Just a brief word on my reading of NT Wright’s new book Paul And The Faithfulness of God: I am very happy to learn things in a critical fashion from the heart and head of Wright; there is a richness to grasping the reality that the linear historical aspect and development of the story of Scripture, unfolded, provides for us—it in fact humanizes and personalizes Scripture (at least for me). It allows me to resonate better with the characters of Scripture in concrete and thus not abstract ways; with the result that I sense a connection between the character’s of Scripture and their lived realities, and mine. In other words, what developing and reconstructing the history of the New Testament period does for me, personally, is allow me to appreciate better how what, for example, the Apostle Paul was writing to Philemon, could just as easily be written to a Christian CEO of a corporation today (with its employees, socio-culturally being viewed as parts of the machinery of the wheel that makes the corporation and the world go ’round).
But then there is also a lacuna in what Wright offers, at least for me. Simply understanding the linear flow of salvation-history—as Wright is so expert at detailing—just cannot do it for me spiritually. Just like when I was in Bible College and Seminary, I learned how to use the tools of literary analysis to interpret the text of Scripture. After awhile I could identify a chiastic structure or inclusio a mile a way; but after awhile, I began to say “who cares?” Wright has this same affect on me. I think all of the things he develops and underscores and un-covers are really neat, but there has to be more to it. What I find missing in Wright is what Matthew Levering has called the participatory historical reality and what Thomas Torrance has called the dialogical and depth dimension of Scripture. In other words, Scripture needs to have more of a theological frame, and grace-conditioned ontology and order supporting it; in other words, it needs a doctrine of God behind it that explicitly understands that God has spoken & speaks. I think what is missing for me, with Wright, still, is an emphasis on Scripture and prayer; an emphasis on the fact that we personally know the Teacher & Savior of Scripture, and that he speaks, we listen, and we know his voice. I like to focus on that; and indeed, the neat things Wright and others bring out about the history of Scripture, can be prayed through as well. But I think Wright just needs to spend more time and focus on this particular reality; especially sense he is not just a historian, but a theologian (as they say).