N.T Wright 5/21/11 The Gospels: What are we missing?
No birth, crucifixion, or resurrection narrative in Gospel of Thomas
In many Christian circles, the assumption is that the "Gospel" is what you find in Paul.
The Gospels don't seem to say much about justification and atonement.
"The Jesus we find in the four canonical gospels is the Jesus of our creeds, drawing a distinction between the reconstructed Jesus of today." However, the creeds don't pay much attention Jesus' life between birth and death.
Many Christians choose the creeds over the Gospels.
Details of the New Testament story are important but only in the context of the big picture.
In most of the creeds, the only mention of the Kingdom is at the end, as though the Kingdom only happens after His return.
In the early church, the creed and canon had a symbiotic relationship.
The Gospels are the story of how God became the King of the world.
Even when Jesus was talking about the Kingdom, even he was working with idealized metaphor because of people's experiences with Caesar and Herod.
Liberal reductionism removed the miraculous aspects of Jesus and reduced him to talking about the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.
In many of the writers of the Jesus Seminar, there's no logical reason for Jesus' death.
Jesus was talking about God to try and explain what he (Jesus) was doing. "This is what it looks like when God is becoming King."
God and the world have a strange, interlocking, mysterious relationship; different from what pantheism or deism say.
God becoming King is a new reality bursting into the cosmos (but wasn't that God's purpose in the OT as well?)
The story the Gospels tell is the story of how through Jesus brings about the reign of Israel's God.
In the Bible, heaven and earth overlap and interlock. Heaven is not a geographical location somewhere above the clouds.
The Ascension is not about Jesus going a long way away; the Ascension is about Jesus being in Heaven and relating to all the World for all time.
Why do we have the story of Jesus' life in the Gospels?
Answers Wright has heard
- to teach people how to go to Heaven (Heaven is important, but it's not the end of the world)
- in order to convey his ethical teaching, i.e. Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is not simply about a new way to live, but what people who live in the Kingdom of God look like.
- the aim is to get us to heaven, but he lives the life of the perfect sacrifice. Some later New Testament writers say that.However, the Gospels don't seem interested in that.
- the Gospels are to show us Jesus' divinity (and potentially his full humanity as well). But the Gospels don't seem to be saying that primarily. Jesus' divinity is the key in which the Gospel writers write their music, not the tune.
What the Gospels are saying is what God is doing in the world through Jesus. It is in this man and this man alone that we see the Messianic agenda acted out.
To focus on Jesus' divinity to the exclusion of the work of the Kingdom he did here on earth to bring about the kingdom is to take a large step toward the detatched spirituality the early church rejected.
It's possible to be orthodox, to tell the story of the divinity of Jesus, but to be telling the wrong story.