Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Strengths and Weaknesses of N.T. Wright

I have a love-dislike relationship with New Testament scholar and Anglican Bishop N.T. Wright. What I appreciate about Bishop Wright is his vigorous defense of the historicity of the Gospels (esp. the resurrection), his emphasis on the Kingdom of God and his strident attempts to see the Bible as one, continuous narrative (not to mention his refusal to latch on to pacifism, which is an over reading of the Gospels, an under reading of Paul and a total refusal to deal with the Hebrew Bible).

However, Bishop Wright's theology is not without its problems. His push for "mono-covenantalism" (contrasted with the classical Reformed bi-covenantal position or the dispensational view--see earlier post) has led him to embrace the so-called New Perspective on Paul, which wholly redefines the Church's 2000 year old understanding of "justification" (see Thomas Oden "Justification: A Reader" and Alister McGrath's "History of Justification"). Wright has also embraced a modified post-millennialism in which the church will redeem the world. One can even argue from works such as "The Crown and the Fire" that Wright somehow sees the Lord's Supper as the "Second Coming." Such positions are naive and so radically different from historical orthodoxy that one wonders why Wright doesn't see the serious theological problem of asserting that the church's eschatology has been wholly misguided for two thousand years.

I praised Bishop Wright this morning at Bible Study and someone asked me which one of his books they should read and I recommended "Simply Christian" with some hesitation. Not since Karl Barth has a theologian been so powerfully on target and woefully misguided at the same time.