I just opened the latest Newsweek issue to find an article interviewing N. T. Wright. Needless to say, I was a bit surprised. Happily surprised, but surprised, particularly because earlier in the magazine, it had this to say of Dr. Jeremiah Wright, “Talks to St. Moyers, seems reasonable if unrepentant. Now go away.”
Anyways, here is a bit of what is said about N. T. Wright’s latest book, Surprised by Hope:
It should come as no surprise that N. T. Wright believes that the resurrection really happened. As the Anglican bishop of Durham, a commitment to the idea of a risen Jesus would seem to be part of the job description. Among many Western Christians, however, the word “resurrection” means something else: a supernatural event, a spiritual ascent, a poetic metaphor. In his new book “Surprised by Hope,” Wright explains why he believes in a material resurrection—as well as how that belief should inform a Christian life. He spoke with Jon Meacham and Lisa Miller.
NEWSWEEK: When you talk about the resurrection, are you telling people something they haven’t heard before?
N. T. Wright: Usually, yes. People have been told so often that resurrection is just a metaphor, and means Jesus died and was glorified—in other words, he went to heaven, whatever that means. And they’ve never realized that the word resurrection simply didn’t mean that. If people [in the first century] had wanted to say he died and went to heaven, they had perfectly good ways of saying that.
Are people receptive to this message?
Yes and no. I think people are fascinated, but then the imaginative leap required is so huge that for many people it’s like describing life on Mars: “Well, that may be fine, I may believe you in theory, but I don’t think I’m ever going there myself.”
What does the resurrected body look like?
Obviously, we don’t know. But it will be probably much, much more like our present bodies than we dare to imagine. The analogy that I use is this: if you are with somebody who is very sick, you say, “Poor old so-and-so, he’s just a shadow of his former self.” He’s still recognizable as the same person. Who we are at the moment is just a shadow of our future selves. There’s a real you, a real me, which will one day be there and we’ll say, “My goodness, you’re looking well.” There’s a sense of “like but more than.”
How do you reconcile your orthodox theology with your progressive politics?
The task of government in the present is to anticipate the eventual sorting out of all things, and the task of the church in the present is to remind governments that that is their job. The resurrection gives you a sense of what God wants to do for the whole world, and it gives the church the courage to say, “God’s new world has actually begun already.” The church can then say to the powers that be, whether it’s George W. Bush or Gordon Brown or the United Nations, “We are urging you to do justice, and we’re going to hold your feet to the fire and go on reminding you when you’re getting it wrong and congratulating you when you’re getting it right.”