24 June 2003

nt wright quote

Bishop-elect Wright has sometimes been criticized as part of a "new perspective on Paul" and sometimes because of the ways in which his approach may stretch traditional systematic-theological constructs. Wright briefly addresses these concerns in his recent commentary on Romans:The question of an ordo salutis, the sequence of events that takes a person from outright unbelief through to final salvation, has been hugely influential in some circles, and I recognize that my insistence on letting Paul say what he means by his own key terms does violence to many such well-beloved frameworks of thought. This is not, by the way, a matter of the so-called 'new perspective' on Paul, though insights from Sanders, Dunn, and others, critically sifted and factored in where appropriate, must make their contribution. It is a matter of exegesis; and when we exegete Paul we find that when he talks about what later theology denotes as 'conversion' and 'regeneration' he speaks of God's 'call' through which, by the work of the Spirit, people come to faith. (481)Note several things here:

First, Wright wants to make it clear that his views are not the result of a commitment so some supposed "new perspective" and, in fact, he seems to want to distance himself somewhat from that loosely constituted movement.

Second, Wright insists that the discussion must take place on the level of exegesis--not that of systematics, even if the two, of course, influence one another. Thus, it won't do simply to wave his claims away from the point of a view of a popular system without, at the same time, doing the difficult work of challenging his exegesis.

Third, though the term ordo salutis probably has the greatest currency within Reformed dogmatics, it seems clear to me from the wider context of this quotation that Wright's primary target is not so much that of dogmatics per se, as it is the particalar way in which that dogmatics has trickled down into popular parlance and piety.

I don't have a great interest in defending the whole of Wright's work, but I would like to see him get a fair hearing and to receive substantive exegetical interaction, particularly within conservative Reformed circles.