2009 Readings in Christian Social Thought Discussion Series, Week 5
Reading: N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, Chapters 7-9
"He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead." N.T. Wright's task, throughout Surprised by Hope but most specifically in the chapters for this week (7,8 and 9), is to call the Christian world to renewed understanding of this central teaching of the faith and its world-shaking signficance. The task is necessary because, despite frequent recitation as part of the creed, its biblical meaning has been lost in large sectors of Christianity by way of neglect and reduction to vague symbolism, and destroyed in other sectors by misguided interpretations, amplified by zealous proclamation.
The challenge, similar in important ways to that undertaken by heralds of the Adventist message in nineteenth-century America such as Charles Fitch (left), is not an easy one. Both parts of the message - "the coming" and "the judging," says Wright, face formidable antagonism. The concept of Jesus coming again from the sky "like a spaceman" looks to many like the literalistic, supernaturalist interventionism that everyone but rank fundamentalists have rejected. And anything having to do with "judgment," "punishment," or the "wrath of God" is most definitely out of fashion....