Monday, December 27, 2004

Wright on the Virgin Birth 

There are still some who claim that Wright denies the Virgin Birth. The following quotation comes from the SWRB site:—
Here is some interesting information about N.T. Wright's belief (or, rather, lack thereof) concerning the virgin birth: [58] These are not the only questionable areas in the theology of new perspective advocates. Wright, for example, does not come out and say he believes in the virgin birth of Christ but that it is a possibility and that the New Testament authors believed it: "What if we find that, very early within the movement that grew up around [Christ], there arose two independent sources claiming that he had been conceived without a human father? Faced with all of this, a belief in this God, and this Jesus, may compel us to hold open the possibility that this account of his conception might just be true" (Wright, Who Was Jesus?, p. 83). He also states, "One of the best possible answers is that [Matthew and Luke] very firmly believed it to be true" (Wright, Who Was Jesus?, p. 84). - From footnote 58 at: The New Perspective on Paul: Calvin and N. T. Wright by J. V. Fesko
A number of other people have insinuated that Wright is somehow unorthodox on these issues, but never come out with any clear accusation. For those who want proof that N.T. Wright firmly believes in the Virgin Birth and comes out directly and says it, I strongly recommend that they read the following articles and interviews:— Scholars wage friendly battle over facts of Jesus (see towards the end of the article, in the question and answer section, where Wright explicitly acknowledges his belief in the Virgin Birth) Is the Virgin Birth Credible or is the Story Based on Ancient Mythology? God's Way of Acting Other people have claimed that Wright downplays the incarnation. This also strikes me as bizarre. Wright has strongly argued against other scholars for incarnational theology in Philippians 2, for example, and has defended the truth of the incarnation on a number of occasions. He does indeed argue against an overemphasis on incarnation (e.g. The Climax of the Covenant, p.91), claiming that exalting the incarnation ‘to the exclusion or at least the downplaying of the cross and resurrection, pulls Paul’s theology badly out of shape.’ However, I trust that we would all agree with this. It seems to me that there are a number of Reformed thinkers who, although they have little time to seriously and charitably engage with what Wright has actually said, find him very useful (and even necessary) as a theological scapegoat. The charges of Wright's hostile Reformed critics are ignorantly parroted and order is restored within the city of the Reformed faith as he is repeatedly thrust outside of the camp. I am increasingly convinced that many parts of the Reformed community rely for their continued existence upon such scapegoats (Karl Barth springs to mind as another example). [Of course, the fact that such people are scapegoats does not prove that their theology is to be recommended. However, it does prove that something is seriously wrong in many Reformed churches.] Barth and Wright, as scapegoats, somehow have to be inside the camp in order to be thrust out. Certain Reformed communities maintain their identity by deciding the complex liminal inside-outside identity of such scapegoats one way or another in order to maintain and restore ecclesiastical order. Without such scapegoats the reassuring boundaries of conceptual order would be harder to establish and maintain. For many, Reformed identity has been defined by the continual reassurances of order that are established by thrusting Roman Catholics, Arminians, Neo-Orthodox, advocates of the NPP and Federal Visionists outside of the camp. The Reformed movement, in such quarters, has founded itself on clear binary oppositions and we should not be surprised that it reacts so strongly against theological movements that think in terms of a far more permeable, open or pluriform Reformed identity. The refusal of some Reformed thinkers to scapegoat people like Wright and parrot the false accusations that have been levelled against him, jeopardizes the whole Reformed ecclesiastical order in the eyes of some other Reformed thinkers. Wright must be decided either inside or outside, indeterminacy is not an option. It seems to me that postmodern theology may be less inclined to scapegoat as it is more content to live with undecidables. Perhaps.

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