Archive for September, 2006

War on Terror

I found this fascinating and disappointing.

Deaths in war equal those from 9/11

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September 22, 2006 at 6:04 pm Leave a comment

Simply Christian – The Hidden Spring (Ch. 2)

In chapter 2, Wright talks about the current hunger for “spirituality,” and uses a metaphor of the hidden spring to describe the way religion and “spirituality” have broken through into the forefront. According to Wright, after 9/11 we can no longer ignore the impact that religion has on the everyday world, even though religion has been carefully segregated in the modern West from everything from politics to economics to art. He writes, “September 11, 2001, serves as a reminder of what happens when you try to organize a world on the assumption that religion and spirituality are merely private matters, and that what really matters is economics and politics instead (p. 20).”

To Wright, the hidden spring of spirituality breaking into full view is the second feature of human life that suggest an echo of a voice. This hunger for the transcendent points away from modern secularism and toward a possibility that humans are made for more. The current quest for spirituality in the modern West contrasts with the global tendency to merge religious thought with everyday life, as is seen in Africa, the Middle East, the Far East, and Central & South America.

He goes on to explain that the current move toward spirituality is to be expected from a Christian viewpoint. “If anything like the Christian story is true…this interest is exactly what we should expect because in Jesus we glimpse a God who loves people and wants them to know and respond to that love (p. 24).” Yet part of our story as Christians is that humans are damaged by evil and need more than self-knowledge and better social conditions. Instead, we need rescue and help from outside of ourselves.

Of course this is by no means a consensus, and Wright describes an alternative in the work and thougth of Freud. Spirituality could simply be a projection of our hopes writ large. On the other hand, Wright reminds that we can embrace the current search for spirituality by embracing relativism i.e. certain things are true for certain people. However, he argues that this skews the meaning of the word truth. One can see that Wright has a particular view of truth as well. I wonder if this is the view of truth that can respond to the questions raised by Freud and the relativists.

“[the search for spirituality] may be the echo of a voice – a voice which is calling, not so loudly as to compel each of us to listen whether we choose to or not, but not so quietly as to be drowned out altogether by the noises going on in our heads and our world (p. 27).”

I believe Wright is on to something even though he again fails to deal in significant depth with philosophical questions of truth and the inner need for spirituality. One might argue as well that he paints the global picture of seperation of secular and sacred with far too broad a brush. Yet, as a Christian, I agree that our inner hunger for ‘something more’ is suggestive of a need for the transcendent presence of one who reaches out to fill that need.

September 22, 2006 at 9:55 am Leave a comment

Simply Christian – Putting the World to Rights (Ch. 1)

Wright begins his latest work with the injustice that is evident in the world, and questions why we cannot or have not made any more progress than we have over the centuries. Further, why do we even have the feeling that the word isn’t “right” as it stands? From the Turkish slaughter of millions of Armenians, to Adolph Hitler, to the conflicts between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, we have been far to privy to injustice even within the last century. Why are things the way they are, and why do we expect or hope for something better?

Wright gives three basic explanations: 1.) “It is a dream, a projection of childish fantasies, and we have to get used to living in the world the way it is (p. 9).” 2.) “…the dream is of a different world altogether…a world where everything is indeed put to rights…but a world that has little purchase on the present world except that people who live in this one sometimes find themselves dreaming of that one (p. 9).” 3.) “…ther is someone speaking to us, whispering in our inner ear – someone who cares very much about this present world and our present selves, and who has made us and the world for a purpose which will indeed involve justices, things being put to rights, ourselves being put to rights, the world being rescued at last (p. 9).”

Although he doesn’t explore more possible explanations that I imagine there to be, he continues by pointing out that three major religious traditions go with option #3:

Judaism – God made the world and built into it a passion for justice out of his own passion.

Christianity – God brought his passion for justice into play in the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth.

Islam
– God’s will is fully revealed in the Koran a work containing the ideal that will put the world to rights as it is obeyed.

Wright suggests this book is to explain and commend the Christian tradition: a tradition that is grouded in the real world by the incarnation of Jesus, a tradition that is about justice (inherited from Judaism and embodied in Jesus’ passion), and a tradition that is about us and our integral involvement. In other words being concerned about a world put to rights is to be deeply human.

Of course all of this is questioned by those who immediately point to the crusades and Spanish inquisition. “Haven’t Christians been a part of the problem rather than part of the solution (p. 12)?” Wright says yes and no. Yes, there are those who do horrible things in the name of Christ, and there are those who do horrible things knowing them to be wrong without claiming Jesus supported them. Yet no in the fact that the wicked things Christians have done have been in part because of a muddled and mistaken belief about what Christianity actually is. Wright states, “It is no part of Christian belief to say that the followers of Jesus have always got everything right.” For Wright, the best witness to the truth of the Christian faith are those who have got it right at least in many respects: John Woolman and William Wilberforce in their rebuke of slavery, Martin Luther King, Jr. in his passion for African-American rights, Desmond Tutu in his engagement with apartheid.

“…this longing for things to be put right, remains one of the great human goals and dreams. Christians believe this is so because all humans have heard, deep within themselves, the echo of a voice which calls us to live like that. And they believe that in Jesus that voice became human and did what had to be done to bring it about.”

Although this is an important place to start because of the ubiquity of injustice in the world,
this seems to be a pretty foundationalist way of thinking. Is injustice and longing for justice a foundation on which to build a theology? Can we truly ground so much on a sense that things aren’t like they should be? Wright seems to be working from a foundationalist perspective, and I’m not sure where that might lead.

September 21, 2006 at 12:37 pm Leave a comment

Simply Christian


One of the best books I’ve read in a long time is Simply Christian by N.T. Wright. I intend to blog through this book over the days and weeks ahead. It is simply one of those books you can’t read just once.

September 21, 2006 at 12:33 pm Leave a comment

There’s Just Something About Mary

Author and scholar, Scot McKnight has a new book coming out on Mary, the mother of Jesus. The title is, The Real Mary, Why Evangelical Christians can Embrace the Mother of Jesus. Check out this link to a pre-print excerpt and see what you think.

The Real Mary

September 21, 2006 at 12:25 pm Leave a comment


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