Why Tom Wright Hasn’t Written about Homosexuality

In the video above, Bishop Tom Wright explains why he hasn’t written on the topic homosexuality. In short, he says that he hasn’t done the necessary research on the topic. Furthermore, he says that he is keenly aware of the complexity of the issue, and thus to do the topic justice would require him to write a book the length of The Resurrection of the Son of God.

27 Responses to Why Tom Wright Hasn’t Written about Homosexuality

  1. Ted May 5, 2009 at 7:37 am #

    It seems a bit strange that the one issue that is tearing apart Dr. Wright’s Anglican church is the one subject he’s not written about.

    Meanwhile, someone who has devoted the time to researching and writing on the subject is Dr. Robert A.J. Gagnon, Associate Professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. His book, “The Bible and Homosexual Practice” (Abingdon, 2001) is a great service to the church. His website is robgagnon.net

  2. Derek May 5, 2009 at 10:56 am #

    Well, at the very least, in this video where he tiptoes through the tulips ever so cautiously, he has said at least one important thing: that moderns have imposed a bit of our arrogance into this discussion – that is, many scoff at the notion that pre-modern or pre-enlightenment people had anything valid to say on the topic of sexuality. I do wish he would take it a step further, however, and point out that it isn’t just Paul that we dismiss as some kind of primitive rube, but God Himself, when we challenge the authority of Scripture on this topic.

  3. Michael Metts May 5, 2009 at 11:07 am #

    My goodness… Tom… Stick to writing. Please. For Pete’s sake.

  4. Ben May 5, 2009 at 12:08 pm #

    Mike (#3). I agree. I like Tom’s writing, but I long ago stopped paying any attention to his public appearances. In this video, he is at the upper end of his extemporaneous presentation capabilities, and it is still rambling.

  5. David Rogers May 5, 2009 at 12:52 pm #

    I am amazed at the negative comments made here at what Wright says in the video. I’m sorry, Denny, (and I do indeed appreciate the reality that you even post these things and give opportunity to comment on them) but the summary of the content of the video as being “why he hasn’t written about homosexuality” does not even approach a summary what he says.

    Wright is not rambling or tiptoeing, he was setting some profound theological foundations against homosexuality throughout the whole of the Bible. Some think that recitation of a few texts settles and summarizes the matter. Wright’s discussion of Genesis and the Marriage of Christ and the Church theologically frames and founds theological reasoning why homosexuality is incompatible. We as conservative Christians do not only have to appeal to a few texts condemning it (which the left try to explain away), we can appeal that homosexuality reduces sexuality to mere impulse and act rather than seeing true sexuality (heterosexual) as a significant theological symbol. Homosexuality is not only sinful it is also false.

    Wright, being the careful scholar, seems to want the issue to be discussed in a way that covers the whole of the topic and not just the recitation of the condemning texts. That has been done well by Gagnon and Jones and Schmidt(and they also do some proper theological framing) Wright seems to want the larger theological themes of Scripture to be addressed with regard to the issue if he so chose to address it in writing. Nowhere in this video does he say he does not address it in counseling nor does he say that he does not address it in preaching.

    Writers write on the topics of immediate interest, and some, seemingly as Wright does, desire to do full expansive explorations of what they do WRITE about. Who are we to be condescending because Wright hasn’t done what we think he should do when we think when he should have done it? He isn’t dead yet. When he is, then we can go to his grave and yell that he should have written on this topic. (hyperbole and sarcasm)

    His reply does indicate that he has indeed done some thought on the issue rather than avoiding it.

  6. Derek May 5, 2009 at 1:23 pm #

    David, I think everything you said applies when we’re talking about 2nd order issues and areas where Scripture leaves some room for interpretation (e.g. baptism). Then there are issues that Scriptures where we can answer strongly even where it is silent (e.g. gambling). However, a leader and pastor needs to be able to speak clearly where Scriptures are unambiguous. There are many things that Scripture is silent on – but in this area, Scripture is neither ambiguous or silent.

    Shouldn’t we expect anyone who is a shepherd to many souls – each of which will stand before the judgment seat of Christ – to speak with the same clarity? Or do we need our pastors to write doctrinal theses on each topic before we accept what Scripture says?

  7. David Rogers May 5, 2009 at 1:23 pm #

    Almost every statement he makes is a introductory refutation of the claims of pro-homosexual religious scholars. Rather than starting with immediate denunciation of the topic (which some would seem to insist on) he seems, to me, to be crafting a rhetorical argument beginning with theological and socio-historical foundations which can function as an end-run around the objections of pro-homosexual claimants. I note this because I have done enough study in this area to recognize the typical claims of the pro-homosexual argument and Wright’s subtle, yet effective, introductory refutation of them.

    I think Wright has begun to “[do]the necessary research” but is not ready at the moment to congeal it into a tome. Will he ever? Who knows? Who am I to judge the assignments given to the servant of another master?

  8. David Rogers May 5, 2009 at 1:28 pm #

    Derek,

    Was the question to him about whether he has preached about the topic or whether he has WRITTEN about the topic?

    Paul did not immediately mention or start with an explication of the cross in his sermon at the Areopagus. Was he abandoning the Gospel then or was he subtlely enticing the audience through rhetorical means to desire to hear more?

    Judging Wright on this issue through a 6:44 video is insisting on a bit too much.

  9. David Rogers May 5, 2009 at 1:32 pm #

    I would love to continue on this but I need to prepare to teach on Heaven and Hell and Eschatology for my seminary extension class tonight.

    At the very least, those commenting here are taking note of theological topics rather than World of Warcraft or soap operas (and the devotion is remarkably similar)

    All gamers may now proceed to hate on me.

    David

  10. D.J. Williams May 5, 2009 at 1:37 pm #

    *Gamer hating*

  11. Derek May 5, 2009 at 1:43 pm #

    David, you make a fair point. I think some of us watch the video and see the need for a much crisper answer, even if he lays the groundwork for some foundational principles with which to justify his position.

    The problem is, what is his position? I could be totally wrong about this- and I hope I am – but it sounds to me like he is sending messages that are encoded for two different audiences, so that they will both think that he is largely agreeing with them.

    I think all audiences appreciate knowing what you affirm and believe, even if you say, “here is my position: please allow me to explain some principles that support my position.” – as Paul did at Areopagus.

  12. Matthew Stokes May 5, 2009 at 2:40 pm #

    As a conservative Episcopalian, I get frustrated by the flowery talk and all that sounds and feels a lot like ducking the issue. Nevertheless, Bishop Wright is correct to move slowly on the homosexual issue. Saying “it is sin” is easy enough, but no other sin has developed such a culture around, and I can think of no other sin so full of nuance. For example, there are plenty of homosexuals who are not involved in overly sexual relationships, but the relationship does go far beyond the bounds of friendship. I gather that Wright is looking to explore those socoiological and psychological aspects, as well.

  13. Denny Burk May 5, 2009 at 2:57 pm #

    Dear All,

    Take a look at this interview: http://www.nationalcatholicreporter.org/word/wright.htm.

    I think that Wright believes that homosexuality is a sin. At least he affirms that “Christian morality faithful to scripture cannot approve of homosexual conduct.” It just takes him a while to come out and say it.

  14. Ben May 5, 2009 at 3:35 pm #

    I agree with David (#5) that Wright is doing what good scholars do, and trying to contribute to the debate by looking at the items of confusion, and shedding light on them. He’s not in the business of simply rehashing others. For that I am very grateful for his contribution to Christian scholarship, and wish there were more like him.

    On the one hand, I like his books, even if I don’t always agree with him. On the other hand, I don’t like when he speaks outside of an academic setting because he seems to cause problems.

    That being said, he is definitely laying the foundation of something in that video that is highly faithful to the traditional understanding of Christianity. I see no reason whatsoever to be truly negative of Wright based on that video.

  15. David Rogers May 5, 2009 at 4:53 pm #

    Denny,

    Thanks for the link.

    However, your comment

    “It just takes him a while to come out and say it.”

    Should we carry stop watches to measure how long it takes for a person to explain controversial issues in a potentially hostile and incendiary environment?

  16. Derek May 5, 2009 at 5:07 pm #

    David,
    Should it take 6 minutes and 44 seconds to take a band aid off?

    The thing that is even more unsatisfying than that is that you feel as if the band aid is still half stuck to your arm.

    For the record, I’m content to assume that Wright’s audience already knew where he was coming from based on previous comments. Just reacting to the clip we saw. I’m used to Wright being a little more direct, which is something I appreciate about many of our British friends.

  17. David Rogers May 5, 2009 at 5:10 pm #

    By “potentially hostile and incendiary environment” I mean the eventual publishing of his comments to the public, and not to the person doing the interview.

  18. David Rogers May 5, 2009 at 5:23 pm #

    The homosexual issue is not remotely resembling to the removal of a band aid.

    One thing I’ve observed about the left is that they are looking for the quickest means to dismiss the objections of conservatives. They are ever ready to slap the label “homophobe” onto someone in the microsecond that they hear the first objection to homosexuality. Once the person is thus labeled, he or she can be villified endlessly.

    One strategy that some such as Wright use is a careful laying out of foundational issues through step by step comments. They don’t immediately launch into a “cut to the chase” summary because they have a deep desire to demonstrate that their conclusions do not come from knee-jerk reactionism (which the left want to accuse them of) but actually from a fuller carefully studied examination of the evidence available.

    This is my tendency and that may be why I am reacting to some of the comments made here. I have also seen the results of alleged knee jerk comments that have seemingly ruined attempts of ministry in a matter of seconds. Sometimes immediate direct proclamation is necessary and appropriate and sometimes development of an argument over time is important (Paul on the Areopagus).

  19. Derek May 5, 2009 at 5:59 pm #

    David,
    I think you understand that I was not comparing the homosexual issue to a band aid. I was speaking to Wright’s reluctance to state his position without using carefully coded terminology that obscures his position (whether that is the intention or not).

    Being direct about one’s view need not equate to rudeness, harshness, homophobia, etc. On the contrary, it honors your audience and listeners. I would argue that it earns you the right to explain your position and supporting arguments, just as Paul did at Areopogas.

    I would appreciate a little more charity in understanding/not misrepresenting my perspective – I think I’ve shown respect and appreciation towards yours. Thank you.

  20. Scott May 5, 2009 at 6:18 pm #

    Derek,

    I think the subject matter does demand carefully handling and delicately presenting the material. What would you have Wright say?

    We’re dealing with a complex issue – at least to those for whom the message should be preached. I can assure you, there is no quicker way to turn them off than by “being direct about it.”

    Ye of the quick sound bite and rushed proof-texts!

  21. Brian Auten May 5, 2009 at 10:00 pm #

    Denny,

    I see from the preliminary draft of ETS 2009 that you’re scheduled to present the following:

    “Why Evangelicals Should Ignore Brian McLaren: How the New Testament Requires Evangelicals to Render Judgment on the Moral Status of Homosexuality”

    Is the NT Wright clip tied to the upcoming paper? For ETS 2009, I was wondering if you were going to address not just Brian McLaren, but Oliver O’Donovan’s new book, as well as the new IVP book by Andrew Marin?

  22. Denny Burk May 6, 2009 at 12:44 am #

    Brian,

    The clip is not related to my paper for ETS. I just stumbled across the clip after Ben Witherington had posted another clip from the same interview.

    I’m not sure whether I will engage with those guys or not. Ask me again this summer after I’ve had some more time to work on it. I should have a better answer then!

    Thanks,
    Denny

  23. David Rogers May 6, 2009 at 10:16 am #

    Derek,

    I do not mean to be uncharitable to you, but you brought up the band-aid analogy.

    Also, are you being charitable using the terms “reluctant”, “coded terminology that obscures”? Yes, you added the possibility that he may not have intended that but you chose to label what he did as that. By using these descriptives, you seem to be describing the inner motivations and agenda of Wright using some rather derogatory accusations as to why he spoke as he did. Even if he had feelings of reluctance or used these alleged “coded” terminologies, he still laid down some significant theological foundations that I think are very helpful for believers to recognize and use in addressing the issue.

    I do see that my phrasing “knee jerk reactionism” may have been taken as uncharitable to you. I was using it not in reference to you (you have not shown that). I was speaking generically, but I truly believe that you recognize that there are many for whom that phrasing is a somewhat accurate description.

    I do enjoy the give and take,

    David

  24. Derek May 6, 2009 at 12:37 pm #

    David,
    Thanks for the clarification. I believe it is dangerous to assume a person’s motivations, which is why I stated that I don’t know what his intention was.

    The band aid analogy was meant to be illustrative, not uncharitable. We need to be honest with ourselves: taking a long time to explain our true position will frustrate many people. I am happy to give Tom Wright the benefit of the doubt. If nothing else, we should pray for him to have further opportunities to build on the foundation he tried to establish in this video.

    I believe we are entering days where courage in Christ and confidence in Scripture are more essential, not less so. Will some ministries fold if we say what we believe in clear terms? Yes. Will some lose careers? It will happen. But no ministry is worth preserving if its leadership is afraid to stand for the straightforward truths and Gospel outlined in Scripture.

    At Areopogas, Paul made his appeal, but he was also mocked. I think we can learn a lot from his example. Know that we too will be mocked and derided, but that a few sheep who know His voice will hear and respond to the simplicity and foolishness of the cross.

  25. Bread Maker May 6, 2009 at 1:10 pm #

    To Derek,

    It would appear that Wright orders his pastoral care and scholarly activity without consulting you.

    If you want to know something of Wright’s understanding of homosexuality though, you can refer to his commentary on Romans (Abingdon, 2002.) There he makes note of the “thorough treatment” of the subject by R.A.J. Gagnon (see Ted, #1 above) as well as R.B. Hay “The Moral Vision of the New Testament” (Harper 1996.) If you prefer listening to reading, then you can get hold of his lectures “Romans in a Week” delivered at Regent College, Vancouver, BC Canada in 2000.

    And when did baptism become a “2nd order issue”? Death to sin, union with Christ in his resurrection, walking in newness of life, sin no longer having dominion over us, being alive to God – second order! Paul has some things to say about that, and Wright some good comments as well.

  26. Derek May 6, 2009 at 2:22 pm #

    Bread Maker,
    At no point did I or would I make an absurd demand that Wright answer to me. I find your remark rather condescending and without basis, but I shall look past it in the spirit of charity. Please look at my comments and note that my critique of Wright is restrained – I stated in several instances that I’m operating from the assumption that he holds an orthodox position.

    Regarding baptism, I agree with you – I should have said that we may disagree about certain aspects, such as infant baptism, but I did not mean to imply that it is not a first order issue in and of itself.

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