Thursday, August 23, 2012

N.T Wright on trajectories in Scripture

At a conference I attended recently, the speaker claimed that Tom Wright, in his book 'The Last Word' made an argument that we can take the trajectory of scripture and go further than scripture. This was said in the context of arguments about women in ministry leading to the approval of practicing homosexuals in ministry. The speaker was so shocked that Jim Packer (obviously a white hat)would recommend the book that he concluded that Jim 'must not have read it. Now, the speakers claim didn't sound quite right. But I didn't have the book in front of me, so I wasn't sure. So here is Tom, on page 125 "The New Testament is the foundation charter of the fifth act. No change of act in God's drama with the world (despite manifold changes in human culture) has occured between the time of the apostles and evangelists and our own.....We recognize ourselves as the direct successors of the churches of Corinth, Ephesus and the rest, and we need to pay attention to what was said to them as though it was said to us. We cannot relativize the epistles by pointing out the length of time that has passed between them and us, or by suggesting any intervening seismic cultural shifts which would render them irrelevent or even misleading. It is an essential part of authentic Christian discipleship both to see the New Testament as the foundation for the ongoing (and still open ended) fifth act (the church)and to recognizze that it cannot be supplanted or supplememted" I haven't re-read the whole book. But i can't find the kind of 'trajectory' argument the speaker accused Tom of. I can only assume the speaker did not read the book. N.B Another claim was made about Tom that he would not publically say that homosexual practice was against the teaching of scripture. Here are some public words from a public interview in a public paper "Can a Christian morality rooted in scripture approve of homosexuality? The word "homosexuality" is an abstract noun. What in the Anglican Church we've tried to do is restrict the debate to the practice of homosexual relations. Of course, many people claim to be "rooted" in scripture in a variety of ways. But if a church is actually determined to be faithful to scripture, then not only at that point but at several others -- for instance, some of our economic practices -- we would need to take a long, hard look and say, maybe we're getting this wrong. So a Christian morality faithful to scripture cannot approve of homosexual conduct? Correct. That is consonant with what I've said and written elsewhere. The speakers obviously have some political issues with Tom Wright. They feel (and indeed expressed this) that his personal desire for influence has led him to persecute a brother of theirs. And yet one wonders in both their other claims that their political differences with Tom have led them to misconstrue, mishear and mischaracterize him. In a conflicted situation, it is always, always dangerous to attribute motive. "Ahh, he says or does x simply because he is power hungry". We may disagree with people. We may disagree with the way they approach things. We may think we could do a better job. Nevertheless, we still need to listen carefully. (which is why, when I get the CD of the conference, I'll go back and check exactly the words of accusation against Tom)

3 comments:

michael jensen said...

That's as outrageous as it is plain ignorant. Tom (love him or hate him, and he isn't perfect, I'm not a fan) is well known for his stance against the approval of homosexual practice on Scriptural grounds. He has copped flack for it. I think you should write to the speaker at the conference with your concerns.

Unknown said...

Outrageous? Perhaps you're right Michael J. I'm just so used to 'us' doing hatchet jobs on 'them' that I wasn't even shocked.

We've just heard it all before, so many times...

Jonathan H said...

That last was Jonathan H, btw.