Seven Themes that Will Revolutionize How You Read John

We are happy to announce that our next course, ‘Themes in the Gospel of John’, will be available in a few weeks. The best way to prepare is to enroll in N.T. Wright Online’s ‘Worldviews, the Bible, and the Believer’, on sale now for only $49.99 (64% off!)

I spend most Wednesday evenings with people who have struggled with abuse, broken relationships, or extreme emotional hardships. These issues often lead to addiction or other harmful behaviors and lifestyle choices. For many, the issue of finding justice may not be on the surface, but deep down there is a longing for things to ‘be made right’, the key aspect in true ‘justice’. 

I am fortunate to be able to gather with my Dad during some of these weekly gatherings. Once when we were discussing how to recover and move forward past an experience of personal injustice in my life he said this: ‘A big reason that you were hurt is my fault. I was responsible to take care of you. I made some mistakes and as a direct result you suffered. That is my fault and I carry it with me every day. But, honey, as much as I want to, I can’t do the work of healing for you. God has to do that part. It is up to you to let Him do that work in your life—then you have to carry out your part’. 

My Dad teaches me a lot about justice without actually saying the word ‘justice’. It often comes in unexpected ways, like surprising or impromptu conversations. I find the same is often true in reading the Word from my Heavenly Father in the Gospel of John.  

If you are studying what the Scriptures have to say about justice, you might not turn to John’s Gospel. Yet, this is exactly how Prof. N.T. Wright begins his latest course, Themes in the Gospel of John. 

The introductory lecture beings with a puzzle: As humans we long for justice but we don’t know exactly how to do it. Most will agree that the world is not the way it ought to be. The problem is that we cannot seem to ‘put things right’. It is like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle without seeing the picture on the outside of the box. We cannot put the pieces together to create a just world because we do not fully know what it looks like. What do people mean when they say they want justice? What exactly are ‘human rights’, and what do these rights have to do with what it means to be human? 

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In this course Prof. Wright encourages students to think deeply about seven themes: justice, relationships, spirituality, beauty, freedom, truth, and power.

Themes in the Gospel of John stands apart from previous N.T. Wright Online courses in three significant ways:

  • The framework of each of the seven central themes is examined.
  • The methodology of how to practice each theme is described. 
  • The exploration of personal identity as it relates to each theme is highlighted.

This course allows us to practice and identify with the critical themes so prevalent in the Gospel of John. This allows us to study, embrace, and act in accordance with the Way of Jesus.

The introductory lecture on justice models the structure for the remainder of the course. 

Prof. Wright introduces each of the seven themes with important questions that stir the heart inwardly and impact the world outwardly.

  • God’s justice as revealed in the Gospel ought to impact the world by ‘putting things right’. What does this look like?
  • What does the story of Jesus turning water into wine teach us about relationships put right? 
  • What do we mean by ‘spirituality’, and how is this a helpful word the church can use to speak to a confused world? How does the encounter between Nicodemus and Jesus inform our understanding of spirituality?
  • How does the Gospel inform our understanding of beauty? What does the church have to say about art?
  • If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. Do we really know what that freedom means? What should happen next?
  • Is truth about something corresponding to reality? What is the truth which is both the reality of creation and new creation for the follower of Jesus?
  • How does power work? How is the Christian vocation related to speaking the truth to power?

These questions present puzzles or paradoxes with which we all wrestle. Yet, these inquiries are not designed to merely elicit ‘correct’ answers that reflect the ‘right way’ of thinking. The academic discipline of practical theology that frames the course assumes that the Gospel is not just something to just believe in but also something that is lived out. 

You might be wondering, ‘So what does that mean and why does it matter?’

It matters because God takes the human experience seriously—so seriously that he became human to reflect the true and authentic way to be human in our world. Indeed, ‘the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us’ (John 1:14).

In this course, Prof. Wright illustrates how John tells the story of God in Jesus Christ, putting the world right the way he had always planned by bringing new creation through:  

  • Healing broken relationships.
  • Reflecting a spirituality that worships the one true God in grace and truth. 
  • Adding beauty to the world that speaks of something better yet to come.
  • Giving freedom to live for God and his purposes of new creation. 
  • Expressing truth as the reality of the Kingdom of God on earth as in heaven
  • Speaking the truth to power.

The lectures not only explore how these themes ought to inform the practices of the church and individual believers, but also how they shape genuine humanness. Using key texts from John’s Gospel, Prof. Wright highlights important matters of personal identity and the human vocation of bearing God’s image in the world.

If you are still wondering what all this means and why it matters, let me leave you with a few lasting ideas from this course. Human experience is the place where the Gospel is interpreted and embodied. When we study the ways in which Jesus expressed what it means to be human it is more than just learning the ‘right’ theology. It helps us to understand and then reflect his specific practices of new creation. It shows us how we can perform and present with our lives that Jesus is King. These things matter because many in the world are lost or wondering or waiting for an answer. They wonder who they are, why they’re here, and what it all means. They are searching and asking, ‘What is truth?’ 

As I reflect back on the mid-week meetings I attend, I am reminded by this community how our lives express what we believe about justice, relationships, spirituality, beauty, freedom, truth and power. 

One lasting idea I learned from Themes in the Gospel of John is that through Jesus and his Spirit, our Heavenly Father teaches us to not seek revenge or run away, but to remain, and to abide. This course will encourage you in new ways to bring new expressions of these themes to your community and to the world for his glory.

Through Jesus and his Spirit, our Heavenly Father teaches us to not to seek revenge or run away, but to remain, and to abide. Click To Tweet
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Jennifer Loop

Jennifer Loop received her MA in Christian Studies from Trinity International University. She is the Content Developer for the Wisconsin Center for Christian Study. With her theological insight and organizational skills, she plays a critical role in the online education through guiding the online student experience. Jennifer enjoys engaging with a ‘virtual community’ of diverse students and learners to explore how theology, faith, and practice intersect.
2018-08-09T16:10:07+00:00