Don’t Let Them Tell You The Future Is Electric

I vacated my busy life and all the cares of the world this week to retreat to Wexford with Neuro and her childhood best friend. It was great. We didn’t have tv or the internet or a dishwasher. It was like travelling back in time to 1998. How did people manage to live back then? We did have text messages though so I didn’t stop my harassment campaign of that weatherman on TV3. Too jolly sir!

There are beaches in Wexford, which is good for a Zoomtard since he forgets how much he loves the sea when he lives all landlocked in Maynooth. I could wander along a beach looking moodily out into the distance all day long. In fact, my dream job would be to star in Home And Away as a disenchanted teenager trying to reform their character now they’ve been sent down to Summer Bay after getting into trouble with the law in “the city”. Then I would get paid to walk moodily along the beach looking out in to the distance.

What I spent my time doing was reading. I read Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy (more of that some other time) and the latest edition of the Atlantic Monthly and I’m halfway through my big NT Wright book and I even read newspapers. I read the Irish Times. It is amazing what rural people have time to do. But it would have been better for my brain to be watching Dr. Phil and Veronica Mars. No doubt about it. I hate the Irish Times.

So for those of you who aren’t theology nerds, or even Christians (why not! Christians have THEOLOGY! How sexy is that? Too sexy for you it seems), I should explain why I love this NT Wright fellow. He is the Bishop of Durham. That is, I think, the Vice-Vice President of Anglicanism. So if there was a 24-esque thriller made about the Church of England, then Tom Wright would be the one pulling the strings in the assasinate-the-President-for-economic-gain intruige. He is also an amazing public speaker. But what you will really love about Tom Wright is his writing. He has an astounding gift for making the most complex and weighty issues seem simple. He can make theology page-turnable. The man can make deconstructionism seem page-turnable. He writes in two categories. Heavy, academic theology is published under the austere NT Wright title and more popular, mainstream works are published under Tom Wright, which is surely the name of the man down the road you could borrow a lawnmower from. Do I need to point out (again) that he is a New Testament theologian called NT Wright? How can he be wrong? (I disagree with him on a bunch of things, by the way, Mr. Heresy Police)

He is the foremost New Testament scholar today. In the last ten years he has actually revolutionised the whole sphere of investigation with his titanic Christian Origins series. I am reading the first of these books, The New Testament and the People of God at the moment. He spends the first 100+ pages laying out his assumptions and challenging all the initial skepticisms you will bring to any study that claims to be academically rigorous while still arguing that God became a Palestinian carpenter. Oh how sweet these pages are! Maybe I am a sick freak but he made me laugh out loud a number of times as he went to battle with some of the failings of the last 200 years of theology and some of the fancies of postmodern rhetoric.

By now you are all shouting “SKIP TO THE END!” at your monitors so I will. Down in Wexford, I read a breathtaking passage just hidden away in a few paragraphs. It wasn’t the topic of the book. He didn’t highlight it with stars all around the text. It was just a step he had to make to get where he wanted to go in his argument. And I am going to share it with you now, you lucky lucky people. Christians believe that the Bible has the authority of God. This is a strange and difficult concept to deal with and a very long discussion to explain why we started to believe something so apparently crazy. Although I call myself “simply Christian” (thanks NT!), I move in largely evangelical circles and the evangelicals have spent the last 200 years or so trying to justify the apparently mental things they believe by writing out cleverly worded lists and producing books with 1,267 reasons to believe and making up statements we should all sign to prove we are all card-carrying evangelicals. Then they spend €4000 buying a top of the range laser printer and laminating machine to make the cards we should carry and they might make one that says “Homeless” and give it to the guy who sleeps outside the door of the office so that he knows we really do love him. Us Evangelicals sometimes forget to actually love people while we tell them the truth.

Anyway, Wright has to touch on the authority of Scripture to make a larger point about the New Testament and he says maybe instead of demanding things like “Scripture is Truth” or other forumlas that don’t actually mean anything, we should follow the Bible’s example and tell a story. Imagine we discover a new Shakespeare play. The excitement is huge. The scholars open on the first page and they start reading it and even before they have it performed they know that this is The Bard’s masterpiece. It is enthralling and captivating and it hurtles along at just the right pace and as they come to the end of the 4th Act this comic tragedy has already become their favourite work. But then they turn the page to the final act and there is only one word, “And….” That is all there is.

No scholar is arrogant enough to take up and write the definitive final act of this play so instead they bring in the best Shakespearian actors in the world. People just as capable as Kenneth Brannagh without being so annoying or ginger. These thespians have spent their whole lives performing these plays and they know Shakespeare’s work inside out. They’ve experienced it. They’ve walked it through until it is second nature. So they gather this conference of the best of the best and they set them the challenge of poring over the first 4 Acts. They are to take as long as they need to read and study and learn and love the text. They are to drown themselves in the plot and smother themselves in the characters and then when they come to perform it, they are to improvise the 5th Act. They must know the first 4 Acts inside-out so that the 5th Act that is in their hands is coherent and compatible and that the ending is satisfying. If this Shakespeare play was found and if you were a Shakespearian actor, it would be the most exciting challenge in the world to live this play out until its end.

Scripture is authoritative in this way. There are 4 Acts in the Bible: Creation. Fall. Israel. Jesus. Now the commissioner of Scripture, God himself, has commissioned Christians to finish the play. Everything we need to know about the kind of ending this play is going to have is right there in the first Acts. There has never been a better set-up climax because Jesus has left us with so many pointers as to the direction we are going in. More than that, Christians have the Holy Spirit as a guide, dwelling in us and permeating everything we do to keep us on track. Our job is not to withdraw into the Bible and live as 2nd Temple Jews lived. Our job is not to see the Bible stories repeated in our day. Our job is not to spend our time declaring that those stories are true. Are job is to finish the story and in so doing, substantiating everything that has gone before.

“How does the Bible serve as an authority for Christians?” is a much better discussion to have than “The Bible is authoritative”. It is neccessarily applied instead of abstract. Finishing this 5th Act is a life I can get excited about. Its a life you can get excited about.

I have to go to a wedding today. My colleague who I have spent the last 2 years working with has up and got herself married to a delightful Canadian polymath. I was in a weird situation last night where I had three of my old colleagues in the kitchen hanging out (up from Cork and down from Belfast they were availing of the discount Zoomtard Hostel rates) and my new boss down from Christianity HQ was in my living room. It was like a hilarious sticom where a guy decides to date two girls on the same night. In my old job room they were all talking about drugs and jazz and other cutting edge zeitgeistey finger on the pulse kind of things and in my new job room we were talking about post-modernity and community links and reconciliation studies. For a moment I wondered why I was leaving the hip old job where I could go to the cinema and call it work for the new job where people (theoretically) depend on me to help them through the hardest and toughest moments life will throw at them. Then I remembered the photos in that envelope in my new boss’ filing cabinet and my heart fell.

No. I’m kidding folks. Seriously. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland are not blackmailing me in to working for them. Seriously. Ok?

Your Correspondent, Fell For The Promise Of A Life With A Purpose

4 Responses to “Don’t Let Them Tell You The Future Is Electric”

  1. stigmund says:

    A Zoomtard sitcom. I’d buy the DVD. What would the bonus features be? Hmmm…

    I like your picture. Does it matter that your picture is of ducklings and not chicks? Or even chickens?

  2. zoomtard says:

    From now on, until I run out of energy or ideas, there will be a new header every month. So your pedantry only has a week left to be offended.

    The extras would be a slap around the head for orinthological show-offs. Also, Irish subtitles.

  3. stigmund says:

    Pedantry? Orinthological show-off?!

    I had to look ‘ornithological’ up!

  4. […] Bob asks this question, can we be orthodox even if we are not inerrantist? “Not inerrantist” is not the same as errantist, by the way. There is the position I hold, which I think is the majority, which believes the Bible is divinely inspired as originally given and is the supreme authority in all matters of faith. For what that authority amounts to, consult the last entry. For what sense there is in declaring something which we’ll never see (the original manuscripts) as being divinely inspired, refer to the chapter entitled “Christian faith” in your family’s handbook of Major Psychological Conditions. So what is orthodoxy? And who decides it? […]