In a previous post, I linked the video of N. T. Wright explaining why he hasn’t published on the topic of homosexuality. I didn’t provide any commentary or evaluation, though I did think the spot to be unsatisfying.
Yesterday, Doug Wilson commented on the video, and I think his critique hits pretty close to the mark. He writes,
‘So why is this clip singularly unsatisfying? Why does it leave me feeling bleh? I honestly wouldn’t anticipate any basic disagreements with Wright on the subject of homosexuality. What I see here is profound disagreements on the nature and object of scholarship, and on the nature and object of debate. What Wright says at the beginning about how he was brought up to debate rationally, and how debate was meant to work thoughtfully to a conclusion, is all very well, and works very well on a wide range of issues. Academic rules of rational discourse are very helpful when it comes to the identity of Shakespeare, the authorship of Hebrews, or the root causes of the Civil War. They are no good at all when the serpent is telling us that we will not die. Die? How do you define die? To enter into dialogue at this point is not to uphold the truth, but to compromise it at the outset. I have often said in sermons that sin doesn’t make sense. If it made sense, it wouldn’t be sin. If someone is enticing you to leave the way of God, the temptation is to run headlong down the path with no light. And when you get down there, you can’t see. Longing for the day, as Wright clearly does, when the devil will starting playing fair, when he will starting arguing like a gentleman, is to mistake radically the kind of situation we are in.’
Read the rest here.
So I guess the noetic affects of sin can just be disregarded when one is talking about sin. Not only this, but I think Wilson’s argument here would also do away with any sort of reasoned study of the Bible. Just because you can’t debate the devil or reason with sin does not mean that you are thereby licensed to forego argument and leap headlong into the matter ignorantly or naively, just assuming you are right a priori. Such would seem, well, like another sin. I think they call it pride.
I finally took the time to watch the video since you have posted on it twice, and after watching it I don’t feel like Wilson’s critique is very compelling. It seems to me that Wright just recognizes a lot of confusion about the issue and (in many cases) the lack of a broad biblical framework within which to understand it. Comparing insistence on the clarification of these things to asking the devil what he means by “die” seems like a mismatched metaphor. Wright is talking specifically about entering into discussion with other humans (and at certain points, scholars in particular) about the issue, not the devil himself. I think that his hope is that the truth can bring liberation to those who are captive to the devil; he simply feels that they will not understand the truth without the aforementioned clarifications and broader framework. Why would we want to complain if he thinks that we ought to bring in large swaths of biblical truth in answering a black and white moral question? Like the man Wright mentions counseling in the video (who had an affair), would it not help people to know not only that homosexual practice is wrong, but fundamental creational reasons why and also why they feel attracted to it even though it is wrong (the Fall)? I don’t see what Wright is asserting other than the inclusion of such helpful biblical material in the discussion, and I thus don’t get what there is to be upset about. Is it that we should be upset because his answer cannot be tweeted? (Please, no one pick up that final comment as serious and have long discussions about the tweetability of ethics. It’s just a joke that faithful readers of this blog will understand well.)
LOL the tweetability of one’s position is becoming part of the ethos of this blog.
Anecdotal, personal comment: Ironically, I personally am more convinced by someone who seems like they understand the opposition and further, seems like they could be reasoned out of their position given the proper evidence than by someone who seems married to a position no matter what and is yelling the truth from the rooftops with their ears plugged. The former may appear wishy-washy to the dogmatic faithful, but in many cases they appear reasonable and convinced by the evidence to me, which has a positive affect on me regarding the evidence itself.
I am describing personal reaction, not cold, hard logic. But most people tend to believe people they trust more than cold, hard logic. If we are after hearts and minds, earning people’s trust is an important consideration.
Can I or anyone else misunderstand the Bible? Of course!
Can I or anyone else be deceived for any number of reasons? Of course.
Sometimes being sure is just another name for arrogance, so one needs to be willing to do the hard work of sieving thru alternatives.