Friday, 11 April 2008

New Statesman: Article on Tom Wright

[...] No one could accuse [former Bishop of Durham, Dr] Jenkins's distant successor Tom Wright of laxity in matters of dogma. The current Bishop of Durham, fourth most senior cleric in the Church of England (after Canterbury, York and London), is also its leading evangelical theologian. Time magazine recently described him as "one of the most formidable figures in the world of Christian thought" and "a hero to conservative Christians worldwide". He has also just written a book, Surprised by Hope, in which he spells out a view many will find extraordinary.

It is not just that, as an evangelical, he believes forcefully in the authority of scripture and the historical truth of the Gos pels. Nor is it that, like most on that conservative wing of the Church, he is strongly opposed to gay priests. The Right Reverend Wright believes in the literal truth of the Resurrection.

The day will come, he says, when Christ will come to join the heavens and the earth in a new creation and the dead will rise. All those who think of heaven as the endpoint are wrong, especially if they're thinking about "sitting on clouds playing harps". According to him, heaven is less a location, more a state: a kind of first-class transit lounge whereby our physical bodies sleep while the "real person" continues in the presence of Christ. What we will be waiting for is what he calls "life after life after death": the Second Coming and the Day of Judgement, when we will be not only physically re-embodied but transformed, on a new version of this earth with plenty of room for everyone.

There are no metaphors involved here, no decoding, no poetics to be interpreted. Wright's line, which will be news to a huge number of Christians as well as way beyond the realms of credibility to non-believers, is to be taken entirely at face value. If this man is a hero to millions of conservative Christians, then belief is certainly back.

"It is actually what the New Testament is about," says Wright in his emollient, Radio 4-friendly tones as we sit in the spring sun outside his cottage in Alnmouth, Northumberland, a family refuge away from the grandeur of his official residence, Auckland Castle. "An awful lot of western Christians have just accepted that when they say 'the resurrection of the body' they think, 'You don't really mean body. That's just the way they put it in olden days.' They don't realise it is actually the key thing. We are talking about a good physical world which is to be remade, not a bad physical world which is going to be trashed in favour of a purely spiritual sphere." Read more
No comments will be posted without a full name and location, see the

No comments: