No neutral religion

Well, if I blogged everything good from Wright’s first long book, I’d be stuck here ’till next year. So I skipped ahead to the end and am now skipping around for now. On the last page of the work, he again lays down the ultimatum that everyone must decide an answer to the “Question of God”. There is no neutral ground. That grey area you’re standing in is blacker than you think.

The New Testament writers claim that, though there is only one god, all human beings of themselves chreish wrong ideas ABOUT this one god. In worshipping the god thus wronly conceived, they worship an idol.

Pagans worship gods of wood and stone, distorting the creator by worshipping the creature.

Jews, Paul argues in parallel with this, have made an idol of their own national identity and security, and so have failed to see what the covenant faithfulness of their god, the god of Abraham, had always entailed.

Christians, as the addressees of the New Testament writings, are clearly not exempt from the possibility of idolatry, of using the words ‘Jesus’ and ‘Christ’ while in fact worshipping a different god.

Our study of the history of Judaism and Christianity in the first century leads us inexorably to the conclusions that both cannot be right in their claims about the true god.

Both might, of course, be wrong.[!]

The stoics might be right: there is one god, since the whole world is divine, and we humans are part of it.

The Epicureans, and their modern successors the Deists, might be right: there is a god, or possibly more than one, whom none of us knows very well and all of us distantly acknowledge, with ignorance and distortion.

The pagans might be right: there are different ‘divine’ forces in the world, which need to be propitiated when angry, and harnessed to one’s own advantage when not.

The Gnostics might be right: there is a good, hidden god who will reveal himself to some of us, thereby rescuing us from this wicked world of matter and flesh, which are the reaction of an evil god.

Or the modern atheists or materialists might be right.

There is no neutral ground here. We are at the level of worldview, and here ultimate choices are involved.

-N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, p.475