I’m over at Stand Firm today, talking about Jesus.
In this new age of coronavirus, I thought I would toddle over to Time.com and do the bold, terrible thing of gently disagreeing with NT Wright, who, we must all acknowledge, is much much smarter than me, and who has reams and reams of published work to prove it. Whatever you think about his new perspective on Paul, and his scholarship about justification, I think we can all agree that he should be writing all the theological works and not me. That being said, and given that the piece in Time is a popular level sort of thing (which puts it right at my level), I thought it might be super helpful to make just a few distinctions, and clarifications, about the call to the Christian at such a time as this.
First of all, though, this is beautifully expressed, and the line, “poised, anxious sorrow” is haunting:
There is a reason we normally try to meet in the flesh. There is a reason solitary confinement is such a severe punishment. And this Lent has no fixed Easter to look forward to. We can’t tick off the days. This is a stillness, not of rest, but of poised, anxious sorrow.
Honestly, thinking about Easter makes me absolutely weep. Holy Week and Easter are the pinnacle of my year. I can trace our lives back, Easter by Easter, I have stored up the rich worship of Holy Week, of children tottering around with candles, of the altar being stripped, of Matt stooping to wash feet, of the pizza bagel bites I served up many years when we staggered home exhausted. This feast is so central to the imagination of the Christian life, I can’t even think about it without coming just a little bit unglued.Which brings Wright to his point. He makes a sharp dichotomy, a very bold line between two things that I don’t think are in opposition to each other. First he castigates those whom he calls “silly suspects” who
tell us why God is doing this to us. A punishment? A warning? A sign? These are knee-jerk would-be Christian reactions in a culture which, generations back, embraced rationalism: everything must have an explanation.
Let me just pause and say that the desire for an explanation is not just the product of rationalism. When the Tower of Siloam fell, Jesus’ very own disciples wanted to know why. When the blind man in John 9 was sitting there, the disciples looked at him and wondered—aloud—whose fault it was. That the western “rational” mind has transferred the question of why away from God and onto science doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have an answer. In the case of the tower, Jesus said it was so “you”—you—may repent. In the case of the blind man it was so that he, Jesus, could “display the works of God.”
Or go all the way back to Job. “Why, God,” he cries, and God doesn’t say, ‘There’s No Reason for this,’ he says, essentially, ‘how can you possibly know. You are too small to know the reason.’ Strangely, and upsettingly, I think, the reader does get to know, though Job doesn’t. The reader knows that the reason, the causal reason at least, though not the cosmic reason, is because Satan, of all people, took it upon himself to falsely accuse Job, and God gave him leave to substantiate his accusation. Which brings us to a point made over and over through the scriptures—God is happy to take the blame for the bad things that happen in the world.
“…a trumpet blown in a city, and the people are not afraid? Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?” Amos 3:6
Personally, I find this embarrassing. I would rather God be weak and helpless rather than deal with the verity that he, though he is not the author of evil, allows it for all kinds of reasons, reasons he makes plain in the scriptures, though you have to watch for them.
Anyway, I interrupted, Wright continues: read the rest here!