Thursday, January 24, 2019

N.T. Wright, Revelation, and The Unique Human "Because"

Let’s return to notable biblical scholar N.T. Wright’s insights on human uniqueness through his brief comments on the book of Revelation, chapter 4. 

Here's the key section of the passage:
8 "Each of the four creatures had six wings, and they were full of eyes all round and inside. Day and night they take no rest, as they say,'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty,Who Was and Who Is and Who Is to Come.'9 When the creatures give glory and honour and thanksgiving to the one who is sitting on the throne, the one who lives for ever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall downin front of the one who is sitting on the throne, and worship the one who lives for ever and ever. They throw down their crowns in front of the throne, saying, 11 '0 Lord our God, you deserve to receive glory and honour and power, because you created all things; because of your will they existed and were created.'" Revelation 4
Wright then writes about this passage, emphasizing the focus on worship:
Consider the two songs of praise in this passage, the first in verse 8 and the second in verse 11. The first one is the song which the four living creatures sing round the clock, day and night. They praise God as the holy one; they praise him as the everlasting one. 

Effectively, he comments that they summarize the animal kingdom: human beings, the king of the wild animals (lion), leader of tamed animals (ox), and king of birds (eagle). (Incidentally, they have also come to represent the four writers of the Gospels sometimes called the Tetramporh.) The takeaway for me is that human beings are animals… in the positive sense of the word… not angels. Too often we forget that fact to our peril.
"The song of these living creatures is simply an act of adoring praise and thanks. We are meant, reading this passage, to see with the Psalmist [in Revelation] that all creation is dependent on God and worships him in its own way. That alone is worth pondering as a striking contrast to how most of us view the animal kingdom. But the contrast with the 24 elders is then made all the more striking. Creation as a whole simply worships God; the humans who represent God's people understand why they do so. 'You deserve’, they say, 'to receive glory and honour and power, because you created all things.' There it is: the ' e' that distinguishes humans from other animals, however noble those animals may be in their own way. Humans are given the capacity to reflect, to understand what's going on. And, in particular, to express that understanding in worship." Biblical scholar N.T. Wright
And now we return to what makes us different—namely that we understand we are
worshipping. Wright concludes…
"Worship, after all, is the most central human activity. Certainly it's the most central Christian activity…. Worship is what we were made for; worship with a because in it is what marks us out as genuine human beings." N.T. Wright
That does seem to be a unique feature of humanity—this connection of saying “because” and worshipping our Creator. There also is one place where science, Scripture, and human uniqueness meet.

No comments: