Christmas wisdom from N.T. Wright

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : December 23, 2006

From a recent CT Article (What Is This Word?) by N.T. Wright:

There is a fad in some quarters about a “theology of incarnation,” meaning that our task is to discern what God is doing in the world and to do it with him. But that is only half the truth, and the wrong half to start with. John’s theology of the Incarnation is about God’s Word coming as light into darkness, as a hammer that breaks the rock into pieces, as a fresh word of judgment and mercy. You might as well say that an incarnational missiology is about discovering what God is saying no to today and finding out how to say it with him. That was the lesson Barth and Bonhoeffer had to teach in Germany in the 1930s, and it’s all too relevant as today’s world becomes simultaneously more liberal and more totalitarian. This Christmas, get real, get Johannine, and listen again to the strange words spoken by the Word made flesh.

At first, I didn’t like what he was saying here (you should read the context in the article out of which it comes). Then I realized how profoundly Anabaptist it was and quickly agreed ;)

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4 Responses to “Christmas wisdom from N.T. Wright”

  1. Daniel on December 23rd, 2006 9:32 pm

    That has been part of the Anabaptist dilemna. Often we know what we are against, when to say, “no”, but it is harder to know when we should say, “yes.” It is one of the few ways we find unity, “we agree here in that these are the “no’s” on which we agree…” I am gals to say that this is changing, that we are finding “yeses” in common. My only fear is that, historically this is when Mennos have forgotten those things which they should say “no” (During Germany’s pre-WWI and WWII militarization for instance or as the Natzi’s “liberated” the german speaking colonies in Ukraine). It requires a very self conscious community to discern faithfulness.

  2. dlw on December 28th, 2006 12:44 am

    I’ve been having a dialogue of sorts with a former student of Hauerwas who is a modern-day judaizer.

    The key issue here is discipline, which includes staying out of civilian affairs and undertaking self-sacrficial acts on behalf of others, which includes ways that may differ from what was done in the past.


  3. Van S on December 28th, 2006 10:29 am

    dlw, I’m not sure I’m following you…I’m also curious about what link you see between Hauerwas and “Judaizers.”

  4. dlw on December 28th, 2006 5:45 pm

    I’m sorry I did not provide enough context.

    I think only or mainly saying no is similar to the judaizers.

    I think there is a need to abstain from civilian affairs(2 Tim 2:4), but there is also a need to innovate(like Job did in Job 42 by giving his daughters an inheritance) in how we let our lights shine before others in ways consistent with our mandate to overcome evil with love. I think mainly saying no doesn’t cut it with the latter bit. We have to combine the prophetic and the priestly functions.

    Hauerwas tends to want to be too radical in his “orthodoxy”. He and his followers tend to neglect points of contact with “pagan” cultures and overemphasize a particular model of Christian discipleship. I think that he is well immersed in the biblical worldview and it is from that and his careful scholarship that he is an important figure, but he goes too far.

    It is one thing to critique Wallis and Sojourners, but often they pillory them and throw ten gallon words like Constantinization at them. And the truth is I think holds up certain traditions above the importance of ongoing discernment about how best we shd let our lights shine.

    For me, wrt Church-State relations, I think we went wrong in the 4th ctry for sure, but I think they are not something that was static. They were meant to change some. The key three effects of Christian submission to those in authority are: 1. Abet the growth of the Church. 2. Help to Avoid Bloody Rebellion like what happened in Jerusalem in AD70. 3. Bring about changes in how the sword of the state are wielded that are more in conformity with its mandate to use evil means to restrain evil. We must seek these three effects, without entering into hypocripsy or overturning the commands for us Christians not lord it over each other or violating our mandate to overcome evil with love.

    I think the house church model disciplines would help in this regard, as well as pushing with a broad grass-roots level coalition for state-level reforms that will help third parties fulfill better their historic role of making the main parties more dynamic and less beholden to intere$t$.

    When I say these things Hauerwasians call it dribble and watering down Jesus, but apparently their seminary education didn’t teach them about the rhetorical fallacy of arguing from the part to the whole.

    How we act politically is inevitably a critical part of our missional witness and we are all hooked up to the matrix and cannot consistently reject the use of the sword of the state without rejecting the institution of private property. It cannot be done and too many are deluded into thinking that that is what they are advocating for, when they are simply following the judaizers in sowing divisions among Christians that subvert our witness to the world.

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