How God Became King: Getting To The Heart Of The Gospels
- SPCK Publishing
- Publication Date:
- 01 April 2012
Showing 1-3 out of 3 reviews.
This book has the potential to alter the course of our religion or, perhaps better said, the potential to bring it back on the path intended by the writers of the four Gospels. Wright’s main thesis is that we have over stressed the answers to the questions ‘Why was Jesus born?’ and ‘Why did Jesus die?’ and under stressed the question ‘Why did Jesus live?’. The answer, he contends, is that he lived in order to usher into the world God as King and that message is clearly stated in the four Gospels.There is a story line contained in the Old Testament that follows an iterative cycle (sometimes referred to as ‘The Exodus Cycle’ because it is most clearly stated there). The cycle proceeds as follows: A period of ‘living with God’ is followed by a fall which initiates an exile. The exile ends with a reawakening and then a period of atonement after which a messiah inaugurates a return to a state of God’s reign. The first recorded cycle begins with Eden and ends with Abraham as the messianic figure. The second is the Exodus story with David ushering in the ‘God with us’ period. The third cycle began with the Babylonian exile but the period of atonement (Second Temple period) was never terminated to the satisfaction of Jewish people. Christians recognize Jesus as Christ, i.e. Messiah, but not necessarily as the harbinger of God as King on earth or the ultimate climax of that third cycle. That is, according to Wright, the story contained in the Gospels. Jesus lived in order to prepare the people for God’s presence and the Passion of Christ is, in actuality, a coronation ceremony. God is back into our presence – if we can but recognize and accept it. To some extent, the acceptance of Wright’s thesis requires a rethinking of mainstream ideas on Eschatology. We usually and traditionally think of ‘End Times’ as a future happening and there are some theologians who contend that the prophecies have been fulfilled and that we are now either in a state of limbo or the prophecies have been proven false. Wright and a few others take a third position referred to as either ‘initiated’ or ‘inaugurated’ eschatology that holds that we are living in the ‘end time’ era and waiting for the last judgment. In so doing, Wright assails such popular ideas as ‘rapture’ as a misreading of the Bible.As a part of his argument and a point most likely to be most harshly criticized Wright suggests that part of the reason that Christianity has gone off the track is our over reliance on the Nicene and Apostle’s Creeds as the total sum and substance of our belief system. The Creeds, he contends, either ignore or subsumes at some hidden level the entire Gospel story. They served a valuable role in early Christianity in shaping our religion but have diverted us from the thrust of the Gospel story.If the book has a fault it is that it does not clearly state what we as Christians must do to get our religion back on track other than to reread the four Gospels, preferably by reading each in turn at one sitting. This will, Wright promises, give us the proper macro view of their message and confirm his thesis.Wright is not a fringe theologian. He is considered to be in the group of the top contemporary theologians in the world and the most esteemed conservative in that group. His most exhaustive academic work is contained in his three volume work Christian Origins and the Question of God (Fortress Press). Serious students of Wright should begin their study there but not be discouraged by its ponderous style and meticulous development of logical argumentation. I heartedly recommend buying this book. As a matter of fact, you should buy three copies – one for yourself, one to give to your Pastor, and one to send to your denomination’s seminary. We should get the word out.
Wright begins with the creeds, about Jesus being born of a virgin and dying for our sins, and bemoans the “missing middle.” Christianity today has become too focused on the beginning and end of the Jesus story, and has ignored a primary message of all four Gospels: that God has come back, in the form of Jesus, and reigns today as King.So who is the Jesus in the middle? A violent revolutionary? A wide-eyed apocalyptic visionary, expecting the end of the world? A mild-mannered teacher of sweet reasonableness? If he was one of the first two, Jesus was deluded. Even if it’s the third case, Jesus was similarly deluded, because most of his followers from that day to this have been anything but sweetly reasonable. Instead, they have busied themselves inventing dogmas (like the virgin birth and the resurrection), writing creeds, and establishing the church.Thankfully, none of these Jesuses match the Gospels. Wright is sick of scholars and books which portray Jesus as a good Jewish boy who would have been horrified to see a church spring up in his name. He wants us to see Jesus the way the Gospels tell the story, as God coming down to be King of the earth. Wright’s guns are blazing in this book (his passion took me rather by surprise), firing at liberals and feel-gooders. God is no doddering old boss who used to run the company but has since been banished to a cozy upstairs office where he can sit and imagine he’s still in charge. God is king. The story of Jesus is the story of how Israel’s God became king.Wright’s approach this time is not at all objective. He is a believing Trinitarian, and speaks out against the popular opinion that the high Christology of John is a later development. From the beginning, the Gospel story has been about the divine Jesus, Son of God, God Himself. On Mark’s very first page, the story of Jesus’ baptism, we find “every bit as high a Christology as John’s, though it is a high Jewish Christology.” Wright also discusses Matthew’s viewpoint and Luke’s viewpoint, in each case pointing out the evidence that they considered Jesus divine. Wright never quite nails down his definition of Christ’s divinity … none of this “Jesus is God” direct approach, just as no such claim exists in the scriptures … but we should make the association in some mystical way. For Wright, this verse in Luke says it all:“Go back to your home,” said Jesus, “and tell them what God has done for you.” And he went off around every town, declaring what Jesus had done for him.In the end, I am fully behind Wright’s view that the Gospels present Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s return to earth as King, and in my own mystical way I confess to be sort of a Trinitarian, but I simply can’t buy the argument that all of the Gospels contain the same high Christology as John’s Gospel. There are too many opposing arguments that Wright fails to address.
This book raises some interesting thoughts about why Jesus came and lived on earth. It gets a bit repetative in places, but worth a read.
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