Friday, March 28, 2008

No Heaven?

So, Is NT Wright? That "heaven" is not our home?

I admit I am not a big fan of the Bishop of Durham, he can be interesting but when reading him I constantly feel like he is trying to avoid something, not sure what it is just yet.

Here is a key quote from the CT article linked above (really an excerpt from a book):
The traditional picture of people going to either heaven or hell as a one-stage, postmortem journey represents a serious distortion and diminution of the Christian hope. Bodily resurrection is not just one odd bit of that hope. It is the element that gives shape and meaning to the rest of the story of God's ultimate purposes. If we squeeze it to the margins, as many have done by implication, or indeed, if we leave it out altogether, as some have done quite explicitly, we don't just lose an extra feature, like buying a car that happens not to have electrically operated mirrors. We lose the central engine, which drives it and gives every other component its reason for working. [Italics mine]
Is it just me or it this a non-sequitur? (something that doesn't follow). How does the hope of heaven diminish the reality of the resurrection? It also seems like he is building a strawman argument because those who long for heaven do not downplay the hope of resurrection nor think they won't be . Its a both and. I understand he has a problem with people saying we'll be with God in heaven forever and that he is saying to be in heaven is to be with God - not in a particular location per se. Fine. However, all I see him doing is trying to redefine the terms and this really just confuses people rather than bring clarity, in my opinion.

Please feel free to dialogue with me about this. But to me this is one of the things NT Wright does best: build houses of cards with non-sequitors and straw man arguments.

What say you?



At 5:37 PM, Blogger Nick Norelli said...

I haven't read a whole lot of Wright, but I thought that this whole thing was pretty stupid. As I have always understood it, and as most folks I know understand it, heaven serves as a waiting room before we are resurrected in live out eternity on a new Earth.

Aside from small children, I can't think of anyone I know who believes that we'll spend eternity in some ethereal state in heaven.

At 5:38 PM, Blogger Nick Norelli said...

to live out eternity...

At 6:12 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I suspect that Wright's real target here is some of his fellow Anglicans whose do more or less believe that "we'll spend eternity in some ethereal state in heaven". There are certainly many in the Church of England whose understanding of the future resurrection of believers, and for that matter of the past resurrection of Jesus, is something purely spiritual.

For example, our blogging friend Doug Chaplin who has written (with little actual basis in Paul's writings) of "Paul’s affirmations that the stuff of this risen body is spirit, not flesh and blood or soul / natural life". See my comments on that post, and my own posts on this subject.

Nick, does that makes them, theologically or spiritually, small children? I couldn't possibly comment.

At 8:41 PM, Blogger Bryan L said...

I disagree Nick. I think the majority view is that "Heaven is our home", in that we aren't looking forward to resurrected bodies and a new heavens and earth, but instead eternity in a heavenly, disembodied existence.

Brian: I've read Wright's book on the resurrection and heard him lecture on the topic a number of times and what I think he is trying to get at is that the resurrection really is central to our faith, not heaven. If the only hope we have is our souls going to heaven then we can't really say death was defeated. Many people don't see any further than heaven. Many people have a sort of Platonic view of death and the body and Wright is trying to correct that by saying the body is good and we will ultimately be given new bodies instead of our spirits floating on a cloud somewhere.

BTW What books have you read of Wright's Brian? Everyone should be big fans and not to be is close to heresy! : )


At 9:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Bryan and Peter on this one. Maybe that isn't a problem in your church, but I've seen it plenty of times.

At 9:36 PM, Blogger Brian said...

Bryan L: " What Saint Paul Really Said." So far its been enough for me. I see the point on the resurrection but still feel his argument is somewhat non-sequitor, at least in the CT article I linked.

At 7:16 AM, Blogger Bryan L said...

I really don't even know what non-sequitor means or how it should be used, honestly. I know it has something to do with something not following the premises but really you'll never see me referring to or pointing out argument fallacies because I never know if I'm using them the right way. : )

That being said, I still see his point and I don't think he is off in his assessment of many Christians thinking that our ultimate hope is heaven and then correcting that by showing how they're selling themselves short because Jesus wasn't resurrected so we can go to heaven; and to miss out on the resurrection and redemption of the world is really like missing the engine out of the car you just bought.

Just my opinion though.

Oh and when you get more time definitely read some of his other books (specifically the big ones). You'll really be rewarded. He is such a good writer and his big books are a a lot easier than similar books by other authors because of it.


At 7:59 AM, Blogger Brian said...

Bryan L, I see it as non sequitur because it doesn't follow to say that Christians desire to be with God in heaven (whatever that means anymore) means they do not anticipate the resurrection. At least, that is how I see it.

Maybe I'll read one of the Wright books when they show up at my house free (?). I hear the one on the resurrection is a good one.

At 8:08 AM, Blogger Bryan L said...

"Bryan L, I see it as non sequitur because it doesn't follow to say that Christians desire to be with God in heaven (whatever that means anymore) means they do not anticipate the resurrection. At least, that is how I see it."

I guess if he is arguing that one
necessarily leads to the other that would be a non-sequitor (I think), but I don't think that is what he is doing. I think he is instead saying that many Christians don't really understand what the resurrection is or what it's all about (and that it is bodily), but that instead most just think the final place is going to heaven when we die or going to hell. Just look at how often the language of eternity is used to talk about the after-life in the sense that we will spend forever in heaven.

Really the resurrection is often marginalized or often done away with altogether and heaven is the big picture.

The Resurrection book is really good but I think JVG and NTPG are my favorites.


At 9:51 AM, Blogger Nick Norelli said...

All I can say is thank God for good teaching!


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