N.T. Wright's Vision for a Post-Postmodern Christianity

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In a recent comment on my Understanding the Apostles Creed article, I mentioned that "there are many figures from a variety of Christian quarters" that are pushing for a transformation in the Church, one that often includes a return to many of the core traditions and practices that have been lost or discarded in the homebrewedchristianity2post/modern era. One of the main reasons I know this is via an epic podcast called Homebrewed Christianitythat I was recently turned on to. The hosts Bo, Tripp and Chad (and maybe others I haven't heard yet) are great characters, intelligent and funny with a special shot of southern American charm. They're also politically conscious and really just kinda all around badass dudes, and I've been mowin down the backlog of their podcast with vigor.

Here are some of the podcasts I've listened to that are giving me not only a whole different access to the depths of the Christian tradition, but also to the shifts, emergences and revitalizations that are way more widespread than we usually see represented in mainstream culture. Some that stand out are (you can search for them on the archive page)- John Caputo, John Dominic Crossan, Clayton Crocket, Walter Bruegumann, Richard Rohr, Peter Rollins & Barry Taylor, Neil Elliot, Christian Piatt, Joerg Rieger and Marjorie Suchocki. I'm sure there's many more, but those I can vouch for as being well worth the time.

Last evening I was walking along the Vancouver seawall listening to a Homebrewed interview with the heavyweight Anglican bishop and scholar N.T. Wright. When Wright was asked what his vision was for a post-postmodern Christianity, his answer stopped me in my tracks. I stopped at a bench, listened again, and jotted down the time his answer came at (40:47). The following is a transcription of that passage. I'm not sure where to place N.T. Wright on a spectrum of views, as I'm not that familiar with him or his work. My colleague here at Beams, Br. Chris Dierkes, tells me "he doesn't classify so easily". Perfect, I'll leave it at that, probably for the best anyway. All I know is that his vision is interesting and resonated with me, I figured others interested in these kinds of things might resonate it with it too. Here it is:

Interviewer (Chad)- "One of the questions that we got asked a number of times leading up to your interview was based on a comment you made in a video that got reposted on blogs a bunch of times. You were in a dialogue...and you talked about the desire for a post-postmodern Christianity, and then mentioned a bunch of these things that we'd hopefully get over. And we got a couple of emails asking for you to put on, I guess, prophet eyes or whatever [Wright laughs], and I guess speak forth goodness, you know, tell us that Derrida isn't the second coming of Christ [Wright laughs again], and what does Christianity look like post postmodernity".

N.T. Wright- "Wow, um...The way I've seen it- and you know, this is speculative and it's [based] off my basic discipline and all the rest of it- but the ways I've seen it looks rather like this; that postmdernity, I believe, has made a very, very necessary contribution. That is to say, that modernist arrogance, that thought that the 18th century had solved all the problems and all we had to do was a mopping up exercise to make it all play out, that we all know is not the case. The 18th century gave us some very great blessings, contemporary AP_wright-ntscience is a wonderful thing in all sorts of ways, as I've often said I do not want to be operated on by a premodern dentist or for that matter a postmodern dentist, I want all the technology of high modernity at the person's disposal who's giving a go at my teeth and my gums. And that's just one of the things that we can say that modernity has brought great blessings.

But it has also brought great arrogance, and the role of postmodernity is to preach the doctrine of the fall to arrogant modernity. But, if you're a Christian, or indeed a Jew, you can't stop with Genesis 3, you have to go on to say what might redemption look like. And so much Western modernity has said ok you can have a doctrine of redemption but it's all about individual souls going to heaven and that's it, because we've taken the world and we're running the world, and so culture is irrelevant, politics is irrelevant, and ecology is irrelevant, and I want to say no, God is interested, God is the creator and he's interested in redeeming the whole thing, and I've said again and again, and I said in Surprised By Hope and I think in After You Believe, that it's when Christians actually take seriously beauty and justice particularly, both of which are about creation and new creation, justice putting the world right, beauty celebrating the goodness of the world and the glory of the world, and also enhancing it with human creativity, which is a pointer towards the new beauty of the new creation. When we're doing those things, then when we talk about Jesus, we'll mean what the New Testament means by Jesus, whereas in our present culture when we talk about Jesus, if we're not doing justice and beauty, when we talk about Jesus it'll mean something different, it'll mean this semi-gnostic character who comes to snatch us away from the wicked world to take us off to a safe haven called heaven, which actually isn't what it's about.

That just colludes with modernity, and instead I want to see a Christianity that is robust, and that can actually lead the Western world out of the postmodern morass. You know at the moment your culture wars in America are much more acute than ours [in England], but nobody is leading the way forward; we've got the right ranting at the left and the left at the right, and the modern at the postmodern and vice versa, and we need to say let's move on beyond this guys, and the only way of doing that is through the radical application of the good news of new creation in Jesus Christ to power, to money, to relationships, to art, to all sorts of things in our world today. And it's that total package that is what I mean by leading the way through postmodernity and out the other side. We've got to be creative, we haven't been this way before, this calls for innovation, for thinking outside the box and all that, but if we read the gospels and say our prayers, we should be able to do it"

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1 comment

  • Comment Link Andy Long Monday, 04 February 2013 08:04 posted by Andy Long

    Thanks for that, I've just subscribed to the podcast, looks promising

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