Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tom Wright's Surprised by Hope ...8

And now, today's part 2, continuing our review of Tom Wright's, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church on this third Sunday of Eastertide.

Previous posts on Wright's book include:

Part 1: Setting the Scene
1-2. Introduction, Confusion about the Afterlife in the World and Church
3. Early Christian Hope in Its Historical Setting
4. The Strange Story of Easter

Part 2: God's Future Plan
5-6. The Cosmic Future and The Nature of the World's Hope
7. Jesus, Heaven, and New Creation

Chapter 8: "When He Appears"
I was very appreciative of this chapter because it has helped me understand Wright's position on the second coming much better. First, that in fact Wright does believe in the second coming. His understanding of the New Testament on this subject is quite interesting.

First, he doesn't believe that Jesus ever predicted his return. But he doesn't believe this in the sense that the parables about absent landords and kings aren't historical. Nor does he take predictions such as Mark 13 and others that engage Daniel 7 are unhistorical. Rather, they were about the first coming of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70.

But the rest of the New Testament rightly then speaks of Jesus' return once and for all which is yet to come. Very interesting! I'm not convinced, but it is ingenius.

Wright then goes on to discuss what the parousia is for Paul. He mentions two meanings in the background literature: 1) mysterious presence of a god and 2) royal presence. He insists the word does not mean arrival but presence, ironically contradicted by his later comments about a king arriving at a city and being escorted into a town.

Yes, Wright believes that Christ will again be physically present on earth after the general resurrection. He does not, however, take the image of Christ coming on the clouds with the angels literally. He notes the parallels in Colossians of parousia with the word to "appear." He thinks language of clouds and descending is a metaphorical tapestry of 1) Moses coming down from the mountain, 2) Daniel 7, and 3) the visit of an emperor to a colony.

I buy allusions to the second two. I'm unconvinced of the first, where it seems to me Wright is once again smarter than Paul. And once again I would charge Wright with demythologizing Paul in his exegesis rather than in his application.


Angie Van De Merwe said...

So, is Wright's demythologizing about going to a city, whose 'icons" have been destroyed "to bring about hope"?

I am with you, in regards to universalizing these ways of undersanding "the truth". Historicizing the text by applying it directly after demythologizing it, does give "reality" to the "proposition" (incarnational truth). That is, missionaries are thsoe who do "humanitarian aid". But, one doesn't need the church to do humanitarian aid...the State Department does this and is more "well connected" than any deomination. And if the denomination connects with the State Department then there is a dissolving of individual conscience issues, in regards to the separation of Church and State...

Myth is useful for any religion is pointing to 'truth" that is transcendent. Truth is understood in Greek forms, as that is what was understood to be universal and philosophy was the language of science or understanding of "reality".

Today, the disicplines have been dissolved into their "speicalties" without understanding their purposes....of developing a whole view of the human being and their reality (ies)...

Angie Van De Merwe said...

But, I must say, that also, I doubt that "the perfect world" will transpire, no matter what we do or don't what do we work for? What we believe in in we believe that the nation state needs protection? YES! as long as there are those that do not believe in freedom and justice for the individual!!!

Do human rights need defense? YES!! as long as there are those that do not believe in freedom and justice for all! So the nation, as well as the individual need "protection" of the law! And even those truths can bring about a conflict of interests, it is then, the individual's choice as to where they will commit...and what they will or won't do in regards to those "ideals"!

Ken Schenck said...

Response code:

#1 - doesn't understand post
#2 - proceeds on tangentially to discuss freedom, America, etc.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Isn't Wright's understanding a "post-millinial" view? That is, after Jesus recieved the "spirit" and the Church recieived the "spirit"? Then, the mystery is the "spirit" of God that is present in human form.

The Church being the "new temple" of the holy spirit is then, to be the "New Jerusalem" that is to bring about a "new humanity" in "god's image".

Isn't that the paradigm? If not, I'm not on the same page with anyone, and won't benefit the I'll shut up.

I mean that the "me" understanding is to be a "we" one...

David Rowe said...

Thanks, I've often wondered how NT Wright's eschatology fleshes out. Much of the 'new creation theology' can leave one with the sense that we are left to build God's kingdom here on earth without a sense of how we are navigating the course, or how close it is to being fully realized. It would be interesting to hear his speculations on what that will/should look like (the time leading up to Christ's second coming).

Ryan S said...


No Wright is not really on that paradigm in a meaningful way (postmillinial). He believe makes the case that the mistake of Rauschenbausch and other social gospellers is that they believe that they can "build the kingdom." Wright holds that we believe that we can "build for the kingdom." By this he means that we contribute to the kingdom but by God's power and a catclysmic act of God, our pieces are put together in the new kingdom. Thus our work is not left behind, though it is not postmill.

Does that make some sense?

Angie Van De Merwe said...

Ryan, It is just a matter of semantics for me. There is no spiritual birth, except in the individual's mind, which interprets a certain "scripture", message, community, or upbringing...and is "put together" in a certain way that makes sense or brings meaning to life....

As to what you are specifically talking about, then, is Wrights' attempt to "find a third way", as Church Fathers sought? The third way being between the scientific view (materialism) and spiritual (transcendentalism)..which is found within the human sciences.

And when you talk about an "eschlogical hope" (Paul), that, to me spiritualizes the real world of politics, such that it really doesn't do what is needful in changing the political system that oppresses!

Real truth works its way our practically, which any "holiness person" would believe and that is more than some spiriual by and by, which happens to effect what one does in the real world...such as "spiritual leadership"....leadership is leadership, as there is no way to "know" spiritual truth as in the transcendent or "special revelation"...