Wright says his beliefs may seem odd and contradictory in the United States but not his country. He says plenty of conservative Christians in his homeland, for example, are as passionate about relieving Third World debt as they are about defending traditional Christian doctrine.
"There seems to be no conflict in my country between believing that if Jesus is the Lord of the world, we can't keep on treating our fellow human beings like we have," he says during a phone interview from his home in England, where he is the Bishop of Durham in the Church of England.
The fight against disbelief
The thread that runs through Wright's books and lectures, though, is his defense of traditional Christian doctrines that now seem to be under assault.
He has become the go-to source for traditional Christians shaken by the profusion of books and theories that question the reliability of the Bible. He combines two strengths: a passionate belief in the Bible's authority and the intellectual muscle to defend that belief against all comers.
Wright has conducted a series of public debates with celebrated New Testament scholars such as Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. Both are leaders in the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars who have questioned everything from the bodily resurrection of Jesus and the existence of "lost gospels" excluded by early church leaders.
In his books and debates, Wright returns to a common theme: a "post modern instinct to disbelieve everything" about religion.
"There are a lot of people who don't want traditional Christianity to be true," he says. "They run toward anything which will give them reason to say that Christianity is not true. It's old hat."
He says this impulse to disbelieve everything about traditional religion is reinforced by some Christians' upbringings. Many grew up in strict religious homes, "bruised" by their experience. As adults, they grasp for alternatives to organized Christianity that vindicate their skepticism.
Wright is also a vigorous critic of two popular Christian trends —- the fascination with the Gnostic Gospels and the "Left Behind" novels.
The Gnostic Gospels present an alternate version of Jesus and the early church. Its leaders, who existed around the time of the early church, denied the resurrection of Jesus. They also taught that only a select group could gain access to a hidden form of wisdom necessary for escape from this world.
The Left Behind novels tell stories of the Rapture, a belief extracted from the Book of Revelation that predicts that all Christians would be whisked from the earth during the Last Days.
Wright says both theologies cultivate a "private spirituality" where Christians are encouraged to forget Jesus' prayer that his followers work toward bringing the "kingdom come on earth." Why address global warming if the world is going to be wasted anyway?
December 10, 2006
Wait until Dobson hears about this: then you will be in some serious trouble
Thanks to Melissa Rogers for linking to this story on N.T. Wright. Wright, sometimes refered to as a "modern-day C.S. Lewis" is a respected conservative Christian, though his viewpoints will get him in trouble with some. He thinks homosexuality is a sin, but argues "forcefully for the role of womena s leaders in the church." But he also is one of those conservative Christians who wants to expand the pale of concern beyond homosexuality and abortion.