"Discerning the Dawn: History: History, Eschatology and New Creation" by N.T. Wright

I have to agree. The closest I can think of that he came to apologetics would be that we have to think clearly and understand what the Gospel actually says.

And that seems almost the reverse of apologetics, not taking history or anything else to ‘prove’ the Gospel, but assuming the Gospel and from there examining history, especially our own.

From observing these, I think the best one could arrive at concerning God – assuming that God to be all-powerful – is that He is the One “causing wholeness and creating calamity”, which isn’t all that helpful.

I’d agree and stand with Martin Luther that “bottom-up” efforts might bring someone to conceive that there is a Creator behind it all, but will never get someone to the God of the Gospel.

If there was no objective Incarnation, then there is no point to religion; it becomes nothing but navel-gazing. If God the Son didn’t become flesh, teach, die, and rise again then there is no point to religion except trying to convince one’s self that there is a point to existence and/or falling into despair.

I think that’s pretty accurate.


I’m right there! I’m actually behind at this point because I spent so much time in Lent listening to Dr. Heiser’s podcasts on Exodus and following some of his “bunny trails” into more depth – and I didn’t even get halfway through his talks!

That’s a very Catholic and Orthodox meaning: it includes scripture and oral tradition!

I disagree with all of this. In fact it very much sounds to me like you have made religion into nothing more than a prop for your own ego. You cannot see any point to religion except as an affirmation of your own personal thinking. The history of the world and the reality of human thought in the world contradicts this utterly.

No I do not think Christianity has a monopoly on God and all spiritual truth. No I do not think it all revolves around Christian theology let alone your particular understanding of it. No I do not agree that God has no other choice but to do things as Christians dictate. No I do not agree that God must come to Christian theologians to understand how things must be done correctly.

The majority of religions and people in the world see plenty of point in their way of thinking and their way of doing things. They find help in their religions for the living of their lives – far from pointless. No, refusing to think like you do does not make people fall into despair and in fact there are plenty of people who DO think as you do who DO fall into despair. It is frankly assertions like yours which makes Christianity look absurdly stupid in the eyes of the majority of the people of the world – a sufficient proof that it is all nothing but nonsense with no value to anybody.

The value I see in Christianity rests on the fundamental truth that we are all blind guides and cannot lead anyone to salvation. We are not its author or distributors, for salvation comes from someone who sees and understands infinitely more than we do.

We see what God has done in the Bible and try to understand the reasons for what God is doing (and has said) and Christian theology is the result of this. But we go too far if we replace it all with our speculations and make everything revolve around them. Instead of putting all of our faith in these things, it is better to stop at simple conclusion that it can make sense and answers are possible and not to insist our own particular answers and the reasoning we have come up with is the only possibility.

Now granted, I often must say that the answers other people have come up with do not work for me and even that atheism looks preferable to me than answers like that. But this is not quite the same as saying my answers are the only possibility, for I can still admit that the truth (the correct answer) might be something else entirely.

@mitchellmckain I don’t care to argue rightness or wrongness of any theology but to understand where you’re coming from. Do you see any connection between biblical accounts of events, particularly of the New Testament, and historical events? If so, to what degree?

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I see no reason to doubt that the events told in the Bible were experienced by these people who tell of them just as they remember. Surely you can see that these accounts are unavoidably subjective. We are not talking about measurements from written procedures, which anybody can follow to get the same result.

Not only are the world and the events in the world are far more vast than what these few people experienced, but clearly not even everyone who was there came to the same conclusions. Remember the crowds in Jerusalem shouting “crucify him!” Indeed, far greater numbers found these events important and compelling quite indirectly from the accounts told in the NT.

So… I am not entirely clear what you are asking. I have little doubt that the books of the NT are describing events which happened to the people describing them. But no that doesn’t make them objective – not by my definition of the word. Ok… so I believe God became a human being in the person of Jesus. Is that measurable in some way? I don’t see how.

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Because this is an academic lecture series, Wright is certainly supposed to be “arguing for his thesis topic”. This would involve “making proclamations” as you say. But at the same time a good lecturer should be trying to provide evidence and logic in such a way to persuade his audience that his viewpoint is correct. Is Wright doing a satisfactory job at this?

A physical resurrection of Jesus is fundamental to Wright’s thesis in these Gifford lectures, but I think with only 8 lectures, he is forced to severely curtail the material he can present within time constraints. A full-on apologetic for a physical resurrection would have to address questions like “did a historical Jesus really exist”?, “what is the archeological evidence for crucifixions and tomb burials?”, “how did Jews view resurrection at the time?” “what are plausible explanations for post mortem appearances of Jesus?. “did the gospel writers record events reliably?”, has the text of the bible been transmitted reliably to us”? etc. etc. And one could imagine that each of these topics could take a series of lectures in themselves to address thoroughly!

So, given that Wright has already written a substantial tome delving into the historicity of the resurrection and presumably doesn’t want to just repeat material that can be read in his existing book…I guess his strategy in these Giffords was to refer the audience to that book in lecture #2 if they want the nitty gritty details, and then move on to new material in the Giffords, assuming a certain degree of background knowledge among his audience.

That audience at the Giffords is probably not a lay person, or committed atheist off the street but rather an academic who is highly versed in theology, philosophy, history, and religious/biblical literature. So, (to me) Wright seems more focused on arguing the background to his thesis from a philosophical viewpoint–in lectures 1-3? he seemed focused on showing how epicureanism, enlightenment, Gnosticism, Plato etc. had trickled into people’s framing of the resurrection. And he seemed focused on refuting the “liberal” German theologians who argued that the resurrection was spiritual/ mythical but not physical. etc…and that Jesus and the Jews at the time were just concerned with an apocalytpic end to the world.

Of course, that may leave some people’s questions unanswered. But maybe he hopes you’ll read his other book too :wink:


I think this ‘hermeneutic of love’ may be the key - or maybe just ‘love’ without ‘hermeneutic of’, which already tries to draw love out of itself and into something else entirely … - understanding?

And I probably risk doing the same thing myself here as I in my own turn, spin out lots of words here in order to build understanding, which again - may be a different project than that of Love itself - though I think the case is made that Love will not (cannot?) operate in the complete absence of understanding.

I’ve often heard - and from different and various sources - that a good definition of love is “to will the good of the other.” One could further clarify that it is to will the long-term good of the other. But that should already be embedded in the original words. If I’m not willing your long-term good, then I’m not willing your good at all. But perhaps here is another caveat that might be even more necessary: “to will the good of the other - even in the absence of any reciprocity!” That is … to be perfect and love like your Father in heaven loves - sending rain and sunshine on both the righteous and the unrighteous. Marriage, and all the courting associated with it and preceding it (in an idealized sense) should be a good picture of this. One invests their all for that pearl of great price. But what if she doesn’t love you back? The demand that she does so, I think betrays the validity of the original Lover’s love. I.e. - it reveals it to have still been only of transactional nature and not a true full-grown love at all. I don’t think true love can be (or remain) transactional. This would be like the original covenant in the Bible (the Torah). The Deuteronomical nature of that was transactional: “You be my faithful people, and as long as you do that I will be your protector God.” But Jesus reveals a yet (infinitely) higher nature of God: a covenant of Love - “I love you and pursue you even when you are unfaithful to me.” Here, finally, is true Love - God - unmasked. Transactional relationships have their place among our casual relations with the world and with each other, but they can never - if remaining in that arrested state - be confused with Love. They must be stepping stones toward the infintiely higher love. Transactionalism is better than the chaos and nihilistic violence that it replaces and vastly improves on). If a culture still languishes in chaos, cruelty and banditry, then transactionalism (the original covenant - let’s at least just limit our violence to ‘an eye for an eye, please’!) is a highly necessary development to emerge from that. But it is not yet to fully come into our own as children nearest the heart of God. Or at least - the Christian should see it that way. Is this at least part - or maybe all - of what Wright is getting at?

[It may be worth noting that ‘a stepping stone’ can be used to go both directions … If one abandons love in favor of transactionalism, then they are on a trajectory toward violence, banditry, and chaos rather than being directed toward God. I think the “intersection of heaven with earth” that we are called into by God - to be citizens of God’s kingdom, is a call to turn ourselves into agents of Love to this world. That the world should have access to this living temple that now no longer exists only just on a mountain or in a special city somewhere, but in each one of God’s children.]


Interesting. Of course the objection immediately rose in my mind that willing the good of someone who is beyond our capacity to change the state of makes this a difficult basis for a definition of love when it comes to God. So your attempts to deal with this was interesting.

It reminded me of recent observations in Japanese anime…

It is a common theme in Japanese anime that someone popular or a celebrity has to deal with strangers approaching them and trying to be friends and having learned the hard way that these should be rejected because their motivation is never about real friendship but really about their own ambition and ego. When you think about it, this would be a problem for God more than anyone else. So some thought concerning what love of God is about is definitely worth consideration. Because fawning adoration doesn’t quite hit the mark, and casual encounters is a hard fit also.

When the Bible talks of loving God, it always seemed to me that sharing His values and interests was the most important part of it. So we have those passages which say if we love Him then we would take care of those He loves… his sheep… those in need… those so often overlooked and even mistreated and taken advantage of.

So… perhaps this suggests an adjustment to this definition of love… willing the good for not only them but also for what they want and value.

And in fact that brings to mind another problem with the way love is often used/misused especially in religion… equating evangelical zeal with love because you think it is all about wanting what is best for the other person. I think that has a similar bad taste to it like the fake love I talked about in Japanese anime – more about their own ambition and ego than about the one they supposedly “love.”

ON THE OTHER HAND… when it is not God, then there is a question whether the things they value can bring them happiness and well being.

So perhaps my corrected definition of love needs a further adjustment…?.. or… maybe just to see that the latter part only supplements and doesn’t replace the first part.


Love is willing the good for a person with at least some serious attention to what they want and value.

After all even if we judge their values to be misguided there is something off about simply dismissing and caring nothing about them… right?


Great observations! Valuing what others value is huge. Which probably explains why we want people to agree with us so badly - and to be “in our tribe with us” because that is something we interpret (maybe sometimes mistakenly) as love. I.e. - two people can have a lot of overlap on values without any real love for each other. But it is difficult to maintain any real bond of love if there is no overlap of values whatsoever. And since no sets of values are likely to be 100% identical, I suggest that real love is able to tolerate the differences - or at least wish the differences smaller or gone if it is over serious matters. But if it is love without demand of reciprocity - I think love will find a way.


Strictly speaking is science truly ‘objective’ given that it is the study of the world and the universe by human beings, who are subjective by definition given all our brains are unique and therefore how we look at the world and experience it is slightly different from each other?

Or am I being pernickety!

‘When the Bible talks of loving God, it always seemed to me that sharing His values and interests was the most important part of it.’

Isnt that the truth. Jesus seemed to equate loving God with obeying Him. Yet many today want to have a lovey-dovey feeling towards God which they equate with ‘loving God’. Hence many modern worship songs (isnt one of them about 'oh youre so lovely…!) Quite different from what Jesus said.

True but you can apply that to all of history, or at least mankind’s understanding of it, as it all was experienced subjectively by human beings.

I am not sure if there is really anything in this life which is truly ‘objective’.


Science doesn’t depend on the subjectivity of human beings. The methods of science get around it to find things quite independent of what we want or believe. It does this by requiring us to test our ideas (hypotheses) rather than trying to prove them, and by producing written procedures anyone can follow to get the same results.

There is nothing wrong with these expressions of worship and there is plenty of basis for it in the Bible. It reminds me most of the Psalms of David who was reknowned for his expression of love for God. BUT worship and other religious activities alone is definitely not enough – that is how I understand Isaiah chapter 1.

11 “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of he-goats.

12 “When you come to appear before me,
who requires of you
this trampling of my courts?
13 Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and the calling of assemblies—
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread forth your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood.
16 Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
remove the evil of your doings
from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17 learn to do good;
seek justice,
correct oppression;
defend the fatherless,
plead for the widow.

Sounds like words for itching ears to me. I am quite sure there is plenty which is objective. I agree it is not immediately or easily accessible, but requires some abstraction to find that which is the same for everyone. Science has thus found that the laws of nature care nothing for what we want and believe, derived from the written procedures of science which give the same results regardless.

If you understood what I wrote, you would recognize that it is devastating to the ego.

Nothing is more vast than the Incarnation.

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When I hear this read I find myself landing in the shoes of many who heard back then, who would have been thinking, “But You told us to do those things!”
And that a truly Jewish God would respond, “So think about it”. :innocent:

A lot of people prop up their own ego by devastating the ego of others.

To the majority of people in the world this looks like a something you have made up to exaggerate the importance of your personal religion.

And Isaiah chapter 1 doesn’t tell them not to do those things. It is about how those thing can become empty of meaning.

The great and glorious day will be outstanding as the secret thoughts of others will be brought out into the open.

What will also be remarkable, will be those who have their secret thoughts revealed even to their own self.

Sorry to be creating another “Clearing House Post” with lots of short replies to many different bits of the recent thread. I normally dislike reading them myself. Time has been very limited lately, though, and I won’t have time for a week to pull many lines of thought in to a single whole. Thanks for bearing with the disjointedness you are about to enter, if you read further.

I had to look it up! This is the table of contents from “The Resurrection of the Son of God.” It looks (to me) like the book is an examination of the Resurrection from as many angles as Wright could find evidence to support. Wow! Yes, he DOES write long books, and this one is part of a 4 ( I think) part series!

For real. I like the way you put that.

That’s an interesting idea.
I am grateful for God’s self-restraint there.

You got at it. Thanks.
I was thinking about what happened vs what we can know happened. This is the core of Lessing’s problem of contingent truths – his ditch.

I think this is why Wright brought in the quote from Wittgenstein: “It is love that believes the resurrection.” A bit more of the quote is here, for those who can read the German. (ctrl+F Auferstehung) Wright is ok with the subjective aspects remaining subjective but emphasizes that those subjective things he sees as true are connected to reality. I think at one point he does say that this is a matter of faith.

Ok. I can’t stand it. Here’s the quote from the website I linked just above:

Wenn ich aber WIRKLICH erlöst werden soll, - so brauche ich Gewißheit - nicht Weisheit, Träume, Spekulation - und diese Gewißheit ist der Glaube. Und der Glaube ist Glaube an das, was mein Herz, meine Seele braucht, nicht mein spekulierender Verstand. Denn meine Seele, mit ihren Leidenschaften, gleichsam mit ihrem Fleisch & Blut muß erlöst werden, nicht mein abstrakter Geist. Man kann vielleicht sagen: Nur die Liebe kann die Auferstehung glauben. Oder: Es ist die Liebe, was die Auferstehung glaubt. (VB, 74f.)

The bolded part says: “If I am REALLY to be saved, - then I need certainty - not wisdom, dreams, speculation - and this certainty is faith.”

Faith as certainty cannot speak to one without faith, can it? It’s hard enough for one WITH faith sometimes.

Yes. I found myself more than a little shocked a few times, when Wright not only as an academic historian, but as a Christian. All of my academic work has been in secular environments, where one can speak of nearly anything in theoretical or abstract terms, but to speak from faith would be at best puzzling to classmates, much less inappropriate. I had to make a real cultural shift, when I heard him.

Yes. He is doing a lot of philosophical and theological “house keeping.” Participating in the kind of long term back and forth that he indicates gives history credibility as a discipline. Public and open to scrutiny and rebuttal.

Merv, I loved your post. I just don’t think we’re talking about the same things here. Thinking further up this post, to the Wittgenstein quote, I understand Wright’s Hermeneutic of Love as his interpretive strategy. With love, charged by faith I think, Wright is suggesting that we can look backwards from the Resurrection to the OT (just as the disciples heading for Emmaus did with help) and see that everything was pointing to Jesus’s work of redemption, etc that continues today. This hermeneutical method is demonstrated often in the NT, reinterpreting things from the OT in ways that make no sense without the resurrection.
I think Wright’s Hermeneutic of Love is only possible through the kind of love that is involved with faith. Only possible through the kind of certainty that Wittgenstein described as Glaube (faith, belief (the same word in German)).

Amen to this.

While on face value, I think this is true, it’s often used for an excuse to badger and hound unbelievers to, what seems to them and what may be, unwarranted belief. “If we really love someone, we should want to see them get saved.” Well, yes, I think it’s best if everyone knows the love of Jesus and lives in the light of that reality. But hounding and badgering are not convincing or convicting. Sometimes one must in humility accept that they have nothing to say that will convince the person and still continue to love them anyway, leaving the real work to the Holy Spirit. To “love” one into out-and-out rejection for the sake of self-preservation only makes Jesus look bad. And it shows that we’re more interested in numbers of souls (a la Billy Sunday and Charles Finney) than the actual person.

Oh, I see I’m pre-plagiarizing Mitchell:

You are sounding like an economist. : )


And fortunately for us, Wright isn’t arguing that true objectivity is possible either.

I’ve been wondering, thinking about the baggage that the term “Natural Theology” carries, if Wright isn’t developing something more like a “Theology of the Natural World Which Includes History?” Not a very elegant name for it, but maybe more accurate?

Friday we start talking about the last lecture. Any more thoughts on 1-7, before then?

  • New Perspective on Paul
    • The “New Perspective on Paul” is a movement within the field of biblical studies concerned with the understanding of the writings of the Apostle Paul. The “new perspective” was started with scholar E. P. Sanders’ 1977 work Paul and Palestinian Judaism.
    • The old Protestant perspective claims that Paul advocates justification through faith in Jesus Christ over justification through works of the Law. After the Reformation, this perspective was known as Sola_Fide; this was traditionally understood as Paul arguing that Christians’ good works would not factor into their salvation – only their faith would count. In this perspective, first-century Second Temple Judaism is dismissed as sterile and legalistic.
    • According to Sanders, Paul’s letters do not address general good works, but instead question observances such as circumcision, dietary laws, and Sabbath laws, which were the “boundary markers” that set the Jews apart from the other ethnic groups. According to Sanders, first-century Palestinian Judaism was not a “legalistic community,” nor was it oriented to “salvation by works.” As God’s chosen people, they were under his covenant. Contrary to Protestant belief, following the Law was not a way of entering the covenant, but of staying within it.


  • Since the Protestant Reformation (c. 1517), studies of Paul’s writings have been heavily influenced by reformers’ views that are said to ascribe the negative attributes that they associated with sixteenth-century Catholicism to Second Temple Judaism. These historic Protestant views on Paul’s writings are called “the old perspective” by adherents of the “new perspective on Paul”. The “new perspective” is an attempt to reanalyze Paul’s letters and interpret them based on an understanding of first-century Judaism, taken on its own terms.
    • In 1963 Krister Stendahl, who is considered by modern scholarship to have been as influential as E. P. Sanders in the development of the “new perspective on Paul”, published a paper arguing that the typical Lutheran view of Paul’s theology did not align with statements in Paul’s writings, and in fact was based on mistaken assumptions about Paul’s beliefs rather than careful interpretation of his writings. Stendahl warned against imposing modern Western ideas on the Bible, and especially on the works of Paul. In 1977 E. P. Sanders, a liberal theologian and scholar, published Paul and Palestinian Judaism. In this work he studies Jewish literature and Paul’s writings, arguing that the traditional Protestant understanding of the theology of Judaism and Paul was fundamentally incorrect.
    • Sanders continued to publish books and articles in this field, and was soon joined by the Wesleyan scholar James D. G. Dunn. Dunn reports that Anglican theologian N. T. Wright was the first to use the term “new perspective on Paul” in his 1978 Tyndale Lecture. The term became more widely known after being used by Dunn as the title of his 1982 Manson Memorial Lecture where he summarized and affirmed the movement. The work of these writers inspired a large number of scholars to study, discuss, and debate the relevant issues. Many books and articles dealing with the issues raised have since been published. N.T. Wright has written a large number of works aimed at popularising the “new perspective” outside of academia.
    • The “new-perspective” movement is closely connected with a surge of recent scholarly interest in studying the Bible in the context of other ancient texts, and the use of social-scientific methods to understand ancient culture. Scholars affiliated with The Context Group have called for various reinterpretations of biblical texts based on studies of the ancient world.
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