“N.T. Wright Is Not Our Enemy”

n-t-wrightProfessor William C. Varner, of the Master’s College, offers this even-handed assessment of N. T. Wright. I too have felt the tension he describes in reading Wright.


“[A]s an academic who is also a pastor, I offer my views on NT Wright from both of these perspectives.

  • I admire his effort to build a bridge between the academy and the church. He models that to me because I am trying to do the same thing.
  • I admire his preaching ability. He often says more good things in a 20 minute sermon than most of us do in 45 minutes.
  • I admire his ability to write a popular commentary for laymen.
  • I greatly admire his great book on the resurrection of Jesus.
  • I respect his effort to get us to see justification by faith in its Jewish-Gentile context in Romans and Galatians. And yes he DOES believe in justification by faith.
  • I disagree with his paedobaptism.
  • I disagree with his ecclesiology, especially his affirmation of the rule of bishops.
  • I disagree with his amillennialism, and this shows up far too often in related issues. ([T]he above positions concern me, but if I tossed out any books whose authors advocated the above, I would not have much of a library left!)
  • I disagree with his view on the so-called Deutero-Pauline epistles.
  • I disagree with his unwillingness to affirm inerrancy.
  • I disagree with his belief in biological evolution.
  • I disagree with his re-interpretation of 2 Cor 5:21, related to his weak view on imputation.
  • I disagree with his advocacy of women’s ordination.
  • I disagree with his very lax view on ecumenism and his too tolerant view of Rome.
  • I disagree with his position on realized eschatology and the intermediate state.
  • I think he overstates and over-reads the issue of the “gospel and Caesar.”
  • I think he overstates and over-reads his view that Jesus fulfills the story of Israel. (There are probably some additional problematic views that he teaches and I am sure that some will bring these to my attention.)

I do not think that because he justly is one of the world’s most important NT scholars that this gives him a pass on the above issues.

Therefore, I am at best ambivalent about recommending NTW. I think that I can appreciate his good stuff and sift through the bad stuff. Not all can do that. I do not call him a heretic because he affirms the historic creeds in all their details.

In my pastoral world, I am going to have a hard time recommending him to laymen without a clear warning. In my academic world, I encourage students to read him critically. I am impatient with some students who blast him solely on the basis of their favorite Internet author who also often attacks him [without] really having read him and who can see NOTHING good in him at all. We do not do our students a service when we either lie and/or offer mean-spirited attacks.

Let me also say this clearly. NTW is not our enemy. If you want me to list some religious enemies of our evangelical faith, I can offer a list with 50 prominent names of false teachers and apostates who are destroying the beliefs of many. I am concerned greatly about some of NTW’s views, but not to the point that I am going to spend a lot of time attacking him. I will teach my students to be discerning – not to be blind followers of anyone, be it NT Wright or those who uncritically attack him.

What I have written, I have written. I do not desire to engage in a long debate with someone on this forum. I will let others duke it out if they wish to do so.


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