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2.13.2006 

In accordance with the Scriptures...

Some thoughts motivated by N.T. Wright's "The Last Word," where the Bishop writes,

"When Paul says, quoting an earlier and widely used summary of the Christian message, 'The Messiah died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures...and was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), he does not mean that he and his friends can find one or two proof-texts to back up their claim, but rather that these events have come as the climax to the long and winding narrative of Israel's scriptures" (48).

If Paul rightly saw the death and (perhaps more centrally) the resurrection of Jesus as the telos of God's story in the world recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, then this begs an obvious question--what does it mean for us to live today, as the church, in accordance with the scriptures? Jesus' death and resurrection were the end and goal of the Old Testament story, but the story has now been altered forever by his life and work, and he has left us as his witnesses, as the ones (with his Spirit as our guide) who will finish the story begun in Genesis 1. As Wright points out, it means far more than finding prophetic proof-texts for our vocational calling as the people of God, but rather something more like immersing ourselves in God's story of the world, allowing it to rule our lives in devotion and worship such that our habits and affections become modified until they begin to merge with the trajectory of the story thus far. This is what it means to live "in accordance with the Scriptures": to allow the story to shape us, to find its narrative stream and place ourselves in the middle of its plot. And so, when I teach the book of Joshua I try to show him not so much as our model as our ancestor, a fellow actor in the same play overseen by the same director, and our goal ought not to be to mimic his lines as much as decipher in what direction his chapter in the larger story points us.

(Apologies to Wright for ripping off his play/act metaphor for Scripture).

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