Friday, July 15, 2005

Wright Versus Bultmann?

Let me explain. I have just had an article published in Criswell Theological Review on the New Perspective on Paul. The article is entitled: “When the Dust Finally Settles: Coming to a Post-New Perspective Perspective”. In it I give what I think is a fair critique and appreciation of the NPP. At several points I do take Wright to task over some of his assertions about justification (let’s face it, who doesn’t?). However, that left a bitter taste in my mouth, because I really, really do like Wright and I find his scholarship nothing short of inspirational even though I don’t agree with everything he says. I also wanted to distance myself from some of the ad hominem attacks against him by those in the Reformed tradition (to which I also belong). So, despite my critique, I wanted to finish off on a positive note about the NPP and Wright. I composed a conclusion that was probably a bit over the top and some would consider it sycophantic. Thus, the most controversial sentence of the conclusion ended up on the cutting room floor. However, my dear friend Benjamin Myers of faith and theology who read the original draft wanted to interact with me on the controversial topic I raised in a scandalously positive assertion about Wright vis-à-vis Bultmann. So I have produced here the unedited and original final paragraph of the conclusion that I wrote:

In this essay I have urged a dialogical and irenic approach of critiquing and appropriating what the NPP has to say. Lamentably much of what I have read on the NPP (particularly on the internet) has not always been insightful or gracious. N.T. Wright in particular has come under some vitriolic criticism. I do not concur with every point he raises, in fact, I find several of his exegetical conclusions unconvincing. All the same, Wright has put Paul into a thoroughly Jewish framework and forced us to have a serious historical reading of Paul. Wright’s studies on the historical Jesus, though contestable at points, are equally refreshing. I seriously wish scholars and students of the evangelical tradition would appreciate what a gem we have in Wright who has shown that many of the tenets of historical Christianity are not quite so passé as its detractors have thought. As far as New Testament Theologians go, many went to Marburg to sit at the feet of Bultmann, and behold, one greater than Bultmann is here.

Why did I say that? Well, Bultmann was great and influential. Though I fear he was essentially an existentialist, and New Testament was just his medium. Don’t get me wrong some of his works are superb, esp. his NT Theology (at points). But I think Wright has a better eye for the big picture and for situating exegesis in the wider context of the story of Christian Origins. The echo of Mt. 12.6 was just to give my assertion charm and controversy.

Is Wright greater than Bultmann then? To vote, go to the faith and theology blog and time will tell!!!

[Note: If the vote is not up yet, it will be soon]

1 comment:

steph fisher said...

Bultmann beats Wright by billions. If he does not win I shall assume that the Wright followers voted more than once!