Heaven is not our home – another shock from another Wright

Brian of the blog sunestauromai – living the crucified life has the good fortune to pastor a church at a place which in some ways must be heaven on earth: the rim of the Grand Canyon. But is it in fact the nearest he will get to heaven? I don’t mean the altitude, although from there it must be unusually easy to imagine what it would be like to fall into hell.

Brian has been reading what Bishop NT Wright has had to say about heaven, in a new Christianity Today article (from where I have taken my post title) and a slightly older interview in Time Magazine. To these Brian has written a response, with a follow-up. I am sure he is not the only Christian, not even the only pastor, to be a little confused by the way in which Wright seems to be undermining the traditional understanding of the Christian hope, that we go to heaven when we die and that is the end of it.

So I will take a break from explaining the Reverend Jeremiah Wright to explain the Right(!) Reverend NT Wright, as I understand him.

In fact I am completely with NT Wright on this issue. The understanding which he is undermining, even if according to Nick Norelli it is not in fact widespread, is not biblical teaching but a distortion of it. Bodily resurrection – of every Christian in future, as well as of Jesus on the first Easter Sunday – is central to the Christian hope as explained by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15: Continue reading

Still more on "God damn America"

Since I posted about “God damn America” in context, I chanced upon a blog, with the possibly presumptuous name The Church of Jesus Christ, on which the anonymous blogger “Polycarp” has posted a transcription of much of Rev Jeremiah Wright’s controversial “God damn America” sermon. In fact the transcription was taken from another blog, The Roland Report.

Here are some of Wright’s words following on, not quite immediately, from the words “God damn America”:

The United States government has failed the vast majority of her citizens of African descent.

Tell your neighbor he’s (going to) help us one last time. Turn back and say forgive him for the God Damn, that’s in the Bible though. Blessings and curses is in the Bible. It’s in the Bible.

Where government fail, God never fails. When God says it, it’s done. God never fails. When God wills it, you better get out the way, ‘cause God never fails. When God fixes it, oh believe me it’s fixed. God never fails. Somebody right now, you think you can’t make it, but I want you to know that you are more than a conqueror through Christ. You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

I take Wright’s words “he’s (going to) help us one last time … forgive him for the God Damn”, although confusing without more verbal and visual clues, to indicate that Wright is partly retracting his earlier words and instead asking God to turn and help America “one last time”. So “God damn America” can be understood as a rhetorical flourish to get his listeners’ attention to what follows, and was never intended as a serious imprecation. It certainly succeeded in getting attention, but unfortunately the following words were cut off, even in the rather longer video to which I previously posted a link.

I largely agree with Polycarp’s appraisal:

First, what Rev. Wright said was not that far off. …

Why is what he said so offensive? He told the absolute truth and pointed out that in the end governments fail, but God does not. Anything wrong with that? Did he not point out the list of offenses that the government has made? God did the same thing to Israel. The problem that I think that many people have, is that they view what he said as racist. He is not. He said that Egypt has done the same thing. But why focus on another country where the people could not have connected to? Why speak about the horrors of Czarist Russia? No one would have connected. So, like most speakers trying to get a point across, he did his best to connect the audience to the topic.

Another thing, is that he ‘attacked’ the U.S. I hate to tell you this, but everything he said was correct. And another thing, this country is not divine, so stop saying that it is. Stop pretending that Christ died that the Declaration of Independence might be written!

"God damn America" in context

I may have upset some people with my post “God damn America”?, despite the quotes and the question mark in the post title. After all, the soundbite quotes in the video of Rev Jeremiah Wright are indeed rather shocking. But JR Woodward, in a thoughtful post (thanks to Pam BG for the link), has shown how the quotes from Wright’s sermons were taken completely out of context.

The example given in the Youtube video embedded by Woodward shows how Wright’s supposedly offensive words in the aftermath of 9/11:

America’s chickens are coming home to roost

are in fact a quotation of the words of a white ambassador. The video is well worth watching for the insight it gives into the real Jeremiah Wright, who is not at all the monster depicted by the original compilation of soundbites.

A search of Youtube found me this video giving the actual context of the words “God damn America”. Here is a transcription of a small part of this, from the very end of the video – of course I can’t imitate Wright’s style of preaching:

No, no, no, not God bless America. God damn America (that’s in the Bible) for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating her citizens as less than human. God damn America as long as she tries to act like she is God and she is supreme. The United States government has failed the vast majority of her citizens of African descent.

Watch more of this, and decide for yourselves whether in fact Wright’s sentiments were (in Jeremy Pierce’s words) “I want you to be damned, and I don’t want you to repent”, or “repent, America, or you will be judged”.

My most popular posts

I enabled WordPress Blog Stats on this blog I think in August last year, and since then it has been monitoring how popular my posts are, carefully excluding my own visits to my blog.

Up to about a month ago the most read post had only about 800 hits. That was in fact Do not read Adrian’s blog any more, which was read mainly in the last week of last November. But over the last month the situation has changed radically.

My post from early February Why is Easter so early this year? has become a real hit, with 2675 hits so far, and a peak of 231 views in one day on 20th March. Probably around 2000 of these have been the results of various searches including “easter” and “early”, and that is not surprising because my post comes up number 5 on a Google search for “easter early”. But I expect that from now on this post will be viewed a lot less as this year’s Easter fades into the past.

But this post’s popularity has been dwarfed by the unexpected success of Pope Benedict, Bible scholars, and the Antichrist, which I discussed here. This has attracted 6310 hits, but the vast majority of these were on just two days, 2nd and 3rd March. When this post dropped out of the latest links page at Spirit Daily, it quickly lost its readership. Indeed my statistics show over 6000 referrals from this site.

Meanwhile The Maltese Cross, or the Christian one? has crept up into third place with 951 hits. I think a lot of these are the results of searches for “old bailey”, “blind justice” and similar. This leaves Do not read Adrian’s blog any more back in fourth position among my posts with 840 hits, followed by Augustine’s mistake about original sin with 746 and Mark Driscoll: “I murdered God”, “God hates you” on 618.

What will be my next hit post? Not this one, I’m sure. I could say that it is for you, my readers, to decide. But in fact it is not. The only way a post on this blog can get near to 1000 hits is apparently if it somehow comes to the notice of people who don’t usually read this blog, through a search term or an interesting link on a popular site.

How gentle is my wisdom?

Lingamish, on his updated links page, has pigeon-holed this blog as “Un-pigeon-hole-able” and described it, or me, as:

Gentle Wisdom: Occasionally gentle. Somewhat wise. A teddy bear with teeth.

It’s a good thing you’re my friend, David, so these teeth will only rend you in a friendly way.

But this description did get me thinking. Am I being presumptuous to call my blog “Gentle Wisdom”? Indeed I am not always as gentle as I might be, as I have confessed before – although I never intended to be gentle in a soft and cuddly teddy bear sort of way. But I hope I am really gentle more than occasionally.

Anyway, right from when I first changed the blog name to “Gentle Wisdom” the wisdom I intended to present has not been my own wisdom, which is not always even “somewhat wise” and not always gentle, but the God-given “wisdom from above [which] is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy” (James 3:17, NRSV). This is what I aim to live up to. If I fail, please rebuke me, gently, in comments here, or by e-mail to peter AT qaya DOT org.

Update: Gorbachev is NOT a Christian

Last week I reported that Gorbachev is a Christian, on the authority of The Telegraph. Perhaps I should learn not to trust newspapers. For today I learn, thanks to another newspaper, a Christian one this time, (thanks also to Claude Mariottini for telling me about this in a comment) that Gorbachev is now insisting that he is not a Christian. He is quoted as saying:

To sum up and avoid any misunderstandings, let me say that I have been and remain an atheist.

Is this inconsistent with his words reported by the Telegraph?:

St Francis is, for me, the alter Christus, the other Christ … His story fascinates me and has played a fundamental role in my life.

Perhaps not. St Francis, and for that matter Jesus as presented in the Gospels, with their teaching on poverty and love, can easily be an inspiration for an atheistic communist, if they are allowed to be – and if the atheist ignores their teaching about God. It seems that this is an example of a journalist reading rather too much between the lines of Gorbachev’s remarks.

At the Last Supper, did Jesus know he would rise again?

An interesting question has come to my mind in the renewed discussion on whether the risen Jesus has blood. To a slightly off topic question about the Last Supper from Rick Ritchie I gave an answer on which I am now expanding.

Rick thought it strange that Jesus would ask his disciples to do something in memory of his death before that death actually happened. I disagreed, writing:

I don’t see an inherent contradiction in the disciples being asked to repeat this in remembrance of him. I can quite imagine for example a dying old man taking his children to his favourite place and asking them to gather there regularly to remember him after he has gone. Similarly with Jesus’ Last Supper, on the understanding that he knew he was about to die.

But this question then occurred to me:

Would Jesus have said this if he had been sure at the time that he would rise again?

That is, would Jesus have asked his disciples to eat the bread and drink the wine in remembrance of him if he had known that his death was only a temporary matter, for a few days? Continue reading

Official: the risen Jesus has blood

Last year I was surprised by the controversy generated by my post asking Does the risen Jesus have blood? Somehow it seemed obvious to me that he did, that his risen body was made up of flesh, bones, blood etc like normal human bodies.

So I was interested to read today John Richardson quoting from Article IV of the Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England:

CHRIST did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man’s nature, wherewith he ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day.

(Corrected to the capitalisation printed in the Book of Common Prayer, also “wherefore” corrected to “wherewith”.)

So (reading “wherewith”) it is the official doctrine of the Church of England that the risen and ascended Jesus has a body “with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man’s [sic] nature”. Now blood, especially the blood of Jesus, is certainly not a part of the evil sinful nature, and so is a thing “appertaining to the perfection of Man’s nature”, and so is included in the risen and ascended body.

Of course I realise that not all my readers accept this Anglican formulation. I myself do not consider it binding in any sense, certainly not if it goes against Scripture. But this formulation shows that the 16th century divines who wrote these articles shared my opinion on this matter.

Also, it continues to be strange to me that Doug Chaplin, and Anglican priest, expounded this article and continued the discussion with denials that the risen Jesus had real material body parts. If Jesus was raised from the dead not as a body but only as some kind of immaterial ghost, what does that do for our faith?

What was so good about Friday?

I took a break from blogging on Good Friday – although my last post was after midnight on Thursday and so dated Friday. But others did not, and here I am linking to some of their posts relevant to the day.

My friend Lingamish, David Ker, was busy. First he posted a moving Cyber-Psalm, a poetic meditation on the tension between sadness and celebration on Good Friday. Then he posted on What’s so good about Friday?:

Is it a corruption of “God’s Friday” …? Is it good in the sense of having good effects for those who are redeemed by the sacrifice of God’s son?

Jim West (who has seen sense about the photo in his blog) takes up the same theme when he writes:

It certainly wasn’t a very ‘good’ day for Jesus …

Good Friday is good only for those who believe that Jesus’ suffering and death is somehow beneficial to them. …

‘Good’ Friday? Indeed. But to use the phrase is to confess something profound.

Thanks, Jim. You reminded me of these words I just read, written by J.I. Packer in 1958 and quoted by Paul Helm:

Heretical notions may occupy Christian men’s heads, leading to error of thought and practice and spiritual impoverishment; but these notions cannot control their hearts. As regenerate men, it is their nature to be better than the unscriptural parts of their creed would allow.

Sally of Eternal Echoes has also been busy, with four posts, of which this is the last. Today, Saturday, she has also posted this moving meditation for the day, in the character of Mary Magdalene, and the following from the President Of Methodist Conference’s Easter Message:

Our Easter faith is not death or resurrection, it is death and resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus is not a reversal of death. It is much more than that. The risen Jesus is known by the scars of crucifixion. He is the Living One Who Died. But now he is alive forever. And, marvellously, he stands today with this needy world in the reality of death and the promise of new life. This ministry he shares with us, his Easter People Church, a people bearing the marks of both death and new life. A people who know and live out the profound truth that death and resurrection life both lie deep in the purposes of God, in whom all things will be well. Alleluia!

More theologically, Brant Pitre offers Thomas Aquinas’ perspective on
Five Reasons the Cross was the Most Suitable Way for Our Redemption. It is interesting that the great mediaeval theologian by no means limited himself to just one model of the atonement.

Today I have also discovered the new Biblical Coins blog, from which I have gleaned the interesting information that the 30 pieces of silver which Judas received was probably worth 40% of the 300 denarii (or a year’s wages, the TNIV rendering) which he wanted to steal from the proceeds of selling Mary’s jar of ointment (John 12:4-5). Sadly Bibles don’t usually make this relationship clear, although it would probably have been clear to the original readers.

Meanwhile John Meunier offers a more light-hearted piece: Teen-ager exegesis.