Post by Mike Miller on Dec 22, 2014 16:03:43 GMT -5
I have read some of Wright, but certainly not enough to answer such a broad question about him. I do have a friend, however, who is very familiar with Wright. I've asked him to respond if he has time. Check back later and see.
Hello, at Dr. Miller's suggestion, I've come to put in my two cents.
N. T. Wright is, as many of you may know, one of the most popular New Testament scholars in the world. He is very well respected by many in biblical and theological circles, even among conservatives and liberals. I have great admiration for Professor Wright and his scholarship, though there are considerable theological differences between us on certain matters. I have been with Professor Wright in fellowship and worship settings and was impressed with his charitable pastoral spirit.
First, Wright has done a lot for Christian apologetics, particularly in helping us respond to the works of liberal New Testament scholars that deny the historicity of the gospels. One of his most important works is a nearly eight-hundred page defense of the resurrection of Jesus. Over and against the members of the Jesus Seminar who reject traditional Christian beliefs about Jesus, Wright has argued forcefully that Jesus believed himself to be the divine Messiah of Israel who would die for the sins of the world and be raised again.
Second, it is important to understand that Wright is, in fact, an Anglican with very different views from Southern Baptists like myself about the nature of the church, baptism, etc. While Wright has a very high view of biblical authority, his views on Scripture are different from those of many evangelicals like myself. He takes many biblical narratives, like the account of Adam or Jonah, to be figurative and not literal or historical in nature. These are among the most serious departures from what most Southern Baptists and evangelicals believe.
The most important--and most controversial--theological debate in which Wright has been engaged in recent years is the debate over justification and the so-called New Perspective on Paul. This is a fairly complicated issue, but in simplest terms, Wright belongs to a group of New Testament scholars that believes that many Protestants after Luther have fundamentally misunderstood Paul on key points. Proponents of the "New Perspective" have argued that Luther read sixteenth-century Roman Catholic works-based theology into his understanding of the Jews in books like Galatians and Romans. This reading, they argue, has skewed the way people understand a few of Paul's important points. While I am not without criticism for the New Perspective on Paul--really, there are many different "perspectives" in this broader school--I think that a lot of their historical arguments are pretty convincing.
There's a lot of misunderstanding about what Wright believes on justification, so let me attempt to summarize briefly how I understand him. First, Wright does believe that Jesus paid for the penalty of our sins that we so rightly deserved. He does affirm that Jesus died in our place and took our punishment. But he also stresses that Jesus' death does other things as well: like procure victory over the devil and evil powers in the world (like the Roman Empire of the New Testament). Second, Wright argues for justification by faith--that we are declared right on the basis of what Jesus has done for us--but understands exactly what Paul means by "righteousness of God" differently than many Protestants following Luther. That being said, Wright disagrees with those in the tradition of Luther that understand Christ's righteousness being "imputed" to us by faith. He thinks that this idea misrepresents what Paul means by the righteousness of God. Rather than understanding the righteousness of God as God's moral character or commitment to uphold his own glory (what John Piper teaches), Wright understands Paul to mean God's "faithfulness to the covenant" when talking about God's righteousness. Through faith we do not receive Christ's righteousness as much as we are united to Christ and declared by God to be faithful to his covenant.
One of Wright's strengths as a scholar is the way in which he forces us to think critically about our preconceived notions of biblical texts. I don't always agree with his conclusions, but I appreciate the way he always challenges me in the way I think about Scripture. If one were to place him in the "conservative/liberal" spectrum, I'd say he's far more conservative than many of his American Episcopalian counterparts. He affirms the deity of the Lord Jesus, his resurrection, his virgin birth, his second coming, our future life in Christ, our need to be under the authority of God in Scripture, etc. He has fought for traditional marriage and against homosexuality in a setting very hostile to that position. While we would disagree with some of his views--like his position on evolution or women in the pastorate--we can appreciate him for his scholarship.