Wright on the Resurrection
Trevin Wax: It is becoming increasingly clear in evangelicalism that we have often emphasized the cross as central to the gospel and then treated the resurrection as an afterthought, a vindication of Jesus only. Your massive work on the resurrection has begun to stir up much thought about how we can better integrate the truth of Christ’s bodily resurrection into our theology and into our practice. What is the significance of Christ’s resurrection for us today? I know you’ve got 800 pages right here…
N.T. Wright: Let me put it like this. For many, many Christians, and I’ve heard these sermons down the years, the significance of the resurrection appears to be that there really is a life after death and that if you believe in Jesus you can go there too. Now that is simply not what the Easter narratives are about.
You’ve put it like this. In the New Testament outside the Gospels and the beginning of Acts, again and again, the fact of Jesus’ resurrection is closely linked to our own ultimate resurrection, which isn’t life after death – it’s life after life after death. Whatever life after death is, being with Christ which is far better, being in Paradise like the thief, etc, the many rooms where we go immediately… that is the temporary place. The ultimate life after life after death is the resurrection in God’s new world.
But then, in the Gospels you don’t get that yet. In Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and the beginning of Acts, nobody is saying, “Jesus is raised from the dead! Therefore there is a life after death. Therefore we’re going there.” They say, “Jesus is raised from the dead… Therefore, he really is the Messiah… Therefore, he really is the Lord of the world… Therefore God’s new creation has begun… And therefore, we have a job to do!” It’s what John 20-21 are all about. It’s what Luke 24 is all about. It’s this astonishment. The stuff has happened! And that means, we’ve got to take this message out and make it happen out in the world.
It’s about new creation, in other words. It’s about Jesus’ bodily resurrection as the beginning of the recreation of the cosmos. That is so stunning!
The joke is, this has been in Scripture all these years. Why haven’t we seen it? The answer is, we really thought the only real story was how do you get to heaven?. Because that’s what the Sistine Chapel told us, and that’s what Dante told us, and that’s what even Bunyan (bless him) told us, and so we’ve forced the stories into our story.
Here’s the trick. Often people see doctrines as a checklist. Here are the following nineteen truths which you’ve got to believe to be a good sound Christian. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, and phew! There we are!… without realizing that actually doctrines mean what they mean within a Story, and it’s possible to check all the boxes, but to construct a different narrative which joins them up differently and thereby, even though you are affirming them, you are thereby falsifying what they mean in Scripture. No Christian tradition that I know is exempt from that, including my own.
Continue reading: >> Wright on Evangelism
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