Book Review: “The Day The Revolution Began” by N.T. Wright

day-revolution-began

One of the big problems with contemporary evangelical theology, according to N.T. Wright, is that we often have part of the answer but it leads to the wrong conclusions. For example, the theology of the cross comes down to “Jesus died so you could be forgiven and go to heaven.”. As Wright points out that is not what the New Testament teaches, or at least it is not all that the New Testament teaches.

So Wright goes back to Adam and Eve, right through the Old Testament and comes to the conclusion that the main sin that people have to face is idolatry. The people of God were constantly faced with the challenge of staying faithful to the one true God, Yahweh or worshipping the false gods of the nations around.

The problem with idolatry is that it undermines our calling or vocation as human beings. We were created in God’s image so how can we worship another image without damaging ourselves? For Israel, God’s covenant people, to worship other gods meant separation from God and the Land He had given them to live out their calling.

When Jesus comes on the scene, Israel has spent much of its existence either in exile or in subjection to other nations. The prophets knew that the solution they needed was national as well as individual salvation.

The cross then is not about a human sacrifice to appease an angry deity, which is what many christians think of. It is more like the one true representative of humanity (“the Son of Man” as Jesus frequently called Himself) dying for the world. He speaks of the sins of the nation, especially its idolatries, being heaped up and falling on Jesus.

A revolution of love, self-denying and sacrificial love, brings a new rule in the world- the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom, launched by Jesus’ death on the cross, sets us free to see and experience the true God and to follow in His ways.

The death of Jesus on the Cross at 6 pm on Good Friday is the start of the revolution. His resurrection before dawn on Sunday is the first sign that God’s kingdom of life, love and forgiveness is here.

Wright says that the gospel is bigger than “we get to go to heaven” (which is a pagan Platonist ideal). The true gospel message is that the Kingdom is here and God is overturning everything that is based on human idolatry, including relationships, politics, oppression and self-worship. Yes we get to live for ever in the new heavens and the new earth, but the Kingdom is more than that.

It’s hard to justice to a book of this size and scope in a few hundred words, but it is well worth reading. Wright covers deep topics in a way that many people find is easy to read. I think most people would want to read a few pages and mull it over for a few days.

I’ve always felt that the typical atonement theory whereby Jesus takes the punishment for our sins and as a result we go to heaven has a few gaps in it. This book goes a long way to filling the gaps.

 

 

 

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Oswald Chambers: “It Is Finished”

“It is Finished!”

The death of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment in history of the very mind and intent of God. There is no place for seeing Jesus Christ as a martyr. His death was not something that happened to Him— something that might have been prevented. His death was the very reason He came.

Never build your case for forgiveness on the idea that God is our Father and He will forgive us because He loves us. That contradicts the revealed truth of God in Jesus Christ. It makes the Cross unnecessary, and the redemption “much ado about nothing.” God forgives sin only because of the death of Christ. God could forgive people in no other way than by the death of His Son, and Jesus is exalted as Savior because of His death. “We see Jesus…for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor…” (Hebrews 2:9). The greatest note of triumph ever sounded in the ears of a startled universe was that sounded on the Cross of Christ— “It is finished!” (John 19:30). That is the final word in the redemption of humankind.

Anything that lessens or completely obliterates the holiness of God, through a false view of His love, contradicts the truth of God as revealed by Jesus Christ. Never allow yourself to believe that Jesus Christ stands with us, and against God, out of pity and compassion, or that He became a curse for us out of sympathy for us. Jesus Christ became a curse for us by divine decree. Our part in realizing the tremendous meaning of His curse is the conviction of sin. Conviction is given to us as a gift of shame and repentance; it is the great mercy of God. Jesus Christ hates the sin in people, and Calvary is the measure of His hatred.

Read the full article here

“Celebrating” an Execution (by Jeff Cook)

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 8.14.24 PMA good reminder of 1st Century realities.

Jeff Cook lectures on philosophy at the University of Northern Colorado. His thoughts on the cross can be found here: Everything New (Subversive 2012). You can connect with himatwww.everythingnew.org and @jeffvcook

Celebrating an Execution

This week Christians all over the world will celebrate an execution.

In the sixth century BC, the Assyrians developed a new way to kill people. Early cultures the world over punished murderers and other scoundrels by hanging them from a cursed tree, but the Assyrians realized when they crucified someone, they commanded respect. The sight of a crucifixion inflicted a horror which the Assyrians found more valuable than simply executing a criminal. Crosses were able to mutilate and dishonor so severely that everyone noticed, everyone was shocked, everyone adapted, everyone was transformed by the power of the cross.

Crosses were the nuclear weapon of the ancient world.

Empires were first created and maintained because of the fear of crucifixion. Because of its power, Alexander the Great adopted crucifixion and brought it to the Mediterranean in the 4th century BC. The Phoenicians introduced it to Rome, and Rome became an empire in part because it perfected the art of crucifying people. Quintilian, an adviser to the emperor, described his own philosophy of crucifixion, “Whenever we crucify the guilty, the crowded roads are chosen, where most people can see and be moved by this fear. For penalties relate not so much to retribution as to their exemplary effect.”

If you lived in the ancient world, it’s likely you would have seen scores of people executed on a cross. If someone in your town was crucified, you would have heard them die, seen their agony, and watched their bodies decompose on your way to do business. On a crucifix, the executed often hung for days until their organs failed and their bodies succumbed to shock. In order to maximize its gory effect, victims would often be severely beaten before being tied, or even nailed to a crossbeam. After a victim died, the corpse was left to bake under the sun, and after a few weeks the mangled body of a man, woman or child would simply rot and fall off their cross. Victims often wore signs around their necks displaying the reason for their death, making it clear to all not only what activities ought to be avoided, but also who was in charge—because crucifixion was not about killing someone. Killing a person is easy.

Crosses were billboards. Crosses unveiled who was king.

Looking back on history one truth is certain. In the ancient world, crosses communicated to everyone that the violent, the brutally ambitious, and the merciless reigned over the earth. Crosses were not just the way people died. Crosses were instruments of slavery. Crosses announced the rule of death, evil, dysfunction and despair.

But this is no longer the case.

The world itself has miraculously changed for the cross is no longer an icon of death but a symbol of lasting life. The cross is no longer the tool of a dysfunctional world but a sign that this world is being remade. The cross is no longer a picture of oppression or despair; the cross no longer screams out that God is absent or that death is the future of all.

Because of Jesus, the cross has a different message.

Christians celebrate the death of Jesus this week because his cross announces that all that was once sick can be restored, that evil will not have the last word, that God has not abandoned us like so much trash but has approached us in a fundamentally new way. In the pantheon of potential deities Jesus is unique and worthy of celebration, for he alone took what was most foul and disgusting in the whole history of the world—the crucified man—and through the cross announced his ability and intention to making everything new. 

Full article here