We are continuing to reflect on N. T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God.
The impact of Wright’s teaching on the Churches of Christ and the church in America, regardless of denomination, should be simple and yet profound.
Like many American Protestant denominations, our preaching has been heavily weighted toward soteriology (salvation theology). That is, we preach the Five Steps of Salvation on Sunday night to a crowd all of whom have already been saved.
We are very focused on atonement theology (how salvation happens) and ecclesiology (how to do church, that is, worship and organization).
We have a very weak eschatology (theology of the Second Coming and afterlife) and our ethics (how to live as Christians) are heavily ruled based, with little connection between ethics and salvation or the afterlife. In fact, we sometimes seem to think that doctrinal purity makes up for any shortcoming in how we live. You see, there are just these rules about going to church, giving weekly, and being good moral people without tattoos or mixed bathing (what we called swimming in a pool or the Gulf of Mexico with the opposite sex). Continue reading
Well, my granddaughter is. Not that she can even say “football.” But she’s already learned to dress for the occasion.
And she is quite the trendsetter. No doubt all the coeds will follow suit and wear houndstooth elephant bows to the all the games.
2:30 CDT. Alabama v. West Virginia. Georgia Dome. CBS.
And on the off chance you need a little help getting in the mood —
Perhaps the central teaching of Paul and the Faithfulness of God is that Paul was essentially a Second Temple period Jewish thinker, steeped in the Scriptures, and absolutely persuaded that Jesus is the Messiah promised by the prophets and that the new age promised by the prophets had dawned, although it was still in the process of being fully realized.
Let me explain how I understand it. You see, this seems almost trivial until we run an experiment or two. For example, I asked my Sunday school class what it means for us to confess that “Jesus is the Christ.” They correctly told me that “Christ” means “Messiah.”
When I asked what “Messiah” means, most did not know — and they are nearly all lifelong church attenders and very highly educated people. A few said “Anointed” or “King,” but only a few. Continue reading
I’m continuing to attempt to summarize N. T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God. It’s rather like attempting to summarize the Encyclopedia Britannica — or for my younger readers, the Wikipedia. Wright’s book is truly encyclopedic (or Wikipedic). And so I can only offer samples, not a summary.
In Part IV, Wright builds on the preceding parts to take on several topics. Of the most interest to me, he ties Paul back to Roman history so that he can frame the discussion of how Paul’s theology connects to politics.
To what extent are Christians to stay away from the government (as David Lipscomb urged) and to what extent are we called to shape the government (per Jerry Falwell, for example)? And Wright does the detailed labor to find a path between Lipscomb and Falwell.
Wright notes a tension in Second Temple Jewish thought. Continue reading
Chapters 3-5 of the book are all about the Greco-Roman world in which Paul worked. It’s history — and I love it. I’m a history buff.
The significance for Paul’s writings is not as obvious as the Jewish background covered in chapter 2. Wright will explain the significance of these chapters much later in the book.
This is actually quite a lengthy section, and my only complaint is that Wright waits so long to tie the history to Paul’s theology. On the other hand, it’s incredibly interesting and helpful to understand First Century Rome this well.
In chapters 6, 7, and 8, Wright takes the preceding material and attempts to recreate Paul’s worldview — the understandings and assumptions that were so obvious in Paul’s world that they didn’t need to be stated. Continue reading
It’s been nearly a year and 7 hospitalizations since my copy arrived from Amazon on November 6, 2013, but I finally finished the 1,700-page book.
Having a one-week vacation helped, but what helped more was Amazon’s offer to sell me the electronic copy for Kindle for only $2.99 because I’d already paid full price for the hard copy.
By being able to read it on the Kindle, I could read portions in the car and otherwise not have to drag around a 300-pound volume just in case I had a few moments available to read theology.
Better yet, I’m already finding that I use the electronic version to look up key words and concepts without having to flip back and forth to the index. The book is well indexed, but it’s just so much easier to type “Jeremiah” or “epistemology” into the search engine than to flip between the pages in the two volumes and the index. Continue reading
This video is from a Q&A session at Oklahoma Christian University, which is affiliated with the Churches of Christ and historically has been fairly conservative. It’s truly fascinating viewing.
Among other topics, Wright discusses predestination, the organic church vs. the institutional church, justification by faith, social justice and politics, women in ministry, the “new creation,” the distinctiveness of Christian love, the Lord’s Prayer, the prosperity gospel, and non-Western versions of Christianity.
So this is the last class for the quarter, but less than half the classes have been recorded. I got a late start and I’ve had substitutes teaching while I’ve been on vacation or in the hospital.
But I start over in two weeks, teaching apologetics to the college class, and so we the audio lessons will continue for a while.
Here’s today’s class:
You can stream from the lesson from the above link or download it here.
Here are written materials that go with the class:
Living in a story bigger than justification by faith, by Mark Love
Apologetics: The Prophecies, by Jay Guin
Even if you don’t listen to the lesson and even if you’ve already read my post on messianic prophecies, you should read the Mark Love blog. It’s a good one.