|Microwave Background - from Wikipedia|
One point that has struck me quite forcibly in reading Tom Wright's wonderful Paul (still only on page 1220 I’m afraid) is that if God’s plan is for the redemption of the whole of Creation – as he quite rightly argues – then we are very early indeed in its implementation.
My friend and collaborator John Polkinghorne has remarked that most theologians seem to have very short timescales compared to cosmologists. If the universe is about 13.5bn years old then the 2000 years or so since Jesus are only about 0.000015% of the age of the Universe. To put it another way if the Universe were 40 years old the Incarnation would have happened about 3 minutes ago. I somehow find this a very comforting thought.
Let me share a few more of the gems I've found in Tom's great book:
- One recent writer has seen Romans not only as a description of the acquisition of the Christian mind but as a kind of therapy: the hearers, as they listen again and again to the letter, are meant to find themselves brought from the 'darkened mind' of chapter 1 to the 'transformed and renewed mind' of chapter 12.
- Paul in 1 Thessalonians says:
"For, my dear family, you came to copy God's assemblies in Judea in the Messiah, Jesus. You suffered the same things from your own people as they did from those of the Judeans who killed the lord Jesus and the prophets, and who expelled us. They displease God: they oppose all people; they forbid us to speak to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. This has had the effect, all along, of completing the full total of their sins. But the fury has come on them for good."
...We should not make the ...mistake of thinking that the outburst is directed against 'the Jews.' Paul was himself of course Jewish; the people who he describes as 'assemblies (ekklesiai) of God in Judea in the Messiah, Jesus' were Jews. The parallel Paul is drawing is between the Thesallonian Messiah-people, who are being persecuted by their pagan neighbours, and the Messiah-people in Judea, who are being persecuted by non-Messiah believing Judeans.
- To say that divine wrath has come, or is coming, upon wrong-doers is to say, by clear Pauline implication, that human wrath is inappropriate.
- Romans as a whole is a book primarily about God... especially in Chapters 9 and 11. Here we find...God's word, God's children, God's promise, God's purpose in election, God's call, God's love (and hatred), God's justice (or injustice), God's mercy, God's power, God's name, God's sovereignty, God's will, God's rights as the potter over the clay, God's wrath and power, God's patience, God's glory and God's people...If we came upon it in the desert, smouldering with latent Presence, we might find ourselves impelled to take off our shoes. Removing shoes is not something exegetes often do (we like our footnotes the way we they are)...
- We are so used to being told that Paul's letters are 'occasional'...the implication being that he dashed them off without thinking where he was going, making it up as he went along much as Tony Blair's 'New Labour' Party tinkered with the British Constitution...Romans...was not like that. The structure is clear; the balance is remarkable; the rhetorical effects are intended; the theology is reflected in the way the parts fit together as a whole. Paul was not thinking this through for the first time...He had been through these arguments countless times.
- ...the...anachronism we would commit if we congratulated Paul on his ecological sensitivity in taking a sailing boat from Caeserea to Rome while everyone else was getting on their jumbo jets.
- [Romans 9-11] was never an abstract 'doctrine of predestination,' attempting to plumb the mysteries of why some people (in general, without reference to Israel) hear and believe the gospel and other do not. Paul never encourages speculation of that sort. Rather, it was a way of saying, very specifically, that the fact of Israel's election...had always been there to deal with the sin of the world.