Resurrection: Writing New Stories

Posted by Melvin Bray on May 1st, 2008 filed in Useful Perhaps

I manage to write my first 750-word anything (well actually a thousand words when you add in the quote from Debbie Blue, but who’s counting) and GP decides to post it in 2 parts—such is life…

As did McLaren, I too recently read the conversation between N. T. Wright and Bart Ehrman, hosted by I must admit my incredible bias upfront. I came to this assignment with a deep appreciation for Tom Wright and embarrassingly was quite ignorant of Bart Ehrman. Wright had given me the language and academic credibility for a narrative theology at which I had arrived serendipitously. Furthermore, I had long appreciated Wright’s scholarship for challenging the Christian tradition to reckon with the contextual realities that shape biblical claims. Although my faith may require less now in terms of traditional apologetic constructions to substantiate it, I am grateful for Wright’s insistence that Christians strive for intellectual honesty when interpreting scripture.

So I freely admit that I brought this bias to my reading, but was immediately captivated by Ehrman’s story. It was the best thing he could have done for me. While a fan and student of the quality of thinking that Wright epitomizes, I adamantly believe that everyone has the right to tell his/her own story.

Ehrman’s concern for the pain of others, sounding very Jesus-like, completely resonated with me over the course of the first 3 postings. But then Wright’s comments took a turn that was seemingly unexpected for Ehrman. Wright introduced Resurrection as God’s unprecedented response to suffering that, in a linear sense, infuses the pain of suffering with a promise that heretofore had not existed. Wright’s insistence as to the significance of resurrection is not landmark within the Christianity, but his understanding of resurrection is somewhat different from what has come to be viewed as traditional. From that point on, Wright’s conversation took a trajectory that embraced the legitimacy of suffering but asserted that it was not the end of the story. Ehrman, however, continued to make his case against the church’s traditional and, for Ehrman, insufficient or contradictory explanations of suffering. It seemed as if he could not hear Wright’s disassociation from penal-substitution as the only way to tell the story of God at work in the world.

There is a quite subtle form of intellectual dishonesty that dismisses others concerns and insists on making parallel presentations that are not open to conversational refinement. I did not get the sense that this was what Ehrman was doing. Rather Ehrman seemed so use to hearing the language Wright uses (the basic claims of Christianity) aligned in such a way as to bracket out any possibilities except the party line, that he did not appear to recognize that it was not happening quite that way this time.

My heart ached for the experiences Ehrman must have suffered that make his expectations and response ever so reasonable. I wonder how many others have grown accustomed to having their concerns bracketed out of the Christian conversation.

Read more on God’s Politics blog>>> Part 1 (comments), Part 2

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