(Note: This is part two of my interview with NT Wright. The first part addresses the Bible and why he doesn’t call himself an inerrantist.)
TIME Magazine called him “one of the most formidable figures in the world of Christian thought.” Newsweek once labeled him “the world’s leading New Testament scholar.” His name is N.T. Wright, and he has just written a controversial book on the Bible.
In “Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues,” Wright comes out swinging on theological hot buttons such as Darwinian evolution, whether Adam was a historical figure, and why he thinks the Bible makes space for women pastors. Here, we discuss the issues of homosexuality, science and gender.
RNS: Many American evangelicals believe that the Bible requires the rejection of Darwinian evolution. You dedicated your book to Francis Collins and address science right out of the gate. Do you think American evangelicals have created a false choice between what they believe the Bible says and the dominant views of modern science?
NTW: Some have, some haven’t. Sadly, many have been taught that there is a straight choice: either biblical Christianity or Darwinian evolution. Actually, some of the great conservative American theologians in the late 19th century—I’m thinking of B. B. Warfield and others—didn’t see it like that at all.
The problem is that Darwin’s findings were “heard” by the wider community within the popular Enlightenment “Epicureanism” (Jeffersonm etc.) in which God—if there is a God—is a long way away, so the world just does its own thing. That is a modern version of an ancient philosophy which Jews and Christians always rejected. The trouble is that much “conservative” Christianity in America has bought into the same split-level worldview and simply emphasizes the “God” side of it. The false “either-or” of “Bible or Darwin” is thus itself a dangerous symptom of a sub-Christian culture. I explain all this in that first chapter, of course. But yes, it is a false choice. We urgently need to take a couple of steps back in order to see the issues more clearly and go forward with confidence.
RNS: There’s a chapter in your book about natural disasters and the problem of evil. I’ve heard some theologians outright declare that God “caused” an earthquake or flood or tsunami. Is this wrongheaded in your view?