Quotes: the real problem is idolatry – N.T. Wright

“In most popular Christianity, “heaven” (and “fellowship with God” in the present) is the goal, and “sin” (bad behavior, deserving punishment) is the problem. A Platonized goal and a moralizing diagnosis—and together they lead, as I have been suggesting, to a paganized “solution” in which an angry divinity is pacified by human sacrifice. The zealous theological Boy Scouts have gotten it wrong. Humans are made not for “heaven,” but for the new heavens and new earth. (loc. 1282 *)

“The human problem is not so much “sin” seen as the breaking of moral codes—though that, to be sure, is part of it, just as the headaches and blurry vision really were part of the medical problem—but rather idolatry and the distortion of genuine humanness it produces. These two mistakes go together, reinforcing the basic heaven-and-earth dualism that continues to haunt Western theology.” (loc. 1282 *)

When we worship and serve forces within the creation (the creation for which we were supposed to be responsible!), we hand over our power to other forces only too happy to usurp our position. We humans have thus, by abrogating our own vocation, handed our power and authority to non-divine and nonhuman forces, which have then run rampant, spoiling human lives, ravaging the beautiful creation, and doing their best to turn God’s world into a hell (and hence into a place from which people might want to escape). As I indicated earlier, some of these “forces” are familiar (money, sex, power). Some are less familiar in the popular mind, not least the sense of a dark, accusing “power” standing behind all the rest.” (loc.1333 *)

“The problem is not just that humans have misbehaved and need punishing. The problem is that their idolatry, coming to expression in sin, has resulted in slavery for themselves and for the whole creation.” (loc.1469 *)

“The Bible, then, offers an analysis of the human plight different from the one normally imagined. “Sin” is not just bad in itself. It is the telltale symptom of a deeper problem, and the biblical story addresses that deeper problem; it includes the “sin” problem but goes much farther. The problem is that humans were made for a particular vocation, which they have rejected; that this rejection involves a turning away from the living God to worship idols; that this results in giving to the idols—“ forces” within the creation—a power over humans and the world that was rightfully that of genuine humans; and that this leads to a slavery, which is ultimately the rule of death itself, the corruption and destruction of the good world made by the Creator.” (loc.1469)

Related Topic: Jesus Christ: Savior of the World

* From The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion by N. T. Wright. Emphasis added.


About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 41 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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4 Responses to Quotes: the real problem is idolatry – N.T. Wright

  1. Mel, all I can say is, I love me some N.T. Wright! 🙂

  2. Perry Austin says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with Wright on this point, and I am the chiefest Idolator that I know of. Unfortunately, in nearly 20 years, I have heard no “mature” Christians advance a solution to this problem that few would accept and none would like. We believers have all experienced the solution, we’re just not experiencing it as much if ever anymore!

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