Surprised by Hope

The title of this post is also the title of one of the books authored by the prolific author, theologian, and former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England, N.T. Wright. Wright is best known for his writing and speaking about “The New Perspective on Paul”. He didn’t originate the school of thought, but was the first adherent with wide appeal. First in 1963, Lutheran theologian Kristor Stenhal, and then in 1977 E P Sanders, and finally James G. D. Dunn, agreed with Stenhal’s assertion that Martin Luther was all wrong about Paul’s intended meaning of the Christian doctrine of “justification” particularly, and a host of other errors taught by mainstream Christians about the salvation of sinners for the last 500 years or more. Sanders published several books supporting his views, but it was Dunn, who in 1982 coined the phrase “The New Perspective on Paul”. Enter Bishop N.T. Wright.

Wright is a brilliant writer and thinker and theologian and puts out books almost faster than his fans can read them. There are many reasons to admire this good man. He has become the face and voice of the “The New Perspective on Paul” although he disagrees with much of what his predecessors believed on the matter. In 2003 Wright addressed those differences in this statement.

“there are probably almost as many ‘new perspective’ positions as there are writers espousing it – and I disagree with most of them”

What to me then is strikingly odd is that so many people whom I would think of as evangelicals, seem to believe every words he says, almost as if he were inspired by God. If in his view, much of what those other “New Perspective” writers say is wrong doesn’t logic demand that maybe he could be wrong too?In my view he fits much better with liturgical churches than with evangelicals. But, even in our churches of Christ, N.T. Wright seemingly can do no wrong. Preachers are preaching his views all across our fellowship. I, apparently, am one of the few men (not a full-time preacher) who disagrees. And, when I disagree, my friends defend Wright and his views with the zeal one would expect if I had said I doubted the virgin birth of Jesus or was for “the instrument”.

I am not going to attempt to debate the issues here for these reasons. I don’t have the time or a mastery of the subject, I wouldn’t change one mind, and, many men much more able than I have debunked much of what Wright teaches to my satisfaction. Why did I title this post “Surprised by Hope”? Here’s why. It’s a little (or a lot) “tongue in cheek” as they say.

Wouldn’t it be odd that in the roughly 500 years since Martin Luther’s work until N.T. Wright got us all straightened out theologically, that God used so many men and women so powerfully during those dark ages? Assuming that everything was OK until Luther screwed it up (it wasn’t), It was Martin Luther God used to bring a change to the face of the Christian church for the better, bring thousands to Christ through his singular influence, and he was even instrumental in the King James Bible being written.

Almost every modern day missionary held Luther’s, and by the way, John Calvin’s views of theology. From William Carey to Adoniram Judson to Hudson Taylor, (I think I counted about a dozen a few years ago). The greatest revivals since the 1st Century were lead by people who in their ignorance held the “Old Perspective on Paul”. The gospel has literally gone to the ends of the earth in those 500 years of darkness with multiplied millions of people saved and God used ignorant people to get the gospel to them.

That gives me hope! God might even use me! If he used A W Pink, Matthew Henry, Billy Sunday, George Whitfield, C H Spurgeon, Billy Graham, and the list goes on…he can use me! If he used Alexander Campbell, Thomas Campbell, and other Restoration preachers, maybe he can use me! (It is no small thing that God used some of those Old Perspective people, Presbyterians and Baptists to bring the Campbells to Christ.)

So, to my dear church of Christ friends who are so taken with N T Wright, I am really surprised to find hope where I have found it. I am hopeful God will use me to announce the very good news about Jesus to some of those who are not yet Christians.

Hmm. I wonder if brother Wright will also shed some light on what Jesus meant when He spoke.