The second section of Tom Wright’s new book, Simply Christian, is called Staring at the Sun — an evocative and insightful metaphor for what it is like to stare at God — blinded by the light, never quite able to take it in, that sort of thing. His concern here is a brief sketch in six chapters, of the central themes of the Bible.
God. Here Wright enters the idea of “heaven” which is not a far away place but the presence of God. And heaven and earth overlap in the here and now in the Christian understanding of God’s relationship to the world. Option One: pantheism and pan-en-theism (God and the world coalesce into one somehow and in a variety of ways); Option Two: Deism (God and the world are two distinct places, with God far off watching the world unfold); Option Three: heaven and earth overlap, in a variety of ways — Torah, Spirit, Temple, Word, Wisdom, etc..
Israel. Here he tells Israel’s story with the call of Abraham, and focuses on the constant theme of “exile and homecoming.” Son of man in Daniel 7 and the Servant of YHWH. The hope of Israel is concerned with king, temple, Torah, and new creation.
Jesus and Kingdom: “Christianity is about something that happened. Something that happened to Jesus of Nazareth. Something that happened through Jesus of Nazareth” (91). Not about a moral teaching, a moral example, not a new route to heaven, and not fresh teaching about God himself. It is about God acting in Jesus Christ to put the world to rights. He digresses on the Gospels — reliability and that sort of thing. Kingdom of God: Israel’s story coming into reality. [Oddly, Tom sees the Pharisees as the “religious right” — which they weren’t. They were the left; the right was the Sadduccees or the Essenes; the Pharisees, regardless of how we see their teachings today, were progressive jurist-type interpreters who made the law living and adaptable to life.]
Jesus rescues and renews. He looks at Temple, supper and cross. His theory of atonement comes in here and I can’t quite tell what it is — I suspect it is recapitulation with a heavy dose of identification with us as central to it (incarnation). He bore Israel’s destiny and came out the other side. Resurrection is about life after life after death. He zooms in helpfully on the new creation element of resurrection. On the deity of Christ: very early the Christians described what Jesus did as what God did. Jesus’ knowledge of his divinity had to do with his vocation not his ontology. (Tom doesn’t use “ontology” as a term here.)
God’s breath of life: Spirit. Here’s all that needs to be said really: “God doesn’t give people the Holy Spirit in order to let them enjoy the spiritual equivalent of a day at Disneyland” (122). It is about mission. Two chps here that are good about the Spirit.