Tag Archives: N.T. Wright

“A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin” by Tony Jones

Off and on over the last past few years I have been thinking about the different metaphors used in the Bible to describe why Jesus came to walk among humanity, died, rose again and etc. (the fancy theological word for this is the “atonement”). Interestingly enough I’m not the only person thinking about this issue as modern Jesus followers re-discover of the mystery of the atonement. Folks such as N.T. Wright, Scot McKnight, John Piper, Al Mohler and Brian McLaren are all offering their opinions on the subject – not to mention those from the mainline Protestant churches, Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Roman Catholic Church.

A big part of the reason why the atonement is such a big deal today is due to the increasing rift between neo- Calvinists evangelicals (John Piper, Al Mohler et al.) and the progressive evangelicals (N.T. Wright, Roger Olson, et al.). Add to this fire the growth of post-modern and post-post-modern Jesus followers who are looking at Christianity through different glasses/worldviews than their predecessor (Brian McLaren, David Fitch, Scot McKnight, et al.).

Knowing all this, I have every excited when I heard that Tony Jones had published an ebook on the atonement, “A Better Atonement: Beyond the Depraved Doctrine of Original Sin”. Tony, for those who don’t know, was a driving force in the emerging church movement of the past few decades and the author of the book “The New Christians: Dispatches From The Emergent Frontier”, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  He is also an adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School – meaning that he is a post-modern theologian scholar who, I was hoping, could bring some fresh air to the conversation.

And, to a certain extent, he does deliver – even though I disagree with his final conclusion, but I’m getting ahead of myself! 😛

The outline of the book is fairly simple with the first part being more biographical in the sense that Tony shares with the reader why he started on the journey of questioning the predominant Protestant view of the atonement (i.e. penal substitutionary atonement or PSA). After the ground work is laid, Tony shifts gears into laying out all the views of the atonement the church has held since the time of Jesus (all quotes are from Tony’s ebook):

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Worship: Living Sacrifices

Yesterday marked the last of a four part series (part 1, 2, and 3 that looked at the theology of worship and why we do what we do. I don’t know what God did with you guys in cyberspace or those at PRV, but for me, I defiantly feel like this has been a powerful series. In fact, it was a hard series as there were things that I didn’t want to hear let alone share with you all…but God’s hand guided us through it all:

  • The definition of worship – to bow down before God in total submission (part 1)
  • Trusting God, the One we worship (part 1)
  • The intimacy of being in His presence (part 2)
  • Singing to God versus simply about Him (part 2)
  • How worship differs from culture to culture (part 3, guest speaker Shelton Taguma)
  • Worshiping Jesus through our actions – living sacrifices (below)

My prayer now is that we don’t forget the lessons we have learned. I pray that we will take what we have learned and go with God, transforming our minds so that we can work out God’s will in our lives, our community…

Worship, Part 4

Good morning. God has been so good to us this week…

I was driving home Wednesday evening after work when I saw the most wonderful rainbow ever! It was a full double rainbow declaring God’s peace for He has hung His war bow on the wall. He has made a covenant with the earth, humanity and the animals never to destroy the earth with water again. What a powerful promise!  =)

As I stared in wonder at this rainbow, I couldn’t help but worship the Lord for all that He has done. He created the heaven and the earth – He has given us everything we have and are – He died for us so that we may be set free from sin and death. He gave us eyes to see and ears to hear – feet to walk and hands to work.

He is good! Amen and amen!!


This reminds me of end of Romans 11 and the beginning of chapter 12:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.
–Romans 11:33-36

What a powerful doxology or statement of the faith! How unsearchable is his judgment and His paths? That we might all follow the Wild Goose of the Holy Spirit into the unknown places of the world to share the Love of God to all!

And to Him be the gory forever! Amen.

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Our Place In The Story (Act 5 Scene 3)

This past Sunday was the last week of our eight month journey through the Bible tracing the metanarrative  or grand story of God. Being the last sermon in the series,  this sermon served two purposes: 1) a recap of the entire eight months and 2) an arrow pointing forward to our part in The Story.

Five Act Shakespeare Play

Along this journey we used N.T. Wright’s outline of a lost Shakespeare play with the final act missing. This ‘newly discovered’ lay is wonderful, full of drama, passion and amazing insight into the human soul – this play is destined to be a classic on par with Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. The only one problem is that missing last act….

So what do you do?  Well, you pull together the best Shakespearean actors and actress on the planet – the ones that know all of Shakespeare’s other plays – you give them all the acts that you have – the first four acts – you have them study them, to enter into the story – to learn and know the characters in the play – then you put on the play with the actors living out the last act within the theme and direction of the first four acts.

This is us – we are in the fifth act of God’s story.

We have the first four acts recorded in the Bible – shoot, we even have the first and last pages of Act 5! We just don’t have the pages in the middle… so what are we going to do? I pray that we learn the first four acts with all our hearts, mind, soul, and spirit – let us enter into the God’s story with all that we are so that we can live out our part in the story in line with those who have gone before us – the cloud of witnesses as the author of the book of Hebrews says.

Continue reading Our Place In The Story (Act 5 Scene 3)

The Kingdom New Testament

I don’t know if you all have heard or not, but I just found out that N.T. Wright released translation of the New Testament last fall called
“The Kingdom New Testament.” While I have not read it (although I am saving my pennies to get it!), Scott McKnight gives it the following praise:

“Better than any translation I know today, other than the most literal of translations (which have an entirely different problem), I hear the author’s Greek behind Tom’s translation. Still, Tom Wright is much more in tune with rendering the Greek NT into contemporary English, and that’s the subtitle of the KNT: A Contemporary Translation. He does so with elan at times. The translation is brisk and energetic, it’s gender neutral, and it has some real surprises that will make you smile — and provide insight at the same time….

“There is something quite distinct about Tom’s translation: he wants the reader to feel the 1st Century, to hear a Jew call Jesus “Messiah” or “King” and he wants his readers to know that the word “righteousness” just might not cut through ecclesial thickets and deserves to be translated at times a “justice” and (I observe in Matt 5:17-20) as “covenant behavior.” So, yes, there’s a touch of the new perspective, or as Tom calls his approach, the “fresh” perspective, but it’s very even-handed and not at all overdone.”

Yeah, I think I am going to have to figure out a way to get my hands on this Bible – especially as I’m getting ready to dive into a new sermon series on of the life of Jesus… 😕

UPDATE @ 11:00 AM : My lovely bride found a great deal this morning and ordered this Bible for me!!! She is SO AWESOME!!! 😀

Piper vs. Wright Justification/Righteousness Debate

I just stumbled upon an interesting discussion today about God’s Righteousness that I thought you all might like. Specifically, it is a four part blog series about the current John Piper / N.T. Wright justification/righteousness debate written by J. R. Daniel Kirk, a New Testament Professor at Fuller Theological Seminary.

To summarize the debate real quick, Piper is a Reformed theologian who says that:

…the entire world is under the same law, will be judged by the same law, and requires fulfillment of that law in order to be justified. This transhistorical narrative places all of us on the same footing, and sees God as simply the judge who judges based on our failure to attain to the standard.

On the other hand, Wright, as an Anglican biblical theologian suggests instead that

…righteousness is more closely tied to the specific relationship God has with Israel. Israel is required to perform certain actions, to fill certain roles, and God has bound himself to respond in certain ways. The work of Jesus is about a surprising fulfillment of Israel’s calling to obedience (in the cross), and God’s fulfillment of his covenant obligations comes in vindicating those who faithfully join themselves to this crucified and risen king.

It is worth nothing that this debate is more then a disagreement among scholars.

It is a debate that is being worked out on streets across the globe – as in; most traditional evangelical churches tend to favor John Piper’s view on theology/justification/righteousness, while the rising Emerging/Missional Movement tends to favor N.T. Wright’s view. As such, I think Kirk’s summary of the debate is very timely as it is worth understanding and knowing BOTH views as we are called to love and to bless BOTH groups.

Join the discussion: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3a (Part 3b and 4 are yet to come)

Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright

This has been the toughest books I have read over the past year. Tough – not because of the reading level – but tough because the content forces you to rethink and test what you have been taught about death, heaven, and live beyond the grave.

I first picked up this book a year ago at the recommendation of a good friend and pastor. However, it quickly got shelved as I was busy reading researching other topics.

Then a few months ago I begin to question the phrase “eternal life” and the concept of living forever. Looking around I noticed this book sitting on my shelf unread… talk about a God thing!

As I started reading Surprised by Hope, I quickly realized how influenced I was by popular culture and misconceptions within the church. For example:

  • Some folks believe that when we die our spirits will merge into God’s Spirit for eternity (This was the view that I was leaning towards before hand as it seemed good to give up this individual body and mind and join with the Holy One…)
  • Others believe that when they die, the soul of the Believer will leave this moral world and live forever with their Heavenly Father (I would agree with NT Wright in that this is the view held by the majority of Christians – and, yes, this is under the “misconceptions” selection!)[@more@]

After tearing down the misconceptions of the church, NT Wright dives into the orthodox and Biblical view of death, life afterwards and how that affects the church today. It is hard to fully explain all that Wright talks about within this short blog post – considering it fills several hundred pages of a book – however, I will mention a few items that really hit me hard.

  • Death

Over the years I had begin to treat ‘death’ as a friend. I mean, here we are “trapped” in this moral body in an evil age looking forward to the time when we will see God face to face. If all that separates us is death – then why not die sooner versus later?

I honestly asked that question more then once in high school. The answer that I came up with was that we, as believers, needed to stay on “earth” so that we could “rescue” others from hell. That, and I really love a good Reuben sandwich or a nice gravy covered chicken fried steak!!!

Yet, in Corinthians 15:26 Paul calls death the “last enemy to be destroyed” by Jesus Christ. If death is Jesus’ enemy, then it came NOT be the believers’ friend!!!

So what do we make of “death”?

The orthodox and Biblical view follows that of Paul in that death is our enemy and it will be, and has been, conquered. Christians will be physically and bodily resurrected in the Age To Come. We will NOT stay “dead”. We will be brought back to life on the renewed earth to live with God Almighty.

Wow… think about that for a moment. If that statement is true – if we are going to be physically and bodily resurrected – then that changes a LOT of stuff here and now!

  • Heaven

When we say that a believer has gone to heaven, what does that mean? Does that mean little white clouds and harps? Or perhaps to refers to the souls of man dwelling with a spiritual God in a non-physical location…

I would guess that the majority of Believers would lean towards the last comment. That was my view for many years and it is the one propagated by popular culture outside and within the church.  

Yet, as NT Wright brings up, in Revelation the Apostle John says that heaven was coming to earth – not that “earth” or its people were going to heaven.

This goes right alone with the previous selection about death. If we, as Christians, are going to be physically and bodily resurrected – then we will have to have a physical world in which to live. This is the new earth – or the redeemed earth that has been purged of sin and evil.

This is the dream and focus of the prophets – a time when God will rule all the people and nations of the world; a time when He will physically dwell among His People.

  • Kingdom of God

Towards to end of the book, NT Wright shifts gears a bit and talks about how the orthodox and Biblical view of death, heaven and the resurrection affects the lives of Christian Believers today in this world and time.  

One of the biggest points he makes is that God’s rule and reign is here today, right now. It broke into this present and evil age through the person of Jesus Christ.

Remember my comment in the death section about the “point” of life? Bring as many folks to heaven with you before you die? Well, the more I reflect on the Kingdom message of Jesus, John the Baptist, Paul and many others, the more I realize that that is NOT the point of this life.

The bigger plan of God is to redeem this world and all that within it – the people, animals and physical landscape. To that end, we are to live under His rule and reign – helping to transform all that we touch. Note that we – the church – do not build the “Kingdom of God”; nor are we the “kingdom”.  

We are co-workers with Jesus in His Kingdom – which is both here today and not yet. We are to a) introduce people to Christ, b) help them move from the rule of darkness into the Rule of Light, c) fight against injustice, and d) remember that this physical world is not evil, but simply corruptive and due for a resurrection.

Hmm…I might have caused more questions then answers… But that is alright cause there is a book that you can read that talks more about all these subjects in a ton more detail.

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
by N.T. Wright is a tough and challenging book – but one that I think should be read Believers around the world.

A Black Coffee Day

coffeeIf you look, you can tell my mood by what I drink or what shoes I have on. For example, when I’m feeling tired, wore out or otherwise miserable, I drink my coffee black. If I’m doing great or if I want to relax, then I drink some tea or coffee with cream and sugar.

Today was a black coffee day.

It begin with my truck not starting (dead battery) and continued through out the day. Not because it was a “bad” so to speak – it’s just that I’m tired. I kept waking up last night coughing up crap and basically not sleeping. Sigh. It seems that our entire team (well, the US team at least) is still having health issues. If you think of us, please drop a line upwards for the Man to heal our bodies.

On the good side, I had a wonderful Bible study last night with the men from Sweet. We just started reading through the book of Galatians – talk about returning at the right moment (last night was chapter one). Our “usual” M.O. is to read a chapter out loud and then discuss it. Sometimes (like last night) this discussion takes off into other areas as there are a few of us who enjoy a lively “discussion”.

[@more@]In the past we have only studied ‘historical’ books (parts of Samuel and Kings as well as Acts). This time we are studying Paul – which I think will prove to be interesting.

One of the guys had a commentary by Martin Luther… which was “interesting” to say the least. In case you don’t know, I’m not a fan of Luther (or Calvin for that matter). Yeah, Luther did some great things for God, but he also had some strange and, in my view, incorrect views (but that’s another topic).

The main point of this is that the guy who had the commentary made the comment that I better bring a commentary on Galatians next week – someone to balance out Luther’s views. Rising to the challenge, I ordered N.T. Wrights commentary today (it should be in on Thursday). I’m looking forward to seeing what Wright has to say as he is one of the best Kingdom Theologians out there today.

I also have a New Testament Theology book by George Ladd that I’m going to look at…. And I may have another commentary on Galatians from my Paul’s Letters class at LU. Hmm… I wonder were it would be?