N.T. Wright Himself at the N.T. Wright Wheaton Conference (4)

Undoubtedly the main reason 1,100 people registered for the Wheaton conference was to hear the good bishop himself, and we had three opportunities to do so in the form of major addresses (followed by questions after the evening lectures, though not after the chapel service), plus his responses to the papers each day.

I would suggest that there was one loud-and-clear message that came through all three addresses: “God is ‘putting the world to rights,’ and we are called by Jesus and Paul to be part of that kingdom mission, so let’s get on with it as people of the resurrection.” No one who has heard or read NTW of late will be surprised at that summary.

The first address was a Friday-morning chapel sermon on Ephesians. Bishop Tom took us on a whirlwind tour of the letter, focusing on select verses (one per chapter) that unpack what NTW sees as the message of Ephesians: that God’s mission is to bring the entire cosmos together in Christ (1:10), and that the church is called to do good works (2:10) that, as the expression of a reconciled, unified, and loving community, bear witness to the powers (3:10) that Jesus is Lord and they are not. More could be said, but that’s the basic drift.

The second address was his Friday-evening lecture called “Jesus and the People of God: Whence and Whither Historical Jesus Studies and the Life of the Church.” Among the key points of the lecture:

• Without attending to history, we shrink Jesus into the abstract categories of humanity and divinity. We must focus on Jesus’ mission as the mission of the God of Israel, that God’s “invasion.”

• Kingdom and cross must be kept together; some churches focus on one much more than, or to the exclusion of, the other, but they are inseparable. We need to ask, “What sort of atonement theology effects the kingdom?”

• Because Jesus has been raised, the new creation has begun, and the church has a job to do. For the church, the risen one is the kingdom-bringer. The “so what” of both historical-Jesus studies and the resurrection is mission.

The third address, on Saturday evening, was called, in parallel fashion, “Paul and the People of God: Whence and Whither Pauline Studies and the Life of the Church.” It was an overview of the much-awaited “big book” on Paul, due out in 2011 (probably). It of course felt also like a summary of the little books on Paul, especially Paul: In Fresh Perspective But there was also a difference. Rather than ending on the topic of the task of the church as a conclusion, this lecture began, and the book will begin, with the letter to Philemon as an icon of Paul’s gospel in its real-life, and therefore most important, manifestation. For NTW (and for myself, I should add, and no doubt for many others), this little letter demonstrates the centrality of the cross as God’s means of reconciliation, not only of humans to God, but also of humans to one another. The letter is Galatians 3:28 (“neither slave nor free”) in the flesh.

I would suggest that this is a significant theological, rhetorical, hermeneutical, and ultimately pastoral move on NTW’s part. And he seemed to say so when he signaled, at the beginning of the talk, that he knew of no one else who started the study of Paul here. (Though I know someone who applied for a New Testament teaching job and did their “trial lecture” on Philemon.) Later he contended that the main symbol of Paul’s gospel is a unified community, and that this should be the starting point of Pauline theology. Moreover, though NTW did not reveal the title of his new book, his online c.v. says it will be called Paul and the Justice of God, a revealing title, to be sure.

Some other key points in the lecture (not all in chronological order):

• For Paul, the story of Israel is fulfilled in Christ but also, from another perspective, radically altered. This may have been a partial answer to more apocalyptically minded interpreters of Paul who criticize NTW for being too “salvation-historical” or “covenantal” in orientation.

• Paul’s theology is a “christologically reshaped and pneumatologically re-energized Jewish monotheism.”

• “The unity of the church is a sign to the world of a different way of being human.” The result of what God has done in Christ is a renewed humanity, a renewed humanness. Romans 15:8ff, about a community of Gentiles and Jews glorifying God with one voice, is a potent summary of Paul’s gospel. (In an SBL paper soon to be published, I say something quite similar.)

• Life in the new creation is a life of justice situated between present justification and future justification, the life of justice flowing from the former and leading to the latter. (As someone who has also stressed the connection between justification and justice in Paul, both linguistically and theologically, I was quite pleased to hear this.) Without justice, he said, you nave not understood Paul.

• One somewhat odd thing he said in passing: Romans 8, about the cosmos groaning in anticipation of the revelation of the children of God, means something like the world is waiting for God’s children in Christ to be good stewards of the earth’s resources. Though I am all in favor of earth-care as a Christian mandate, and would base my position in part on Romans 8, I think NTW temporarily lost sight of the very apocalyptic character of that text, and I imagine that some of his critics will turn this into an opportunity to accuse him of something nasty.

In fact, I confess to my own discomfort with where this last point could lead. Although I am fully in agreement with Tom about God’s purpose of reconciliation, new humanity, justice, etc., and that this is very much at the heart of Paul’s theology and mission, I think we must be careful not to make the mistake of turning Paul (or ourselves as the church!) into an updated semi-Pelagian postmillenialist. The church is not the savior of the world, humans do not put the world to rights, and we are not for the world what Jesus was for Israel. The Bishop mentioned the recently minted slogan of his diocese, which is officially “Helping to grow God’s Kingdom in every community” (from the diocesan website), though I think NTW said simply, “Growing God’s kingdom.” In any event, he reported that one of his priests objected that we do not grow the kingdom, God does. To which Tom replied something like, “Of course, but let’s just get on with it.”

Is this a mere rhetorical difference between the bishop and his diocesan priest? Or is it crucial for us, even as we stress mission and justice and reconciliation—as I do—to remember and to articulate that though we are being transformed into, and embodying, God’s justice/righteousness (2 Cor 5:21), it is God’s justice and kingdom and activity, not ours. This seems to be more than mere rhetorical emphasis, and it is important especially for the many young Christian communities who admire NTW and his message (about which Jeremy Begbie gave an excellent paper on Saturday) not to fall into the postmillennial trap of thinking that we can and will bring in the kingdom. We bear witness to the kingdom as we embody God’s justice in the power of the Spirit.

Enough for now. I will have more to say about Bishop Tom and Paul in the next post about the other papers.

25 Responses to “N.T. Wright Himself at the N.T. Wright Wheaton Conference (4)”

  1. Doug Harink says:

    Thanks for this, Michael.

    Your last two paragraphs put the finger on my core concerns (which I mentioned a couple of days ago) with NTW’s (still pervasively) salvation-historical interpretation of the NT, and Paul in particular. The upshot of it is that in its powerful forward momentum (ask yourself if that isn’t the heart of NTW’s theopolitical vision) it tends very much toward modernist historical progressivism, even constantinianism, in which Christians try as much as possible to “influence” and even direct the course of history to undeniably good ends–to “putting the world to rights” (NTW takes his role in the House of Lords very seriously). How easy it becomes to subordinate questions about means to questions about effectiveness in attaining those ends. I worry about that kind of theopolitical semi-Pelagianism, against which, to my mind, both Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom and Paul’s apocalyptic gospel pronounce a decisive “Nein!” Barth’s Romerbrief needs to be heard again, and Martyn’s Galatians read carefully. These voices cannot be simply dismissed with the comment that NTW makes in Justification, “Point taken!” and then to carry on as before. We need to acknowledge again the radical Aufhebung which the gospel brings upon all progressivist theopolitical agendas. But that’s something that NTW’s project is set against in a most fundamental way. There’s my worry. I would think that your own emphases on cruciformity, kenosis and theosis would lead you to put a much stronger question mark not only against NTW’s “semi-Pelagian postmillenialist” socio-political tendencies, but also against the whole interpretive and theological project that funds it.

  2. Doug Harink says:

    By the way, my critique of theopolitical progressivism is not launched from the pad of political conservatism, in case anyone is confused about that. It is launched from within the messianic anarchism of the gospel.

  3. Sam says:

    I too am uncomfortable with NTW’s postmillenialist socio-political tendencies. But he did make some good points about heaven and earth coming together. I am having trouble synthesizing the two together, but still think it is a valid claim. So if anyone else has any suggestions for understanding what the kingdom of God is to look like here and now on earth, i am open.

  4. adhunt says:

    I’m uncomfortable with more than a few things here. I think it rather disingenuous to imply that the Bishops readings of Scripture are as they are on account of his being a priest and a member of the House of Lords. One might as well imply that your readings Dr. Gorman are as they are because you are at a Catholic school or because you’ve read some Eastern Orthodox theology, or you Dr. Harink because you’re a Barthinian via Yoder. Obviously, and this is very very old news at this point, we are profoundly “influenced” by our surroundings, backgrounds, upbringing, et. at.

    I’m not sure if you’re meaning to imply by this form of causal argumentation that you have a more immediate and less mediated access to Scriptures storehouses simply because you are neither a bishop nor a member of the House of Lords.

    Whether or not you have legitimate exegetical and theological bones to pick is quite a different story. But let us not lapse into pseudo-psychological and sub-philosophical reasoning in judging the “reasons” behind certain readings.

    Also, putting “semi” in front of an abstracted adjective taken from an historical encounter between Church Fathers does not render anything wrong of itself. There are few who feel the need to avoid like the plague any sense of Christian agency and willing.

  5. MJG says:

    Let’s slow down a bit, and remain civil. The sentence that is provoking response is the following:

    “I think we must be careful not to make the mistake of turning Paul (or ourselves as the church!) into an updated semi-Pelagian postmillenialist.”

    First, please note that I have not accused anyone of being in that position, but I have issued a note of concern and caution. Second, the term “semi-Pelagian” is hardly my invention, though I will admit that it can be used casually, rhetorically, and imprecisely—and is not a compliment. (I speak from the experience of having been accused of semi-Pelagianism.) Third, BTW, I consider myself rather theologically eclectic, but Barth and Yoder have been at least as influential on me as my Catholic context and my Orthodox interests. The present point, however, about which we probably all agree, is that our context inevitably shapes our reading of Scripture, especially when that involves being in a position of influence and/or power. Doug’s point, whether we agree or not, is not that NTW’s reading of Scripture is fully determined by his being a a bishop and member of the house of Lords, but that those roles express, in part, his overall theological vision. I’m quite sure NTW would agree, even if he found that situation to be much more positive than does Doug.

    As to “legitimate exegetical and theological bones to pick,” Anthony, I think I made it quite clear in my comments about Romans 8 that this is precisely what I have, and Doug finds my concerns to be manifestations of a deeper problem in NTW’s “interpretive and theological project.” Those are bones to pick, too.

    For my part, Doug, I probably tend to be a little more theologically eclectic than you, and I readily confess to having learned much from NTW and to agreeing with a lot of what he says and does. I say that as at least a semi-Hauerwasian, and I find no problem with the fact that Stanley has blurbed Tom’s newest book—on virtue.

    Sam raises a very important question. When we pray the Lord’s prayer, we ask for God’s kingdom to come on earth, God’s will to be done. That prayer needs to be contextualized in the larger teaching of Jesus and within the NT more broadly. It cannot mean that we do nothing, but neither can it mean that what we do is to bring the kingdom to earth in its fullness. To believe that is, in my view, to make a mistake in the reading of Scripture, human nature, and history. And I do not believe that Bishop Tom makes that mistake. Nor do I believe that he wants Christians to “run the world” or something like that. But I do think that we who read and benefit from his work need to exercise a bit of caution on this matter, even as we take his example and teaching—I would say in many ways his cruciform example—seriously.

  6. Michael N. says:

    Michael,

    Thank you for spending the time summarizing the conference. Although I am watching the videos myself, I enjoy reading your thoughts/interpretations of the papers.

    I do appreciate the exegetical/theological disagreements folks have with N.T. Wright. Personally I find myself agreeing more than disagreeing. And I appreciate the caution in following some of NTW words blindly. What is a bit concerning are phrases like “modernist historical progressivism, even constantinianism”, “theopolitical semi-Pelagianism”, “progressivist theopolitical” when one can just as well claim that the opposite is a gnostic theology that is in practice world accommodating and conforming. I am not claiming that is the case, but I find that unhelpful in the dialogue.

    I recently revisited some footage I have of NTW referencing Romans 8 in two separate questions and I find that as with many of his statements, there is a tension involved. Both questions had to do with non-human (‘groaning’) creation and how it fits within God’s saving work. With one question he references Romans 8, roughly saying that “new creation” has entered into our world with the resurrection of Jesus and because we partake in that new creation, we should be about going out and “doing” it. On the other hand he answers another question by saying (and again I paraphrase) that creation groans for the sons of God to be revealed and so we shall be when the Lord returns and we are resurrected, not to some disembodied existence in the clouds, but to reign with our Lord in a renewed creation where we finally faithfully care for it.

    I find that sometimes critics of NTW focus on the former response and his uncritical followers on the latter. I think he himself maintains that tension…at least from my reading of his work, both written and digitally recorded.

    Thanks again!

  7. adhunt says:

    I’m sorry Dr. Gorman if my perceived tone was ubrupt. I assure you that was not my intent as I have nothing but respect for you and even for Dr. Harink. My point revolved around several passing comments you seem to have made over the last few posts which imply that Wright the Bishop might be determining Wright the exegete in ways he does not account for. This was certainly enhanced by Dr. Harink’s gloriously terse and perfectly Barthinian prose. It was to this that I objected and do still object.

    Similarly, the age old “semi-pelagian” has in my opinion had its day and needs to be retired. There are several reasons for this. On the one hand it doesn’t denote any recognized position; nobody calls themselves a semi-pelagian, and the term itself does not allow for a fixed definition but with reference to full fledged pelagianism. Additionally, the term is almost always meant to indicate disapproval. These things being true I see no qualitive use for the term.

    It should be noted that my initial comment was with reference just as much to what Dr. Harink said as what you said so it all couldn’t hold on your typically generous and concise blog post.

    Peace,
    Tony

  8. MJG says:

    Michael,

    Thanks for reminding us of the two different interpretations of Romans 8 that NTW has put forth. I had not previously heard the one I mentioned in the post, and it took me (and a few others) by surprise. Thanks also for reminding us that one absolutely disastrous negative response to NTW’s work—or, better, one thing to which he is (w)rightly responding—is “a gnostic theology that is in practice world accommodating and conforming.” I could not agree more heartily with Bishop Tom that resurrection and new creation mean/yield mission.

    Tony,

    Apology accepted. I don’t think I implied anywhere that Wright the Bishop determined Wright the exegete, and if he passionately perceives his ministry in part as speaking truth to power—even if it is, in part, from a position of power—I applaud him and wish him God’s blessing, even if I myself would not take on that role (as if someone would ever offer it to me!!!)

    As for “semi-Pelagian,” I completely agree. As a term of derision it is imprecise and usually totally inaccurate. Consider it retired from my vocabulary and from this blog. Anyone henceforth who uses it here will be accused of (at least) semi-disrespect for speaking the truth in love.

  9. Doug Harink says:

    Just a couple of comments.

    First, my point was not that NTW’s positions as Bishop of Durham and member of the House of Lords is directing the outcome of his exegesis. Quite the contrary, as Michael rightly notes, the exegetical and theological conclusions are being worked out in those roles, which can only be a good thing if the exegetical and theological conclusions are sound. It’s on that last point that I disagree with NTW. I think his reading of Paul is wrong, and that raises questions for me about his expectations and efforts as a political figure.

    I wonder about the relationship between the strong notion of the continuous, progressive, forward-moving “plan” of God that directs history from one stage to the next, from Adam to Israel to Jesus to the Church to the eschaton (the grand covenantal historical narrative according to NTW), and the kind of “history-making” political agency that Christians (whether left, right or centre) assume is part of their mandate on the basis of that narrative. It seems to me no accident that the most enthusiastic fans of NTW are socially and environmentally conscious American evangelicals with a growing confidence in their ability to “make a difference” politically.

    I’m happy to drop the term “semi-Pelagian” (although I was not the one to introduce it in this conversation–and ‘confidence in their ability’ is what it names). It’s equally unhelpful, though, to raise the term “gnostic” to describe the kind of cruciform political agency which I think is evoked by the gospels and Paul (not to mention 1 Peter) as participation in Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

  10. MJG says:

    Doug and all,

    I take full blame for introducing the semi-Pelagian word. I almost said we should drop the gnostic-name-calling, too. Let me be perfectly clear that I was not in any way implying that Doug, or his reading of the NT—which is actually very close to mine at key points—is somehow gnostic. It would be unthinkable for me to accuse “the kind of cruciform political agency which I think is evoked by the gospels and Paul (not to mention 1 Peter) as participation in Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection” as gnostic or anything else untoward. (By the way, let’s add Revelation to that list, as well as Acts.)

  11. Michael N. says:

    Thanks and understood. I apologize if my ‘gnostic’ comment was taken as referring to a theology in particular (that wasn’t my intention). I used it to show how unhelpful other labels were in describing theology that may lead to social action (and I believe ultimately theology worked out can lead to that) with ‘gnostic’ referring to a theology that promotes social inaction.

    This quote from “The Ascension in Karl Barth” is in the spirit with which I meant it. This section quotes from Douglas Farrow’s book in regards to Iranaues:

    “The eucharistic frame of reference in which he contemplates the ecclesial vocation affords a bold Christian ethic which sharply contradicts the deviant praxis of his opponents. How so? The true Gnostic…denies all obligation to the world…But the church, believing in the renewal of creation, offers an oblation which commits it to a life of responsible engagement with the world for the sake of its transformation…”

    Hope that helps.

  12. adhunt says:

    Consider me having repented in ash with wailing.

  13. MJG says:

    This is all good for us. The point is that none of us, wherever we are on the spectrum so to speak, wants to implicitly or explicitly affirm either erroneous (dare I say heretical—oops another word not to use! :-) ) extreme: inaction because the the material world does not matter, or corporate self-confidence in our ability to bring in the kingdom.

    With that ground cleared, we can talk more fruitfully about the theological basis for, and shape of, the church’s engagement with culture/the world/the powers, etc. But somehow I feel like we all knew that before we started this discussion.

  14. Casey Taylor says:

    Amen to the head-scratching at NTW’s point about “stewardship” from Romans 8. I, too, have wondered about that postmillenial potential that could stem from this arguments, and you make a great point his interaction w/ one of his priests. Though I was somewhat confused by Edith Humphrey’s wide-ranging presentation, in the panel response I think she pushed NTW on this issue of (for lack of better phrase) an eschatological transition from present age to age-to-come (ala 1 Peter’s melting of the elements).

  15. Dm says:

    “Who shall we send?” ~ God’s divine company deliberating in Isaiah’s call narrative.

    – As long as we drive a theological, creedal wedge between God’s kingdom and his willing and able kingdom dwellers, then Eschaton is just another one of those concepts that becomes esoteric and unpractical (like Doug’s theo-language). I am tired of seeing people twiddling their existential thumbs, nodding with theologians in unison, and waiting, waiting, waiting for Jesus to “come back.”

    Humankind has the great and dangerous potential to effect God and his actions thereof, whether in obedience or disobedience. That can manifest itself in horrible ways of both hard and soft powers of the empire, but that does not mean we can get rid of that calling, as it is written, installed on our hearts by the stylus of God.

  16. MJG says:

    Casey—

    Edith’s allusion to the need for purgation (2 Peter) is reminiscent of Revelation, too—as long as we don’t take the apocalyptic language in either place as destructive of the original creation.

  17. Andrew Cowan says:

    I’m not sure that it is quite accurate to describe Wright’s position as post-millenial. As I understand him, he doesn’t say that our actions will bring in the kingdom of God in its totality (or even in its majority) before the return of Jesus, but does he fall into the trap of promoting a vision of Christian life where nothing we do matters now, either. Instead, Wright thinks that our lives are to be an anticipation and sign-post to what God is going to bring in the new creation. Thus, in his construal, we ought to be good stewards of the earth now because that is a part of our eternal vocation. In Wright’s view, to deny the importance of stewardship through an argument like “God is going to fix the earth in the end so it does not matter what we do now,” is like arguing “God is going to make us humble in the end so it does not matter how prideful we are now.” I agree with Dr. Gorman that the way Wright put it in his lecture (the earth is waiting for us to be good stewards) unfortunately downplays the apocalyptic element of God’s decisive action, but I think he either overstated his point (and thus would affirm an apocalyptic divine world-transformation) or he would claim that the apocalyptic action itself is the transformation and resurrection of believers who then develop the earth into the place that God intended for it to be. I think that this latter notion does not do take the apocalyptic language about the destruction of the earth far enough (if that is what Wright means), but I don’t think that it suggests some sort of post-millenial eschatology. It still fits within his construal of present Christian obedience as an anticipation and sign-post towards the new creation.

  18. Andrew Cowan says:

    2nd sentence: “but does he” should read “but neither does he”

  19. Dm says:

    Andrew,

    Amen. We cannot afford to say things like, “it is God’s justice and kingdom and activity, not ours.” That is a rigid either/or proposition, rather than a both/and proposition — a critical, critical distinction. This latter proposition gives humankind only a passive role. Note the hyperbole; “there is nothing you can do about anything.”

    I like Wright’s vision of Eschaton: our faith and works may not have the cornerstone of the new heavens and new earth, but it will have a definite piece in and around that Christ-cornerstone, and we will be able to point to it and say, “that is how I participated”…

  20. Pardon this long quote, feel free to skip right over, but I mention it both because it pertains to the present discussion in at least partial support of NTW, and because I wished MJG (and Ben Blackwell for that matter!) would have had the chance to interact with material like this from Crispin Fletcher-Louis as he worked on kenosis in Paul. This quote is from “God’s Image, His Cosmic Temple and the High Priest: Towards an Historical and Theological Account of the Incarnation,” in Heaven on Earth: The Temple in Biblical Theology, eds T. D. Alexander and S. J. Gathercole (Paternoster 2004), 92-93. NB there are italics in this passage not carried over.

    “Loosely speaking, then, Genesis 1 is an ‘incarnational’ cosmology. Although the precise role of ‘flesh’ in the picture is not clear, it is humanity which has the peculiar responsibility for bearing divine presence and carrying out the divine will. This might offend Christian (and Jewish) theological orthodoxies. It might be objected, for example, that to claim that humanity in general has an incarnational role within creation undermines the peculiarity and uniqueness of the incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth. There is in conservative theological circles a piety which guards against humanity making too grandiose a claim for itself. If this exegesis of Genesis 1 amounts to the claim that humanity is created divine, is that not an abrogation of the absolute qualitative distinction between God and humankind, between creator and creature? Does this kind of a theological anthropology not lead to an overbearing and self-satisfied ecclesioloy and a Pelagian soteriology? Is it no different an anthropology from that of the promethean pretensions of nineteenth-and twentieth-century modernity?

    “There is not space here adequately to answer these questions. But a genuinely submissive respect for the biblical text is bound to consider the critique of some would-be pious objections which this reading of the text itself presents: the priestly image-of-God-in-humanity theology says that idolatry is ruled out of court because to locate divine presence and action in another part of creation or in that which we create is to absolve ourselves of our own responsibility to bear divine presence and action. The idolatrous humanity, like Narcissus, clings to those objects made in its own image which it believes will affirm its being and guarantee its security and prosperity. The true humanity in the biblical vision is one which affirms, gives security to and makes multiply the life of creation. The mark of the former is passivity and that of the latter activity. Any pious resurrection of divine (privilege and) responsibility for the one human Jesus Christ must therefore be mindful of the besetting danger at the root of idolatry; a self-absolution from the responsibility given to us at creation of bearing divine presence. It is, of course, possible to make an idol of Jesus.”

    Of course, the instant I cite that my conservative piety reminds me of the “made without human hands” theme running through Scripture…

  21. Dm says:

    Idols are found in the most unlikely of places, or the most likely of places (depending on your perspective, of course). Jeremiah 23 depicts God angrier at pious Judah than that of idolatrous Samaria. Why? Because they do all the right rituals, and say all the right words in the name of God, yet they act quite different behind the scenes.

    I once heard a wise old man say, “you can discern false and true prophecy by listening closely to the kind of language a prophet uses; if they use too much god-language, then beware.”

  22. MJG says:

    Andrew and DM,

    Your (Andrew’s) way of articulating NTW’s position is one with which I am very comfortable. If you’ve read my own work on missional hermeneutics, you will know that I like the language of signpost, witness, and participation (DM). But I’m not sure that your (Andrew’s) articulation of his position is his position—or at least not consistently his position, and I am not the only one to raise the concern.

    All that said, however, I am ready to move on.

    Jason,

    I’m intrigued by the quote and want to look at the article, not least because I am working on a public lecture on incarnation and atonement in Paul.

    I’m happy to find royal images in the creation accounts (and they are there in the end, too–i.e. in Revelation), though it’s not something I’ve attended to much. But if opponents of theosis misguidedly accuse me and others of blurring the distinction between God and humanity, we should at least be careful in the theological conclusions we draw with this material.

  23. Andrew Cowan says:

    Dr. Gorman,

    The place where I heard Wright articulate things in the way that I reported was in a lecture he gave on resurrection in Atlanta in 2008, which is available at the Veritas Forum website (http://www.veritas.org/Media.aspx#/v/24). Thanks for these summaries of your perspective on the conference; they were a pleasure to read.

  24. MJG says:

    Thanks, Andrew. I’ve probably heard him (maybe at my own seminary as my guest!) say so, too. I’m not disputing that at all. I was primarily reporting on what I heard, and anticipating some pushback from certain quarters when I saw that they had noted it, too.

    I actually think Paul, as infrequently as he uses the exact phrase “Kingdom of God,” expects it to be manifested in and through the community in Christ. But the two terms I like to use are partial and proleptic. Paul hardly envisions the church effecting the kingdom of God throughout the world in some utopian future, but he does believe that Christ reigns now and that the new age has begun. I don’t want to minimize that.

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