Just had the opportunity to hear three lectures from Bishop NT Wright. The talks were excellent in nearly every way. The issues for 'nearly' are significant but ought not to overshadow a truly wonderful speaker, scholar and churchman. The reason behind the issues for 'nearly' are obvious to me. He is English.
Wright has many supporters and a great number of detractors. Some of each were in force as he spoke at Roanoke College on Friday and again at the Church of the Holy Spirit on Saturday. Both talks are available for free download here and here.
Wright has so many obviously good things to say. I suppose the fact that some ultraconservatives think that he is a liberal and that some ultraliberals think that he is a bit of a fundy is a good sign. It is sometimes very telling to know who one's enemies are. I have read a bit of Wright, not a lot. Of what I have read, several articles and a couple of books, I have found nothing objectionable. However, my own beloved Pastor Douglas Wilson even feels compelled to right NT wrongs. I respect Wilson, a great deal, so I suspect there are some issues here and there with Wright. But overall, Bishop Wright is a great blessing to the church and perhaps the last hope, outside of heaven, for reformation and revival in England. Pray for him.
Wright was speaking on the Resurrection. For Wright, as for the Bible, the Resurrection is more than just a future hope at the end of time, or bringing it closer to home, it is more than simply a hope of heaven. The doctrine of the Resurrection is eschatology proper.
Many Christians get flustered when discussing eschatology. What view are we to have of the end times? Pre-mil, post-mil, a-mil, or pan-mil? You, know, pan-mil, right? Don't really care about the millenium, I just know that it will all pan out in the end.
Wright's closest millenial position would certainly be post-mil. He has a wonderfully optimistic view of the gospel. Jesus is Lord of all, heaven and earth. He is the first fruits of the Resurrection, not just for me, personally, but for all of humanity, and for all of the earth. Wright is closest to post-mil but he does a good job of not reading more into Scripture than is clearly there. He presents a very post-mil kind of view of the future on earth while at the same time admitting that the view is like looking up the road towards a fog. It is fairly clear here and will be much more clearer there but from hear it is not yet clear what is up there. I think this is better than some of the dogmatic post-millenial assertions that are sometimes made.
If New Creation in Resurrection is what the Bible teaches, and I conclude with Wright, that it does, then we are not allowed to have a pan-mil position. Our eschatology turns out to be, not an aside that I can take up or leave resting, but, in fact, the central issue of the New Testament, and for that matter, the entire Bible. Without getting eschatology right, we cannot fully understand what the New Testament is about. We might get some of the sub-themes correct but we will not get the overall broad story correct. And if this is the case, then we are very liable to also mess up on the sub-themes and applications. We may get them right but we also may not interpret them correctly in light of the broader view. Missing the forest for the trees. Identifying trees incorrectly because you do not know the habitat, the forest. That sort of thing.
My contention is that for the most part, Wright writes right. He is a great blessing to the church and is being dramatically used to advance proper thinking of Christ and His kingdom.
I was particularly encouraged to see about 1500 people turn up to hear him on Friday night and another 350 or so on Saturday morning. I knew very few of these people. Not very many of them were from my conservative circles. Many of them were Episcopalian or Lutheran. Is this not a wonderful work of God that so many people are hearing great teaching and gaining a fuller view of God's work in the world? I applaud Wright and pray blessings upon his head.