N. T. Wright and theology

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Rance, Apr 4, 2006.

  1. Rance

    Rance
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    Hi all,
    I'm pretty new to this list and this is my first post. I'm not in the heavy-debate mode at the present, but just interested in who might be also reading my favorite New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright. Anyone?

    Rance Darity
    Lancaster County, PA
    formerly Kentucky Southern Baptist
    presently pacifist, Anabaptist
     
  2. Joseph_Botwinick

    Joseph_Botwinick
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    NT Wright

    Don't like the Jesus Seminar, Post-modern emerging Church, or liberal theology in general. For this reason, I don't particularly care for Wright and think he is a heretic.

    Oh,...and welcome to the Baptist Board. [​IMG]

    Joseph Botwinick

    [ April 04, 2006, 12:44 AM: Message edited by: Joseph_Botwinick ]
     
  3. Calvibaptist

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    Joseph, I started to post, but didn't want to trash a person's first attempt at a post. I was going to be nice. [​IMG]

    But, since you started... I have read a little of Wright. I am particularly disturbed by his New Perspective on Paul views. He is, with his trashing of the imputation of Christ's righteousness, taking us back to Rome and saying that the Reformation was wrong and unnecessary. I don't see how any Baptist (or Anabaptist) could agree with his current views of theology.

    BTW, Rance, welcome to the board. Don't take our criticism too harshly. We aren't too mean, just passionate!
     
  4. Charles Meadows

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    From this quote it sounds like you don't particularly understand Wright!

    Rance,

    Yes I own and have read almost all of Wright's major works. I find him very intriguing. He has made a devastating case against the prevailing liberal theology and for this he should be commended! But I am not convinced about the particulars of his Romans work. He is obviously an "New Perspective" thinker and as such is out of step with standard evangelical theology. In particular I find his eschatology a bit hard to swallow. Everything has been fulfilled! According to Wright we will be a bit of "soul sleep", albeit in the presence of and cognizant of Christ. Then at some undetermined time God will return to earth and renew the world. We will then live forever with God on a renewed earth. Very much a millenarian eschatology, although soundly conservative.

    That being said I have yet to see anyone seriously challange his work!
     
  5. EdSutton

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    Two-poster
     
  6. EdSutton

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    Since this happens to be my best friend although five states away, Hullo, Rance.
    Uh- since when???

    Boy, am I ever surprised that you led off with the individual in question. :rolleyes: And have I ever got a great deal for someone for some wonderful Kentucky oceanfront property, while I have your attention! :D
    In His grace'
    Ed
     
  7. Rance

    Rance
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    Charles Meadows:
    Yes I own and have read almost all of Wright's major works. I find him very intriguing. He has made a devastating case against the prevailing liberal theology and for this he should be commended! But I am not convinced about the particulars of his Romans work. He is obviously an "New Perspective" thinker and as such is out of step with standard evangelical theology. In particular I find his eschatology a bit hard to swallow. Everything has been fulfilled! According to Wright we will be a bit of "soul sleep", albeit in the presence of and cognizant of Christ. Then at some undetermined time God will return to earth and renew the world. We will then live forever with God on a renewed earth. Very much a millenarian eschatology, although soundly conservative.

    That being said I have yet to see anyone seriously challange his work!

    Rance: Charles, many thanks to you and all those who replied about my inquiry concerning N. T. Wright. I agree that much of the opinion out there concerning him is based on hearsay and not direct interaction. I have been in the new perspective camp for several years, and find Wright head and shoulder over Dunn in its defense. I also have great respect for Richard Hays. I have worked through Romans and Galatians in some detail, and find Wright and the NPP quite to my satisfaction.

    I'm not about to launch out on the particulars, though anyone interested could visit the pros and cons here: http://www.thepaulpage.com/

    Included there is an article I wrote a few years ago, entitled 'Demythologizing the Gospel.' Though I would word it somewhat differently now, it represents in general my approach to Christian faith.

    I'd love to meet you sometime, Charles. If you are ever out to Eastern PA, please get in touch. My email is [email protected].

    God bless, Rance

    P.S. Yes, Ed Sutton and I are best friends, but we have taken different routes in our faith journey. I'm for moderate critical approaches to the Bible and deplore inerrancy. Ed, hasn't strayed from his Scolfield Bible for 40 years! But we love each other in Christ dearly.
     
  8. EdSutton

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    Well, I see you have picked up an often seen modus operandi quite quickly, here. Make a wild remark, and hope it's not challenged, too quickly or too strongly.

    [Rest assured, it will be, and usually not by me, just to alleviate any misconception you may yet be harboring.]

    But I will challenge one thing here. I am freely what is referred to as a dispensationalist, I agree. But I do not claim to be a 'Scofield-ite', whatever that might mean. And I happen to possess a New Scofield Reference Bible, which is the one I normally use, and can see myself using no other any time in the near future for I am acclimated to it. It's not my fault C. I. Scofield and his associates, and successors as well as many critics happened to get a lot of things right. I can't help that. I could stand the same Bible without any footnotes, as opposed to a different Bible with the same exact footnotes, and different page and print format. I find I have located a great deal by position on the page, when I search for verse references. Each and every page is the same, in a given version and publisher. And this helps me, tremendously, when I try and locate someting where I do not have the wording and verse location memorized, although I have a good idea of where it is on a page, without being conciously aware of this. Jack van Impe, with supposedly 14,000 verses memorized, I ain't. I'll take all the help I can get. Unlike some, I guess, I can use it.
    In His grace,
    Ed
     
  9. EdSutton

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    I'll toss out one more little trivial question.

    Rance writes:
    While I'm somewhat aware :rolleyes: that you do in fact "deplore inerrancy", aren't " moderate critical approaches to the Bible" greatly subjective at best? As is 'any other approach' subjective as well? Once again, what is the standard for defining this?
    Ed
     
  10. Charles Meadows

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    Rance,

    I'm a big fan of the "Paul page"!

    I've read most of the NPP material. And yes I've found Wright more compelling than Dunn and far more compelling than Sanders. I also found Richard Hays and J Louis Martyn quite interesting but I confess I probably have too little familiarity with either of them to offer valid critique.

    I would not consider myself to be "NPP". Essays by Fitzmyer, Silva, and Cranfield seem to have dealt a pretty tough blow to the NPP justification thing. I find many of the points very valid - but, as Fitzmyer pointed out, there probably was a good deal of works for righteousness thought. In addition the linguistic arguments by Silva were pretty compelling.

    But Wright is different. It's not his take on justification that I find so intriguing but rather his ability to completely fit Romans together, making it work with Galatians, Hebrewsand all the rest.

    I was anxious to read the critique of his work by Carey Newman et al. But it really didn't challenge Wright's overarching themes about the restoration of Israel!

    I'm still waiting for a heavyweight like Fitzmyer (probably now too old) or Cranfield to give a comprehensive challenge to Wright - but I haven't seen it!
     
  11. Rance

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    Hi Charles,
    Nice to interact with someone as widely read as yourself. And glad to learn of your familiarity with the Paul Page. Mark Mattison, the webmaster, is a good personal friend of mine. Together we traveled back in 1999 to Union Theological Seminary (Richmond) to get our first lecture experience with Wright. It was amazing as the topic was the Resurrection of Jesus, dealing with the history and theology of the bodily, physical resurrection (a huge point with Wright). The faculty (those who attended, the theology department largely being conspicuously absent), student, and alumni were blown away at what they heard. No suprise in an environment where (true to form) had largely treated the resurrection as real and historical, but as spiritual and eschatological only. Wright pulled no punches and his massive learning and incredible brilliance exploded upon the campus. It was electrifying.

    Concerning the NPP, I am as I said, fully persuaded that Paul did not put this at the center, as did the Reformation. For Paul, Jesus is Lord, the true Lord of the world, not least because he was also the King of Israel. When dealing with the implications of Gentiles and Jews in one body, the future justification of all believers is brought forward into the present to declare that all (Jew plus Gentile) are equally members of the covenant family. Thus, in this sense, justification by faith is not the gospel as such, but only the subsidiary implication of the claim that Jesus is Lord of the whole world. Of course, all this is nothing new to you, but at least it is good to say it again. I'd be interested where you see the weak link in the NPP. My shoulders are quite large and I'm not in the least offended by any views at all.

    Cheers, Rance Darity
     
  12. Charles Meadows

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    Rance,

    Well, I'm always willing to be convinced!

    Some things that make the NPP seem less plausible (to me) are these:

    1. "Works of the law". In Romans this phrase always seems pitted against faith in some sense. "Erga nomou" is never used in a positive context! It is easier to square the NPP position in Galatians than in Romans where Paul consistently seems to oppose "works of the law" with some type of human faith. And there are just too many of these faith/law antitheses for this to fit as merely a "covenant badge".

    2. Jewish works righteousness. No one would doubt that Sanders (as well as Moore, Schecter, Montefiore, and Stendahl before him) has brought home an important point regarding Judaism not being a simple works based religion. But that doesn't mean that people would not corrupt Judaism into a legalistic scheme, just as many Christians have done for our faith! Fitzmyer in his book "The Theology of the Apostle Paul" pointed out that in 4QMMT we find specific reference to divine reward for "works of the law". The apocryphal Joseph and Aseneth pictures Joseph's new bride trying to please her husband, but not being found completely right in his eyes. She is made complete not when she becomes a good person or worships YHWH but when she becomes Torah observant.

    3. "Pistis Christou" Richard Hays has made a nice case for this being the faith "of Christ". But the fact is that the majority of lexical evidence favors the traditional interpretation, although the "faith of Christ" is by no means excluded.

    4. The letter of James. James goes out of his way to chastise those who would see salvation as only by faith, suggesting that this position must have been advanced (in order for James to counter it).

    Just a few things!

    I'm interested to here your response!
     
  13. Rance

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    Charles:
    Some things that make the NPP seem less plausible (to me) are these:

    1. "Works of the law". In Romans this phrase always seems pitted against faith in some sense. "Erga nomou" is never used in a positive context! It is easier to square the NPP position in Galatians than in Romans where Paul consistently seems to oppose "works of the law" with some type of human faith. And there are just too many of these faith/law antitheses for this to fit as merely a "covenant badge".

    Rance:
    1. Fair question, but it seems to revolve around the traditional Protestant assumption that Paul's dispute with 'erga nomou' (in Romans and Galatians) is to resolve a set of questions mainly devoted to how individuals find God's mercy in Christ. While that concern is certainly not entirely foreign to Paul's narrative argument concerning the righteousness of God (God's covenant faithfulness to his promises to rescue Israel and the world), it does tend to screen out of view Paul's larger endeavor to explain the Gospel of God as good news equally valid and inclusive for both Jews and Gentiles. Note how often the discussion concerning faith and works intwines with his insistance that God's salvation is now manifested for both Jews and Gentiles. At every turn of argument in Romans, the ethnic issue of equalizing Jew and Gentile in God's plan is central.

    Wrath and salvation are equally directed at both, despite the role of Torah in Israel. The Jews are not exempt from wrath on the grounds of the flesh connection to Abraham, nor the exclusive possession and (presumed) obedience to Torah (wrath is intensified, if anything). Nor is salvation and inclusiveness in the covenant community limited on those same grounds. Covenant membership /righteousness does not belong to Israel alone now that Christ has come, but belongs to everyone (Jew plus Gentile) who believes. The unbelieving Jews by clinging to Torah at the exclusion of the Gentiles are resisting the covenant plan that climaxes in Jesus (cf. Romans 10:3-4). They are seeking to establish a righteousness of 'their own', i.e. for them alone.

    To summarize, Paul is at pains to show how the Gospel is the unveiling of God's justice for the whole world and not to Jews only. " Rejoice, O Gentiles with his people. . . The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule over the Gentiles" (Romans 15:10&12/Deuteronomy 32:43, Isaiah 11:10). The argument throughout the letter moves in the arena of the historical, the eschatological, the cosmic. It is not merely ahistorical and individualistic.

    Charles:
    2. Jewish works righteousness. No one would doubt that Sanders (as well as Moore, Schecter, Montefiore, and Stendahl before him) has brought home an important point regarding Judaism not being a simple works based religion. But that doesn't mean that people would not corrupt Judaism into a legalistic scheme, just as many Christians have done for our faith! Fitzmyer in his book "The Theology of the Apostle Paul" pointed out that in 4QMMT we find specific reference to divine reward for "works of the law". The apocryphal Joseph and Aseneth pictures Joseph's new bride trying to please her husband, but not being found completely right in his eyes. She is made complete not when she becomes a good person or worships YHWH but when she becomes Torah observant.

    Rance:
    4QMMT is exactly about this vindication based on Torah (i.e. those pecular ethical and ritualistic aspects of Torah that sets the Qumran community apart 'apostate' Israel). The issue is precisely boundary markers, which in turn is always the setting apart true worshippers from the pagans and apostates. But also justification is always about vindication based upon a certain perceived loyalty to YHWH based intensly on Torah). Placing Paul's letters in this specific Jewish context brings forth all the dimensions, which are frequently lost in Protestant reductionistic concentration on legalism vs. faith.

    Charles:
    3. "Pistis Christou" Richard Hays has made a nice case for this being the faith "of Christ". But the fact is that the majority of lexical evidence favors the traditional interpretation, although the "faith of Christ" is by no means excluded.

    Rance:
    Hays is on solid ground for several reasons, particularly the contextual. Note, for example, the parallel/contrast between 'wrath of God' and 'righteousness of God' in Romans 1:17&18. Both belong to God and are not imputed substances.

    Charles:

    4. The letter of James. James goes out of his way to chastise those who would see salvation as only by faith, suggesting that this position must have been advanced (in order for James to counter it).

    Rance: I fail to see the strength of this argument. If anything, James advances the counter argument to Luther's strict formula against medieval legalism (which was not an issue).

    Thanks for your cool-headed responses. It is a joy conversing with you.
     
  14. Charles Meadows

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    Rance,

    Yes your response to my first point sounds very "Wright"! And it is the overall historical cogency of this argument that impresses me so regarding N. T. Wright and those of like mind. It makes complete sense. What keeps me from swallowing it "hook, line, and sinker" is that there just seem to be to many references in Romans which emphasize the importance of faith, pitted against what appears to be a Jewish works righteousness. To say it another way while Wright's argument makes complete historical sense it seems to minimize "justification by faith" just a bit too much. To me his weak link here seems to be "justification", which is (I think) hard to sqaure with a number of verses in Romans.

    That being said I am far from committed to that stance. I have ben planning to undertake a massive reading session on Romans but have not yet found the time for this (work is busy!)

    Wright has pointed out that 4QMMT and some points in 4Q Florilegium and perhaps the Habakkuk pesher hint at his concept of "covenant markers". I think he is right. But as Fitzmyer pointed out these testify of a mindset that one could obtain a righteousness before God by doing these "mqsat ma'aseh hatorah". If this mindset did exist it would strengthen the traditional stance that Paul was pretty concerned to counter it, and that "justification by faith" is more than just a subsidiary point in Romans. The same (I think) goes for James. You are certainly right about Luther. But it seems to me that James would not have challenged the concept of salvation by faith (James 2:14,15) if "salvation by faith" had not been preached (? by Paul).

    And regarding "pistis Christou" yes Hays is on very solid ground contextually. And I do think that the whole NPP scheme "plays better" in Galatians than in Romans. But the "faith in Christ" also makes sense. And I think Moises Silva (in his essay in "Justification and Variegated Nomism vol 2") did a nice job of showing that linguistically the faith IN Christ has more support and precedent.

    Any thoughts?
     
  15. Rance

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    Charles:
    Yes your response to my first point sounds very "Wright"! And it is the overall historical cogency of this argument that impresses me so regarding N. T. Wright and those of like mind. It makes complete sense. What keeps me from swallowing it "hook, line, and sinker" is that there just seem to be to many references in Romans which emphasize the importance of faith, pitted against what appears to be a Jewish works righteousness. To say it another way while Wright's argument makes complete historical sense it seems to minimize "justification by faith" just a bit too much. To me his weak link here seems to be "justification", which is (I think) hard to sqaure with a number of verses in Romans.

    Rance:
    Hi Charles. I have only a moment or two so will only throw out a few thoughts on justification by faith in Romans. One thing I like to firmly keep in mind is, I think 'Wrightly,' that the Gospel as preached by Paul is about the news that the crucified and risen Jewish Messiah is now Lord of the world. This seems to consistenty play out in Acts and places in Paul where he is reflective of his public message. Romans 1:1-3 is an example. In my mind, the early church did not go about preaching so much about justification by faith, but that Jesus is Lord and that God was summoning that world to turn from its idolatry and give allegience to the true Lord (Caesar being the parody).

    Justification by faith is the outcropping of the Jewish theology that God had at last revealed his justice to the world (Romans 1:16). Justification by faith (as opposed to justification by the works of Torah) becomes important inside the argument made to the Roman Christians when Paul is most intent to insist that God's plan to rescue creation is all inclusive, demonstrated now in the coming together of Jew and Gentile into one world-wide family.

    Those Jews who loyaly cling to Torah, while disbelieving in Jesus, are in effect opposed to the plan and purpose of God to bring God's justice toward all. But it is not as though the Gospel is therefore at odds with the intentions of Torah (a point underscored in several ways throughout Romans), for the plan to rescue (save) the world was always based on promised mercy. The Torah, due to Israel's disobedience actually stood in the way of Isreal becoming the means of salvation to the world. She was unfaithful to her calling, thus the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah to justice of God. Torah concentrates sin in Israel (transferred to Jesus her royal representative at the cross where evil is atone for).

    Now the justice of God is revealed in the obedience of Jesus, specifically his obedience unto death. That long-awaited final vindication (justification) of the true worshippers of God is now the blessing belonging to all who believe in Jesus. The future verdict is brought forward into the present. Those baptized into Jesus are the true people of God whose sins have been forgiven. Justification, therefore, does not come through loyalty to Torah, but through faith in the Messiah. Faith, not a set of some hightlighted Jewish works of law (e.g. circumcision), is the boundary marker of the new covenant. Jews and Gentiles are marked out as the forgiven people of the covenant by faith, not by works (always Jewish works, though both moral and ceremonial). They are given the status of righteousness (dikaios) within the covenant.

    That the coming together of both Jew and Gentile is so central to justification because it is through this one world-wide community that God's mission reaches out further to the world. And that mission, envisioned now by Paul in his plans to evangelize the western Mediterranean world (with the Roman church as a support base) must not be thwarted by a divided church. Justification by faith, and not by works of Torah, undergirds a theology where both squabbling Jews and Gentiles will not undercut that united mission and worldwide community.

    I take this as the reason Paul bangs on about jusitication, the Torah, and the Gospel based on promise. The living God is declaring to the principalities and powers that their time is up and that his justice is rescuing the world (from sin and death) and introducing a new empire where God's people reign in life. Justification is part of his argument to answer the many objections coming from different quarters.

    Excuse the rambling answer,
    Rance
     
  16. Martin

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    Joseph_Botwinick:


    ==Ok let me state up front that I, as most evangelicals, have issues with some of Wright's theological stances. However for anyone to compare NT Wright to "the Jesus Seminar" is a bit odd. The fact is that Wright debates members of the Jesus Seminar (Crossan, Borg, etc) and has even published books opposing their theories. So the fact that you "seem" to be putting him in the same category with JD Crossan makes me wonder how familiar you are with Wright's work(s) on the issue of the historical Jesus.

    I believe that Wright's major contribution to the church is his work(s) on the historical Jesus (and not mainly his theological works). In this respect his studies have been very helpful to myself, and many other students and scholars alike who love the study of the historical Jesus and the rise of early Christianity. Does this mean that I agree with every point Wright makes? Not at all. However I think most people in this field of study would agree that his works (on the historical Jesus, etc) provide great insight and, indeed, aid in the refutation of many of the confusing claims of Crossan, Borg, and others.

    So to compare Wright to the Jesus Seminar in any way is just plain wrong.

    Now to the "heresy" charge. While I certainly have massive disagreements with Wright's view of Paul (etc), and I agree that his view there is dangerous, I don't know that I would call Wright a heretic. There are heretics out there, such as those in the Jesus Seminar who deny the historical Jesus (& His physical resurrection), but I am not sure I would put Wright in that category.

    In Christ,
    Martin.
     
  17. Charles Meadows

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    Wright is definitely NOT in that category.
     
  18. JohnDeereFan

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    bump for jgainer.
     

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