Monday, February 02, 2009

What I'm Doing

As is probably obvious, I'm teaching through the Revelation right now. I'm going verse by verse, but even then I'm dropping out 2/3ds or more of what could be said.

Obviously, I read Rev 20 amillennially (and have for decades) and agree entirely with confessional and synodical teachings on Christ's return. I'm not enamoured, though, with the idealist take on the Revelation. And while I'm open to it, I just don't find the historical approaches that push the history ostensibly prophesied in the Revelation much past 70 A.D. too persuasive either.

I have been very persuaded by one argument developed at extended length in N.T. Wright's three-volume series, Christian Origins and the Question of God. And the argument is this: the relationship of Yahweh to Israel (and then, hence, to the world) is the immediate context for Jesus' teaching in the Gospels, and the change in this relationship as a result of Christ's coming is a central issue in the epistles. And, in particular, in the Gospels (as was criticized also by the OT prophets), Israel had assumed the position of God's opponent, which is a direct denial of her vocation and mission.

Jesus in the Gospels teaches on this relationship; he does not seek to teach "timeless ethical truths." (Although, to be sure, we can deduce timeless ethical truths from in what he teaches. But that's not the focus.) So, too, in N.T. Wright's amusing formulation, we cannot approach the Gospels in a way that we cannot answer the question of why Jesus wasn't born a Viking, who then died for our redemption in a boating accident. Context matters.

I think that N.T. Wright's textual argument along these lines is compelling. And while I still treat it as an hypothesis, I suspect that the Revelation ought to be approached in the same manner: the Revelation isn't something different than what the Gospels and the Epistles are about. God's relationship with Israel in the context of Jesus' life, death, resurrection, ascension and enthronement at God's right hand is the focus of the book's revelation.

I should probably add that I'm not a whole hog N.T. Wright fan. I think he's much too fond of Sander's take on what Jewish rituals meant at the time of Jesus, and as a result over argues the claim that Israel at the time entirely rejected works righteousness as a means of approaching God. (Although I'd also agree that many in Israel -- and probably the Pharisees -- would have agreed with the idea of salvation through faith. Nonetheless, their take on the purity laws created barriers that prevented them from fulfilling Israel's God-given vocation to be a blessing to the Gentiles.)

But that bit of muddle-headedness, in my opinion, is separable from his argument regarding Jesus' claim to be Israel's messiah, and Jesus' consequent critique of Israel and the reaction he and his critique provoked.

Anyway, I hope the posts on the Revelation are not too dreary. (Not too dreary, just dreary enough.)


Post a Comment

<< Home