25 April 2006

Righting (and writing) Wright's wrongs: reflections as the dust settles

by Dan Phillips

Well, last week was exhilarating. About a 530-word post provoked upwards of 33,000 words of comments.

The essay on Dr. NT. "I Personally Believe In the Resurrection, But..." Wright and the whole ensuing discussion was, I hope, instructive. The interaction certainly was for me. Let me say up-front and very sincerely: one of the best things about this "gig" is, at the same time, the very factor that initially worried me about it -- the Comments section. I feared it; now I love it. We have the most amazing readership. It's a constant education and encouragement to me, and I thank God for you.

I'd like to attempt a summary of what I think are some of the more important "take-aways" from This Moment in Pyro history.

"Important" Points: Lighter side

  1. While there are a few favored souls who can wear the "I Made Rule 40!" T-shirt, as far as I know, I alone can now wear the T: "I Made Michael Spencer Break Rule 40!"
  2. The tireless and well-nigh ubiquitous Carla suggests I be renamed from "Dan 'don't call me Dave' Phillips" to Dan BOOYAH Phillips, and I... yes, I think I could live with that.
  3. There are almost endless title possibilities with a name like "Wright."
  4. More people calling me by my name -- even Adrian Warnock. That's a good thing! (No comment yet from Tim Challies.)
  5. It was kind of funny when critics seemed to imply the comment thread was too long -- thus swelling it by one more comment. But how long would it have been, if certain Wrightists had simply come in and said, "I really have gotten a lot out of Wright's books -- but good grief, what was he thinking?!"

Important Points: Weightier side

  1. On friendship. Many defenders made much of Wright's "friendship" with Borg. That's why Wright said that Borg -- who (he says himself) does not believe in the resurrection -- was surely a Christian who "loves Jesus" and "believes passionately." We were told it is because of his great and wonderful "Let's do Communion" friendship with Borg.

    Huh? This is Wright being a friend? If so, we're talking about the sort of friend who knows I have treatable cancer, but tells me that the chicken-bones the shaman is shaking at me should do the trick. A number of the commenters seem to define friendship, along with other things, in purely emotional and subjective terms. What is the Biblical view of friendship and love?

    • God tells us that we should prefer a friend's faithful wounds, to the disingenuous kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6). A flattering kiss is no more the necessary mark of true friendship, than a faithful wound is of its absence.
    • The Lord Jesus, our most faithful friend, says, "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; be zealous therefore, and repent" (Revelation 3:19 NAS). Love and stern reproof are not contraries.
    • He who chooses fools as his companions will take on their characteristics (Proverbs 13:20).
    • There are "friends" who can ruin you (Proverbs 18:24).
    • God will judge the one who sees another staggering off to destruction, and does not do his best to rescure him (Proverbs 24:11-12).
    • We have a daily obligation to "take care...lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God," and to "exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:12-13).
    • The closest friendship must never be allowed to compete with the purity of our devotion to the doctrinal truths of God (Deuteronomy 13:6-11; Luke 14:26).

    Let's be brutally specific. If Dr. Borg receives a sentence of condemnation from God, will he be forced to admit, "My friend Dr. Wright warned me earnestly of this"? Or will he have grounds to sputter, "But my friend and Your servant Bishop Wright assured me in front of the whole world that I was a Christian, who loved Jesus and fervently believed! How can You send a Jesus-loving, passionately-believing Christian to Hell?"

  2. Hero-worship. Some of the critics of Wright's critics don't see to "get" what it means not to be a Roman Catholic. Roman Catholics love to dredge up some goofy thing Luther said (and, Lord knows, he said more than a few), or something Calvin did -- as if we'll gasp in horror, throw down our Bibles, and flee to Rome. They just don't "get" what it is to be a free man in Christ (Galatians 5:1; Colossians 2:4, 8, 18), a member of the universal priesthood, a slave of God and not of any individual man or human tradition.

    This, by the way, is why I seldom call myself a "Calvinist" to folks I don't know something about. I don't believe anything that I believe simply because Calvin believed it. Insofar as I'm true to my convictions, my conscience is captive to the Word alone. The reason I like Calvin so much is because he has helped me understand what is in the Word! Yet if Calvin takes a turn I don't see called for in Scripture, I feel no obligation to follow him. I might be a Calvinist, but I'm not a Calvinolater.

    This sort of freedom of judgment simply stuns Roman Catholics -- and it rather seems to stun the always-Wright set, as well. They seem to see no grounds between almost worshipfully embracing every word that proceedeth from Wright's mouth -- or denouncing him as a Hell-bound heretic. Ergo, if we don't fall into Category A, we must be in Category B. If you don't adore him, you hate him. To criticize him is to anathematize him.

    (An aside: I anticipate some angry sputtering and denials on this point. My surrejoinder will be: then what were the objections, and why was the thread so long?)

    We were told that we shouldn't accuse Wright of denying the resurrection. We hadn't. We were admonished for judging him unsaved. We hadn't. The Wrightists wanted to talk about our feelings, their feelings, Wright's feelings... our feelings about their feelings about Wright's feelings. What was really important to them was not that this exalted scholar and religious leader had hey-presto! pronounced an unbeliever to be a for-sure, Jesus-loving fervent believer -- it was whether we were being mean, or whether we felt good (or bad enough) about it. Some good folk were "sick" that we had this discussion -- not that Wright had said "Peace, peace," where there was no peace. We weren't so much given a better model, as having been tsk-tsked for not doing Wright right... or doing it right with a bad attitude... or something. There were repeated attempts to launch out in this and that direction.

    Yet dogged commenter after dogged commenter -- bless you! -- kept noting, "Hey -- Dan is saying it's alarming that Wright says that someone who denies the foundation of Christian truth is surely a Christian who loves Jesus and passionately believes. Well... isn't it?"

  3. Do scholars have a "Get Out of Accountability Free" card? My previously-voiced concerns were borne out in this business. What did I try to argue in my little Christian academics: not an oxymoron? I expressed alarm that, in the eyes of some, "academics get a 'pass' from being Christians 24/7." And so we heard again and again, "But this is such a great book! And that's such a great book! He's such a great writer, and made such a great defense of the Resurrection!"

    Perhaps so -- but at Easter time, Wright just told the world you can love Jesus and believe passionately without believing in the resurrection. You don't find that disturbing?

    But Wright himself does the same thing. Note what he says about Borg: "The philosophical and cultural world he has lived in has made it very, very difficult for him to believe in the bodily resurrection." And so...? So what? Should God feel bad about requiring such a tough thing of Dr. Borg, given his philosophical and cultural world? Well, then, look: I daresay the philosophical and moral world of the drunkard, the self-righteous prig, the prostitute, the thief, the homosexual, the moralist, equally makes it "very, very difficult" for them to believe in the whole of the Gospel. I suppose that they'd actually have to change worlds, in order to believe. I suppose Dr. Borg would, too. They might actually have to -- what was the word? Ah, yes: "Repent," mentanoeo, have a revolutionary change of mind. Yes, he and they and we have to repent to believe the Gospel. Could be "very, very difficult" -- maybe like a camel going through a needle's eye. Impossible, really, for fallen humans. And so?

    It seems as if Wright is making special allowance for cultured despisers, swayed by the testimony of men to disbelieve God. But the apostolic witness is,

    If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son (1 John 5:9-10)
    Wright himself says, in effect, that Borg disbelieves God. That means Borg has called God a liar. But Dr. Wright assured us he is a Jesus-loving, believing Christian. That's what the discussion was about.

    Wright's defenders excuse his inexcusable waffling on the same pretense: intellectual atmosphere, or even ecclesiastical atmosphere (as if serving an apostate church earns one a "pass," rather than reproof).

    It really does appear to be accepted, then, that scholars get a special "pass" from the first and second commandments. Not dimwit drunkards and liars, evidently. No, they still have to repent, believe, and walk in love for God. They're not special cases, like academics are.

    Indeed, I get the distinct feeling among some that Wright is doing us a great favor by lending his scholarly credibility to some of our tenets. We should demand less of him, because of his wonderful scholarship and writing.

    But surely this is the reverse of the Scriptural stance. God's perspective is that more -- not less! -- is required of him to whom more is given (Luke 12:48). Teachers are judged more harshly, not less (James 3:1ff.). Greater privilege brings greater responsibility, not diminished responsibility (Amos 3:2).

    All this makes me wonder yet again: do we really believe the Bible, or don't we? If we do, no one does us a favor by admitting what everybody should already acknowledge, anyway -- such as that Jesus bodily rose from the dead. He's honor-bound to do that. What's remarkable is not one man's admission of the truth; it's the others' denials and evasions.

    There must be some place between shrugging off terrific academic accomplishments, and feeling that a good book or two (or ten) earns one the right to say harmful, damaging nonsense without a ripple of contrary comment. It's being brandished by some like military service has been in the political world, as if it earns a lifetime of freedom from reproach. Both are laudable, assuredly, and both merit appreciation; but neither exempts one from the critical arena.

  4. Admiring the flawed for their flaws. We tend too much to see the one who doubts, challenges, even rejects fundamental truths as being a deep, wonderful, fascinating individual. Many swoon over such an one, treating him like a China egg, admiring, and perhaps wishing to be more like him. Surely this deep doubter towers over those who, perhaps by contrast, just cloddishly and oafishly take God at His Word. If spotlights and recognition and craving for "respectablity" and career-advancement lure him to abandon his former (Biblical) beliefs, many will ooh and ahh at how he has "grown," and use him to bludgeon those stubborn knuckle-draggers who refuse to "grow" similarly.

    From God's perspective, the disbeliever -- to say nothing of the false teacher -- is no such stellar creature. Unbelief is a sin, it is immoral, it is wrong, and it's nothing new. It is the mother of all sin, and thus of all ruin and abomination. The first sin was an act of unbelief, and so was your last sin, and so was mine. It isn't as if there is more or less "reason" for disbelieving God today than there was in the Garden. In fact, the one who falls for Satan's lie today is even dimmer and more culpable than our great-great grandma was.

    In recent years, I've come to see that God doesn't regard unbelief as we do. He doesn't find it understandable and noble. He finds it inexcusable, and He can be pretty harsh about it. Did Jesus say to the Emmaus strollers, "Well, boys, believe Me when I say I know it's been a hard couple of days! You're tired, your world's upside-down; and besides, the philosophical and cultural world you have lived in has made it very, very difficult for you to believe!"?

    Our Lord said nothing of the sort. "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" (Luke 24:25). Quite the slap in the face. I'm sure it woke them up, got their attention. Then He laid out the truth of Scripture for them -- not as an option to be considered, but as the truth with demands belief (v. 26). Such verses could be multiplied.

    I don't at all deny that there are places when it is fitting to encourage someone, gently, to reconsider. But I affirm, with the Bible, that it is always fitting to call unbelievers, and false teachers, to repent.

  5. How should we regard a doubting brother? This could be the subject of many full posts, but here's my short answer for now: We should regard him as we do any tempted believer.

    Say a brother admits to you that he's absolutely plagued by lustful thoughts, covetous thoughts, cowardly fears, like so many clouds of bloodthirsty and tireless mosquitoes. How do you respond? Do you bellow fiery judgments and threats at him? I doubt it. I hope not! But on the other hand, do you say, "That's really okay. Given your intellectual and cultural environment, I think it's pretty much unavoidable. But all's well with your soul, go in peace"?

    Not quite.

    Can we say this? "Oh, mercy -- I understand too well. Been there, felt that, still go there far too often. Let's look to the Lord and His Word together, and see how we can overcome this. I'll stick with you, and do what I can to help you overcome it." I would hope so.

  6. And one last time: as far as I've noticed, no Wright-defender answered my question. The question was posed as the past sentence in the essay. Some found it convenient to quote part of it, the part that they imagined to be easiest to target and misrepresent. "Dr. Thomas" said he answered it, but I did not note an answer.

    Here's the question, because this really is the larger point: "One must seriously ask the question: if Wright has a view of Christianity that pencils in the bodily resurrection of Jesus as an optional add-on, and embraces Marcus Borg as a 'passionate' lover of Jesus... can there possibly be any doctrine that isn't optional?"

    Note: I said "answered," not "retorted" or "replied." There were many who sputtered over the protasis, "if Wright has a view of Christianity that pencils in the bodily resurrection of Jesus as an optional add-on." This caused many palpitations among Wright devotees. After answering several of them point-blank, I finally asked, "Is there some immensely-popular yet undocumented definition of 'optional' that means something other than 'possible but not necessary; left to personal choice'?" Because that is what Wright did to the bodily resurrection of Jesus: he made it optional to genuine, Jesus-loving, passionately-believing Christianity. Is that belief true, to Wright? Yes. Important to soundness and health? Certainly. Absolutely indispensable to being a Jesus-loving, passionately-believing genuine Christian? Not if we're to take Wright at his word.

  7. And so I simply asked: if belief in the bodily resurrection of our Lord is optional, can there possibly be any doctrine that isn't optional?

Well? Can there? And if not... then what is the Christian faith, anyway? And why bother to preach, defend, live for it -- and, if need be, die for it?

Dan Phillips's signature


69 comments:

BugBlaster said...

If the bodily resurrection is optional, then centuri0n is wasting his time debating atheists, and the plain reading of Paul is right: we Christ-worshippers are pathetic things.

If the bodily resurrection is optional, then pick out what tickles your intellectual or moral or altruistic fancy from the Bible and follow it. You will have an interesting set of philosophical beliefs that will be internally inconsistent in many ways, but you won't have Christianity.

So, yeah Dan, everything's optional, if you don't think it's important to be an orthodox Christian, if you don't believe that God gave us a reliable plain reading Bible, if you don't think you're depraved enough to require a sinless sacrifice, if supernatural miracles make you uncomfortable, and if you don't believe that there is only one Way.

John H said...

Dan, there's a typo in your first line. I think you meant to say "exhausting", not "exhilirating". ;-)

As an NT Wright fanboy, apparently, I'll try to be brief in my response here (I will also treat what would otherwise be the repeated statement, "Like I said repeatedly in the other thread" as implicit...):

1. Friendship: If all NTW has said to Marcus Borg in person is what he said in that interview, then you're right, he is one lousy friend. To be honest he should have been stronger in what he said even to this journalist. The best suggested response put forward by one commenter was, "My friend holds views that are incompatible with true Christianity. We've talked, and my hope is that he will come to embrace true faith."

2. This point is disingenous. I know you weren't saying NTW was a hellbound heretic, but that was said on the thread. Speaking for myself, my own view was, and is, that NTW's comments in the interview were mistaken, that this reflects deeper elements of error in NTW's approach to things, but that it is wildly overstating the case to suggest that NTW's commitment to the bodily resurrection as the foundation of Christian belief was just "theoretical" or "academic".

3. I basically agree with you on this one.

4. And this one. I'm just prepared to give NTW the benefit of the doubt that he has been stronger with Borg in private than he has been (and should have been) in public.

5. Agreed, absolutely right.

6. The answer to your question is "NO". Happy now? I just don't think NTW was actually saying that. I think the premise, that "Wright has a view of Christianity that pencils in the bodily resurrection of Jesus as an optional add-on", is absurd.

Still, nothing you or any commenter said in this thread was as daffy as the Lutheran blogger who suggested that Wright's admirers were just swooning over his British accent. Erm, right.

Kim said...

I'm obviously a simpleton. The only thought in my head is that if the bodily resurrection is optional, then what is there left to believe in? It would be a free-for-all. If there is no bodily resurrection, then Christ died in vain, and we are without hope.

DJP said...

John H -- Dan, there's a typo in your first line. I think you meant to say "exhausting", not "exhilirating". ;-)

Mabe it's like some hikes I've been on in California's Eastern Sierra Navada: both.

Kim -- I'm obviously a simpleton. The only thought in my head is that if the bodily resurrection is optional, then what is there left to believe in? It would be a free-for-all. If there is no bodily resurrection, then Christ died in vain, and we are without hope.

Right there with ya, sis.

4given said...

Dan-BOOYAH-Phillips,
I appreciate this post... as I did the other mega-comment post that I spent too much time reading and a bit freaked out about commenting on. Perhaps because others made my opinion known much better than I could articulate it.
Plus... why repeat what was already said well enough. All my post would consist of is a huge list of who I agreed with. And the point of that would be ??? to add to the comment numbers? scroll, scroll, scroll.
Confrontation of a friend in error... We are called to do this out of a heart of love more so for our Lord and also because we should be concerned that our friend might be on a path straight to eternal burning tormenting hell. Why do we so often look away and bury our heads in the sand? Agreeing to disagree is bogus. It's a crutch. It is another way of saying... "Who cares about eternity... I don't have time to deal with you in this temporal world. Let someone else who has the gift of confrontation do it."... whatever.
YES!!! we will be held accountable for turning our heads regarding the God-dishonoring disobedience of a friend in obvious sin. We will also be held accountable for how we confront them!!!!
I remember when I left my husband and took my children with me. We were separated for about 18 months. I think I have shared this... can't remember. But it was the, what I called at the time, ANNOYING people that would not stop telling me the truth even when I absolutely refused to hear it that God used the most. I LOVE those annoying people and am SO THANKFUL for them now. THough, at the time, I thought they were a bunch of holier than thou jerks.
Oh... and truly how silly to think the bodily resurrection is optional. Yep, that is my profound contribution... "silly".

thedodester said...

I agree with John H. that Wright didn't actually specifically say that the resurrection was optional and that Dan's question is somewhat hyperbolic. That may be why he phrased it "if Wright has a view that pencils in the resurrection..."

Or by using "if" Dan may be meaning "since" - in which case it is a reach based on the interview alone to make definitive conclusions about Wright's theology.

As it touches on Wright, is Dan's question a hypothetical or is it
a conclusion? Some Wright sympathisers seem to see it as a conclusion.

Dan can speak for himself, but for my money his point never was that Wright is a disbeliever in the resurrection. The whole point is that by his careless public expression (if the facts are to be believed) he creates that impression by his words. And he also carelesly encourages both his friend and the many unacademic listeners who haven't read Wright extensively towards the "optional" view of the resurrection.

And to answer Dan's question "if" (not "since") Wright has such a view as to render the resurrection optional then everything is up for grabs in such a system of belief.

Either way, just like any other believer, Wright needs to be rebuked , reproved and corrected from the Word for his equivocation on what should be an indisputable truth.

Blessings,

CJD said...

Dan, great post. Thanks for your hard work in fashioning it.

I really have gotten a lot out of Wright's books — but good grief, what was he thinking?!"

Gummby said...

CJD: you crack me up!

Booyah: What took so long on the followup post?

mjbeasley said...

Thanks again Dan - Clearly, you are raising the question for the sake of discussion - I would recommend to your readers that they consider Paul's use of the BODILY RESURRECTION of Christ when he preached the Gospel in Acts 13:16-41. Here in summary form is the Apostle's overall argument:

PREMISE: We have GOOD NEWS to preach (V. 32) BECAUSE:

1. The God who promises does not lie (V. 32b).
2. Instead, He has fulfilled all by NOT ALLOWING HIS HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY (vs. 33-37).


CONCLUSIONS (twofold):

1. Therefore, Believe for the forgiveness of sin (vs. 38-39).
2. TAKE HEED lest you be judged by God to be an unbelieving scoffer (40-41).


David died, was buried and underwent decay (vs. 33-36), but Christ did not undergo decay, but was raised from the dead (v. 37), therefore the message of the forgiveness of sin CAN BE PROCLAIMED (v. 38). Paul's simple argument is this: We have good news BECAUSE the God who PROMISES DOES NOT LIE - For He DID NOT ALLOW HIS HOLY ONE TO UNDERGO DECAY.

I would retool your question, based upon Acts 13, as follows: "if belief in the bodily resurrection of our Lord is optional, can we genuinely profess to believe anything that God has said?"

It is a fearful thing to deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ; God does not lie, but powerfully keeps His promises - He can do no less (Isaiah 14:24). I fear for those who deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ by insisting that it optional. It grieves my heart to behold such things (Phil 3:18-19). As well, I fear for those who are complicit with such teachings. If Mr. Wright was having a bad day, then let him return to the public forum and really make things right.

Romans 3:4 "...let God be found true, though every man be found a liar"

SolaMeanie said...

"Feelings....nothing more than...feelings."

Thanks a lot, Dan..for causing this regurgitation of a 70s K-Tel special to pop up in my head. Now I'll be hearing it all day. What's next..the Pina Colada song?

Seriously, you hit the nail on the head more than once. As one can see clearly in the comments over on Emergent No, the flak being aimed at those who hold to biblical orthodoxy is coming largely from those who have a low view of Scripture even though they won't admit it in so many words. They really don't believe the Bible is God's Word. It gets old and tired after a while. All the more grimly amusing as many of them act as if this is some newly discovered territory when they're actually parroting the same old recycled errors.

I'll tell you where I have my struggle and I'll confess it quite openly. Sometimes it's hard not to just sigh heavily and retreat into a cave. If this is the final apostasy, there is not much we're going to be able to do to stop it barring a great move of the Lord. Yes, I know it will all turn out well in the end, but it's going to be a bloody mess before we get there. Nonetheless, we must soldier on even if we're the last ones left standing on the hill. God always has His remnant 7,000 that have not bowed the knee to Baal.

cyd said...

Great post Dan; thank you and AMEN!

HeavyDluxe said...

Dan/Dave/Booyah,

Great post... Serious point #1 was right on. If we love someone, we need to speak truth to them. That needs to be gracefully done, obviously. But failing to confront errors like Borg's don't show friendship or love.

Enjoy the comment roll and your trip!

Theteak said...

This is great. We just endured a Wright storm in Sydney. Reading this was like a breath of fresh air. Interesting that you noted the similarities between Wrightists and catholics. As far as I can see, Wright is a catholic...

Mike Y said...

Dan,

Another great post from you. To answer your question, "NO". The implication with this, as with any facet of scripture, is that if we treat one piece as optional, then all could be treated as optional. As my old preacher used to tell us, "99% truth with 1% error is all error". Now, this may be stretching the conclusion. But I think if I said I didn't believe the scriptures in one particular area, any "conviction" I subsequently held in another area could become suspect.

Quite frankly, I really don't get all of the comments concerning Wright and his friendship to Borg. I think the relationship is moot. The issue is Wright believes one can love Jesus and be a Christian yet not hold to the bodily resurrection. Such a statement, irrespective of friendship or motive, unveils a flawed theology. Now, I'm not willing to go so far as to seek where else Wright's beliefs may unravel. Likewise, I don't intend to overlook this because of all the other good he has done. It's just another justification I have for formulating my own beliefs out of a personal study and not take anything for granted no matter who the personality may be.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you related your beliefs back to Calvin. He has been very helpful. But if he, or anyone else, espouses doctrine or practices that I find contradictory, I ain't a following.

Just as a side note, I have many friends who are professing Christians. Some are even pastors or former pastors. Though some of these friendships run quite deep, I do not call them all my brothers. In fact, I am quite clear with them and with others as to whether I struggle with their salvation. Note that I said struggle. I believe God has provided us some tools to assist us in determining who is a believer and who isn't. I believe we manifest our spiritual condition by the doctrines we hold to and by the lives we live out amongst one another and within the world. I believe our worldview speaks more clearly than our lips at times as we ultimately live out what we truly believe. When I find regular inconsistencies with a person, I struggle and do opt to err on the precautionary side. Does this mean I treat such as the plague? Nope. But I do speak to them concerning more elemental doctrines such as the basics of the gospel, considering they may not have the regenerate mind to comprehend any more truth.

Anyway, you can ignore everything past the answer to your question if you'd like.

Thanks again for your thoughts.

-Mike

Steve said...

John H said: "The answer to your question is 'NO'. Happy now? I just don't think NTW was actually saying that. I think the premise, that 'Wright has a view of Christianity that pencils in the bodily resurrection of Jesus as an optional add-on', is absurd."

Wow. The lengths to which NT Wright sympathizers go to defend him is amazing. Here we have a correct answer, but in the very next breath, we're told "I don't think Wright was actually saying that."

It's pretty hard to take Wright's words any other way. Without a doubt, he pronounced Borg to be a Christian in spite of his disbelief in the resurrection.

It's a sad day when an academic is able to summon more respect than the plain teaching of Scripture.

wordsmith said...

I think that part of the underlying issue of Wright's comments is this: Is Wright really so naive (dense, coy, whatever) that he fails to grasp the implications of what he's saying? For someone as erudite as Wright supposedly is, I find that hard to believe. Most often, whenever someone engages in doublespeak, he knows *exactly* what he's saying, as well as its implications.

Matthew said...

^^^ What wordsmith said.

Not to jump on the kudos bandwagon, but (W)right-on Dan-Dave! :)

The Clinging Vine said...

Excellent post, Dan. (I'd say "Boo-yah!" only proper, middleaged Southern ladies don't say, never mind yell, "Boo-yah!")

Only thing I'd like to add is that while Wright's comment regarding his friend was on an individul level, he made an equally dicey comment about "churches" in general, which you quoted in the original post:

"I do think, however, that churches that lose their grip on the bodily resurrection are in deep trouble and that for healthy Christian life individually and corporately, belief in the bodily resurrection is foundational."

This still strikes me as oxymoronic, in that surely what is foundational is that which is essential.

If a belief in Christ's bodily resurrection is essential, then churches which "lose their grip" on it are not "in deep trouble" in the sense he gives it, i.e. unhealthy.

They're not unhealthy, they're dead. Deader'n dead. Advanced state of decay.

This is another signal that Wright considers Christ's bodily resurrection to be a desirable doctrine, but not an essential doctrine.

So for you fans of Wright, do you agree with him that those churches (presumably denominations) are merely unhealthy which "lose its grip on the bodily resurrection" or is such a church/denomination dead, with their lampstand removed?

Anne

DJP said...

John H -- to respond a little more seriously: thanks for your thoughts, and I appreciate them all. Particularly glad for the areas of agreement, of course.

1. Friendship: I think it's charitable of you to assume Wright's said something in private, and charity's a good thing. Here's my problem with that. Scripture frowns on being double-tongued. It's a nasty thing to undermine one's credibility in one venue by what one says in another. I think of a radio commentator who I admired; then I see him with supposed ideological opponents, and expect him to say TO them what he's often said ABOUT them and their ideas, and see a real give-and-take...and he just "makes nice." He just wants to be liked. It's not serious, it's an act.

So, Borg has reason to say, "Oh, Tom says all this stuff to me because he has to, Bishop and all that. But here's what he really thinks. Would he have told the world, otherwise?"

2. "...it is wildly overstating the case to suggest that NTW's commitment to the bodily resurrection as the foundation of Christian belief was just 'theoretical' or 'academic'." Yet, once again, Wright just said that Borg, who rejects the resurrection of Jesus (and a whole lot more) is a genuine, Jesus-loving, fervently-believing Christian. Hardly a wild overstatement on my part, I think.

Still, nothing you or any commenter said in this thread was as daffy as the Lutheran blogger who suggested that Wright's admirers were just swooning over his British accent. Erm, right.

Yes, I know that can't be because I sw... er, whatever the ruggedly masculine equivalent of swooning is... over British accents. Or Scottish. Wish I could trade in this colorless Californian whatever-it-is for one, but... sigh. Providence and all that.

Not sure how to pronounce "erm." That's my main roadblock.

Rich Ryan said...

I'm late to the conversation and I've tried to catch up on both metas but can I ask a question? If this was answered previously I’m sorry for the repeat here. If so, can someone point me to the answer? I could not find one.

Has anyone emailed or tried to contact Wright about this statement? Has he verified he said what he is reported to have said? Was anything left out?)

The reason I ask is because I live in Bible Belt and some things have been taken out of context in regards to John Mac and people are still running with them (see the Sonship and " BLOOD" issues). My view of JM took some shots when I first heard the “assessment” of what he was teaching on those issues and the small printed comments which were taken out of the whole context. Yes John said the things in those comments but they were selected to do him harm and the effects are still being felt by those who have not verified what John actually teaches.

All around this has been a fascinating and informative discussion. Thanks!

P.S. Dr. Thomas, why weren't you this witty in NTI when I took it? ;o)

Daniel Calle said...

The bodily resurrection of Christ is one of the essential beliefs of Christianity. Look what Justin Martyr said

John H said...

Steve & Dan: I think we are all in agreement that what Wright shouldn't have said what he said. The real disagreement is over whether Wright was being inconsistent or not.

ISTM that those taking the "anti-Wright" position in these discussions take the view that Wright was consistent with what he "really" believes, and that his writings in defence of the resurrection etc are in fact inconsistent (being merely "theoretical") with what he "really" believes.

On the other hand, I take the view that Wright was being inconsistent with what he "really" thinks. That he really does believe the resurrection to be foundational and essential to the Christian faith, but when confronted with an actual flesh-and-blood person saying what Borg says, he is reluctant to draw the logical inference that this actual person standing in front of him is damned for his views. I'm not saying he is right to do so - I wish he had made a more forthright response - but the point is that I think that is a more likely explanation than the other explanation (the "Wright doesn't really believe what he says he does" one).

Dan: I agree with you about the double-tongued point, too. I was disappointed by Wright's comments in that interview, but I'm still baffled by the strength of response from some of his critics, basically for the reason outlined above.

Gummby said...

John H: You, my friend, have hit on the crux of the enigma about Wright (to me anyway). There are times when he seems clear as a bell, but there are other times when his discussion seemes muddled, fuzzy, or just downright wrong. Maybe it is being an Anglican, maybe it's being an academic, or maybe it's being a Brit (crouches and waits for Libbie to throw a muffin at him), but I just wish he could be a little less. . .enigmatic at times.

meltdowner said...

If God miraculously forced honesty on this blog, the primary color would be green, not red.

James Spurgeon said...

meltdowner's non-substantive ad-hominem duly noted.

Next . . .

Libbie said...

Since when am I enigmatic? I'm not a Brit, either, I'm English..

This resurrection stuff. Absolutely crackers. If Wright is prepared to concede that one can be a Christian without believing in the resurrection, the simple fact is that he's made it optional.

It makes no nevermind if he writes a whole library of books defending the historicity of it, and he says repeatedly that he himself believes it - if he says that someone else qualifies as a believer without actually believing, he's made it optional.

Can I be any less enigmatic?

Eek said...

I'm sure someone who defends Wright will refer us to one of his massive works where he defends the Resurrection... and thats fine, he has defended the historicity of resurrection. BUT... I'm wondering has he ever stated that its an ESSENTIAL and FUNDAMENTAL doctrine to the Christian Faith? Because defending it as an academic exercise is one thing... proclaiming it as essential to the faith is quite another. And without the later you are simply spinning your wheels.

PS: This is a real question... I have not read much right, mostly just online articles. Could someone point me to a work where he explicitely states the resurrection is essential?

Thanks,
Eric

fractalpilgrim said...

I have a question that perhaps you may answer. I agree with many of you that the Bishop's comments were ill-timed (at least) and perhaps egregious and dangerous.

My question however, relates to a question that arises in many times and places. What is the relationship between the facticity of a biblical event (the resurrection) and one's required apprehension of that actual event. That is, is it possible that while the fact of Christ's rising is essential for faith (1 Corinthians 15) our understanding or appreciation or even affirmation of that event may be on a variable scale?

Perhaps for another example, how well should/ must someone understand the Trinity to be a true follower of Christ? How many people in a typical congregation could pass a test based upon the church's creedal afirmations about that doctrine?

I wonder if the group might be willing to discuss the implications of faulty doctrine in other areas as it relates to participation in the eternal kingdom. Many folks are ready to agree to disagree over the sacraments (at least baptism)when it comes to salvation, and eschatology isn't generally used as a litmus test, though at least 2/3 of the positions will find themselves at odds with the timing of Christ's second coming. The facticity of the parousia and our understanding of it are not the same, it seems to me.

Granted, the resurrection is a much clearer doctrine and I would locate it at the very outer limits of this discussion.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to the possibilities of response.

fractalpilgrim

farmboy said...

fractalpilgrim asks the following question: "What is the relationship between the facticity of a biblical event (the resurrection) and one's required apprehension of that actual event. That is, is it possible that while the fact of Christ's rising is essential for faith (1 Corinthians 15) our understanding or appreciation or even affirmation of that event may be on a variable scale?"

Let me restate what I believe to be the essence of the above as follows: Is knowledge of and belief in the historical event of Christ being raised from the dead necessary for a person to become a Christian (to have his/her sins forgiven)? Can a person be ignorant of this historical event and still become a Christian?

The above is a question about the minimal doctrinal content a person must have knowledge of and believe in if that person is to become a Christian. While interesting, this situation differs from the one contained in the N.T. Wright interview.

N.T. Wright has knowledge of and believes in the historical event of Christ being raised from the dead. Mr. Wright is aware of Paul's teaching regarding the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. Mr. Wright is also aware that - in spite of his knowledge of the evidence in support of the historical event of the resurrection and Paul's teaching regarding the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 - Marcus Borg fails to believe that Christ was in fact raised from the dead. Regarding Mr. Borg, this is not an issue of lacking knowledge. This is an issue of lacking belief.

Regarding Mr. Wright, his comments do not lead one to question his knowledge of and belief in the historical fact of the resurrection. Instead, Mr. Wright's comments lead one to question his commitment to the authority of Scripture. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul clearly states that without Christ being raised from the dead there is no forgiveness of or victory over sin. Scripture clearly states that the resurrection is an essential, nonnegotiable Christian doctrine. Yet, Mr. Wright clearly states that a person who clearly rejects the historical fact that Christ was raised from the dead is a Christian.

As a working hypothesis, is it possible that Mr. Wright holds evidence from general revelation in higher regard than he does evidence from special revelation?

donsands said...

I know plenty of people who would say they believe in the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ who are not Christians, but think they are: Catholics and Protestants. This is very sad indeed.

So how much more are you not a Christian if you don't believe in the resurrection of our Lord?

"For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?" Luke 23:31
I thought this verse may help make my point, maybe not.

craig said...

G'day I'm throwing the cat out amongst the pigeons here, I have been looking at a few of your profiles, and it seems so many of you mighty fine Christians are involved with the occult.

Hmmm I wonder what God thinks of Christian association with astrology and other religious years for fortune telling practice.

Perhaps those who are ready to critigue NT for something a newspaper reporter said, need to have a look in ones own back yard with what they publically support.

Being a deliberate stirrer here, yet it is true is it not, that many of you guys on your profiles associate your self with forbidden practices.

Blessings craig b

farmboy said...

I'm neutral when it comes to pigeons; I have a fondness for cats; and stirring the pot just for the sake of stirring the pot doesn't make my list of favorite recreational activities. But all of that is relatively unimportant and insignificant because my time here on this planet - as well as the time spent by all humans - is but a vapor.

Truth, however, is something that is eternal, something that transcends all of us. When someone offers ideas for consideration in the public square, those ideas can be and should be evaluated using the objective, transcendent standard of truth.

It's ideas that are to be critiqued and evaluated, not the persons offering those ideas for consideration. In relative terms, I don't give two hoots about N.T. Wright. I do, however, care very much about the ideas he offers for consideration in the public square. To privilege or prejudice an idea because of the characteristics of the person who offers it for consideration is unfair and shows a fundamental disrespect for the truth.

Given that a person's time on earth is relatively brief, is there any way for that time to be of lasting significance? Yes, provided that he/she invests his/her life in standing for, defending and advancing important, eternal truths that transcend mere human beings. Scripture and church history are full of people who lived lives of lasting significance in just this way. May they be examples to us all.

The Clinging Vine said...

I don't think so many mighty fine Christians are involved with the occult; just so many mighty fine bloggers neglected to change their Blogger profile so it doesn't include the default horoscope sign.

You're reaching so far out you must be a practioner of yoga. ;^)

Anne

craig said...

G'day Clinging Vine,

I would say that it is easy to say that some fine Christian men and women have been careless with their words in public in what they have said.

Yet these same Christians have not only been careless, they have actually taken the time to work out what star sign they are as well as the zodiac year... they have actually had to write them down for themselves.

Now in the same way people are bagging out NT write for something that has only been said he said by a newspaper, I think these same Christians need bagging out for deliberately associating themselves with the occult, because by their own admission they have said this is my occultic signs.

Very easy to be taken out of context is it not.

I think those without sin, start casting the first stone towards NT.

Hmmm seems quite a few pastors on this blog follow the star signs.

Blessings craig b

John H said...

Craig: you are slandering people by saying they have "actually taken the time to work out what star sign they are as well as the zodiac year... they have actually had to write them down for themselves."

When you enter your date of birth into your Blogger account, the zodiac sign and year are calculated automatically. The only way to avoid this (as far as I am aware) is not to enter your date of birth.

For the record, here is my own response to this from a couple of years ago. Perhaps Blogger has changed its policy since then and it is possible to disable the star sign thing, in which case I'll be absolutely delighted, believe me, to do so.

Theteak said...

I can't believe he actually took TWO bites outta that rotten apple of a cheapshot.

Sven said...

I assume that you've never read "The Meaning of Jesus" in which Wright heavily criticises Borg in almost every area chapter by chapter, including the resurrection.

Secondly, I also notice that you haven't bothered to refer to or cite any of the public lectures that Wright gave last year in which he also refuted Borg's views on the resurrection and explicitly condemned them as being unchristian.

Some of the lectures that he gave last year and mentioned this will be published later this year, and so I assume that in the interests of fairness you'll be reassessing some of the comments made here about Wright.

It seems to me that some of the contributors and commenters on this blog dislike Wright on other grounds (especially Paul) and cannot wait for him to trip up and incriminate himself somehow.

CJD said...

[cross-posted with the fella above this, whose points ought to be duly noted]

eek asked: "BUT... I'm wondering has he ever stated that its an ESSENTIAL and FUNDAMENTAL doctrine to the Christian Faith? Because defending it as an academic exercise is one thing... proclaiming it as essential to the faith is quite another. And without the later you are simply spinning your wheels."

Not in those exact terms, I'll warrant. I remember something forceful coming from his pen in this regard, but off the top of my head, these two quotes get at your answer a bit:

1) "Christian faith is thus, for Paul, irrevocably resurrection shaped. Like Abraham's faith, it is by no means simply a general religious awareness or trust in a remote or distant supernatural being, but gains its form, as well as its content, from the revelation of God's covenant faithfulness in the events concerning Jesus" (Wright, Romans, 502).

2) "Paul then explains this [how when faith happens it leads to salvation] with a remarkable statement, one of the clearest in all his writings, of what precisely Christian faith consists of. It is not, for him, a vague religious awareness, a general sense of the presence of a benevolent deity. It is the confession of Jesus as Lord and the belief that God raised him from the dead. …Jesus' resurrection was, for Paul, the demonstration that he really was the Meissiah; his belief in Jesus as the turning-point of Jewish and world history, the bearer of God's purpose, the climax of the story of God's covenant, is unthinkable without it. …Belief in Jesus' resurrection is thus not an arbitrary dogmatic test, a demonstration that one is prepared to believe something ridiculous on someone else's supposed divine authority. Genuine heart-level belief can only come about, Paul believed, through the action of the Spirit in the gospel. This faith is the sure sign that the gospel has done its work" (Wright, Romans, 664).

Definitely foundational; sounds essential too. I really have gotten a lot out of Wright's books — but good grief, what was he thinking?!"

(p.s. Happy to oblige, Mr. Gumm. The trick is to not take oneself too seriously. Methinks you've caught on.)

DJP said...

Sven -- I assume that you've never read "The Meaning of Jesus"... blah blah blah.

I assume you've never read the post you're responding past, nor the original to which it refers, nor the comments on that post.

If you ever get around to doing that, feel free to say something about the incident and statement under discussion.

fractalpilgrim said...

Thank you, farmboy for your initial reply. I appreciate your willingness to interact with a usually silent reader. Perhaps I may clarify a piece of my question.

I agree that both the Bishop and Mr. Borg know that the Bible teaches the resurrection of Christ and records the proclamation of that resurrection by the apostles and early church.

The Bishop and Mr. Borg disagree whether this event actually occurred. The reasons they do or do not agree over the reality of this event are probably complex and surely involve varied levels of the Spirit's illumnation, confidence in biblical, theological, scientific, historical, cultural, etc etc etc factors.

Is it possible that there is a level one "event" fact of resurrection and the inevitable coming of new heavens and new earth which it guarantees and a second "apprehension" issue(not in importance, but in logical sequence)how individuals respond to that event? And aren't there an innumerable number of ways that people's hearts, minds, and hands may respond submisively or rebelliously to that event?

Paul in 1 Cor 15 seems to be arguing for the level one "event" reality and using this fact to motivate the Corinthians to bring their lives more fully into submission to the level two "apprehension."

I assume that the apostle Paul had a better apprehension of resurrection than me. There may also be people who have a smaller apprehension of resurrection.
The event with the Bishop seems to ask the quesion as to whether someone can be absoulutely wrong about reality and deny this event and still participate in the benefits of the event?

If not, how does resurrection compare and differ from the other possible errors that some people who self-designate themselves Christian may hold. At the Last Judgement, the Lord will make an eternal determination that is holy, just and in reference to Christ's Lordship. At least some people who have errors in their belief and practice will experience final sanctification and enter into eternal life. In other cases, people's errors in belief and practice will eventuate in final judgment. I think Resurrection is an essential. But it is an important question, I think.

Thank you for your initial reply and the possibility of further interaction.

Paul Lamey said...

Hey Rich,

I think dr thomas's other "real" name might rhyme with “glue wa jah” but that’s just a guess. I can’t believe folks keep falling for it. However you forget that the real Dr. Robert Thomas was fairly witty when he wanted to be. I especially liked how he referred to himself by using the editorial “we” (“We will have to disagree with Mr.________ for we do not find his perspective supported by the text of Scripture”).

Dr Thomas said...

I haven't read the comments above (so forgive me if I repeat points) but here is my response to the 'simple question':

Dan said: "And so I simply asked: if belief in the bodily resurrection of our Lord is optional, can there possibly be any doctrine that isn't optional?"

I have two simple responses:

1) I still disagree with your statement that it is 'optional' in Wright's view. I think you fail to account for

a) the complexity of the word 'Christian' in Wright's vocabulary. Does "Christian" mean: Saved, Heaven-bound saint that will be lauded when the day of judgement comes? Or does it simply imply someone that confesses to be such. There is nowhere in the Bible that details how we should define the word.

b) the broader conversation that Wright has had both with his Anglican see and with the World regarding the resurection. One can hardly read Wright's works and state that he beleives that it is optional despite what a few soundbites state.

c) what 'optional' means regarding the faith. Is not lieing an optional rule? Are there any unrepentent liars that love Jesus (I think so)? One could say that Christians break all sorts of 'not-optional' laws of the faith but are not declared 'un-Christian'. (note: I personally beleive that someone should stop calling themselves a Christian if they don't beleive the bodily resurection)

2) In NTPG Wright explicitly states that "if I were to ever deny the divinity of Jesus, I would hope that I would stop calling myself a Christian" (paraphrased I don't have the book handy). So there is at least one doctrine that he does not beleive can be denied by a Christian.

In conclusion, I have stated all along I strongly disagree with the statement that Borg is a Christian but I say so assuming that: Christian = saved and I say so not beleiving the Wright is backsliding into damnation.

Note: Perhaps you never said Wright was hellbound but plenty of your commentators implied (or explicitly stated) such.

dan said...

Pinchas Lapide, an Orthodox Jewsish scholar of some note, wrote a book back in the late 70's that says, considering all the sources that we have from the first century AD, including the New Testament, that Jesus actually rose from the dead. But, he says, that in no way makes him devine-- look at the Old Testament-- God did strange things with his prophets after they died, and Jesus was a prophet.

So, it is clear that you can believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus' body from the tomb and not be a Christian. It is also clear from the Gospel accounts that Jesus' resurrection body was not EXACTLY like the body placed in the tomb.

So, is the real issue the degree of conenction between the body in the tomb and what the disciples (and others, Paul said) saw? Or is it that folks like Borg would say something happened to the disciples, while others (including Wright) say something happened to Jesus' body?

From my college days until about 10-12 years ago (I am 56, and am a "cradle roll" Baptist), I would have been in the "something happened to the disciples" camp. Then, motivated by my love of history and knowledge that I really had not devoted nearly as much time to the study of 1st centruy history as I had devoted to, say, studying Abraham Lincoln, I came to the conclusion that, for many of the reasons Wright and other apologists have relied on, there actually was some connection between the body in the tomb and what the Gospel accounts tell us the witnesses saw.

Am I a better Christian in any way I can discern for that change in views? No. My faith has changed in some ways that I think are better in the last two years or so (I understand Jesus' Lordship claims better), but not because I know more history, nor because of anything having to do with whether the resurrection was physical or only (?) spiritual, which is what I take Borg to be saying. Was I hell bound before I hit the books?

I guess I would have joined Albert Schweitzer, who was in the "spmething happened to the disciples" camp, wherever he might be. But, now that I can say the magic words in all good faith, I am safe from going to a place where there might be more grace than I have seen displayed on most of this thread.

Dan (Not DJP)

DJP said...

"Dr. Thomas" -- I don't fault you for not reading the comments. I do fault you for evidently not reading the post.

Commenting is not required. Reading what you are commenting on is strongly encouraged, if you are going to reply.

What you said has been answered again and again -- and yet again, in this post. Please stop repeating yourself as if it hasn't.

Thanks.

The only new thing I see is you quoting Wright that he "would hope" that he would stop calling himself a Christian if he came to reject Christ's deity.

Yet in the article we are supposed to be discussing he is "quite sure" that resurrection-rejecters like Marcus Borg is a Christian.

Does Marcus Borg affirm the deity of Christ?

DJP said...

Dan

If the Bible is definitive as to Christian faith -- which should be a "duh" -- then belief in the bodily resurrection of Christ is essential to Christian faith (Romans 10:9).

If you did not believe in the bodily resurrection, then, you were not a Christian, Biblically defined. If you have another authority for what is and is not definitional to Christian faith, you're in a different Weltanschauung.

The notion that it is more charitable to leave folks in damning error is directly addressed in the post to which these are supposed to be comments.

Did you read it?

Dr Thomas said...

Dan,

I am no Borg expert but I do beleive that he considers the post easter Jesus to be God. I am not sure what that means but apparently Wright thinks its enough to get the Christian appelation.

Regarding the repeating.....I don't know that I repeated myself. I did read your post and you said no one answered your simple question. I decided to put (into one post) a simple one comment answer.

Kent Runge said...

There is a quite simple means of avoiding the appearance of astrological evil on one's blogger profile. One simply needs to omit one's birthdate.

I'm so glad that I discovered that virtue.

Josh S said...

You know, it seems like people around here make a career out of misinterpretation. You want so much for not-you to be bad guys that you'll misinterpret everything that not-you has said.

Example: on friendship, no one said "NT Wright is friends with Borg, so it's OK." I and many others simply pointed out that this is a common error for Christians to make with their friends. Read that again. Commone ERROR. That means it's NOT RIGHT. But it's COMMON. It's something that I'm positive many of us have done, which is why I find the extremely judgmental attitude to be simply pharisaical. Wright has committed the same sin that many of us might have made if we were in his shoes (IOW, there are lots of Christians, doubtlessly some among the commenters here, who have made mental excuses for their unbelieving friends before). That doesn't mean it's OK or not wrong, but it doesn't mean that gleefully judging his life and faith is our place.

If John Piper had said that he didn't think Greg Boyd was going to hell, I doubt there would be such a storm of bitter rhetoric.

DJP said...

So, just to be clear, Josh, and to try to stick to the point, you're saying that Wright's entire statement about Borg, as quoted, is indefensible and inexcusable?

donsands said...

dr t,

When I use the word Christian, my meaning would be born-again Christian. I usually leave the born-again phrase off, when I am talking amoungst the Church, assuming those who are conversing with me will understand what I mean by the word Christian.

Surely there are always those in the Church who will be false-Chistains. The Lord said there would be tares in the Wheatfield of the kingdom of God: The visible Church covering the invisible Church.

Just a couple thoughts that hit me as I read through your thoughts.
Also:
I try to say what I mean, and mean what I say. Sometimes, however, I am quite crude in trying to make my meaning clear, but I shall continue to endeavor to always be as crystal clear as possible. And by the grace of our Lord I will grow in my communication skills.

I love the way Dan writes these excellent posts. He is a fine teacher of the Word, and he gives us a handle to grasp.
Thanks Dan. You're feeding the flock.

farmboy said...

sven offers the following: "Secondly, I also notice that you haven't bothered to refer to or cite any of the public lectures that Wright gave last year in which he also refuted Borg's views on the resurrection and explicitly condemned them as being unchristian."

Implicit in this comment is the notion that because of ideas that Mr. Wright has previously offered for consideration in the public square we should alter our evaluation of the ideas Mr. Wright offers for consideration in the interview in an Australian newspaper.

Given that we are evaluating ideas that have been placed in the public square, not the persons placing those ideas there, the previous ideas that a person may have offered for consideration are irrelevant to the evaluation of ideas presently being considered.

Michael Spencer said...

>Given that we are evaluating ideas that have been placed in the public square, not the persons placing those ideas there, the previous ideas that a person may have offered for consideration are irrelevant to the evaluation of ideas presently being considered.

Please write a research project for any serious university using this method. Take a statement made in a newspaper interview and procede to zero out all previous books, articles and lectures. Then procede using the conclusion that the only relevant statement to your paper is the recent informal interview question. Should your supervisor question this method, be sure and call him an academic incompetent.

Grad students all over the world will welcome this development. Just think of the short bibliographies and reduced reading loads required to understand a subject!

ZF said...

"Please write a research project for any serious university using this method. Take a statement made in a newspaper interview and procede to zero out all previous books, articles and lectures. Then procede using the conclusion that the only relevant statement to your paper is the recent informal interview question. Should your supervisor question this method, be sure and call him an academic incompetent.

Grad students all over the world will welcome this development. Just think of the short bibliographies and reduced reading loads required to understand a subject! "

In the case above neither of the parties were seeking to "write a research paper". The concern was about an extrememly public, self proclaimed evangelical, getting mush-mouthed about belief in the Risen Lord and the failure to call him to the carpet because he does "write a research paper" or scores of books for that matter.

DJP said...

Michael, you should have been a circus knife-thrower. So many throws, every one a clean miss.

Farmboy -- correct. The focus is on what Wright said.

Disclaimer: I have promised monies to no one for commenting in ways that illustrate the criticisms I made in this post. It's all strictly voluntary!

farmboy said...

In previous ventures into the public square a person has consistently stated that 2 + 2 = 4. This person has done so in excess of 100 times. However, recently, this same person ventured into the public square to state that 2 + 2 = 5. In evaluating this most recent statement it is irrelevant that the person has a history of stating that 2 + 2 = 4. His present statement that 2 + 2 = 5 is wrong. It does not correspond to the objective standard of truth.

This is a simple, basic point, one that I hope that students and faculty at all reputable educational institutions would be able to grasp. This is the point I made regarding Mr. Wright's recent comments recorded in an Australian newspaper.

Specifically, Mr. Wright's recent comment that a person can be a Christian and fail to believe that Christ was raised from the dead is wrong (just as sure as 2 + 2 = 5 is wrong), as this statement does not correspond to the objective standard of truth revealed in 1 Corinthians 15.

This is not a controversial statement. This statement is not an evaluation of Mr. Wright. It is an evaluation of a statement that Mr. Wright happened to place in the public square. I don't know Mr. Wright, and I don't particularly care to know Mr. Wright. However, I don't need knowledge of Mr. Wright to evaluate a statement that he places in the public square.

dan said...

DJP said "If you did not believe in the bodily resurrection, then, you were not a Christian, Biblically defined."

Well, let's see, I had what I felt very strongly (and still do) was a strong personal experience of Jesus as my savior at age 11, which led to my Baptism, went through a peiod of 30 years or so when I felt that the Resurrection accounts were most likely spiritual experiences that God caused the disciples to have, have never doubted since I was 11 that Jesus was and is God, and was and is my personal savior, BUT I would have gone to Hell if I had died during that period because I didn't believe something (the connection between the entombed body of Jesus and what the disciples saw) that even an Orthodox Jew (my example of Lapide) can believe and still be a Jew?

Either way, what the witnesses saw was clearly the most profound, inexplicable phenomenon that they had ever encountered, or heard of anyone else encountering. GOD CLEARLY CAUSED IT TO HAPPEN-- whether spiritual,physical, or some mixture. ONLY GOD.

I think that the non-negotiable core of Christian belief is that Jesus is devine and that God is a Trinity. That separates us from Unitarians, Jews and Muslims. I think there have been responses above that show that Wright shares that belief. That would seem to answer your question--it would be possible to regard belief in the physical resurrection as optional, but still affirm that it was not optional to believe that Jesus was devine.

I don't have any knowledge of where Borg is on the question, but acceptance of Jesus as God is the main stumbling block I run into when I am trying to witness to liberals (my church is very close to a University). It is a short step from acknowledging that to accepting Christianity as exclusive, and that is the really tough sale these days. (Along those lines, I have found a lot of help in Larry Hurtado's books.) Not being "inclusive" is the greatest sin possible on PC campuses today. Once you get someone over that hurdle,getting them to accept a physical resurrection is a piece of cake.

It's not so much you are beating a dead horse, you're beating the wrong horse.

Dan (not DJP)

DJP said...

So there's your experience, Dan, and there's your opinion about what the watershed doctrine is, and there's what Paul says.

What do you make of what Paul says?

Your opinion about the horse is interesting, though unaccompanied by anything with any bearing on the discussion at hand.

Dan (yes "Dan," but not that Dan)

dan said...

"though unaccompanied by anything with any bearing on the discussion at hand."

Gee, I did answer your original question. Read my post again.

I know what Paul said, but I don't beleive it necessarily excludes a belief in a resurrection experience that is not connected with the tomb, but is nonetheless something God caused to happen as oppsoed to some group delusion. I thought that was implicit, if not I will so state. Assuming he knows that Borg accepts Christ's divinity, Wright has nothing to apologize for.

My soteriology is real simple: If you want to spend eternity with Jesus more than anything else you can imagine, if you accept him as your Lord and Savior in this life, and make every effort a fallen human can to follow him in a manner that is consistent with Him being your Lord and Master, then, when He returns, you will be one of the sheep he finds. I rely on that with much more comfort and assurance than I do the "say the magic word and the duck will come down" kind of legalism I see on display here.

Dan (not DJP)

donsands said...

I'd like to share an experience i had, and I'll compress it as much as I can.

Two LDS's (Mormons) stopped by my house and we sat on the porch for a long while discussing the Lord, and their religion.
They were very fine young men. I enjoyed their company. They said they loved Jesus, and wanted to follow him, and do all they could for him.
We spoke on all the various aspects of salvation; grace, works, etc. Covered every base.
At one point this young man was actually inspiring, I must say. This is all true.
As I burst their theological bubble with my explanaton of God's grace, and by denouncing Joseph Smith as a false prophet, they realized it was time to leave. They did ask me to pray and ask God to show me, if Joseph Smith wasn't a true prophet from God.
I said sure. But I already know the answer. I pray that the Lord would reveal His truth to you both.
They looked like Christians, but they were not.
I hope this isn't too far from what we are trying to discuss here.

DJP said...

Right in the ten-ring, Don.

Your Mormon visitors love "Jesus."

Borg loves "Jesus."

"Jesus" did not rise bodily from the dead.

"Jesus" doesn't save.

Jesus alone does.

=> 2 Corinthians 11:4 <=

farmboy said...

dan notes "a belief in a resurrection experience that is not connected with the tomb, but is nonetheless something God caused to happen as oppsoed to some group delusion."

Experience is inherently personal and subjective. Belief is also inherently personal and subjective. Given this, it doesn't make sense to talk of a personal, subjective belief in a personal, subjective experience.

As a person I can experience an objective, verifiable event such as an earthquake. Other people can experience the same objective, verifiable event, with each person having a different experience of the same objective, verifiable event.

In the same way, as a person I can believe that an objective, verifiable event such as an earthquake took place. (The belief is subjective and personal. The object of that belief is not.) Other people can believe that the same objective, verifiable event took place. Ideally, the decision that each person makes to believe that an event has in fact taken place is based on the weight of the objective, verifiable evidence indicating that the event did in fact take place.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is an objective, verifiable event; it is not a personal, subjective experience. The objective, verifiable evidence indicates that the resurrection of Jesus Christ did in fact take place. A key part of this evidence is a tomb that once held a body but is now empty. The objective, verifiable event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ cannot be understood without reference to the tomb that once held Jesus' body.

People that believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ hold a belief that is consistent with the evidence. People that believe otherwise hold a belief that is not consistent with the evidence.

People can choose to either believe or not believe that Jesus Christ was in fact raised from the dead. This is a straightforward choice. Why would anyone want to introduce the third option of "a belief in a resurrection experience that is not connected with the tomb, but is nonetheless something God caused to happen as oppsoed to some group delusion"?

Such an option does grave violence to the accepted understanding of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. No one is forced to believe (as if this were possible) that Jesus Christ was in fact raised from the dead. If a person chooses to believe that Jesus Christ was not in fact raised from the dead, he/she is free to do so. But, why muddy the waters with this third option?

David Wilkerson said...

Mr. Phillips, I am to the left of Bishop Wright but I think you have done a service here by showing that many of Wright's devotees are often recovering fundamentalists and are not prepared to admit the contested nature of the gospel and Pauline material. They thought Wright saved that island of fundamentalism for them, but they now find that even Wright himself is humble enough to be ecumenical to theological liberals.
Wright's admirers are incorrect to think he misspoke. Inasmuch as your discussion inadvertantly drives them to see that his quote was intentional and also not wrong-headed you have done a second great service. We more liberal folk thank you.

To Dan (not DJP)....BRAVO!!

John H said...

In previous ventures into the public square a person has consistently stated that 2 + 2 = 4. This person has done so in excess of 100 times. However, recently, this same person ventured into the public square to state that 2 + 2 = 5. In evaluating this most recent statement it is irrelevant that the person has a history of stating that 2 + 2 = 4. His present statement that 2 + 2 = 5 is wrong. It does not correspond to the objective standard of truth.

Actually, it's more a case of saying: "This person has said, repeatedly and at length, that 2 + 2 = 4, in sermons, weighty academic volumes, popular writings, everything. He has made it clear he regards 2 + 2 = 4 as foundational to true numeracy. However, in a newspaper interview, he declined to condemn as innumerate a friend who believes that 2 + 2 = 5.

"Therefore, the only rational conclusion we can draw from this is that his entire previous published output can be set aside, because this single remark shows he doesn't really believe it matters what 2 + 2 adds up to."

Oh, puh-leeze.

4given said...

ya know, when you sign up for blospot, and input your birthday, you are STUCK with the display of the idiotic astrological sign and the fact that you were born in the year of the monkey or gorilla or whatever...

farmboy said...

john h, why do you want to make this an issue about the person N.T. Wright? In relative terms, I don't care about N.T. Wright. I am evaluating a statement he placed in the public square, but I would evaluate the statment just the same if it had been placed in the public square by anyone else. It's ideas and the truth of those ideas that matter. Relatively speaking, N.T. Wright, you, me, and the rest of the world's population matter significantly less.

As part of a comment I offered the following:

In evaluating this most recent statement it is irrelevant that the person has a history of stating that 2 + 2 = 4. His present statement that 2 + 2 = 5 is wrong. It does not correspond to the objective standard of truth.

You paraphrase the above as follows:

"Therefore, the only rational conclusion we can draw from this is that his entire previous published output can be set aside, because this single remark shows he doesn't really believe it matters what 2 + 2 adds up to."

Oh, puh-leeze.

Note that my comment very carefully focuses exclusively on the content of the statement. Your paraphrase turns this comment on content into an alleged comment on the person offering the comment. I offered no such commentary on Mr. Wright.

The object of my comment was "His present statement...is wrong." The object of your paraphrase is "he doesn't really believe." These are entirely different objects.

John H said...

Farmboy: if this discussion really were only concerned with a cool appraisal of a given proposition, with all participants indifferent to who uttered it, then it wouldn't have reached 300+ comments over the two threads. All the traction in this discussion has come from the question, "What does this tell us about NT Wright?"

To put it another way, these discussions have not been about evaluating the particular proposition, "Marcus Borg can be regarded as a Christian even though he doesn't believe in the bodily resurrection", but about evaluating the person who made that statement.

I don't think anyone on these threads is seriously arguing with your statement that:

[Wright's] present statement that 2 + 2 = 5 is wrong. It does not correspond to the objective standard of truth.

Nor that, in reaching that conclusion, that "it is irrelevant that the person has a history of stating that 2 + 2 = 4".

The question is what inference is drawn from this. I think my own analogy captures more closely what has been argued in this discussion - namely, the inference that Wright's comments show that (contrary to almost every other public statement he has made) he does not really believe the resurrection really matters. That is an inference that can be drawn from his words, but I do not think that inference is correct.

farmboy said...

john h: I am not responsible for the comments offered by others. If you take issue with the comments offered by others, please respond to those specific comments.

My comments on this thread and the previous, related one have consistently made the point that the idea offered for consideration should be separate and distinct from the person offering the idea for consideration.

I have made this point several times because too often these two items - the person N.T. Wright and the idea he placed in the public square - have been mixed together. If someone wants to evaluate the person N.T. Wright, then fine, let them, but in doing so evaluate N.T. Wright's entire body of work. In contrast, if someone wants to evaluate a specific idea that N.T. Wright has offered for consideration, do so using the same objective standard of truth applied to all ideas. Don't alter this standard because it was N.T. Wright who offered the specific idea for consideration.

If you want to make inferences about the overall discussion, go ahead and make those inferences, but please don't do so by mischaracterizing the clear content of my comments.

You properly jumped on craig - accusing him of slander - for his unwarranted inference about people being involved in the occult because of zodiac information automatically provided in their blogger profiles. Yet, you make similar unwarranted inferences about the clear content of my comment.

Larry said...

Dan, thanks for your analysis of this. This issue has been a struggle for me with friends and leaders aligned with Wright. In a few interactions, I've heard Wright's comments here defended by the following:
"That reporter tricked Wright... He tried to get him to deny his friend."
"No one else has a relationship with Borg!"
"Wright goes on to affirm the bodily resurrection in that same article!"
"Wright doesn't have evangelical friends!"
And asking if these reasons satisfied, I was told 'yes.' I don't presume to know the interview or how the reporter framed or rephrased statements, but the defense that, "that reporter tricked him..." puts forth a philosophy where, "relationships trump truth." This encourages me to read Wright and other contemporary and traditional scholars with a grain (and sometimes heaping pile of) salt, and to go back to the Word every time.

Lets Write said...

Dan, I Praise God for your insight!
stand firm, don't be swayed.