N.T. Wright, Suprised by Hope 2

The second section of Wright’s Surprised by Hope deals with the future for the world and, especially, for the church.  It is an amazing examination of the Scriptures and the historic developments regarding the end of the world – at least as we know it.

It even includes some thoughts on purgatory and the writings of Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict).  This understanding of purgatory, and final destinations of people according to Roman Catholic doctrine, is important for two reasons: first, because it has changed a lot recently due to outreach efforts in developing countries and, second, because those of us in protestant traditions find our roots in catholicism.  Moreover, the doctrine of purgatory was one of the issues of the early protestant reformers – if it changes now, could the church move toward a more unified future?  Which is to say, will Luther’s dream of reforming the Roman Catholic church finally develop fully – will the Catholic church reform to a more biblical doctrinal position?

Here’s what I highlighted:

  • p.81, “…there are two quite different ways of looking at the future of the world…The first position is the myth of progress…”
  • p.93, “The early Christians did not believe in progress.  They did not think the world was getting better and better under its own steam – or even under the steady influence of God.  They knew God had to do something fresh to put it to rights….They believed that God was going to do for the whole cosmos what he had done for Jesus at Easter.”
  • p.94, The “image-bearing capacity of humankind is not in itself the same thing as divinity.”
  • p.95, “What matters is eschatological duality (the present age and the age to come), not ontological dualism (an evil “earth” and a good “heaven”)
  • p.105, “Heaven and earth, it seems, …are made for each other in the same way (Revelation is suggesting) as male and female.  And when they finally come together, that will eb cause for rejoicing in the same way that a wedding is…”
  • p.112, “The method of the kingdom will match the message of the kingdom.”
  • p.131, “Parousia is itself, in fact, one of those terms in which Paul is able to say that Jesus is the reality of which Caesar is the parody.  His theology of the second coming is part of his political theology of Jesus as Lord.  In other words, we have the language of parousia, of royal presence, sitting in a typically Pauline justaposition with the language of Jewish apocalyptic.”
  • p.157, “Suppose a cannibal eats a Christian, and suppose the cannibal is then himslef converted.  The Christian’s body has become part of the cannibal’s body; who will have which bits at the resurrection?”
  • p.167, “Ratzinger detached the doctrine of purgatory from the concept of an intermediate state and broke the link that in the Middle Ages gave rise to the idea of indulgences and so provided a soft target for Protestant polemic.”
  • p.170, “In fact, Paul makes it claer here [Romans 8] and elsewhere that it’s the present life that is meant to function as purgatory.”
  • p.171, “The revival of a quasi purgatory in our own day, therefore, is beside the point.  It is a strange return to mythology just when we should be having our feet on the ground.  It is ironic that in some circles the aim seems to be to sidel up to Rome in a friendly way, at the very moment when two of the leading conservative theologians in Rome, Rahner and Ratzinger, have been transforming doctrin into something else.  It’s time for a deep breath, some clear thinking, and a sigh of relief.”
  • p.184, “There is a great mystery here, and all our speaking about God’s eventual future must make room for it.”
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