22 March 2006

Wright's Wrongs

Here's some stuff you might have missed but need to see
by Phil Johnson

Yecch.

Tim Bayly made a post yesterday that struck a chord with me. It was a response to an interview with Bishop N. T. Wright that was broadcast on Australian radio in Sydney last week. Tim was replying to a transcript. I had listened to the actual broadcast. But Tim's reaction put into words my very thoughts about the Bishop's trademark style of verbal shuffling—more powerfully and more succinctly than I ever could have done. Tim's post was also a fitting addendum to Sunday's Spurgeon excerpt about the evil of ecclesiastical double-talk.

David Gadbois at Mongrel Horde added some thoughts about Anglicanism in general that likewise echo my opinion exactly, almost as if he read my mind.

Anyway, a discussion between Tim Bayly and our old friend the Blue Raja broke out in the meta here. Since it was buried in a days-old post, I thought I'd bring it to the top, at least for an hour or two, because it deals with issues that are very much at the heart of what this blog is all about.

Phil's signature

61 comments:

TheBlueRaja said...

If J.C. Ryle, William Law, C.S. Lewis and George Whitfield were alive, I'd be up for a lynching! John Stott and Leon Morris are still kicking, though . . . foppery beware!

Matthew said...

Time's like this, it sure feels good to be a Baptist...

TheBlueRaja said...

I posted the following comment in the meta of the post you mentioned, but I thought I'd put it here too:

Before the beatings begin, I should point out that:

1) Wright, like most sinners, isn't fault free in everything he's spoken or done

2) The insinuations about Wright's "abandonment" or "equivocating" on the Gospel which generated my comments have never been answered - he summarized the Gospel in terms of God's authority as Creator, Jesus' substitutionary death, the resurrection and Lordship of Christ, the need for repentance and faith because of our sin and the need for obedience from a heart of gratitutde.

3) The point about the hypocrisy of using academic scholarship in the study (with all its "insipid" tones and bland historical, grammatical and theoretical descriptions) while piously condemning it in the public square was never addressed (this was my only point about "context" - that not everything written about the Bible should be exhortative or expository)

4) The point about how swaths of evangelical scholars (even a few Anglican ones!) who engage in historical description of exactly the same tone as that of Wright's (condemned in Bayly's article) are somehow accepted (or even celebrated in some cases) in various commentaries and study tools, but somehow deplorable in Wright's own work was never addressed. Refer to the Master's Seminary's list of books for the expositor's library.

5) The responses instead characterize me as a postmodern enemy of the truth who possibly has prostituted himself for academic respectability and is thus not fit for the office of elder. Ouch. That one hurt.

Okay - now let the flogging begin! I'll probably be absent for it, though. Let me own up to being a sissy and admit that I sometimes get my feelings hurt around here!

CJD said...

Respectfully disagree, Phil (and Tim). Wright's vocation (it would seem) is not to stroke your brand of evangelicalism; he's on the front lines in ways you folks could never be (by your own choice, of course). And he does this not by compromising by subtly relativizing the relativizers themselves.

Sojourner said...

Back to the pomo-copter! That was hilarious.

Steve said...

Speaking of N.T. Wright, yesterday I was excited to discover that Ligon Duncan will come out with a book from Crossway on the NPP problem. (see http://www.gnpcb.org/product/1581347200)

The book releases in October. Sure wish I could get a copy now. The recent issue of Master's Seminary Journal had some excellent articles, too, on the NPP--particularly Jack Hughes' article.

Castusfumus said...

Would you go to war with Wright as your commander? My anchor holds in the solid rock not some silty fad-driven cultism. The broad road widens and only the Sovereign can rescue these poor wayfaring souls.

Phil Johnson said...

Raja: "The responses instead characterize me as a postmodern enemy of the truth who possibly has prostituted himself for academic respectability and is thus not fit for the office of elder."

Raja was not the target of my comment questioning the fitness for ministry of someone who prostitutes the clarity of the gospel and purposely employs weasel-words instead of declaring revealed truth from God as truth. That was my response to NT Wright's own self-characterization.

But Raja apparently took it as a direct challenge to his own fitness to hold office in the church. That was not my intent, or I would have said so plainly.

However, if the comment provokes Raja or anyone else to self-examination with regard to the unduly high deference they are willing to give to double-talk ("polite academic discourse"), so much the better. I think such self-examination is needed all around.

TheBlueRaja said...

Thanks for the clarification, Phil! As for self-examination, color me "provoked". Appreciate the call to do so about the matter you mentioned and of course would commend others to do the same.

Pastor Rod said...

The self-examination I think would be more appropriate is one of attitude. Jesus said the world will recognize his disciples not because they held to a particular expression of the gospel but because they demonstrated love.

Rod

James Spurgeon said...

Rod wrote: The self-examination I think would be more appropriate is one of attitude. Jesus said the world will recognize his disciples not because they held to a particular expression of the gospel but because they demonstrated love.

I suppose that in your world love does not include confrontation over error and contending for truth?

Furthermore, allow me to correct your (unintentional?) misquotation of Jesus. Jesus did not say all of what you've written. He did say the world would know us as his disciples by the love we have for one another. Be assured of that. But he did not say that love was to be at the expense of gospel truth, nor did he say that gospel truths were irrelevant as long as we show love, nor did he imply that the type of love we are to show is the type that condones sin, especially the sin of soteriological error.

Those who do not hold gospel truths as paramount and sacred and uncompromiseable do not love Christ, much less his disciples.

James Spurgeon said...

Further, for Pastor Rod: if in your comment you did not intentionally imply those things, then let me apologize in advance.

Pastor Rod said...

Pseudonym,

Your feigned apology does not alter your lack of charity. I notice there seems to be more commitment to “gospel truths” than to Christ. I implied none of the things you inferred, intentionally or unintentionally. By the way, I did not quote Jesus. I paraphrased him. And the negative part of the statement was intended to be an obvious commentary on my part for those who are familiar with the source.

Let me take a statement Jesus made about the Pharisees and change its context and application. (In other words, this is my point not his. I am simply alluding to his criticism of the religious elite of his day.)

“You keepers of the creeds and definers of the orthodox, you have found the narrow gate and made it even narrower, driving away those who would enter. It would be better for you to have never studied theology. There will be greater honor in the Kingdom for a simple-minded child who calls people to love Jesus than for you.”

Rod

James Spurgeon said...

Pastor Rod, my apology was not feigned. It was a concession that it is easy to misread people, especially in a medium such as this. Your charity in judging my sincerity is noted.(1 Cor.13:7)

You certainly did imply that gospel truth was not essential to obeying the commands of Christ whether you intended to or not. Let me remind you that the love Jesus comands is a love that "rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth." The love you advocate, which deems essential truth unimportant, is no love at all, but an inferior and sinful caricature.

If I am wrong and you let me go on in my wrong without confronting me with it, then you decidedly do not love me for love compels confrontation.

James 5:19-20 (ESV)
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Further, if you really were showing the love you claim is the hallmark of Christian brothers, then what are you doing confronting us with what you consider sinful theological nitpicking and accusing us of driving people away from the gospel? Aren't you practicing exactly what you just got through condemning?

Pastor Rod said...

I'm never quite sure whether to take the advice of Proverbs 26:4 or Proverbs 26:5.

Rod

CJD said...

Back to the point. When one recognizes this simple fact — that Wright's exegesis of pertinent passages (on homosexuality, in this case) leaves no wiggle room for even a weasel, then I begin to wonder whether or not the problem folks are having here has more to do with the way Wright says (or doesn't say) things, which ironically reveals more about he who disdains "polite academic discourse."

In short, the gospel and its ramifications are offensive enough; why must its witnesses, its heralds, be equally so? And why must American, Reformed, conservative evangelicals strive to dictate how to speak on matters such as these the world over (cultural idiosyncracies be damned)?

On the other hand, the prophets of old didn't mince their words (though they were arguably softer with the world than with those who claimed religious authority). Maybe Wright could speak a little harsher with the ECUSA (maybe Ezekial 23-like), but then this was an interview on the radio in Australia, not an address to the American episcopal church.

To reiterate, the simple fact is, Wright's exegesis more often than not does contend for the truth (and yes, at times what he deems the best interpretation is contentious), and his discourse ought not be judged by the standards promulgated here, spoken in the world as it was.

James Spurgeon said...

Why is it the guy who accuses us of not showing any love is the first one to pop off and refer to me as "Pseudonym" as if I don't use my real God-given name here, accuse me of feigning apology, and then call me a fool?

And this guy is telling me to be more loving?

Sure. Now there's the kind of example we all can follow.

Pastor Rod said...

James,

Mea culpa. I apologize for assuming that you were using a pseudonym. But the picture did throw me off.

Rod

James Spurgeon said...

Pastor Rod, LOL

BTW - I went to your blogs and read a bit then browsed your church website. It looks like God has given you a fruitful ministry and a wonderful field in which to reap. BTW, I recognize that you and I differ when it comes to the nature of prevenient grace, but I was glad to see an affirmation of it in your doctrinal statement. God bless you as you pursue his glory.

farmboy said...

Reading the comments on this thread reminds me of Thomas Sowell’s book “A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles.” Mr. Sowell begins his book as follows: “One of the curious things about political opinions is how often the same people line up on opposite sides of different issues….A closer look at the arguments on both sides often shows that they are reasoning from fundamentally different premises. These different premises-often implicit-are what provide the consistency behind the repeated opposition of individuals and groups on numerous, unrelated issues. They have different visions of how the world works.”

While the focus of Mr. Sowell’s book was political and the focus of this blog is theological, Mr. Sowell’s thesis explains much. As examples, Phil Johnson and James Spurgeon have a theological vision (or worldview) that differs from that of Pastor Rod and Theblueraja. Different visions concerning economics, politics and such have different temporal effects. In contrast, different visions concerning theology have different eternal effects. Thus, the stakes in the arena of theology are infinitely higher. It is easy to understand, then, intellectual detachment when it comes to understanding and teaching how market prices reflect information and allocate resources. Similarly, it is easy to understand and expect a lack of intellectual detachment when it comes to understanding and teaching how fallen human beings are justified.

Another current parallel from politics centers on Harvey Mansfield’s book “Manliness” and the reaction to it. In this regard one can consult James Bowman’s article “Manliness and the Mindless” at the American Spectator website (www.spectator.org).

Pastor Rod said...

James,

Thanks for the gracious words.

Rod

Sojourner said...

I haven't read a single sentence of what N.T. Wright has written. I've only read about what he says. Am I going to have to go and buy a book of his to get all this Wright talk? I'm fairly busy in my community of 96% Roman Catholics. St. John the Evangelist Church's bell-tower is staring down at me as I speak like the Dark Eye of Mordor while I'm trying to get through Not By Scripture Alone.

Sadly, I'm a little behind. Are we discussing N.T. Wright because he isn't clear on the gospel? Is he employing double-talk or what? Let's have a sorry quote or two then and condemn them with a rowdy, "Here! Here!"

Pastor Rod said...

You can read a lot of his stuff for free at www.ntwrightpage.com.

Rod

farmboy said...

I read Wright’s “Jesus and the Victory of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, Volume 2)” several years ago as part of a class on the Gospel of Luke. The book was a bit over 700 pages in length, and that is largely why I have yet to read any additional works by Wright. My experience is that the greatest value added comes from reading the first volume from a particular author. By reading one volume of an author’s work, one becomes familiar with the author’s particular perspective. Alas, time is scarce, and books enter the want-to-read queue faster than books leave the same queue. The only thing scarcer than bookshelf space is reading time.

Pastor Rod said...

Farmboy,

The ntwrightpage also has some audio files of Wright preaching and giving interviews. I find him even more compelling speaking than writing.

Rod

CraigS said...

Phil, that is how intelligent scholars from Oxford talk - it doesn't reflect a lack of conviction on the part of Wright.

Bayly's criticism of the word "believe" left me gasping for breath. What phrase would he prefer - "really truly super believe" perhaps?

Actually, his critique of belief is almost anti-protestant and hence anti-christian. Yes, Paul "believed" - and was saved from his sins. Thats my only hope as well...

CraigS said...

From the interview...

Stephen Crittenden: You’ve just written a great big book on the Resurrection, and I take it that you believe that the Resurrection of Jesus was a physical resurrection. Presumably Christianity would never have taken off as a religion in the first place if the early Christians had not believed that it as a physical resurrection. But does Christianity still, in 2006, rise or fall on whether or not it’s a physical resurrection?

Tom Wright: Let’s be quite clear. The word ‘resurrection’ in the ancient world, the Greek word ‘anastasis’ always referred to something that we would call a physical resurrection. That is to say, the word ‘resurrection’ was never a kind of synonym for life after death, or a spiritual survival


Great stuff Bishop Wright! What a blessing to have you on our team...

SolaMeanie said...

Rod makes the statement that "Jesus said the world will recognize his disciples not because they held to a particular expression of the gospel but because they demonstrated love."

Okay. If said "disciple" doesn't hold to a biblical expression of the Gospel, I would suspect that they might not be a true disciple, brother or sister. There is a true Gospel and a false Gospel. What attitude are we to have over unbiblical expressions of the Gospel? The Apostle Paul made it quite clear that if ANYONE brought a Gospel other than the biblical one, they were to be held accursed. Strong words indeed, but this is the biblical message AND attitude.

I agree with Phil and James...it is the most unloving thing one could do to give someone a false Gospel. What does the book of James say about someone who sees another in error and snatches him/her out of it? How about taking the whole counsel of God and not just waxing eloquent on those ideas we like?

I was amused at a remark made the other day about how those in the Emergent Church movement will preach happily out of the Old Testament and the Gospels, but tend to bypass the epistles. If true, it's amazing because you don't hear many speak of hell more than Jesus and you don't get too many gorier examples of judgment than in the Old Testament.

Curious.

SolaMeanie said...

BTW..Rod..

My remark just posted could be read to imply that you are part of the EC...sorry about that. I meant that as a side comment and imply no linkage there.

Tim Bayly said...

Craigs wrote:
"Bayly's criticism of the word "believe" left me gasping for breath. What phrase would he prefer - "really truly super believe" perhaps? Actually, his critique of belief is almost anti-protestant and hence anti-christian."

My response:
It should be obvious, but let me state it explicitly: I object to Wright talking about Jesus "believing" something. Speaking of Jesus' beliefs is a tip of the hat to postmodernism's aggressive relativism and hatred of authority. Again, see the account of the Apostle Paul speaking in Athens to the Areopagus for a model of how best to communicate to men hopelessly committed to the pantheon of gods. For myself, I can find no similarity between Wright's use of his Australian opportunity and the Apostle Paul's use of his Athenian opportunity. No similarity at all.

But to return to the larger issue, what I faulted Wright for was his failure to speak as a servant of the Word. Wright was provided a national platform to serve as a witness to Jesus Christ and His Truth, and on one of the most controverted issues of our day which cries out for a faithful man to convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, but instead of handling this wonderful opportunity with boldness and courage as the Apostle Paul did in the Areopagus, Wright does the academic two-step.

Bishop Wright has been called by God to preach the Word in season and out of season, with great patience, knowing the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine, but instead will surround themselves with teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear, and then he speaks like this. Such a wasted opportunity, and it's no wonder he escaped the sort of escort to the edge of the county line the Apostle Paul seemed to garner each time he preached (or, if you wish, "connected with his culture.")

Jerry Wragg said...

gPastor Rod -
You said...
"Jesus said the world will recognize his disciples not because they held to a particular expression of the gospel but because they demonstrated love."

I've often heard John 13:35 used to advance this argument, but here's the problem with speaking of visible Christian love as distinct from proclaiming Christian truth...

Jesus grounded this commandment in His own demonstration of love (v34). The upshot is that Christians are to love AFTER THE FASHION, MOTIVATION, AND GOAL of Jesus' love for them. What are the theological and practical implications of such a love?

1) In John 5:19-23, Jesus models how such a love behaves. He obeyed the Father's will down to the very words of truth He spoke. Similarly, it was loving obedience to the Father's command that drove Jesus to His passion (Jn. 10:17-18). In other words, love---that which was defined and modeled by Jesus Christ---is always anchored to and derived from humble obedience to the word of God (i.e. truth!). The living organism of biblical love is made up of truth-cells.

2) Jesus' call for believers to "love one another" was boldly given in the context of His death, resurrection, and exaltation. John 13:21-30 marks a sober turning point in the upper room evening meal in that Jesus dispatches His betrayer and lays the theological groundwork for His disciples to understand what is about to happen (i.e. the glory of the Father and Son). It is in this moment that Jesus gives a "new" commandment...that they should love one another. How was it new? Surely the ethic of mutual love and honor was not new, nor were Jewish laws silent on the matter. But this was "new" because it's defining characteristic was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for sinners...the just offered for the unjust...a holy love fixed upon those deserving only of wrath and judgment. Notice that the "love" of the cross was enjoined by the "holy wrath" of the cross as Jesus' love for sinners merged with His hatred for sin. Those who believe that bold truth can be unloving are, quite frankly, turning Christ's death into an humanitarian act of compassion rather than a penal substitution for the propitiation of divine wrath. It's like talking to a terminal cancer patient about how much the doctor loves to help others while never even whispering a word of the insidious condition. This principle of mutual love is incomplete if only defined as:
Attitudes of compassion and kindness...
Peacemaking...
Accomodation and understanding...
Emotional and sentimental unity...
Rewording scripture for palatability...

In fact, such expressions are not love at all apart from the truth-grounded love of Jesus Christ.
Moreover, because the cross-work of Christ's love is the basis for our mutual Christian love, then every theological facet of His death, resurrection, and exaltation should shape our understanding and practice of love toward one another.

Therefore, loving one another means:
Learning and obeying His commands (just as Jesus obeyed)...
Living in holiness (just as He did)...
Proclaiming the truth (all of it) without adjusting for greater pagan-interest...
Being kind and compassionate ACCORDING TO TRUTH...
Forgiving one another ACCORDING TO THE MEASURE OF CHRIST'S FORGIVENESS...

Truth and true biblical love are two-sides of the same reality. To proclaim truth without practicing obedience to it (toward one another) is to obscure it. To practice charity, however, without reference to the truth which defines it is merely a manipulation of others for the sake of personal gain.

I confess that it is challenging at times to speak truth in a straightfoward manner without wondering if Christian "graces" (Eph.4:29/Col.4:6) have been violated, but these concerns have nothing whatsoever to do with the act of ultimate love in clearly proclaiming the saving gospel of Jesus Christ!

Phil Johnson said...

CJD: Your comment was deleted for a language violation. See rule 2. That's one. (See rule 5).

CJD said...

Apologies. I failed to read those rules. I guess Luther wouldn't have lasted long around here …

I'll try again.

Tim, you're being awful selective with respect to your Wright intake. Read this interview, and then go read his commentary on the pertinent passages. He everywhere states that one cannot consider themselves morally faithful to Scripture and approve of homosexuality.

Precisely because Wright knows how to conduct himself in public without immediately turning off his hearers is what garners him that platform, one which, you must remind yourself, you will not have (by choice, of course).

Moreover, the apostle Paul, while in the marketplace in Athens, is not recorded giving some moralistic diatribe on how the idolaters he faced were acting. And, incidentally, he wasn't ushered out to the city limits; he was laughed out.

Finally, you are hugely mistaken about one particular item, and you approach monophysitism in the process. Of course Jesus "believed" things. He was truly human.

TheBlueRaja said...

Dang, cjd and craigs - beat me to the punch! Nicely done!

Incidentally, no one's mentioned what's wrong with Wright's presentation of the Gospel as recounted here. Is it too orthodox for comment? ;)

Jerry Wragg said...

CJD -
Too bad Jesus didn't have Wright's skill...

TheBlueRaja said...

Jerry -

Not everyone can be British!

TheBlueRaja said...

By the way, Jerry - it might be blasphemous to talk about Jesus as having "skill", as this implies that Jesus had to expend effort to avoid failure. Everyone knows that as the Creator of heaven and earth with perfect power and instinctual perfection doesn't need "skill".

What are you, neo-orthodox or somethin'?!

Phil Johnson said...

Raja—

Are you deliberately testing the limits of rule 2 with minced oaths? My advice: don't. You used up all your get-out-of-smart-aleck-jail-free tokens the first three or four times you commented on my blog, months ago.

And do I really need to dissect a comment which Wright himself introduced with a disclaimer apologizing for the indefiniteness of, in order to show why it's indefinite?

TheBlueRaja said...

Yikes - sorry! Just joking in the same vein as Jerry! And I took Wright's prefatory comments to be about the proper words for the proper settings, none of which invalidate his construal of the Gospel given there. But again, sorry if any offense was taken - I thought my previous few comments would come off as tongue-in-cheek.

Phil Johnson said...

Raja:

No, I was referring to your use of the word "dang" as an expletive, right after I deleted a post for using the non-euphemized version. I was attempting to be wry.

Meanwhile, you can be as snide with Jerry Wragg as he'll let you be. I figure he can defend himself.

TheBlueRaja said...

Ha! I am dense! You're wry as toast, Phil. Wait - that sounds wrong . . .

CraigS said...

Well, it's Phil's blog and he makes the rules.

Just for the record, his response seriously distorts my comment.

But you will never know as he has deleted it.

Let me be clear. I never -

- Called John Macarthur Jr "names"
- Suggested he distorted a biblical truth

What I did do was attempt to show that the style of attack being launched against Wright could be used against anyone.

I made it very clear (twice) that my comments were a satire.

Pastor Rod said...

craigs,

While Phil may not have a personal relationship with Bishop Wright, I think there might be a few individuals who do. I find this distinction odd.

It's OK to savage this guy because we've never met him and don't know him personally.

Rod

CraigS said...

I also mentioned (twice) that I was personally appreciative of JMJs ministry.

But I imagine that is all clear from Phils comment.

CraigS said...

I agree Rod. It seems to me that a great double-standard is being applied.

I made it clear that my remarks were a parody of the style of argument being employed against Wright.

Regardless, the two lines I wrote (clearly marked as satire) were far less aggressive (I thought) than what has been said on this blog about Wright.

CraigS said...

No one has ever complained that John MacArthur sounds less than passionate when he preaches.

Phil, if you thought I was suggesting JMJ lacks passion or conviction, then you have totally misunderstood the point I was making.

Phil Johnson said...

CraigS privately e-mailed me to protest that my earlier comment unfairly characterized his remarks (and used two particularly strong pejorative terms characterizing what he wrote). He points out that since I deleted his comment, people can't judge for themselves whether my assessment was fair.

On reflection, I think he makes a valid point, so I'm going to delete MY earlier comment, and just keep this caveat:

For future reference: Deliberate personal disparagement of my pastor, my church, my wife, my dog, my children, or the ministry I work for will be deemed outside the parameters of Christian civility and therefore a violation of Rule 2. Say whatever you like about me (as long as you keep your language clean), and I'll let you post it. Take a cheap shot at someone with whom I have a personal relationship of love and respect—whether it be John MacArthur, my dog Wrigley, or anyone in between—and I'll delete it.

For PastorRod: The reason you found my distinction "odd" is that both you and CraigS seem to have missed what the actual distinction was. He is wrong to suggest that his "parody" attack on my pastor employs the "style of attack" that has been used by others here against Wright. I did explain why this is true:

The criticisms of N. T. Wright in this thread and over at the BaylyBlog have been based on actual words spoken by Bishop Wright. The words were quoted, and the original source was cited, so that the context can be examined. Several reasons for disagreeing with the content of what he said were given.

That is not the same as simply calling someone "nerdy" and complaining that the tone of his voice sounds insincere or insufficiently passionate.

CraigS: "Phil, if you thought I was suggesting JMJ lacks passion or conviction, then you have totally misunderstood the point I was making."

Well, your exact words on this point were: "his voice doesn't *sound* passionate. I don't get the feeling that he is getting *really* worked up. But surely the gospel should stir deep emotions?"

CraigS said...

Phil, I appreciate you deleting the original criticism. I have gotten over my initial rage. Australians don't hedge their words as much as the English.

I think we will have to agree to disagree over whether Tom Wright has been treated with Christian civility or not.

But I'm happy to let it go and move on. I guess those who are blessed by his teachings will listen to him, and those who aren't wont.

CraigS said...

Oops, missed the last part of your post. Have to respond -

CraigS: "Phil, if you thought I was suggesting JMJ lacks passion or conviction, then you have totally misunderstood the point I was making."

Well, your exact words on this point were: "his voice doesn't *sound* passionate. I don't get the feeling that he is getting *really* worked up. But surely the gospel should stir deep emotions?"


Well that was my point - that you *can't* judge JMJs committment to the gospel by how he *sounds*.

And I feel that is what has been done with Wright. You don't think the doctrine is a problem, it's just the way he phrases things, the tone of his language, his wordiness.

Anyway, if you have to explain a satire it is clearly a failure, so I have to accept I didn't make my point.

And I've just broken my committment to "move on" from the issue...

Phil Johnson said...

See, Craig, I didn't say what you attribute to me, either. Never have I said that I "don't think the doctrine is a problem, it's just the way he phrases things, the tone of his language, his wordiness."

And the fact that there's difficulty enough in understanding plain words is frankly one of the reasons I despise deliberate ambiguity. Especially on issues where God Himself has spoken with perfect clarity.

That's the issue, and if you think it's about the aesthetics of Wright's voice or the sheer number of words he uses, you still don't get what his critics are saying.

CraigS said...

Oh, one more thing. Words like "nerd" and "geek" have actually aquired a counter-cultural trendiness in modern language. They don't have the "sting" that they did 30 years ago. But obviously different people will take them differently.

CraigS said...

Well, here is one of the criticisms that Bayly had that most provoked me -

"…stick with (the Apostle Paul and) you will see that he really does believe that (his critique of Judaism) is the true fulfillment of …the promises to Abraham…"

Really--Paul "believes" that? Is that why the Apostle Paul damned those who didn't believe that?


What is the cricitism here? The fact that he used the word "believes" about what Paul, well, believes.

Now "believes" is a perfectly good word, makes perfect sense in this context, but Bayly is upset that Wright didn't use a word with stronger connotations.

To my mind, its somewhat like being upset that someone didn't bang the pulpit often enough.

CraigS said...

Another of Bayly's points was Wright identifying himself as an academic. He should have identified himself as a pastor, according to Mr B.

But this was in the context of who had historical angilcanism on their side. Perhaps Wright is simply being too humble. Let me paraphrase him -

"We believe x happened in the past. They believe y happened in the past. I think they are wrong, and I am a Professor Hisotry at Oxford."

But can't you see why I feel the criticism's of Wright are rather trivial? They hang on the turn of a single word. If Wright had said "Paul knew..." rather than "Paul believed..." and if he had said "pastor" instead of "academic", presumably all would be fine.

This does not seem like solid critcism to me.

CraigS said...

Apologies - I made a mistake in my last post (I should have checked).

The specific issue that prompted the "academic" comment was the charge made by liberal wings of the Anglican church that the conservative wing lacked academic respectability.

His comment - "As an academic myself I am bound to disagree" seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Gummby said...

Jerry Wragg--you are my hero! Thanks for your exegesis of that passage. One of the most helpful things I've seen in comments in quite some time.

Castusfumus said...

Only one question: Would Bishop Wright pass Mark Dever's two minute test on the eplanation of what the gospel is?

Will said...

I like NT Wright precisely because he is a strong (not weak) apologist. He has his own style that is sometimes annoyingly deferent. But he always ends up sticking it to his opponents (read his comments on Dominick Crossan in Jesus and the Victory of God, they are hilarious).


Speaking like an academic may seem like double talk (and NT Wright notes this in his introduction to Resurrection of the son of God). But it is actually a language of its own. You learn the mores of your culture and abide by them. Sometimes saying that someone is “misleading” may mean “he really doesn’t know what the heck he is talking about”. But it would be untoward to say it the second way but polite the first way either way, the point is conveyed. Wright has become like an academic to reach the academics.

Sometimes a quick comeback is not as good as a careful building of an epistemological foundation. A sharp rebuke is sometimes a good thing (the Apostle Paul does plenty of this) but sometimes a “dialogue” is more effective. Consider Paul's discourse at Mars Hill in Acts 17. Was Paul a “po-mo” because he carefully complimented his listeners on their religiosity and then gently pointed them to the unknown God that they were worshiping? I don’t think so. I think he knew his audience and was speaking in a way that would engage them and turn them to Christ.

We need NT Wright and Phil Johnson. They are both bold apologists with different audiences.

Glenn said...

Phil said: "... my dog Wrigley ..."

Did you name him that because he speaks with "polite academic discourse"?

craig said...

G'day Craig S, and Phil J.

I think one needs to recognise the difference in cultural language differences that might be going on here.

As a Aussie I have read Craigs comments and do not see any thing offensive about them, as he made it clear it was for a illustrative purpose only.

Yet it is obvious that you do feel it was offensive.

I was talking about cross cultural offense before hand with others the other day with other students. Americans use the word "Fanny" to describe ones backside, over here the word means something totally different.

Australians and New Zealanders like to us the term "Bugger" when something goes wrong, yet to a English man, it is a totally offensive word.

I truly think that no offense was meant, and I truly cannot see how it can be construed as offensive, from an Aussie point of view, and yet somehow it is offensive to you, and therefore it has to belong in a cultural missunderstanding.

P.S I am not just taking sides with Craig S to just take sides with him, for if you look at the Anglican forums you will see we often do have opposing views. Yet our postings while strong, are rarely if ever offensive and i do have to say that I think Craig S is very generous, gracious and godly in his postings.

Blessings craig b

P.S I also made this same posting on Craig S blog

4:57 PM

mjbeasley said...

These modern issues have a very old legacy (Ecclesiastes 1:10):

"If the day ever comes when men care so little for the basic Christian experiences and revelations of truth that they cease trying to rethink them in more adequate terms, see them in the light of freshly acquired knowledge, and interpret them anew for new days, then Christianity will be finished." [Harry Emerson Fosdick, The Living of These Days, An Autobiography, pp. 230]

The problem with finding new, "more adequate terms" is that it forsakes those ancient terms and constructs of truth found in God's infallible Word - and that's no small problem.

craig said...

G'day Phil,

I was wondering if you might have any comments about Free Masonry in the Fundemental churches.

Seems the Southern Baptists org, don't care too much about whether they get involved in their churches or not.

Blessings craig b