N. T. Wright on Suffering and Christ

The Adult Bible Study Guide continues to use the metaphor of crucibles and repeats the almost weekly reminder that suffering can reveal goodness. This week, attention turns to “Seeing the Invisible.” Fittingly, since the via negative approach of the quarterly, it explains what this means. “It is even more challenging to realize that we are called to see ‘him who is invisible’ not simply when times are good but especially when everything is going wrong.”

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11944
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Indeed, God as the micromanaging controller of all is a horrible pastiche that has infected so much of bible believing Christianity, thanks largely to Calvin and Neo Calvinism. A real irony for a denomination steeped in Arminianism that it would give this type of portrait of God vis a vis suffering.

Wright offers corrective, as he so often does towards traditional interpretations and understandings. Jesus revealed the image of a God who surrendered his own control to human freedom, his own power to the powers that crucified him. While his suffering was redemptive, and while ours can be, not all suffering is. Jesus didn’t see it that way, nor did the apostles after him, as Wright aptly points out.

Nor do we often know the reasons or purpose, if any, for our suffering…this is the value of John 9 and the book of Job. Jesus saw an opportunity to reveal God by healing the blind man, not by entertaining his disciples’ distorted theological pictures of why the man was blind. Job’s friends should have done the same, rather than pontificating on why Job was suffering, and blaming him for it. Their long winded dissertations sprang from their absolute misunderstanding.

I think we would do well to dispense with all the spilt ink on something we also just don’t understand, and join in with what organs of secular society have carried forward from the early Christian revolution and are now doing without all the existential angst…lending a hand, giving an ear, and opening our hearts, wallets, and lives to help bring relief to others when and where needed. And, being glad and thankful when it is offered and given to ourselves.

Here is a vision of God…



I have the unpleasant task of leading the Bible discussion tomorrow. The lessons this quarter, in my understanding of Christianity, just haven’t made sense. But this short article and YouTube video by N.T. Wright presents an understanding that turns upside down many preconceived notions of God being in control. It shows a God, not controlling by puppet strings, but by implanting in our hearts positive thoughts that help us in our daily lives. In addition, God works by inspiring people to perform his work of love for others, thus becoming the extended hands of God lifting and nurturing and comforting each other. I call this functional religion. Jesus said, “feed my sheep”. This is where theology becomes reality.


Yes, inded. This quarter’s SS lessons are based on a metaphor that is not related to reality. It tries to sustain Adventist theology by a narrative without paying any attention to what the authors of those texts were saying. That is the easy way to teach your own views pretending to be telling what the Bible teaches.


Yes…and who is it ‘teaching his own views’…my guess is that it is not the stated author of the lessons. I have come to the place where I cannot maintain my own sense of integrity and authenticity while attempting to teach from the quarterly.

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I find this to be the problem with Adventist theology, and now the big rage of canonical theology within the denomination, in general.


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