1. What is the significance of Jesus in the overall context of the biblical narrative and what is essential in reflecting on the implications of that for a post-modern culture?
The question posed is of Jesus’ contribution to the Bible’s overarching story and what is the relevance for post-modernism. Most of the answer to this question will come from N. T. Wright’s, “The Challenge of Jesus.”
Jesus’ contribution to the biblical narrative is, first, to be firmly seen in context of the 1st Century Israel/ Judaism. The Jews of the time were living under Roman occupation. There were many groups of Jews who had been taken sides. There were those who adopted the customs of the culture and enjoyed great favor (i.e. Hellenistic Jews). The Septuagint was a great offspring of this culture within a culture.
On the opposite side were groups of revolutionaries (i.e. Pharisees). They fought for their Jewish traditionalism and desired a pure society. These tensions had really come to a head in the intertestimental period.
This problem of occupation and revolution is not something new and is a consequence from early in the biblical narrative. We know that God blessed the line of Abraham and that his seed will be the one of which great things will happen. Then the Promised Land and kingdoms are set. Israel is disobedient and exiled. Judah remains faithful. In the exile the prophets speak of future events. One will come and reconcile and recreate all things. But Wright claims that even though the Jews are back in Israel, from the exile, there is still a since of exile and Diaspora remains scattered. The hope of the prophets becomes the hope of the people, that one; a messiah (anointed one) would come back and fix their problem.
Jesus, obviously the Christ Messiah, comes in the middle of turbulence and strife and suffering and exile. The people want satisfaction of their immediate needs. He does not give them so little a solution as fixing current problems. The Christ comes, not to promote rebellion or acclimation, but a third way, the way of the cross. He reminds Israel that they are to be the light of the world, the truly blessed seed of Abraham. He models the sacrificial responsibility of being the light of the world by dying on the cross at the hands of men. His death and, more importantly, his resurrection reconciles all things and makes all things new. He did not shallowly relieve physical exile and reunite the Diaspora, but ushered in the Kingdom of God by removing the exile between God and man, reuniting us with Him forevermore. Jesus’ story is the climax of all history.
The implications of Jesus, his death and resurrection are in the foundation that he is. Wright believes that we live in a great eschatological in-between. Christ’s work in the 1st century is the end of time coming to the middle which is the climax of history, but there is also going to be an end of time where Jesus comes and does an amazing final transforming thing. We live in between these two and our goal is to build. Wright says that we cannot do nothing, for this forsakes the work of Christ. He also reminds us that we cannot build the Kingdom of God all by ourselves.
Though I don’t think Wright intended it, these two opposing sides seem to parallel 1st century Judaism. The side that wants to do nothing is like the side that accepted exile to the point of actually becoming acculturated. The side that thinks that they can and should do it all seems analogous to the Pharisees and revolutionaries who thought that their actions could redeem Israel and remove the occupation. Instead, Wright proposes the post-modernism needs to sees themselves as workers. They are working for the eschatology of finality to come but only on the foundation of Christ in the past. That this work must be a reshaping of the world and in doing so we will become, as heirs in Abraham’s blessing and now children of God, the light of the world.
It seems that Wright is countering two groups in his implications for post-modernity. He seems to be bringing to the center, two groups who have fallen to the extreme. There are those who put all their hope in the final things to come and miss so much of Jesus. There are also those try to build the kingdom all themselves and miss Jesus in his own teaching and actions. I tend to fall in the latter and have had my paradigms shaped already in this course.
2. Discuss the meaning of, and show the relationships between, the following four concepts: church, mission, Trinity, Wesleyan theology.
Church, Mission, Trinity and Wesleyan Theology all have great meanings and unifying bonds of which will be explored and discussed, mainly through the central theme of “the Great Commission.”
The Church is the body of Christ. We are the redeemed of God, of who he has poured his love and peace into. We are also the means in which he has chosen to do a saving work and a distributing of grace. As the video entitled “The Great Commission” conveyed, Christ has very clearly given us a task to be about. This Commission is recorded in the Matthew and tells us to make disciples through baptism and teaching, and of course, by his power and strength. The video also explains that this is an act of love from God, through the redeemed to the unredeemed. This initial act of wanting to give love to the lost is, in Wesleyan Theology, called Prevenient Grace.
This Prevenient Grace explores the idea that God loves the world and offers all people the chance at salvation and reconciliation by providing a way for all to come to him. This is the mission, or commission, as we know it: to take the love of Christ and his reconciliation to the world. In fact, as the video puts it, this mission is Trinitarian in nature. It is initiated by the love of the father sending his son to reconcile us back to him. The mission to tell the world about it is promulgated by the Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 says in the NIV, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The church is charged with this great commission but the means to achieve are a bit fuzzy. Many attempts at spreading Christ’s kingdom have been made and some better than others. Lee Camp in “Mere Discipleship” tells of some forceful, bloody and simply unchristian ways. He tells the stories of the brutality that incurred after Christianity fell in love with the empire. When the church untied with empire, many leaders used violence and death to convert whole peoples to Christianity. One lesson from our dark history is that the means to be faithful to the great commission are hazy. I enjoy Lesslie Newbigin’s approach to the church and her means to fulfilling the mission.
In “The Open Secret,” Newbigin makes clear the relationship between church and mission and trinity. He says, “The Christian mission is thus to act out in the whole of life of the whole world the confession that Jesus is Lord of all” (p. 17). Newbigin then tells us that there us just one problem, who is Jesus Christ? In answering the question of Christ, he reveals that the nature of the mission is in the trinity. He says, “The fundamental belief is embodied in the affirmation that God has revealed himself as Father, Son and Spirit. I shall therefore begin by looking at the Christian mission in three way – as proclaiming the kingdom of the Father, as sharing in the life of the son and as bearing witness of the Spirit” (p. 29).
But the thing I find most refreshing in Newbigin is the acceptance of action in response to injustice being a primary means of the mission. There are those who want to only proclaim the Gospel of Christ, the miss out on key opportunities to share. We are to share in the tribulations of our Lord. In doing so we find liberation. Our freedom allows us to fight the injustice for our neighbors.
This idea of justice seems to be naturally occurring in Wesleyan theology and church life, at least in the beginning. In reading Wesley’s, “A Plain Account of the People Called Methodist” we read of people so liberated by Christ that they can’t help but fight the injustices of their neighbors (sickness, food, schools, clothes, elderly care). The actions of the early Methodists spread the gospel so far it is credited as stopping revolution. It’s belief in prevenience allowed working with all, for all, in a way that attracts all.
Blessings and Peace!!!!