If you are remotely familiar with the work of NT Wright, especially as reflected in his lectures, his frequent use of imagery for the sake of explaining an idea should be equally familiar. More times than not, these illustrations are enormously helpful for capturing either his own line of thought or the abstract idea he is attempting to describe. When speaking about how believers can participate in the past while hoping for the future, Wright often employs the image of a train station.
You could think of a railway line. Your train stops at stations; sometimes an express from behind you catches you up. Sometimes a train coming from ahead of you meets you. The past and future intersect with the present in a somewhat similar way. The redemptive past is with us and the future also.
While this illustration has some flaws (as do all illustrations or analogies), I think it does provide us with a way for beginning to understand a seemingly inexplicable concept. I have often used this image in my own teaching (giving Wright props, of course) and the results have been virtually the same. Students will usually say, ‘I never would have thought of it that way, but that certainly makes sense.’
I’ve just started reading Mary Shelley‘s, Frankenstein mostly because I always wanted to but never did. (Don’t worry: you’re still reading this same post. This is not some non-Carl Sweatman interpolation). For a lesser reason, I’m also reading it because I’ve heard that it is one of the most incredibly well-written and in many ways influential books of modern times. Thus, I am reading the book to see why such accolades are given to it.
While reading the first ‘letter’ by the charater, R. Walton, I was struck by a particular use of imagery. Here is the quote in full, with the striking bit in italics:
I am already far north of London; and as I walk in the streets of Petersburg, I feel a cold northern breeze play upon my cheeks, which braces my nerves, and fills me with delight. Do you understand this feeling? This breeze, which has travelled from the regions towards which I am advancing, gives me a foretaste of those icy climes. Inspirited by this wind of promise, my dreams become more fervent and vivid.
Did Wright know about this line? More than likely–he’s a bright fellow. Did Wright adapt this line of thought for his own purposes? That I cannot answer with any certainty. (I’ll leave that to him, if he chooses to comment). However, I might be safe in saying that if Wright did know about this line of text, he would have seen something wonderfully true in what is said (or, expressed) and he would have known that truth to be applicable in other ways.