Wright on Pomo

My good friend Jae at his fairly defunct and sad looking blog (heh) has pointed to a brief interview of N.T. Wright on presenting the gospel in a postmodern world that I found to be pretty interesting. Tom is one of my favorite theologians (which seems kinda silly to say), while I don’t agree with everything he says, I think he has a great perspective on things and really knows his stuff.

The interview largely focused on Wright’s Simply Christian and the issue of sharing the Gospel in a postmodern society. One thing that I wrestle with are “secondary” issues in the Bible that, at least to me, have always taken a second place to the “primary” issues of salvation and faith in Christ. While I still feel that is essentially true, Write suggests that they aren’t as secondary as we (himself included) have thought. And not that the “primary” issues trade place with the secondary ones, but that they are inextricably linked. He comments:

There’s an old evangelical saying, “If he’s not Lord of all, he’s not Lord at all.” That was always applied personally and pietistically. I want to say exactly the same thing but apply it to the world. We’re talking about Jesus as the Lord of the worldďż˝not the Lord of people’s private spiritual interiority only, but of what they do with their money, with their homes, with the wealth of nations, and with the planet.

That is definitely something to think about!

One of the other issue he covers is the resurgence and popularity of Gnosticism. Wright does a good job of calling it what it is:

The Gnostic conspiracy theory says that orthodoxy hushed up the really exciting thing and promoted this boring sterile thing with Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And of course there’s a great lie underneath that. In the second and third centuries, the people being thrown to the lions and burned at the stake and sawed in two were not the ones reading Thomas and Judas and the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary. They were the ones reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Because the empire is perfectly happy with Gnosticism. Gnosticism poses no threat to the empire. Whereas Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John do. It’s the church’s shame that in the last 200 years, the church has muzzled Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and turned them into instruments of a controlling, sterile orthodoxy. But the texts themselves are explosive.

No wonder it is popular today. The Gnostics will let you believe whatever you want!

The heart of both issues needs to have some sort of effect on mission and how the Gospel is shared. The postmodern situation is a new one. Does the church have to change? Well yes and no. I don’t think expository preaching should change just because not everyone is in a modernist mindset. But the Church needs to be acutely aware of the context in which we all are in. Wright goes on to say:

the great emphasis in the New Testament is that the gospel is not how to escape the world; the gospel is that the crucified and risen Jesus is the Lord of the world. And that his death and Resurrection transform the world, and that transformation can happen to you. You, in turn, can be part of the transforming work. That draws together what we traditionally called evangelism, bringing people to the point where they come to know God in Christ for themselves, with working for God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. That has always been at the heart of the Lord’s Prayer, and how we’ve managed for years to say the Lord’s Prayer without realizing that Jesus really meant it is very curious. Our Western culture since the 18th century has made a virtue of separating out religion from real life, or faith from politics.When I lecture about this, people will pop up and say, “Surely Jesus said my kingdom is not of this world.” And the answer is no, what Jesus said in John 18 is, “My kingdom is not from this world.” That’s ek tou kosmoutoutou [?? ??? ?????? ??????]. It’s quite clear in the text that Jesus’ kingdom doesn’t start with this world. It isn’t a worldly kingdom, but it is for this world. It’s from somewhere else, but it’s for this world.

This is one of the things that I have been learning and struggling with over the last few years. We love to quote “we are in the world but not of it.” Yes, that is true and all, but so what? We are still in it! We cannot distance ourselves from that which we cannot (and should not) escape. The church, therefore, should act as if this matters. Yes, salvation and personal piety are important, but the outcropping of that should be the care for all these other issues that pomos take interest in (their critique of the church points out, often justly so, that issues like social justice and the like are not something the church cares about). I don’t think the modern church will die or needs to completely revamp. But it needs to be aware of other important things that, it would seem, Jesus actually does care about!

Write has a lot of other good things to say in the interview too, I also liked his comments on narrative and story that I think a lot of Christians either forget or neglect to think about. So go read it (it is a pretty quick read… unlike his New Testament and the People of God! heh).

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  1. February 1st, 2007 at 18:26 | #1

    I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks so I thought I’d comment to let you know I enjoy it.

    I adore N.T. Wright.

    And Space Saturday is always something I look forward to. You should look up the Witch’s Broom Nebula. It is amazing.

  2. February 1st, 2007 at 21:36 | #2

    Well hi Jennifer, I am glad you have enjoyed reading, I appreciate that! Welcome!

    N.T.Wright is such an interesting guy, he is so incredibly prolific and can write to the intensely academic and to the “laity” and is extremely readable. Gotta love that. I will keep the Witch’s Broom Nebula in mind for this week. :)

    Space Saturday is one of my favorites as well. :)

  1. February 1st, 2007 at 04:20 | #1
  2. March 5th, 2010 at 21:39 | #2