The Basic Christian Worldview: a summary by N. T. Wright

NT and the People of GodIn his book, The New Testament and the People of God, N. T. Wright sets the foundation for his massive multi-volume project, Christian Origins and the Question of God. An essential beginning of this project is to understand the historical picture of early Christianity, including the worldview of Christianity in the New Testament and earliest years. Borrowing from Brian Walsh, specifically The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview (co-authored with J. Richard Middleton), Wright summarizes the questions any worldview must answer (p. 123):

  • Who are we?
  • Where are we?
  • What is wrong?
  • What is the solution?

Later in the book, after offering a basic summary of early Christian history, symbol, and praxis, Wright offers this cogent summary of the early Christian worldview. I found this so helpful I wanted to include it here so that I could continue to interact with it in one place.

Who are we? We are a new group, a new movement, and yet not new, because we claim to be the true people of the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the creator of the world. We are the people for whom the creator god was preparing the way through his dealings with Israel. To that extent, we are like Israel; we are emphatically monotheists, not pagan polytheists, marked out from the pagan world by our adherence to the traditions of Israel, and yet distinguished from the Jewish world in virtue of the crucified Jesus and the divine spirit, and by our fellowship in which the traditional Jewish and pagan boundary-markers are transcended.

Where are we? We are living in the world that was made by the god we worship, the world that does not yet acknowledge this true and only god. We are thus surrounded by neighbours who worship idols that are, at best, parodies of the truth, and who thus catch glimpses of reality but continually distort it. Humans in general remain in bondage to their own gods, who drag them into a variety of degrading and dehumanizing behavior-patterns. As a result, we are persecuted, because we remind the present power-structures of what they dimly know, that there is a different way to be human, and that in the message of the true god concerning his son, Jesus, notice has been served on them that their own claim to absolute power is called into question.

What is wrong? The powers of paganism still rule the world, and from time to time even find their way into the church. Persecutions arise from outside, heresies and schisms from within. These evils can sometimes be attributed to supernatural agency, whether ‘Satan’ or various demons. Even within the individual Christian there remain forces at work that need to be subdued, lusts which need to be put to death, party-spirit which needs to learn humility.

What is the solution? Israel’s hope has bee realized; the true god has acted decisively to defeat the pagan gods, and to create a new people, through whom he is to rescue the world from evil. This he has done through the true King, Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, in particular through his death and resurrection. The process of implementing this victory, by means of the same god continuing to act through his own spirit in his people, is not yet complete. One day the King will return to judge the world, and to set up a kingdom which is on a different level to the kingdoms of the present world order. When this happens those who have died as Christians will be raised to a new physical life. The present powers will be forded to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, and justice and peace will triumph at last.

[From N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992), 369-70.]

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