When thinking about the earlier post on Wright’s seeming confusion, I tried to think about how I would reconcile the ideas he (and others) are presenting. I hope that this post will point out where the disconnect lies and why, as far as disconnects go, it’s not that bad.
From my vantage point, it seems that there are at least 2 basic stories of the Christian life. The first says that by our baptism and Spirit-filling we have been united into Christ’s death (judgment) and resurrection (salvation). As such, we are right now living the “saved” life. We are living in the midst of resurrection, of redemption, of salvation.
The second points out that, at the same time, we’re not there yet. We look around ourselves (and even at ourselves) and don’t see salvation. We don’t see that perfect image of God’s kingdom for which we hope. From this story, one would say that our sufferings, pains, and all the rest are actually joined into Christ’s passion. Our sufferings link us to his sufferings.
Now both of these stories has problems. At the most basic level, the first seems naively optimistic, the latter deeply scary. And yet I think both have a good amount of warrant within the Christian tradition. We are there. We have been joined to the Godhood (or as one guy told me a few weeks ago, the “perichoretic flow of the Trinity”), a process called “theosis” in the Orthodox tradition and simply “sanctification” in the western forms. At the same time, our lives rarely reflect the beautiful life of the Spirit in community, or lush greenery of Eden reborn. Sometimes (most of the time in Wisconsin) you’re left with gray skies that could do with a healthy dose of life. We’re not there. We sometimes see little but a pit of deep dark despair (if you’re struggling in this way, know that that dark despair is you looking at the cross) and hate everything when we look in a mirror.
I don’t know yet how precisely I’d go about “reconciling” such stories, or even if such a reconciliation is necessary. But both are here.
So how do I want to make sense of Wright’s statement on our deaths dealing with sin? Looking to story #2, I think we could say that just as our sufferings connect to Christ’s sufferings, so our deaths connect to Christ’s death. This would still leave the salvific, atoning qualities solely with the uniting to Christ (via the Spirit) himself while acknowledging that the act of dying in and of itself doesn’t rid us of our previous sin and automatically transform us into perfection.