Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Bishop of Durham makes news on heaven-going

There is an interesting interview with N.T. "Tom" Wright, Bishop of Durham, in the Feb 7 2008 issue of Time magazine. The article is available online.

The article has some interesting stuff, including the following:
It therefore comes as something of a shock that Wright doesn't believe in heaven — at least, not in the way that millions of Christians understand the term. In his new book, Surprised by Hope (HarperOne), Wright quotes a children's book by California first lady Maria Shriver called What's Heaven, which describes it as "a beautiful place where you can sit on soft clouds and talk... If you're good throughout your life, then you get to go [there]... When your life is finished here on earth, God sends angels down to take you heaven to be with him." That, says Wright is a good example of "what not to say." The Biblical truth, he continues, "is very, very different".
While Wright apparently believes in an "intermediate state" between death and the resurrection, he emphasizes that the teaching of the New testament is primarily about resurrection and a renewed earth.

Wright says that people deny the idea of bodily resurrection when they talk about their "souls going to Heaven." He says:
If people think "my physical body doesn't matter very much," then who cares what I do with it? And if people think that our world, our cosmos, doesn't matter much, who cares what we do with that? Much of "traditional" Christianity gives the impression that God has these rather arbitrary rules about how you have to behave, and if you disobey them you go to hell, rather than to heaven. What the New Testament really says is God wants you to be a renewed human being helping him to renew his creation, and his resurrection was the opening bell. And when he returns to fulfil the plan, you won't be going up there to him, he'll be coming down here.
This article may interest a lot of people reading this blog, especially those from an Abrahamic Faith or Christadelphian background. It has been said that Tom Wright's views on Christology are closer to Abrahamic Faith and Christadelphian ideas than the views of most trinitarians. Now it seems the Bishop of Durham may also be somewhat closer to Abrahamic Faith and Christadelphian thinking on the resurrection and the Age to Come than he is to many people in his own communion.

Wright ends the interview with these words:
In almost all cases, when I've explained this to people, there's a sense of excitement and a sense of, "Why haven't we been told this before?"
Those final words reminded me of the title of Greg Deuble's excellent book "They Never Told Me THIS in Church!"

I'm wondering if there is a really positive way of talking about life-after-death without being confrontational, yet arousing people's interest in something they've never heard before. I mean, the popular Christadelphian approach to the subject ("the churches are wrong", "Christendom is astray", "you don't go to heaven when you die", "you're loved ones are nowhere", "we're right and you're wrong") can be more than a little off-putting for some people - which I guess is why people are staying away from Christadelphian lectures in their droves. And then with many Christadelphians comes this little rider: "and if you don't get this right there is no hope of salvation for you".

A Christadelphian friend of mine recently put it this way: "The teachings unique to Christadelphians are important and true and should be stated - but to use them to condemn other Christians is completely opposite to their intention and continues the division we have been guilty of." (Although I should let my friend know that most of the doctrines he thinks are "unique to Christadelphians" are also held by many others - there is very little which is "unique").

Surely there is a way to positively teach about subjects like life-after-death, the oneness of God, and the humanity of Jesus without judging people who disagree as non-christian and beyond the pale. Perhaps the Bishop of Durham will ultimately succeed where Christadelphians have failed.


Anonymous said...

Do you mean, Steve, that Christadelphians are NOT the ONLY people who know what the Bible says? ;-]

When I was a child and early teenager, I was led to believe that there less than 20 people in Australia who were in the way of salvation, and no more than 1,000 world wide!!!

That sort of thinking really makes one wonder how on earth God is going to fulfill the promise to Abraham, ie. that He would make Abraham's seed "as numerous as the stars of heaven and as bountiful as the sand on the sea shore..."

That is indeed a wonderful expansive promise, for the scientists tell us that there are actually MORE stars in the heavens than there are grains of sand on EVERY sea shore of the whole world!!!

We have a great God, with a wonderful plan, and a magnificent "family"... most of whom we have not met.... yet!

Keep up your magnificent work Steve. Your blogs are a breathe of fresh air!!

Keep letting the Sonshine in,

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

It is very interesting to hear of the working of the Holy Spirit in the life of The Bishop of Durham. It has been my experience that if we have an open 'heart' then The Holy Spirit will give us greater understanding, guidance, and blessings. Unfortunately many people deny The Holy Spirit access and as a consequence continue to stumble forward in the same ignorance.

Knowledge can be a fine thing but unless we allow The Holy Spirit to work in our lives (every day lives) then we are simply White on the outside and rotten on the inside.

We can do nothing except by the power of Grace, a gift to those who reach out for it.

Doctrines divide, history has shown this to be true...the real matter is belief in Christ, the rest is "Human point scoring".

It is our one hope that all will be united in Christ, let us then look at the things that unite us rather than those that divide us.

By Grace