The Christian’s Imagination

A lengthy one that has my mind thinking deals with the Christian’s imagination: “There is such a thing as evil, and it is to be addressed and defeated not by ignoring it on the one hand or by blasting away at it with heavy artillery on the other — even with all the smart bombs currently available, still when the shooting starts hundreds of thousands of civilians get killed — but by addressing it with the message and the methods of the cross…. In short, I think as Wright addresses the issues of evil and implementing God’s justice in the world, he has given the contemporary church a new global vision for mission — mission that involves, but also looks beyond evangelizing people in one’s family and neighborhood or engaging in cross-cultural mission trips.

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I’m almost finished with NT Wright’s newest book, Evil and the Justice of God. It is a great, but frustratingly brief start at addressing the age-old question of the problem of evil. Wright does a wonderful job of using the overarching narrative from Genesis to Revelation to demonstrate how God’s justice has been at work in his world from the very beginning until God finally does for the entire cosmos what he did to Jesus at Easter.Wright emerges from this narrative exhorting Christians to embrace the double task of “implementing the achievement of the cross and anticipating God’s promised future world.” He briefly sketches five tasks that allow Christians to engage in this work within our wider world:1. Prayer2. Holiness3. Politics and empire4. Penal codes5. International disputesI have heard Wright lecture on these areas before, so I was disappointed that only a couple of paragraphs were devoted to each issue. I hope this book is a foretaste of a larger volume that will address these and other issues in greater depth.There were a number of great quotes in this book. A lengthy one that has my mind thinking deals with the Christian’s imagination:“There is such a thing as evil, and it is to be addressed and defeated not by ignoring it on the one hand or by blasting away at it with heavy artillery on the other — even with all the smart bombs currently available, still when the shooting starts hundreds of thousands of civilians get killed — but by addressing it with the message and the methods of the cross.“In order to come anywhere near these goals, we need, as I have said all along, to learn to imagine a world without evil and then to think through the steps by which we might approach that goal, recognizing that we shall never attain it fully during the present age but that we must not, for that reason, acquiesce meekly in the present state of the present world. Once again Romans 12:1-2 comes to mind.“But the Christian imagination — shrunken and starved through the long winter of secularism — needs to be awakened, enlivened and pointed in the right direction. Each of these is important. Christians need to sense permission, from God and from one another, to exercise their imaginations in thinking ahead into God’s new world and into such fresh forms of worship and service as will model and embody aspects of it. We need to have this imagination energized, fed and nourished, so that it is lively and inventive, not sluggishly going around the small circles of a few ideas learned long ago. And the Christian imagination must be disciplined, focused and directed, as with conscience itself, so that it doesn’t simply rush madly about in all directions.”In short, I think as Wright addresses the issues of evil and implementing God’s justice in the world, he has given the contemporary church a new global vision for mission — mission that involves, but also looks beyond evangelizing people in one’s family and neighborhood or engaging in cross-cultural mission trips. The missio dei is nothing less than God saving, transforming and making right his entire creation, beginning with and then working through creation’s stewards.

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