The Christian and culture – neither chameleon nor rhinoceros (NT Wright)

. . . The point is that these ideas had legs, and went about in the ancient world making things happen. They altered the way you saw things, the way you did things, the goals you set yourself and the ways you ordered your world and society. From the beginning no serious Christian has been able to say ‘this is my culture, so I must adapt the gospel to fit within it’, just as no serious Christian has been able to say ‘this is my surrounding culture, so I must oppose it tooth and nail’. Christians are neither chameleons, changing colour to suit their surroundings, nor rhinoceroses, ready to charge at anything in sight. There is no straightforward transference between any item of ordinary culture and the gospel, since all has been distorted by evil; but likewise there is nothing so twisted that it cannot be redeemed, and nothing evil in itself. The Christian is thus committed, precisely as a careful reader of scripture, to a nuanced reading of culture and a nuanced understanding of the response of the gospel to different elements of culture.

NT Wright The Bible and God’s Word (Lambeth, 30 July 2008).

NT Wright on Scripture, the Last Word, and publishers (Lambeth)

I finally got around to reading NT Wright’s lecture at Lambeth on the Bible and God’s Word (30 July 2008). He begins by drawing attention to his book on Scripture and the Authority of God and says:

It was published in America under the strange title The Last Word – strange, because it certainly wasn’t the last word on the subject, and also because if I was going to write a book called The Last Word I think it ought to be about Jesus Christ, not about the Bible. But such are the ways of publishers.

More seriously, for those of us who have read Wright before, there’s nothing entirely new, but I found it to be refreshingly enjoyable and helpful read.

Here is an outline:

1. Scripture and the Authority of God

a. Scripture as the vehicle of God’s authority

b. God’s Authority and God’s Kingdom

c. Scripture and the Story of God’s Mission

2. Scripture and the Task of the Church

a. Foundation: Bible and Culture

b. The Bible and Gnosticism

c. The Bible and Empire

d. Postmodernity

I liked this early quote

Debates about the authority of scripture have tended to get off on the wrong foot and to turn into an unproductive shouting-match. This is partly because here, as in matters of political theology, in the words of Jim Wallis ‘the Right gets it wrong and the Left doesn’t get it’. And sometimes the other way round as well. We have allowed our debates to be polarized within the false either/or of post-enlightenment categories, so that we either see the Bible as a holy book, almost a magic book, in which we can simply look up detached answers to troubling questions, or see it within its historical context and therefore claim the right to relativize anything and everything we don’t immediately like about it. These categories are themselves mistaken; the Bible itself helps us to challenge them; and when we probe deeper into the question, ‘what does it mean to say that the Bible is authoritative’, we discover a new and richer framework which simultaneously enables us to be deeply faithful to scripture and energizes and shapes us, corporately and individually, for our urgent mission into tomorrow’s world.

Some more of my favorite quotes:

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