One of my good buddies, who shall remain nameless, was somewhat exercised by my recent post on the spirit of the age, and specifically by my vague doubt regarding N. T. Wright's approach to Jesus. In deference to him, I decided to listen to a few more Wright lectures on my way back and forth to Annapolis. There are four lectures on Jesus that he gave in some symposium setting around the turn of the millenium (the exact setting is not documented at the site, but inferred from the content):
Jesus and the Kingdom
Jesus and the Cross
Jesus and God
Jesus and the World's True Light
After listening to these lectures, I must confess that I was not reassured, but remained deeply troubled by the manner in which Wright speaks of Jesus. He speaks always of Jesus "believing" certain things about himself and God and his mission, never of His "knowing". He speaks of Jesus' "vocation" as a set of beliefs about what God "would do" and what, therefore, He should do to fulfill God's purposes. He speaks of Jesus' "incarnation" in terms not of Jesus being in essense (yes, I know it is a Greek idea...) God, but rather in that he made actual, in his own body in its actions and in its death, the purposes of God for Israel. It sounds very much like Wright sees the incarnation as something that happened to the man Jesus, and means that Jesus "became" the perfect image of God through his obedience and his insight into what God's purposes were. One has the feeling that Jesus could have accomplished his "vocation" and his "incarnation" by being simply a man who followed his beliefs about God's purposes and God's kingdom to the bitter end, and was then resurrected in an act of God's affirmation that he "got it right". Most alarming to me was Wright's comment at the end that he "still says the Creeds" but now "means something different than before" his studies.
Now I realize that these are simply four lectures, and that Wright has written numerous books, but these make six or seven lectures that I have listened to, and I feel no less concern about his orthodoxy than after the first. Can someone reassure me that Wright has committed, unambiguously, to the doctrines that:
1) Jesus was preexistent God, an eternal member of the Trinity distinguishable from the Father and Spirit before his birth as a human baby.
2) That He was truly born of a virgin, with no human biological father.
3) That he was completely without sin, meaning that he never sinned, not simply that he followed his understanding of God's purpose for his life whole-heartedly.
4) That he was incarnate God, not merely in his last years of ministry, but from his conception?
I would be glad to be so reassured, since Wright seems to be so important to my dear friend and several bloggers here, and I have intended to explore some of his writings when I finally complete my studies at St. John's. If he is so heterodox as to disagree with the elements of Christology above, however, then I have little interest in what else he may have to say about the Jesus he believes in, or how he may apply that Jesus' teachings to the church today. Somebody reassure me, please!