Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sin, The Cross and The Basileia of God

My apologies for falling a little behind on my commentary on After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. Since a total of zero of you seemed to notice, I have assumed you guys aren't waiting with bated breath for a prompt weekly update. I'm reading more books at the same time these days - it's the revolutionary wonder of having an e-reader. Now I read like I watch TV shows on my DVR - a little here, a little there and never the same one back to back. That to say, I am finding I need to be in a certain mindset to properly enjoy this book. I finished chapter 4, The Kingdom People and the People Prepared, yesterday on my flight. Here are my thoughts:

My ultimate buzz words are "Kingdom" and "story." Those words make my heart race. So this chapter heading was very appealing to me...

Again, Wright seems to restate his theme for the book in this chapter:

Referencing the purpose behind the Sermon on the Mount he says, "God's future is arriving in the present, in the person and work of Jesus, and you can practice, right now, the habits of life which will find their goal in the coming future." Wright has done in the first half of this book what I had hoped he would do: He has linked individual virtue/morality with the true and central message of Jesus - the coming of the "basileia" of God - the word we translate "Kingdom" that unfortunately (in a textual sense) means something bigger and broader than how we normally use that word in the English language.

We are being formed now for life in the God's Basileia because we have been and will be given authority from God. We need to be trusted to become worthy priests and rulers.

The theology of the Cross in this chapter is particularly useful.  Wright simply says, "there is no demarcation between Jesus's kingdom-announcement and his approaching death." Or again, "...the main purpose for his death and resurrection was to establish the kingdom he had already begun to inaugurate." I line up with Wright here - a position that has drawn him into several controversies around the doctrines of justification and propitiation. Wright (in his other writings) doesn't deny those doctrines, but puts them in secondary position behind the Basileia message. The cross, then, isn't primarily about your individual sins being forgiven. It is primarily about Jesus receiving and bringing the Kingdom through the way of death and resurrection...thereby making a way for your individual salvation within the reality of God's present and coming reign. And setting a pattern for your rebirth - death and resurrection. In short, neither the Cross nor the Kingdom are about you. They are about God.

Or he puts it this way...using both of my magic words:

"Kingdom and cross belong together. The whole story is the whole story. And it is within that whole story, not within some truncated version, that Jesus's call to a new-creation kind of virtue makes the sense which it does."

In this context then, sin is still a major problem. It becomes the disease of humanity which must be dealt with swiftly in order for the Basileia to come. And here we get to the part of the gospel that is nearly impossible for North American evangelicals like me to understand - that the gospel isn't about dealing with your sin so that you go to heaven when you die. The gospel is about Jesus dealing with our sin so that he can deliver to us (as God's rulers and priests) a new heaven to a new earth.

2 comments:

Micah said...

Great thoughts, as always.

Pedantic note, though... Jesus probably didn't say "basileia" any more than he said "ekklesia." Because Jesus most likely spoke and taught in Aramaic, not Greek.

Most likely, Jesus taught about the "malkutha." Mark and Luke (writing to Greco-Roman audiences) talked about the Kingdom of God, while Matthew (writing to a Hebrew audience) kept with tradition and avoided naming God, speaking instead about the Kingdom of Heaven.

Ok, that fills my pedantic quota for the day. Carry on.

Angie said...

I’ve always had difficulty with the idea the idea that the Cross is primarily about justice- that someone had to be punished and Jesus took it instead of us so that we could be reconciled with God (get "into" heaven). The difference is subtle- Jesus died to overcome sin and death and make the way for us to do so as well through Him. He put Himself in the position to suffer the consequences of sins that were not His in order to save a people that were. The intent is our restoration and in that process we are reconciled, not the other way around. Is that close?