Bishop N. T. Scrooge...

Jesus' birth usually gets far more attention than its role in the New Testament warrants. ...One can be justified by faith with no knowledge of it.

The birth narratives have no impact on my reconstruction of Jesus' public agendas and his mindset as he went to the cross. There might just be a case for saying that if his birth was as Matthew and Luke describe it, and if Mary had told him about it, my argument about Jesus' vocation to do and be what in scripture YHWH does and is might look slightly different. But as a historian I cannot use the birth stories within an argument about the rest of the gospel narratives.

- N. T. Wright, "God's Way of Acting" (emphases in the original)

Of the reading and quoting of famous spokesmen of religion there is no end. Take N. T. Wright, one of the more popular of this genre. Men burnish to such a beautiful sheen after rubbing up against him!

Actually, some of my best friends fawn over him but I have had real difficulty giving it up for a man whose only commendable trait seems to be... reducing Scripture to providing a backdrop for his Own great erudition.

If only the Apostle Paul could have written with such elegance, and think of the different class of converts He would have attracted if Jesus had sounded so urbane!

Well now it's our turn and we mean to do better:

Have you read N. T. Wright's defense of the Resurrection? Stunning — you simply must read it! Finally, humble Christians have our own scholarly giants all suited up, going toe to toe with their Goliaths. With behemoths like Marsden, Noll, McGrath, Carson, and Wright on our side, we're finally able to come in from the cold. What cheer!

Our new Christmas carol:

Good Christian persons rejoice, with heart and soul and voice;
Give ye ear to what we say, Bishop Wight's the rage today;
ETS before him bows...

So we're left lamenting the prominence simple folk who read Matthew and Luke give to "the birth narrative; to Mary, Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.

Today, motherhood is passé. Our daughters are too bright for childbirth and raising a godly seed. Leave it to the homeschoolers. They seem to enjoy it.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.

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He seems to think we are all waiting with bated breath for his next book so we will know what to believe and confess before the world and what is optional. The gap between peasant believer and elite scholar has never been greater, much wider than in Catholicism.

I make it a point never to read NT Wright. You won't get that part of your life back, and his constant hemming, hawing, and parsing are enough to drive you nuts. I can't for the life of me determine why anyone finds him useful.

Kamilla: I've read some of his quotes where he is asked a question and answers by saying, "Wait for my next book. I'm going to deal with that question."

He really makes it seem as if he is an oracle and all believers, from peasant believers in the Ukraine, to Bible college lecturers in Bolivia, to auto mechanics in Pittsburgh, need to wait on that new book so they can buy it, read it, digest it and then they'll know what to confess and think and do. 

Dear Fred,

I don't read a lot of G. C. Berkouwer. Therefore I don't have an opinion about Berkouwer. Since you are committed to not reading N.T. Wright, I don't understand your bewilderment (i.e. "I can't for the life of me determine why anyone finds him useful").

Can't you see why those who read books find them more useful than those who don't?

Best wishes,

David

Dear David Booth,

I have read enough of Wright to find him at best an uncertain, simpering voice. At worst he is a bad guide. Whether he is pompously dismissing the orthodox Confessional position, or whether he is shoving socialism down our throats as some kind of Biblical mandate, or whether he is denying the Biblical position on male/female roles, or whether he is contradicting the clear Biblical position on homosexuality, he is "so to speak, "as it were," "after a fashion," "to give a nuance" (to use Wright's favorite hesitant phrases) a waste of time.

But as a historian I cannot use the birth stories within an argument about the rest of the gospel narratives.

How is this erudite? How can a historian not tie-in Jewish prophecy and the socio-political/religious environment surrounding the birth of Jesus to the details selected for the gospel narratives and to the rest of the events also portrayed there, in certain ways, to show him to the Jewish people from Egypt to Spain, to be the Son of God--the Messiah ben David and Messiah ben Joseph? e.g. I doubt they're really not heretical but one can check-out Moriel Ministries, damn dispensatoinal fundamentalist(!) or that nobody who so uncivily and unpolitely went demanding that the Jews/disciples stone their false prophet Rabbi (http://www.moriel.org/articles/israel/jesus_in_the_talmud.htm) as well as who goes about denouncing the erudite defense and excusal of false Christian prophets (http://www.moriel.org/articles/sermons/watchmen_who_are_not_watchmen.htm) and come to Jesus, and then see how this heretic who has merely his beliefs goes on gushing (properly) over the details found in those Scriptures as so utterly important to the modern Jew and Greek alike--while the Reformed along with evangsmelldom fawn over this sterilizer of the gospel details? Popping out babies, specially from a virgin's lady parts, is just too dang messy anyway for polite conversation so I guess perhaps it just needs be popped-out: it's supernatural anyway, has nothing to do with the ethicist-guru Jesus--that (I thought) passé and washed-up neo-liberal/orthodox version of Jesus I thought was dying (since my generation just thinks "why does it matter?", being that compromise is so unimpressive) along with the mainlines: guess I'm wrong--I think they're coming back just under different denominational names: doesn't anyone in the PCA, OPC, etc., practice discipline and remove fake believers, with orders to press into the kingdom first, anymore?

You know what's sad? A friend who had fallen into (she says) great sin from an old cult-church I'd escaped (semi unwilingly--I got so sick there was no option, so confused there was not even option to talk to anyone) was, she said, never told the gospel there--she ignored me when I could finally cry-out and start demanding real faith but then by God's grace she sinned and went for help, got gossiped to death and told "you need to read your Bible more" instead--they're more and more respectable and filled with latte-drinking hipsters too--while being more and more embarrassed and desperate (as the gossip spread), and ultimately forced-out: somewhere in there she realized, "wait a minute, what is the gospel!!!? Has anyone really told me!??"

What's sad is this pathetic band of well-meaning scoundrels did at least make fools of themselves and giant splashes throughout the community by insisting on the Bible being true, though being good evangelicals the contents are subject to debate and rationally reinterpreting all the time, but hey! at least they insist on something--sorta. They at least go out in the streets with signs on them for Jesus and preach and reach-out though they know not what they preached: I never see the Reformed churches making a stink throughout the Denver Metro and we could totally--we're so filled with the edumucated we have to have the right people both to denounce false and mixed-up and utterly graceless "gracious" Christian religion while going on simultaneous assault on popular spirituality and irreligion. Who was that Anglican bishop who complained that Paul caused riots when visiting but he received tea? If I had a chance to relieve opportunity I would have quit when my gut said, dropped out of college (or found a different educational path) and start RAILING like a fool on all this junk, though at the time I was a foolish little punk with no way and no equipping (not even by parents) either for true religion or for life--still paying for lack pretty bitterly. I am homeless at this point but if you guys ever want to make a splash in a university town, send some qualified preachers to Fort Collins, knock on the door of a little church (housed in a PCA building) called Providence Bible Church and request housing/congregating (they might deny full membership to paedobaptists just fyi--a little more insistent on adherence to the LBCF than others) and there is a giant plaza in the middle of the campus at CSU, which is constantly filled with people agitating for accepting Jesus--yet almost never anyone qualified to explain what inheriting Jesus actually means, entails, how it comes about, its grounds, immediate vs. peripheral consequences, costs and benefits, etc. And the whole damn place is not only a hornets nest but a smorgasborg of opportunity to do this: it was a fruitful place to harvest for the cults--remains so--but nobody wants to be as foolish as they and make a stink among all the "Christian" groups to be "sheep steelers" (why not? out of the jaws of the wolves!) or to harvest from the unbelievers a few pitiful specimens while gaining the disrepute of the vast majority. That little Church didn't dare condemn the cult I escaped despite the "yeah, we...sometimes 'wonder' about the things they do" and "wondering" at the harmfulness of the lead pastor (of that Church) while he chaired the Fort Collins pastors' association (or whatever it was called), while another little cult went around (rather cleverly) "have you accepted Jesus? Yeah? So what does that mean for you? (trying to be sure--and daring call unbelief in "believers" that, though then substituting their own beliefs--followed by bringing people into a "serious lived-life Christianity!!!!" that was as mixed and terrible as ever--all the while pretending at other times we were all just hunky dory and should get along).

Nobody...wants to call for the Judaizers to be castrated; the "I don't have theology" pastors to be condemned for "pretending to feed the sheep but having nothing" (the final conclusion of a family that appeared at the doorsteps of Providence Bible from my former cult after talking to John the [unofficial lead] pastor); the Roman Catholics to be open in their Mary Worship rather than word mincing (apologies to the better and stricter-thinking Catholics out there); the Pentecostals to just stop pretending the Bible has anything to do with the ordinary fair presented as the Sunday message (and the rest of the evangelicals for that matter); and on and on yet...all that's really really needed to convict men and demand repentance. Point out their absurdities rather than saying "let's make an alliance against those most apparently unlike us!!!" It's like "let's fight the atheists and idolaters" rather than going after EVERY idol.

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