Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Douglas Wilson: "N.T. Wrights and Wrongs"
Prydain ^ | 7/05/2005 | Will

Posted on 07/05/2005 8:29:27 AM PDT by sionnsar

click here to read article

N.T. Wrights and Wrongs
Douglas Wilson

I have mentioned before that N.T. Wright is trying to hitch the white horse of the universal lordship of Christ to the wrong political wagon. The public nature of the lordship of Christ is an important doctrine, and Wright has performed a valuable service in reminding the Church of the necessity of that doctrine if we are to make any sense of the New Testament. But such a glorious doctrine must not be hitched to a broken-down socialist wagon with three square wheels.

A great example of this problem can be seen in Wright's recent interview with the National Catholic Reporter. In response to a question about denying communion to public officials who take positions contrary to the teaching of the church, Wright stepped back from the passage in 1 Corinthians to get some perspective and context. Unfortunately, he stepped so far back that the passage virtually disappears. And I quote:

"If I were simply to pick up 1 Corinthians 11 and ask, 'What does this suggest about Eucharistic fellowship?' the biggest issue that shouts straight back at me is that the rich, white, Western world, which keeps the 'two-thirds world' in grinding poverty and unpayable debt, stands condemned every time it receives the Eucharist because its brothers and sisters in the two-third world are growing the wrong sort of crops, are paying compound interest they can't afford, and are being left on the side."

It is difficult to even know where to start in analyzing this. First, there is a logical confusion. The fact that the apostle was dealing with the problem of rich and poor in the church at Corinth (which was certainly part of it) does not mean that St. Paul is dealing with global economics. "Think globally, act locally" does not mean that local solutions simply translate straight across, no muss, no fuss. A man can share a piece of bread with another man at the Corinthian Eucharist (which he ought to do) and not cause a war or a famine. But when liberal clerics agitate in such a way that ten tons of grain are delivered to the regime of a despicable human being with a hungry army of rapists and thugs (in the name of sharing bread), they might succeed in keeping such a man in power, oh, for decades more. The law of unintended consequences takes over, and all the best eucharistic intentions in the world will not prevent it. Identify the fact that a place is disease-ridden because of all the rats, and place a bounty on every rat pelt. First thing you know, all the locals will have taken up rat-farming.

Second, there is covenantal confusion. The problem of division within the Christian church at Corinth cannot be glibly applied to the entire world, believer and unbeliever alike. Within the church, the root causes of poverty are already addressed, in principle, within every believer there. But when we confront pagan unbelief outside the Church, we cannot deal with the poverty in such places without dealing first with the paganism that causes it. We see St. Paul apply the principle, even on a local level, when someone who professes Christ is "walking disorderly." The instruction is that he should not eat. So what do we do when North Korea is walking disorderly, starving its own people for the sake of all those goose-stepping troops who need foodstuffs to keep that pep in their marching? To say that Christians in the West are "standing condemned" whenever they take the Lord's Supper because of what some pagan Marxist is doing to his people is about as naive as it gets. Jesus Christ establishes His table at the center of His community, His nation, His people.

Third, Wright has missed the wisdom of Charles Schultz of Peanuts fame, when he made Linus say, "I love mankind; its people I can't stand." And P.J. O' Rourke nailed it when he said that everyone wants to save the world, but no one wants to help mom with the dishes. Global compassion is cheap. When you give your "pennies a day" to help that kid with the wan and emaciated face in the Christian magazine, your guilt goes entirely away. Doesn't matter that, say, 87 cents on your dollar is thrown into administrative costs at the headquarters in Los Angeles. And if you go with government and public agencies instead, just think "Oil for Food." Global intervention can bring all the pleasures of virtue and none of the pain. And if all you are trying to do is get that nagging liberal guilt to go away (the guilt you incurred simply by being fortunate), then you can always get it to go away for a very small investment, and it does not matter to you that the guilt-b-gone actions you took made everything actually worse on the ground.

And last, Wright has simply bought into a widespread leftist assumption that economics is a zero sum game, and that one person or nation can only be wealthy at the direct expense of some other person or nation. In other words, the amount of wealth available is a pie of a fixed size, and if I get a big piece, that means you have to get a little piece. But this is not the case, not even in the love feast at Corinth. If a rich Corinthian Christian showed up with a pile of food, and the poor guy showed up with a crust, it is quite true that the rich man should share with the poor man, and that if he does not, the poor man will depart hungry because of the rich man's unwillingness to share. The poor man will depart without food and the rich man will depart with St. Paul's disapproval. But it does not follow from this that the reason they arrived at the worship service with this disparity in place means the rich guy caused the poverty of the poor man. He may have (that happens), because there are rich thieves in the world. But it is an article of faith with economic ignorati that wealth causes poverty. Big pieces of pie somehow cause little pieces of pie. To think this way is to be the victim of the analogy -- to get a better idea of what is going on, we have to conceptualize a growing pie. What does that do to this situation?

Not all pies grow. Some do, and some don't. What makes the difference? Luck? Fortune? The gospel of Jesus Christ embedded in a culture for three centuries? What causes it? And if we suppose a wealthy, Western Christian nation (which we don't have anymore, but work with me), and that nation is confronted with nations like North Korea, or Somalia, or Zimbabwe, and we assume the moral obligation of the wealthy nation to transform the poor nation (and the physical capacity to do it), what should be done? What does the lorship of Christ require? The first thing that should be required is open borders, and complete freedom and security for all Christian missionaries. We should ask about the second thing after about fifty years or so.

1 posted on 07/05/2005 8:29:27 AM PDT by sionnsar
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: ahadams2; anselmcantuar; Agrarian; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; Hermann the Cherusker; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

FReepmail sionnsar if you want on or off this moderately high-volume ping list (typically 3-7 pings/day).
This list is pinged by sionnsar and newheart.

Resource for Traditional Anglicans:

Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 07/05/2005 8:30:05 AM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || Kyoto: Split Atoms, not Wood)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: sionnsar
Big pieces of pie somehow cause little pieces of pie. To think this way is to be the victim of the analogy -- to get a better idea of what is going on, we have to conceptualize a growing pie.

Matthew 13:31-32
He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches." (NIV)

3 posted on 07/05/2005 8:50:37 AM PDT by freebilly (Vast Right Wing Conservative Christian Heterosexual Conspirator....)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: sionnsar

This was great. Thanks! On a more secular front, Rush Limbaugh was talking about this today. The only sure way to decrease poverty is to allow capitalism and democracy to flourish. Funneling our money to the corrupt, power-hungry despots in Africa does nothing to change the situation there.

Even if the money went directly to provide food for the starving, without creating a sustainable economy, we would need an endless spigot of money. I don't believe Jesus advocated that the rich simply give to the poor so that the poor never need learn to fend for themselves. Rather, he would have advocated, I think, creating the circumstances necessary for the poor to become unpoor. And Wilson is correct in pointing out that such circumstances, in recent history, go hand in hand with Christianity, democracy and capitalism.

4 posted on 07/05/2005 5:58:11 PM PDT by pharmamom (Did you steal my tagline? I seem to have misplaced it; I know it was here somewhere...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: pharmamom

You're welcome. As an (early-budding) N.T. Wright fan I was taken aback a bit by this, but then I did recall something that had me questioning, a little while ago. I'm still looking forward to more material, including a DVD of his recent talks in Seattle (some family were there), but it doesn't hurt to be aware of issues such as this.

5 posted on 07/05/2005 6:09:42 PM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || Kyoto: Split Atoms, not Wood)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson