THE LAST WORD POST 3 – The Invitation to Serve in the Kingdom (Not Just a Free Ticket to Heaven)

Thiese posts have had to do with the evangelical treatment of Scripture. Largely from my perspective and with the obvious help of NT Wright’s Last Word, we as individuals and as a community have not only regulated the Bible to something less than it is, but even then left it on the shelf with the diet plan and finance management books. We may have a faulty pre-supposition that the Bible is the “ultimate self-help” book or the “greatest how-to” manual. It isn’t. Believing such a thing ridicules the beauty of grace and of course, reduces the person of God as a guru-helper, or a even a product offering enhancement, and Christianity as a spiritual pyramid scheme as opposed to the process of transformation being brought on the Holy Spirit.

When we reduce the Scriptures and our understanding of God to the sentiments aforementioned, we actually destroy our belief in Him and make a mockery of the Scriptures whether we realize it or not. Even worse, we elevate our human experience as divine and which in sort becomes our attempt to be the gods. As it turns out, the Bible is not just about us.

However, the Bible is not exclusively about God either. This is among the points that Wright is saying in The Last Word. It’s about us being led by the Spirit to bring glory to the Father because of he work of Jesus. And the Bible is a crucial piece for the Church:

“…the authority of ‘scripture’ is most truly put into operation as the church goes to work in the world on behalf of the gospel, the good news that in Jesus Christ the living God has defeated the powers of evil and begun the work of new creation. It is with the bible in its hand, its head and its heart—not merely with the newspaper and the latest political fashion or scheme— that the church can go to work in the world, confident that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.”

God is the Giver, Redeemer, Sustainer of life. The Bible is God’s invitational narrative to participate in life in the Kingdom. We completely miss this when we limit the Bible to “the free ticket to heaven”. Even further, we lose our motivation to read, study, meditate, discuss and apply it. This is astonishing when considering that so many evangelicals take pride in belonging to a “Bible-believing church”.

There are many other reasons why we as evangelicals are struggling to give the Scriptures their importance. From a lack of personal/communal discipline to our collective entitlement that runs against the type of sacrifice described in the Scriptures to a terrible underestimation of what is at risk when we the Scriptures do not play the role that God has intended for us.

We as evangelical believers cannot make the other extreme mistake by treating the Bible as its own divine person (like a 4th person of the Trinity) but rather regard it as a God’s sacred revelation that offers His redemption all people. Again, I want to encourage you on reading The Last Word. I found it to be the place to start for evangelicals reading NT Wright.

Thoughts on Scripture from NT Wright’s The Last Word – Post 1 – You Should Read It

Primary Audience – my local church
Secondary – Anyone interested in reading/applying Scripture and reading books regarding it and anyone interested in the work of NT Wright

If you know me personally, you may have heard me talk about how you should be reading NT Wright. If you are an easy sell, I would start with The Last Word. For us evangelicals, a lot rises and falls on our view of Scripture. When reading Wright, the questions concerning his position on Scripture always surface so it makes a bit of sense to begin here. Further, I did not read them in this order and I wish I did.
Wright begins The Last Word by discoursing on thoughts regarding modernity and post-modernity. Wisely, he does not build his case around either but instead aims to offer “a way through this entire mess and middle and forward into a way of living in and for God’s world, and within the community of God’s people, with Christian and biblical integrity” (p. 10).
He is annoyed with the shallow level of debate often depicted in name calling, “fundamentalist” and “radical” and I too share too his frustration with how both sides, conservative and liberal, and the many sides in between try to undermine each other. One position assumes the other has hidden motives or does not love God as much as they do. One side will use the motto, “It must be Biblical” or “The Bible says” and assume that the other side is not committed to that end. One will ignore millennia of tradition, a plethora of the voices of the church fathers, new voices, and reduce the argument to a place that does not acknowledge that one is using a hermeneutic (a method of interpretation).
For instance, the popular term “the Bible says” is a difficult one because everyone believes the Bible is saying something – in fact, we/they believe it’s saying what we/they are saying, otherwise we/they wouldn’t be saying it. Most of these heated debates are anchored to a commitment of Scripture, rooted in a deep love for Christ, and determined to be living in the Spirit that pleases the Father. The problem is that we like to assume that those who differ from us fall short to our piety and devotion to the Lord.
I am among the many who have ceased in using the term in hopes that the person I am in conversation with is also committed to the integrity of Scripture. Perhaps if we commit to the seeing the perspective of “the other”, we can know and experience the deeper truths contained in our Scripture. This is I find to be both difficult and exciting.
More so, I cannot help but apply that to the evangelical reaction towards Wright himself. We are very suspicious of any thought produced from any mainline, charismatic, high church, Orthodox or Catholic church. This post is not an argument from ecumenicalism but perhaps an encouragement to extend grace towards those in different traditions that interpret the Scriptures differently than we do. I know many evangelicals love the Scriptures but it is impossible for me to concede that we love it the most when we account for our collective biblical literacy or even the simple act of bringing a Bible to our corporate worship services. This is not chastisement, and I am not ashamed to be an evangelical, I just want to be a Christ-follower that has not deluded himself into self-righteousness (and would appreciate those within ours and other traditions to do the same).
I hope you consider reading The Last Word – It’s a great read. You can pick it up from Amazon here.