After You Believe 3


The question, what do you do after you believe, is the subject of Tom Wright’s new book: After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters
Today I want to examine what Tom sees as the three ways Christians have framed what we are to do “after we believe”. 
Questions: Are these the big three for you? Or are there others? How has your church framed what you are to do “after you believe”? How do you see the differences between option two and three?
Option one: The Wait for Heaven Option
1. The goal is eternal bliss in heaven, up there, but away from this earth.
2. The goal is achieved through Jesus Christ’s life death and resurrection. We cling to this by faith.
3. Christian living is anticipating the eternal through “detached spirituality” and “avoidance of the world.”
Option two: The Work for the Kingdom Option
1. The goal is God’s kingdom on earth by our own hard work.
2. This goal demonstrated by Jesus in his earthly life.
3. The Christian life anticipates the kingdom by working for justice, peace and ending poverty and distress.

Option three: The Live out by way of Anticipating the Kingdom
1. The goal is the new heaven and the new earth.
2. This goal is achieved through the kingdom-establishing work of Jesus and the Spirit, grasped by faith, participated in through baptism, lived out in love.
3. Christian life is about anticipating the Spirit-led, habit-transforming, truly human practice of faith, hope, and love.. sustaining Christians in worship and this will reflect God’s glory.
"There were exceptions, but MEN have been the Bible interpreters throughout history, and Complementarians largely ..."

Weekly Meanderings, 19 May 2018
"O.K.: You believe that Noah and his family existed; that he built an ark in ..."

It is Hyperbole. (RJS)
""Keep the Bible away from women----as it was for so many centuries."If there was specifically ..."

Weekly Meanderings, 19 May 2018
"Hauerwas is correct in at least one area: Disagreement over human origins has driven many ..."

Weekly Meanderings, 19 May 2018

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • My church chooses what’s behind Door # 3, Monty. The difference between 2 and 3 is that 2 is about what we can do on our own (which turns out to be pitifully inadequate, at best). Door # 3 is about what God can do and is doing (which is more than enough). His purpose, His power; we respond to it in faith. We are living in the reign of King Jesus — His kingdom has already broken into the world. It has been forcefully advancing ever since, and forceful men lay hold of it. And it will come in all its fullness.

  • I’ll take door number 3

  • These three options appear to be poorly defined. Perhaps this is because of specific bias, or maybe because of a need to create hard and fast lines of distinction for publication purposes.
    Option 1 (Waiting for Heaven) is the only option described in negative light. It is seen as separatism and avoidance, when in fact there may well be people living this way for protection, and finding safety in a cruel world. Furthermore, many people who think like this also are highly invested in elements of option 2 (working for the Kingdom), because they want others to go to Heaven too. This is a potentially zealous evangelistic group.
    Option 2 (Working for the Kingdom) is simplified into works based scenario, and is focused upon social justice work only. It appears to be void of evangelical dynamic.
    Option 3 (Anticipating) is the only option provided with liturgy and ritual as though the others would not think of this. The phrase “anticipating the kingdom” seems unfortunate to me, because it carries the same connotation as “waiting for heaven.”
    I am sure having read other of NT Wright’s works that he defines these options more fully, but I do not find these hard and fast lines beneficial to describing where most people live. We are all somewhere between the options, and I am sure that this can be healthy.
    A good dose of #2 could help motivate world changing actions. A good dose of #1 could salve the wounds of the oppressed. A good dose of #3 could help us focus on personal character issues.
    Other options could be defined because we are so complex, but people are too complex and our lives too fluid to make these options anything more than an attempt to put people in little boxes of definition.

  • James

    I do not like how these three are set up either. Though i think #1 is a serious problem. #2 is actually something that is deeply needed in the Evangelical branch of the church. I think that working towards the establishment of the Kingdom here in our world and in our lives is the way it should be.
    I think the word “anticipate” is what bugs me in category #3. I think it bugs me because my suspicion with how “anticipating” the new heaven and earth has been often used as a way of avoiding our responsibility and call right now. Although my favorite line of all three categories is found in option 3– “a truly human practice of faith.” Amen to that!

  • Jeremy

    Maybe it’s just that I grew up in a heavy on the kingdom theology Vineyard church, but “anticipating the kingdom” carries significantly different connotations than “waiting on heaven.” He’s using (I think) the active version of ‘anticipate’ rather than the passive. More along the lines of “anticipate a problem” than “anticipate tomorrow’s big game.” Anticipating the kingdom would mean participating in it right now in its here-ness, but living in awareness that it is not yet fully arrived.
    Also, I think the big problem with categories is very few people actually fit into them. I still find them helpful though as expressions of the core major approaches. I don’t think Wright is trying to say anyone fits perfectly into any of those.

  • Pat

    I’d say option number 2 with a smidge of option number 3.

  • Hopefully at some point he’ll talk about option 4, active waiting, which is combines the previous three.

  • James

    that is a good point jeremy. the addition of the word “active” in front of anticipation helps a lot. my formative evangelical experience of a non-political and non-socially active faith makes me sensitive to statements that, intentionally or un-intentionally, perpetuate the status quo. I prefer the politics of Jesus and active faith!

  • michael

    Option 3 wins! Seriously, it is infused with grace and hope and participation in the work God is already doing in this world. This is in contrast to the escapism of #1 and the graceless hard work of #2.
    I would say that #3 takes the best of #1 (emphasis on personal holiness) and #2 (emphasis on our faith impacts this world) and infuses it with grace, hope, and confidence in God.

  • @Jeremy (5)
    I share that sentiment. I believe our church is #3, though as you point out, nothing is a perfect fit.
    As to the book in general, I’ve almost completed it, and I believe it to be one the truly best I’ve read in the past year (and I read quite a lot, in excess of 100+ titles a year). The chapter on “Three Virtues, Nine Varieties of Fruit and One Body” is worth the price of the book alone.

  • Dave

    Our church has some people who approach life as number 1, we teach/preach number 3 during the services though we sometimes have bible study that is more oriented toward number 1 (I am not sure exactly why either, perhaps its because the people who view life as number 1 tend to go to bible study class), we establish projects and initiatives that do number 2.
    We call what we do “meeting people where they are”. Everyone is all over the map.
    Thank you Jeremy #5 for clarifying the “anticipating” as being active. I was not seeing it until you stated it the way you did.

  • Patrick O

    I’m stuck on the “anticipating” part of #3.
    “Participating in” seems more accurate.
    Do we anticipate the Spirit’s work? Or is the Spirit already working? That’s a pretty big theological distinction.
    Does Wright fill out the word “anticipate” with a lot of additional meaning?

  • John Meunier

    Why do we treat these as mutually exclusive options?
    Very few people practice a pure form of #1 or #2, and #3 sounds good, but seems fairly vague on the details and content.
    Isn’t it the case that the Christian life is about both personal and social salvation? It is about both individual and collective new life. It is about the kingdom to come and the kingdom already in our midst.

  • Ah, of course, option three! First two seem simple explanations of what “conservative” and “liberal” Christians sometimes fall into. But what Wright says on this both resonates with life and helps make sense of the whole of Scripture. Indeed our faith is incarnational to the core, which itself is the bringing together of earth and heaven.

  • “Active waiting” is good, and is how I took option 3. Living, not just in anticipation, as if we are to sit on our hands until what we are expecting has come along, but rather, living *according to* that anticipation.
    I don’t think Wright would view this “anticipation” as waiting for it all to show up at the end, but that it has already started to happen, and continues to happen, and will continue until King Jesus brings in the full manifestation. So we are cooperating with what has already come as well as expecting more and more to follow.
    “The darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining,” John says, (1 John 2:8). We are to walk in the light that is already shining, and as we do, we will see the darkness pass away even more.

  • Scot McKnight

    Yes, “anticipating” for Tom means to live out in the now what will only be fully realized later. It is an eschatological existence that he is referring to.

  • Jeremy

    John (13),
    I don’t think Wright is trying to make neat, tidy boxes to push everyone into. However, it seems to me that if you’re going to try to encapsulate the general idea of how the major streams of Christianity (or at least Christians themselves) have thought, you’re going to have to brush with some pretty broad strokes. You could write volumes upon volumes about these streams of thought and their nuanced expression, but that’s unreasonable when you’re after something else anyway.

  • Jared

    Scot, a request for you to make clear in the blog that for people on the east side of the Pond the book is called Virtue Reborn and published by SPCK. I have accidently bought two copies of one of Tom’s books before as it was published under two different titles.
    Thanks – enjoy following the threads and benefit from the work of both you and Tom W.

  • danderson

    As someone who is following my wife into the Anglican tradition, I’m deeply appreciative of N.T. Wright as being orthodox enough to know that the Episcopal church is in deep theological trouble right now. I need to orient myself to the perspective — coming out of and IVCF grad group at UW-Madison — that the Bible is the living word of God. Being just a social justice do-gooder — check out the Sojourner website — robs the Word of power. A long-winded way of saying: I agree with #3.