‘Me and Jesus’? Yes please.
It is no secret that I have enjoyed Tom Wright's many academic contributions relating to Paul and especially Jesus. Yet the recent conference on Wright has given me space to reflect on my own relationship to Wright's theology. And, to be honest, in the past year or so I have started to feel critical about some of Wright's arguments – particularly as they relate to the Apostle Paul (Mike Gorman has done a terrific job gathering some key thoughts, many of which I deeply resonate with). Certainly, his many proposals are an important counterbalance to confessionally motivated eisegesis (as is arguably evident in the Pope's book on Jesus, or perhaps most strikingly in John Piper's recent sermon, which Mike Bird drew attention to – see also Andrew Perriman's reflections on this, who I think rightly speaks of Piper's 'yielding to dogmatic pressure and assimilating the Gospel narratives to a Reformed misunderstanding of Paul'). Yet there is a flip side to this. By protecting NT texts so thoroughly from eisegesis, his presentation of the gospel has sometimes been framed in a way that eclipses the significance of the good news for me. Yea, 'modern individualism' blah blah, but I challenge you to pick up Bultmann's NT theology without finding yourself addressed by a gospel that speaks a clear word of hope to you personally – not just creation generally. More to the point: Bultmann's theology, despite undoubted weaknesses, is constructed in a way to facilitate this encounter. Is Wright's? Why not? I used to wax lyrical in sermons about the gospel not being just about 'me and Jesus', that the Lord's prayer is 'Our Father ... our ... us', not 'me, myself and I'. But somewhere along the way I forgot that the gospel most certainly is also about 'me and Jesus'. And this part must be articulated with utmost clarity.