17 April 2006

Resurrection not essential? (More of Those Wacky Academics!)

by Dan Phillips

Remember the lively discussion we had about whether being able to wave around a doctoral sheepskin entitles one to a "pass" from the First and Second great commandments? (I argued for the "No" position.)

Today, I'm really wondering how those leaning in the opposite direction will, mm, "explain" the latest emulation from everyone's favorite oil-and-water man, the Bishop of Durham, the Right Hon. Rev. Dr. Nicholas T. Wright.

Offered yet another opportunity to sound the trumpet with a clear and hard-hitting witness to the waiting world, here's what Wright told The Australian (h-t James White), emphases and bracketed comments added:
"I have friends who I am quite sure are Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection," he says carefully, citing another eminent scholar, American theologian Marcus Borg, co-author with Wright of The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions.

"But the view I take of them - and they know this - is that they are very, very muddled. They would probably return the compliment.

"Marcus Borg really does not believe Jesus Christ was bodily raised from the dead. But I know Marcus well: he loves Jesus and believes in him passionately. [My advice: don't even try to make sense of those two statements. That way lies madness.] The philosophical and cultural world he has lived in has made it very, very difficult for him to believe in the bodily resurrection. [In other words, Jesus and Paul were both wrong: some folks really do have a legitimate pretext for unbelief (John 9:41; 15:22-24; Romans 1:20; 3:19).]

"I actually think that's a major problem and it affects most of whatever else he does, and I think that it means he has all sorts of flaws as a teacher, but I don't want to say he isn't a Christian. [Well, I guess if you don't want to say something, and you're an academic, you don't have to... is that it?]

"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." [But they can still love Jesus and believe passionately in Him... while calling Him a liar about arguably the central vindicating event of His earthly ministry.]
With our other recent discussion of Dynamic Equivalent versions fresh in my mind, I guess I have to allow that perhaps the good Bishop is reading out of a DE version of 1 Corinthians 15:14 that reads, "And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is not as helpful as it might be, but still healthy and foundational; and your faith is in deep trouble, though you can still love Jesus and believe in Him passionately." Perhaps it also re-envisions verse 17 as really meaning, "And if Christ has not been raised, your faith may still be passionate, and you can stop worrying about your sins."

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" and believing lover of Jesus... can there possibly be any doctrine that isn't optional? What would merit the apostolically-mandated "sharp rebuke" (Tit. 1:10)?

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228 comments:

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DJP said...

Thanks, Steve.

It's all very nice to pride oneself on being an Expert on First-Century Judaism. What I'm thinking, though, is that knowledge of an older Judaism might be more "helpful" -- to wit: "If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand" (Ezekiel 3:18).

Nephos said...

Why is it that so many "prominent" Christians seem to be going out of their way to accomodate those who deny foundation truths? In my view, this inclusive attitude is very revealing of what they themselves actually believe is undeniable truth.

donsands said...

Essentially, it comes across as a works salvation, though not proclaimed to be, I'm sure.
"Marcus is such a fine chap, and he must be a Christian".

So easy to be fooled this way. To see fine moral people, who have a form of godliness, but deny the true gospel, and the power of the gospel, is very common in our human-centered age.

I wonder how they do interpret the Bible passages which are explicitly stated on our Savior's bodily resurrection?

Michael Spencer said...

Anyone in here read Wright's book on the Resurrection?

DJP said...

That's a very sharp observation, Don! Does it grow out of (to be charitable) reportedly "going wobbly" on the forensic / sola-fide nature of justification?

DJP said...

Why, Michael? Is that where Wright explains how one can disbelieve the bodily resurrection of Christ and still be a Christian?

Mike Y said...

Dan, I think Don hit the nail on the head. I've been in the habit of adding a modifier for such people as Borg-- professing. I don't discount that he may be very passionate about Jesus. How can I know his heart better than he? But I think he notion of Jesus is different than that recorded in the gospels. And while he may be sincere, he's sincerely wrong.

I am reminded of the number that will stand before the Lord in Matt 7, who will be amazed when he announces that he doesn't know them.

I hate to draw such lines. But at some point, you just can't allow folks to re-define Jesus. It does become a different gospel and in this case, there is no hope without the bodily resurrection. So, I don't know why Borg would be so passionate and excited in the first place.

Paul Lamey said...

Michael,

I have read it and I agree with your post at imonk that it is one of the best efforts on the subject (anywhere). However, I take this to mean that he should know better. Wright’s ample writing begs the question: does he really understand the implications of 1 Corinthians 15 in regards to the subject? I know it seems unusual to question the great N. T. Wright (at least at the BHT) but how can one say Marcus Borg “loves Jesus and believes in him passionately” while the Apostle would say, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain”? Why the disjoint between “loving Jesus” and believing He is the resurrected Lord? It was a non issue for Paul. If you’re simply saying that Wright should be given more charitable wiggle-room in interviews than in his published works then I think that too would be a false distinction. Whether in writing, preaching, conversations, or interviews we are exhorted to always speak the truth in love which includes getting the resurrection and its implications right.

FX Turk said...

Dan:

iMonk's point, I think, is an interesting one. See: Tom Wright personally would not give up the resurrection. He would never teach anyone that Christ's resurrection is some kind of side dish. I think that's eve evident in his comments that you listed here.

The problem -- which is a terrible problem, one which does something worse than deny the resurrection (if that is possible) -- is that Bishop Wright doesn't see anything wrong with accepting those who reject the resurrection as Christians.

See: Paul said (and Dan rightly pointed this out) that without the resurrection, we are the most pitiable of men. Now, why is that do you think? Right there in 1Cor 15, Paul makes it clear that we have hung our hope on the justice and mercy of God on a time and place that will never be.

That is to say, all the things we think are true are false. Wright does a somewhat-herculean job of making sure he's talking about the academic position of someone like Borg, but it's funny how Jesus never said, "as long as deep down inside you think I am who I say I am, you're good -- after that, you can say whatever you want in your theoretical writings."

So iMonk -- you're right that Wright doesn't actively deny the resurrection. His academic position is, after much peanut butter and toast, in affirmation of the desiderata of the words of Christ blah blah blah. But that's such a ridiculously soft position when the rubber hits the road that it doesn't get him anywhere.

I will be willing to speak for TeamPyro on this one and say that we could care less who theoretically endorses the resurrection of Christ. The theoretical endorsement of Christ is nothing, but the work which comes by the power of the resurrection of Christ is everything, and it is on that hope our faith hinges.

Those who have a hope hinged on another thing have a different faith. When they come knocking, we ain't buyin'.

FX Turk said...

turns out lamey's not too lame. Nice one, Paul.

:-)

Michael Spencer said...

Wright's interview is muddled. But you know what? His book on the rez works for me, and if he has the FLAW of being friends with a guy who self-identifies as a Christian but denies an essential, that's unfortunate.

But painting Wright as an enemy of the Rez after thousands of pages/stands/interviews to the contrary is simply "misleading," to use a kind word. Since it is quite certain that the vst majority of your readership won't read his books, they trust you to be accurate.

Wright is the major advocate of the rez in the scholarly world today, but he's a softee with his friend.

Get out the rocks. That brother needs our help.

John H said...

What Michael said. Wright is one of the most committed and eloquent defenders of the doctrine of the resurrection out there. It may be he is showing an excess of charity towards his friend but that scarcely seems adequate grounds for the invective that's been directed at him over one remark in a newspaper interview.

As I said in a post on this same subject on my own blog, what baffles me is why people are so eager to condemn NT Wright at the slightest provocation, why so many people seem to take such a positive pleasure in seizing on remarks he has made and using them as a stick to beat him with (or perhaps I should say, as a stake to tie him to). What is it about this guy that provokes so much hostility?

NEB said...

Michael:

Being friends with a guy who denies the bodily resurrection is not a flaw. But claiming he's a great Christian who loves Jesus in spite of his hardboiled commitment to heresy is a flaw.

The bodily resurrection of Christ is part and parcel of the gospel. Deny it in spite of correction and you're living in Galatians 1.

If denying the very foundation of the gospel isn't grounds for anathema, what is?

DJP said...

Michael Spencer and Jonah H -- What does anything of what you wrote have to do with my essay, or the article on which it is based? Do you have any actual comment about that? And what does any of it, specifically, have to do with whether anyone read Wright's book on the resurrection?

Apart from the bit about Wright's choice of friends, your posts almost seem like "This is what I write when anyone criticizes Wright" boilerplate comments.

Gryphonette said...

MS: That brother needs our help.

Apparently he's not getting it from his buddy, N. T., if N.T. is encouraging (if I wanted to indulge in a spot of psychobabble I'd say "enabling") Borg to believe Christianity minus the physical resurrection is anything but junk.

Borg is in desperate need of true conversion, based upon his remarks here (very abbreviated):

How do you answer the question, then, of why be a Christian?

"A big part of my answer has to do with the value and importance of being part of a religious community that gives us a new identity. It’s the same notion behind being born again, with the added role of community. Being part of a religious community puts us in touch with the wisdom of the past, which I value very much. A religious community of the enduring religions—not one made up 20 years ago—are typically communities of beauty. At their best they are communities of truth, beauty, and goodness. Even though I think one can be an individual seeker, that’s like going out and hunting for food when there’s a banquet set right in front of you.

"So why am I Christian? The biggest reason is that it feels like home to me in a way no other religion could. Beyond that, I greatly admire the richness of the Christian tradition."

Entire thing may be read here: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/135/story_13587_1.html

Given the present "emerging paradigm" (as Borg put it in the interview) I can easily believe Borg believes he's a Christian.

Why anyone else - say, Wright - would support and encourage him in this fiction beats me. Is it "nice"?

To be sure. Very nice. Couldn't be any nicer. Borg must feel all warm and snuggly about his friend's description of him as a "muddled" but otherwise "passionate" lover of Christ.

Unfortunately, being passionately devoted to a Jesus of one's own design doesn't save one from one's sins.

Anne

Michael Spencer said...

>Wright has a view of Christianity that pencils in the bodily resurrection of Jesus as an optional add-on.

That's completely false, as thousands of pages of Wright's work attests, and one muddled interview doesn't cancel out.

I suspect there are more than a few on this thread who were unaware of Wright's views on the Rez.

I hate to tell you folks, but one can passionately, sincerely love a dead man that you admire. Borg's Christian profession is self-generated, and if Wright would accept him into the church on that basis, shame on him. He's wrong on that as he is on many other things. But I know Jews and New agers who love their idea of Jesus. I don't call them Christians, but if one were my best friend, I might not sound as clear as I should in all situations. Human, fallen, not perfect. All that.

If you think the Jesus Seminar Crowd things Wright has helped their cause, you need serious reality therapy. His work has demolished them, including work by people he apparently has some good things to say about, i.e. Borg and Crossan. You can be wrong and not be an idiot. Or so I've heard.

Renee said...

This is interesting especially after a discussion we had at church with someone who just came back from visiting the catacombs. A professor of Roman history was on the trip (accompanying his child) and stated how he was always amazed that when he studied the art of the catacombs (early Christians), there were no crosses (as is rampant in American churches). All of the art focused on deliverance, redemption... the resurrection.

How can someone deny (call the Lord a liar) and say He did not overcome death and still believe on Him and be saved? (is this another form of buffet style Christianity?? Choose what I like a toss out what I don't??)

You are right, I will stay away from that because in that thought process lies madness.

Gryphonette said...

Mr. Spencer, who on earth are you talking to, exactly?

No one has said Wright ought not be friends with Borg. No one. I'm sure most of us have unsaved family and friends, after all.

But a belief in Christ's physical resurrection is not an optional doctrine, which is what Wright is tacitly saying, whether he meant to convey such a thought or not.

Anne

DJP said...

Michael:

Here's my full sentence:

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?

Given that I was commenting, statedly and specifically, on an interview in which Wright in fact and in so many words states that Marcus Borg both (A) is a Christian who (B) loves Jesus and (C) passionately believes , and (D) denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus, my comment is undeniably accurate. Your characterization of it as "completely false" is completely false.

I note that you never answered the actual question posed by the sentence you excerpted.

And, strictly speaking, if you want to introduce a new subject (a book I didn't mention) -- does that book predate this interview? Is it not true that Wright has changed a number of his previously-held positions?

How do you know he hasn't changed this position, too?

Michael Spencer said...

Anne: You are taking one interview over thousands of pages of work, hundreds of sermons, etc.

The whole purpose of this post is to contrabalance Wright's pro Rez work with the doubts raised by one interview where he's obviously muddled up in the name of friendship.

If Wright believes the Rez is optional, then there is a large green book on my shelf where he spent 5 years lying.

One interview question gets him the label compromiser on the Rez. A lifetime of work affirming it gets him nothing.

Michael Spencer said...

Gee Dan...I never thought of that. Wright now believes the Rez is optional and has renounced everything he's said the last five years, and his book on the Rez (which I shouldn't mention because it's what...off topic?)

**Lights on** Now I get it. He's constantly changing to fool those of us who think he's actually a fine scholar.

I'm gone. Should have never gotten into this.

John H said...

What does anything of what you wrote have to do with my essay, or the article on which it is based? Do you have any actual comment about that?

Sure thing. First up, if we're bandying around the concept of getting a "pass" from commandments, then perhaps we can ask why it is that blogging seems to exempt so many people from the commandment against bearing false witness, which (as Luther points out in his small catechism), requires that:

We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest possible way.

So what we should be eager to do is to see if there is any way of explaining Wright's remarks short of condemning him as a damnable heretic who makes only a hypocritical "theoretical" profession of biblical Christianity.

"If Wright has a view of Christianity that pencils in the bodily resurrection of Jesus as an optional add-on..."

Well, he doesn't. I think that's quite plain from what he says a few paragraphs further on in the interview.

Why should Wright gift an Australian newspaper a "Bishop condemns 'friend' as false believer" headline? Certainly I hope that Wright has, on a personal level, taken Borg to task more clearly - but I think that is implied in his remarks anyway. I certainly don't see anything in this interview that requires us to believe that Wright thinks the resurrection is an optional bolt-on to the Christian faith.

Perhaps Wright takes a similar view towards Borg that JI Packer takes (in Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God) towards those who deny God's sovereignty in saving sinners: that for many Christians there is a disjunction between what they confess on their knees and what they profess on their feet. I'm not saying he'd be right to think that - 1 Cor 15 does seem pretty clear on the subject - but again he knows Marcus Borg and I don't, so I'm not really in any position to make conclusive judgments on the position Wright has taken here.

DJP said...

Michael wrote:

Anne: You are taking one interview over thousands of pages of work, hundreds of sermons, etc.

The whole purpose of this post is to contrabalance Wright's pro Rez work with the doubts raised by one interview where he's obviously muddled up in the name of friendship.


But Michael, you're taking one post out of many, many thousands of words I've written on my web site, on my personal blog, and on this blog, to say nothing of my sermons on and off the internet, my articles, and my syllabi.

On your premises, how can you say anything about this one post until you've read and listened to all of it?

Or are we back to our original starting-point: academics (that you regard as academics) get a special "pass"?

Paul Lamey said...

Michael,

Wright being chums with Borg is not the problem with the issue. The problem is that Wright believes that one can love Jesus and deny the resurrection. The point I was attempting to make in my earlier comment was that the Apostle thought such a notion was hogwash. Also it is of little importance at this point that Wright has written 1,000 pages on the resurrection (as if footnoting and interacting with every shred of 2nd Temple literature is necessary in defending the biblical doctrine). Maybe I can state it this way: what does it profit a man if he writes an orthodox treatment of the resurrection yet fails miserably in grasping the implications of the Apostle Paul’s very clear exposition of it in 1 Corinthian 15?

Gryphonette said...

The problem is, Wright IS a very public personality. By his choice. A lot of people read what he writes and listen to what he says.

James warned about the additional responsibility that goes along with being a teacher: "Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment..." (3:1).

No offense, but y'all certainly don't seem to believe this. Wright might be the Bishop of Durham with a following rivaling that of a rock star, but instead of expecting him to have a care about what he says, he's supposed to be given a free pass when he very clearly, plainly, and unequivocally says "I have friends who I am quite sure are Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection."

Note what Wright said...he is "quite sure" the resurrection-deniers are Christians.

Possibly Wright doesn't actually intend to suggest the resurrection is optional, but whether his fan base likes it or not, that is what he did.

Anne

Michael Spencer said...

No Mr Phillips, but Christian brothers who give a boneheaded answer to an interview question about a friend get the judgement of charity from me. Oh, excuse my language.

Great point there about reading all your posts and sermons. You got me there.

Scott Roche said...

"The problem is that Wright believes that one can love Jesus and deny the resurrection."

You can. Your faith is in vain, but you can.

"Maybe I can state it this way: what does it profit a man if he writes an orthodox treatment of the resurrection yet fails miserably in grasping the implications of the Apostle Paul’s very clear exposition of it in 1 Corinthian 15?"

Provided you can prove that Wright failed to grasp it you're in the clear.

Phil Johnson said...

John H: "what baffles me is why people are so eager to condemn NT Wright at the slightest provocation."

See, part of the problem here is that a lot of us have already raised serious questions about Wright's theology in other, completely different contexts. I have specifically argued that one of the serious problems with his reformulation of the doctrine of justification is that it would seem, by implication, to open the door to radical ecumenical latitudinarianism and even worse kinds of inclusivism. (Indeed, I have said I suspect Wright is actually driven by those concerns.)

"No!" I'm always assured by his adoring fans. "He is indeed a thoroughgoing evangelical and you have simply misread him, you hopeless numbskull. Shut up. If you would just read more Wright, you couldn't possibly be so hard on him. The fact that you are troubled by anything he says is proof you just don't get it."

So what reaction should a guy like me have when Wright's own words reveal that the very thing I expressed concern about and was shouted down for more than two years ago is indeed a serious problem in his system? Do we bite our lips and refuse to make an I-told-you-so post?

Actually, that's exactly what I did. In fact, what's really eerie is that I foresaw this whole comment thread in my imagination (including Michael's sneering "get out the rocks" barb) last week, and decided to try to avoid it. Am I a prophet, or what?

Anyway, that's why, when this story about Wright first surfaced last week, I decided not to post about it, partly because I knew it would get a lot of publicity anyway, and partly because I knew Wright's champions would be right on my doorstep, holding golfball-sized stones of their own, and accusing me of taking "positive pleasure in seizing on remarks he has made and using them as a stick to beat him with" (or tying him to the stake, or picking up rocks to stone him with, or whatever).

So in point of fact, I WAS being restrained. But since we don't ever clear our posts with one another and I don't tell the other guys what to post or not to post about, Dan posted it on his own initiative.

But, wow! What has evangelicalism come to when you can't express disgust over comments like these from Wright, without being instantly likened to Torquemada?

While we're on the subject, though, I agree with Michael that Wright's defense of the historicity of the resurrection has been extremely helpful. But it's all rather pointless (and even counterproductive) if the guy who has positioned himself as the leading expert on the subject in effect declares it ultimately nonessential.

Packer did the same thing with sola fide. He can still explain justification by faith better than anyone I know, but his ecumenical stance with regard to Rome suggests that at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter much whether you believe it or not.

Anglicans. What a mess.

DJP said...

Thanks, Jonah H.

I responded to your one specific criticism to my actual essay in my 11:53 AM, April 17, 2006 response to Michael, above. Which brings your count back to zero.

Any other specific interaction?

Dan

FX Turk said...

The great thing about Torquemada was that he was a flashy dresser, so you have to take the good with the bad.

FX Turk said...

Now, given that comment, does that attribute "flashy dresser" mitigate who and what Torquemada was in any way?

If not, then I suggest that calling Borg a "friend" does not mitigate his rejection of the resurrection in any way. Being my friend does not make anyone any more CHristian than not being my friend makes them a heretic.

And I will refrain from elaborating on comments that iMonk makes on being bone-headed because some punchlines are too easy.

FX Turk said...

And the argument that Wright can't talk out of both sides of his mouth is bosh. If I criticized "some people" in general for being soft on the matter of credobaptism but, in when it comes to Doug Wilson I adopt a special position which says his softness is mitigated by the fact that he links me on his blog, I'd be guilty of having a double standard.

Wright is guilty of having a double standard. Is that so hard to swallow? He talks out of both sides of his mouth even in the article Dan cited, and for that he should be criticized. Just as anyone who talks out of both sides of his mouth should be criticized.

FX Turk said...

Phil:

The correct idiom is --

"Anglicans?! PHEH!"

Habitans in Sicco said...

john h: "Why should Wright gift an Australian newspaper a "Bishop condemns 'friend' as false believer" headline? Certainly I hope that Wright has, on a personal level, taken Borg to task more clearly - but I think that is implied in his remarks anyway."

Give me a break! Are you seriously going to argue that what a Bishop says privately to a heretic is more important to get right than what he says publicly to the whole world?

If someone is that worried about what the "headlines" sound like, he ought to resign as a bishop.

What you're actually saying is that you DO think some people ought to get a free pass on saying whatever outrageous thing they want.

I cannot believe how far Wright's sycophants will go to excuse whatever says or writes.

DJP said...

John H -- and, while your at it, maybe you could explain to me why I keep boneheadedly calling you "Jonah"?

Sorry!

/c:

Phil Johnson said...

Darlene points out an irony: When someone is arguing against people who are concerned that one of his heroes hasn't taken the resurrection seriously enough, he ought to refrain from speaking of the premier event in Christianity as "the Rez."

Actually that's an understatement. She was pretty indignant at the impiety of that kind of flippancy and is lobbying for me to have expressions like that officially banned under rule 2.

I'm thinking about it. Just for future reference.

John H said...

As I've said all along, I can understand why people are criticising Wright for these remarks. I think he is wrong to to suggest that you can be a Christian and not believe in the resurrection.

What troubles me is not that such a criticism is being made - I am far from an uncritical or "sycophantic" supporter of NT Wright - but the eagerness to then go on and draw the worst possible inferences from Wright's remarks, and to anathematise him as an enemy of the gospel.

It makes me wonder whether anyone here would say that Wright's remarks demonstrate that he himself is not in fact a Christian. Anyone care to step up to the plate on that one?

DJP said...

John H -- so now it looks as if the point you wanted to criticize from my essay didn't work out so well for you, so now you'd like to move the discussion to something where you feel yourself to be on better ground.

Me, I'll stay with what I've said in the essay and comments, thanks.

Martin Downes said...

N. T. Wright is far, far more popular with evangelicals in the US (or so it seems) than he is with evangelicals in the UK.N. T. isn't really included in the evangelical fold over here. Any thoughts on why that might be the case?

I haven't worked out why that is the case but the same has been true with C. S. Lewis, and Alister McGrath.

John H said...

DJP: no, the point I've been wanting to criticise has been the same all along. Fine, say that Wright was wrong to suggest that you can be a Christian without believing in the resurrection, and that his description of Borg "lov[ing] Jesus and believ[ing] in him passionately" was a bit lame. I wish NTW had found a stronger way of putting it, even taking into account his personal friendship with Borg (if a friend of mine felt my theological views were so seriously in error that I had stepped outside the bounds of salvation then I'd rather he told me to my face rather than telling a journalist first, thanks all the same).

But you could have said all that without then going on to imply that Wright is a hypocrite whose commitment to Christian orthodoxy is merely "academic".

As for my asking people to come right out and say that Wright is not actually a Christian - OK, that was borderline troll-ish, is cheerfully withdrawn. But I submit that, in the course of this discussion, people have done everything but. (And I was a Calvinist long enough to know what is meant by saying, "We can only leave to God the question of X's salvation".)

And anyway, I notice that no-one seems inclined to exercise the same reticence towards Marcus Borg on the basis of his public statements. What's sauce for the goose...

Brad Williams said...

Dan,

With this and the languages post, you are making me a serious fanboy.

I am compelled to say here that the fact that N.T. Wright has written such supposedly great material and preached such great sermons on the resurrection actually makes his comments worse. I can handle someone ignorant of the issues saying "boneheaded" things, but if a doctor mistakes cancer for chicken pox I'm looking for a new doctor. Follow me?

Phil Johnson said...

From the Found on another blog department--

See, here's what I mean about the lengths to which NTWright aficionados will go to defend their boy. This is how one famous blogger "paraphrases" the point of Dan's post:

"[Wright] Never fails to affirm the Resurrection in grandly orthodox terms. [But] if he fudges in an interview somewhere, he’s denying the resurrection like the rest of those wack academics."

Huh?

Then, with a totally straight face, our critic adds this:

"The 'judgement of charity' is a phrase someone ought to get out and dust off."

Well, yuh.

But it's a pity "the judgment of charity" only works in favor of those who want to remodel the fundamental doctrines of Christianity and against the rest of us. I guess the more beer you drink the more remarks like those begin to make sense, but...wow.

This whole thread is a textbook example of what happens when anyone questions the wisdom of anything the redoubtable Bishop publishes or says. As I said, it was completely predictable. It happens--

ALL. THE. TIME.

In the long run, however, rather than mainstreaming Wright in the eyes of serious, conservative, biblically-minded evangelicals (assuming there are a few of these left), this kind of stuff is going to marginalize those who stick their fingers in their ears and say "La-la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you-if-you're-saying-anything-la-la-la" everytime someone expresses a serious concern about what Wright really means by what he says.

John H said...

those who stick their fingers in their ears and say "La-la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you-if-you're-saying-anything-la-la-la" everytime someone expresses a serious concern about what Wright really means by what he says.

There is an element of that, I admit. However, one of the joys of not being an Anglican anymore is that I can pick-and-choose with NT Wright (and with Rowan Williams, for that matter). When he's good he's really very very good, which is why I tend to bend over backwards to take a charitable view of the areas where I disagree with him (women bishops/presbyters, his frankly bizarre notions on what "Lutherans" believe, etc).

Anyway, my wife has met NT Wright and heard him speak in person. She assures me that he is most certainly the real deal. And my wife is a much better judge of these things than I am - anyone caring to disagree can meet me outside in the car park of the Boars Head Tavern to settle this man to man. ;-)

Peace out, guys. :-)

DJP said...

John H --

Fine, say that Wright was wrong to suggest that you can be a Christian without believing in the resurrection

That's pretty much what I did.

As to Borg -- it was Wright who brought him up, not the writer. So why not just (act like someone who believes the NT and) say that no, in fact you cannot legitimately call yourself a Christian while denying the bodily resurrection of Christ? Leave names out of it, and tell the plain truth.

And what kind of "friend" is he to Borg, let alone pastor to his sheep, if he enables the lie Borg tells himself, publicly and gratuitously? How many people will use this statement to pad their consciences on the way to Hell?

Friends don't let friends go to Hell without challenging their damning delusions, it seems to me.

Dan

Martin Downes said...

I began my first pastorate in September 2005. For my first Sunday morning series I preached from the first twenty verses of 1 Cor 15. I did this so that the church would know what I and they needed to believe as of first importance.

I began my third sermon with the words "To be a Christian you must believe in the resurrection of the dead".

I cannot believe that it is a mark of charity to excuse the sentiments that provoked this post. It would be closer to the mark to call it a loss of integrity, a failure to hold together the differnt spheres in which we are called to confess the truth. I do not think that calling attention to this fact (the content of the interview) is in any way directly linked with sinful motives. It is a matter of serious concern.

Even So... said...

Romans 10:9

Jon said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
kletois said...

"Anne: You are taking one interview over thousands of pages of work, hundreds of sermons, etc."

Mr Spenser, the problem is that alot of people reading the Australian HAVEN'T read Wright's book. Hence, Wright (who knows how to handle an interview) erred greatly in his choice of words. Basically he has hung himself over the issue of a basic doctrinal cornerstone of Christianity.
While it is important that we acknowledge Wright's work in the defense of the bodily resurrection, we must ask whether Wright is true to his convictions when he doesn't call a spade a spade, and say Borg isnt a Christian.

Kim said...

Phil:

Darlene points out an irony: When someone is arguing against people who are concerned that one of his heroes hasn't taken the resurrection seriously enough, he ought to refrain from speaking of the premier event in Christianity as "the Rez."

Please tell Darlene that she is my hero.

I'm no theologian, and I don't have the eloquence that many of the commenters have here, but it seems to me that if one denies the resurrection, but feels passionate about Jesus, he is passionate about a man, and nothing more.

agonizomai said...

I don't know much about N.T. Wright other than his reputation. Never read anything he wrote. Only heard him speak once. But the basic facts don't seem to be in dispute - that Wright has a friend named Borg who does not believe in the resurrection, but whom Wright categorized publicly as a fine Christian regardless.

Anyone who knows anything understands that when dealing with Borg resistance is futile. Maybe Wright understands this. Of course, not resisting inevitably leads to assimilation.

Behind this lighthearted jibe lies the truth that unless the denial of essential doctrine - particularly by those in positions of responsibility - is countered, corrected, rebuked, or reproved (whatever the right word is) when we have light and it lies in our power to do so is a dereliction equally as bad as the original error. This is how Christianity is undermined - instance by instance, word by word, declaration by decaration - inch by inch. If we don't resist the forces of darkness that are pressing upon us then it is we who are in danger of being assimilated into paganism, and not the pagans, like Borg, who will be assimilated in true Christianity. This seems so self-evident that I am flabbergasted that anyone would seek to excuse Wright's "faux-pas". We don't have to condemn Wright - just to call what he has said in this instance egregious error - which it is. And this is all that DJP has done.

There seems to be a reluctance on the behalf of some academics to call a spade a spade. Reminds me of an Os Guiness after dinner talk I heard on the internet. An Eastern gentleman was the first to rise during the question period, obviously spoiling for a fight. The gist of the questioner's monolgue was a complaint that Christianity claimed to be exclusive, and that all who did not believe the gospel would be condemned. I would have just thanked the guy for his clear understanding of the claims of Christ (better than many in the church, apparently) and confirmed unequivocally that that is exactly what Christ claims. Poor old Os, however, tried six ways from Sunday to evade the question, to turn it back on the asker or to mitigate the plain truth. Eventually he did admit that Christianity was exclusive - but by then all credibility had evaporated, the moment was lost and the damage done.

I sure glad I'm just a simple Joe. - Blessings

Phil Johnson said...

Jon, you've been around here long enough to know better.

But I'll tell you what: When Wright retracts that statement and asks forgiveness, I'll make a prominent post expressing my forgiveness and congratulating him for his humility.

If you are claiming that he has already done that, send me the quote, and we'll give it all the publicity we can.

In the meantime, given his prominence and the obvious extent of his influence among readers of this blog, it's fair to recognize and complain about the sinister implications of his statement.

And comments like yours pleading for "charity" while aiming to be insulting pretty much refute themselves, don't you think?

Chuck said...

All I know is, Phil called himself a prophet. Good ol' Adrian Warnock finally got through to him, I'm afraid.

DJP said...

Jon and Dr. Thomas -- I don't know what you're responding to, but it mostly isn't my essay.

And as to whether Wright believes that affirming Jesus' bodily resurrection is optional or not, here you go, one more time:

Given that I was commenting, statedly and specifically, on an interview in which Wright in fact and in so many words states that Marcus Borg both (A) is a Christian who (B) loves Jesus and (C) passionately believes, and (D) denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus, my comment is undeniably accurate.

Put even more simply and briefly:

If Wright is "quite sure" that resurrection-denying Marcus Borg is a Christian, how can affirming the resurrection be anything but optional to him?

Some of the discussion in the comments, and in other blogs, rather amazes me. My little essay's only about 530 words long -- and yet it has been enthusiastically misrepresented. People who clearly have misunderstood this short piece feel free to criticize it. But one is forbidden to have an opinion about direct quotations in an article, unless he's read, understood, and absorbed all of Wright's thousands of published pages?

Just doesn't chart, for me.

Phil Johnson said...

Donsands: I deleted your comment not because it was a Rule 2 violation (which it was), but because the joke itself was so lame.

:-)

DJP said...

Tony -- We don't have to condemn Wright - just to call what he has said in this instance egregious error - which it is. And this is all that DJP has done.

Bingo.

I'm struggling to express an irony.

The folks who miss that simple, single point of my brief essay, often imply (and more) that our problem is we're just too stupid to understand the thousands of pages Wright has written.

Like they do.

Habitans in Sicco said...

I guess when you can't stay and defend stupid comments you have made here, you can always go back and misrepresent what is being said here in some place where everyone is soused and sympathetic.

DJP said...

Not everyone, entirely, habitans.

donsands said...

Phil, I apologize for the lame joke, and for the rule breaking.
It won't happen again.
You are gracious.

This verse came to mind as I read the different comments.

"But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches ANOTHER Jesus whom we have not preached," 2 Cor. 11:3-4

farmboy said...

At the end of the day, this post and the comments that follow are not primarily about N. T. Wright. Instead, this post and the comments that follow are primarily about the truth. As humans, our time on earth is brief, but truth is eternal.

Based on several of the comments Mr. Wright has written extensively defending the historicity of the resurrection. In this regard he has arrived at the same conclusion as many others who have studied the evidence surrounding the resurrection: Based on the evidence, Jesus Christ did, in fact, rise from the dead.

Mr. Wright is a competent, capable scholar. He knows to choose his words and examples carefully. He also knows that the historicity of the resurrection is not embraced by many in the church and the academy.

Thus, why did Mr. Wright choose to interject the beliefs of Marcus Borg into the interview? Through his discussion of Mr. Borg's beliefs, Mr. Wright implicitly states that even though he believes in the historicity of the resurrection he also believes that the historicity of the resurrection is not an essential component of Christian doctrine.

Mr. Wright could have taken a different route: Without ever mentioning Mr. Borg, Mr. Wright could have explicitly stated that while the evidence supports the historicity of the resurrection, the historicity of the resurrection is not an essential component of Christian doctrine.

Explicit statements such as these remove the "Wright's not weak on the resurrection, he's just being kind to a friend" defense and the cover it provides from the discussion, and Wright knows this.

The truth matters, and clarity is one of the truth's most valued servants. Is the historicity of the resurrection an essential Christian doctrine? Paul's answer is a crystal, clear "Yes!" Based on the contents of the interview, Mr. Wright's answer is a muddled "No."

Craig Schwarze said...

A friend of mine, Ruth, asked me to post the following comment. She is a gentle soul, so any comments in response should take that into account.

*****


I am an Australian, who knows little about NTW. I do know from personal experience, however, that newspapers here, and I assume around the world, can often distort, misrepresent, twist and mistquote the words of Christians when reporting.

djp wrote:"it was Wright who brought him [borg] up, not the writer."

How do you know that?? Do you really think that everything that was said between the reporter and NTW was written in the acticle?

I am appalled that anyone is denying the bodily resurrection of my saviour, and I think that such denial by a teacher (i assume Borg is a teacher) is clearly dealt with in Gal.1.

However, I wouldn't want to be relying too much on the word of a secular reporter out to sell a story. Perhaps if there were other sources of NTW saying these things, more could be assumed??

donsands said...

My job bumps me into many people. The other day I was conversing with the service man on a brand new home which I went to service as well. He shared with me how his house was haunted. As he spoke of the footsteps in the attic, I prayed how I might share the good news with him. He was sure of the ghosts,and that they were soldiers who died in the Civil War, for he lived in a 125 yr. old house in Gettysburg PA.
To cut to the chase, i shared that i only believe in One Ghost, the Holy Ghost. This opened the door for much discussion. From evolution to the Bible and its authenticity, and much more.

But my point is this, after all was said and done, the bottom line was an empty tomb. And he did not believe, no way he believed Jesus Christ rose from the dead. He believed there was a Jesus, and this was a good family man, with good morals, a Jewish man, but he rejected the Resurrection.
Could he become a Christian, if we agreed on everything else, and I simply left the truth of the empty tomb out?
I don't think so.

kletois said...

CraigS,
I wonder if anyone has brought the article to the attention of N.T. Wright, and if so, has he responded?

DJP said...

Craig -- I surely agree with Ruth about the media, which is why I based my comments on the direct quotations, and nothing else.

The article certainly presents it as if Wright brought up Borg:

"I have friends who I am quite sure are Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection," he says carefully, citing another eminent scholar, American theologian Marcus Borg....

But let's suppose he didn't. What of it? The interviewer asks, "Is Marcus Borg a Christian?" Would Ruth suggest that Wright only had one option open to him?

You see, Craig and Ruth, here's part of what kills me about all the refusals simply to deal with what Wright said. On the one hand, he's exalted as this towering international figure, this super-genius, and we unwashed are cautioned not to touch the Lord's anointed (i.e. question anything he says).

But on the other hand, and at the same time, he's defended as if he's this inept, blundering, ill-spoken rube who keeps getting blinded by the flash of the cameras, and keeps misspeaking -- but it doesn't really count.

I just can't conceive that he was unable to say, if it was the reporter who pressed the issue, "Look, I'm not going to discuss Marcus Borg's soul with you. But I will say this: the bodily resurrection of Jesus is central to any Christian faith worthy of the name, and without it, the whole collapses. What's more, any Jesus who did not rise bodily from the dead is a fantasy figure, and is certainly not the Jesus of history."

So let's deal with what Wright actually said, shall we? It actually strikes me as the more respectful way to proceed: assume the man meant what he said, and not try too hard to save him from himself, as if he were an incompetent.

Craig Schwarze said...

I think there is so much baggage in the "Wright Debate" that it is difficult to have objective discussions.

I agree that it is respectful to let Wright speak for himself. But newspaper "bites" are not the best way to assess his views.

Does Wright think the Resurrection is important? I think his books and articles and sermons all show that he does.

Even in the little quotes above, Wright is bending over backwards to say that Borg's position is very flawed.

I believe Pyromaniacs is at its best when the focus is on the issues rather than the personalities. This is very difficult to do with Wright, I know.

The issue raised seems to be "Can you be a Christian if you believe in a spiritual rather than a physical resurrection?"

Perhaps we can debate that. Obviously from this thread, most people would answer "No!" Can we tease that out a bit further? What is the problem with a spiritual resurrection? Why can't a person who believes in it be saved? What is the best way to respond to someone who says they have faith in Christ, but believe in a spiritual rather than physical resurrection?

These seem like productive questions to me.

DJP said...

Okay, Dr. Thomas; but what about what Wright said? Marcus Borg denies the resurrection, and Wright is "quite sure" he loves Jesus, believes passionately, and is a Christian. What about that?

kletois said...

CraigS, the resurrection of Christ is physical, Paul makes that clear, as does N.T. Wright. According to Paul in 1st Corinthians 15, his gospel, and its saving power, rested on an acknowledgement of physical resurrection. The bodily resurrection was fufillment of Scripture (v4), and so is validation that Christ's work has been both successful and victorious. In all honesty I must ask, what else is there to debate about?

Mike Y said...

CraigS, honestly, I was pretty content to bow out for while. But your last post has caused me to jump back in. I'm really not sure what you're trying to suggest by the notion of a spiritual resurrection. I'm with kletois on this one. Scripture seems to make it clear that we're talking about a physical resurrection. What purpose would a spiritual one serve? So, we have a spiritual death, a spiritual rebirth... why not a spiritual resurrection? Besides the fact that I can't derive any support for it, I can take no comfort in it either. If the Lord couldn't raise himself from the dead, how could I have hope for myself?

Sorry not to indulge you on this one, but the bodily resurrection is quite necessary to our faith.

-Mike

Paul Lamey said...

Dr thomas said, “if you want an epistemological apology for the authenticity of the bible and the resurrection like no one else (including Doug Wilson or Phil Johnson), Wright is your man.”

Not so fast. I have read Wright so much that I sometimes feel like I might finally leave Starbucks for PG tips. I think Wright’s book on the resurrection is great in many respects but lets not loose ourselves in praise for this doorstop of a volume. For starters, the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not bolstered in the least bit by interaction with the literature of the 2nd Temple period (which Wright does a lot). Secondly, in no way shape or form does the resurrection receive more credibility when the arguments of Jesus Seminar rationalists are answered line for line. No my dear friends (BHT folks too) the resurrection stands only on the merits of the text of Scripture alone. So when one strips away the 2nd Temple stuff and the Jesus Seminar stuff from Wright’s book, one is left with only unfinished interaction concerning the text of Scripture. Wright’s “The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God)” comes up short in the area of what I would call implications. The fruit of this shortcoming is his failure to see that some preach in vain and some have a worthless faith (cf. 1 Cor. 15:14-17) even if they pay lip service to “love” for Jesus.

Craig Schwarze said...

To kletois and Mike, the point of my post was to try and draw the thread into a discussion of the issues rather than a discussion of Wright and Borg.

CraigS, the resurrection of Christ is physical, Paul makes that clear, as does N.T. Wright.

Absolutely. The irony of this debate is that that NT Wright is one of the most vocal defenders of the physical resurrection going around.

Now, it is not plain from the (secular) newspaper quotes exactly what Borg believes. This in itself is enough to give us pause before assigning anyone to an eternal destiny.

However, I am aware of a debate between belief in a physical resurrection and a spiritual resurrection. I am assuming (from the tiny snippet in the newspaper) that Borg believes in a spiritual resurrection.

Those who believe in a spiritual resurrection actually take their beliefs from 1 Corinthians 15! These are the verses they point to (42f) -

"So is it with the resurrection...It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit...I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,"

Now, I believe Borg et al have misunderstood this passage. And so does Wright, and he has written hundreds of pages defending the physical resurrection.

But there is a real debate going on. Is it adequate to say "Well, its obvious" - or should we seek to engage the arguments?

donsands said...

So after all is said and done, there is no way someone can be a born again Christain unless he believes Chist has risen from the dead. I say Amen to that.

However, some would say there are some born again Chritians who believe that some can be born again without believing Christ has risen from being dead.

And there are some born again Christians who believe, that you can not be a born again Christian, if you believe someone can be a born again Chritian without believing Christ has risen from the dead.

So those who say they are born again, who believe that Christ has risen from the dead, and say that you can be a born again Chritain without believing Christ has risen from the dead, are not born again.

Human wisdom can be confusing, to say the least.
The Word of God is a light and a lamp in this darkness.

Paul Lamey said...

Dr Thomas writes, “But remember that Wright has devoted much of his ministry to discussion with academics.” I must have missed that in the preface. I thought he was a “Bishop” which last time I checked meant one who leads, feeds, and instructs the church of Jesus Christ.

Nevertheless, the Apostle Paul stands before the philosophers of the Areopagus and declares the truth of the resurrection (Acts 17:31) by meeting them where they are (17:23, 28) but NOT borrowing from their sources to bolster his argument for the resurrected Lord. Yet you say, Wright “can't point to the last few chapters of Luke. He has to point to the last two chapters of Luke and say that is what Luke says and this is consistent with the rest of the 2nd temple literature so it is authentic” Dr Thomas you have illustrated my point. The truth of the resurrection is authentic whether it gels with 2nd Temple literature or not. What do you mean by “so it is authentic”? Is it “authentic” for academics only when it is confirmed by their standards of authenticity? How does such a view square with sola scriptura?

Craig Schwarze said...

but NOT borrowing from their sources to bolster his argument

Well, Paul *does* borrow from one of their poets to reinforce his point...

Craig Schwarze said...

How does such a view square with sola scriptura?

Well, sola scriptura says that scripture alone is the final authority, rather than scripture and tradition. It doesn't mean we shouldn't listen to anythone else.

For example, Calvin spends a lengthy chapter in the Institutes defending Scripture on the basis of natural reason (1.8).

Out of interest, do you believe in apologetics? I know that some Christians do not. And some in the Van Tillian camp are positively offended by evidentialist apologetics.

Paul Lamey said...

Craigs,

Not exactly. I assume you’re referring to Acts 17:28. Paul’s point is to use their sources against them. Essentially saying, “even your own poets say you belong to God. Therefore let me correct your understanding of this God (17:29) and proclaim the gospel of this God to you (vv30-31).” Nowhere does Paul use outside arguments to bolster his argument for the resurrection. He simply proclaims it through the word preached. I am not arguing that apologetics are not necessary. To the contrary, Paul engages in defending the gospel but he does so without conceding ground (unlike Wright) or borrowing from outside sources to bolster his argument (also uncharacteristic of Wright for those familiar with his writing).

Craig Schwarze said...

I am not arguing that apologetics are not necessary. To the contrary, Paul engages in defending the gospel

Ok. Say someone said to you "I don't believe Jesus existed." Is it appropriate, in your view, to point to the non-Christian references to Jesus as evidence of his existence?

Paul Lamey said...

Craigs,

I think I'm making a fairly simple point that might easily be lost here. The resurrection is not MORE true when dressed up in arguments from outside the text. While looking at such things as scientific evidences and other forms of literature (e.g., 2nd Temple) may help to clear away the brush, in no way does it make the Truth more TRUE. So I'm not opposed to looking at such things but they should not be the focus of the argument.

Paul Lamey said...

"Is it appropriate, in your view, to point to the non-Christian references to Jesus as evidence of his existence?"

Again, such might help to clear away the brush but salvation is not through a rationalistic encounter with the evidence."Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?" (1 Cor. 1:20). Paul clearly says "the world through its wisdom did not know God" (1 Cor. 1:21).

In Wright's case and contrary to what some have argued, I don't think apologetics is his strong position. He seems more concerned with reputation and acceptance in the academic world even though he wears the title of "Bishop". By comparison the Apostle Paul considered his pedigree to be cow dung (Phil. 3:8).

Phil Johnson said...

CraigS: "Does Wright think the Resurrection is important? I think his books and articles and sermons all show that he does."

Yeah, but again, that's not the issue we're talking about. I would absolutely affirm (and have affirmed) that Wright thinks the resurrection is "important." In fact, given the amount of material he has written defending the resurrection, I'd say that's a self-evident assertion. And I haven't seen anyone here accuse him of saying the resurrection itself is "unimportant." You and Dr. Thomas are arguing against a point no one has made.

The question is about whether he sees belief in the resurrection as essential.

Contrary to the iMonk's constant claim, I have read a considerable amount of Wright's material, and I have even acknowledged repeatedly that the bishop's defense of the historicity of the resurrection is quite good.

On the question of whether belief in the resurrection is essential to authentic faith, however, I have never seen an unequivocal answer from Wright until I read this interview. In fact, it's the kind of question the Bishop usually answers with skillfully-crafted ambiguities. For that reason, I was surprised to read what he said in the published interview.

But I'm not surprised if that's what he actually thinks. As I said in an earlier comment, I am on record saying (more than two years ago) that I think his views on justification seem laced with a tincture of radical inclusivism, if not completely driven by ecumenical motives.

In reply to your friend Ruth's excellent observation, one of the reasons I said nothing about this story when it surfaced last week was that it was based on a newspaper report, and I don't trust them. But the story has been all over the blogosphere for almost a week now. I'm surprised it generated so much discussion here, because it's been discussed in many other venues already. And I have listened in vain for a clarification or explanation or denial from Wright. Instead, the blogosphere is practically choked with people who say they deplore this statement, but solemnly assure us we should not think any less of Wright for having said it. No one—including Wright's most ardent supporters—has seriously challenged the report's authenticity.

And, Craig, while I appreciate your suggestion about what would be "more productive questions" (and you are welcome to pose those questions at your blog), the question Dan raised here has to do with the propriety of the very culture of "scholarship" that you and Dr. Thomas seem to be pleading for and making excuses for.

I put the word scholarship in scare quotes because I don't think what you envision as "scholarship" is really anything of the kind.

But you're not alone. I'd say the chief besetting sin of evangelicalism has always been its inability (or refusal) to see the difference between real scholarship (which is always a good thing) and academic respectability, (which always comes at too high a price).

(Incidentally, it's ironic to hear you complaining that this is all just too personal.)

Craig Schwarze said...

And I haven't seen anyone here accuse him of saying the resurrection itself is "unimportant." You and Dr. Thomas are arguing against a point no one has made.

In Dan's original post he wrote "...Wright has a view of Christianity that pencils in the bodily resurrection of Jesus as an optional add-on..."

the question Dan raised here has to do with the propriety of the very culture of "scholarship" that you and Dr. Thomas seem to be pleading for and making excuses for.

I am not making excuses for any "culture of scholarship".

I put the word scholarship in scare quotes because I don't think what you envision as "scholarship" is really anything of the kind.

Where have I defined "scholarship"? None of my comments in this thread have touched on it.

(Incidentally, it's ironic to hear you complaining that this is all just too personal.)

Was that really necessary? I have written here as graciously as I am able. I suppose the readers of this blog will have to decide if Phil's comment is fair or not.

DJP said...

That's right, Craig; I indeed wrote, in part, "...Wright has a view of Christianity that pencils in the bodily resurrection of Jesus as an optional add-on..."

That seems to be the favorite pull-quote of the Wright-makes-right set.

But what about dealing with the undeniable legitimacy of that statement? It feels tacky to quote myself, but I feel as if some are commenting on the post and the thread without reading it. So here it is, in part for a THIRD time:

Given that I was commenting, statedly and specifically, on an interview in which Wright in fact and in so many words states that Marcus Borg both (A) is a Christian who (B) loves Jesus and (C) passionately believes, and (D) denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus, my comment is undeniably accurate.

Put even more simply and briefly:

If Wright is "quite sure" that resurrection-denying Marcus Borg is a Christian, how can affirming the resurrection be anything but optional to him?

Is there some immensely-popular yet undocumented definition of "optional" that means something other than "possible but not necessary; left to personal choice"? Is that why I seemingly have to keep answering this same point over and over and over?

Gryphonette said...

You know, I would be thinking it's a wide-enough-to-let-a-team-of-Clydesdales-through definition of "Christian" which is at the heart of Wright's statement, except for the "passionately loving Jesus" part.

For my part, "Christian" means one who will be - or presently is - in glory with Christ. I don't hold to the "there are lots of Christians in hell" definition so popular today.

If Wright hadn't insisted Borg "passionately loves Jesus" I'd assume he simply meant not all members of the visible church, i.e. self-avowed Christians, believe in Christ's bodily resurrection. That'd be, regrettably, a fair and accurate statement.

But Wright did include the "passionately loves Jesus" qualifier, which makes the above definition untenable.

Anne

DJP said...

Anne -- perhaps the "Wright-makes-right" set will postulate a lost video showing that the good Bishop made little hookey-quotation-marks with his fingers, and rolled his eyes, when he said "loves Jesus"?

Mike Y said...

Okay Dan, the little "hookey quote" comment got me rolling pretty good for the morning. I think I needed that.

-Mike

Gryphonette said...

The more I think about it, the more it seems the focus should be shifted away from Wright's comments about Borg and on to his comment here: "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."

The implication is that a church that denies Christ's physical resurrection is merely "unhealthy".

Now, see, I'd say a church that denies the physical resurrection of Christ is dead as a mackerel.

Is it obligatory for a church/denomination to believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ to qualify as a true church?

I'd say a hearty YES!, while Wright presumably would say no.

Phil Johnson said...

CraigS: "I have written here as graciously as I am able. I suppose the readers of this blog will have to decide if Phil's comment is fair or not."

I wasn't referring to what you have written here. I think you knew that, though.

Pastor Rod said...

Exactly how does one point out what he considers self-righteous behavior and unwarranted personal attacks without being labeled as a hypocrite and dismissed?

DJP said...

Interesting tangent, in some contexts, I guess, Rod. Perhaps something for your blog?

Back to the topic we're on here -- did you have a comment on the essay, or Wright's saying one can be a believing lover fo Jesus while rejecting the resurrection of Jesus?

Habitans in Sicco said...

Rod: See Matthew 7:5 for Jesus' answer to your question.

Also, when personally attacking someone for making unwarranted personal attacks, it always helps to focus on why the criticism you object to is "unwarranted."

For example, when someone wonders why a vaunted expert on the Resurrection would claim that another "scholar" who rejects almost the totality of Scripture and worships a dead man "loves Jesus and believes in him passionately"--it helps you actually address that issue (and not a whole lot of imaginary ones) before you accuse the person who voiced the concern of being self-righteous and overly personal.

Otherwise, you DO look pretty hypocritical.

Phil Johnson said...

Evan May cuts to the chase:

So here is my curiosity question for Mr. Hunter, Mr. Spencer, and others: was Wright’s statement wrong, or was it not wrong? And if it was wrong, what, exactly, is your beef with Dan Phillips?"

Read the whole thing here. He nails it.

Gryphonette said...

You know, it's been enlightening to see how misunderstood that passage in 1 Corinthians 15 is. I'd thought it was pretty well universally accepted that Paul was correcting some Corinthian believers who didn't grasp that there is a future physical resurrection for us all (happy for the sheep; real depressing for the goats), and he used Christ's physical resurrection as proof of it.

Anne

Al said...

I guess the BODILY resurrection of Christ is worthy of a triple digit comment section! WaaaHoo!

Phil Johnson said...

Meanwhile, over at the Boar's Head this issue has unleashed some very revealing interaction. Turns out not everyone over there believes in the bodily resurrection, either.

Once they get past the question of whether the resurrection is a "Greek" idea (hence capable of rational meaning) or a "Hebrew" concept (these apparently aren't required to abide by the law of non-contradiction or other basic principles of reason)--it'll be interesting to see what they collectively decide about how to explain what it means to "believe" in the "reality" of the resurrection.

In Michael Spencer's mind, the heart of the debate seems to boil down to "prov[ing] we are Christians to the satisfaction of the ["TR"] gauntlet."

Christopher disagrees. He thinks the argument that needs to be made is that "as an Event, [the resurrection] needn't coincide with historical 'facts.'"

Which I guess helps explain why the Tavern-dudes were so keen to defend Wright's warm endorsement of Marcus Borg's "passionate love for Jesus." If you're trying to validate your collective credentials as True Believers but you have people in your midst who are prepared to argue that even the apostle Paul did not really argue for the historicity of the resurrection, it really helps to have a scholar of Tom Wright's stature on your side.

Anyway, this should be interesting: a preview, in microcosm, of how "post-evangelicalism" must inevitably collapse on itself.

Michael Spencer said...

Which proves the Tavern is made up of 40 people who don't agree about much. "The Tavern," isn't a club for the like minded.

Rejoice in the spectacle of disagreement. It's so rare at the BHT that we aren't marching in lockstep behind my emergent pomo lead.

You surely know better than to imply that the BHT is full of people denying the resurrection.

Al said...

Adam's sin was incarnational, it came with tongue and teeth. The second Adam's coming and rising must be equally incarnational or we are still in our sins.

Acts 2:27-31 27 For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of joy in Your presence.’[d]

29 “Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne,[e] 31 he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption.

How can anyone say that they love Jesus but (in effect) despise his resurrection? This is heart of Christianity!!!

thearmoury said...

Dan - This was a good post. I'm glad that you submitted it. This thread has exposed a crucial question, with or without Bishop Wright and his followers: if we love the Lord (1 Peter 1:3-6) and care deeply about the souls of men, then do we have the liberty to nominalize the historical truth of Christ's bodily resurrection? To this question, Paul's teaching in 1 Corinthians 15 renders a loud me genetai, may it never be. This discussion ought to strengthen our resolve to hold dearly to this crucial truth concerning Christ's resurrection (that's resurrection without a z).

Additionally, what has been confounding is this renewed attempt by modern "scholarship" to segregate the teachings of Christ from that of the Apostles, as though the Bible's one foundation could be divided at all(Ephesians 2:20). Rejecting, or even nominalizing the words of the Apostles is a terribly grave matter, and must not be taken lightly.: 1 John 4:6 "We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error."

So can anyone genuinely argue that a person can love Jesus and disbelieve the Gospels as historical, thereby rejecting the physical resurrection? I think the real question is, why would anyone want to argue such a thing in the first place (2 John 8-11)?

steve said...

You know, when I read Wright's tribute to Marcus Borg, it reminds me of Harry Emerson Fosdick's sermon on "The Peril of Worshipping Jesus."

What's the difference between Borg and Fosdick?

Habitans in Sicco said...

Phil Johnson: "Turns out not everyone over there believes in the bodily resurrection, either."

Michael Spencer: "The whole tavern is denying the resurrection! We knew it all along!"

as if we needed more evidence that the iMonk cannot handle honest criticism honestly.

Like I said yesterday, when you cannot stand and defend your position, lobbing misrepresntations from a distance is as good a tactic as any.

Gryphonette said...

That's an extremely good point about Wright's being COE. Any communion that considers John Spong to be "muddled" but otherwise okay, is one that is uncomfortable with any strong affirmations of any kind.


How very po-mo of them. ;^)

John H said...

There was an excellent post on the BHT earlier today that did engage with 1 Corinthians 15 in some detail.

In particular, the writer, Joel Hunter, makes the point that Paul addressed the resurrection-doubters at Corinth as believers, not as apostates. He warned them that their faith would be in vain if Jesus hadn't risen from the dead, he made it very clear that the resurrection is a non-negotiable in the Christian faith, but he didn't actually denounce them as apostates.

Indeed, Wright's phrase, "very, very muddled", would be a good description of the Corinthian church on all sorts of levels, but at all times Paul insists on addressing them as "the saints at Corinth", not the "so-called saints whose errors in life and doctrine show they're not actually Christians at all, as I was careful to make very clear to that journalist from the Rome Gazette".

I'd be interested in any responses to that interpretation of 1 Cor 15.

John H said...

Oh, and as a quick education in British English idiom, it's "C of E", not "COE". :-)

DJP said...

Oh, John H, glad you're still around.

I was wondering when you'd respond to my questions to you, when I answered yours to me. To make it easier for you:

And what kind of "friend" is he to Borg, let alone pastor to his sheep, if he enables the lie Borg tells himself, publicly and gratuitously? How many people will use this statement to pad their consciences on the way to Hell?

Friends don't let friends go to Hell without challenging their damning delusions, it seems to me.

Evan May said...

Dr. Thomas:

Highest authorities will naturally involve some circularity. If you appeal to anything higher, then it isn't your highest authority. For instance, "Reason is my highest authority because that is reasonable to me." This type of circularity is unavoidable, but it isn’t viciously circular.

Concerning defending the Bible, we don't assume its falsehood in order to prove its truth; we don't deny our faith in order to establish it. Rather, we presuppose it in order to prove it.

In other words, data such as historical evidence will not be intelligently understood without a worldview that allows for the reliability of such data. For instance, assuming an atheistic worldview in order to prove the inspiration of Scripture self-destructs, for the atheistic worldview doesn't allow for the intelligibility of evidence to begin with (and atheistic presuppositions altogether oppose divine inspiration from the start). Yes, we can defend the reliability of the Bible through historical means. But assuming the negation of our worldview does not aid this. We must start with a self-justifying, rational first premise from which we can raise our arguments.

Evan May said...

I'd be interested in any responses to that interpretation of 1 Cor 15.

John:

Phil linked to my response to that post a few comments above.

Thanks,
Evan.

Phil Johnson said...

John h: The article by Evan May, which was linked in an earlier comment, is a response to the BHT item you referred to.

Neil said...

If there was no literal bodily resurrection of Jesus, then at best Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, everything Paul wrote, 1 Peter, and some books I've missed cannot be read in their plain sense, and at worse, they contain massive falsehoods and they attribute lies to Jesus.

If there was no literal bodily resurrection of Jesus, then you probably also reject the bodily resurrections performed by Elijah and Elisha and Jesus and Peter and Paul, so Acts and 2 Kings become books of lies.

If there was no literal bodily resurrection of Jesus, then you possibly have issues with some of the other supernatural events filling the Bible from cover to cover.

If there was no literal bodily resurrection of Jesus, then the first fruits analogies throughout the new and old testaments are bogus.

If there was no literal bodily resurrection of Jesus, then with the greatest respect, you do not believe in the historical Jesus, and you've picked at the Bible like a plate full of food, some of which suits your palate, and some of which does not.

If you do not believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, then you can't be saved unless there is more than one way to be saved.

If my friends do not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, then I as a friend have an urgent duty to point out their grievous error.

NPP, spiritual resurrection only, my friend loves Jesus so much, etc. etc. It's all very nice and inclusive, and it's all so against what the Bible plainly says over and over.

Sorry, done my rant now. I'm just kind of flummoxed that anyone found much to dispute with the point Dan made in his post.

John H said...

Thank you for your warm welcome. I feel positively hugged.

Also, I thought your comments that you helpfully reprint - for the record, I'm about eight hours ahead of you here so I'd actually gone to bed when you posted them the first time - were rhetorical questions.

FWIW, it seems fairly clear that NT Wright has, and does, challenge Borg on this issue and is seeking to encourage Borg towards orthodoxy. Not being privy to the details of their relationship I do not consider it any of my business to speculate on how well or how badly Wright is doing this.

Yes, friends don't let friends go to hell without challenging their damnable errors of doctrine. But that doesn't necessarily entail a no-holds-barred direct confrontation - patient coaxing and encouragement can have its place - and it certainly doesn't entail denouncing those friends to every passing journalist.

John H said...

Sorry, that last comment should have been directed to Dan.

Ewan and Phil: thanks for the link to Ewan's site. At this precise moment Ewan's site appears to be a bit sluggish but I'll check his response out.

Guy Davies said...

Dan,

I have profited from Wright's work on the resurrection of Christ. But I am not surprised by his comments re Borg. The introduction to The Meaning of Jesus claims that Wright and Borg, "both acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth as Lord". The intro explains that the authors engaged in prayer and took the Lord's Supper together in preparation for writing the book. (p. viii).

In the book, Wright ably defends an orthodox view of Jesus' virgin birth, resurrection and divinity etc. Borg denies each of these essential truths (and more).

Paul clearly taught the Corinthians only maintained their identity as "saved" people if they held fast to the gospel of a resurrected Christ, (1 Cor 15:1-3). To deny the bodily resurrection of Christ is to opt out of Christian salvation.

Guy Davies

Michael Spencer said...

The BHT, unlike your blogs, is not an attempt to gather "True Believers" into a group.

The BHT rules state that if someone disagrees with a commonly accepted interpretation of an item in the Apostle's Creed, they shouldn't complain if they get pummeled.

One BHT member is talking about the reSURRECTION in a way that has several other members pummeling them at the moment.

A "wide ranging web log conversation" is exactly that.

Matt Gumm said...

DJP (quoting N.T. Wright) wrote: I have friends who I am quite sure are Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection

To John H, iMonk, & anyone else who cares to answer, a simple question:
On what biblical basis can anyone make this statement?

Paul Lamey said...

First Spencer said, “I'm gone. Should have never gotten into this” however the lure of exaggerating, mocking, and spewing beer foam all over the place couldn’t keep him away but I digress…

Now he exaggerates Phil’s fine point with, “You surely know better than to imply that the BHT is full of people denying the resurrection.”

I’m starting to wonder if there is a faux site also called “pyromaniacs” where Michael and co. are getting their information because his exaggerations are starting to make Geraldo Rivera look credible…seriously.

I have a question for Mr. Spencer. Warning: it is not very pomo or foot-noted with jargon about being “generous” and there’s not even a :) at the end. Is anyone who denies the resurrection holding on to a worthless faith and still in their sins? If so, should they be told they are “muddled” (and still “in”) or should they be warned to flee the wrath to come through repentance and faith in the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ?

Evan May said...

Oh, and John...I just have one quick question for you.

Earlier, it seemed like you were distancing yourself from Wright's statement, though you didn't agree with some of our reactions. Earlier, it seemed that you would agree that Wright's statement was wrong (for instnace, you said, "I think he is wrong to to suggest that you can be a Christian and not believe in the resurrection").

But now you seem to be advocating this particular interpretation of 1 Cor 15, to the extent that one who denies the bodily Resurrection of Christ can be welcomed as a fellow believer.

So, if I may simply ask you a clear question: Was Wright's statement wrong, or was it not wrong?

DJP said...

So, your dear friend describes you as someone who, whatever your shortcomings, "loves Jesus" and "believes passionately," and he says he is "quite sure" you're a Christian -- and your first thought is, "Oh, no -- my friend who knows and loves me is warning me that I'm going to Hell unless I repent and believe"?

More than time zones are different.

(c:

John H said...

DJP (quoting N.T. Wright) wrote: I have friends who I am quite sure are Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection

To John H, iMonk, & anyone else who cares to answer, a simple question:
On what biblical basis can anyone make this statement?


On no biblical basis whatever. Wright was wrong in saying this. I've said several times that I suspect Wright is displaying a surfeit of charity towards Borg, but equally I don't know Borg so I can't say for sure.

My beef with the OP and the subsequent comments has been the "Ha! Gotcha!" tone, the suggestion that these remarks have blown the gaffe and shown Wright in his true colours, revealed his true agenda, exposed him as a hypocrite who doesn't really believe the resurrection matters "where the rubber hits the road", etc. That goes further than Wright's comments warrant. That's all.

John H said...

So, your dear friend describes you as someone who, whatever your shortcomings, "loves Jesus" and "believes passionately," and he says he is "quite sure" you're a Christian -- and your first thought is, "Oh, no -- my friend who knows and loves me is warning me that I'm going to Hell unless I repent and believe"?

Perhaps my first thought is, "Well, that's not what you told me in your study in Durham".

But if that were all Wright had said to Borg in private: a pat on the arm, a "there, there, it's fine, you don't need to trouble yourself with believing in the resurrection if you don't want to", then yes, Wright would be letting his friend down very badly in that circumstance. But I really doubt that's the situation.

donsands said...

From Guy,

" ... Jesus' virgin birth, resurrection, and divinity etc., Borg denies each of these essential truths (and more)." ?

This looks to me like somebody who needs salvation in a big way, without a doubt.

Paul Lamey said...

John h,

So any attempt to apply 1 Cor. 15 outside an academic setting and to a real human being is a "gotcha" moment?

Also a bishop is to be above reproach and hold fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching. Would you say that Wright has failed in this area as a shepherd?

thearmoury said...

djp said: "Friends don't let friends go to Hell without challenging their damning delusions, it seems to me."

I think that this is one of the key points to uphold in this discussion. Along with this, our friendships with others must have a proper centerpiece:

John 15:14 “You are My friends, if you do what I command you."

John 8:31 “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;"

The best way that we can express love to others is by upholding the centrality of Christ, and His doctrine, as the centerpiece of all our affections and actions. It would seem to me that if I saw someone hanging at the edge of a cliff by their fingers my response wouldn't be: "well, you don't understand my friend here, his faith-journey, and his own tradition - he prefers to hang on the edge of a cliff."

Michael Spencer said...

Give a tr a thread of 100 posts, and pretty soon my salvation will be questioned.

http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/too-generous-orthodoxy

DJP said...

But John, whatever gentle admonitions Wright may have murmured over fish and chips, that isn't what he just told THE WORLD (wild gesticulation, not shouting). In terms of the article, he either himself brought up Borg (as stated), or took the bait about Borg, and told the world you can deny Christ's resurrection and still love Jesus, believe passionately, and undoubtedly be a Christian.

So is Wright an incompetent bumbler who mustn't be taken seriously, shouldn't be allowed to speak publicly, and needs to be saved from himself? Or shall we respect him as having capably said what he meant, and meant what said -- and wonder what it tells us about his own core convictions?

And this whole concern about our "tone" -- ah, deliver me. Too bad others hadn't already done Wright right so loudly and obviously that we poor obscurantists could have just watched in awe, applauded, and wiped tears from our eyes.

John H said...

So is Wright an incompetent bumbler who mustn't be taken seriously, shouldn't be allowed to speak publicly, and needs to be saved from himself? Or shall we respect him as having capably said what he meant, and meant what said -- and wonder what it tells us about his own core convictions?

Whoah, false dichotomy a-go-go!

Fine, wonder away. I think your conclusions about Wright's core convictions are way off beam - it's a bit of a leap from, "He's too willing to give his friends a pass" to "He's a coddler of heretics who doesn't really believe the resurrection matters", one which you obviously consider you can make and on which we'll have to disagree. I'm sure one thing we can heartily agree on is that this conversation is going round and round in circles and is best brought to an end.

And don't knock tone. There's a lot to be said for tone. Tone constitutes an awfully large part of communication. Compare Paul's tone in Romans 9:1-5 or 10:1. It's probably a standing rebuke to all of us, myself included, that I don't think anyone reading this thread could think that any of us participating in it "have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in [their] heart" and could wish that they themselves "were accursed and cut off from Christ" for the sake of Marcus Borg.

And with that, I will take my leave. Thank you for a stimulating discussion but I am supposed to be working...

Paul Lamey said...

“There are not a few parishes in England where the religious teaching is little better than Popery. Ought the laity of such parishes to sit still, be content, and take it quietly? They ought not. And why? Because, like St. Paul, they ought to prefer truth to peace. There are not a few parishes in England where the religious teaching is little better than morality. The distinctive doctrines of Christianity are never clearly proclaimed. Plato, or Seneca, or Confucius, or Socinus, could have taught almost as much. Ought the laity in such parishes to sit still, be content, and take it quietly? They ought not. And why? Because, like St. Paul, they ought to prefer truth to peace.”

J.C. Ryle, Bishop of Liverpool, from his sermon “The Fallibility of Ministers”

thearmoury said...

Michael Spencer -

Your post here (and on iMonk) raises a relevant question here - not about you in particular, but about Wright and Borg: Is there never a time in which a person should raise a question, or even express a doubt about another person's profession of faith - especially when there is a corruption of doctrine involved? Clearly, the query about a man's salvation can be made out of heartless indifference - and that is wrong; but when sound doctrine is being threatened, like the doctrine of Christ's bodily resurrection, should there not be sufficient care for Christ's glory, and the well being of men, that we should raise such questions and conerns?

Anonymous said...

On a historical note, J. Gresham Machen, while a student in Germany, once believed that the Liberal W. Herrmann was a Christian because of his passionate love for Jesus. Of course, he eventually came to see his error. See http://dpatrickramsey.blogspot.com/2006/04/machen-wright-and-liberalism.html

Gryphonette said...

Ah, J.C. Ryle! Now there's a C of E (thanks for the correction, whoever it was made it) theologian, by jingo.

[glumly] If any of his ilk are still alive and kicking in today's C of E, they're doubtless being muzzled.

Anne

Matt Gumm said...

On his blog, iMonk said:
I do not, however, tell them that they are on the wrong path. I make it clear they have not followed the path to the place the New Testament path of faith rests, i.e. in the completed work of the resurrected, glorified mediator. I would not call them believers. I would not call them crass unbelievers either. They have not arrived at true faith, but they have not honestly taken the New Testament teaching about Jesus as the truth to be believed. I would answer as Paul did: What they worship in ignorance, I will proclaim to them.

Michael, I read your piece here. I'm just not sure making a distinction that between "crass" unbelievers and any other kind is useful. Unbelievers are still unbelievers, and still need the Gospel. If they haven't arrived at true faith, then they are still slaves to sin.

You go on to say: Most of the Catholic-bashing fundamentalists I know will, when behind closed doors, admit to believing some Catholics are saved; Mary, rosaries and all.

Despite the possibility of someone being saved, the likelihood of someone in that environment coming to faith is small, wouldn't you say? Why? Because of the lack of truth.

You finish:
They may be right or wrong. My Baptist upbringing taught that once saved, always saved; so if Borg was ever saved, he still is. That might be right or wrong. I don’t dispense salvation. Neither does N.T. Wright. God gets the last call. Borg is way off base from the N.T. Testament, but Wright errs in hope. If God values friendship as well as truth, there might be some hope for Wright and Borg after all.

It seems to me, if Wright valued friendship as well as truth, he would have found a tactful way to say "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."

John H said...

It seems to me, if Wright valued friendship as well as truth, he would have found a tactful way to say "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."

Agreed, that would have been the best response.

(OK, I haven't gone away. So I lied. Sue me. ;-) )

Phil Johnson said...

Michael Spencer: "The BHT, unlike your blogs, is not an attempt to gather "True Believers" into a group."

Most of us caught on to that fact long ago, Michael.

However, you do profess to be "believers" of a sort. And you yourself have complained long and hard—as recently as this morning—about people who don't automatically accept the Tavernistas' profession of faith in Christ.

I frankly don't see any significant difference between what you do and what NT Wright said. And I think that's one reason it's so hard for you to come to grips with how seriously wrong and destructive Wright's remarks about Borg are.

I've always been completely frank with you about this (and you regularly give evidence that I am right): I question the propriety of a minister of the gospel hosting a members-only conversation (themed around swilling beer in a pub and broadcasting their ideas publicly on a blog), where members are welcome, even encouraged, to attack any doctrine of Christianity or any truth of Scripture, however they like.

Furthermore (as I have told you repeatedly), it's not about being "TR." If you had any scruples at all about what you give a platform to, I'd probably not say a lot about it. But the conversation you guys are having today, and the flippancy of some of the remarks accompanying it, demonstrate that no truth is safe in the BHT.

So as long as you keep providing a platform for that kind of stuff to be broadcast via the Internet, I'm going to keep pointing out how inappropriate that is—especially for a minister of your influence, in your denomination.

As I said earlier, however, the one good thing about it is that it illustrates in microcosm how post-evangelicalism is doomed to collapse on itself.

BTW, for the record, I'm neither "questioning your salvation" nor affirming it. I'm saying because of your profession and your position, you have a duty to guard and contend for the truth, as opposed to giving a platform for a "wide ranging . . . conversation" led by people whose favorite hobby is drinking.

Brad Williams said...

"I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!" (Galatians 5:12, ESV).

How's that for tone from the good old Apostle Paul?

The ridiculousness of taking up for such a shoddy, public, incompetent, undermining statement is goofy. I cannot believe that Dan's pointing out this "gaffe" of N.T. Wright has come to over 135 comments. Even Joel Osteen had enough sense to apologize for his public remarks on the Larry King Live Show. So where is N.T. Wright now?

Matt Gumm said...

Ooh--Sojourner plays the Osteen card!

John H said...

Ooh--Sojourner plays the Osteen card!

Is that the TR equivalent of Godwin's Law? :-/

Andrew Lindsey said...

That's funny-
when i first looked at this post (back before there were any comments) i thought that it wouldn't generate that much discussion. I mean, who besides chamblee54 would object to a bishop being called into account for stating that someone can love Jesus and passionately believe in Him and yet deny the resurrection?

Michael Spencer said...

PJ: I have a philosophy student meandering about his rather odd ideas about what it means that Jesus died, and the rest of the bar is beating him silly for even sounding like he's questioning the physical resurrection.

You've read all these posts? Really?

Exactly what is wrong with a conversation where the orthodox view of the resurrection is being promoted in a discussion of historicity and faith? I mean, you said that "today's" discussion was particulary bad.

Phil Johnson said...

iMonk: Yes, I have read them all. And Impleri is not merely a naive student who accidentally worded something wrong.

I realize you guys regularly savage inerrancy, biblical authority, the coherence of truth, and other important doctrines. But this is the first time I've seen anyone there suggest with a straight face that the biblical accounts of the resurrection "needn’t coincide with historical 'facts.'"

Anyway, my criticism is not merely about the views of this or that person in your bar. My objection is to your whole approach to handling truth and Scripture. Paul didn't open a members-only club for the philosophy students on Mars Hill and name them his "fellows."

brlittle said...

Matthew 16:21-22

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. [emphasis added] 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” (ESV)

Realizing that Peter’s objections were likely primarily against the idea that Jesus should suffer and be killed at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and scribes… Nonetheless, for those such as Marcus Borg who would deny the resurrection or N.T. Wright who would so much as give him a “pass”, you would do very well to consider the Lord’s rebuke to Peter…

Mt 16:23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (ESV)

Anonymous said...

What I find incredible is that you are using a Newspaper report of one line to critique him.

Have any of you guys ever been reported by the media before, I have and I can say they are pretty loose with their facts.

I would say N.T.Wright said a heap more then what he was reported to have said, and it is out of context.

Last year our own AB was castigated by the press through a line he said in an hour talk, and it was taken totally out of the context he had said it.

I am sure you guys can find more reliable sources to hand, draw and quarter someone. How about a full trancript of the conversation of what it was he actually said.

As for me, I'm staying out of the arena of criticising N.T. Wright on the basis of a Newspaper report. I'm sure J. Maccurthur has many times been miss represented by the media, why not show the same grace to others.

Blessings craig b

FX Turk said...

Man. I hate it when I have a day-long meeting and the meta rolls out like this.

It's too bad that there's a problem thinking there are "true believers" and "false believers". I'm going to start calling myself a Tavernista because of it -- because anyone who says I'm not is a reactionary fundy.

Craig Schwarze said...

Woah, 8 hours sleep in Sydney and I wake up to an additional 60 comments.

I don't have much more to add to the issue at hand, though I do hope people will read the Calvin quote on my blog.

My prayer is that God will richly bless everyone on this thread.

Martin Downes said...

Craig

Are you comments assuming that the published interview must be distorted? Can you verify that in anyway?

Phil Johnson said...

Craig B,

In a comment about halfway up addressed to CraigS, I answered the question you are raising.

Do a search for the section that begins with the words, "In reply to your friend Ruth's excellent observation..." and you'll find it.

Brad Williams said...

Woohoo! In one fail swoop I have been crowned "TR" and have managed to turn Joel Osteen into Hitler. That, my friends, is not something you see every day.

Actually, I was saying that when Joel Osteen said what he did on Larry King, he had the intestinal fortitude to apologize and clarify. I was thinking that N.T. Wright could quell the conspirators here if he would explain to us what he really meant by saying a man can be called a Christian and deny the very thing that Christianity is founded on.

Gryphonette said...

Wright's "What's heaven got to do with anything?" view is hardly laudable.

Lamentable would be a more apt description.

Jesus assured His disciples He was going to prepare a place for them. He warned that not everyone who claims to be His would enter "the kingdom of heaven." He also warned His listeners that "unless [they] are converted and become like children, [they] will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

According to Paul, our citizenship is in heaven. Our hope is reserved for us in heaven. He wrote to Timothy of his confidance the Lord would "bring [him] safely into His heavenly kingdom." The author of Hebrews wrote of those whose "names have been written in heaven." Peter spoke of the inheritance being kept in heaven for Christians.

Not to mention darn near the whole book of Revelation.

Wright's foolish notion that "What must we do to be saved?" is not a crucial element of Scripture is not just wrong, it's frankly stupid.

Anne

Even So... said...

Exactly, Brad. How could he?

Dr. Thomas, perhaps Wright DOES have a broad view of the salvation plan, but my Bible says "narrow is the way".

Furthermore, and because no one else may want to say it, or perhaps I'll get kicked off..here goes..

We are not called to question a man's soul, but we are fruit inspectors, and Tom Wright has shown us a bad banana. Methinks we might be seeing a missing "p" from Dr. Wright's "flower".

How you could you go from defending the Resurrection to denying its centrality to the faith? How could (I'm in trouble now) Judas go from walking and talking with Christ, and apparently healing and delivering people with the power Christ invested in him, to leading the betrayal against Him?

I think that perhaps (if we are allowed to converse here in the way Mr. Spencer says he allows people to at BHT), I said PERHAPS, Dr. Wright is not what he appeared to be at first.

If you believe that the Resurrection is crucial for your own salvation, how is it not for another? Isn't this pomo relativity?

Again, I say...Romans 10:9

Phil Johnson said...

Dr Thomas: "It is because he has a broad view of the salvation plan."

Yeah, that's pretty much what I said, too.

The difference between you and me is that I don't think that mitigates his error at all. On the contrary, I'd say it's a huge part of the problem with his package of ideas.

Incidentally, on an obliquely-related issue, let me respond to another of today's headlines over at the BHT:

I went to school with Bart Ehrman. It was not "inerrancy" that caused him to lose his faith, but overexposure to various purveyors of "broad views" on biblical inspiration and authority, salvation, the reality of hell, and all the other doctrines the BHT guys like to play hackey-sack with.

That kind of "breadth" is actually a subtle form of skepticism.

Anonymous said...

G'day Phil J.

I did find your post, and indeed thanks for making it.

I myself have not read any of N.T Wrights works, only heard his stuff on the ressurection is good stuff.

I would say if he has proven that the ressurection was historical, he would have to believe it is central to the faith.

Has any one read stuff by Borg? I have never heard of him until now either. What books has he written on the subject and about his own beliefs?

Are those beliefs being questioned because of a newspaper report, or because of stuff he has written?

Blessings craig b

Matthew said...

Hmmmm... I wonder how my own peers might react if I said something like this:
"A good friend of mine really does not believe Jesus Christ was bodily raised from the dead. But I know my friend well: he loves Jesus and believes in him passionately.

The philosophical and cultural world he has lived in has made it very, very difficult for him to believe in the bodily resurrection."


This is a ludicrous statement, and I'm not sure how being "N.T. Wright" warrants letting this sort of folly slide - if anything, he should know better.

Even So... said...

Yeah, I've heard that before, but thank you anyway (seriously, thanks for the info, NTW is not high on my must read list, but I have read some).

I guess he could "explain away" a lot, but what about Luke 13:23ff, or 1 Cor. 15, as others have been saying? Dealing with passages and their "cultural context" is fruitful and interesting, for sure, but how would NTW deal with John 20:31, Romans 10:9, etc., etc.?

Considering the NPP, and now this, it seems to me that he is the one who might be "reading into" the text things that orthodox scholars seem to have been missing for a long time now.

Since you brought it up by way of tangent, does NTW believe as John RW Stott does, i.e., no hell?

Someone help me, I am having a real hard time respecting anything coming from the C of E (not a joke). Sorry to go a little off topic.


Even So (come, Lord Jesus)

Phil Johnson said...

Dr. Thomas: "Wright would say you are reading the bible as a book on how to be saved and you are reading these answers into Jesus' statements."

Dr. Thomas's posts illustrate why it is supremely frustrating to try to discuss the probolems in NT Wright's soteriology with people who are determined to defend him at all costs (because they are convinced he embodies the best of all that is academically respectable about evangelicalism).

Always, predictably, the first and most persistent response to every criticism of Wright is that if you really understood what he is saying, you couldn't possibly have any serious concerns about him. That's really an arrogant argument, if you reflect on its implications. But you hear that mantra nonstop from Wright's disciples. And these days, it seems, you hear it a lot even from the casual admirers who loudly insist they are not sycophants.

Dr. Thomas, for the third time: I know that's what Wright believes. I understand that's why he embraces a rank heretic like Marcus Borg as if Borg were a truly pious believer. I have read a number of Wright's books. I do understand that he doesn't think heaven and hell are particularly important in the Christian message.

But unlike you, I don't see any of those things as reasons to excuse Wright's outrageous remarks as mere slips of the tongue. On the contrary, those are the very reasons I think Wright's radical inclusivism reflects a serious and systemic problem with his theology, beginning with his remodeled notion of justification by faith.

Gryphonette said...

The 'speaking to specific people at a specific time' business...that sounds remarkably like a form of hyperdispensationalism. Isn't that what the hyperdispies insist? For instance, that the Ten Commandments are not applicable for Christians today, nor the Sermon on the Mount, etc.?

Not that it's not important to keep in mind who the target recipients were, such as Paul mostly writing to Gentiles, Hebrews to a largely Jewish audience, etc.

But it can be carried to extremes, and it would appear Wright has done so.

BTW, regarding what was Christ's "mission", ISTM the meaning of His name states it quite clearly:

"[N]ame Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins."

Anne

Matt Gumm said...

I might add that no matter how much certain people run around yelling "TR, TR," this is not a TR issue.

If Frank Turk told me that his buddy Butch, the proprietor of Cheapo's Pawn down the road, denied the resurrection but was still a fine Christian fellow, I'd tell him he needs to stop reading McLeran (for review purposes only) for awhile.

And if John MacArthur said something like this about Larry King, you can bet that Phil Johnson would head down to the TV station, a big King James Bible in one hand and a meat chubb in the other, fixin' to talk some sense into his wayward pastor.

This is about truth, and making sure the Gospel isn't emptied of its power. At the end of the day, iMonk's prophetic question is there any merit to Wright’s acceptance of Borg as a Christian? deserves a simple no as a response.

Gordon said...

At the risk of oversimplifying things,I think we should ask these questions:

If Christ is not bodily resurrected, then what do we have in which we may believe?

What is to be gained from calling one who denies the resurrection, "passionate" about Jesus? (How can we be "passionate" about someone who died nearly two millenia ago?)

Those who are defending Wright and Borg should seriously consider these questions.

Phil Johnson said...

Dr. Thomas: " Have you read “The New Testament and the People of God”? This is the book in which he lays out his epistemological framework and his approach to scripture."

Good one.

You had me going until you posted this. I didn't think any Doctor of Divinity could be so dense, so unable to follow a simple argument, and such a poor speller all at once. So I followed your profile to your blog and noticed where you got your phony degree. Turns out you are a joke, just like your degree, and just like your pretended inability to see anyone's point.

I gotta hand it to you: you do the "academic respectability" thing really well. You have the routine down pat.

Now tell me who you really are. I figure it's one of two possibilities:

1. Frank Turk, just goofing around good-naturedly, to see how long you could yank my chain.

2. One of the "Communio Sanctorum" guys, using a sock puppet to test new methods of trying to make sheer nonsense sound like there's an argument buried in it somewhere.

Jon said...
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Carla Rolfe said...

After finally having the time to read the post & all the comments this morning, I'm left with one thought really...

Have some Christians lost their minds!?

Okay, a bit inflammatory sure, but come on folks, the subject matter here is, should be, MUST be unquestionable among professing believers.

That it IS being questioned, is like questioning if one must breath & have a beating heart to actually remain alive.

It is quite disturbing to read over and over again these days, how professing (and in many cases, well educated and well respected) Christians are endorsing or supporting the most unBiblical, unGodly teachings, and NOT being called on it.

And for the record, Darlene is also my hero. I was set to point out the flippant treatment of using "the Rez" as well, until I saw she noted it first.

I question if using such a term in the first place might just be a tell-tale symptom of the larger issue at work here?

SDG...

DJP said...

Jon write:

...Borg's position on the resurrection seems untennable [sic] to me

Wow. There are clarion, prophetic trumpet-blasts, and then there are statements like that.

This is really what it's all about. One thing that all critics of the critics have in common so far, unless I've missed something: none of you answers the question posed in my last full paragraph.

If Christianity isn't something in particular, then it's nothing in particular.

DJP said...

...and before anyone else does, I call "sic" on my own Jon write.

Write, writes, wrote... whatever.

:^P

Matt Gumm said...

Dan: would that be Present Active, Aorist, or Imperfect?

DJP said...

Past pluperfect disbogrative.

Craig Dunning said...

CraigB asked, "Has any one read stuff by Borg? I have never heard of him until now either. What books has he written on the subject and about his own beliefs?"

From the pen of Marcus J. Borg in an editorial entitled "The First Christmas": "I am one of those Christians who does not believe in the virgin birth, nor in the star of Bethlehem, nor in the journey of the wisemen, nor in the shepherds coming to the manger, as facts of history. Yet I find these stories to be both powerful and truthful, and I have no difficulty preaching sermons on them (italics added for emphasis)."(Bible Review, December 1992, pg.4)

He goes on to explain how he can say they are both non-historical and truthful at the same time: "For me, these themes, and not the facts surrounding Jesus' conception, carry the power and truth of the Christmas stories. I am reminded of the Native American elder who would begin telling his tribe's story of creation by saying, 'Now I don't know whether it happened this way or not, but I know this story is true'".

While this piece doesn't deal directly with his beliefs about the resurrection, it probably gives us a fairly clear picture of what he thinks about that too.

CraigD

Unknown said...

I couldn't read all 185 (sheesh!) comments, so I'm not sure if anyone brought this up (not really sure if most folks here actually know what Borg thinks about the resurrection).

Borg doesn't deny the resurrection qua resurrection. He denies that it was a material resurrection.

The writer of the article alludes to this perspective elsewhere (quote Philip Hughes):

"While some people may consider that the resurrection was not an event that could have been recorded scientifically, I do not know any Christian who says the resurrection did not occur in some sense." (Compare with Wright's earlier: "Marcus Borg really does not believe Jesus Christ was bodily raised from the dead.")

In to this camp we would place Rahner, K√ľng, and Borg, among others. These folks were not and are not convinced that the Scriptures demand a material, bodily resurrection.

And for the record, Wright's work on the resurrection is not about defending the resurrection per se, but about defending the notion that the Scriptures quite literally do teach a material, bodily resurrection — contra Borg, et al. In fact, in the Meaning of Jesus, Wright takes Borg to task on this, essentially making him look like a pseudo-scholar by showing through exegesis that the Scriptures demand a material, bodily resurrection.

In short, Wright, in the article mentioned above, does not state that one can presume to call oneself Christian while denying the resurrection. He states that one can and does (like his friend, Borg) call oneself Christian while denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Please don't think I'm taking sides here. I just didn't see this clarified anywhere. I think Borg is bunk, and I think Wright thinks Borg's views on this issue are bunk, but he may not be wrong for hedging protection around Borg's professed Christianity. In other words, Wright may think that the pertinent texts speak of a bodily resurrection, but he doesn't think the "bodily" part is what separates the sheep from the goats.

And finally, on that final day, it won't be liberals like Borg who say "Lord, Lord…" and hear judgment that will surprise us; it will be the most conservative church leaders, those whose hearts were filled with little more than a lust for power that will surprise us most.

Jon said...
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Jon said...
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Aaron said...

DJP:

I think the reason none of the Wright-Defenders have answered your question is because the answer is obviously a big, fat, smelly-like-sulphur, No. This is pretty obvious when you know what else Marcus Borg believes concerning Jesus. Borg not only does not believe in the Resurrection, he does not believe that Jesus-the-man-of-history is the same person as Jesus-the-Incarnate-Word. He does not believe that Jesus spoke any of the "I Am" statements in John, or considered himself divine. He doubts Jesus even considered himself to be the messiah (though he's willing to hold out judgment on that one). He does not believe that Jesus' death atones for the sins of the world, but only that it is a metaphor for the "radical" nature of grace, namely, that we don't need a temple or a certain set of doctrines to be forgiven-- we are forgiven whether we know it or not. He does not believe that Jesus intended that his death would have any such significance.

So... ask your question again:

If N.T. Wright believes that Marcus Borg is a Christian with a vibrant faith, is there any doctrine that is not optional? No.

Aaron said...

CJD:

Since you've read The Meaning of Jesus, you must realize that Borg does not only believe in an immaterial resurrection, but that the Jesus of history is not the Jesus of faith. More than that, though Borg first explains away bodily resurrection as irrelevant, he then goes on to say that all such Easter stories are really just metaphors for explaining that the followers of Christ "experienced" that he lives and is Lord. Real disciples on the road to Emmaus did not, in a historical encounter that could have been videotaped, meet an immaterial Jesus that broke bread with them. To quote:

Thus I do not see the Emmaus Road story as reporting a particular event on a particular day, visible to anybody who happened to be there, but as a story about how the risen Christ comes to his followers again and again

The truth of the Emmaus story is grounded in that kind of experience, not in its being a report ultimately going back to eyewitnesses. I would extend this same principle to all of the Easter stories.


~~The Meaning of Jesus, pp.134-135

All the Easter stories are seen in the same way: These are not historical events, but metaphors. So when you bring up the point that Borg does not believe in a bodily resurrection, let's be honest-- he doesn't believe that Jesus was appearing around Galilee without his body, either. The Easter stories really just recount internal, mystical experiences in external, narrative ways.

donsands said...

"those whose hearts were filled with little more than a lust for power"

Now that made me think.
Scripture teaches this for sure. And many will say they are the Lord's, when in reality they are not.
Now that is an incredibly scarey truth.

And that's where good blogs like this one can help us who truly know the Lord Jesus Christ, to become more assured and confident in our faith. We are better able to make our election and calling sure.
It's the truth that sets us free. I've seen this verse used very haphazzardly in so many ways, but when understood in the full view of Scripture, this is a marvelous verse indeed.
The Truth sets us free! His Word is Truth. John 17:17

Gordon said...

The bottom line is that for one to deny the resurrection of Christ, even if only materially, they have to deny the authority of Scripture.

If they cannot have faith in the integrity of the Word of God, how can they have faith that God will save them?

Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.

Matt Gumm said...

cjd said: In short, Wright, in the article mentioned above, does not state that one can presume to call oneself Christian while denying the resurrection. He states that one can and does (like his friend, Borg) call oneself Christian while denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Are you sure we're looking at the same thing?

If he had only said "I have friends who I am quite sure are Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection," I might be willing to buy into your theory that you can insert a "so-called" before Christians in that statement.

But he goes on to say this: "Marcus Borg really does not believe Jesus Christ was bodily raised from the dead. But I know Marcus well: he loves Jesus and believes in him passionately." {emphasis added}

Now, you can take this several ways, like some of the 180+ comments did. You can say "he was misquoted." You could say, "OK, he's saying Borg is a Christian, but he still upholds the resurrection, because he's written lots of stuff about it." You might even say (in so many words) "this is all just another attack by the vast TR conspiracy against their favourite theological punching bag."

But at the end of the day, you're still left with the fact that the Bishop of Durham, 5th highest guy in the Anglican church (or is it 3rd now), who is "quite sure" his friend, someone who doesn't believe in the resurrection (among many other things), is a Christian, because he "loves Jesus and believes in him passionately."

Jeff Jones said...

This was up the thread a little way:

Dr Thomas said...
as one of Wright's few defenders in this convo. I think he meant what he said. My comment above says 'why' I think he says this.

It is not because he doesnt think the doctrine is fundamental. In fact, I think Wright thinks the doctrine is second to maybe the divinity of Christ (which by the way he apparently does consider to be requisite to being Christian according to the intro to NTPG). It is because he has a broad view of the salvation plan.


So...

if:

a) If the divinity of Christ has priority over his resurrection;

and if:

b) One who denies the resurrection is still a Christian presumably because he believes in Christ's divinity

then:

c) This person's "god" is dead.

How is he saved, then?

LeeC said...

And Roomdog sums it all up perfectly with his comment.

DJP said...

Jeff, add the report that Borg doesn't believe that Christ saw Himself as divine, and the sense made is less. < /turgid syntax >

(Is this #200?)

Aaron said...

Matt Gumm:

Not only that, but the "Jesus" that Borg "loves passionately" is not the Jesus he believes actually existed in history. The "Jesus" that Borg loves is a human construction after-the-fact.

Al said...

I was trying to hold out until I could be #200, oh well!
For those who support NTW, is there any doctrine that, if denied, puts you outside the faith? Would the doubting divinity of Christ be a cause for excommunication, for example?

Al sends

Unknown said...

[cross-posted with like five other posts]

Hello, Matt Gumm.

The Bishop of Durham is the third most senior figure in the Anglican hierarchy.

I understand your point, yet we must, as good Reformed folk, understand that to "love Jesus and believe in him passionately" is, as far as Saint Paul is concerned, part of the proof that "love for God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5). It is, in other words, the "firstfruits." You know what I mean, sola gratia and all that.

If Wright allows this Reformed presupposition to control his thoughts here, then it should be no surprise that he deems anyone who "loves Jesus and believes in him passionately" a Christian (since no one can do that save by the grace of God). What it would take for him to question the faith of another, however, I do not know.

Kind of reminds me of Steve Brown, Sonship Theology, and other Reformed persons and movements who emphasize grace at the expense of wrath.

Aaron said...

I was hoping to link to this article. For some reason, the "Create a Link" link wouldn't work for me. Ah well. I believe that a broader view of Borg's faith is warranted in this discussion. So,

Missing the Point: N.T. Wright and Marcus Borg

SJ Camp said...

Dan:

Thank you for this well-done, thought-provoking article.

From a personal point of view:
Last year, James White, Tom Ascol, James Renihan, others and I were on a cruise that also included Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan (and their wives). They were winsome, kind, enjoyable people and I took pleasure in my time and personal conversations with them.

We were privileged on board the cruise to witness a marvelous debate: White/Renihan vs. Crossan/Borg on the resurrection, the authority of Scripture, etc. (BTW, White and Renihan did a tremendous job defending the faith.)

In the aftermath, much of the discussion around ship from our group concluded the obvious but important observation: what we were witnessing in this debate that Borg and Crossan were two very gifted men intellectually (Crossan is high up on the Mensa scale) who were unregenerate.

I know that sounds ostensible, but it can be easily overlooked and must be kept in forefront of our thinking in such discussions as this. No matter how gifted some of these men (Wright included) are intellectually, their denial essential truths of the gospel and of Christ coupled with their inclusive beliefs reveals an unregenerate life.

No question that Wright, Borg, Crossan, McLaren need to be confronted firmly with the Word of God as to the heretical assertions they continue to make. BUT, we must confront them remembering they are unregenerate. 1 Cor. 2:14 Paul says, But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

I don't say this because I think this thread has been unkind to these men... on the contrary. But only to encourage us all not to forget the lostness of their souls and the eternity of wrath that awaits them. This is not a mere intellectual exercise we are engaged in is it... As Dr. MacArthur has said in relation to the training of men at Master's Seminary (my paraphrase), "we train men, as if lives depended on it."

May the call to repentance for salvation to these men be as loud from us as the call to confront their unsound doctrine and the foolishness of their assertions as well.

Grace and peace,
Campi
2 Tim. 2:24-26

Matt Gumm said...

CJD: Interestingly, though, this same issue is addressed directly in Scripture. The Apostle John had the same issue in 1st John, as the Gnostics came in preaching another Jesus, and here was what he said:


1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.
(1 John 4:1-3, ESV)

Seems pretty clear to me. But then (going back to the original premise of this post), I don't have the benefit of years of theological training and academic interaction.

Fearsome Pirate said...

Let's imagine for a minute that we interpret things charitably. The fact is that Wright and Borg are personal friends, and it's a common human trait that we don't want our friends to go to hell. There are lots of Christians out there who find some reason to tell themselves that their unbelieving friends aren't damned without themselves believing that the Resurrection is an "optional bolt-on" to the Christian faith. Yes, it was a rather idiotic thing for Wright to say, but it wouldn't be the first time that a Christian made a middling excuse for one of his friends. NO ONE is saying that Wright is right here. EVERYONE agrees that he's wrong. It's just that some people are flipping out entirely, and other people see it as just bad judgment, say "Well, that was wrong," and get on with their lives.

But this is something Christians do all the time. It's quite easy to have the angriest Calvinist blog on the net and rail about how everyone and everybody outside of MacArthurism is distorting the faith, but the last time I checked, you were all happy to commune professed Wesleyans at your tables. So y'know what? Wright's got good and bad sides to him, just like everyone else. If you can't deal with that, maybe you should stop reading theology for a while, because I guarantee that your theological heroes have also said or done stuff that was just plain boneheaded.

Pastor Rod said...

Steve,

You are really calling Wright "unregenerate"? Wow!

Rod

Habitans in Sicco said...

Josh:

Wesleyans, maybe.

Foul-mouthed Lutherans we'd love to welcome, but they tend to get nasty quick, so we set up a card table in the next room, just in case.

Aaron said...

JoshS:

You speak as though theological errors are isolated mistakes without implications for the rest of one's profession of faith. Wright isn't just saying, "I don't want to say my friend is going to hell." He is saying that people who reject every tenet of the Faith are still Christians, if they "love Jesus passionately," no matter if that "Jesus" didn't claim to be the Light of the World, the Good Shepherd, or the Christ. No matter if that "Jesus" did not rise from the dead. No matter if that "Jesus" is not the only-begotten son of the Father. No matter if that "Jesus" did not believe his death had salvific significance. Just love any Jesus, apparently, and as long as your "Jesus" wanted to undermine "Domination Systems," as Borg styles them, your "Jesus" is good enough.

IB Dubbya said...

'Just love any Jesus, apparently, and as long as your "Jesus" wanted to undermine "Domination Systems," as Borg styles them, your "Jesus" is good enough.'

My 2 cents: Liberation Theology is Satanic. (I hope somebody from my alma mater is reading this; especially the black folk)...tee, hee.

The rest of these comments are a bit too heavy for me to engage, just yet.

¡sbgtfa!

IB Dubbya said...

...I say we take this thread to the clouds and make it an even 1,000! Come one...who's wit me! 'Sere any more ire out there yet to be unleashed?!

¡sbgtfa!

DJP said...

Pastor Rod -- still nothing to say about the actual post, or subject at hand?

Wow!

Gryphonette said...

If my husband were to say that while he, personally, believes Jesus is God, who lived a perfect, holy life then died on the cross, being raised on the third day, but that Joe Blow in his office, who denies virtually everything Scriptural about Jesus except the spelling of His name, is also a Christian who loves Jesus and believes in Him passionately, I'd be hauling pastors and elders over here to whomp him upside the head.

And pray for his salvation. Seriously. If that were my husband, I would fear for his eternal salvation.

Anne

Pastor Rod said...

DJP,

What's the point? You guys have all the answers and consider any challenge as a personal attack.

Rod

Aaron said...

Pastor Rod said:
What's the point? You guys have all the answers and consider any challenge as a personal attack.

I consider that a personal attack!

Er...

Most of the time, when someone believes they've been attacked, they do something like this:

"I can't believe you would call into question x! How dare you do such a low thing!"

Sounds more like the Wright defenders than the Pyromaniacs to me. Pastor Rod, you called people "self-righteous," said they were engaging in "unwarranted personal attacks," and implied that if you were more forthright, you'd be called a hypocrite and dismissed. You didn't point out any self-righteous behavior or personal attacks. This is not exactly going to win you any points. Instead of crying, "Personal attack! Personal attack," why not point out error where it is found, so that perhaps correction can be made? Honestly, where has anyone attacked anyone else's person? The closest thing I've seen is your labeling of the Pyromaniacs, without actually documenting any offenses.

John H said...

NT Wright is unregenerate?

*jaw drops*

Also, I seem to recall (about 190 comments ago) being rebuked for attempting to solicit precisely such a statement. I was told in no uncertain terms that it was "scary" that I should even raise this issue, "as we all know what the answer SHOULD be--only God knows where Wright stands in regard to salvation."

That would be God and Mr Camp, it seems.

Aaron said...

" How about calling Wright unregenerate? Is that enough of a personal attack?"

If he were an atheist who openly sought to undermine the Faith, would it be a personal attack to call him unregenerate? No, it would be a statement of discernment, a reasonably-justified claim. If Camp has reasonble justification for calling Wright unregenerate, then no, it is not a personal attack, but merely calling it like he sees it.

An attack implies the intention to harm. For example, belittling or berating a person would be a personal attack. Calling someone an idiot, or worthless, or worse, would be a personal attack. Can you show me that Camp's words carried the intent to harm?

Of course not. His purpose was to show that we ought to think of unregenerate men as unregenerate men, so that we can appropriately preach the Gospel of repentance and faith to them.

Incidentally, it should be noted that Steve Camp's post came about a hundred and eighty posts after Pastor Rod's accusation regarding "personal attacks." Was he being prophetic, or were there already personal attacks before Camp's post?

Aaron said...

Well, John H, since "Steve" and "Steve Camp" are not the same person, they therefore might have different opinions on the matter. Clearly, not all people who comment at Pyromaniacs are cut from the same cloth.

Aaron said...

Dr. Thomas said:
I find it a little humerous to hear otherwise confessing orthodox protestants question salvation based on someone's view of someone elses salvation.....

First of all, only one person (as far as I've noticed) has called Wright "unregenerate," and he did so in this context:

No matter how gifted some of these men (Wright included) are intellectually, their denial essential truths of the gospel and of Christ coupled with their inclusive beliefs reveals an unregenerate life.

The implication is that Wright is assumed to be unregenerate based on his "denial of essential truths of the Gospel and of Christ coupled with [his] inclusive beliefs."

So, Dr. Thomas, your criticism misses the point. Camp didn't claim that Wright was unregenerate simply because he believes Borg is a Christian. He claimed that Wright affirmed heretical views in three areas. Your criticism is thus seen to be a gross mischaracterization.

Dr. Thomas
What ever happened to justificaiton by faith? Now we are justified by faith in Jesus and by a proper view of Marcus Borg's salvation status.

The object of faith is essential in the formulation of the doctrine of Sola Fide. Wright apparently believes that his Jesus is the same as that of Borg, which implies certain things about the object of his faith. Or do you believe that this Bishop, this great scholar who thinks so closely when it comes to the Jesus Seminar's work, has not thought through his ecclesiology? I anticipate that he is not an accidental inclusivist. Ecclesiology happens to be a very important emphasis in his work, right?

Phil Johnson said...

Let's not turn this thread into a discussion of whether NT Wright is regenerate or not.

1. That wasn't the issue of the post.

2. It's an inappropriate question, in my opinion. When someone clearly rejects the Christ of Scripture, of course we are obliged by Scripture to regard him as an unbeliever. (My complaint with Wright's view is that he seems to deny this.) But no one has offered any actual evidence that Wright himself has renounced Christ or turned away from the true faith. Making a judgment like that, contrary to what he himself says, is inappropriate and uncalled for without some kind of proof from his own words. Meanwhile I'm happy to leave such judgments in the hands of the One to whom they belong (John 5:22).

3. It should be noted, however, that several apologists for Wright were actually the ones who first raised that question.

4. Nevertheless, the fact that such an opinion has now been implied by someone guarantees that this thread will not be remembered for what it was really about; it will go down in the canonical mythology of Bloglore as the time the Pyros all declared NT Wright a hell-bound unregenerate. (Even though not one of us has actually expressed or agreed with that opinion.)

5. So let's cut it out and either get back to the real topic of Dan's post, or else mercifully lay this whole comment thread to rest, OK?

Aaron said...

Very good. If Dr. Thomas or anyone else would like to continue this discussion with me in private, they may contact me through my blogger profile.

Pastor Rod said...

Phil,

I'm glad to hear #2.

You can't have your cake and eat it too. Number 3 is out of line. Especially in light of #5. (You remind me of Bill O'Reilly who tells people they can have the last word and then interrupts them.)

Sorry, #4 is inaccurate. Someone did not imply this. Here is the exact statement: No question that Wright, Borg, Crossan, McLaren need to be confronted firmly with the Word of God as to the heretical assertions they continue to make. BUT, we must confront them remembering they are unregenerate..

While none of the "Pyros" has agreed with this statement, you are the first one to disagree with it.

After I expressed my shock, DJP made a post that in effect said, "So what?"

Rod

P.S. Divertasi in Sicilia.

Aaron said...

Pastor Rod, you have a gift for manipulating a conversation. DJP's post was intended to return you to the topic at-hand. Perhaps you have not read my response to you. You came here, threw around accusations you did not support, and then refused to answer the question put to you. DJP pointed this out after Camp's post. You are committing eisegesis when you insert the commentary that his reponse amounts to, "So what?"

LeeC said...

Regenerate Christians should see such concerns like what DJP shows here as a true sign of love.

If I act, or say things in a way that is incongruous with what God says a Christian should be like then it should damage my assurance o salvation. If it does not, or I suppress such feelings then hopefully my wife or a brother in Christ will LOVE me enough to point it out, and that I would show the fruit of the Spirit by not taking offence easily, but by recognizing their acts of love.

And don't think for a minute that I have not been in such circumstances sadly. But praise god he has put me in the midst of people who love Him...and me more than they abhor potential conflict.

I NEVER take a friend or loved ones profession of faith at face value...I LOVE them too much. That would be like taking a cancer victims assurances that they feel fine at face value while they are wasting away before your eyes.

This is NOT about the Bishops salvation, but about his friend, and how we as Christians should love our friends. As for what some here have termed as anger on this blog, again, I see no anger, but a zeal that the Gospel is not tarnished, and that people who may very well be perishing are not given a false assurance that contradicts the Scriptures.

This isn't a game or some whimsical intellectual excercise, but a true life or death issue of the severest sense.

I find it shocking the level of spite thrown at DJP all in the name of "love" and being "kind" because he loves Christ, and cares about such things.

What Bishop Wright said, in that instance, is WRONG.

I have said wrong things before, as have everone on this thread. I'm sure Calvin, Polycarp, Phil Johnson R.C. Sproul, Mahaney, MacArthur have all said things wrong before.

And if any of us truly love God, and His Word we should all be appreciative of anyone calling them on making a statement such as that rather than calling them names and saying they were angry unloving people.

Matt Gumm said...

Pastor Rod's problem is that he despises Calvinists, and it colors all of his thinking.

Rod, I love your stuff on the historicity of the Bible, and against the Gospel of Judas. I'm disappointed that you're interspersing that with visits over here to stir up trouble.

Out of 228 comments, one person made a statement, and I think Phil addressed it just fine. Meanwhile, you've been asked several times to interact with what's been said, and we've seen exactly...nothing.

I've asked you questions on this blog, on your blog, and on Carla's blog, and your response has been the same--nothing.

Do you think you could set aside your contempt for Reformed folks long enough to interact with what's being said here?

Pastor Rod said...

Matt,

Thanks for the psychoanalysis, but I gave at the office.

I really meant what I said to DJP. There is no point in trying to have a substantive discussion.

If someone disagrees, either he doesn't understand the issue (or Calvinism) or he is making personal attacks.

Your (pl.) system is so rigid that it cannot allow dissent. Difference of view is seen as heresy or stupidity--or both.

Your characterization of my feelings toward "Reformed folks" is a case in point. If I disagree with something you say or believe, then I have contempt for you.

So what grounds are there for discussion?

If you think "Phil addressed it just fine" and that's the end of the matter, you are guilty of doing what everyone is accusing Wright of doing, making unwarranted allowances for a friend. (Admittedly, the issue is not as central to the content of Christian faith. But the sheep and the goats were not separated on the basis of their theological perspicuity.)

You want a response to the issue at hand?

Borg doesn't appear to be an orthodox Christian.

Wright was wrong to imply that he is.

This is an error of "wishful thinking."

This one statement (in a nebulous context) does not overturn what he has written at length.

Bring "right" does not give one license to be unkind. "Speaking the truth in love" is not automatically fulfilled by speaking the truth.

OK, I've responded. Now you can all question my intelligence and state of grace.

Rod

Phil Johnson said...

Rod:

In the first thread you ever commented on here, you speculated that I must be the type of fellow who abuses his wife. Virtually all your comments since then have likewise had some element of an accusatory tone.

Ditto on your comments at Carla Rolfe's blog.

When you have that kind of track record, pretty soon all your comments start to sound personal attacks to those of us who read them.

That kind of thing (combined with your own failure to admit the wrong and cease and desist, especially at Carla's) also pretty much cashiers your right to complain about how hard it is to have a "substantive conversation."

You came here like someone looking for a fight, not a conversation. I think you're going to have to change your tone before some of the regulars here beg you to stay for a second cup of coffee.

I may seem like a pretty hard-edged guy sometimes, but I don't troll Arminian blogs picking fights. If I did, and people were short with me or began to disagree with everything I posted, I wouldn't complain about how hard they are to talk to.

Just a hint: take a hard look in the mirror.

LeeC said...

"You want a response to the issue at hand?

Borg doesn't appear to be an orthodox Christian.

Wright was wrong to imply that he is.

This is an error of "wishful thinking."

This one statement (in a nebulous context) does not overturn what he has written at length.

Bring "right" does not give one license to be unkind. "Speaking the truth in love" is not automatically fulfilled by speaking the truth.

OK, I've responded. Now you can all question my intelligence and state of grace.

Rod "

There is a response that reads like a Christian struggling with an issue, and the truth. I may not agree with it in its entrety, but I can respect it.

Other than the time you apologized to James Spurgeon for making base asumptions about him though it is the only post I have read that you have made that did not basicaly call someone names, and I have to truncate it from the rest of you post to say even that.

I fear you will take this as a further assaut upon you, but I certainly do not mean it as such.
As a brother in Christ I tell you that almost every post I have read from you has come off as angry, rude, and often insulting.

I don't even know what you believe, only that you seem to hate what Phil and the guys here believe.

LeeC said...

Ooops, except for this part

"OK, I've responded. Now you can all question my intelligence and state of grace.

Rod"

That is in keeping of what I have come to expect to read. It's unecesarry and only there to inflame and insult. Again, if I take what I initialy quoted and read it without that I would take what you said very seriously...then the dig and slam puts it in the perspective of a person who has some serious presuppositons and an axe to grind.

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