Saturday, July 4, 2015

Review: Jesus and the Victory of God

By N. T. Wright

In many ways this is the book that permanently altered the course of my theology. Even if I don't agree (and I do) and want to go back to "Vanilla Reformed," the questions have already been asked. Pandora has opened the box. 

Contrary to conservative reactionaries, Wright shatters the liberal paradigm. The phrase "according to higher criticism," has been found wanting. Against fundamentalists Wright argues that we can and should ask historical questions about Jesus (this is where he brings Second Temple Judaism into the project) but against liberals he believes that Jesus can answer these questions.

He reworks his vision of Christ around issues he introduced in the earlier volume: when Jesus used certain phrases, what did he--and more importantly, his hearers--mean by these phrases? In short Wright argues that:

*Christ used parables to explode the world of his hearers--a fresh vehicle to undermine the narrative they have been hearing.

*Christ ministry figures around exile and restoration. If Israel has returned from Exile, then why haven't the great promises of Isaiah been fulfilled?

*Likewise, Kingdom of God doesn't mean a pristine synonm for the Church. When the covenant is renewed, God will be king of the world.

*If someone is the Messiah, and is to be king, they must build the temple and defeat all of God's enemies. Jesus cleansed the temple, identified the temple as his body, and took on Israel's true enemy.

*At every key point Jesus redefined the terms in Israel's worldview. If I may speak respectfully, Jesus was the first postmodernist.

*In short, Jesus lived out Israel's story. The story of covenant was to solve the problems of creation. Abraham was called to fix Adam's problems. But Abraham (or Israel) became part of the problem itself. Therefore, Christ, an Israelite, represented Israel on the cross, died her death, and rose again to new life. And through Christ--and perhaps in some ultimate way through Israel--salvation comes to the world.

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