A Quick Word on Wright and Paul and the Faithfulness of God

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 paul-and-the-faithfulness-of-godthat 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).

*This is a re-post, and a test-post. This post is one of my highest yielding viewed posts that I have ever had in a single day. I want to see what it does this time around. My blog has actually been dying as of late (like hardly any hits, only about a 100 a day, when it was averaging about 300 to 400 hits a day). I want to see if the blogosphere is as fickle as I think it is. 🙂

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13 Responses to A Quick Word on Wright and Paul and the Faithfulness of God

  1. bowmanwalton says:

    Yes, the blogosphere is fickle. I’ve enjoyed several of your recent posts.


  2. Bobby Grow says:

    Thanks, Bowman. Yeah, it has been fickle at least as long as I’ve been apart of it ;-). There are hot button posts, on certain topics that garner massive views and hits, NTW is one of those hit getters; along with posts that talk about Calvinism (esp of the popular kind).


  3. Anonymous says:

    I like what you say and believe in the approach you are advocating in this post. I can’t say you are accurate about Wright because I haven’t read him (I have Justification but haven’t got to it yet). Your recent posts have been thought provoking and helpful. Thanks for the time you put into your blog.


  4. Bobby Grow says:

    Hi Anon,

    Do you have a name. Thanks. Yeah, I think NTW has some great insights, his book Justification is quite good!


  5. Chris Donato says:

    Oh, to have “only about 100 a day.”

    Every writer has something missing, of course. But have you read Wright’s longish essay “How Can the Bible Be Authoritative?” I think it may nudge up against what you’re getting at in the post. Part of me wants to challenge you a bit on your expectations. You don’t need Wright to lead you on in this way; you can connect the dots he leaves for you yourself, and probably end up with a richer and more applicable encounter with God that better fits in the context known as The Life and Times of Bobby Grow.


  6. stevez says:

    I will respond simply because I want you to know I am still here, still reading, still learning. Thanks Bobby!


  7. Bill Perkins says:

    I’m with stevez. Unfortunately, I think what would help is making this more of a movement rather than a ‘mood’. EC needs to be pitted against Westminster/Scholastic Calvinism. Coming out of Westminster Calvinism, I think the state of affairs has become serious enough, and parochial enough, to allow for the 96th theses to be nailed to the door of Westminster Calvinism’s impenetrable fortress.


  8. Steve says:

    I’m Anon – Steve in Woodland – I must have dropped out of your system and didn’t notice the blank info. I’ll re-register.


  9. Bobby Grow says:


    Indeed, I understand that I can engage with NTW critically and use him in my own research from where he is in his; I thought I made that pretty clear in the post. My concern remains though. My concern is that NTW is a model for many many many a young and hopeful biblical scholar, and if ingested fully, NTW can have the negative effect of turning the young off to the riches available in the history of the church, in the history of interpretation, instead of inviting them into it. NTW is pretty aggressively averse to the participatory element I noted in the post. And no I haven’t read that one yet from Wright, I’ll have to at some point. Thanks for the recommend, Chris.


  10. Bobby Grow says:

    Bill, if you read old posts by me, you’ll see that I used EC themes as a movement not just a mood against Westminster Calvinism. We used mood to soften things, which I was not particularly keen on; I’d rather be a little more aggressive personally, and so I am on the blog. Although I haven’t had the time recently to be as aggressive as I’d like :-). But I am trying to change my tone even when being aggressive and not be as polemical sounding. Nevertheless, I agree, the lines need to be drawn more brightly than I have been lately.


  11. Bobby Grow says:

    Hey SteveZ 🙂


  12. That’s fair, Bobby. I think in that essay I linked to, while he (again) does not make that participatory element overly explicit, one could say his whole point with respect to “Act IV” is to invite us into the living tradition that is the church birthed by God’s Word (both inscripturated and enfleshed). At least that’s the connection I make.


  13. Bobby Grow says:

    Ah yes, I’ve read his 5 Acts, and agree, he is moving in that direction, but I think his mode, by training, somewhat undercuts the participatory element. But I do agree, he has opened space for that occur at some level in his ‘Acts’.


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