Here are some notes from our meeting on 3/6/07 in which we discussed the first part of Chapter 3 (Jesus and the Crucified God)
In this chapter, making heavy use of the synoptic gospels, Wright begins to explore how God resolves the problem of evil within the person, ministry and death of Jesus. His goal is to locate the problem of evil where he believes it properly belongs, within the theology of the atonement, which he feels has become excessively individualistic. Hitting some notes familiar to Wright fans he laments the inadequacy of a “Christian faith that “has the role of rescuing people from the evil world, ensuring them forgiveness in the present and heaven thereafter” for a post-Holocaust, 9/11 world. I commented that while this might be theologically thin many do find it sufficient. In fact the worse the world seems to become the more appealing ‘left-behind’ theology seems to be.
Wright asks us to reread the Gospels for what they are, not as what they are not. He argues that that whole of the (synoptic) gospels contain atonement theology and not just Mark 10 (the son of man came not to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many). They “tell the story of how the evil in the world –political, social, moral, emotional-reached its height and how God’s long term plan for Israel…finally came to its climax. They tell both of these stories in-and as-the story of how Jesus of Nazareth announced God’s kingdom and went to his violent death.”
Wright says they tell this story in five ways. First they tell the story of the evil of political powers being confronted by an alternative ruler, Jesus the king of the Jews, hanging on a Roman cross. Second they tell the story of “corruption within Israel itself” where neither the Pharisees, the Priests nor the Zealots are faithful to their God given vocations. Third, there is the suprapersonal, demonic power of “deeper, darker forces” which includes death itself. Fourth, there is the double mindedness of the disciples who doubt, attempt to exploit, deny and betray Jesus. Finally, there is the “downward spiral of evil.” We had to most difficulty understanding what Wright meant by this though I wondered if perhaps he meant a Girardian cycle of violence.
Next Wright talks about how Jesus “solves” the problem of evil. This is a summary of chapters 5-10 in Jesus and the Victory of God. God has an apparently risky and ambiguous plan which in Jesus will come to fruition. It comes to fruition in Jesus’ ministry of healing in which he absorbs others uncleaness rather then be contaminated by it himself. The cross is an ultimate example of this. Secondly it comes to fruition when Jesus has table fellowship with sinners. Jesus deliberately embraces the lost, finally sharing the shame of rebellious criminals. Finally, Jesus ‘articulates and models the call to Israel to be Israel.” He himself fulfills the Sermon on the Mount which is the fulfillment of the law given on Sinai.