Tuesday, March 18, 2008


I never know how to footnote in a sermon. I have footnotes in my manuscript, but no one else ever sees my manuscript. Sometimes I mention my sources. However, often that seems cumbersome. Generally speaking, if you hear me say something really profound, you can bet it is not original with me. Ask me, and I will tell you where I got it.

This brings up my sermon on Palm Sunday. I received a number of compliments on it and want to make sure I am giving proper credit. The background information that I shared could be found in a number of sources. So, I don't think anything I said was too unique to one particular source. However, one source that helped me tremendously and that I relied on heavily was N. T. Wright's The Challenge of Jesus. He put the ideas all together for me and it influenced my message a great deal. I found the book to be very helpful and easy to read.

I hesitate to share this, not because I don't want to give him proper credit, but because I don't want to endorse a lot of what Rev. Wright has written. Particularly, his views on justification are very troubling. For all of the Wright supporters who want to tell me how I have misunderstood Wright, I will admit that I am no expert on the him or the others in the New Perspective movement. However, I have read enough from him, his fans and his detractors to be concerned and don't plan to spend a lot more time researching him.

However, even thought I disagree with Rev. Wright on Justification (which is a pretty big issue!), I still find much of his material helpful (as does one of his most ardent critics, D. A. Carson). He is a remarkable scholar and has a great ability to communicate clearly. He has been a staunch defender of the orthodox view of the historicity of Jesus and the reality of the resurrection. He also has done quite a bit of research on the period of time in which Jesus lived. So, we can learn much from him. However, I am hesitant to recommend him to a broad audience that might not be as discerning about matters of justification.

This brings up a challenge that I have as a pastor. There are a number of people whom I read--both Christian and non-Christian--with whom I differ on some very significant issues. However, I have learned from them and benefited greatly from them. I believe that my years of education, personal study, dialogue with other pastors, being part of a Confessional church, and a solid diet of Scripture and books with good theology has enabled me to be discerning so that I can read material (and benefit from it) even though I might not recommend it. I believe that I have a responsibility and privilege to read people from a variety of traditions, not just those who are Reformed. In fact, I think pastors and leaders who only read people in their own tradition are missing out on what God is teaching in other parts of the body of Christ. The sort of parochialism that keeps one from only reading people within his own tradition is both impoverishing and rooted in fear and insecurity. Yet, at the same time, I would not want less mature or less theologically grounded church members to read the same material.

All this to say, just because I quote a source or an author, that does not necessarily mean I am in agreement with all that author has said or even that I think that author is completely orthodox. In the case of N. T. Wright, I think he is making some very valuable contributions to Christianity. However, I find his views on justification (at least my understanding of his views) disturbing.

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