Wednesday, November 10, 2010

God Is Not The Author Of Confusion - But NT Wright Is A Strong Contender

Brian McLaren is getting some stiff competition from NT Wright in the "Confusion of the Obvious" stakes. NT Wright denies the truth of Genesis and that Adam was a literal person, thus denying the fall and grounds for redemption in Christ. He just has a very long winded, mind numbingly boring, and Gospel illiterate way of doing it . . .

Such an attack on the authority of Scripture is worthy of total mockery. And someone has beaten me to the punch:

Tom Wright Reads Humpty Dumpty

"Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall"

Clearly the writer is telling an Israel story, and here alludes to the Temple. This echoes other lines in early 2nd Nursery Literature, such as Mother Hubbard’s cupboard (the “storehouse” of the Temple) and the bone (resurrection life) which she sought for her dog (“Gentiles”). “But when she got there, the cupboard was bare and the poor little doggie had none.” The temple had nothing to offer the Gentiles, and they thus remained in their state of Adamic sin and decay.

So here, too, one should not be surprised to discover that the Temple and its “wall” are bankrupt. The next line, then, is not a shock, but an expectation:

"Humpty Dumpty had a great fall"

Again, this is patently a forecast of the Temple’s destruction (and contra Crossan and Borg, an entirely possible historical forecasting). Doubtless this claim is intended to lead the reader to ponder the eschatological recreation of the Temple. Since Humpty stands for the Temple, he seems to be sharing in the divine identity, functioning as the locus of God’s presence, not outside of, but within creation.

Of course, this fall is an exile of sorts, the loss of God’s presence. The tension is palpable: how will humpty’s story not turn out dumpty? In other words, this line presupposes what I have called elsewhere the great metanarrative of humpty, not least the promise of resurrection.

"But all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put humpty together again."

So the Temple will be built again, but not by human hands. Many have undertaken to suggest that this passage runs counter to a belief in resurrection. But this atomistic reading of the text lacks imagination. Of course, it is the king himself who will put humpty together again, and this great act will complete the metanarrative.

After all, Humpty is the place where the Creator God is resident with his creation. But the human inability to recreate Humpty does not negate all human effort for creation, which should be done in light of the proleptic nature of the king’s restoration of Humpty and all creation.

Written in Durham Cathedral, dedicated to Rowan Williams’s left eyebrow.

(Courtesy of Jason Hood at the Society For The Advancement of Ecclesial Theology)

1 comment:

blindsay said...

Are you kidding me? In that video, Wright doesn't deny the fall at all, nor does he deny a literal Adam. The question posed was in regards to reading the creation account "literally" and not the fall account. As such, Wright didn't address Adam or the fall in his response because he wasn't asked about it.

What Wright does address is what it means to read the Bible literally. His definition seemed to hinge on reading the Bible the manner in which it was meant to be read. His example was that when Jesus told a parable such as the Prodigal Son, no one assumes that he is talking about an actual Jewish father with two sons who had this happen to him. Jesus didn't intend that and we, as the receivers of the story, shouldn't take it that way. His other example was the crucifixion accounts in the Gospels: they intend to establish that as a concrete event and not as an abstract story to draw morals from.

With this in mind, the creation account is read literally when we take it as it was intended to be read. Wright argues that it wasn't meant to be read as the concrete steps that God took to create everything, but rather as an explanation that points to various theological truths (not least of which is that God is the creator).

His response is all tailored to Gen. 1, not Gen. 3. If you believe that Gen. 1 is meant to be taken as concrete steps God took to create the universe, then you can criticize / dispute with Wright on that level, but to use this video as evidence of what Wright believes about Gen. 3 is disingenuous. It also only confuses the real matter at hand.

Now, if you want to argue that Wright will extend this reading into Gen. 3 and say that there was no concrete person named Adam and therefore Wright must also deny the fall, I have two responses:

1) This video doesn't show him denying a literal Adam in the fall account, and your extension from Gen. 1 to Gen. 3 is overreaching. In giving the Gospel examples I outlined above, Wright himself stated that passages must be taken on a case by case basis to try and determine what they intend to say. The account of the fall is a separate matter from the creation account, and he may treat it differently.

2) Even if he doesn't treat it differently and believes there was no concrete person named Adam, that would mean he would be treating it as a story to convey theological truths. What truths would those be? I think the most obvious one would be the truth of the fall of humanity.

So, at the very most, he may deny a literal concrete Adam, but there's no way that means a denial of the fall, and, based on Evil and the Justice of God, Wright clearly does not deny the fall.

If you want to take on NT Wright's view of the fall account in Gen. 3, please actually use evidence from Wright where he is discussing the fall. Otherwise you are attacking a straw man and creating confusion.