Friday, April 10, 2015

NT Wright, "How do you answer someone who says...that there is no point trying to bring justice to the world?"

Related to my last post on the Christian expectation of resurrection, final judgment and new creation (link), below is an excerpt from Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, by NT Wright (page 221-222, Google Preview) on why Christians should try to bring justice to our world today:
The paradigm I have set out in this book tells heavily against both sides. This is the point where a genuine biblical theology can come out of the forest and startle both those who thought that the Bible was irrelevant or dangerous for political ethics and those who thought that taking the Bible seriously meant being conservative politically as well as theologically. The truth is very different—as we should have guessed from Jesus’s own preaching of the kingdom, not to mention his death as a would-be rebel king. His resurrection, and the promise of God’s new world that comes with it, creates a program for change and offers to empower it. Those who believe the gospel have no choice but to follow. 
And if people tell you that after all there isn’t very much they can do, remember what the answer is. What would you say to someone who said, rightly, that God would make them completely holy in the resurrection and that they would never reach this state of complete holiness until then—and who then went on to say, wrongly, that therefore there was no point in even trying to live a holy life until that time? You would press for some form of inaugurated eschatology. You would insist that the new life of the Spirit, in obedience to the lordship of Jesus Christ, should produce radical transformation of behavior in the present life, anticipating the life to come even though we know we shall never be complete and whole until then. That is, actually, the lesson of Romans 6. Well, apply the same to Romans 8! How do you answer someone who says, rightly, that the world will not be completely just and right until the new creation and who deduces, wrongly, that there is no point trying to bring justice to the world (or for that matter ecological health, another topic for which there is no space here) until that time? Answer, from everything I have said so far: insist on inaugurated eschatology, on a radical transformation of the way we behave as a worldwide community, anticipating the eventual time when God will be all in all even though we all agree things won’t be complete until then. There is the challenge. The resurrection of Jesus points us to it and gives us the energy for it. Let us overcome our surprise that such a hope should be set before us and go to the task with prayer and wisdom.

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