I am posting this because I signed up for a reading group called ‘Let the reader understand’ which is first of all reading and reflecting on Tom Wright’s (NTW) book How God became King, so to help me get a handle on it I thought I’d write short(ish) blog entries, mainly to summarise for myself what I’m reading in order to help my own understanding. Anyone else is welcome to join in. Either comment on the accuracy or otherwise of the summary, or make some observations about the implications of what NTW is saying.
Part 1 of the book consists of 3 chapters that are introductory, setting out how NTW sees the issues, and how some others have given what he considers inadequate answers to them. Chapter 1 was on ‘The Missing Middle’ – his observation that the life of Jesus is often skipped over, going straight from birth to cross.
Chapter 2 is the Opposite problem.
What happens when people concentrate on the middle (life of Jesus, teaching and actions) without the ends birth/death/resurrection/ascension)?
There are several effects
– misreading Jesus – seeing Jesus as a misguided/deluded prophet/apocalyptic
– misreading the gospel – striving for social change/justice but without religious anchor that Jesus gave it
– misreading Jesus’ teaching – yes he did talk about God (& the church talked about Jesus) but he did it to explain his own kingdom work, which in turn illustrates who he is in God’s Kingdom. (When the church omits some of its core teaching from the gospels it has to fill the gap eg expanding its Christology to fill the hole.)
– misreading the place of God in life – God is banished from philosophy, science, culture & politics. (I feel less able to comment on this, but he sounds convincing.) The Gospels to tell us how God is king on earth as in heaven. For this misreading cf the Rabbis after bar-Kochba revolt – they concentrated on religion rather than theocracy.
– Orthodox responses – the challenges from Reimarus onwards have sent conservatives looking for the wrong thing in the Gospels – seeking the divinity of Jesus rather than kingship of God, hence have largely missed the latter. This K of God is not yet complete but is eschatology in process of realisation. (Evangelicals – instead have gone for a gospel of personal salvation. )
So far, NTW has shown the consequences of dividing the life of Jesus up – only using the ‘ends’ or the ‘middle.’ Neither gives a satisfying explanation either of Jesus or the purpose of the Gospels. Chapter 3 will take us to some answers that he thinks are inadequate, bringing to completion the ground-clearing exercise.
Look out for the next exciting instalment!