So I know how it goes.
Therefore, unless they miss it altogether, or read this post first, or have already come athwart my responses in the past, here's how at least some cries of outrage will run — along with my responses.
You haven't read all of Wright's writings!
Then you can't criticize him!
Well. Did you read all of my online writings before criticizing me?
Er, no... but you're nobody!
True enough. But in that case, why are you bothering to argue with me? Why do you care how I criticize Wright?
And besides, let's be fair:
- If I can't criticize anything Wright says without knowing everything Wright says...
- ...then Wright should be required to say everything any time he says anything — or he should say nothing at all.
No no, of course not. But you should give him credit. At least he believes in some kind of Hell. That's very conservative for his milieu.
Well now, as a Christian, is that my standard of judgment? It seems to me that this would be playing the game Wright himself is playing: considering men's judgment as paramount. My goal isn't to be more conservative than... well, anyone; nor more liberal. My goal is to please God. To do that, I must fear God (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10, etc.). If I do that, I will not fear man (Proverbs 29:25), and will not be swayed by trying to be well-thought-of by the world (James 4:4).
But he's an international scholar, and you're nothing!
Not quite true. I am a child of God, part of a kingdom of priests, and no man's slave. I have no Pope, just a great high priest before whom both Wright and I are naked and vulnerable, and by whose word we are both judged (Hebrews 4:11-13). I have to test everything by that standard (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Even N. T. Wright.
Besides, since when did an academic degree constitute a "Get-Out-of-Criticism-for-Life" card? Doesn't that actually raise the standard of judgment for Wright (James 3;1)?
But that's the problem. Your lack of advanced education enslaves you to a Western mindset that blinds you to your own biases, and leaves you unable to appreciate the subtle nuances of Wright's position.
Yeah, about that. See, I don't think you need a PhD in Second Temple Judaism to get the imagery of fire and judgment and all. I think people sometimes use that to come up with dodges and covers that make them feel more respectable in the eyes of people who hate God. I think they sometimes use it to change the message, and be better-liked.
When I was a very young Christian, a coworker asked if I really believed in a literal Hell. I said I really did. He responded that Eskimoes would not see a Hell of fire as a bad thing.
I thought, even at the time, that if I took my hand, and an Eskimo's hand, and stuck them both in a blazing fire, we'd have pretty much the same experience, and come away with pretty much the same impression.
I don't think it's rocket science.
In this way, Wright strikes me as Emerg***'s do. They throw around words like "Western" and "Platonic" as code-words for "I know that what the Bible teaches is offensive, and I think I've found a way to say I'm a Christian, but look smarter and more sophisticated than other Christians, and be thought well of by the world."
Which is really not a healthy Christian goal — and isn't my goal (Galatians 1:10).
But Wright is reaching people you could never reach!
But I think the question, "Reaching them with what?", is inescapable, unavoidable, and central.
We need to reach people with the Gospel. And I remain unconvinced that that is what Wright clearly, accurately, and urgently is concerned to do.