Sunday, May 22, 2011

A good taste of Wright's writing

The Challenge of Easter by N. T. Wright

This book is excerpted from Wright's
The Challenge of Jesus. I read it during Easter week, and found it quite thought-provoking. It is, in fact, a very good introduction to Wright's writing.

Firstly, Wright's theme of the Kingdom of God comes out in this book. Wright sees New Testament Christianity as being "Jewish no-king-but God theology - with Jesus in the middle" (p. 12). He emphasises how the Jewish concept of the Kingdom of God concerned public events ("The end of Israel's exile, the overthrow of the pagan empire and the exaltation of Israel, and the return of YHWH to Zion to judge and save") and is thus much more than a new spiritual experience or sense of forgiveness.

Secondly, we see here Wright as an apologist for the physical resurrection of Jesus. He takes issue with Barbara Thiering (who says that Jesus was crucified, but did not die on the cross, p. 8) and Dominic Crossan (who does not believe that Jesus was buried, p. 22). This sort of defence is greatly expanded in Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God.

Thirdly, Wright draws some fascinating parallels between the gospel accounts and the creation narratives in Genesis. He notes that Jesus was crucified on the sixth day of the week, which corresponds to God's completion of creation (p. 33) and he was rose on the first day of the week, which inaugurates a new creation. He then says, "Mary goes to the tomb while it's still dark and in the morning light she meets Jesus in the garden. She thinks he is the gardener, and in one important sense he indeed is" (p. 34.)

Fourthly, this book contains an example of all that for which Wright gets criticised - puzzling statements of dubious orthodoxy. He says on p. 59 that
Jesus did not know he was God, if by "know" we meant what the Enlightenment meant. Now, this statement is incomprehensible to me, but whatever Wright means by this, it would seem that a lot of people will be left confused as to what he is saying.

So perhaps this book has the best and worst of Wright. But like C. S. Lewis, I often find doctrinal books more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and this was a useful book to read in Eastertide.

John Dekker

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