Monday, January 09, 2006

The New N. T. Wright?

It appears that N. T. Wright is closing in on the doctrine of creation in his newly released, Paul: A Fresh Perspective. Although this book is mainly a reworking of previous material, primarily contained in Climax of the Covenant, it is interesting to note Wright's emphasis on the story of creation in Paul. He devotes and entire chapter to "Creation and Covenant" in Paul underscoring the fact that covenant was God's solution to what went wrong with creation and that creation is essential in solving the problem that went wrong with covenant. In typical Wright style, he aptly summarizes sweeping thelogical themes and concepts without much exegesis. However, that work is to be found in Climax.

Returning to
Climax of the Covenant, we observe that the death and resurrection of Christ is, indeed the climax to the covenant with Abraham, Israel and the Church. However, Wright's emphasis on creation in Paul would lend the reader to conclude that the climax is not the resurrection, but the return and consummation of creation- into new creation. Consider the following quote: "...I believe this to be a vital underlying principle in all of Paul's thought- on the belief that the one true God is the creator, the ruler and coming judge of the whole world. Monotheism of the Jewish style, which Paul re-emphasizes as he refashions it, generates just this sense of the underlying narrative, the historical and as yet unfinished story fo creation and covenant, to which the individual stories such as those of Abraham and the Exodus contribute..." p.12 Where the stories of Abraham and the Exodus form part of the metanarrative of Scripture and drive the plot forward to its climax, isn't it creation itself that is central to the covenantal climax in the creation of all things new by the returning, consummating King?


At 5:26 PM , Blogger Josh said...

Sounds like a good read. Climax of the Covenant is on my have to read list. I'm glad he's saying more about the consummation/new creation.

As I was reading your quote, I was reminded of how much we have learned through seminary and how much we're still refining and developing what we've learned. It's been a challenge for me to carefully think through how to teach concepts like Covenant/Sin/Exile/Restoration and Creation/New Creation to a congregation that has never really throught through the Drama of Scripture.

Have you been experiencing this during your interim?

At 9:04 AM , Blogger Jonathan Dodson said...

To a degree, I can resonate with your experience, though I would like to hear more about it. I find it difficult to preach biblical theology. Even books like Clowney and Goldsworthy on preaching BT leave me with unanswered questions. For instance, "How many texts are too many texts when identifing allusions?" How can the themes of BT be progressively introduced without overwhelming the congregation with new categories of thought? When do you say "no" and when do you say "yes" to redemptive-historical context? How far do you extend it?

Through his new Christ plays in 10,000 places Eugene Petersen triggered some thoughts about preaching and teaching through sin/exile/restoration/etc. In order to connect the "exile" motif to 21st C, consider the social, interpersonal, individual struggles faced during exile and connect. For instance, the feeling of abandoment, loss, weariness, exhaustion, etc. These things are rampant in our culture, especially due to our own idolatry, though not Baal or Ashteroth, time, self, money, etc recieve a great deal of homage.


At 12:11 PM , Blogger Josh said...

Your question is right on: "How can the themes of BT be progressively introduced without overwhelming the congregation with new categories of thought?"

For us, the themes of BT are like pictures that tell a whole story, like short hand. "Temple", "Creation/New Creation", "Age of the Spirit", etc. "Inaugurated Eschatology." But for our congregations, these terms probably don't evoke the Drama of Redemption. I think the key is, as you said, to progressively introduce these terms. We didn't learn this stuff overnight, and it has taken time for us to appreciate the "texts behind the text." Furthermore, we're still trying to balance what is really there in the text and how much is in our BT imagination.

One encouraging thought from my little experience. If we have a weekly ministry with the same body, we have that opportunity to progressively introduce these terms. I've been amazed how week in and week out I've been able to help shape our congregations understanding of how corporate worship fits into God's total plan and purpose for his people. Part of that is to teach how what we do on Sunday fits into the entire drama of redemption. One of the next things I hope to teach is how corporate worship is eschatological, imitating the worship of the heavenly assembly.

I've also begun teaching on "Worship in Revelation: faithfulness in the midst of persecution and seduction." This is where it has been most noticeable that I also need to help build some sort of BT foundation.

At 12:24 PM , Blogger Josh said...

Your other thought---"In order to connect the "exile" motif to 21st C, consider the social, interpersonal, individual struggles faced during exile and connect."

This is good to tie how sin is idolatrous and the consequences of that idolatry lead to exile. In Revelation, those who worship the Beast are idolaters, and they experience the judgment of God as ultimate exile. How much do we want to tie in the immediate effects of sin as exile? I'm not sure. Perhaps that what some of the judgements are in the seals, trumpets and bowls (since they occur before the return of Christ).

In the past I might have objected to this because how can unbelievers experience covenantal curses when they are not the covenant people of God? However, in Revelation I believe it is an ironic twist. Gen 1-11 is another good example of where we see all humanity experiencing exile because of the fall. The progression of the sin's destructiveness is evident in all the breakdown of justice, the proliferation of immorality, confusion in the family, the pursuit of self, etc.

I think this application is still in keeping with the flow of BT.

At 1:31 PM , Blogger Jonathan Dodson said...

That's so encouraging to hear of your teaching AND leading the Body in a life of worship. Wish I was sitting through those classes on Revelation.

I agree, we must be guarded against an unhealthy BT imagination, while also discovering the art of shuttling back and forth in redemptive history.


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