Two great quotes (out of many) from N.T. Wright’s Simply Christian.
p. 235 ” The arts are not the pretty but irrelevant bits around the border of reality. They are highways into the center of a reality which cannot be glimpsed, let alone grasped, any other way. The present would is good, but broken an in any case incomplete; art of all kinds enables us to understand that paradox in its many dimensions.”
p. 237 “Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection. Made for joy, we settle for pleasure. Made for justice, we clamor for vengence. Made for relationship, we insist on our own way. Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment.”
Wright’s greatest contribution, (after only one reading) is his “Third view”.
Periodically throughout the book, Wright discusses the dominant worldviews or positions on the relationship between God (and his Realm/space/etc) and Ours (Earth, humans, dirt, etc..) View One is that the two realms are one – outlined in paganism (worship of a tree god, water god, etc) and Pantheism-(“god is everything”) and the slippery Panentheism (God is in Everything “I see God in the Trees, in the Waters, in all things”. The second view is that the two “places” are mutually exclusive, this is prevalent in Deism (God made the earth and then left), Dualism, and sortof in Atheism (except there is not a God place, just this “godforsaken planet”) The third view (and he points out that this view originates in historical Judaism) is that God has a realm and the Earth has a realm but they interact and overlap at various points.
His Endgame is that This “Gods world” within this world is precisely the New Kingdom Jesus says is at hand, and that when a Christian is baptized they become “dual citizens” of a sort, living in the physical world while participating as members in God’s…uh Family? Country? Universe? Therein lies the tension.
The most exciting aspect about all this Reframing (it’s not new information, exactly) is that it both deftly chastizes various bad theologies (by organizing them according to their views on the God/Earth relationship), and challenges everyone to fully realize their role as a dual citizen.
It manages to set some of the cheeky “rules” aside without ignoring them. Live as a citizen of the New Kingdom, where there is Justice and Mercy, and no Vengeance or Disease. Cherish beauty and offer forgiveness.
I’m sure I’m mangling all his carefully crafted rhetoric. I’d recommend reading it.