N T Wright Quotes

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Jesus's resurrection is the beginning of God's new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord's Prayer is about.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
Easter was when Hope in person surprised the whole world by coming forward from the future into the present.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
When we learn to read the story of Jesus and see it as the story of the love of God, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves--that insight produces, again and again, a sense of astonished gratitude which is very near the heart of authentic Christian experience.
N.T. Wright
You become like what you worship. When you gaze in awe, admiration, and wonder at something or someone, you begin to take on something of the character of the object of your worship.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
Those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God's new Temple. They are, individually and corporately, places where heaven and earth meet.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
Heaven is important, but its not the end of the world
N.T. Wright
[Arguments about God are] like pointing a flashlight toward the sky to see if the sun is shining.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
the work of salvation, in its full sense, is (1) about whole human beings, not merely souls; (2) about the present, not simply the future; and (3) about what God does through us, not merely what God does in and for us.
N.T. Wright
The resurrection completes the inauguration of God's kingdom. . . . It is the decisive event demonstrating thet God's kingdom really has been launched on earth as it is in heaven." "The message of Easter is that God's new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you're now invited to belong to it.
N.T. Wright
Logic cannot comprehend love; so much the worse for logic.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God's future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God's kingdom.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
When we begin to glimpse the reality of God, the natural reaction is to worship him. Not to have that reaction is a fairly sure sign that we haven't yet really understood who he is or what he's done.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
What we have at the moment isn't as the old liturgies used to say, 'the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead,' but a vague and fuzzy optimism that somehow things may work out in the end.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
We could cope—the world could cope—with a Jesus who ultimately remains a wonderful idea inside his disciples' minds and hearts. The world cannot cope with a Jesus who comes out of the tomb, who inaugurates God's new creation right in the middle of the old one.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
...left to ourselves we lapse into a kind of collusion with entrophy, acquiescing in the general belief that things may be getting worse but that there's nothing much we can do about them. And we are wrong. Our task in the present...is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
Someone who is determinedly trying to show God how good he or she is is likely to become an insufferable prig.
N.T. Wright (After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters)
God's plan is not to abandon this world, the world which he said was "very good." Rather, he intends to remake it. And when he does he will raise all his people to new bodily life to live in it. That is the promise of the Christian gospel.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
Many of the questions we ask God can't be answered directly, not because God doesn't know the answers but because our questions don't make sense. As C.S. Lewis once pointed out, many of our questions are, from God's point of view, rather like someone asking, "Is yellow square or round?" or "How many hours are there is a mile?
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment. But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world ... That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian: to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God's new world, which he has thrown open before us.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
Without God's Spirit, there is nothing we can do that will count for God's kingdom. Without God's Spirit, the church simply can't be the church.
N.T. Wright
Our task as image-bearing, God-loving, Christ-shaped, Spirit-filled Christians, following Christ and shaping our world, is to announce redemption to a world that has discovered its fallenness, to announce healing to a world that has discovered its brokenness, to proclaim love and trust to a world that knows only exploitation, fear and suspicion...The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology and even--heaven help us--Biblical studies, a worldview that will mount the historically-rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and postmodernity, leading the way...with joy and humor and gentleness and good judgment and true wisdom. I believe if we face the question, "if not now, then when?" if we are grasped by this vision we may also hear the question, "if not us, then who?" And if the gospel of Jesus is not the key to this task, then what is?
N.T. Wright (The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was & Is)
If you're a Christian you're just a shadow of your future self.
N.T. Wright
Whenever you see, in an official lectionary, the command to omit two or three verses, you can normally be sure that they contain words of judgment. Unless, of course, they are about sex.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
It is central to Christian living that we should celebrate the goodness of creation, ponder its present brokenness, and, insofar as we can, celebrate in advance the healing of the world, the new creation itself. Art, music, literature, dance, theater, and many other expressions of human delight and wisdom, can all be explored in new ways.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
All Christian language about the future is a set of signposts pointing into a mist.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
The church exists primarily for two closely correlated purposes: to worship God and to work for his kingdom in the world ... The church also exists for a third purpose, which serves the other two: to encourage one another, to build one another up in faith, to pray with and for one another, to learn from one another and teach one another, and to set one another examples to follow, challenges to take up, and urgent tasks to perform. This is all part of what is known loosely as fellowship.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
God has committed himself, ever since creation, to working through his creatures--in particular, through his image-bearing human beings--but they have all let Him down.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
Virtue is what happens when someone has made a thousand small choices requiring effort and concentration to do something which is good and right, but which doesn't come naturally. And then, on the thousand and first time, when it really matters, they find that they do what's required automatically. Virtue is what happens when wise and courageous choices become second nature.
N.T. Wright (After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters)
God is the one who satisfies the passion for justice, the longing for spirituality, the hunger for relationship, the yearning for beauty. And God, the true God, is the God we see in Jesus of Nazareth, Israel's Messiah, the world's true Lord.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
Jesus didn't really die-someone gave him a long drug that made him look like dead, and he revived in the tomb. Answer: Roman soldiers knew how to kill people, and no disciple would have been fooled by a half-drugged, beat-up Jesus into thinking he'd defeated death and inaugurated the kingdom.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether. They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
Traditions tell us where we have come from. Scripture itself is a better guide as to where we should now be going.
N.T. Wright (The Last Word)
The point [of the gospels] is not whether Jesus is God, but what God is doing in and through Jesus. What is this embodied God up to?
N.T. Wright (How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels)
When Jesus's followers asked him to teach them to pray, he didn't tell them to divide into focus groups and look deep within their own hearts.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
That is what worship is all about. It is the glad shout of praise that arises to God the creator and God the rescuer from the creation that recognizes its maker, the creation that acknowledges the triumph of Jesus the Lamb. That is the worship that is going on in heaven, in God's dimension, all the time. The question we ought to be asking is how best we might join in.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
We have lived for too long in a world, and tragically in a Church, where the wills and affections of human beings are regarded as sacrosanct as they stand, where God is required to command what we already love, and to promise what we already desire.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
Salvation, then, is not “going to heaven” but “being raised to life in God’s new heaven and new earth.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
Just as many who were brought up to think of God as a bearded old gentleman sitting on a cloud decided that when they stopped believing in such a being they had therefore stopped believing in God, so many who were taught to think of hell as a literal underground location full of worms and fire...decided that when they stopped believing in that, so they stopped believing in hell. The first group decided that because they couldn't believe in childish images of God, they must be atheists. The second decided that because they couldn't believe in childish images of hell, they must be universalists.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
Lent is a time for discipline, for confession, for honesty, not because God is mean or fault- finding or finger-pointing but because he wants us to know the joy of being cleaned out, ready for all the good things he now has in store.
N.T. Wright
The church is not supposed to be a society of perfect people doing great work. It’s a society of forgiven sinners repaying their unpayable debt of love by working for Jesus’s kingdom in every way they can, knowing themselves to be unworthy of the task.
N.T. Wright (Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters)
When 'biblical' theologies ignore the gospels, something is clearly very wrong." (on atonement theories)
N.T. Wright (How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels)
The church is often called a killjoy for protesting against sexual license. But the real killing of joy comes with the grabbing of pleasure. As with credit card usage. the price tag is hidden at the start, but the physical and emotional debt incurred will take a long time to pay off.
N.T. Wright (After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters)
Christian ethics is not a matter of discovering what's going on in the world and getting in tune with it. It isn't a matter of doing things to earn God's favor. It is not about trying to obey dusty rulebooks from long ago or far away. It is about practicing, in the present, the tunes we shall sing in God's new world.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
people who believe in the resurrection, in God making a whole new world in which everything will be set right at last, are unstoppably motivated to work for that new world in the present.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
The great drama will end, not with "saved souls" being snatched up into heaven, away from the wicked earth and the mortal bodies which have dragged them down into sin, but with the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth, so that "the dwelling of God is with humans" (Revelation 21:3).
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
Part of the problem about authenticity is that virtues aren't the only things that are habit forming: the more someone behaves in a way that is damaging to self or to others, the more "natural" it will both seem and actually be. Spontaneity, left to itself, can begin by excusing bad behavior and end by congratulating vice.
N.T. Wright (After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters)
Don’t misunderstand me. The terrorist actions of Al-Qaeda were and are unmitigatedly evil. But the astonishing naivety which decreed that America as a whole was a pure, innocent victim, so that the world could be neatly divided up into evil people (particularly Arabs) and good people (particularly Americans and Israelis), and that the latter had a responsibility now to punish the former, is a large-scale example of what I’m talking about - just as it is immature and naive to suggest the mirror image of this view, namely that the western world is guilty in all respects and that all protestors and terrorists are therefore completely justified in what they do. In the same way, to suggest that all who possess guns should be locked up, or (the American mirror-image of this view) that everyone should carry guns so that good people can shoot bad ones before they can get up to their tricks, is simply a failure to think into the depths of what’s going on.
N.T. Wright (Evil and the Justice of God)
Christian living means dying with Christ and rising again. That, as we saw, is part of the meaning of baptism, the starting point of the Christian pilgrimage.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
Unless a person can give reasons, there is, literally, no reason why anyone else should take that person seriously. But without reasons, all we are left with is emotional blackmail. We sometimes call it 'moral blackmail,' but it has nothing to do with morals, only with the implied juvenile threat of having a tantrum unless everyone else gives in.
N.T. Wright
If Luke and John were simply constructing narratives to combat Doceticism, they surely shot themselves in the foot with both barrels when they spoke of Jesus appearing through locked doors, disappearing again, sometimes being recognized, sometimes not, and finally ascending into heaven
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
God’s kingdom” in the preaching of Jesus refers not to postmortem destiny, not to our escape from this world into another one, but to God’s sovereign rule coming “on earth as it is in heaven.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
When human beings give their heartfelt allegiance to and worship that which is not God, they progressively cease to reflect the image of God. One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only to the object itself but also outward to the world around. Those who worship money increasingly define themselves in terms of it and increasingly treat other people as creditors, debtors, partners, or customers rather than as human beings. Those who worship sex define themselves in terms of it (their preferences, their practices, their past histories) and increasingly treat other people as actual or potential sex objects. Those who worship power define themselves in terms of it and treat other people as either collaborators, competitors, or pawns. These and many other forms of idolatry combine in a thousand ways, all of them damaging to the image-bearing quality of the people concerned and of those whose lives they touch.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
At the heart of Christian ethic is humility; at the heart of its parodies, pride. Different roads with different destinations, and the destinations color the character of those who travel by them.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
We have traditionally thought of knowing in terms of subject and object and have struggled to attain objectivity by detaching our subjectivity. It can't be done, and one of the achievements of postmodernity is to demonstrate that. What we are called to, and what in the resurrection we are equipped for, is a knowing in which we are involved as subjects but as self-giving, not as self-seeking, subjects: in other words, a knowing that is a form of love.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
We applaud patience, but prefer it to be a virtue that others possess.
N.T. Wright (After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters)
Art at its best draws attention not only to the way things are but also to the way things will be, when the earth is filled with the knowledge of G-D as the waters cover the sea. That remains a surprising hope, and perhaps it will be the artists who are best at conveying both the hope and the surprise.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
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 that will give them a short-term fix of power or pleasure.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
Do not despise the small but significant symbolic act. God probably does not want you to reorganize the entire discipline or the entire world of your vocation overnight. Learn to be symbol-makers and story-tellers for the kingdom of God.
N.T. Wright (The Challenge of Easter)
Jesus died for our sins not so that we could sort out abstract ideas, but so that we, having been put right, could become part of God’s plan to put his whole world right. That is how the revolution works.
N.T. Wright (The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion)
RAIN. First you Recognize the feeling. Then you Accept the feeling (rather than try to drive it away). Then you Investigate the feeling and its relationship to your body. Finally, the N stands for Nonidentification, or, equivalently, Nonattachment. Which is a nice note to end on, since not being attached to things was the Buddha’s all-purpose prescription for what ails us.
Robert Wright (Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment)
If you believe in resurrection, you believe that the living God will put his world to rights and that if God wants to do that in the future, it is right to try to anticipate that by whatever means in the present.
N.T. Wright
When God wants to sort out the world, as the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount make clear, he doesn't send in the tanks. He sends in the meek, the broken, the justice hungry, the peacemakers, the pure-hearted and so on.
N.T. Wright (The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was & Is)
Forget happiness. You were called to a throne. How will you prepare for it? That is the question of virtue, Christian style.
N.T. Wright (After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters)
True freedom is the gift of the Spirit, the result of grace: but, precisely because it is freedom FOR as well as freedom FROM, it isn't simply a matter of being forced now to be good, against our wills and without our cooperation, but a matter of being released from slavery precisely into responsibility, into being able at last to choose, to exercise moral muscle, knowing both that one is doing it oneself and that the Spirit is at work within, that God himself is doing that which I too am doing.
N.T. Wright (Justification: God's Plan & Paul's Vision)
We read scripture in order to be refreshed in our memory and understanding of the story within which we ourselves are actors, to be reminded where it has come from and where it is going to, and hence what our own part within it ought to be.
N.T. Wright (Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today)
Who had the biggest army in the ancient world? Caesar Augustus in Rome, and that is precisely how he was able to dominate that world. Nevertheless, his army is nothing compared to this angelic stratias that has lined up behind the new emperor. Remember Isaiah's prophesy that Yahweh would one day bare his mighty arm before all the nations. N.T. Wright has magnificently observed that the prophecy finds its fulfillment in the tiny arm of the baby Jesus coming out of his manger-crib.
Robert Barron
First, we break bread and drink wine together, telling the story of Jesus and his death, because Jesus knew that this set of actions would explain the meaning of his death in a way that nothing else--no theories, no clever ideas--could ever do.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
The debate that has been conducted in terms of "creation versus evolution" has gotten caught up with all kinds of other debates, and this has provided a singularly unhelpful backdrop to the would-be serious discussion of other parts of the Bible.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
The only sure rule is to remember that the Bible is indeed God's gift to the church, to equip that church for its work in the world, and that serious study of it can and should become one of the places where, and the means by which, heaven and earth interlock and God's future purposes arrive in the present.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
We can glimpse it in the book of Acts: the method of the kingdom will match the message of the kingdom. The kingdom…goes out into the world vulnerable, suffering, praising, praying, misunderstood, misjudged, vindicated, celebrating: always – as Paul puts it in one of his letters – bearing in the body the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be displayed.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
We cannot worship the suffering God today and ignore him tomorrow. We cannot eat and drink the body and blood of the passionate and compassionate God today, and then refuse to live passionately and compassionately tomorrow. If we say or sing, as we so often do, 'Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit', we thereby commit ourselves, in love, to the work of making his love known to the world that still stands so sorely in need of it. This is not the god the world wants. This is the God the world needs.
N.T. Wright
But to reject, marginalize, trivialize, or be suspicious of the sacraments (and quasi-sacramental acts such as lighting a candle, bowing, washing feet, raising hands in the air, crossing oneself and so forth) on the grounds that such things CAN be superstitious or idolatrous or that some people might suppose they are putting God in their debt, is like rejecting sexual relations in marriage on the grounds that it's the same act that in other circumstances constitutes immorality.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
When [Jesus] wanted fully to explain what his forthcoming death was all about,” writes New Testament scholar N. T. Wright, “he didn’t give a theory. He didn’t even give them a set of scriptural texts. He gave them a meal.”46 I guess sometimes you just have to taste and see.
Rachel Held Evans (Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church)
I've met people in the last year or two who have stopped going to their local church because people have started singing new songs and dancing in the aisles. And I've met others who have started going for precisely the same reason. It's time to give ourselves a shake--to recognize that different people need different kinds of help at different stages of their lives--and get on with it.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
You are called to be truly human, but it is nothing short of the life of God within you that enables you to be so, to be remade in God's image. As C.S. Lewis said in a famous lecture, next to the sacrament itself your Christian neighbor is the holiest object ever presented to your sight, because in him or her the living Christ is truly present.
N.T. Wright (The Challenge of Easter)
Salvation, then, is not “going to heaven” but “being raised to life in God’s new heaven and new earth.” But as soon as we put it like this we realize that the New Testament is full of hints, indications, and downright assertions that this salvation isn’t just something we have to wait for in the long-distance future. We can enjoy it here and now (always partially, of course, since we all still have to die), genuinely anticipating in the present what is to come in the future. “We were saved,” says Paul in Romans 8:24, “in hope.” The verb “we were saved” indicates a past action, something that has already taken place, referring obviously to the complex of faith and baptism of which Paul has been speaking in the letter so far. But this remains “in hope” because we still look forward to the ultimate future salvation of which he speaks in (for instance) Romans 5:9, 10.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
You see, the bodily resurrection of Jesus isn't a take-it-or-leave-it thing, as though some Christians are welcome to believe it and others are welcome not to believe it. Take it away, and the whole picture is totally different. Take it away, and Karl Marx was probably right to accuse Christianity of ignoring the problems of the material world. Take it away, and Sigmund Freud was probably right to say that Christianity is a wish-fulfillment religion. Take it away, and Friedrich Nietzsche was probably right to say that Christianity was a religion for wimps. Put it back, and you have a faith that can take on the postmodern world that looks to Marx, Freud and Nietzsche as its prophets, and you can beat them at their own game with the Easter news that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
N.T. Wright (For All God's Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church)
The point is this. The arts are not the pretty but irrelevant bits around the border of reality. They are the highways into the center of a reality which cannot be glimpsed, let alone grasped, any other way. The present world is good, but broken and in any case incomplete; art of all kinds enables us to understand that paradox in its many dimensions. But the present world is also designed for something which has not yet happened. It is like a violin waiting to be played: beautiful to look at, graceful to hold-and yet if you'd never heard one in the hands of a musician, you wouldn't believe the new dimensions of beauty yet to be revealed. Perhaps art can show something of that, can glimpse the future possibilities pregnant within the present time.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
The logic of cross and resurrection, of the new creation which gives shape to all truly Christian living, points in a different direction. And one of the central names for that direction is joy: the joy of relationships healed as well as enhanced, the joy of belonging to the new creation, of finding not what we already had but what god was longing to give us.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
we have developed a corollary that is neither love nor forgiveness—namely, tolerance. The problem with this is clear: I can “tolerate” you without it costing me anything very much. I can shrug my shoulders, walk away, and leave you to do your own thing. That, admittedly, is preferable to my taking you by the throat and shaking you until you agree with me. But it is certainly not love.
N.T. Wright (After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters)
We have to grow into Scripture, like a young boy inheriting his older brother's clothes and flopping around in them, but he gradually builds out and grows up. Perhaps it's a measure of our maturity when parts of Scripture that we found odd or even repellent suddenly come up in a new light. Our sense is overtaken by a sense of the whole thing, wide, multicolored, and unspeakably powerful.
N.T. Wright (After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters)
On the seventh day God rested in the darkness of the tomb; Having finished on the sixth day all his work of joy and doom. Now the Word had fallen silent, and the water had run dry, The bread had all been scattered, and the light had left the sky. The flock had lost its shepherd, and the seed was sadly sown, The courtiers had betrayed their king, and nailed him to his throne. O Sabbath rest by Calvary, O calm of tomb below, Where the grave-clothes and the spices cradle him we do not know! Rest you well, beloved Jesus, Caesar’s Lord and Israel’s King, In the brooding of the Spirit, in the darkness of the spring.
N.T. Wright (The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was & Is)
Scripture trains us to listen to and learn from stories of all kinds, inside the sacred text and outside, and to discern patterns and meanings within them. Stories of all sorts form and shape the character of those who read them. We live within the narrative as creatures in search of an ending, in search of happiness.
N.T. Wright (After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters)
Since both the departed saints and we ourselves are in Christ, we share with them in the 'communion of saints.' They are still our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we celebrate the Eucharist they are there with us, along with the angels and archangels. Why then should we not pray for and with them? The reason the Reformers and their successors did their best to outlaw praying for the dead was because that had been so bound up with the notion of purgatory and the need to get people out of it as soon as possible. Once we rule out purgatory, I see no reason why we should not pray for and with the dead and every reason why we should - not that they will get out of purgatory but that they will be refreshed and filled with God's joy and peace. Love passes into prayer; we still love them; why not hold them, in that love, before God?
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
Good Christian liturgy is friendship in action, love taking thought, the covenant relationship between God and his people not simply discovered and celebrated like the sudden meeting of friends, exciting and worthwhile though that is, but thought through and relished, planned and prepared -- an ultimately better way for the relationship to grow and at the same time a way of demonstrating what the relationship is all about.
N.T. Wright (After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters)
How does it happen that, on the one hand, we all share not just a sense that there is such a thing as justice, but a passion for it, a deep longing that things should be put to rights, a sense of out-of-jointness that goes on nagging and gnawing and sometimes screaming at us—and yet, on the other hand, after millennia of human struggle and searching and love and longing and hatred and hope and fussing and philosophizing, we still can’t seem to get much closer to it than people did in the most ancient societies we can discover?
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense)
[Jesus] is, at the moment, present with us, but hidden behind that invisible veil which keeps heaven and earth apart, and which we pierce in those moments, such as prayer, the sacraments, the reading of scripture, and our work with the poor, when the veil seems particularly thin. But one day the veil will be lifted; earth and heaven will be one; Jesus will be personally present, and every knee shall bow at his name; creation will be renewed; the dead will be raised; and God's new world will at last be in place, full of new prospects and possibilities.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
For the Deist ... prayer is calling across a void to a distant deity. This lofty figure may or may not be listening. He, or it, may or may not be inclined, or even able, to do very much about us and our world, even if he (or it) wanted to ... all you can do is send off a message, like a marooned sailor scribbling a note and putting it in a bottle, on the off-chance that someone out there might pick it up. That kind of prayer takes a good deal of faith and hope. But it isn't Christian prayer.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
Most Western Christians—and most Western non-Christians, for that matter—in fact suppose that Christianity was committed to at least a soft version of Plato’s position. A good many Christian hymns and poems wander off unthinkingly in the direction of Gnosticism. The “just passing through” spirituality (as in the spiritual “This world is not my home, / I’m just a’passin’ through”), though it has some affinities with classical Christianity, encourages precisely a Gnostic attitude: the created world is at best irrelevant, at worst a dark, evil, gloomy place, and we immortal souls, who existed originally in a different sphere, are looking forward to returning to it as soon as we’re allowed to. A massive assumption has been made in Western Christianity that the purpose of being a Christian is simply, or at least mainly, to “go to heaven when you die,” and texts that don’t say that but that mention heaven are read as if they did say it, and texts that say the opposite, like Romans 8:18–25 and Revelation 21–22, are simply screened out as if they didn’t exist.13
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
Within biblical theology it remains the case that the one living God created a world that is other than himself, not contained within himself. Creation was from the beginning an act of love, of affirming goodness of the other. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good; but it was not itself divine. At its height, which according to Genesis 1 is the creation of humans, it was designed to REFLECT God, both to reflect God back to God in worship and to reflect God into the rest of creation in stewardship. But this image-bearing capacity of humankind is not in itself the same thing as divinity. Collapsing this distinction means taking a large step toward a pantheism within which there is no way of understanding, let alone addressing, the problem of evil.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
Here, then, is the message of Easter, or at least the beginning of that message. The resurrection of Jesus doesn’t mean, “It’s all right. We’re going to heaven now.” No, the life of heaven has been born on this earth. It doesn’t mean, “So there is a life after death.” Well, there is, but Easter says much, much more than that. It speaks of a life that is neither ghostly nor unreal, but solid and definite and practical. The Easter stories come at the end of the four gospels, but they are not about an “end.” They are about a beginning. The beginning of God’s new world. The beginning of the kingdom. God is now in charge, on earth as in heaven. And God’s “being-in-charge” is focused on Jesus himself being king and Lord. The title on the cross was true after all. The resurrection proves it.
N.T. Wright (Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters)
After you die, you go to be "with Christ," but your body remains dead. Describing where and what you are in that interim period is difficult, and for the most part the New Testament writers don't try. Call it "heaven" if you like, but don't imagine that it's the end of all things. What is promised after that interim period is a new bodily life within God's new world. I am constantly amazed that many contemporary Christians find this confusing. It was second nature to the early church and to many subsequent Christian generations. It was what they believed and taught. If we have grown up believing and teaching something else, it's time we rubbed our eyes and read our texts again.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
The whole of the Sermon [Matt 5-7] is framed within Jesus's announcement that what his fellow Jews had longed for over many generations was now at last coming to pass - but that new kingdom didn't look like they had thought it would. Indeed, in some ways it went in exactly the other direction. No violence, no hatred of enemies, no anxious protection of land and property against the pagan hordes. In short, no frantic intensification of the ancestral codes of life. Rather, a glad and unworried trust in the creator God, whose kingdom is now at last starting to arrive, leading to a glad and generous heart toward other people, even those who are technically "enemies." Faith, hope, and love: here they are again. They are the language of life, the sign in the present of green shoots growing through the concrete of this sad old world, the indication that the creator God is on the move, and that Jesus's hearers and followers can be part of what he's now doing.
N.T. Wright
They were looking for a builder to construct the home they thought they wanted, but he was the architect, coming with a new plan that would give them everything they needed, but within quite a new framework. They were looking for a singer to sing the song they had been humming for a long time, but he was the composer, bringing them a new song to which the old songs they knew would form, at best, the background music. He was the king, all right, but he had come to redefine kingship itself around his own work, his own mission, his own fate.
N.T. Wright (Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters)
[Christians] must become, must be known as, the people who don't hold grudges, who don't sulk. We must be the people who know how to say "Sorry," and who know how to respond when other people say it to us. It is remarkable, once more, how difficult this still seems, considering how much time the Christian church has had to think about it and how much energy has been spent on expounding the New Testament, where the advice is all so clear. Perhaps it's because we have tried, if at all, to do it as though it were just a matter of obeying an artificial command--and then, finding it difficult, have stopped trying because nobody else seems to be very good at it either. Perhaps it might be different if we reminded ourselves frequently that we are preparing for life in God's new world, and that the death and resurrection of Jesus, which by baptism constitute our own new identity, offer us both the motivation and the energy to try again in a new way.
N.T. Wright (Simply Christian)
At the same time, we may not as a culture be fond of old-fashioned supernaturalism, but we certainly like spirituality in whatever form we can get it. I suspect that if anyone other than Jesus (Krishna, say, or Buddha) were suddenly put forward as being due for a second coming, millions in our postsecular society would embrace such a thing uncritically, leaving Enlightenment rationalism huffing and puffing in the rear. We are a puzzled and confused generation, embracing any and every kind of nonrationalism that may offer us a spiritual shot in the arm while lapsing back into rationalism (in particular, the old modernist critiques) whenever we want to keep traditional or orthodox Christianity at bay.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
Note, though, something else of great significance about the whole Christian theology of resurrection, ascension, second coming, and hope. This theology was born out of confrontation with the political authorities, out of the conviction that Jesus was already the true Lord of the world who would one day be manifested as such. The rapture theology avoids this confrontation because it suggests that Christians will miraculously be removed from this wicked world. Perhaps that is why such theology is often Gnostic in its tendency towards a private dualistic spirituality and towards a political laissez-faire quietism. And perhaps that is partly why such theology with its dreams of Armageddon, has quietly supported the political status quo in a way that Paul would never have done.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
What you do in the Lord is not in vain. You are not oiling the wheels of a machine that's about to roll over a cliff. You are not restoring a great painting that's shortly going to be thrown on the fire. You are not planting rosed in a garden that's about to be dug up for a building site. You are -- strange though it may seem, almost as hard to believe as the resurrection itself -- accomplishing something that will become in due course part of God's new world. Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support, for one's fellow human beings and for that matter one's fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and make the name of Jesus honored in the world -- all of this will find its way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
But as soon as we grasp this—and I appreciate it takes quite a bit of latching onto for people who have spent their whole lives thinking the other way—we see that if salvation is that sort of thing, it can’t be confined to human beings. When human beings are saved, in the past as a single coming-to-faith event, in the present through acts of healing and rescue, including answers to the prayer “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” and in the future when they are finally raised from the dead, this is always so that they can be genuine human beings in a fuller sense than they otherwise would have been. And genuine human beings, from Genesis 1 onward, are given the mandate of looking after creation, of bringing order to God’s world, of establishing and maintaining communities. To suppose that we are saved, as it were, for our own private benefit, for the restoration of our own relationship with God (vital though that is!), and for our eventual homecoming and peace in heaven (misleading though that is!) is like a boy being given a baseball bat as a present and insisting that since it belongs to him, he must always and only play with it in private. But of course you can only do what you’re meant to do with a baseball bat when you’re playing with other people. And salvation only does what it’s meant to do when those who have been saved, are being saved, and will one day fully be saved realize that they are saved not as souls but as wholes and not for themselves alone but for what God now longs to do through them.
N.T. Wright (Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church)
At the heart of Galatians 2 is not an abstract individualized salvation, but a common meal. Paul does not want the Galatians to wait until they have agreed on all doctrinal arguments before they can sit down and eat together. Not to eat together is already to get the answer wrong. The whole point of his argument is that all those who belong to Christ belong at the same table with one another. The relevance of this today should be obvious. The differences between us, as twentieth-century Christians, all too often reflect cultural, philosophical and tribal divides, rather than anything that should keep us apart from full and glad eucharistic fellowship. I believe the church should recognize, as a matter of biblical and Christian obedience, that it is time to put the horse back before the cart, and that we are far, far more likely to reach doctrinal agreement between our different churches if we do so within the context of that common meal which belongs equally to us all because it is the meal of the Lord whom we all worship. Intercommunion, in other words, is not something we should regard as the prize to be gained at the end of the ecumenical road; it is the very paving of the road itself. If we wonder why we haven't been travelling very fast down the road of late, maybe it's because, without the proper paving, we've got stuck in the mud.
N.T. Wright (For All God's Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church)