Note: This is the first in a two-part interview. Part two centers on the topics of science, sexuality, natural disasters and gender.)
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 his ideas about what the Bible is and isn’t, and why he doesn’t call him a Biblical “inerrantist.”
RNS: No matter where a Christian falls on the spectrum, you’ll find something in this book to love and something to ruffle your feathers. Why did you decide to pen a book that touches on so many contentious issues? Do you expect pushback?
NTW: The book emerged from many different situations over a period of a few years. I didn’t set out to ruffle feathers, but to try to bring some biblical clarity to areas in which many Christians today, in the UK as well as the USA, are genuinely confused. So much of what people take to be “Christianity” is in fact an odd combination of things that really are in the Bible with things that are part of western culture from the last two or three hundred years. Figuring out which is which and how it all works is bound to be puzzling to some people if they’ve been firmly taught something else.
A lifetime of working in some very different churches has taught me that people come with all kinds of odd ideas and that a little clear biblical teaching goes a long way, and also that sometimes people resist it nervously because “it’s not what they said in Sunday School.” I’m all for Sunday schools, but there is a time for people to grow up and see things differently.