I don’t know about you, but I have been revelling in the new ABC comedy Utopia. Satirising not only recent and current Australian governments, but also office and Australian culture more generally, it illustrates so perceptively the way truth can be manipulated when knowledge and power are corrupted. We watch the frustration of the protagonist, Tony, as he struggles with the manipulation of reports by fellow bureaucrats. In meeting after meeting, much to our amusement, Tony is pushed to the edge by the bending of the truth. Much of the comedy lies in the fact that those who are manipulating the truth have subscribed so completely to their version of reality, a reality which places the maintenance of power as the priority, they therefore can see nothing wrong with their behaviour.
Knowledge, power, truth. Wright has been building a picture of (a not so) contemporary culture, showing how Gnosticism has produced conditions for imperialism, and in the final chapter developing this further to look at the effect this has on our relationship with truth. In this slender volume Wright has consistently argued that Christians need to not only hold firmly to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but also to “the goodness of creation, the defeat of evil, and the launching and final promise of new creation.” (86). In this final chapter, Wright argues, with such brevity that it can be easy to miss the nuances of this argument, that our witness to the truth is found in the “interplay” (86) of those themes of creation, judgement and new creation, and that it is achieved in the mode of knowing: love,
Love, when it is the love of which the Johannine Jesus speaks so frequently, is the mode of knowing in which the object of love is fully affirmed, cherished and valued, but in which simultaneously the knower is fully involved as a delighted, appreciative, celebratory participant. Love thus transcends the subjective/objective divide, affirming both epistemological poles in a way Western epistemologies have so often failed to do. (87)
Wright moves us from knowing the truth, to speaking the truth (particularly looking at John 16 and addressing the political speech of the church), to doing the truth as Christian communities, having already shown through John’s Gospel how Christians can do this through the promise of the Spirit of Truth (Wright does not explain why he’s inconsistent with his Spirit/spirit).
There is much to meditate upon in this last chapter of Wright’s book, but what I have been reflecting upon is his insistence on the right manner in which Christians go about knowing, speaking and doing the truth; that the church’s testimony is a humble testimony (85). Our humility stems from our acknowledgement that this is God’s creation, that Jesus Christ is Lord, and that he will come to judge the world, the world which he died for in love. As his new creation we are to be doing that work “of overflowing love” (97).
Breathe on me, breath of God:
Fill me with life anew,
That as you love, so I may love,
And do what you would do.