Wright or Willard Wednesdays: Power

NT Wright published a neat little book on faith and public life, basically a view of what a Christian politic might look like with the NT book of Acts as a starting point.

Near the end of the book, Wright suggests how God might be at work in the world:

As for power, when people say (as they often do), “Why doesn’t God do something?”, they always seem to assume that if God was really in control he’d send in the tanks and stop the bullies and the unscrupulous getting away with it. But according to the Sermon on the Mount…. when God wants to change the world he doesn’t send in the tanks… he sends the meek, the mourners, the merciful, the hungry-for-justice people, the peacemakers, the incorruptibly pure in heart. That was never a list of qualities you needed to try to work at in order to get into heaven. It was always a list of human characteristics through which God would bring his kingdom on earth as in heaven. That’s how God works. And by the time the bullies and the arrogant have woken up to what’s happening, the meek and the mourners and the merciful have built hospitals and schools; they are looking after the sick and the wounded; they are feeding the hungry and rescuing the helpless; and they are telling the powerful and the vested-interest people that this is what a genuinely human society looks like, thank you very much.

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Wright or Willard Wednesday: Apologetics

Dallas Willard passed away on May 8th, 2013. Truly a sad day for many in the Christian world. Dallas was in the midst of writing a book on apolgetics (defense of the faith) as he was passing. The book was completed posthumously and reveals many of his intellectual claims for the Christian faith. You can buy this book on Amazon. I highly recommend.

Here is a section of the where Dallas shares about the manner in which apologetics should be conducted:

Since apologetics is involved with ideas, intellectual claims, and reasoning, it is fitting for apologists to engage in intellectual debates and arguments. However, as we will see in this book, given we are seeking to do apologetics in the manner of Jesus, what is not fitting is for apologists to engage in debates and arguments with an antagonizing, arrogant spirit. Indeed, the best way to make the intellectual aspects of apologetics more effective is to combine them with a gentle spirit and kind presentation.

Wright or Willard Wednesday: Paul, Exile, and Jesus of Nazareth

Today’s Wright or Willard Wednesday is from NT Wright’s big book on Paul: Paul and the Faithfulness of God.

In this passage, Wright is beginning to sketch how Paul as a 2nd Temple Jew, shaped his early letters. Here, Wright shares how Jesus fulfills Israel’s longing for a God who returns to them; he is not a god that ascends into a pantheon of gods like the wider Greco-Roman audience might expect:

At the center of his [Paul] Jewish-style monotheism is a human being who lived, died and rose in very recent memory. Jesus is not a new God added to a pantheon. He is the human being in whom YHWH, Israel’s one and only God, has acted within cosmic history, human history and Israel’s history to do for Israel, humanity and the world what they could not do for themselves. Jesus is to be seen as part of the identity of Israel’s God, and vice versa. Israel had longed for its God to return after his extended absence. Paul, like the writers of the gospels, saw that longing fulfilled in Jesus.

Wright or Willard Wednesday: Jesus’ Death

How about this one from NT Wright’s “Big Red,” The New Testament and the People of God:

Jesus seems to have believed himself to be the focal point of the real returning-from-exile people, the true kingdom-people; but that kingdom, that people and this Messiah did not look like what the majority of Jews expected. Jesus was summoning his hearers to a different way of being Israel. We now have to come to terms with the fact that he believed himself called to go that different way himself as Israel’s anointed representative and to do for Israel – and hence for the world – what Israel could not or would not do for herself.

Wright or Willard Wednesday: Conversion

Here’s another ditty from Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy. Willard is giving reference to the provocative appeal that Jesus and his early followers gave to the watching world around them.

The life and words that Jesus brought into the world came in the form of information and reality. He and his early associates overwhelmed the ancient world because they brought into it a stream of life at its deepest, along with the best information possible on the most important matters. These were matters with which the human mind had already been seriously struggling for a millennium or more without much success. The early message was, accordingly, not experienced as something its hearers had to believe or do because otherwise something bad – something with no essential connection with real life – would happen to them. The people initially impacted by that message generally concluded that they would be fools to disregard it. That was the basis of their conversion.

Wright or Willard Wednesdays: Scripture

Each Wednesday, I put a thought from one of my two sages, NT Wright and Dallas Willard, for the sake of sharing a ideas from them that have encouraged me. Perhaps they will encourage you, too.

Today, a passage from NT Wright from his Scripture and the Authority of God.

The whole of my argument so far leads to the following major conclusion: that the shorthand phrase “the authority of scripture,” when unpacked, offers a picture of God’s sovereign and saving plan for the entire cosmos, dramatically inaugurated by Jesus himself, and now to be implemented through the Spirit-led life of the church precisely as the scripture-reading community. “Reading” in that last phase is itself a shorthand for a whole complex of tasks to which we shall return. But the emphasis I want to insist on is that we discover what the shape of the inner life of the church out to be only when we look first at the church’s mission, and that we discover what the church’s mission is only when we look first at God’s purpose for the entire world, as indicated in, for instance, Genesis 1-2, Genesis 12, Isaiah 40-55, Romans 8, 1 Cor. 15, Ephesians 1 and Revelation 21-22. We read scripture in order to be refreshed in our memory and understanding of the story within which we ourselves are actors, to be reminded where it has come from and where it is going to, and hence what our own part within it ought to be.

Wright or Willard Wednesday: Jesus’ Appearing

Each Wednesday, I’ll try to offer a short thought from a couple of my favorite sages: NT Wright and Dallas Willard. Today, a long quotation from Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy. In this quotation, Willard reveals how it was God’s plan to arrive among us through ordinary means:

He slipped into our world through the backroads and outlying districts of one of the least important places on earth and has allowed his program for human history to unfold ever so slowly through the centuries.

He lived for thirty years among socially insignificant members of a negligible nation – though one with rich tradition of divine covenant and interaction. He grew up in the home of the carpenter for the little Middle-Eastern village of Nazareth. After his father, Joseph, died, he became ‘the man of the house’ and helped his mother raise the rest of the family. He was an ordinary workman: a ‘blue-collar’ worker.

He did all this to be with us, to be one of us, to ‘arrange for the delivery’ of his life to us. It must be no simple thing to make it possible for human beings to receive the eternal kind of life. But, as F.W. Faber opens one of his profound works, now ‘Jesus belongs to us. He vouchsafes to put Himself at our disposal. He communicates to us everything of His which we are capable of receiving.’

If he were to come today as he did then, he could carry out his mission through most any decent and useful occupation. He could be a clerk or accountant in a hardware store, a computer repairman, a banker, an editor, doctor, waiter, teacher, farmhand, lab technician, or construction worker. He could run a housecleaning service or repair automobiles.

In other words, if he were to come today he could very well do what you do. He could very well live in your apartment or house, hold down your job, have your education and life prospects, and live within your family, surroundings, and time. None of this world be the least hindrance to the eternal kind of life that was his by nature and becomes available to us through him. Our human life, it turns out, is not destroyed by God’s life but is fulfilled in it and in it alone.