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)