Bishop N. T. Wright, as it were...
As if our teeth weren't sufficiently on edge, it happened on the same Commonwealth Day (referred to below) that another prominent Anglican was in Sydney and, following excerpts from the Jensens' Commonwealth Day services, The Religion Report interviewed the Bishop of Durham, N. T. Wright. For a fine illustration of letting your yea be nay and your nay yea, here's a transcript of the interview.
If one were impressed with credentials of the academic and religious variety, I can see why one might find Wright fascinating, but I find him on a variety of issues carefully wrong, and therefore decadent. As just one example, imagine the Apostle Paul summarizing a battle over the morality of sodomy this way:
Because there are many churches and (Episcopal Church USA) has been one of them, which have embraced a particular type of theology, which leads it further and further away from where most of the rest of the Anglican communion are. Of course they will tell it the other way, they would say that the Africans and others have embraced a kind of fundamentalism which leads them away from academic purity and respectability. As an academic myself I would be bound to disagree with that.
For me, that about says it all: speaking of whether the legitimation of sodomy will be accepted by the worldwide Anglican communion, Bishop Wright identifies himself not as a servant of the Word or shepherd of souls, but as "an academic." And his critique of those who are seeking to see sodomy legitimated in Christ's Name is that they are trying to lead Anglican communion "further and further away from where most of the rest of the Anglican communion are."
Imagine the Apostle Paul being interviewed on a Roman radio station concerning the Judaizing schism, and his pointing out that the Judaizers were trying to lead the Church away from where most Christians were on the issue. It boggles the mind, although it's an argument perfectly tuned to Western political culture.
Wright goes on to give a statement that is a picture-perfect synthesis of all that is wrong with the world of Christian intellectuals:
Jesus believed I think, that he was offering a critique from within (Judaism).
Wright "thinks" that Jesus "believed"?
Jesus "was offering a critique"?
Later, Wright thinks again--this time about the Apostle Paul:
...stick with (the Apostle Paul and) you will see that he really does believe that (his critique of Judaism) is the true fulfillment of ...the promises to Abraham...
Really--Paul "believes" that? Is that why the Apostle Paul damned those who didn't believe that?
'Believe' can never be a proper word to describe the ground of authority for Paul's message about which he himself testifies that it is "not according to man" and that he "neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ."
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:6-12)
Jesus and the Apostle Paul "believed"? What insipid trash! Where is the man who is faithful to the Lord Who gave His servants this command:
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20)
Later Wright speaks of the Biblical witness to the Resurrection this way:
...the stories we have in the Gospels are told with particular people referred to, particular names being mentioned, particular locations. And (Richard Bauckham) makes a very strong case that when the early traditions told a story, with a reference to a particular person dropped in, one of the things they were doing was saying "This story, as it were, belongs to that person in the sense that he's the one who can tell you, or she's the one who can tell you about it, and if you want to know the detail, they're still around, you can go and check up on them."
Dear sir, is this really what academic Christianity has been reduced to--that we ramble on about how a very strong case may be made that Scripture's Resurrection story, as it were, belongs to a person in the sense that he's the one, she's the one, who can tell you about it? As it were, a very strong case indeed:
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus... (Luke 1:1-3)
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
In this gelded age, the revelation and authority of God are soft-pedalled by emasculated clergymen who like to think of themselves not as preachers and shepherds, but intellectuals and "academics."
Yes, I know full well the whole world is going after that super-apostle, Bishop Wright. But I say to those I love, leave him alone. Even if his content is sometimes helpful when dealing with our decadent world, his affect, his rhetoric, his way of speaking is absolutely poisonous to those training to be faithful shepherds of God's flock. The last thing we need today are men who are emasculated and "think," "wonder," "intuit," and "digress" instead of fighting the good fight with all their might.
Finally, National Radio's Religion Report puts this question to Bishop Wright: "You've said that you're an Anglican because you were brought up as an Anglican. Is there any other reason why you're an Anglican or why you would want to commend Anglicanism to anybody who was thinking of joining?"
Here's Wright's response, in its entirety:
In a sense I'm an Anglican because I was brought up there. But there are millions of people who are brought up as Anglicans and who've moved away either into atheism or agnosticism, or into Catholicism in one direction, or Orthodoxy, or into being a Baptist or a Pentecostal or whatever. So just being brought up in it isn't a sufficient reason for staying there. And there have been times in my life when I've looked at what was going on in the Church of England and I've just thought, 'Do I really belong there?' And in world-wide Anglicanism as well. In a sense it's like a family, and you can't leave your - well you can and you can't leave your family - I mean you can turn your back on them but they're still around somewhere, as it were. But it's more than that. I do think that the Anglican Church worldwide has a peculiar vocation at the moment, that we are within touching distance of Catholicism and Orthodoxy, even though we have some unresolved issues with them. We are within touching distance of Methodism and Presbyterianism and so on, and Anglicanism is often seen both from inside and from outside, as a place where people can come and get to know each other and actually work together. I was at a colloquium recently in the north of England where we had Anglicans, Romans, Orthodox, Methodist, Reformed etc., and there was a strong sense that actually the Anglican ministry within the worldwide larger church is one of providing a place where people can meet, a place where people can pray, and that's an uncomfortable place. It's like living in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. But it's a place which has a certain integrity and which I hope and pray still has a mission to perform within the purposes of God.
Yes, but also no. Maybe, but now that I think about it, never. Thin, but just a wee bit fat, too.
And all with a great dollop of "as it were."
Hold me back.