Tag Archives: N.T. Wright

N.T. Wright: The Gospels Have Been Taken Too Lightly

Taken from The Christian Post. Valuable.

By Chris Strong | CP Guest Contributor

N.T. Wright stormed the gates of Calvin College in Michigan to deliver the message that the Gospels have been taken too lightly.

The renowned theologian was the final speaker of Calvin College’s annual January Series on Tuesday, and drew an overflowing crowd of 1,400 people.

“The upshot of the talk was to say that for too long Jesus’ life has been skipped. In terms of faith, we treat the Gospel stories too lightly,” Scott Hoezee, the director of the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin College, told The Christian Post on Wednesday. “We cannot understand the Gospels overall arch and its details unless we understand that it’s a continuation of Israel’s story.”

Most of Wright’s talk was about his upcoming book, How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels. Western Christianity has squeezed between faith based on incarnation and the cross. Wright argues that the current understanding of Jesus is connected with what we, as individuals, know to be true about him.

“He conveyed a clear message and was very thorough and to the point,” Hoezee said, “Basically the Gospels work like a quadraphonic system where each speaker would play a different musical instrument, all turned up to hear the full volume of the Gospels.”

Wright compares the Gospels to that of listening to a symphony – no one Gospel can be turned down otherwise everything sounds unclear, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Two Gospels have had the volume turned up way too loud, while the other two have been played too softly, according to Wright.

“Heard in full sound, the Gospels tell about the establishment of a theocracy, and portray what theocracy looks like with Jesus as king,” Wright states, according to The Grand Rapids Press. “The body of the texts – the parts between Jesus’ birth and death – present an entire agenda for renewed humanity.”

The question of Jesus’ divinity also surfaced as Wright compared Jesus to a social worker, one that is kind and caring to all he loves, saying that orthodox Christians don’t want Jesus to come with any baggage.

“While some who downplay Christ’s divinity have imagined Jesus as a great social worker ‘being kind to old ladies, small dogs and little children,’ orthodox Christianity has not wanted Jesus to have a political message,” Wright said.

“He overemphasized the fact that Jesus’ divinity, the way he lived his life comes into question, was it truly divine?” Hoezee told CP. “It’s hard to understand when the picture isn’t clear.”

Calvin College begins its annual Worship Symposium this week, marking their 25th Anniversary hosting the event that includes full worship services and over 150 international guests from 30 different countries, including N.T. Wright.

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The Restoration of Peter Revisited

When Jesus and his disciples had finished eating, he asked, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than the others do?” Simon Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know I do!” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus said. Jesus asked a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you!” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus told him. Jesus asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus had asked him three times if he loved him. So he told Jesus, “Lord, you know everything. You know I love you.” Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep. (Joh 21:15-17)

The classic story told of how Jesus lovingly approached Peter after peter rejected Him three times in order to forgive him and restore him. Jesus questions Peter three times, since Peter rejected Jesus three times, and then tells Peter than he will die in service to Jesus.

I never had reason to question this story, at least not when I first heard it. A couple of years ago in a religion class I heard the story told a different way. A visiting pastor/instructor brought the Greek in to the equation in order to show a different take on the story. The first two times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, he uses a form of the word agape. The last time Jesus asks, He uses the word phileo. All three times that Peter responds, he uses phileo. Agape is widely taught to represent the true love of God, so by Peter not being able to commit to that degree of love is a big thing. When it was explained, I was told that Jesus was trying to show Peter the level of commitment needed but he kept responding with a lower form of love. On the last question, Jesus asked if peter even phileo Him which made Peter weep. Jesus in this story took a condescending tone with Peter.

Awhile back, I heard another take on this story, this time from N.T. Wright. Wright stresses the same words being used, but he has a kinder more loving approach to the story. In the last question, Jesus knowing that Peter can not commit to the level that Jesus was asking the first two times, comes down to the level of commitment Peter is at. Jesus wants to meet the person where they are at in order to lift them to the level where He wants them to be. I held to Wright’s view on this more than the other one I was taught. Jesus is always lifting people up, so the condescending view seems false.

Lately thought, I have been looking at the word agape. It is sold to us as this pure love that can only come from God, but we see that is not true. The same word is used to display how men love the darkness, so why would we have God’s love toward the darkness if He tells us to turn to the light? It does not make sense to me. I have moved from the place that agape means God’s true love, but it is a way in which God loves us. Not a manner based on emotion, but rather a love of the will. God chose to love us so He sent His only begotten Son. He was not required to do so, but He chose to do it.

Last week, working on another post I came across this:

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (Rev 3:19)

Love here is phileo, which means to be a friend or to have affection for. So not only does God agape us, he also phileo us. I started to see how the agape love is the basis of the relationship that we have with God. Salvation comes from the agape that God shows to us, but we are supposed to move on to the phileo and have a personal relationship with us. Not a distant God but one who has affection for us.

Looking back at the interaction Jesus had with Peter, I see it differently now. Peter was responding back to Jesus that his love for Him was not just agape but deeper than that. He had affection for Jesus. After each pronouncement, Jesus told him what it takes to have that relationship. Look after my children. Tend to them as a leader and care for them the way I care for you. Jesus was neither condescending nor having to come down to the level that Peter was on.

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