Unfaithful witnesses leading the people of God...

Recently, we've discussed the method of speaking employed by men called to be God's witnesses, whether in the academic world or as pastors. We've noted their tendency to say "no" when they mean "yes," "maybe" when God has said "never," and so on.

Some of our readers have been displeased with our criticisms, pointing out that men such as Bishop N. T. Wright and Tony Campolo are only doing their best to communicate in the language of our culture, winning a hearing for the Gospel that other blunter men would (or could) never win.

Years back, there was a competitor to Christianity Today called Eternity. David's and my father, Joe Bayly, had a monthly column in Eternity for exactly twenty-five years, his final one appearing the year he died. The column titled "Out of My Mind" is the inspiration for this blog, including its name. Back in the sixties, this short parable appeared in Eternity, and I thought now would be a good time to put it back in circulation.

The Last Word: A Modern Fairy Tale

by Charles Anderson

Good evening, boys and girls.

Tonight I want to tell you the story about the Bishop of Woolwich and the title of our adventure is: "Honestly Now." Some people think that there actually was a real Bishop of Woolwich who really lived one day long ago. Other people aren't really sure he lived. But we don't care at all if he lived - do we, boys and girls?

You see, boys and girls, we don't need to know what the Bishop said and did, all we need to know is what people who saw people who saw him said he said and did. So whether or not he really lived doesn't really make any difference because we're not sure that the people who saw the people who saw him really saw anything.

What we really want to say is this: we know that the people who saw the people who may or may not have seen him didn't know how to say anything very clearly without making everything so complicated that we today have to laugh at what they said about what they said he said. But we shouldn't laugh, because it's not easy to say something about something else so that what we are saying is just a symbol of what we mean when we say something about something else that couldn't be true anyhow because nothing like that could ever really happen.

Isn't that true, boys and girls?

Comments

That's very good. It covers much 20th-century theology. I'm not sure it applies to the Bishop of Durham in quite the same way it did to the Bishop of Woolwich, though. Incidentally, didn't the latter have a change of heart later in life?
By the way, this is not an endorsement of Durham (I believe Anglican bishops like to call themselves by the names of their sees). I just think he is a somewhat different pheonomenon than the other guy. He is cerainly more formidable/dangerous, whatever because he say, "Paul doesn't say what you people think and claim that he says." So you have to engage him at that level. Robinson, on the other hand, was closer to saying, "Paul said that, but he didn't really udnersand what he was talking about."

Dear Dan, I agree the bishops Woolwich and Durham are different, and so the fairy tale deals Bishop N. T. Wright somewhat of a glancing blow, except this which strikes me, at least, as spot on:

***didn't know how to say anything very clearly without making everything so complicated that we today have to laugh at what they said about what they said he said. But we shouldn't laugh, because it's not easy to say something about something else so that what we are saying is just a symbol of what we mean when we say something about something else***

heheheh

I thought Wright was saying that Paul wasn't intersted in what we understand as justification, but only in how to recognize "who's in and who's out." I don't think that's complicated or symbolic. I do think it's wrong.

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