Serious Scholars Clown Car Review
Theology - N.T. Wrights and Wrongs
Written by Douglas Wilson
Monday, 26 November 2012
In the previous post, I took N.T. Wright to task for trifling with the text of 1 Tim. 2:12,
and for insulting our intelligence. A discussion broke out in the
comments about whether I had been too cavalier and dismissive of Wright.
So here's a little something about all that.
In the first place, I did not refer to him as Entie Wright. I think
that should count for something. In the second place, as one commenter
pointed out, I have on numerous occasions been appreciative of Wright's
contributions and scholarship. I have read a number of his books, and
have learned a bunch. I am not walking any of that back. I just
yesterday after church recommended one of his books (Surprised by Hope)
to a parishioner. But third, and this is the main point now (a point
which every successful Bible teacher ought to take to heart), he is a
bibilical expositor, not a rock star, and not a celebrity.
Every expositor is capable of error, obviously, but sometimes the
error is of a kind that is followed immediately with a clap of thunder.
When that kind of thing happens, and your children are frightened, you
need to tell them that it is only the gods of exegesis laughing.
someone of Wright's influence and stature starts telling us that blue
is pink, when the apostle Paul plainly told us that pink is pink,
nothing is gained by pretending that it wasn't a howler. Not only is
nothing gained, a great deal is lost if we pretend it wasn't a howler.
Here's how. Here's why.
When Bible teachers become celebrities, a certain kind of person just
buys into whatever is said. Often this happens with good results
because the celebrity guy often made his mark in the first place by
contributing something useful. And Wright really is a scholar, has a
fine mind, and is a dazzling lecturer. But when groupies get into the
act, they accept whatever is said, whenever it is said. They have no
smelting equipment, and so they head back home after the conference with
their bags full of silver and dross together.
But if the dross is on one of the critical issues of the day, if the
dross opens the way for numerous sexual heresies that are sure to
follow, then it is time for us not only to reject the dross, but to make
fun of those who are solemnly maintaining how glittery and silverlike
Let's come at this point from another direction. Debates over issues
like women's ordination are not like solving an algebra problem. Before
one side can prevail, they must first get their option on the table as a
"reasonable option." Step one is "consistent Christians differ on issue
x." Step two is the insistence on the new orthodoxy. When I laugh at
the exegesis of 1 Tim. 2:12 offered up in journals like Serious Scholars Clown Car Review,
I am not just indulging my own sense of humor. I am fighting the
monstrosity at step one. I am anticipating the play that is being run on
us. So should everybody else. This is not the first time this has
Here's the deal. Back when the arrangement was made to allow for
women priests, conservatives in the CoE went along with it because
certain assurances had been offered them -- assurances that have now
been (surprise!) pulled away. Here's how it went down.
As a logic problem, women priests means (eventually and obviously)
women bishops. But this would only be the case if the whole church had
come to the conviction that women must be ordained, and there was no
controversy about it. You would obviously ordain women priests at the
entry levels, and eventually some of them would be promoted. If you
start commissioning women ensigns, eventually you will have women
admirals. But that's only if everybody agrees.
The deal was that the conservatives were willing for this particular sin (and never forget that it is a sin) to occur elsewhere in the church. They were accustomed to that kind of thing (sin elsewhere)
-- so long as they were allowed to refrain from participating in
themselves. When women are priests, they can still be priests somewhere
else. An evangelical parish can still say no to women priests.
So could an Anglo Catholic parish.
The same deal applies with
homosexuals. But when women become bishops, those who object to this as a
matter of conscience are being required to submit to it directly in
their lives, and not just put up with its existence elsewhere. In the
CoE, the liberal sin was lying, and the conservative sin was just one
more chapter in that endless tome we like to read called Gullible's Travels.
So when serious scholars tell you that pink is blue, and you pull
thoughtfully on your chin, and ask, pensively, whether or not, at the
end of the day, there might be other readings that allow for a different
take on this -- congratulations. You have already lost. And -- not incidentally -- your whole approach to life is the reason you lose so much.