03 June 2008

Surprised by Hope

I've been travelling on a short break over the last few days and I finally had a chance to finish Tom Wright's latest book Surprised by Hope

I'm not even going to attempt to give a 'book review' as I'm still processing the experience of having read it which feels like one of those instances when a whole range of thoughts and experiences have converged. Ever since I had what I've called my 'Aldersgate Experience' I've been on a journey where I have been seeing 'the Good News of Jesus Christ' as being more and more of an event. No less a 'personal experience of salvation' but much more of a cosmic event: Jesus as someone who not only died to save me but whose life, death, resurrection and ascension are somehow events that really truly ('ontologically'[1]) changed the fabric of creation.

For me, Wright's book conveyed 'ontological salvation' in a way that I can get my brain and my heart around much easier than I could before. Hugely simplistically, I read the book as saying that scripture paints a picture of a Creator God whose purpose is to bring all of history to the point of New Creation (this is a very Wesleyan theology, by the way).

Jesus' own resurrection is the first of a general resurrection and is the sign that The New Creation has been inaugurated. The eschatological conclusion of history will not be some sort of calling of believers to a spiritual heaven, but it will be a 'heaven coming down to earth'. The reality in which we are living now is but an incomplete shadow of the reality of The New Creation, where heaven and earth will meet.

The Good News of the early Church was not only that the New Creation had been inaugurated, but that we can be part of it in the here and now as well as in eternity. In baptism, we die to the 'old Creation' and are raised with Christ into the New Creation. As his followers and disciples, we will not be held responsible for building the New Creation, only God can do that. But every good work that we do out of love and self-giving will be used by God in the building of the New Creation. Even actions that we might think have been futile.

Try reading the bible with this overlay: God's Kingdom - his New Creation - has begun, heaven and earth will unite in a new, more real reality and all believers will be raised to share in this Kingdom forever. This overlay makes much of the bible make a lot more sense.


[1] 'Ontology' / 'Ontological'

I try to write simply most of the time, but sometimes I feel that I have to use 'jargon'. 'Ontology' is one of those jargon-words that is hard to replace with one simple word. It means something like 'the core of one's being', 'what is really real'. To change something 'ontologically' is to change the very core of it's being and meaning; it's not just a cosmetic, temporary change, but a real, permanent change.


Fat Prophet said...

How can you take a break when you are preparing for your big night on Friday? Seriously I am hoping to be there but have to go to Winchester during the days so may not make it back - if I don't I will certainly be thinking about you and Samuel.

PamBG said...

Ian - I was lucky that the break was only singing with the Kidderminster Choral Society in Husum, northern Germany. Originally, the churches were also going to have a visit and I was supposed to preach in German! Singing is far more relaxing. :-)

I thought I was going to have a relatively quiet week - except for the training course in London tomorrow - but I came back to:
* A visit by Manchester Friday morning
* A funeral and burial Friday afternoon
* Two separate 'surprise' Saturday events that people volunteered me for without me knowing it.

It will be good to see you at the service if you can make it, but of course we'll understand if you can't come. I think it will be a fantastic evening. My prayer group of 6 Roman Catholics and 2 Pentecostal house church people are also going to attend. :-)

Anonymous said...

Two books changed my thinking in a major way this summer. Wright's Surprised by Hope and Barna's Pagan Christianity? Both books exposed views I held as a child about God, Christianity, heaven, and church that were more shaped by pagan thinking than the Bible. I loved both books. They were awesome. Dawn.