OST is closed for business but its spirit survives on my blog.
I think Christians should be developing the virtues, and contributing in all sorts of ways to making this world a better place, but not for the reasons Wright gives. I think Christians should be doing things because it is right to do them, not because they think that unless they do them there will be something missing (for them, and maybe even for others) from the coming Kingdom.
“I didn’t read anywhere in the book that things will need putting right after Christ comes again”
p.63 (though the page may be different in the American version, so it is Chapter 2, end of Section 8) ‘our future role … making the judgements that will put everything to rights’, p.65 (Chapter 3, middle of Section 1) ‘enable the garden to flourish … (and) be extended’, p.79 (Chapter 3, middleish Section 4) ‘the result of this “reign” … the renewal of the whole world’, ‘when humans are restored … creation itself will then be fully restored … become truly etc’, p.97 (Chapter 4, beginningish Section 3) ‘through this people … set the whole world to rights’. Wright also elsewhere intimates that Revelations 22.2 ‘healing of the nations’ means that there will be renovatory work to be done by Christians after the coming of the Kingdom, even putting it into the context of possible salvation of those unsaved (dead or alive) when the Kingdom comes (eg Surprised by Hope, p.117, Chapter 6, Section 8, pp.196-7, Chapter 11, Section 5).
You are right, Peter, that Wright brings in ‘disadvantages’ that may afflict those seeming to start ahead on the development of virtue (p.177, Chapter 6, towards the end of Section 4), but I could wish he had said something more cogent, given what seems to be his general line (you say you see other ways of tackling the issue - it could be interesting to know what they are!) Comparison with others is not so much the issue, surely, as absolute attainment. What God looks at in ‘apportioning reward’ seems to be very much an issue with Wright, because he thinks reward is natural and not an artificial prize. So, presumably, even if someone with a deprived starting point develops more than someone else from a more privileged starting point, yet still finishes up less developed, Wright seems to me to be implying that being less developed they will remain so, so be less rewarded, even though they have worked harder (my impression is, Peter, that you disagree somewhat with Wright here, if I have correctly characterised Wright! But you seem to think it is ok that infants who die never even get a chance to get on the ladder (for more, see below).). Or doesn’t Wright think we experience of the coming Kingdom what we have grown now to be able to appreciate? So, again, that would seem to imply that people disadvantaged in various ways now from developing virtue, or developing in whatever ways, will be less able to appreciate things in the Kingdom than others, perhaps through no fault of their own. So, perhaps infants who die will still be infants in the coming Kingdom and will remain at an infantile level of ability to appreciate it (perhaps this is indeed what you call the ‘standard response’. It’s not one I like! I don’t see why infants can’t grow up in the coming Kingdom, nor why anybody might not be able to eventually acquire in the coming Kingdom whatever they died lacking, whether their own fault or not. Wright himself doesn’t envisage the coming Kingdom as a static state, but does seem to imply some things about us at our death, such as level of acquired virtue, remain constant in the coming Kingdom). Perhaps, according to Wright, if Christians don’t develop athletic physiques now (they may be couch potatoes, though perhaps they were born with physical limitations), they will be unable to enjoy athletic pursuits in the Kingdom (similarly for brain limitations, or merely lack of application in learning, in the case of abilities at intellectual pursuits, and then there are artistic abilities, business and organisational abilities, whatever).
On Christians and politics, I was thinking about the possibility of Christians making a disruptive nuisance of themselves (eg it’s not actually clear to me that the apostles, in Acts, were right to cause commotions at the temple which got the authorities against them. That the Bible says that’s what they did is not necessarily condoning it! Perhaps they were doing their best but didn’t have the requisite wisdom to figure out some other way of witnessing! Should Christians now regularly street evangelise, doing group singing of hymns and megaphone jobs, outside mosques?!). Wright seems to me to suggest Christians should regularly oppose things they consider unchristian even to the extent the authorities have to lock them up. I rather feel that Christians should accept that the ways of the world are not their ways, and certainly make their views known on issues, but not at all costs oppose (eg by shooting abortionists) what the world does they consider unchristian. Further complicated by different Christian groups having different opinions on issues, especially if each group assumes drastic action. The reason I think Wright suggests this is his ideas of the continuities between now and the future Kingdom, which he thinks are very, very great. He thinks we are the agents of making the coming Kingdom happen (p.4 “help make it happen”. Chapter 1, Section 1.). And further he thinks that things we do now will be in the coming Kingdom, and things we don’t won’t.
That the ‘impasse’, over whether people can do as they should, is broken now for Christians may be the reality of the case, and I take it it will certainly be the case in the future Kingdom. I was referring to the empirical situation, where it is not actually experienced as broken by Christians. This leads me to think it worth more consideration whether it is now the reality of the case, or in what sense it is, or whether Biblical interpretation needs some tweaking! I’m not saying we should indulge in it, if we were to conclude that we have not yet been given (theoretically or empirically) the wherewithal to not sin at all! Of course, Wright is in ones sense tackling this issue in saying he thinks Christians have to work at being what they should be, but he doesn’t have an informative stab at how this can be