New Testament Scholar N.T. Wright Speaks to SPU’s Vision for Engaging the Culture
IN THIS ISSUE OF RESPONSE, we celebrate the person and work of the great New Testament scholar N.T. Wright. I have been dreaming and scheming for years to bring Bishop Wright to our campus, and finally we arranged to host this extraordinary man last spring. In some ways, I suspect our campus may never be the same, or, at least, I may never be the same.
A number of years ago, I encountered the writings of Wright, and I was profoundly moved. He is on the leading edge of a scholarly understanding of Jesus and as well the place of Paul in the history of the Christian church. Refreshingly, Dr. Wright asks all of the tough questions, from our own moment in history, as he goes about the task of placing both Jesus and Paul in their decidedly Jewish, historic context.
But it is out of this history, as Dr. Wright sees it, that history is transformed. And it is our calling, the mandate of the gospel of Jesus, to announce transformation to a world that so desperately needs it. Our vocation, as was Paul’s, is to proclaim a radical view of God, as seen through Jesus, so that the world is made new.
After one of Bishop Wright’s addresses on our campus, I was supposed to get up and close the session. I was absolutely speechless (not a very normal state for me). For over an hour, with a wall-to-wall audience of eager listeners, you could have heard a pin drop. In my closing comments, I tried to say that I believe Tom Wright speaks as clearly as anyone I know into the vision we call engaging the culture. Later I made the comment that he just may be the C.S. Lewis for our time. This lecture, one of our faculty members said, was one of those moments we are blessed to experience only a few times in our entire lives.
Someone once said that N.T. Wright can write books faster than we can read them. But if I were to recommend something from the massive accumulation of his writing, I would start with the marvelous book called
The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is. And then there is a very fresh reading of Paul in What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?
And then we might lean toward his work for the scholarly audience in The New Testament and the People of God, one volume of his huge three-part study of the Christian movement. Finally, on the more reflective side, there is a fine book called Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship.
N.T. Wright once put his task this way: “I have been particularly concerned to put into the minds, hearts, and hands of the next generation of thinking Christians, the Jesus-shaped model of, and motivation for, a mission that will transform our world in the power of Jesus’ gospel. … It is not enough to say one’s prayers in private, maintain high personal morality, and then go to work to rebuild the tower of Babel. The substance and structure of the different aspects of our world need to be interrogated in the light of the unique achievement of Jesus.”
This is indeed what we are trying to accomplish at Seattle Pacific. As we seek to respond to something like this as our calling, the world will never be the same.
— by Philip W. Eaton, president
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