N. T. Wright and “I’m just a passin’ through”
(I warned you that the present implications of a future physical resurrection might become a theme on this blog.)
N. T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope has been a stimulating read for me through the first 100 pages. I’m still waiting for him to build a bridge from point A (the physical is inherently good both because of God’s creation and God’s coming recreation) to point B (let’s all adopt some liberal political causes). Truly, I would like help understanding whether or not the goodness of God’s good creation and the greater goodness of God’s recreation have implications for Christian engagement in culture.
However, on page 100 he managed to strike a serious blow against one of my nearly visceral objections to his overall drift. See if you follow:
Phillipi was a Roman colony. Augustus had settled his veterans there after the battles of Philippi (42 B.C.) and Actium (31 B.C.). Not all residents of Philippi were Roman citizens, but all knew what citizenship meant. The point of creating colonies was twofold. First, it was aimed at extending Roman influence around the Mediterranean world, creating cells and networks of people loyal to Caesar in the wider culture. Second, it was one way of avoiding the problems of overcrowding in the capital itself….
So when Paul says, “We are citizens of heaven,” he doesn’t at all mean that when we’re done with this life we’ll be going off to live in heaven. What he means is that the savior, the Lord, Jesus the King—all of those were of course imperial titles—will come from heaven to earth, to change the present situation and state of his people.
I’m not ready to buy this yet, however, because I still wonder what to do with 1 Peter 1:1; 2:11; and Hebrews 11:13:
- “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion (ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις διασπορᾶς) in Pontus, Galatia…”
- “I urge you as sojourners (παροίκους) and exiles (παρεπιδήμους) to abstain from the passions of the flesh.”
- “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers (ξένοι) and exiles (παρεπίδημοί) on the earth.”
I’m willing to listen. I want to understand and then obey God’s word.