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Fire in the Bones [Biblical, Heterodox Christianity]: Books

I recently finished reading Surprised by Hope, written by a CoE Bishop, N.T. Wright, which happens to be a charactonym because he writes about the NT.

I would first like to say that I highly recommend this book to every Christian, for the importance of the message found in the first 75 pages is absolutely critical and under-appreciated. Wright is willing to take on the traditional [and quite non-Biblical] bromides Christians tend to throw about regarding life after death, and in doing so he shows emphatically how and why the resurrection of Christ was so important to the Christian church.

I’ve written before that the apostles were clearly far more focused on the resurrection than they were on certain other teachings that dominate today’s church. Wright explains clearly why this is, and in doing so explains what “Christian Hope” and, by my reading,”Christ Crucified” really mean.

For those points, as well as the general temerity to say things at odds (just a smidge) with Orthodoxy, NT Wright is to be praised, and this book recommended.I do have some particular nitpicks and less positive comments that I hope are taken in the spirit of the above.

Bishop Wright suggests that when Jesus referred in parables to a master returning to see how his goods were used, He was referring to Christ’s own 1st Century coming. While this may be true, it’s hard to see Jesus’ thief-in-the-night or vestal virgins parables in this light (especially given how late in His ministry they were given). It is also hard to see the parables of the Minas/Talents in this way (which are the parables Wright specifically references) unless they were meant as a type of post mortem “here were the possible ways you could have responded, and we know which one you picked, and now it should not surprise you that your grace will be removed” decree. Furtherore, it is hard to see what the “middle” level person (the one who earned 5 talents, etc.) represents in that case.

Bishop Wrght also gives the impression that Paul might not have held very firmly to a resurrection of both the just and unjust, saying that he only indicates that view one time [in 1st Corinthians]. That is an odd statement to make since Paul most definitely indicates a resurrection of both the righteous and unrighteous in his testimony in Acts.

Bishop Wright casts Jesus language regarding Hell in a present-day, political sense. He claims that Jesus was warning the Jews that if they continued acting in the way they were acting, it would lead to Roman invasion and destruction. This is a remarkable statement given that Jesus says things like Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Wright suggests an odd version of eternal “punishment” whereby those who do not “make it” simply devolve into non-human creatures who no longer bear the likeness of God. These creatures [given the deformed nature of their spirit] would no longer even be interested or desirous of God’s presence, which does not mesh very well with the frustration and gnashing of teeth we see described by Jesus. Wright openly admits that this novel belief comes from his own repulsion at the idea of eternal torture, rather than in any particular Biblical evidence.