06.29.24 EChurch@Wartburg Dr. N.T. Wright on Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Rapture

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A prayer of Anselm (1033-1109) The Complete Book of Christian Prayer

“O merciful God
Fill our hearts, we pray, with the graces of Your Holy Spirit;
With love, joy, peace patience, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control.

Teach us to love those who hate us; to pray for those who despitefully use us;
That we may be the children of Your love, our Father,
Who makes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.
In adversity, grant us grace to be patient; in prosperity keep us humble;

May we guard the door of our lips;
may we lightly esteem the pleasures of this world,
And thirst after heavenly things;
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen “

Prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi link

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
where there is injury, pardon
where there is doubt, faith
where there is despair, hope
where there is darkness, light
and where there is sadness, joy

O, Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
to be loved as to love
for it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life
Amen

Prayers for those who have suffered abuse link.

Almighty God & Everlasting Lord,
You are the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.
We pray this week for those who have been abused within our churches and the wider communities across our nation.

Have compassion upon all who have suffered the injustice, humiliation and pain of abuse
– sexual, physical, emotional, spiritual and all other forms of sinful conduct.

In the midst of their distressing circumstances, give them courage to speak.
May your perfect love drive out fear and anxiety.
In your mercy, create opportunities for these men, women and children to share their pain,
reveal their struggles and expose the hurtful actions of others.

Give grace, sensitivity and wisdom to all who will minister to the victims and survivors of abuse.
Strengthen those who have been abused with the certainty of your love for them.
In all things, we ask that your name be glorified and that we – your people –
do justice, love kindness and walk humbly before you.

We humbly plead these things in the name of our Saviour, Jesus Christ,
who died and rose and now sits at your right hand in glory.
Amen.

 

 

Benediction: An ancient folk blessing link

May there always be
work for your hands to do.
May your purse always
carry a shilling or two.

May the sun always
play on your window pane.
May a rainbow chase after
each spot of rain.

May the hand of a friend
always be near you.
May God fill your heart with
gladness and cheer you.
Amen


Comments

06.29.24 EChurch@Wartburg Dr. N.T. Wright on Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Rapture — 40 Comments

  1. Thank you, Dee. It’s always refreshing to hear from Rev. Wright.

    Robert Herrera,

    Rev. Wright has, in various talks, affirmed that he reckons that he is probably mistaken in about 1/3 of his ideas, but he’s not sure which 1/3 is mistaken.

    Given the vast diversity of opinion that exists within the churches (to which doctrine-centric Protestantism in its myriad flavors is a junior late-comer), if he actually is right in 2/3 of his ideas, he’s “batting” better than most of us.

    On the main topic of this Q&A, “resurrection”, there is little doubt in my mind that Wright is making a sound critique of a widespread misunderstanding in the churches.

    IMO, we need more people like Wright. I hope that his students have long and productive careers.

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  2. I don’t know NT Wright’s views on every issue, but from what I know, I like him.

    I like how NT Wright describes the relationship between the flawed and imperfect law of the Old Testament, and the perfect New Covenant of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

    Wright describes the Old Testament law using the analogy of a complicated and tedious detour to a city center, that the authorities have set up for vehicle traffic, while a big new highway straight from the outskirts of the city to the city center is constructed.

    Of course, in this analogy, the Old Testament law is the complicated and tedious detour. The detour is inconvenient, tiresome, flawed, and undesirable and unpleasant. The detour is not a good way to get to the city center.

    But the detour is necessary while the construction workers build the new big highway that takes you directly from outside the city to the city center.

    The big new highway that is the perfect and fastest and most desirable route to the city center, is of course an analogy for Jesus Christ and His Sacrifice on The Cross, which makes salvation and eternal life and forgiveness of sins free to everyone who believes in Jesus Christ as Savior.

    After the big new highway is complete, the unpleasant and tiresome detour is dismantled, removed, abolished.

    The detour is no longer needed because the big new highway is now open for drivers.

    In the same way, the New Covenant of Jesus Christ (sealed by Jesus’ Shed Blood) has abolished and replaced the flawed and imperfect Old Testament law.

    I really like the above analogy from NT Wright. I think it is very accurate and apt.

    Additionally, I like NT Wright’s explanation of why “Christian” zionism is heretical, blasphemous, and antichrist.

    I think NT Wright is very brave and courageous for defending true Christian doctrine and speaking out against “Christian” zionism, considering how popular the “Christian” zionism heresy has become among the ambitious and power-hungry megachurch pastors and televangelists.

    As NT Wright explains in very gentle and polite language in the video linked below, ALL of the Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ and Jesus’ Death and Resurrection.

    “Christian” zionism blasphemously claims that Jesus dying on The Cross isn’t enough, and that God still owes the Jewish people a piece of land in the Middle East, and ongoing special treatment as the favored chosen people.

    NT Wright’s explanation really made me think about how utterly antichrist and blasphemous “Christian” zionism really is, and how heretical, profane, and sacrilegious the propagators of “Christian” zionism are.

    The proponents of “Christian” zionism, such as Mike Bickle and Robert Morris, are claiming that God Himself dying on The Cross for humanity is not sufficient. They are saying: “Sorry God, Jesus Christ dying in agony on The Cross ISN’T enough. You STILL OWE the Jewish people a piece of land in the Middle East and special treatment.”

    NT Wright’s explanation in the video below really made me realize how “Christian” zionism is utterly incompatible with and totally contrary to true Christian theology, which teaches that all of the Old Testament was fulfilled on The Cross when Jesus said “It is finished.”

    Here is the video of NT Wright’s refutation of “Christian” zionism:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xR1EKXnJn7s

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  3. R’as al Ghul,

    I think that NTW alarms some in certain parts of Protestantism, and especially among the Reformed, because he insists on reading Jesus’ prophetic language, addressed to Israel, in the context of Israel’s historical situation (and in the context of Israel’s prior history in its relationship with YHWH and with the surrounding Gentile nations). This is laid out in order in his (IMO outstanding) book Jesus and the Victory of God.

    I think this alarms many because it undercuts the Biblical justification for infernalism.* And that’s a problem for many churches — if we can’t scare people into the Kingdom, how will our churches continue to thrive in the future?

    * for the record, personally I think that infernalism is not proved from the Biblical text, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. It might be true but not provable from the Biblical text. Personally, I think that textual arguments for annihilationism, or for “conditional immortality”, or even for universalism are stronger than textual arguments for infernalism, but that none are definitively established. IMO we’re still in the situation of OT Israel in this regard, with too little revelation to answer all the questions we want to ask.

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  4. dee,

    Thank you, Dee, for this talk from NT Wright. I too appreciate his teaching very much. It shakes up so much of my former way of looking at things. The Kingdom of God is radical in so many ways if we just look with fresh eyes rather than being steeped in tradition – or whatever you choose to call the way so many westerners/americans view religion.

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  5. Samuel Conner: Personally, I think that textual arguments for annihilationism, or for “conditional immortality”, or even for universalism are stronger than textual arguments for infernalism, but that none are definitively established.

    “Conditional immortality” meaning the wicked just don’t get resurrected, but just remain dead?
    As in “They didn’t make it.”?

    That WOULD solve The Abominable Fancy problem at the cost of all those lurid superdetailed descriptions/visions of Eternal Hell. (None of which visions resemble each other in the slightest.) The resurrected grieving over those who didn’t make it, as they did when those others originally died.

    And would also fit with the stories of Padre Pio, who would often be asked about a dead loved one’s eternal destiny. Unlike a lot of preachers, the worst he would answer was a simple sorrowful “there is no hope”, i.e. “He/She didn’t make it.”

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  6. Muff Potter: Robert Herrera: Careful with N.T. Wright. He’s N.T. Wrong on many doctrine issues.

    Wrong according to whom?
    Can you provide examples?

    My guess is Wright doesn’t back up the doctrine of Eternal HELL, which has been the center of a lot of Gospels over the centuries — “If you can’t love them into the Kingdom, SCARE ‘EM INTO THE KINGDOM!”

    Such a Fire Insurance Gospel has its own destructive side effects (including painting God as a Cosmic Monster), but who cares as long as Souls (not people) Get Saved?

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  7. FreshGrace,

    Thank you. I hope for this place to be a time to think and also a time to know that there are decent people out there who can help us. He came to speak at Duke and my husband and I did not get advanced tickets. The line was long and some of our friends had planned ahead and were seated. Just when I thought we would be turned away, an usher came and brought us to two seats in the “section for important people at Duke” which was down in front. We didn’t being there but they wanted to try to fit everyone in. Our friends had a good laugh. It was so nice to be able to see and hear everything. We will get advanced tickets the next time!

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  8. Headless Unicorn Guy,

    Many church conceptualizations of hell are mistakenly based on Dantes” Inferno. I believe that I am among many Christians who struggle with that concept of hell. Take John Stott. No one would accuse him of sloppy theology. Yet he embraced annihilationism. That doesn’t mean he is correct but it does prove that thoughtful Christians do grapple in this area. Jesus mentions hell so it must be taken seriously. If there is no hell, does that mean Hitler got away with it? Lots to consider.

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  9. dee: I always enjoy reading your comments. It appears you struggle as I do on infernalism. That is a new word for me. Thank you. I do believe that much of what is taught is based on Dante’s work.

    I think we (most of us here) struggle with infernalism because we are the great, great, great, grandchildren of the enlightenment, and do not endorse cruel and unusual punishment (thanks to our founding fathers).
    In the Bible, there is no such thing as The Rights of Man (Thomas Paine).
    You (generic you) were at the whim and fancy of some potentate or another up to and including the Big Kahuna in the sky, no recourse, and certainly no appeal through channels.

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  10. dee: you struggle as I do on infernalism

    I think that most people do who have lost loved ones who died seemingly without what one considered to be sound faith. And people of tender heart generally; a firmly infernalist OPC minister under whose teaching I sat for a couple of years was plainly distressed by the fate of the reprobate. I suspect that this teaching has led to a significant amount of despair, depression and even mental illness among tender-hearted believers. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be true, but might be a hint that it deserves close scrutiny.

    I think I first encountered the term in a book by Hans Urs von Balthasar, “Dare we hope that all men be saved?”, in the form “infernalists”, referring to advocates of the teaching. His use of the term was not complimentary.

    The most helpful work I have encountered that touches on the subject, aside from Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God (which, to be clear, is not about individual eschatology at all, but which touches on the subject in terms of the meaning of Jesus’ gehenna sayings), is Brad Jerzak’s Her gates shall never be shut, especially the chapter which discusses the two widely divergent Hebrew textual precedents/contexts through which one can view Jesus’ prophetic warnings. Interestingly, the Hebrew precedent that most resembles Evangelical thinking at this point is not the OT precedent but an extrabiblical precedent in the Book of Enoch.

    I think that the “right” answer is: “not enough data/data not unequivocal/we don’t know.” Which leads me to suspect that maybe the question isn’t as important as we believe it to be, as an explanation of why the Scriptures don’t give less equivocal answers at this point.

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  11. Samuel Conner: the [second] most helpful work I have encountered that touches on the subject… is Brad Jerzak’s Her gates shall never be shut

    I found that extremely helpful as well. Likewise Jerzak’s A More Christlike God. I suspect you’ve read it too! (For Wartburgers who haven’t, it does exactly what it says on the tin – so to speak – and I recommend it.)

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  12. dee: Many church conceptualizations of hell are mistakenly based on Dantes” Inferno.

    Last time I phoned my writing partner and this exact same subject came up, he put it as “They’re channeling Dante and don’t know it.”

    Dante whose Commedia Divina (of which Inferno is but the first of the trilogy) put all his political opponents in Hell (endlessly trying to argue Politics with him) and put one Pope (Peter) in Heaven, one in Purgatory, and all the rest in Hell.

    Looks like Christians mistaking fiction for fact didn’t begin with The Satanic Panic.

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  13. Samuel Conner: Interestingly, the Hebrew precedent that most resembles Evangelical thinking at this point is not the OT precedent but an extrabiblical precedent in the Book of Enoch.

    Which my writing partner describes as Just Plain WEIRD.
    (We are both Weirdness Magnets – he handles the East Coast, I handle the West Coast. Attracting Weirdness so you don’t have to.)

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  14. Muff Potter: There’s no shame in simply saying that ‘I don’t know’ rather than spouting the stuff written by others who claim to ‘know’ in an absolutist sense.

    Remember Medieval Angelology and Demonology?

    Each generation taking the previous generation’s speculation as Fact and building another layer of speculation from that? Which the next generation would take as FACT and…

    After a couple centuries, they had every Angel in Heaven and every Demon in Hell given a Name, Rank, Serial Number, and Specialty. A vast edifice of FACT founded on a couple mentions of angels (messenger spirits) in the Bible.

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  15. Headless Unicorn Guy: Which my writing partner describes as Just Plain WEIRD.

    Not really that weird — history is path dependent. I have read that Church Father Tertullian believed that the Book of Enoch belonged in the Biblical canon. I think the Western churches owe their pre-occupation with infernalism in part to him, though I’m sure that the story is more complicated than ay single-factor explanation.

    Interesting, there is no ecumenical theory of eschatology — it evidently wasn’t important enough a question in the early centuries to have become a matter of deliberation in any of the “7 ecumenical councils.” Accordingly, in Eastern Orthodoxy, there is a great deal of diversity at this point, since they limit their dogma to the pronouncements of the 7 councils. I’m not EO, but I think that they made the right decision at this point.

    Nick Bulbeck,

    I have not read that one, but have previously heard good things about it. Thanks for your recommendation.

    Troy,

    That is indeed one of the texts that infernalists cite in support of their position. But its relevance as a support for infernalism hinges on whether the story is about an actual event in history or is a parable that uses the story to make a point and, if the latter, what the point of Jesus’ use of it was. NT Wright, IIRC in his Jesus and the Victory of God”, thinks that this is a parable that was already widely known in that time, and that Jesus changed it from the familiar telling to make a point to his hearers. In the familiar telling, Dives was allowed to return to warn his brothers and they repented and escaped an unhappy fate. In Jesus’ retelling of the story, Dives is not allowed to warn his brothers (who are presumably wealthy elites like Dives), and the brothers seem likely to come to an unhappy end. Wright thinks that there is a coherent pattern in Jesus’ prophetic warnings, and that they are oriented toward the then crisis facing Israel, which was under looming threat of destruction at the hands of the Romans. Jesus’ use of this parable fits into this pattern as a warning to Israel’s elite that they were at risk of exclusion from the future that God was preparing for His people.

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  16. Headless Unicorn Guy: Remember Medieval Angelology and Demonology?

    Each generation taking the previous generation’s speculation as Fact and building another layer of speculation from that? Which the next generation would take as FACT and…

    After a couple centuries, they had every Angel in Heaven and every Demon in Hell given a Name, Rank, Serial Number, and Specialty. A vast edifice of FACT founded on a couple mentions of angels (messenger spirits) in the Bible.

    And the Devil himself is also known as Mr. Burns:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BY1VHRhzWpU

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  17. Samuel Conner: NT Wright, IIRC in his Jesus and the Victory of God”, thinks that this is a parable that was already widely known in that time, and that Jesus changed it from the familiar telling to make a point to his hearers. In the familiar telling, Dives was allowed to return to warn his brothers and they repented and escaped an unhappy fate. In Jesus’ retelling of the story, Dives is not allowed to warn his brothers (who are presumably wealthy elites like Dives), and the brothers seem likely to come to an unhappy end.

    Once again, the Rabbi from Nazareth takes an “everybody knows that” story and adds a 180 twist ending.

    There’s also the idea that this was also a political cartoon about the House of Annas, which at the time had a total lock on the High Priesthood, with seven brothers (and one brother-in-law Caiphas) switching off. Who had just put out a hit contract on Lazarus, namesake of the other character in the parable.

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  18. Headless Unicorn Guy: Once again, the Rabbi from Nazareth takes an “everybody knows that” story and adds a 180 twist ending.

    There’s also the idea that this was also a political cartoon about the House of Annas, which at the time had a total lock on the High Priesthood, with seven brothers (and one brother-in-law Caiphas) switching off. Who had just put out a hit contract on Lazarus, namesake of the other character in the parable.

    Sounds like something that Rabbi from Nazareth would do. One of my favorite ones is where he takes a tale with a despised half-breed known as a Samaritan and uses it to humble a so-called expert in the Law. Knowing full well that this “expert” can even say the name “Samaritan”. Perhaps a little salt with that crow will make it taste better….

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  19. R’as al Ghul,

    And the one about a son who wastes his inheritance (unlike his brother) and has to come back crawling to Daddy for survival. And the Rabbi from Nazareth flips the expected/normal ending 180 — instead of praising the older brother for keeping the Law and staying out of scandal, the father rejoices that they younger brother has finally come to his senses.

    Or whoever wrote Romans spending an entire chapter whipping up a long Decline Narrative and then as the audience is grooving to their Moral Superiority flips the punch line away from the normal “for these are the things which the Goyim do” and holds up a mirror.

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  20. Samuel Conner: In Jesus’ retelling of the story, Dives is not allowed to warn his brothers (who are presumably wealthy elites like Dives), and the brothers seem likely to come to an unhappy end.

    “They will not believe, even if someone came back from the dead [to tell them].”
    How is this not “Rabbi from Nazareth getting Snarky”?

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