Column: This is progress?
Anglican theologian N.T. Wright’s latest book “Simply Good News” brilliantly re-asks the age-old-question, “Who’s in charge here, anyway?”
Wright comments forthrightly and biblically on why the appearance of Jesus Christ in history is an event, is actual “Good News,” and is the God-directed truth of how things are, where they are going, and how they are going to be. Wright poses these propositions against the fallen-world’s centuries-long proclivity to re-state and re-form Christian doctrines to match constantly changing social and political environments.
The world in general, Wright notes, prefers its encounter with Jesus to encompass merely “take-it-or-leave-it” advice, borne of convenience and comfort as historically pronounced and preferred by man. Harkening back to the old, limiting dodge which confines Jesus to being a “good moral teacher,” Wright plainly points out the puniness of that line of thinking.
Jesus – His life, death and resurrection – is so much bigger than that.
Just out this summer, “Simply Good News” is a quickly paced 171-page read that spares us the complexities of sodden theological epistemologies and endless philosophical proofs that normally weigh down this type of exposition into the deep and typically opaque academic mire of advanced religious studies. Obviously in a book this size, thankfully, there is no room for that.
Wright, a British professor, prodigious author and former Anglican bishop, is noted for his plain-speak explanations of the deepest theological matters. He is a man of Christian faith who does not cloak truth in the hollow charade of “religious studies,” where Christian faith is neither required nor particularly welcomed in the re-tooled modernity of God. God has become this quaint, quasi-real thing. Jesus is this dangerously unbelievable thing. Christianity is a superstition best observed but not embraced.
The modernist “truth” preferred in today’s broadest social, cultural, political and academic contexts is the developmental primacy of man’s philosophy, science, technology and sociology. That, Wright points out, is where modern man errantly believes “progress” occurs. That, Wright points out, is humanity’s biggest problem of the last three centuries.
As we contemplate the lightning-fast development of Western culture or consider the fundamental development of America as an outstanding example of faith-based politics (and I believe it is), Wright offers a view I’ve never considered: an eye-opening commentary on how 18th century philosophers and 19th century technology “progressed” into the 20th century’s world wars, communism, Nazism, and many other human catastrophes.
Wright’s point is that God is in charge and that humanity – at its own peril – misdirected endeavors to be in charge. Jesus, in truth, is news we can use.
Understanding that is progress.
Walters (firstname.lastname@example.org) recommends the book which includes an intriguing final chapter on the Lord’s Prayer which, Wright notes, is often prayed backwards.