The Church has forgotten the essence of the message to be found in the four Gospels, argues Tom Wright. That message is how, in Jesus, God became King:
"It has been slowly dawning on me over many years that there is a fundamental problem deep at the heart of christian faith and practice as i have known them. This problem can be summarised quite easily: we have all forgotten what the four gospels are about.
As I have both studied and written about Jesus and the gospels, I have had the increasing impression, over many years now, that most of the western Christian tradition has simply forgotten what the gospels are really all about.
The problem of forgetting what the gospels are about is not confined to one segment of the church. different branches – catholic, Protestant, reformed, charismatic, evangelical, liberal, social-gospel, and the many segments of church life that bear two or more of these rather misleading labels at the same time - come at things from different angles.
The question is not only: can we learn to read the gospels better, more in tune with what their original writers intended? It is also: can we discover, by doing this, a new vision for god's mission in the world, in and through Jesus, and then – now! – in and through his followers? What it would look like if we really believed that the living god was king on earth as in heaven? That, after all, is the story all four gospels tell, the story of 'how God became King'.
The claim that God has become king doesn't seem to square with the world as we know it. 'If God is really king, why is there still cancer? Why are there still tsunamis? Why are there still tyranny, genocide, child abuse and massive economic corruption?' What's more, as we shall see, some people, not least some christians, appear allergic to the very idea of god becoming, or being, 'king'. 'Isn't god as king triumphalist? Doesn't that lead us towards that dreaded word "theocracy"? And isn't that one of the problems of our day, not one of the solutions?'
Questions like that are important. but even if the gospel writers had heard us asking them, they would not have backed off from the claim they were making.
Two vital themes so often separated, the kingdom and the cross, come together in the gospels, knock sparks off one another, and reinforce each other in setting out a claim that today's church has all but forgotten, a claim as much in what we call the political as in what we call the religious or spiritual sphere.
We should rethink our basic traditions of teaching and practice, so as to be more faithful to the documents that are, after all, at the heart of the christian faith."
Taken from 'How God Became King' by Tom Wright, published by SPCK.
May 2nd, 2012 - Posted & Written by Ian Matthews