Michael Gorman has commented on the fact that 1100 people are registered for the Wheaton Theology conference that will take place next week and involves a theological dialogue with N.T. Wright. Why all the fuss? If SBL draws about 6000 people for the national conference, why would about 1/6 of these kinds of folks turn up for this? Gorman has some very important answers. Here are some of mine:
– He thinks big picture while still paying close attention to the details.
– He was on the Colbert Report.
– He just might wear his purple gown and bring his Bishop’s crook.
– He is one of only a handful of scholars in history that have contributed in major ways to both Pauline studies and Jesus studies (alongside people like Bultmann, Lou Martyn, E.P. Sanders, Jimmy Dunn, etc…)
– He is a real churchman- his oversight of the churches of the area around Durham is not just academic and informational. He deeply cares about these churches. He is thoroughly involved in their well-being and future.
– He is willing to take the risk of over-generalizing for the benefit of making the NT and the Bible make sense to young students and laypeople.
-He lives in a castle. A CASTLE.
– He manages to not have a mental breakdown despite the fact that virtually every theological camp loves him and hates him (although there are a couple that just hate him, sadly). Like Jesus, he has no place to lay his head. Good thing he never sleeps or tires!
– He is not afraid to challenge so-called consenses (like that “Christ” was just a name in Paul’s use), but he also is willing to defend some traditional readings when he thinks it neccessary (like Paul wrote Colossians, probably).
– The New Testament and the People of God is one of the most significant books written in the last 50 years in Biblical Studies for students and should be read by every seminarian.
– He is eminently quotable: “Wherever St. Paul went, there was a riot. Wherever I go, they serve tea.”
– Perhaps most important of all: he lives out and demonstrates the single most important rule of exegesis that my professors have taught me: Read the text very closely.
Of course, we are not just going to Wheaton to pay homage to a theological giant. He is just a mortal and the dialogue with folks like Bockmuehl and Hays will expose areas where there might be blindspots and weaknesses in his work. My hope is that criticism is generous and respectful. Wright can handle the pushback, but his great contributions to scholarship and the Church should be given consideration. See you all soon….