Since ‘we’ do not have a blog publishing clearinghouse per se, I thought you might be interested in something I came across.

It appears that The White Horse Inn blog section will be posting Mike Horton’s unpublished reviews on NT Wright’s latest book Justification. I don’t know if ‘Wright Wednesdays’ is the title of the full series or just of today’s post.

I like The White Horse Inn and listen when I can via podcast, although, to be sure, I think the esteemed fellows of the establishment are off the mark at times. Still it makes for good, thought provoking provocation. Here’s an excerpt from Horton’s first post:

So along came Tom Wright, saying that the gospel is the Jesus Christ is Lord, proved and in fact achieved by his resurrection from the dead, as the first-fruits of the age to come right in the middle of our history.  While the Greeks (and many other religions) treat salvation as the escape of the soul from its prison-house of flesh, the world, and history, biblical faith anticipates the resurrection of the body and life everlasting in a new heavens and earth.  Much of this has been put together for a wider audience in his book, Surprised by Hope (2007). Amazingly, the secular media treated this book as a radical departure: the sort of thing one expects from an English bishop.

Part of this reaction is no doubt due a shallow form of popular Christianity that is insufficiently grounded in its own biblical story.  Part of it can be explained also by the enthusiasm with which Bishop Wright presents his views, sometimes conveying the impression that he is introducing a completely new understanding of the Christian faith.

Justification is no different.  After writing several scholarly monographs on the subject (as well as a couple of brief popular treatments), the latest was provoked by the critique, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright (2007), written by John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis.  I won’t be interacting with the specific charges and counter-charges between these esteemed pastors, but will focus on Wright’s book.  In many respects, this is the best of Wright’s treatments of this subject.  Besides its accessibility to a wide audience, its polemic is sharp and to-the-point, clustering his arguments into a narrative of Paul’s gospel as the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham in Genesis 15 with sweeping exegetical vistas.

We have discussed Wright’s book a week bit here at CRN.info, and we have beaten to death the subject of justification. I’m posting this to give you access to another point of view that you may or may not agree with. Horton is a respected scholar and a bit of a firebrand at times, but I’m persuaded that he loves the Lord Jesus and serves him well.

I’m still awaiting my copy of Wright’s book to come in the mail so I haven’t read it yet, but I will look forward to reading Horton’s reviews. Be well and live blessed in order to bless.

ps–I’m sorry for the formatting issue. I just cannot seem to get pictures correct here. :-)

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 19th, 2009 at 1:41 pm and is filed under Blogging, Theology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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40 Comments(+Add)

1   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
August 19th, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Jerry,
I was actually going to post my review of this book here today or tomorrow. Overall, I think it’s one my favorite of Wright’s works. I actually found it one of the easiest of his books to read, perhaps because he had such a tight focus. I won’t go into a lot more detail in the comments here, though.

I will say, though, I find this statement quite odd:

Part of it can be explained also by the enthusiasm with which Bishop Wright presents his views, sometimes conveying the impression that he is introducing a completely new understanding of the Christian faith.

I’ve read all three volume of Wright’s big NTTPG books plus a lot of his more mainstream books, and I’ve never gotten the idea that he thinks he’s introducing a “completely new understanding of the Christian faith”. If anything, I think it’s quite the opposite. He is constantly trying to keep the Christian faith rooted in the Biblical narrative and the God’s covenant faithfulness. I can’t tell you many times I’ve read his commentary on a particular passage, and it was like a light went off. Stuff I’ve heard literally all my life made sense in a way it never had before.

So perhaps its not that he is presenting something new. Perhaps we were the ones who started believing something new and need to be reminded of the original story.

2   Neil    
August 19th, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Surprised by Hope was my first read of Wright… it was thought transforming.

3   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
August 19th, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Phil,

That’s how I feel too. In fact, Wright seems to go out of his way to make the point that he is more closely tied to historical christianity than others! He has refreshed me over and over again. I’ll look forward to your review.

Neil,

I agree. That book was phenomenal. The idea of new heavens and new earth in Scripture makes no sense whatsoever if the only goal is destruction and not recreation.

jerry

4   Neil    
August 20th, 2009 at 11:19 am

The idea of new heavens and new earth in Scripture makes no sense whatsoever if the only goal is destruction and not recreation.

As well as how many times I (used) to refer to spending eternity in heaven… funny how many times I here people say that.

As often as I can I challenge the thinking.

5   John Hughes    
August 20th, 2009 at 12:27 pm

The idea of new heavens and new earth in Scripture makes no sense whatsoever if the only goal is destruction and not recreation

.

Jerry,

Could you elaborate on that? What is your view on this issue?

6   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
August 20th, 2009 at 1:08 pm

John,

I think it would take a little more space than a blog post reply to lay it out. After all, NT Wright has written several books about the idea.

In short, though, I think the idea in Scripture is that the heavens and the earth are going to be made new (Isaiah, Revelation, Peter). If the goal is only destruction, and not recreation (making all things new Scripture says), then there’s not much point in Scripture saying there will be a ‘new heavens and new earth.’

And if God is going to make a ‘new heavens and new earth’ then it seems highly unlikely that our eternal destination is some cloudy place where we play harps and wear the clothes of angels. Heaven, we are told in Scripture, is God’s dwelling place. But to the point: Heaven is not some place ‘way out there.’ Heaven is the invisible place we cannot see now. Someday, in some way, these two will be joined together and we shall, with open eyes, see. As Job said, “My own eyes shall behold Him.”

Or as John said, “We will be like Him for we shall see him as he is.”

Well, I’m getting ahead of myself, but as far as I understand it from Scripture, that’s the gist.

jerry

7   Nathanael    http://www.borrowedbreath.com/
August 20th, 2009 at 1:10 pm

I’m all about the new heavens and the new earth that Wright speaks of in “Surprised by Hope.”
And I’m a huge fan of Rob Bell’s preaching.

But I have to do something with II Peter 3.
I’ve heard the argument that the “elements” that will be consumed are the old ways of the law etc.
But in the context of the whole chapter, it appears that Peter is saying that the heavens and this literal earth will be destroyed and a new heavens and a new earth will be established.

What do defenders of Christ coming back to this earth to establish the new heavens and new earth do with the whole chapter?

8   Neil    
August 20th, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Nathanael,

Wright sees 2 Peter as consistent with the “new heavens, new earth” as promised by Isaiah. He writes:

“This coheres both with the close of Revelation and also with Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 15, which envision a world finally set free from corruption and decay and renewed by divine power.” (The Resurrection of the Son of God – pg 462).

In commenting on v. 10 in particular he writes:

Is the writer saying that creation as a whole is to be thrown away and a new one, freshly made, to take its place? So it would seem if the verse were to end ‘will be burned up’, as in the AV and RSV…. The translation ‘will be burned up’ depends in fact on the variant reading of a few manuscripts. Most of the best witnesses have heurethestai, ‘will be found.’” (TRSG, pg 463).

9   Neil    
August 20th, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Another thing that I like about what Wright does… he developes his argument regarding God making all things new, restoring Eden if you will, yet he does not go so far as to say all people will be saved.

He is not a universalist, Christian or classical.

10   Neil    
August 20th, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Part of why Surprised by Hope struck such a chord with me was because I had already come to realize dualistic much of American Evangelicalism had become.

I had beome aware of how Greek our thinking has become… that flesh and physical and material were all “evil” and spirit was good.

This is a false and unbiblical dualism.

But, seeing our eternal destiny as being disembodied spirit in some spirutal heaven plays right into this dualism

As well as 20th Century premillennialism – to boot!

11   Nathanael    http://www.borrowedbreath.com/
August 20th, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Neil,
I’m on board with heaven not being our eternal home.

Shalom

12   Nathanael    http://www.borrowedbreath.com/
August 20th, 2009 at 2:17 pm

I guess I’ll just need to study it a bit more.

13   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
August 20th, 2009 at 2:55 pm

What do defenders of Christ coming back to this earth to establish the new heavens and new earth do with the whole chapter?

I am not sure where you see a conflict.

As I understand it, before Jesus returns, all hell will break loose. Not only will natural disasters occur dramatically, but the state of mankind will be on edge – famine, disease, war. This is literally the unraveling of the world as we know it.

The kingdom of God will be physically established upon this earth – lots of scripture to support that.

Is 11: They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.

Is 35 is also a beautiful illustration of the restoration of the earth because of the return of the Prince of Peace. When Christ returns, the curse that ravages this earth, will be lifted.

14   Nathanael    http://www.borrowedbreath.com/
August 20th, 2009 at 3:27 pm

I am not sure where you see a conflict.

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I understand some to be saying this earth will not be consumed, burned up, laid bare, whatever word you want to use from II Peter 3.10.
And my question is that the whole chapter in context seems to indicate it will.

15   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
August 20th, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I understand some to be saying this earth will not be consumed, burned up, laid bare, whatever word you want to use from II Peter 3.10.
And my question is that the whole chapter in context seems to indicate it will.

I think that indicates that there will be some sort of purging/purification, but the goal of purifying something isn’t to destroy it. The earth won’t be destroyed, it will be “set to right”, to quote Wright.

I think what we’re reacting against is the idea that we will somehow be swept away while the earth is completely and utterly destroyed. Nothing in Scripture indicates it will be completely annihilated.

16   Neil    
August 20th, 2009 at 4:03 pm

It’s not that the earth will not be judged – maybe even by fire… it’s that it will not be destroyed as in “cease to exist.” I believe this is the assumption of a lot of those who expect eternity to be non-material… and the subject of a lot of Christian art, music, etc… as well as the dualism that says the material, the physical, the earthly – is evil.

Within the chapter Peter offers the world being destroyed by the flood as a comparison. So I think it is safe to assume that his other references are similar.

17   Neil    
August 20th, 2009 at 4:08 pm

I mentioned premillennialism – which I think also tends toward a false dualism. Not always, but the system lends itself to seeing everything here and now as evil and everything in the sweet by and by as pure… from there it is a small step to physical/material = evil and spiritual/immaterial = good.

18   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
August 20th, 2009 at 4:32 pm

So it appears that most here believe that the physical kingdom of God will be established upon this earth, instead of “heaven”. That aligns with the hope of both those in the OT and NT.

#17: not certain how you get this… seems like an odd comment. I guess if you take the Left Behind/Rapture approach I can see where you’re going. Is that the case?

As Phil said, the earth will be purged/purified at the return of Christ. A new age will dawn – this age will be pass away completely. But the earth will still continue, just without the curse under which we live now. That is because of the glory of Jesus Christ.

19   Neil    
August 20th, 2009 at 4:41 pm

My point was that premillennialism has led many to a false dualism between the spiritual and the physical. That most of these were/are also dispensational is true as well.

20   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
August 20th, 2009 at 4:48 pm

So it appears that most here believe that the physical kingdom of God will be established upon this earth, instead of “heaven”. That aligns with the hope of both those in the OT and NT.

My only quibble with this is that we can’t negate the fact that the Kingdom of God is here already in some sense. Yes, it will be fully here at the eschaton, but it’s been breaking into the earth since Jesus first came.

21   Paul C    http://www.themidnightcry.com
August 20th, 2009 at 4:56 pm

That’s why I mention “physical” – in the sense that our Lord will physically be on the earth, reigning from Jerusalem. So yes, I agree that in a spiritual sense the kingdom is spreading, but we are awaiting the establishment, which is our hope. This is what the disciples were looking forward to (Acts 1) and when those in Hebrews 11 will be rewarded for their faithfulness.

The best analogy, to me, is like the parable of the talents (Matt 25 or in Luke) where the Master goes away for a long time but tells his servants to “occupy until I return”.

22   Jerry    http://www.dangoldfinch.wordpress.com
August 20th, 2009 at 10:20 pm

#18–How do you get ‘most here’?

I really don’t like when you make such broad generalizations. ‘Most here’?

What does that mean?

23   John Hughes    
August 21st, 2009 at 8:27 am

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.

The Biblical emphasis on the “re-”creation is on **new**. Also note there will no longer be any sea (and in context this can hardly be construed as a multitude of peoples). So what ever the new earth is it will be radically different from the one we know today.

I think the Biblical reference is also clear that our final abode will be the New Jersualem and since they Holy Spirit took the time to have an angel take and provide us its measurements I tend to take that passage literally and it seems the city will be a 1,500 mile tall cube. That would hold a lot of mansions.

24   chris    
August 21st, 2009 at 8:34 am

Oh how I love a good eschatology debate. Hold on; don’t make another comment I want to go get some popcorn. :)

25   Nathanael    http://www.borrowedbreath.com/
August 21st, 2009 at 8:35 am

I forget who it was here who wrote a few months back of a speaker who answered a question about the details of the second coming of our Lord. He replied with something along the lines of, “I am not on the planning committee, but I am on the welcoming committee.”

That’s a great position.
Our Lord promised He would return.
I’m looking and waiting for Him.
The details, though worthy of study and consideration, are not crystal clear in the scriptures. So they ought not divide.

26   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
August 21st, 2009 at 8:55 am

The Biblical emphasis on the “re-”creation is on **new**. Also note there will no longer be any sea (and in context this can hardly be construed as a multitude of peoples). So what ever the new earth is it will be radically different from the one we know today.

I don’t really have the time nor energy to get into a long debate, but I think a good way to look at the renewed creation is in parallel to how Christ renews us when we enter into a relationship with him.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17
16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

God didn’t destroy us and then make new versions of us – He renewed us. It’s the same language that’s used in Revelation describing what will happen to the heavens and earth. They won’t be destroyed and than be made again. They will be renewed.

27   John Hughes    
August 21st, 2009 at 9:21 am

but I think a good way to look at the renewed creation is in parallel to how Christ renews us when we enter into a relationship with him.

Phil, you are only considering our renewed spirit in this example which is on this side of eternity. Our bodies will also be changed (future event).

I Cor 15:50-53 – Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.

Paul uses an analogy of a seed. If you look at an acorn vs a 100 year old live oak I think we can get just a glimpse of what the quantum change will be from our present bodies to our immortal spiritual bodies.

28   John Hughes    
August 21st, 2009 at 9:23 am

It will be quite beyond our imagination.

29   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
August 21st, 2009 at 9:30 am
I Cor 15:50-53 – Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.

Paul uses an analogy of a seed. If you look at an acorn vs a 100 year old live oak I think we can get just a glimpse of what the quantum change will be from our present bodies to our immortal spiritual bodies.

Actually, if we look at the resurrected Christ as the example (He is the firstfruit of the resurrection, after all), I think it’s pretty safe to assume that our glorified physical bodies will have a lot in common with our present physical bodies – it seems we will have recognizable physical traits, we will eat, etc.

The thing to realize about Paul’s discourse in 1 Corinthians 15 and 16 about the resurrection is that when he talks about flesh and spirit, he is not talking about what the bodies are made of. To a Greek reader, saying a body was made out of spirit would be nonsensical – a bit like telling us something was made out of wind. Flesh and spirit refer to the motivating force or power behind them. In fact the word for “spirit” he uses is used in other writings to describe wind-driven boats. It’s like if we say the word “windmill” we’re not saying that the mill is made of wind – it’s driven by wind.

I agree with Neil on this. I do think that taking a view that there is a drastic separation between flesh and spirit can lead to a dualism that’s foreign to Scripture.

30   Neil    
August 21st, 2009 at 9:42 am

“I am not on the planning committee, but I am on the welcoming committee.”

That’s brilliant – I may just use it some time…

31   Neil    
August 21st, 2009 at 9:45 am

I don’t really have the time nor energy to get into a long debate, but I think a good way to look at the renewed creation is in parallel to how Christ renews us when we enter into a relationship with him.

This too is a major theme of Wright’s… or better, Wright sees this as a major theme of the Scriptures.

Wright also sees the parallel between Christ’s pre-resurrection body and his resurrected body. The latter is significantly different, yet still physical, still recognizable… continuity and discontinuity.

32   Neil    
August 21st, 2009 at 9:46 am

OK – posted 31 before reading 29…

33   John Hughes    
August 21st, 2009 at 10:04 am

I agree that our bodies will be recognizable and maintain some of the characteristics of our present bodies. But I can’t teleport or walk through walls yet. (Although I was able to astral project once using Foster’s centering down techniques ;-) )

34   John Hughes    
August 21st, 2009 at 10:05 am

Again, I think we have but a tiny, tiny clue of what it’s going to be like.

35   John Hughes    
August 21st, 2009 at 10:09 am

I agree with Neil on this. I do think that taking a view that there is a drastic separation between flesh and spirit can lead to a dualism that’s foreign to Scripture.

I agree also. But flesh and blood cannot inherit the kindgom of God. Flesh and blood is a clearly understandable concept. A spiritual body is a totally new concept. I don’t know what that will actually entail but it is something new and different. Who cares what Greeks might have thought. Paul is introducing something new, a revelation not constrained or necessarily limited by current theories or understanding of the time.

36   John Hughes    
August 21st, 2009 at 10:10 am

Wright also sees the parallel between Christ’s pre-resurrection body and his resurrected body. The latter is significantly different, yet still physical, still recognizable… continuity and discontinuity.

Neil, as is my understanding too.

37   Neil    
August 21st, 2009 at 10:11 am

RE 33: And therein lies the continuity and discontinuity spectrum. What we can say is that we will not spend eternity in heaven as disembodied spirits.

Re Foster and astral projection – unfortunately I have actually had some argue with me that this is exactly what he was teaching… :roll eyes

38   Phil Miller    http://pmwords.blogspot.com
August 21st, 2009 at 10:17 am

I agree also. But flesh and blood cannot inherit the kindgom of God. Flesh and blood is a clearly understandable concept. A spiritual body is a totally new concept. I don’t know what that will actually entail but it is something new and different. Who cares what Greeks might have thought. Paul is introducing something new, a revelation not constrained or necessarily limited by current theories or understanding of the time.

It matters what Greeks thought because that’s the language Paul was writing in, and that’s what’s influencing his thought patterns. Sure he was discussing something new. Oddly enough, it was the Greeks who envisioned the afterlife as a disembodied existence of some sort, so the “new idea” was that we would spend eternity in a body.

Saying “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdon of God” isn’t saying anything about the actual matter or types of atoms in the Kingdom. It’s talking about how people get into the Kingdom – it’s not through human wisdom or understand (flesh and blood being the motivating force) it’s through the Holy Spirit.

I know this may sound like a hair-splitting semantics debate, but I do think it does have important implications. The physical world matters. God created it for a reason, and it isn’t ontologically evil.

39   John Hughes    
August 21st, 2009 at 11:43 am

will not spend eternity in heaven as disembodied spirits.

Agreed. Totally.

40   John Hughes    
August 21st, 2009 at 11:53 am

The physical world matters. God created it for a reason, and it isn’t ontologically evil

.

Agreed. Who here is arguing that it is?

The earth is a beautiful place and the Garden of Eden of course even more so. But I would assume that Heaven and the New Jerusalem exist in another dimension which different laws and a different, if recognizable, reality. Not that we have a choice but I will hope for a new heaven and new earth and the wonders it must contain vs. a restored earth as we currently know it.

At any rate that is all just a by-product of being where Jesus is so who cares really. I don’t think we’ll even be looking around at the scenery, at least for a few millenia anyway.

:-)