#040 – Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright (Pt 15 – Future Now Pt 1) [Podcast]

So how can we learn to live as wide-awake people, as Easter people? Here I have some bracing suggestions to make. I have come to believe that many churches simply throw Easter away year by year; and I want to plead that we rethink how we do it so as to help each other, as a church and as individuals, to live what we profess.

Future Now

Future Now

I am speaking here particularly from, and to, the church I know best. Those who celebrate in other ways will, I think, be able to make appropriate adjustments and take whatever they need to apply to their own situations.

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#039 – Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright (Pt 14 – Missions Historically) [Podcast]

If today’s, and tomorrow’s, church is to engage in this kind of mission, seeking both to implement the achievement of Jesus and his resurrection and thereby to anticipate the final renewal of all things, it must itself be renewed, resourced, and reshaped for this mission. What will this look like?  What about missions historically in the early church?

Missions Historically

Missions Historically

It is vital that we address this question in terms of the scriptural witness to the resurrection and the way in which, in the Bible itself, this witness is directly translated into mission and the life of the church. The present chapter will therefore examine briefly the gospels, Acts, and Paul with this in mind, and in the final chapter we shall apply this to specific issues in the life of the church.

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#038 – Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright (Pt 13 – Building for the Kingdom) [Podcast]

Many people, faced with the challenge to work for God’s kingdom in the present, will at once object. “Doesn’t that sound,” they will ask, “as though you’re trying to build God’s kingdom by your own efforts?” Well, if it does sound like that, I’m sorry. It wasn’t meant like that. Perhaps some further clarification is needed.

Building the Kingdom

Building the Kingdom

Let’s be quite clear on two points. First, God builds God’s kingdom. But God ordered his world in such a way that his own work within that world takes place not least through one of his creatures in particular, namely, the human beings who reflect his image. That, I believe, is central to the notion of being made in God’s image. God intends his wise, creative, loving presence and power to be reflected—imaged, if you like—into his world through his human creatures. He has enlisted us to act as his stewards in the project of creation. And, following the disaster of rebellion and corruption, he has built into the gospel message the fact that through the work of Jesus and the power of the Spirit, he equips humans to help in the work of getting the project back on track. So the objection about us trying to build God’s kingdom by our own efforts, though it seems humble and pious, can actually be a way of hiding from responsibility, of keeping one’s head well down when the boss is looking for volunteers. Not that one can go on eluding God’s call forever…but still.

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#037 – Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright (Pt 12 – Rethinking Salvation) [Podcast]

We have now reached the point where we must ask: So what? Is all this talk about God’s ultimate future, about “life after life after death,” simply a matter of tidying up our beliefs about what will happen in the very end, or does it have any practical consequences here and now? Is it simply a matter of getting our teaching and preaching right and of ordering our funerals and other liturgies so that they reflect biblical teaching about death and what lies beyond instead of nonbiblical and even antibiblical ideas that have crept into the church here and there?

Rethinking Salvation

Rethinking Salvation

Yes, there is a promised rest after the labors of this life, and the word heaven may be an appropriate, though vague, way of denoting where this rest takes place. But this time of rest is the prelude to something very different, which will emphatically involve earth as well. Earth—the renewed earth—is where the reign will take place, which is why the New Testament regularly speaks not of our going to be where Jesus is but of his coming to where we are, as we saw in the previous part of the book. When we get this, we must rethink everything we’ve thought about in terms of evangelism, missions, and even salvation itself.

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#036 – Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright (Pt 11 – Purgatory and Hell) [Podcast]

Before the sixteenth century most Western Christians thought of the church as divided into three parts. First there was the church triumphant, consisting of the saints, the holy souls, who had already arrived at the beatific vision of God. Officially they were still awaiting the final resurrection, but increasingly that wasn’t emphasized, and in many medieval portrayals it has dropped out altogether. Think of Dante and the medieval mystery plays. There was such a place as heaven; some souls had already made it there, and they were therefore to be thought of as saints; they were in the presence of God; what more could they want?

Purgatory and Hell

Purgatory and Hell

The issues of purgatory and hell can be quite controversial.  We dig into the various ideas on each of these topics in this episode of Adventures in Grace.

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#035 – Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright (Pt 10 – Bodily Resurrection) [Podcast]

As we saw in the first two chapters, there is no agreement in the church today about what happens to people when they die. Not surprisingly, therefore, there is also confusion in the wider, non-Christian world not only about the fate of the dead but also about what Christians are supposed to believe on the subject.

Bodily Resurrection

Bodily Resurrection

This is all the more curious in that the New Testament itself, which most churches officially regard as their primary doctrinal source, is crystal clear on the matter. In a classic passage, Paul speaks of “the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). There is no room for doubt as to what he means: God’s people are promised a new type of bodily existence, the fulfillment and redemption of our present bodily life. The rest of the early Christian writings, where they address the subject, are completely in tune with this.

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#034 – Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright (Pt 9 – Second Coming) [Podcast]

The second coming of Jesus … or better the “presencing” of Jesus physically back in our time/space … has greatly confused the modern church.  Two episodes ago, we sketched the big picture of cosmic redemption that the New Testament invites us to make our own. God will redeem the whole universe; Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of that new life, the fresh grass growing through the concrete of corruption and decay in the old world.

Second Coming

Second Coming

That final redemption will be the moment when heaven and earth are joined together at last, in a burst of God’s creative energy for which Easter is the prototype and source. When we put together that big picture with what we’ve said in the previous chapter about the ascension of Jesus, what do we get? Why, of course, the personal presence of Jesus, as opposed to his current absence.

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#033 – Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright (Pt 8 – Ascension) [Podcast]

Belief that Jesus of Nazareth has been raised from the dead is closely linked in the New Testament with the belief that he has been taken into heaven, where, in the words of the psalm, he has been seated at the right hand of God.

Ascension

Ascension

In fact, some kind of belief in Jesus’s ascension has recently been shown to be not just a strange added extra to Christian belief, as has sometimes been thought, but a central and vital feature without which all sorts of other things start to go demonstrably wrong.

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#032 – Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright (Pt 7 – Resurrection Special) [Podcast]

On this episode, we want to do another deep-dive into the issue of “resurrection.”  I recently uncovered a rare-TV episode by N.T. Wright where he talks at length about resurrection.

Resurrection Special

Resurrection Special

I play an edited version of this show in the podcast.  You can also watch the entire show in the links below.

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#031 – Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright (Pt 6 – New Creation) [Podcast]

The early Christians did not believe in progress. They did not think the world was getting better and better under its own steam—or even under the steady influence of God. They knew God had to do something fresh to put it to rights. But neither did they believe that the world was getting worse and worse and that their task was to escape it altogether. They were not dualists.

New Creation

New Creation

Since most people who think about these things today tend toward one or other of those two points of view, it comes as something of a surprise to discover that the early Christians held a quite different view. They believed that God was going to do for the whole cosmos what he had done for Jesus at Easter. This is such a surprising belief, and so little reflected on even in Christian circles, still less outside the church, that we must set it out step by step and show how the different early writers developed different images that together add up to a stunning picture of a future for which, so they insisted, the whole world was waiting on tiptoe.

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