One or the Other

In case you’ve not already read it, I’d suggest taking a look at Gerald Bray’s review of N. T. Wright’s Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision.  He concludes with some harsh remarks about Wright’s ability to be both a bishop and a scholar, suggesting that he should pick one or the other for the sake of not doing a halfway job at being both.  I don’t know how good or bad Wright’s book was but I can hardly imagine that it would warrant such a suggestion.  So feel free to chime in with your opinions of Bray’s recommendation.



21 thoughts on “One or the Other

  1. Regardless of what one thinks about Wright’s book, degenerating into a personal attack about Wright’s ability to be a scholar and bishop is unprofessional and slanderous. Be critical of his work and writings…fine. But there is no reason to go beyond that.

  2. Youch… that is one scathing review! I have the feeling his reservations about the book have some substance to them – but they are presented with such a harsh tone that it’s hard to hear them appreciatively

  3. That was one of the most personal reviews I’ve ever read from a scholar. That last part was just uncalled for and it was ironic considering Bray just finished taking issue with how he believed Wright treated Piper and Carson. You get the feeling Bray felt like Wright was beating up on his friends and he wanted to jump in to defend them.

  4. Brent:

    Be critical of his work and writings…fine. But there is no reason to go beyond that.

    I agree completely.

    Matthew: Yup. I enjoyed Bray’s summary of both Piper and Wright’s positions but then I came to that last page which is now all I can think about.

    Bryan: Yeah, very personal. And your analogy seems spot on to me.

  5. I found it very distasteful. And I think he misunderstands Wright’s understanding of imputation. Of course, the discussion is so complex I could have the wrong idea.

  6. I’ve somewhat skimmed through the article, but I’m wondering… why is being a bishop and a scholar mutually exclusive?

    It just seems like he’s drawing a line where there aren’t any.

  7. Michael: I found it distasteful as well, more about Wright personally and less about his book. Having not read Wright on the subject I can’t know whether or not Bray has misunderstood him.

    Mike: Yeah, pretty much. Although I agree with Bryan that he’s just suggesting Wright is unable to be both. I suppose had it been another bishop whom he agreed with he wouldn’t make that claim. After all, he didn’t suggest that Piper couldn’t be a pastor and a scholar.

    Chuck: A great deal of them.

    Bryan: I agree. I think his point is that Wright used his busyness as a bishop as an excuse for his hasty response. Bray is saying pick one or the other since he can’t do them both well at the same time. Of course it remains to be seen whether or not Wright’s reply was as weak as Bray suggests.

  8. I appreciate his evangelical concern, but I agree with Michael Metts that I am not sure he has represented Wright’s views on imputation fairly and misses out how the importance of faith and assurance (Rom 5-8) in Wright. Wright seems to be saying that justification as the verdict issued in the present on the basis of faith (declared to be in the covenant) which will anticipate the verdict issued at the final judgement. His view is of course open to question, but what I found odd is his trying to paint Wright as a lone wolf with eccentric views – as he writes that his views “have been openly opposed by almost everyone engaged in the field” and “his disciples seem to come mainly from the ranks of those who have not studied the subject in any depth.” I wonder what all the Pauline scholars who blog think about this!

  9. TC: Yeah, those final comments do seem a bit reckless.

    Jeff: No doubt, but maybe not the best reviewer. Thanks for the Helm link.

    Mike: I’d be curious to see what they all think too, but there’s so darn many of them that I doubt I could wade through it all!

  10. I don’t mind scholarly disagreement. It happens all the time.

    But for Bray to question Wright’s scholarship and to say he embarrassed himself, is ridiculous on Bray’s part.

    I’m appropriately mad.

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  12. Helm and Bray are good scholars, but I cannot help but judge them as second-tier compared to Wright. For Bray to suggest that nearly no one has followed Wright with regards to justification is nothing less than falsehood.

  13. Alan: I’ve read more Bray than Wright and I’d judge him as a top-tier scholar. I didn’t think that his closing remarks in his editorial review had anything to do with scholarship though, either his or Wright’s.

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