Bishop Tom Wright on ABC’s Nightline: Is There Life After the Afterlife?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Watch it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)CoE Bishops* TheologyEschatology

17 Comments
Posted February 28, 2008 at 8:53 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Ross Gill wrote:

Get hold of his new book ‘Surprised By Hope’.  It’s well worth the read.

February 28, 10:26 am | [comment link]
2. Peter in Fairfax wrote:

Would that he could stick more to these topics and minimize his naively Labourite political swipes. The book is indeed good.

February 28, 10:52 am | [comment link]
3. Hoskyns wrote:

The fact that he’s right about the Rapture doesn’t mean he’s right to dismiss the ancient Christian tradition about heaven.  NTW is more accomplished at spin than +ABC. But this is spin sensationalism, in the best British media tradition.

February 28, 11:52 am | [comment link]
4. w.w. wrote:

Here’s the plain text version of the transcript:
http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=4330823

I wonder how someone with a high view of the authority and plain truth of Scripture can get around many of its passages dealing with the hereafter without stretching or ignoring a hermeneutical point or two.

w.w.

February 28, 12:21 pm | [comment link]
5. Ross Gill wrote:

I have no problems with this kind of spin.  It’s about time we saw presented on the popular media someone who is committed to telling the Christian story rather than some liberal clown from the Jesus Seminar.  The Jesus Seminar people were very effective at using the media to get their message out.  In Bishop Wright we see someone who can do it at least as well as they can.  Very refreshing.

February 28, 1:07 pm | [comment link]
6. azusa wrote:

Well, I watched it and I’m still not sure what he’s worked up about (apart from casting some Oxbridge scorn on these dreadful American fundies and their reading habits). Post-mortem experience of the presence of Christ (see Andrew Lincoln’s ‘Paradise Now and Not Yet’) doesn’t contradict belief in the resurrection of the body; in fact, it’s been theological liberals rather than conservatives who have downplayed or even denied the latter, preferring a purely ‘spiritualized’ idea of salvation - which is only a way station to eventually saying there is no post-mortem existence. Ask ex-bishop Richard Holloway.
And to claim, as Wright does, that believing in heaven makes you indifferent to physical suffering in the world is ludicrous and belied by all the evidence.
The only question of importance is whether there is ‘soul sleep’ or an ‘intermediate state’, and I think Scripture affirms the latter.
I cannot visualize (except in the familiar terms of this world) what it means ‘to depart and be with Christ’, any more than ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ but will hold on to belief in both.
BTW, Tom says he works in a tough part of England. I’m sure that’s true, even if the city of Durham itself is quite picturesque and has a fine university. I think he should follow his conscience and the things said by others this week in England, and sell off that vast, drafty and expensive Bishop Auckland Castle he lives in and move into a sensible modern house. The money raised could alleviate poverty, help struggling parishes, even be used for AIDS sufferers in Africa. Now that would be a demonstration of belief in the resurrection of the body!

February 28, 1:31 pm | [comment link]
7. Choir Stall wrote:

I agree with the GOOD BISHOP on the big scheme, the minor details of which don’t matter (like how we might be raptured, etc.). As long as I believe that “He will come again” to “judge the living and the dead”, and that “His kingdom will have no end” as the relevant creedal points we can call the rest non-essential. As humans we will never stop being human and become another order of creation (like sprouting angel wings). It stands to reason that after death that God’s purpose for us will continue to be that we are stewards, co-partners, and active/useful in the divine plan. I can’t imagine how dreadful a useless and idle life of laying up in a mansion would be. I don’t think that God is that trivial or cruel. That will certainly bring out hymns from us all while we live that new life.

February 28, 1:34 pm | [comment link]
8. bob carlton wrote:

Peter in Fairfax:
You do understand that for Wright these topics and what you characterize as “his naively Labourite political swipes” come from the faith in a transforming liberating King, our Savior Jesus.

February 28, 1:57 pm | [comment link]
9. Virgil in Tacoma wrote:

I’ve found that in the Bible a full-bodied view of the afterlife doesn’t present itself—we basically have fragments. Adding the traditions of the holy fathers to the mix gives a more full-bodied traditional theology to our eschatology.

February 28, 2:20 pm | [comment link]
10. Alta Californian wrote:

My only quibble is the interviewer calls it a radical departure from Christian tradition, when it is in fact a radical return to Christian tradition.  He doesn’t dismiss the tradition about heaven or “overlook” the scriptural passages about it, he simply says that “heaven” is not the complete story.  The Left Behind-We’re-all-going-to-fly-away-and-sit-on-clouds eschatology overlooks so much in scripture as to be completely untenable.

+Wright’s biggest problem is that he keeps getting dragged into the left/right divide that he firmly believes is a false dichotomy.

February 28, 2:21 pm | [comment link]
11. justice1 wrote:

I am afraid Wright is right on this one.  I don’t know what the “traditional church teaching on heaven” is, but if it does not include a new heaven and new earth, and bodily resurrection - eternal life that is ultimately embodied life, then it is not a New Testament teaching.  Whatever the saints in heaven are doing now, it is surely not the end of the story.  [On this I suggest Romans 8, 1 Corinthians 15, Revelation 21-22, and in the OT Ezekiel 37].

February 28, 2:37 pm | [comment link]
12. David Hein wrote:

I was struck by the apparent congruence between much of what Wright was saying and what Juergen Moltmann says in his recent article in the Anglican Theological Review, which is worth taking note of and possibly adding to the discussion.

February 28, 2:40 pm | [comment link]
13. Virgil in Tacoma wrote:

#10.. “...dragged into the left/right divide that he firmly believes is a false dichotomy.”

I like that. It has always been a problem to use such terms as “liberal”, “conservative”, “reappraiser”, “reasserter”, and the like. They try to express positions of polar opposites that don’t actually exist. But, unfortunately for us, such words are necessary to define differences. We just need to remember that they are only convenient myths of reference.

February 28, 2:41 pm | [comment link]
14. evan miller wrote:

Funny thing, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a conservative complain about “labels.”  Only liberals seem to find them objectionable.

February 28, 2:53 pm | [comment link]
15. Adam 12 wrote:

Can someone fill us in on early-church views on heaven that are said to amplify the OT and NT?

February 28, 6:10 pm | [comment link]
16. BCP28 wrote:

I attended a series of lectures by +Wright at St Mary’s Ecumenical Institute this week…a lot of the book was involved.  Very good stuff.  I think they will be available on-line in a couple of weeks.

Read the book.  If you want to skip ahead to his conclusions about Eschatology, read p. 171-181.  I may quibble with a few points, but the big picture is on-target, so far as I’m concerned.

February 28, 6:34 pm | [comment link]
17. BCP28 wrote:

Incidentally, +Wright does a great job of disecting Jewish views of the afterlife in the 1st century.

February 28, 6:35 pm | [comment link]
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