N.T. Wright on How We Help Bring in the New Heavens and New Earth?

Bishop N.T. Wright was recently interviewed on the Colbert Report to talk about his book Suprised by Hope. It is an intertesting interview on several account. Wright asserts that there are two phases of eschatology: Heaven and the New Heavens and New Earth. He then says that we share in the recreation by feeding the poor. While this sounds good to the average hearer the problem is it is not taught in Scripture. There is no verse, no series of passages or even allusions to this idea. In fact, it is a very subtle way to push a social Gospel. The Gospel is not something that we do, it is something that Christ did for us. The recreation of all things is not something that we do, it is something that Jesus does by His blood.

Now, it is true that we do share in advancing the kingdom of our Lord through preaching the word of God. It is also true that we are called to walk in the good works that God has prepared before for us to walk in. We are to be a merciful people because we are called to reflect the holiness and goodness of God. But to say that we share in the recreation of the world is simply not taught in Scripture. Scripture teaches that we, who have believed on Christ, are made new creatures (or as Ridderbos would assert, we are part of the new creation). But this is not the same as saying we share in bringing about the recreation through doing social mercy. Social mercy is a much more theologically accurate term than social justice since all men by nature deserve wrath for their sins. Justice would be God sending us all to hell; mercy is giving to someone what we do not deserve. This whole interview is an example of Wright’s misuse of biblical theology. While much of what he says is accurate what he does with it is not.

The other problem with what Wright said is that he never delineated between believers and unbelievers. At several point Colbert asks whether he will be in the new Heavens and new Earth with everyone who has ever lived, and Wright simply passes by and makes it seem like all men will be there. What good is it to talk about the New Heavens and the New Earth if you don’t tell people how they will inherit it, and don’t tell them that they will perish if they don’t believe in Christ. You can watch the video here. For a more exhaustive treatment of my concern listen to Mark Dever’s talk from this years Together for the Gospel Conference. You can find that here.

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