NT Wright or NT Wrong?

I have just started attending a Sunday School class that is using a series of studies by NT Wright. We just started the booklet on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. Since it is mostly questions you might think it would be rather benign. It wasn’t long before discussion of the purpose of the law came up and both the comments and questions made me fume. My question for you, at this point, is this:

What is your opinion of NT Wright and his theology?

All thoughts on this are appreciated.


About Lance Ponder

Christian author of "Ask James one"; public speaker; husband and father. Available to speak on Creation and the Gospel.
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21 Responses to NT Wright or NT Wrong?

  1. NT Wright has a brilliant mind of course, and he is a fellow Anglican, and his best stuff is on the historical reality of the Gospels, but otherwise I don’t follow his theological lines myself. I would call him a so-called “Open” or Neo-Evangelical theologically, but closer to a moderate-liberal also, at least in the British sense. He has promoted his version of the NPP, or New Perspective on Paul, which again I don’t follow myself. But on certain subjects he can be somewhat orthodox, but otherwise he is NT Wrong! 😉

    • Of course I speak with respect for Tom Wright, but on theological issues, I myself see his presuppositions outside of the biblical presuppositions, basically. He advocates the Second Temple history almost dogmatically, rather than the bare Revelation and Word of God. Again, my thoughts at least.

      • In seeking to be fair with Wright, one must simply know their Bible first, and historical theology second. I too have read much of Wright (I still have his big three)…The New Testament and The People of God; Jesus And The Victory of God; and.. The Resurrection Of The Son of God. And I too have his: Paul, In Fresh Perspective. And I have read and turned over many others also. I should say on some subjects he is better than others, but he is more than just eclectic, which I consider okay in itself, but he is poor historically on the Reformation, Luther, Calvin, etc. And finally to my mind, he is lacking often exegetically. But he is a good communicator of historical information, but one must separate “Wright” in this quest.

        I hope my 2- cents helps some. And I will quit now. 🙂

    • Lance Ponder says:

      Thank you. I find your comments very helpful in understanding him. I have heard the name often but never had the occasion to read or study any of his materials before. To be fair I’m just getting started – this just happens to be a sore spot for me. I also find that while Paul’s letters deserve their place in our scriptures, it seems to me as though a great deal of modern Christianity elevates those letters and their own interpretations of them above and apart from the other NT writings and the balance of scripture on the whole. Such is a dangerous paradigm, it seems to me. Anyway, I have some pretty lengthy notes on this material which I intend to eventually post, at least parts of, though perhaps it will be a while until that happens. 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, Fr. Robert. You’re kind and generous to share as you do.

      • Jason says:

        I think that, as you read Wright more, you will find how he puts Paul in his proper context and continually demonstrates how Jesus is the true source of Christianity’s origin and that Paul’s teachings flow out of what we see of Jesus in the Gospels. There’s a reason why he wrote two volumes on Jesus and his resurrection before writing one on Paul. 🙂

        • No “Wrightian” here! 😉 Btw, if anyone wants to read some British theology that strikes the cord, for me at least.. (though I am critical also of other of his works), see T.F. Torrance’s book: The Trinitarian Faith, The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church.

  2. It strikes me odd that there are some who love N.T. Wright’s solid defense of the historical resurrection of Jesus, and yet immediately dismiss what he has to say about justification when he’s using the same historical tools to lay out his views of the law. No, he hasn’t studied the Reformers. He may not even hold the best arguments against double imputation. But as a major evangelical voice he has opened Pandora’s Box for how we should consider the authority of Scripture, underneath a wholly contextual reading.

    God has given us tools to understand the historical context of the Scriptures and we should use them to get as close to the original author’s meaning as possible (So if that means that centuries and centuries of church tradition were wrong, deal with it). These tools are not perfect, but what else do we have? We can believe in some doctrine about the Perspicuity of Scripture all we want, it won’t stop us from making enormous anachronisms into the text.

    • Lance Ponder says:

      Thank you for the feedback. It is perhaps a bit too easy to pick at minor differences between theologians and I am chief among those guilty of such things. We all have certain things that strike nerves and it just so happens that Wright hit one of mine within the first two pages of the first study of his that I picked up. LOL.

  3. Jason says:

    From what I have read and heard I think he’s brilliant and spot on for most of what he says. The difference in approach in regard to the law, as well as justification, is causing me to re-think those aspects of my theology and re-examine what the Bible actually says versus what Reformed evangelical’s traditionally teach. His dedication to historical and exegetical context cannot be ignored and as he is forcing me to look more carefully his contributions (regardless of upheaval) have caused myself and many to put Scripture first and be willing to lay down traditions. Isn’t that what reforming is all about? The dogmatic rejection of his proposals based on TRADITIONAL interpretation by many conservative scholars and pastors in America has only strengthened my desire to listen more carefully. I have yet to determine conclusively what to completely reject from his writings. Considering he has spent the better part of his life studying Jesus, Paul, and their historical contexts using every scrap of information available today it would follow that he has a better understanding of what they were talking about than say, 16th century theologians.

    • Lance Ponder says:

      Oh, I’ll be the first to criticize tradition that flies in the face of scripture. This was essentially the basis for the reformation as I understand it. Having said that, I don’t think living in the 21st century makes a person any wiser or more skilled with biblical understanding than living in the 16th or 4th or any other century. Augustine was a great theologian, but that doesn’t mean he was right about everything. When the time comes I’ll post the particulars of what it is I disagree with Wright about. For now, I simply will say I genuinely appreciate your input on this subject. I know many people think very highly of Wright and I’m not interested in impugning him for the joy of it. And, what I disagree with him about is something I disagree with most of the modern Christian establishment about and that’s a rather harsh negative view of the gift God gave which is holy and for the benefit of the lost, and yes, I speak of the Law. The problem in not the Law and it never was. The problem is where we place our faith – in the created (Law) or the Creator (God). I hope that makes sense.

      • Jason says:

        I agree with your entire reply except one thing: I don’t think Wright has a negative view on the law other than what the Bible says about it (which was you point: our faith is in the law-giver, a point which Wright would heartily agree).
        To clarify, my point was that 21st century theologians have way more INFORMATION (because of the archaeological finds and translations) from which to determine historical context, not that they are wiser. I appreciate and enjoy the brilliant minds of the historic writers of our faith as well.
        Looking forward to your future posts. 🙂
        Keep an eye out for Wright’s massive 4th volume on Paul from his “Christian Origins and the Question of God” series this coming year. It should clarify many of the “controversial” he’s been debating about the last few years. Surely it will include in-depth explanation about Paul, the law, and justification.

  4. Just a point about NT Wright, I am old enough to remember the ministry of the Brit or Scot, William Barclay. He was actually a great Christian soul, though certainly within the lines of a certain liberal kind of theology. He wrote and sold many of his Daily Study Bible series books, plus many other books on Bible studies, and some theological subjects, etc. He was not a theologian in the strict sense as Wright, but he certainly had gained great popularity in his life as a Bible teacher (died late 70’s as I remember?). I know some pastors still use Barclay for sermon preparation, etc. I still have and use his so-called Bible Translation, it is somewhat close to a paraphrase, but still good overall I believe. Just a reflection, as I wonder if Wright will be read much in 20 or 30 years? Note too, J.B. Phillips, and his NT Translation/Paraphrase. (Now I see Wright has a NT Translation) Btw, I won’t be around I am sure in 30 years, maybe 20? 😉 As the Lord wills!

  5. Nancy says:

    NTWright/NTWrong? Hmmm…most likely, it’s NTSomeWright/NTSomeWrong…he is still as we all are in the mind renewal process…*; ) I too have just recently started reading and watching some of his talks. Unfortunately, I come to all scholastic and theological works with some 50 years of presupposition. (Probably more, since the Holy Spirit is still wiping out suppositions of my pre-Christian existence.)

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