pipe Dream?

The Yale Center for Faith and Culture recently launched an ambitious initiative about joy.

Theology of Joy gathers various theologians and academians “to build a transformative movement driven by a Christian articulation of the joy that attends a flourishing human life.”

One of the more interesting interviews is Miroslav Volf and N.T. Wright discussing a theology of joy:

N.T. Wright Interview: The Normalcy of Narrative

N.T. Wright discusses the perceived slippery subject of narrative with Ken Meyers in a forthcoming Mars Hill Journal interview. Here’s a teaser:

But I think an awful lot of people, without even realizing it, live in a narrative….

Every time somebody says, ‘But now that we live in the modern world,’ dot, dot, dot. [sic] That’s what’s going on; they’re invoking that narrative. So I suspect that part of the problem is that controlling narrative is so big that it has driven many Christians, preachers, pastors, etc. to de-narrate their own faith and to leave it as sort of chunky little clumps of dogma.

Read an extended excerpt of Wright’s comments on narrative here.

N.T. Wright: Don’t Downplay Ascension Day

Today’s the 40th day of Easter, Ascension Day.

According to theologian N.T. Wright, we ought to make a bigger deal of it.

Here are some notable quotes about the significance of Christ’s ascension from N.T. Wright:images

—What happens when you downplay or ignore the ascension? …the church expands to fill the vacuum.

—Get the ascension right, and your view of the church, of the sacraments, and the mother of Jesus can get back into focus.

—To embrace the ascension is to heave a sigh of relief, to give up the struggle to be God (and with it the inevitable despair at our constant failure), and to enjoy our status as creatures: image-bearing creatures, but creatures nonetheless.

—At no point in the gospels or Acts does anyone say anything remotely like, “Jesus has gone into heaven, so let’s be sure we can follow him.” They say, rather, “Jesus is in heaven, ruling the whole world, and he will one day return to make that rule complete.

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, pp. 112-117.

Baptism and Resurrection Sunday: The Crucial Link

 

BaptismEaster

On Easter Sunday my oldest son will be baptized. While his parents are happy about his decision to proclaim faith in Jesus in a very public way, it’s no small affair. We’ve discussed why Christians should be baptized, when it should happen, and what baptism does and doesn’t do.

Below is a Q and A I created from theologian N.T. Wright’s illuminating book Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church about the importance of baptism and its relationship to Jesus’ resurrection, the local church, and Easter Sunday, drawing from 1 Peter 1:3-4, Romans 6:1-11 and Colossians 2:8-15.

In what way is baptism related to Jesus’ resurrection?

The resurrection of Jesus has brought about a new state of affairs in cosmic history and reality. God’s future has burst into the present, and (as happens sometimes in dreams, when the words we are saying or the music we are hearing are also happening in the events in which we are taking part) somehow the sacraments are not just signs of the reality of new creation but actually part of it.

What does baptism have to do with the local church?

Thus the event of baptism—the action, the water, the going down and the coming up again, the new clothes—is not just a signpost to the reality of the new birth, the membership (as all birth gives membership) in the new family. It really is the gateway to that membership.

Baptism: What’s the big deal?

The important thing, then, is that in the simple but powerful action of plunging someone into the water in the name of the triune God, there is a real dying to the old creation and a real rising into the new—with all the dangerous privileges and responsibilities that then accompany the new life as it sets out in the as-yet-unredeemed world. Baptism is not magic, a conjuring trick with water. But neither is it simply a visual aid. It is one of the points, established by Jesus himself, where heaven and earth interlock, where new creation, resurrection life, appears within the midst of the old.

Why baptize on Easter?

The idea of associating baptism with Easter always was, and still is, a proper Christian instinct. Just as for many Christians the truth of Easter is something they glimpse occasionally rather than grasp and act on, so, for many, baptism remains in the background, out of sight, whereas it should be the foundational event for all serious Christian living, all dying to sin and coming alive with Christ.

Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, pp. 272-272.

 

Sunday Meetings Matter: Here’s Why

Call me prudish, but I’ve always been troubled why so many churches in the U.S. don’t meet on Sunday. Instead, not just newer church plants, but even well-known churches such as Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis (certainly not a church catering to worshiper tastes or trends)—meet on days other than, or in addition to, Sunday.

Now I realize the decision to meet on Saturday (the preferred day) instead of imgresSunday vary and may even be complicated. For some churches, Saturday gatherings are often out of sheer necessity. This was certainly the case with Bethlehem while Piper was still the senior pastor and the church was bursting at the seams on Sunday mornings.

But I fear that many churches meet on Saturday for reasons other than necessity, namely convenience or so as not to appear staid and traditional like other churches that meet on Sunday. And even in the case of Bethlehem, adding a Saturday service, even out of necessity, comes with a downside, becoming yet another place for many congregants to double-dip, having the best of both worlds (i.e. listening to Piper’s preaching Saturday night and then returning to their local church Sunday mornings with their ordinary pastor). The all-too-familiar result? A rootless wanderer with toes dabbling in multiple places and spaces on different days. Surely this is not good—not only for the congregant, but for both churches and their respective pastors.

But whatever the reasons for meeting on a day other than Sunday, the collective result is the same: Sunday’s biblical and historical significance is flattened and marginalized. Ironically, even tragically, Saturday becomes the new Sunday, a sort of weird evangelical Seventh Day Adventist hybrid.

I’m not alone in my concern.

N.T. Wright:

…the gospels (especially John) and the early practice of the church (as in Paul) reflect the very early understanding of the church that the first day of the week, the day of Easter, has become a sign within the present world and its temporal sequence that the life of the age to come has already broken in. Sunday, kept as a commemoration of Easter ever since that event itself (a quite remarkable phenomenon when you come to think about it), is not simply a legacy of Victorian values but a perpetual sign, joyfully renewed week by week, that all time belongs to God and stands under the renewing lordship of Jesus Christ.

Of course, worship should be ‘seven whole days, not one in seven.’ Many Christians will find, for all kinds of reasons, that Sunday is a difficult day to attend long church services. But we should remind ourselves that the earliest Christians lived in a world where Sunday was the first day of the working week, much like our Monday, and that they valued its symbolism so highly that they were prepared to get up extra early both to celebrate Easter once again and to anticipate the final Eighth Day of Creation, the start of the new week, the day when God will renew all things.

Surprised By Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (pp. 261-262).

David F. Wells, in his forthcoming book God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World, echoes Wright’s sentiment:

Every church service is, in fact, an Easter service. So am I being narrow-minded when I ask, are we doing the right thing to cater to convenience by offering worship on Saturday evenings, on the old Sabbath? Does this not depart from the important symbolism which the apostles insisted on preserving? They worshiped on Sunday, the Lord’s day. (p.204)

So to answer Wells’s (admittedly rhetorical) questions: No to the former, yes to the latter.

Jesus’ resurrection reshapes and reorients absolutely everything—even our Sundays. Our inability or unwillingness to recognize and act on it is not only regrettable, but perhaps also an indicator of how little the realities of the resurrection hold sway in our minds, hearts, and wills.

May God do a work among the Western church to recover and rediscover the blessings and joy of meeting on Sunday, the new Sabbath and weekly commemoration of Easter.

Christmas Is Good, But Not Ultimate

N.T. Wright:

…Christmas has now far outstripped Easter in popular culture as the real celebratory center of the Christian year—a move that completely reverses the New Testament’s emphasis. We sometimes try, in hymns, prayers, and sermons, to build a whole theology of Christmas, but it can’t in fact sustain such a thing. We then keep Lent, Holy Week, and Good Friday so thoroughly that we hardly have any energy left for Easter except for the first night and day. Easter, however, should be the center. Take that away and there is, almost literally, nothing left.

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (p. 23)

N.T. Wright’s book Surprised by Hope for $1.99

N.T. Wright’s stellar book Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (hereafter SBH) is only $1.99 (e-book only).

Yes, stop ref=sr_1_4rubbing your eyes, you read that right.

If you haven’t yet read Wright and are wondering where to begin (or even, “what’s the big deal about Wright anyway?”), SBH is a great place to start. Largely drawn and reworked from his heftier tome Resurrection of the Son of God, SBH is wonderfully accessible and equally readable.

Have you ever asked:

What’s the big deal about Jesus’ resurrection?

How do I live every day in light of Jesus’ resurrection?

What will happen to me, i.e. body and soul, when I die? Exactly what am I waiting for, anyway?

And how should I live in the meantime?

Yes? Then stop reading this and buy the book! (You can thank me later.)