Readers of this site know that I have huge respect for the biblical theological contributions of Dr. N. T. Wright, the esteemed bishop of Durham (Anglican). Wright is one of the finest biblical scholars in the world. Readers should see his books on the gospels, Jesus and Paul. Though there are areas of biblical interpretation with which you can disagree with Wright, for sure, no current writer is saying more that is so vitally important to biblical theology.
Some years ago we did a two-part interview of Wright in our quaterly journal, which is no longer published. In that interview Wright revealed some of his post-9/11 ideas politically and I chalked them up to his "Britishness" at the time. As I have continued to read him I have grown more and more distressed by his very unbalanced thinking about nations, social theory and public policy. Because a man like Tom Wright is genuinely brilliant in one area does not mean, in any case, that he is universally brilliant. Wright demonstrates this plainly in his most recent comments about the war on terror and the role of the United States and Great Britain.
Wright’s mistakes are powerfully underscored and challenged by Joseph Loconte, a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, in a recent online article that appears in The Weekly Standard, one of my favorite publications. Loconte shows that Wright’s views regarding the war on terror actually spill over into his new IVP book on evil as well. I intend to check this out myself when I get time. I encourage you to connect to The Weekly Standard article via the hyper-link above and read Loconte for yourself. I think his analysis, sadly to me, is right on.
Sometimes our theologians are not the best guides in international matters, as Loconte illustrates when he reminds us of what some churchmen told us about Hitler in the 1930s. And theologians can, and often are, terrible judges of disciplines such as economics, banking, business, law and social theory, to name only a few areas of great importance to the people of God and all people more generally. Again we have, in the case of N. T. Wright, a sad illustration of a great theologian seriously misleading us with regard to a very important concern to both the nation and the world.
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Your recent post on Jimmy Carter clearly showed that you were able in that case to read whole argument and see some things that were reasonable without agreeing with the whole book. In this case you seem to appreciate his theology but want to dismiss the political thought that comes from the theology. I don’t want to agree with everything he says either.
But why does NT Wright need to condemn Islam, which isn’t listening to NT Wright. The ones that are listening to NT Wright are Christians in the US and Britain. So if he spends most of his time condemning policies that he believes are immoral or at least in appropriate why not listen his suggestions and talk about what you can agree with and then talk about you disagree with. Instead you completely dismiss him.
Thanks for your comments concerning Tom Wright’s political views.
At first, I also gave Tom the benefit of the doubt that it was his Britishness that spawned the harsh criticism of American foreign policy (as though the U.S. were obviously engaged in empire building that is reminiscent of and a rebirth of the British Empire) that he freely sprinkled into his lecturs at conferences that I have attended.
However, as time has passed, it has become evident that I was much too generous. I would now observe that Wright has, in a sense, lapsed into the same kind of hermeneutic that he has criticized in Martin Luther and others who have Lutheranized the apostle Paul. If Luther read his own criticisms of 16th century Roman Catholocism back onto Paul’s “opponents” addressed within letters in the New Testament, does not Tom Wright read Paul’s letters through the lens of his criticisms of 21st century “imperialism” and “empire building” so that he finds within Paul’s letters assaults upon Roman “imperialism” and “empire building”? Is this stuff really there in Paul’s letters? Or, is it not easy, even for scholars with biases, to construe Paul’s letters in such a way that they will support virtually any cause that one may have in one’s contemporary world?
Thanks for your comments on N. T. Wright’s skewed political views concerning terrorism. I posted a similar entry on one of my blogs when The Weekly Standard article came out.
Condemning Islam is not the issue here at all. I am concerned about the issue of moral equivalency by which NTW falls into into these kinds of comments when he equates the actions and policies of the U.S. and Britain with those of murderous thugs and represesntatives of the facist versions of Islamic terrorism. The problem lies in how he treats evil, as I stated. I am NOT sure where this goes but I will be listening to him on this point much more closely. As I noted his new IVP book may have some answers.
Excellent post. I too am a great fan of Bishop Wright and have benefitted greatly from his work.
At the same time, I have felt that his analysis of the geo-political stage is simplistic. Like you, I think more theologians and pastors need to exercise greater reticence regarding these kinds of questions. Wright seems to ignore whole streams of economic and geo-political thought in his analysis. Although I believe he is anything but a silly man, his ideas in these areas have the unfortunate affect making a great thinker and great Christian look silly.
From what I could see, this pundit does to Tom Wright precisely what he accuses Tom of doing regarding public policy, i.e. over-simplifying and caricaturing. I could barely make out a coherent argument through all the labeling and name-calling this author engages in. This article to me was a perfect reminder of why I hate reading political pundits of this sort.
Wright is speaking at Asbury Seminary in KY on Nov.13-14. He will be addressing many of these issues as well as dealing with his critics. I hope you all can get the information which is usually posted on several Write and New Perspective lists but I suspect you will get a better picture from the horses mouth than secondary sources.