I read this yesterday. It is from N. T. Wright’s massive (and I do mean massive) new book Paul and the Faithfulness of God. I am 500 pages into the first volume, still about 100 pages to go in this one, then I start the second volume, which I think is 700 pages. I might get finished by Thanksgiving.
In the passage Wright described Paul’s grand narrative, which is really the Jewish narrative, of Yahweh as the creator of all human beings. There is, in this creation, two time periods. One period of time is the ‘everything is not quite right time’ when life is less than perfect, human beings are not living up to their ideal, and evil people seem to get away with their evil deeds. Into this present age, a new creation is born in which Messiah reigns. He hasn’t fully started this reign yet, but at some time in the future this new creation will come to fruition and everything that is wrong will be set right.
Okay, so I’ve caught you up to where Wright is headed. Be advised, I am not as smart as N. T. Wright, so for a fuller explanation, buy his book. But in this context Wright talks about God, in his role as judge, will set everything proper and in order. It is then that Wright makes this marvelous point, that I share with you now. The italic is his, the underlining is mine, because I thought that was the truly wonderful point.
All this is to say, in one way or another, that the large outer story is a story of judgment. This theme is constantly bound up with the biblical idea of Israel’s God, the creator, coming to set up his rule. The word ‘judgment’ has of course been allowed to slip into negative mode in the contemporary western world, with ‘judgmentalism’ one of the classic postmodern villains. But even a postmodernist whose car has been damaged by a drunk driver wants a court to pass ‘judgment’ against the offender. ‘Judgment’ is in fact a positive thing. It is what restores health to a society, a balance to the world. It replaces chaos with order. The fact that it can be abused–that humans, whether or not in positions of authority, can take it upon themselves to ‘pass judgment’ on one another in negative and destructive ways–indicates, not that it is a bad thing in itself, but that like all good and important things it can generate unpleasant parodies.
The former bishop is probably right. It is a lack of good judgment, sound judgment, biblical judgment in our world that has created so much chaos and disruption.