Today I want to revisit N.T. Wright’s four questions that serve as boundary markers for the Christian worldview. Here’s what I wrote in my last post Who and Where We Are:
In Wright’s New Testament and the People of God, Tom (that’s what his friends call him and we are friends–well, I’m one of his 5,000 or so Facebook friends.) presents a series of questions that are intended to to showcase the dramatically different worldview of Christians in the first century from the pagan world of the Roman empire and traditional world of Judaism. These questions are quite similar to Ravi Zacharias’ four questions (origin, meaning, morality, and destiny). Wright’s questions are 1) Who are we? 2) Where are we? 3) What is wrong? and 4) What is the solution?
The questions of who and where we are are questions about origin and meaning. The early church, according to Wright, saw themselves as a continuation of Israel but a reconstituted Israel marked off by their allegiance to Jesus Christ. As such traditional boundaries of Jew/Greek, Slave/Free, Male/Female were transcended. They also saw themselves as living in a world that was created by God. And as such, there is a created order to conform to. Furthermore, Christians make the audacious claim that Jesus is now king over all the earth and that part of the mission of Christians is to remind the power structures of this world that their time is up.
This leads us to the next of Wright’s worldview questions: What is wrong?
The powers of paganism still rule the world, and from time to time even find their way into the church. Persecutions arise from outside, heresies and schisms from within. These evils can sometimes be attributed to supernatural agency, whether “Satan” or various demons. Even within the individual Christian there remain forces at work that need to be subdued, lusts which need to be put to death, party-spirit which needs to learn humility.
What makes the “Where are we?” so audacious is because it seems so obvious that Jesus cannot be king of the world. In fact, many Jews still look with consternation when Christians claim Jesus is messiah. Failed messiahs die on crosses. To say Jesus is the messiah and that the kingdom of God has come would be tantamount to your mechanic claiming he has fixed your tire by removing your tire and then setting your car on fire. It seems both obviously not true and not likely to ever be given what happened to the tire. And yet, that is exactly what Christians were claiming. Jesus was victorious and the world powers were living on borrowed time. So what is the solution to this fractured world whose landlords will be evicted money, sex, and power?
What is the solution: Israel’s hope has been realized; the true god has acted decisively to defeat the pagan gods, and to create a new people, through he is to rescue the world from evil. This he has done through the true King, Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, in particular through his death and resurrection. The process of implementing this victory, by means of the same god continuing to act through his own spirit in his people, is not yet complete. One day the King will return to judge the world, and to set up a kingdom which is on a different level to the kingdoms of the present world order. When this happens those who have died as Christians will be raised to a new physical life. The present powers will be forced to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, and justice and peace will triumph at last.
There are a few things to note here. First, there is our mission. For God’s own glory we a new created people who’s job it is to rescue the world from evil. We the body and bride of Christ are part of this wonderful crazy plan. Everything we do in his name is a little glimpse of the final created order. Second, there is future kingdom. This age has an expiration date and heaven is coming to earth. This means that the caricatures of heaven with God where we sit on clouds or even live in some version of Jack and the Beanstalk’s cloud castle is simply false and a gross misappropriation of what God really has planned. The dead shall actually, truly rise and the powers of this world will be judged and found wanting. Every thing that has breath will acknowledge Jesus is king. Justice and peace will come not by war but by sacrifice.
As always I invite you to share your thoughts.