First Person Life

2006-04-13

Wright: Right, Wrong or "muddled"?

A recent interview with Bishop Wright in an Australian newspaper has sparked a response from Pastor McCain of Cyberbretheren. In his post, Wright could not be more Wrong, Pastor McCain rightly points out that to deny the resurrection is to be an unbeliever. You cannot truly believe in Christ and deny the bodily resurrection from the dead. As St. Paul says, "If Christ has not been raised from the dead, then our faith is in vain."

I too am on my guard when it comes to Bishop Wright's work. Having spent a little time examining his understanding of Romans as part of a class last quarter, I see several dangers in his line of thinking -- especially his, "new perspective" on Paul.

But I'm not quite willing to throw Bishop Wright aside based on his comments in this article. In reading it carefully, I find that he does say some worthwhile things. This doesn't mean I think we should extend him Altar and Pulpit Fellowship, mind you, but I think we should examine what he says and at least be willing to point out our agreements and disagreements.

[MORE - click on FULL POST below]

I've been accused of "overreacting" in the past, perhaps this time, I'm "under-reacting"... but on closer examination of what Bishop Wright says, I think in the context of this article, we might learn a lot from his appearance in the media.

Quotes are from the article: Resurrecting faith by Jill Rowbotham.

"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."


I'm not sure Bishop Wright is taking that much of a different view than St. Paul took of the Corinthians who questioned the resurrection (Cxref I Corinthians 15:13). While I would assert that nobody ought to be preaching or teaching in the name of Christianity who does not subscribe the the Christian Creeds, this doesn't appear to me a statement that advocates a position that "It's OK to not believe in the resurrection and call yourself a Christian." Quite the contrary. Bishop Wright calls those who attempt to do so, "very, very muddled." Not a ringing endorsement by any stretch.

Bishop Wright further says of those who fail to acknowledge to bodliy resurrection:
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.


Perhaps Wright doesn't want to say, "he isn't a Christian," because that's not his place. Yes, he does not profess Christianity rightly. Yes, his reason has led him astray. And, true, if one truly denies the bodily resurrection, fully understanding the ramifications of that denial, I don't see how they will be in heaven. All of these things are true -- and I don't think Bishop Wright would disagree (I don't want to speak for him, though.)

On the other hand, Bishop Wright does not exercise any sort of spiritual jurisdiction over this (these) person(s) he's talking about. Further, it would seem presumptive (and a possible breach of the eighth commandment) for Wright to assert that Mr. Borg is not a Christian. We must remember that Wright is here talking about a specific person. It is the author of the article who extrapolates this to a more global statement.

I'm more dubious when Wright talks about how the church should behave in the culture of postmodernism. His answer is summarized by the article's author as:

The detail is reduced to the notion that actions speak louder than words and the best proselytising is done when non-Christians are so struck by the example of a believer's life that they ask what makes them so different.


Wright goes on to say:

"The church has it the other way around. It has tended to say: 'We must say it, say it, say it as clearly as possible and if there is any energy left over, we'll do a bit of it as well.'"


My quick response is, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." (Rom. 10:17) Whether you take "the Word of God" to be proclaimation of the Scriptures or a proclaimation of Christ crucified and risen is irrelavent since the Scriptures simply testify about Christ.

I disagree with Wright that, "Jesus was going around 'doing the kingdom.'" While true, it is only true to a point. Jesus also said, "My kingdom is not of this world." So this must somehow be reconciled with, "doing the kingdom." His activity on earth was a moral example, that was not his purpose on earth. His purpose was as atoning sacrifice. He did not, "provide a way for the world to be saved," He actually saved the world. That was the message he came to proclaim. His miracles were testimony to his work of salvation, not simply works to be emulated. Unfortunately, the hardness of the human heart rejects that salvation and so many will not partake of the salvation won by Christ.

However, the generalized critique that as the Body of Christ, the Christian Church is often too self-centered and lacks outward expression of their faith is not wholly without merit. It is misdirected and easily misunderstood, but not completely wrong. Further amplification on this point will need to wait for another post when I get all my thoughts together.

Overall, writing off Wright as wrong based on this article seems a bit harsh. Given the medium, I would say he articulated the truth of Christ's bodily resurrection unambiguously. That doesn't mean that it can't somehow be misunderstood or misinterpreted, but those wishing to do such things probably wouldn't listen no matter how much clearer he could have been.

I think this article shows that (at least in Australia) the media will print the truth about Christianity. It's true, in this country it is harder to get stuff like thie printed, but I'm not sure it's impossible. I'm toward the top of the list when it comes to seeing institutional bias against the historic truths of Christianity in the media, so I have to give kudos to Bishop Wright for seizing an opportunity to at least proclaim one truth foundational to our faith...

Now, if we could convert him from his intrinsic calvinist/reformed covenantal roots, perhaps altar and pulpit fellowship will follow of their own accord...

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