Ever notice how often a majority of people will give the same answer to situation or offer the same advice as everyone else. My brother told me about his time in Japan and how he wanted to go swimming in the ocean on October when it was still quite warm but every person he asked responded with, “What? No, it’s too cold,” even though it was over 20 degree C. It’s the same here. “This person’s like this,” or “that’s because it’s like this,” or “it is what it is” (that’s for you Chuck). The question of the death penalty has come up because of that nut job in Colorado and it reminded me of the argument for executing a person…say it with me…”An eye for an eye.” This isn’t really an argument because it is the same thing as executing someone (or might I say, it is what it is). Killing someone for killing someone is an eye for an eye so it can’t be a reason because it is an act. Anyway, I feel myself getting more and more exhausted by the thinness of argumentation these days and the lack of critical reasoning amongst the general public. Why is this the case?
One can probably blame schools because we’ve become irritatingly focused on how to do stuff instead of why our schools even exist in the first place. But I don’t want to talk about education right now (see Education Matrix blog coming soon). I recently read NT Wright’s Justificationand it got me thinking about theology and the lack thereof in churches today. Seminaries are full of courses on practical ministry (another “how to” rather than “why” focus) and lack any kind of theological regimen. NT Wright is the Protestant theologian of our times and in this book he takes aim at criticism from John Piper and others over the issue of Paul’s soteriology or “salvation.” It’s damn good and Wright’s abilities with Paul’s texts make me fear interpreting the bible on my own because I know so little and he so much.
What I like most about Wright is that he questions the tired old message of what salvation is and what I do to be saved that I heard growing up in church. If I “pray the prayer” and ask Jesus into my heart I avoid hell and get to go to heaven when I die. It sounded good but the problem was I kept on praying that prayer over and over just to make sure because hell scared the shit out of me.
As I grew older I starting thinking like an adult as opposed to a child and the idea of giving intellectual assent to something that had a spiritual element to it didn’t sit right. Nor did the idea of picturing God as a frowning super being who destroyed people he created because they didn’t pray the prayer. Nor did the idea that it was about me and my salvation and church was a moral guidance institution that made sure I was living by the rules. And what the hell did I do with the rest of my life? I was supposed to get other people to join the club I guess so the population of after-death heaven increased while the burgeoning population of hell decreased slightly.
I have heard Piper speak and read a bit of his work and I find him to be fairly thin on the theology and high on the emotionalism so I took a look at NT Wright who I was just getting to know to see what all the fuss was about. The way Wright puts it, that prayer I prayed as a child was important because Jesus wants us to get acquainted and he wants us to appreciate his life, death and resurrection, but it doesn’t stop there. We join the family that was promised to Abraham way back and are now part of the breaking out of kingdom of God that he originally wanted for us and for the world. Jesus is the human at the head of this which gives us as image bearers of God the example of what it means to be human. To tell someone they need to get saved from hell diminishes them as a person and the great plan for the world. God’s not just going to crumple the world up and throw it in the garbage when he takes us all away to a new planet. The new Jerusalem comes down to earth and all things are renewed. The church is a part of this and should be a glimpse of what this renewed creation is like. It’s exciting and it’s something I’d definitely dedicate my life to.