21 May 2012

how god became king 8

N. T. Wright, How God Became King (New York: HarperOne, 2012).

It has been a fantastic time simultaneously blogging (and processing) through The King Jesus Gospel and How God Became King over the last few weeks.  In fact, I am now concerned that I have no topics worth posting after this.  We'll see.  Even without the informal reviewing of these books, the statements which each has made (sometimes overlapping, other times quite independent) will be influencing my own thought from this point on, and should be influencing the work of the church for our generation.

Part Four: Creed, Canon, and Gospel.

There is one chapter in the final part of the book, "How to Celebrate God's Story."  Here, the Bishop brings together the developed thoughts of his thesis into a type of application for the church.  This is not to say the previous discussion has been void of such, but rather that here is a more intentional discussion in that direction.  Because Wright began his study by outlining the problems which come from the construction of the creeds (which we have already discussed, should be held in balance with their benefits), in this final chapter he offers an approach to reading the creeds.  What the reader will find (pp. 259-264) is a development of the lines of the Apostles Creed, where the Bishop exposits his own interpretation of how each section ought to be read and understood by the church.  In other words, he offers a critique and a way forward to affirming the creeds and still being conscious of the biblical story.

What has never been taken from the discussion is the problematic comma which stands in place of the life of Jesus, in between his virgin birth and his suffering under Pontius Pilate (cf. 261).  I still agree that there is an issue here, but this has been tempered by previous discussion and interaction with McK's work).  Wright is here unwilling to let this pass, but rather than dismissing the historic creeds (which I believe is a mistake of some congregationalist churches and movements), he provides a strong push to emphasize the life of Jesus as a vital part of the Christian message.

Interestingly, with all of the talk about the creeds there has been no discussion at all regarding the historic problems that have accompanied the phrase, "He descended into hell."  I was expecting some reference (even in passing) to the larger discussion of this issue at this point of his credal evaluation, but Wright only offers a brief and passing reference to 1 Peter 3:19.  Since the overall emphasis of the creed matches with the gospel proclamation, there is nothing more said beyond a simple affirmation.

One of the many assertions Wright makes for the church is, "For anyone who has grasped the picture of the kingdom so far, each of these elements has a missionary orientation" (270, emphasis in original).  Thus, he advocates that we read the Gospels in a way that affirms the rule of God through Jesus the Messiah in proclamation, but which then also lives out the reign of God's kingdom through the empowering of the Holy Spirit.  A unique instruction to this would be: "Equally, we need to try new ways of praying the gospels" (275).  This only works when we realize that praying is not passive, nor is it a means of escaping the physical work of the kingdom.

In conclusion, "Part of the tragedy of the modern church, I have been arguing, is that the 'orthodox' have preferred creed to kingdom, and the 'unorthodox' have tried to get a kingdom without a creed.  It's time to put back together what should never have been separated" (276).

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