N. T. Wright on God’s Redemption of Humanity

Some theological traditions have a difficult time with Scripture’s vision of humanity’s robust role within creation.  Perhaps it has to do with an overdose of an Augustinian conception of human sinfulness. 

This affects how we conceive of all facets of salvation.  Does God save us from creation and give us a heavenly destiny?  Or, are we saved so that we might rightly oversee the spread of shalom throughout creation?

In Simply Jesus, N. T. Wright summarizes it nicely:

Jesus rescues human beings in order that through them he may rule his world in the new way he always intended.  Thus the heavenly chorus sings the new song:

“You are worthy to take the scroll;
You are worthy to open its seals;
For you were slaughtered and with your own blood
You purchased a people for God,
From every tribe and tongue,
From every people and nation,
And made them a kingdom and priests to our God
And they will reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5:9-10)

This, then, is how Jesus puts his kingdom achievement into operation: through the humans he has rescued.  That is why, right at the start of his public career, he called associates to share his work and then to carry it on after he had laid the foundations, particularly in his saving death.  It has been all too easy for us to suppose that, if Jesus was king of the world, he would, as it were, do the whole thing all by himself.  But that was never his way—because it was never God’s way.  It wasn’t how creation itself was supposed to work.  And Jesus’s kingdom project is nothing if not the rescue and renewal of God’s creation project.

Nor was this simply pragmatic, as though God (or Jesus) wanted a bit of help, needed someone to whom certain tasks could be delegated.  It has to do with something deep within the very being of God, the same thing that led him to create a world that was other than himself.  One name for this something is Love.  Another is Trinity.  Either way, deeply mysterious though it remains, we should recognize that when Jesus announced his intention to launch God’s kingdom at last, he did it in a way that involved and included other human beings.  God works through Jesus; Jesus works through his followers.  This is not accidental.

Some things (like the crucifixion itself) had to be done by Jesus himself, alone.  Other things (like the itinerant ministry around Galilee) could and should be shared.  God and Jesus don’t do what they do by blasting a way through all opposition.  They do what they do by working with the grain of the cosmos, by planting seeds that grow secretly, by calling humans to be cocreators (pp. 212-213, emphasis added).

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