Thursday, December 23, 2010

Advent Hope

This passage in Wright's Surprised by Hope struck me yesterday, particularly because of its relation to the present season:
"Christ has died," we say in the Anglican Eucharist, "Christ is risen; Christ will come again."  And of course in the creed too: "He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead."  If we sing it once during the season of Advent, we sing it a dozen times.  "Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!"
And if we are ordinary mainstream Christians in Britain today - and in many other places too, including parts of North America - we may well add under our breath, "even though I haven't a clue what it means." The so-called second coming of Jesus is not a hot topic in the preaching of the mainstream churches, even in Advent. (117)
The truth of this struck me, both saddening me and making me want to read on to better understand the theology of the church in this matter.  Wright goes on to first discuss why it is that people have become confused on this topic and then to carefully explain the problems with some of the troubling but popular perspectives on this.  He begins by writing,
At one end, some have made the second coming so central that they can see little else.  At the other, some have so marginalized or weakened it that it ceases to mean anything at all.  
Both positions need to be challenged.  I shall shortly show that the focus on the so-called rapture is based on a misunderstanding of two verses in Paul and that when we get that misunderstanding out of the way, we can find a doctrine of Jesus's coming that remains central and vital if the whole Christian faith is not to unravel before our eyes. [...] (121)
Side note: 
Please don't mis-interpret this quotation as leading into a speculative chapter on end-times.  Instead, Wright calls the church back to orthodox theology (based on careful study of the New Testament) and warns us of the dangers of diverging from this  (for example, an escapist perspective which abandons the world to its future destruction).   It is not so much "who has the right interpretation", but "is it sound?" and "does it fit with scripture as a whole?" As he states,
We must remind ourselves yet once more that all Christian language about the future is a set of signposts pointing into a mist.  Signposts don't normally provide you with advance photographs of what you'll find at the end of the road, but that doesn't mean they aren't pointing in the right direction. (132)
I highly recommend this book to all of us who pray, "come, Lord Jesus, come" during Advent, with only a dim sense of what that ancient prayer has meant throughout the history of the church and of what it means to us today.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I know I posted twice today (something that has never happened). Since I was so remiss the past two weeks, however, I thought this was the best course of action. Besides, how could I not want to write more than usual, now that I finally have some time to read? :)