The core message is that in churches across the western world (and I am writing from quite a lot of experience of Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist and a few other traditions over the last 40 years, not least but not only within the evangelical traditions) I have discovered a near-total silence on the question of what the ‘inner parts’ of the four gospels are actually about. Already, in the short time since the book came out, I have had messages from people in several of these traditions to say, ‘Right on! My church never dealt with any of that stuff – we just learnt that Jesus was divine, that he died for our sins, and then we went straight for Paul’s theology.’ The most you get from the ‘inner parts’ of the gospels, in most churches, is small-scale moral lessons or the use of a parable or a miracle as an illustration of a bit of Pauline theology.… the response I have had, again and again, is that, yes, I nailed it: the churches in which most of my readers grew up and are at home simply haven’t taught, AT ALL, that Jesus’ ‘teaching’ and ‘deeds’ were not about ‘proving he was divine’ or ‘showing us how to go to heaven’, but rather that they were the living proclamation that now, in this way, Israel’s God was becoming king – and that this inaugurated kingship reaches its climax on the cross. (Kingdom and cross have routinely got separated in most traditions I know, but in all our gospels they are tied tightly together.) I would love to be told that there are some western Christian traditions that have said all this, just in this way, but after many years knocking around in church and theological circles I don’t expect to find it… And when a late-middle-aged theologian begins to find that he’s seeing something in the text which seems central but which none of the churches he knows seem to be ‘getting’, what’s he supposed to do? Keep it quiet to avoid the sneer that he seems to be making grandiose claims?
Tom Wright commenting recently, on The12’s review of his book, said this regardingHow God Became King,
What and how were you taught about Jesus? Was it with a developed emphasis of the centrality of the kingdom of God? Or was Jesus’ life fodder for claims about his divinity etc.?