Monday, April 17, 2006

N. T. Wright: Christ's Bodily Resurrection Not Essential

If there is one living theologian synonymous with controversy among evangelicals, it is the Anglican Bishop N. T. Wright. The erudite Wright is the intellectual point-man behind the so-called “New Perspective on Paul.” A thumbnail sketch of the New Perspective is this:
Martin Luther had an incorrect understanding of first century Judaism. He mistakenly viewed it as a works-based religion. As such, the stalwart reformation doctrine of “Justification by Faith Alone” (Sola Fide) is flawed because it is a conclusion based on Luther’s incorrect interpretation the Apostle Paul’s criticisms. If Paul was actually criticizing something else (a sort-of salvation by being Jewish) as the new-perspectivers believe, then the scriptural support for Sola Fide is severely weakened, perhaps fatally so.
Without going into details, it is both obvious and fair to say that for proponents of the New Perspective, the chasm between Catholicism and Reformed Protestantism is reduced—perhaps even to the point where one could comfortably step across.

Personally I am not a fan of the New Perspective, although I know and admire quite a few people who are. I am not opposed because the New Perspective brings Catholicism and Reformed Protestantism closer together—that, in principle, is a very good thing—but it must happen on the basis of scriptural truth, and I see no scriptural truth behind the New Perspective.

At any rate, this is just a lead-in to an absolutely incredible statement made by N. T. Wright. In a recent interview with the Australian, Wright said:
"I have friends who I am quite sure are Christians who do not believe in the bodily resurrection," he says carefully, citing another eminent scholar, American theologian Marcus Borg, co-author with Wright of The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions.

"But the view I take of them - and they know this - is that they are very, very muddled. They would probably return the compliment.

"Marcus Borg really does not believe Jesus Christ was bodily raised from the dead. But I know Marcus well: he loves Jesus and believes in him passionately. The philosophical and cultural world he has lived in has made it very, very difficult for him to believe in the bodily resurrection.
This is absurd. Without the resurrection, as Paul tells us, we Christians are pitiful fools. It is not possible to be a Christian and deny the bodily resurrection of Christ. In spite of the so-called “True Scotsman” fallacy, the majority of a group—in this case the church, does get to set some inviolate bylaws, and affirming the resurrection (as scripture tells us we must do) has always been one.

Marcus Borg loves, it would appear, a putrefying corpse. It would be interesting to know what other truths from scripture he finds culturally inconvenient to accept, and for which of those does Wright give him a get-out-of-jail free card.

To be fair, read the entire article. After making this incredible gaffe, Wright returns to cogency as he discusses such things as the Gnostic heresy behind The Da Vinci Code.

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