My reading through of NT Wright’s theology of resurrection has been slowed by life getting in the way. I don’t get nearly as much time to sit and read as I used to, and when I do I tend to fall into easy fiction that doesn’t require too much thought.
As I continue to crawl my way through the second section of the book, the text on a couple of pages jumped out at me.
Surprised By Hope (2007), SPCK, p108:
Redemption is not simply making creation a bit better, as the optimistic evolutionist would try to suggest. Nor is it rescuing spirits and souls from an evil material world, as the gnostic would want to say. It is the remaking of creation, having dealt with the evil which is defacing and distorting it. And it is accomplished by the same God, now known in Jesus Christ, through whom it was made in the first place.
Surprised By Hope (2007), SPCK, p106:
Evil then consists, not in being created, but in the rebellious idolatry by which humans worship and honour elements of the natural world rather than the God who made them. The result is that the cosmos is out of joint. Instead of humans being God's wise vice-regents over creation, they ignore the creator and try to worship something less demanding, something which will give them a short-term fix of power or pleasure. The result is that death, which was always part of the natural transience of the good creation, gains a second dimension, which the Bible sometimes calls 'spiritual death'. In Genesis, and indeed for much of the Old Testament, the controlling image for death is exile.
Surprised By Hope (2007), SPCK, pp105-6:
Nor — and this is crucial — does evil consist in being transient, made to decay. There is nothing wrong with the tree dropping its leaves in autumn... indeed, it is precisely the transience of the good creation that serves as a pointer to its larger purpose. Creation was good, but it always had a forward look. Transience acts as a god-given signpost, pointing not from the material world to the non-material world, but from the world as it is to the world as it is meant one day to be...
Prior to this, Wright has explored what he views as the two most common ways Christians tend to view the destination of creation: that it is progressively improving towards perfection, or that it a vile physicality to be endured until we find perfection in some ‘spiritual’ reality. While he doesn’t spend too long presenting evidence for the prevalence of these views, they certainly fit with what I have heard and observed — while not fitting terribly well with my reading of Scripture. The author then goes on to explain what he understands as the Scriptural picture.
I am intrigued by the image of death as exile, never having given it too much thought. I’m looking forward to exploring it further as a way to help understand salvation, redemption and new life.
At this point in my reading I find the passages I’ve quoted above to be full of hope, but I wonder how well they would be received by the very most conservative and traditional, what with the slightly gnostic (gasp!) tendencies that tend to be expressed in those ends of the Church.