Bishop N. T. Wright, again, as it were...

Indeed it is appropriate to repeat here once again what I mentioned before, that fault must not always be found with the servants of Christ, if they are driven with violent force against professed enemies of sound doctrine, unless one is perhaps disposed to accuse the Holy Spirit of lack of moderation. ...the vehemence of holy zeal and of the Holy Spirit in the prophets was like that, and if soft, effeminate men think it stormy, they do not consider how dear and precious God's truth is to Him. (Calvin on Acts 13:10)

Defending Wright's rhetoric as an anglicanism is incredibly misguided. Wright's method of communication--what I've referred to in my two earlier posts as his rhetoric--has absolutely nothing to do with the culture of anglicanism as opposed to the culture of presbyterianism, congregationalism, or radical reformationalism. Rather, it's simply the feminized discourse of the western world, particularly notable among the chattering classes.

Note carefully: Wright's method of speaking is precisely the same method of speaking that Solzhenitsyn (in the quote I posted earlier) attributed to "the West"--not to Anglicans or Episcopalians--or even gentlemen and ladies, but to "the West:"

In the West, one must have a balanced, calm, soft voice; one ought to make sure to doubt oneself, to suggest that one may, of course, be completely wrong.

I grew up on this sort of language within the world of sophisticated evangelicalism where fundamentalists were despised and one's academic reputation was everything. The men of IVCF, Wheaton, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and the Evangelical Theological Society all spoke like this regardless of their country of origin or denominational affiliation. The most important thing was that one not make an ass of oneself in front of scholars. They got chills up and down their backs at the thought of being accepted into the academic fraternity.

As one wag put it, evangelicals say to liberals, "If you'll call me an intellectual, I'll call you a Christian."

But beyond the rather small world of elite evangelicals...

this method of discourse is the principal characteristic of the academy itself, and evangelicals, whether Brits or Americans, talk this way because it's required by their peer group of choice. You can enter any Indiana University classroom a couple miles from where I sit typing and listen to a steady stream, hour after hour, day after day, month after month, year after year, of every single mannerism I complained about Bishop Wright using coming out of the mouths of professors, administrators, graduate students, and undergraduates on the move.

But beyond the fact that this way of talking is academyspeak, not anglicanspeak, one aspect of this discussion has been studiously avoided by my opponents: namely, can a man say the truth in a lying way? I say "Yes," but my opponents seem to be blind to the question, and therefore incapable of engaging it on any substantive way.

My argument is that Scripture does not simply contain objective truths, but that it is also a repository of methods appropriate to serve as vessels for that truth. That when the Apostle Paul spoke to the men of the Areopagus in Athens, his sermon or discourse is a model for us not only of what to say to decadent intellectuals, but also of how to say it to them. And I'd make a similar point all through Scripture. When we fight against heresy in a particular congregation, the Apostle Paul's method of dealing with the Galatians is profitable to teach us just as the substance of his arguments are.

I don't mean (or, if one is an academic, "This is not to say") that the Apostle Paul's method with the Galatians is a straitjacket into which all future confrontation of heresy must be bound. And yet, if no analogous style or intensity or sarcasm or berating or threatening and damning ever crosses our lips or pages, we really believe it should not have crossed the Apostle Paul's lips and pages either.

Deny it all you want, but Wright was given a bully pulpit much like the Areopagus and he failed both in his content and in his method of communication. We're left thinking what a smart and calm and balanced and smooth academic he is--not what a holy God he speaks for.

I'm tired of the nativism that has characterized men's responses to my criticism of Wright. What I wrote I never attributed to his being a Brit or Anglican, but to his being one more quite boring example of the feminized discourse characteristic of the academy across the western world. And I believe one must choose, not just between God and mammon but between God and the academy. (After all, it's the academy that is the center of the western world's wealth--not banks or the Pentagon. And certainly not the Vatican.)

So, does that make me an anti-intellectual? Well yes, assuming the Apostle Paul was also an anti-intellectual. But then the Holy Spirit must be an anti-intellectual, too, since He was the One who inspired the Apostle Paul to write:

Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, "He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness"; and again, "the Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless." (1 Corinthians 3:18-20)


Wow! I have to hand it to you. At least you are very open about your disregard and contempt for academic scholarship, even from within orthodox, Evangelical, Christianity. You are more than welcome to your back woods, Beverly Hillbilly version of "Christianity." Not only Bishop Wright, but InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Wheaton College, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and the Evangelical Theological Society are all dismissed as ivory tower, effeminate academics who long for the acceptance of mainstream scholarship. I guess you would have to have the same view of Justin Martyr, the Reformed scholastics, B.B. Warfield, and J. Gresham Machen as well, since they were all quite concerned with engaging in a critical conversation with the cutting edge scholarship of their day. Maybe you should read those guys some time. Anyways, since you are clearly even further out on the fringes of cranky fundamentalism than I even realized, I will now gladly bid you good day.

Dear Tim:

"Fringes of cranky fundamentalism." I like it. FOCRAFU. It could also be Fellowship of Cranky Fundamentalists and we could induct Machen as an honorary member. Great idea.

What, pray tell, is "feminized discourse"?


PUH-leeeeeze! Have YOU read Justin Martyr, the Reformed scholastics, B.B. Warfield, and J. Gresham Machen lately? Do you really think their discourse is the same as the pettifoggery displayed by modern religious academics?

Unfortunately, Wright is just one of many modern academics (and wannabe academics) who talk the talk that academics are supposed to talk if they're going to get along in the August Sholastic Society Helping Others Learn Educational Strategies. You rush to the defense of Anglicans academics, and you are right to do so. As a group, they forgot more about rhetorical flummery than most wannabe academics could learn in a lifetime.

Mr. Light: For the beginning of an explanation of what I mean when I speak of "the feminization of discourse," please see my most recent post, "Feminized discourse and "hedging."

I haven't read Justin Martyr, but I have read Warfield and Machen, and if Paul Owen thinks that Wright's method and approach are even slightly similar to theirs, then, as they say, he ought to pass us some of what he's having, because it's got to be good stuff.

O.K., WRight talks the femnized language of the modern world. Contrat it with the "agonistic" talk of the male-dominated oral world of the Middle Ages and Reformation. Agreed. But don't you thik one reason anybody pays attention to Anglicans--a pretty small group without much distinctive to say--is that the native Anglican dialogue fits so neatly with the contemporary thought and speech pattern. Though officially Christian, they are so obviously "one (or some) of us."

Uh, Dan, there are 77 million Anglicans worldwide, and that's not even counting the dissenting "Continuing" Anglican groups (like the APA, REC, ACC, AMiA, APCK, ACA, etc.). How does that count as "a pretty small group"? And how is it that they have little "distinctive" to say, when they hold together (more successfully than anyone else) the best of both Catholicism and Protestantism?

>And how is it that they have little "distinctive" to say, when they hold together (more successfully than anyone else) the best of both Catholicism and Protestantism?

These days more like the worst of both, at least in the English speaking world.

Mr. Owen's unconventional opinions about "scholarship" and his skewed vision of what "orthodoxy" looks like are well documented.

Just this morning on his own blog, for example, we find one of his patented ex cathedra pronouncements: "I've got bad news for all the anti-Catholics out there. The discussion of justification in the Catechism of the Catholic Church is perfectly sound, even on Protestant principles."

Then he has the chutzpah to declare himself "a Reformed Protestant."

Note carefully, also, that the type of "scholarship" he actually _practices_ allows for no dissenting opinions; he and his fellow bloggers close the comments threads on all controversial posts; and he instinctively answers every critic with the same snide and vitriolic tone exemplified in his first comment above.

He's also the guy who while still a student at Talbot wrote a paper declaring Mormon scholarship superior to the scholarship of anyone who declares Mormonism heresy.

If he's disturbed that a bumpkin like me would have nothing but "disregard and contempt" for THAT kind of scholarship, I'm frankly not going to lose much sleep worrying about how to make him happy.

I just posted a slightly different version of this comment on the Pyromaniacs blog a few minutes ago, but I think it's relevant to this discussion too. I doubt many people who comment on here will ever understand the significance of these issues unless they set foot in the real war zones themselves.

I've been a religious studies student at Indiana University for 4 years now (I graduate in May.) I came here, a believer of only a year, from a rather weak church and jumped right into this academic rigamorole. The academy has so thoroughly burnt me out that I have neither time nor the desire to pander about in the world of higher criticism or anything associated with it. I have fought (or tried to fight) the fight of faith here in the context of one of the most liberal universities I know of. I've attempted rather poorly (as well as ill-equipped) to engage these scholars (J.Albert Harrill, for instance) both on an academic level and on a non-academic level, and have been thoroughly trashed. I've been called a redneck, a hillbilly, a backwards neanderthal- you name it. Holding to the authority of Scripture has constantly been equated to bowing to a "sacred cow." I've watched friends and fellow believers be seduced by the intellectual environment, I've been tempted severely myself, and I've seen faith crushed under the weight of professors with fancy degrees, semi-valid arguments, and a seat of authority that they use to bully Christians. All of that to say, to engage the pagan academics in an academic way is something I've found to be a completely worthless pursuit. Every single one I've encountered has long committed their soul to the study of Scripture for one reason with one primary personal aim: To tear down its authority to justify their sin. They have no interest in hearing arguments opposed to them. They are deaf to them. To my knowledge, every professor engaged in Biblical Studies I've talked to has a troubled background with religion (and most with family) and has turned out either a flaming feminist or a homosexual with a vendetta against fundamentalist Christianity in any form it takes, with the exception of one rather liberal Roman Catholic.

The point is that if we're to engage the academic world with any kind of heart at all, the place to start is right at the heart. The woman at the well was happy to talk theology in periphery, but Jesus went straight to her adultery. In the same way, the way to engage these academics is to confront them with their sin and the root of their rebellion. Now, to be sure, I really, really believe that biblical scholarship is something that evangelicals need to be engaged in. We need to have an answer for the pagans when they attack Scripture, but the most clear reason for this in my mind has nothing to do with persuading them. They're not budging until we put our fingers on the real issue. The reason I see is for all of the lambs that are sent to the wolves every year without any ground to stand on. It has to be done with a pastoral heart, or else it is vanity. And with that in mind, with my brothers who have stumbled and fallen on account of these wolves on my heart, I say with full conviction fie on anyone who does so in such a way as to cater to the sensitivities of the academic community while lambs are being led to the slaughter. The matter is far too urgent when souls are at stake. We either believe the Word of God is what it claims to be and treat it as such, or we deny it. How can anyone, especially a man called to be a shepherd, be so careless and irresponsible? The air in there be poison- but praise God for the breath of fresh air provided by those who stand boldly and proclaim the truth unabashedly.


You know, the thing which always confirms for me the fact that I am on the right track on a whole host of issues is that my opponents can never bring themselves to accurately represent my views when trying to refute them. That tells me that their case is weak, and my case is strong--otherwise, they would not be afraid to accurately represent my views, and let them stand in their strongest form. I of course never wrote any such paper on Mormonism as you describe. Anyone can go read the "paper" for themselves in the Trinity Journal 19NS (1998). Do you think Trinity Evangelical Divinity School would have allowed such an article to be published in their journal? What we argued is that in terms of current apologetic efforts, the Mormons were producing a much higher quality caliber of materials than their Evangelical critics. I never said that Mormon scholarship is superior to that of anyone who declares Mormonism to be heresy. That's called a straw man.

For Dr. Owen's position on Mormon and evangelical dialog and the relative merits of the scholarship of both sides, as well as excellent responses to Dr. Owen by Pastor Johnson, check out these two links:

This is unbelievable.

Academics speak with qualifying phrases because they intend to express precise thoughts, and are aware (through many, many hours of discussion with students and colleagues) that a good amount of explanation is often needed to make a thought clear to another person.

We now have a rule that sentences can only contain so many lines of thought, or else you're a wuss and selling out to intellectual elitist unbelief? Are you kidding?

Paul was willing to cave on things that didn't matter -- why aren't we? And why are you judging a brother based on the way in which he expresses himself?

This is absurd.

Drew, I just want you to note 3 things.

First of all, a qualifying phrase ("I think," "I believe," "as it were") does not aid in expressing a precise thought. What it aids in expressing is doubt. This never helps in making a truth clear. It only serves to muddle a truth's implications.

Paul never qualified himself, nor should a minister of the gospel. Furthermore, Bishop N.T. Wright is a minister of the gospel, not merely an academic.

Finally, this has nothing to do with how a brother expresses himself. It has everything to do with how he expresses God's universal truth in a world that would be happy to say, "Okay, that's great that you believe that, as it were, but, as it were, I think that's bogus. Thanks for giving me a way to cop out of dealing with reality by relegating it to the realm of your own personal beliefs and thoughts." God's truth is universally binding on all men and equivocation, prefacing God's truth with self-doubt, is deceptive, unloving, and cowardly. Please read through this series of posts thoughtfully before you jump in pointing fingers and making judgments on a brother's stand for the truth of the Gospel.


I agree with Jacob, and want to add one thing.

You write: "Paul was willing to cave on things that didn't matter -- why aren't we?"

Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether or not Paul actually "caved" on anything, do you really mean to say that God's will concerning homosexuality, the God-ordained roles of men and women in the church and the home, the authority of Jesus Christ, and the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone all amount to "things that don't matter"?

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