David Crumm Interviews Tom Wright


The Read the Spirit website has published last year an interesting interview taken by editor David Crumm to NT Wright on his latest book How God Became King. The Forgotten Stories of the Gospels.

Here are a few excerpts from this dialogue:

DAVID: In writing about your new book, I’m saying that you want to shift the questions that your readers are asking. Most Americans understand that you’re the scholar who says “Yes” to the question: Are the Gospels true? But you really want to talk about: What do the Gospels mean? Am I describing this correctly?

TOM: Yes, that’s a very fair way to make this distinction. One of the targets of this book is Christians who say: Yes, the Bible is true. It’s inerrant and so on. But, then, they pay no attention to what the Bible actually says. For too many Christians it seems sufficient to say Christ was born of a Virgin, died on a cross and was resurrected—but never did anything else in between. I’m saying: That’s not the way to understand the Gospels.

DAVID: We’ve been covering books by Brian McLaren for years and Brian himself regularly stops by ReadTheSpirit for interviews. I was struck, in the middle of your book, that you actually take a shot at Fox News. That’s something Brian is doing this summer in some new e-books he is releasing.

TOM: Well, what I’m doing is making a broad-brush point for readers. I’m not talking about Fox News in any detailed way and I’m not claiming that everything they tell you is wrong. I’m just referring to the well-known political viewpoint that comes through Fox News and I’m saying: We should be careful about listening to that point of view exclusively. There is a striking, radical polarization between your Left and Right that I have to say is really disturbing because it distorts so many issues. This Left-Right polarization forces people to say: We are all on this side now! We must check off every box on this slate! We must keep in line!

In your country, for example, there seem to be Christian political voices saying that you shouldn’t have a national healthcare system. To us, in Britain, this is virtually unthinkable. Every other developed country from Norway to New Zealand has healthcare for all of its citizens. We don’t understand all of this opposition to it over here in the U.S. And, we should remember: In the ancient world, there wasn’t any healthcare system. It was the Christians, very early on, who introduced the idea that we should care for people beyond the circle of our own kin. Christians taught that we should care for the poor and disadvantaged. Christians eventually organized hospitals. To hear people standing up in your political debate and saying—“If you are followers of Jesus, you must reject universal healthcare coverage!”—and that’s unthinkable to us. Those of us who are Christians in other parts of the world are saying: We can’t understand this political language. It’s not our value in our countries. It’s not even in keeping with traditional Christian teaching on caring for others. We can’t understand what we are hearing from some of your politicians on this point. Yet, over here, some Christians are saying that it’s part of the list of boxes we all should check off to keep in line.

DAVID: In the end, are you a hopeful writer and teacher? Should we read your books and hear your talks as dire warnings—or with an underlying hope for the future?

TOM: There is solid reason for hope, but that doesn’t mean I can look out at the world and say: Oh, yes, there are so many good signs that there’s nothing to worry about. I see lots of good signs, and I see lots of disturbing things. There’s the whole mess we’ve made in Iraq and Afghanistan and there’s the disturbing fact that some people are saying we ought to fly over and bomb Iran in the middle of this mess. People just don’t “get” how disastrous our policies have been in the Middle East. So, on those issues, I probably would sound like quite a liberal to many Americans. Then, I look at the state of sexual ethics and, when I talk about those issues, I probably seem like a right-wing conservative to many Americans.

The answer is complex. When I look across Africa and Asia, I see huge currents of thought and life, some of which are very life giving—and some of which are devastating. I’m now 63 and I do pray regularly for wise leadership in the next generation. We need clear-headed people to emerge to tell our story correctly to a new generation and to guide us all so that the world might develop in healthy ways.

* * *

There is more than this in the interview. You may read the whole of it HERE. Thanks to Val Russo for the link.


Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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