A friend of mine recently pointed out to me that N. T. Wright’s book, The Challenge of Jesus, is on the Emergent Village reading list. Why are Emergent pastors reading N. T. Wright?
Well, besides the fact that Wright is a great writer and this is a very engaging book, Emergent pastors often critique traditional forms of evangelicalism, embrace narratives and stories, eschew propositions, and relish fresh approaches to old questions.
N. T. Wright is not afraid to go after those both to the right and the left of himself, he is a gifted storyteller, and he always communicates with creativity and verve. On the one hand, Wright’s book The Resurrection of the Son of God is an 800 page academic tome that defends the bodily resurrection and commands the attention of every New Testament scholar, liberal or conservative. And this fat book reads like a novel. On the other hand, Wright takes cheap shots at Martin Luther and has lately taken to critiquing US foreign policy as imperialistic and reminiscent of the Roman Imperial Cult denounced by the Apostle Paul. Wright’s failure to speak openly and clearly on the issue of homosexuality, however, robs his pronouncements of their prophetic potential and leaves him looking a little left of the Bible.
This mix of respect for historic orthodoxy and ancient tradition, serious doubts about the way that Protestants have formulated the doctrine of justification, with open contempt for the political right resonates with many in the emergent stream. So a book like The Challenge of Jesus, which takes a fresh look at Jesus in light of his Jewish background, catches a wave of discontent and holds out a new opportunity to “speak truth to power.”
For all that, to the pure all things are pure, and there is much we can learn from Wright’s thorough knowledge of the text, remarkable ability to communicate, and invigorating sense that there is always more to learn about Jesus.
And, we should pray that N. T. Wright would have wisdom and courage to speak the truth to his own communion as boldly as he speaks to us North American evangelicals, whom he does not always represent fairly.
Amen. I think I will just link to this post when people ask me for an evaluation of Wright’s theology. Your view is my view, and I couldn’t have said it better myself.
It’s very difficult to not be anti-American or to condemn homosexuality in the atmosphere of the church of England today and in this Wright is reflecting the influence and peer pressure of his world. We should pray for revival in the C of E as well.
Wright’s little book *Simply Christian* has become a must read for most of the emergent folks I meet – a book that they give to non-Christian friends. While not emergent myself, I think it’s a great read, and a great intro on Wright’s theology.
Also, if I remember correctly, the first section of Gibbs and Bolger’s book *Emerging Churches* is essentially a rehersal of Wright’s view of the kingdom of God. (It’s also the only section of that book with which I agreed!)
Just a thought, but other than our own, what country isn’t calling our foreign policy imperialistic?
A very helpful evaluation. I think you are right.
Piper argues that Wright’s understanding of righteousness and justification will damage the soul. How would you view that comment?
I would agree. I think that everything we do and think is moral, so anytime we resist the teaching of the Bible, I think our souls are damaged.
Of course, not everyone agrees on what it means to resist the teaching of the Bible. . .
What a penetrating critque of Wright’s appeal. I would also add that his popularity among the emergents is that in NTPG he insists that hermeneutics must incorporate aspects of postmodernity.
Thanks for this link. It was really good to vist them.
you must not have looked at Wright’s “Everyman” commentary on Romans. He is pretty forthright in setting out an orthodox, Biblical position on homosexuality.
Was that written before or after Gene Robinson became a Bishop in Wright’s church?
What I read was an interview with Wright, asking him about that event, and he basically dodged and weaved his way around the question.
How do you maintain what the Bible says and stay in a church situation like that? Even if you’re the farthest thing from a separatist and insist on staying in to reclaim territory, how do you do anything but denounce such a departure from the clear teaching of the Bible?
‘Wright’s failure to speak openly and clearly on the issue of homosexuality’
You are ignorant of the truth…
NT Wright doesn’t come anywhere close to waffling on the issue of homosexuality, and the comments about Gene Robinson simply display ignorance to the actual situation the Anglican communion finds itself in…
Why is homosexuality the only issue you are willing to destroy the communion of Christians over? Why not imperialism, greed, or willful neglect of the poor?
Or perhaps, we should not rush to destroy what God has created? Instead we should seek union with Christians and only break fellowship after all means have been exhausted (ie Matthew 18) which is exactly what Wright is advocating for (on behalf of many evangelicals in the Anglican worldwide community)!
Schism is surely as great a sin as advocating sexual deviance, and does even more to the effectiveness of the proclamation of the gospel (John 17).
that gets briefly at both issues (homosexuality and schism)
How long do you think Paul would have maintained communion with some renegade group that had made an unrepentant homosexual one of their elders/overseers/shepherds? What about Peter?
My guess is that they would have valued faithfulness to the Lord over maintaining some false union with schismatics who were unrepentant. And I don’t think they would have needed many meetings that would have lasted many minutes at all to come to resolution on the matter.
One section of The Anglican Communion does not have authority over another section. Bishop Tom Wright has authority over priests in his diocese, but no authority over bishops or anyone in another diocese, never mind another province (i.e. the American Episcopal Church). Also, excommunication is not something one can just implement in a system of loose communion. It’s almost like a Methodist excommunicating a Lutheran. It’s a stretched analogy, but I think you get the drift. There is a deeper theological question at hand here, that is, when is unity more important than diversity of practice and how do we tell? It is a petty that the question is raised around as thorny an issue as homosexuality. I am one with the Bishop in agreeing it is not the natural order of things and hence sinful, but I am also in agreement with him that we need to work our way through this issue before we decide whether we split or stay as one.
Yours in Christ
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