The Broken Nonsense of the World and the Beautiful Sense of Christ

N.T. Wright is the definition of a b@d@ss theologian. The outfit speaks for itself.

“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: Why Christianity Makes Sense

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about who God is.  We both have attended liberal seminaries where professors have abandoned classic theologies (based on plain readings of Scripture) in favor of contemporary critiques claiming to be theologies (feminist, liberation, process).  As one of my professors put it, “The question of contemporary theology is not who God is, but what it means to be human.”

Much of what claims to be theology these days – both from liberal and conservative camps – is little more than pop psychology, amateur sociology, even strategic business writing.  The writers attempt to sell consumers what they can get out of God, not who God is and how we are to therefore respond.  Forget about the God of Scripture who is the great “I Am” or, better yet, “I will be who I will be.”  Now, it’s primarily about how I can get God to enhance my life.

N.T. Wright, on the other hand, seems to be an exception to this rule.  While he does not restrict himself to orthodox conclusions about classic doctrines, he takes Scripture seriously (and he puts God first).  The quote (above) is a good example.  To illustrate his point, visit a local library or bookstore (if you can find one).  Or, just go on-line.  Notice –

How many books in the “spirituality” section are actually about personal self-help?

How many books labeled “joy” or “happiness” have more to do with sensual pleasures, like sex?

How many books calling for “justice for the poor” are written by angry academicians whose income is high by worldly standards?

How many books on “relationships” talk about making changes for personal benefit?

How many blogs are filled with poems that convey sentimental clichés rather than glimpses of beauty in the real world?

We live in a deeply wounded world.  But those of us who call themselves Christians (and anyone who would like to be more like Jesus) are called to live a different reality – one that is based not on brokenness to be critiqued, but beauty to be embraced.

(photo of N.T. Wright from Eric Carter in BA Theologians)

4 thoughts on “The Broken Nonsense of the World and the Beautiful Sense of Christ

  1. I love your approach to finding God. I believe that the reason we’re here is to find our own unique path to God. (Which is also why I’m not a huge fan of missionaries and why I think this W. Somerset Maugham quote is so funny: “’When we went there, they had no sense of sin at all,’ he said. ‘They broke the commandments one after the other and never knew they were doing wrong. And I think that was the most difficult part of my work, to instill into the natives the sense of sin.’”)
    I also believe that God is everywhere: when I’m walking to the deli or on the beach as well as church. But I expect that’s because I’m not a Catholic and was raised to be accountable to Him directly. I am envious of people who can visit their priest and be absolved of sin! As a Lutheran–every sin is with me for life. Because that is part of my path too.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments. While I do not share your theological conclusions, I am happy you have joined the conversation and hope together we might grow closer to God.

  2. And you retired from the ministry? Why? Every word resonated with me. I am so tired of going to churches where all you get is anecdotal palaver. Most sermons are skim milk at best. Give me a great big juicy steak anyday.

    • Thank you very much for your thoughtful words.

      I was a pastor for over 18 years. In 2009, I went on disability, primarily due to complications from my Bipolar illness.

      I am looking to get back to work, but not as a pastor. Instead, I’m pursuing writing and teaching as a career. I do still attend church, but I’m happy to let someone else do the preaching.

      Now, if you could find me a job where I could write sermons and let someone else deliver them (and do the pastoring), I would strongly consider that. 🙂

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