N. T. Wright on ‘The Colbert Report’

Bishop N. T. Wright appeared last night on the Comedy Central program “The Colbert Report” to promote his book Surprised by Hope. You can watch the video below.

Two thoughts:

1. How conducive is a comedy show to talking seriously about the weighty things of God? “The Colbert Report” is more than just satire. It turns every subject that it touches into a joke. Is that helpful?

2. Shouldn’t Christians be concerned not merely with spreading the news about “heaven” (and the new creation) but also with how one gets into “heaven” (and the new creation)? Bishop Wright was able to say that people get to participate in the work of the resurrection now through acts of charity. But that was as close as he got to an explanation of how one might inherit eternal life. I think all would agree that this explanation is manifestly insufficient for any sinner who wishes to know how he might be reconciled to His offended Creator. There was no talk of sin, judgment, the cross, faith in Christ, or forgiveness.

To be sure, the format of the show and the jocularity of the host work against faithful Christian witness. But if this is all that can be done in 7 minutes, I’m wondering how helpful it is to appear on this show to talk about a subject as important as this one.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

14 Responses to N. T. Wright on ‘The Colbert Report’

  1. Paul June 20, 2008 at 11:20 am #

    Denny,

    you said the same thing about Rick Warren when he appeared on the Colbert Report.

    My question to you then is (and an answer wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world), where should Christians appear? Should we be super serious unless our names are Johnny and Chachi?

    I would remind you that Colbert never (ok, rarely) skewers his guests. He has them on because he WANTS them on, and I am certain that he is usually hoping for at least a grain of wisdom to come from such guests as N.T. Wright.

    Sometimes, I gotta say, people just need to get over themselves. If ANYONE goes out and reads stuff by N.T. Wright because of his face time on the Colbert Report (let’s face facts, that’s a distinct possibility), some good is bound to come of it.

  2. Jason Allen June 20, 2008 at 11:28 am #

    On your first point…

    Whether you want people to read his book or not is another issue, but wouldn’t you say there would be good chance someone picking up a copy after seeing him on Colbert Report? Sort of like what getting on Oprah’s book club would do for your sales?

    If that were the case, wouldn’t there be a huge reason to go on a show like the Colbert Report?

  3. Denny Burk June 20, 2008 at 11:33 am #

    Paul,

    You may be right. It may be that a good evangelical Christian can raise awareness about his otherwise evangelical work by appearing on a show like this one. In that case, that would be a great outcome.

    I guess I’m weighing that potential outcome against the possible deleterious effect of having the gospel cast in a unserious light.

    I’m not saying it’s impossible for a Christian to bear witness in this kind of a scenario. That’s why I put my remarks in the form of questions. Still, I’m pretty skeptical.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  4. Denny Burk June 20, 2008 at 11:36 am #

    Paul,

    Thanks for reminding me about my previous post about Rick Warren’s appearance on the show.

    If anyone wants to see what Paul is referring to, click here: http://www.dennyburk.com/?p=1249.

    Denny

  5. John Mark Inman June 20, 2008 at 11:58 am #

    I thought the interview was more serious than others I’ve seen on the Colbert Report.(But I don’t watch it that much) It was actually the finest greatest interview that has ever been shown to man on the face of the earth. 🙂

    I thought Wright was able to emphasize the big points of his book. It seemed like an in-house discussion between 2 Christians. In a lot of ways the book is an in-house book aiming to correct misunderstanding among Christians about the relative importance of heaven to the big picture of resurrection and new creation.

    Overall,I thought the Bishop looked a bit nervous and his planned jokes fell a little flat. Partly because he pronounces dogma “dogmer”. Even then I’m not sure it was that funny. But preacher jokes usually aren’t that funny, so I guess it’s forgiveable.

  6. Brian L. June 20, 2008 at 12:11 pm #

    Heck, at least he was better than Rick Warren…

  7. Hector June 20, 2008 at 1:06 pm #

    Wright on Colbert is a good thing. It brings (a small dose of) Truth to people. Our job is to capitalize on that seed and keep the conversation going or start new ones. And, don’t think a conversation with humor cannot also convey true propositions.

  8. Glenn Jones June 20, 2008 at 1:45 pm #

    Denny,

    I felt that it was certainly one of the more serious interviews. Colbert has to make jokes about something and from what I remember, he seemed to be poking fun at all the bad notions that people have about heaven.

    Now, I don’t know if he agrees with Wright’s book in full, but I think he wants people to know what’s out there and to encourage serious thought about important subjects in the culture of our country (both spiritual and political, etc).

    Obviously, he’s a satirist and that’s the way his show has to be and the way he wants it to be. But that doesn’t mean that good cannot come of it in my opinion…

    Take the interview he had with Bart Ehrman. He made Ehrman look like a fool and THAT is a really good thing! 🙂

    Watch and tell me what you think if you haven’t seen it already…

    Master Christian Apologist: Stephen Colbert

  9. jeremy z June 20, 2008 at 1:47 pm #

    Denny your delightful two comments frustrate me. Here is Why?
    1) We cannot take ourselves too seriously. Seriously, we cannot have our neck tie too tight. Loosen up, the Colbert Report is not suppose to be a theological dissertation. Rather the Report show engages issues in a satire way.

    2) Do you realize how many non-believers view the Colbert show? To me this is the biggest witnessing tool ever! Putting a respectable and well articulate Christian scholar on the Colbert Report is like handing out 3 million pointless and useless tracts. Unfortunately taking the tract route people will be laughing AT you and not WITH you. At least people viewing the Colbert Report are laughing WITH us, right? My question to ya’ll tract supporting people, is how helpful are tracts?

    3) I think in your second point, you miss the point. Basically ever living being in America knows how to get into heaven. We are God’s nation, right?

    4) Denny states: There was no talk of sin, judgment, the cross, faith in Christ, or forgiveness.

    Yes I love it when he always includes this part in everything. It does not matter the context the sin talk always is presented.

    It is good to be back on dennyburk.com. I have missed you guys and GALS.

    Grace and Peace.

  10. jeff miller June 20, 2008 at 3:27 pm #

    Denny,
    While I think your concerns about an impoverished presentation of the gospel are reasonable, Wright obviously is not using a strict criteria for interview venues. Did you hear the whole audio from your June 12th post?
    With a smile,
    Jeff
    Also, do you have access to any more on Wright’s ongoing interaction with John Piper? Thanks.

  11. Josh Orr June 20, 2008 at 4:04 pm #

    I would like to know also, is there any continued dialogue between wright and piper available to the public?

  12. Brandon Rawlings June 20, 2008 at 4:44 pm #

    Tony Perkins also recently went on the Colbert Report discussing gay marriage. Who’s next?

  13. Tim Nussbaumer June 21, 2008 at 7:44 am #

    I enjoyed the interview but thought Wright was not his usual self. He seemed a little out of his element. Having said that, I tend to agree with comments that suggest the possibility of people picking up his book because of the show. If I’m being honest, I’ve bought books from seeing authors on the show.

    On a side not, has anyone seen Garlington’s review of Piper’s book?

  14. jeff miller June 22, 2008 at 10:58 pm #

    Tim,
    Yes, if you mean the review written a few years ago, I read it and thought it was very much worth reading.
    -Jeff

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