Today I have been pointed to a couple of video clips of Bishop N. T. Wright which illustrate the problem he poses to modern evangelicals and why opinions about him are so polarized. In the first clip, he explains why, in his view, it is not only possible but desirable to read Genesis 1-3 in a non-literal sense.
If I’m hearing him correctly, this is very frustrating for me. Bishop Wright has forgotten more about the Bible and theology than I will ever know, and that makes me wonder why he would take this position? How can you not see the unhappy ramifications this position holds for what Jesus and Paul say about creation and Adam and Eve?
Why, I wonder, is it not ok to see Genesis 1-3 as an historical account (true, factual, exact, i.e. it happened just like it reads) AND as something that points to other, bigger and equally glorious realities? Why must I choose between history and “myth” (and here I use “myth” not in the sense of a “fairy tale” or fiction but in the sense of a story with a larger, wider, deeper meaning than the mere literal sense)? It seems to me that the Bible is both, and happily so. The only possible attraction I can think of for the position Bishop Wright takes is that it places a safe distance between you and the flat-headed fundamentalists who believe in a literal, 6-day creation AND think that the goal of life is to die and go to heaven AND that all science is of the devil. Now, I understand why one would oppose that. But why do I have to discard a literal, historical reading of Genesis 1-3 to get there? Well, of course, the truth is that I don’t. And I don’t see why Bishop Wright seems to think that he does.
Now, contrast that with this clip which is also of Bishop Wright. Here he comments on what he would say to the upcoming generation of ministers . . . . and this is right on the beam:
Well, right on and “Amen” brother! Preach it all day long and twice on Sunday!
Now you see why he is a difficult man to categorize, yes?
So what’s the solution? Should I quit listening to him and denounce him as a compromising, confused, dangerous “wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing”? Or should I listen to him like the faithful Bereans listened to Paul? Yeah, I know. Silly question.
Look. Bishop Tom is a man. Limited. Faulty. Error-prone. Just like you and me. So, listen with discernment. Praise God for those things that are helpful and profitable and leave the rest aside. Thankfully, this isn’t like the broccoli your Mom put your plate . . . you don’t have to eat it all.