N.T. Wright and the Problem of the Western Church

imagesMuch evangelical Christianity on both sides of the Atlantic has based itself on the Epistles rather than the Gospels, though often misunderstanding the Epistles themselves. Indeed, in this respect evangelicalism has simply mirrored a much larger problem: the entire Western church, Catholic and Protestant, evangelical and liberal, charismatic and social activist, has not actually known what the Gospels are there for.”  –N. T. Wright, from Surprised by Scripture

I’m afraid that N.T. Wright’s diagnosis of much of evangelical Christianity and the Western Church is correct, so much so that if someone attempts to balance Jesus and Paul, we find ourselves pitting Paul against Jesus and vice versa.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of us object to this statement from N.T. Wright.

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2 Responses to N.T. Wright and the Problem of the Western Church

  1. Lon says:

    T.C. I instinctively object to a sweeping condemnation of everything Christian and every church based on a novel point of view of how to interpret the epistles. I assume in the work you quoted he has explained and defended this broad statement, but the quote doesn’t stand alone well without that defense.

    There is a lot wrong with the church, probably a lot more than my limited experience sees. But, I doubt that it’s due to a central problem of pitting Jesus against Paul, or the Gospels against the Epistles. I’m not sure I even know what that statement means, since all Christians hold both as part of inspired Scripture with the Gospels recording Jesus historical performance of redemption, and the Epistles (Pauline, and non-pauline) interpreting and applying that work in the life of churches and individual christians.

    If you pressed me for a better diagnosis than Wright’s, I suspect it would be found in our inability to agree on what is essential to the gospel–what is essentially “Christian”–and maintain unity based on that. In other words, I think our disunity is our greatest defect. I would also propose that the theology I find in Reformed/Calvinistic/Covenant writers comes closest to biblical and gospel faithfulness. But then, without a reasonable defense, that would be just my opinion wouldn’t it?

    • TC Robinson says:

      Lon, it’s not a “sweeping condemnation.” N.T. Wright says “much” not all. Neither is Wright the first to make this diagnosis. I’ve encountered it for sometime now. But Wright is in vogue and has reminded us once more.

      Precisely, moving from interpretation to application, between the Gospels and the Epistles, is not mean task. Wright is focusing on the imbalance that has been created and is often left unchecked.

      Then it depends on what aspects of Reformed/Calvinistic/Covenant writers we are talkinga about, because a lot is still wanting, esp. with emphasis on doctrine over piety.

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