A Critique of The Last Word by N.T. Wright
By David Sheldon
The Last Word Question: How bold of a stand upon the authority and sufficiency of Scriptures do you think will be made by a book with the following:

1. On the front cover is the statement: "Beyond the Bible Wars to a NEW (emphasis) Understanding of the Authority of Scripture."

2. On the back cover is the question: "Can We Still Trust the Bible To Lead The Church?" (With the first endorsement by none other than Brian D. McLaren of Emerging fame.)

3. On the inside cover is the statement: "BUT WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE SAY?" Followed by, "Revealing how both evangelicals and liberals misread scripture, Wright shows the way we can restore (emphasis) the Bible to its rightful role as a guide for the church..."

Well, if you said not much you may be right in your assessment. If you read the book, you will know. There is at least a two-fold problem with this book.

First, the book seems to constantly cast doubt on the ability of God the Spirit to change a human heart through the clear authority of the Word of God. (This "change" is a new heart and status in the sinner being justified before a Holy God.)  It is as if post-modernism is too great an obstacle for the Spirit of God. But the sad reality is that the a priori reasoning of fallen man tells him that he will "seek God" (or allow "God" to approach him) in certain ways only.  Anything else - you can forget it! So - a Holy God, the God of the Bible, will let men have their own way. (It would seem N.T. Wright and the "emergence" or "conversation" wishes to accommodate fallen man.) But only God Himself can "reason" with post-modern man so that he might be saved. The true church can only point out the fallacies - it can't change the heart or the reasoning.

Second is the constant lack in many modern books of an appropriate and well-defined eschatology and world view. And this is true of this book. But more precisely, its eschatology would seem to be innocuous without a well trained Biblical eye. For Wright, Biblical redemption is the starting point but God redeeming the cosmos is the real point. This redeeming of the cosmos, sometimes spoken of as the Kingdom is a current popular theme in many writings. But not being well defined it can be impregnated with one's own interpretation. Thus - one may have a view of the kingdom as the "emerging" kingdom of antichrist, growing within our own culture and churches, downplaying Biblical doctrine and a clear gospel presentation and yet it is still labeled as the Kingdom of God because it is somehow transforming mankind. In reality it is setting up the great "apostasy" and ushering in the kingdom of the coming antichrist.

The main problem that I see can be seen by zeroing in on one page in the book. Let's see if I can explain my above assessments with simply two quotes from that page: 

"The 'word,' spoken and written, always summoned people to a costly and contested redemption and renewal through dying and rising with Christ in baptism and the struggle to live on that basis,..." (p. 59)

Amen. Case closed.

But wait...

"It has everything to do with understanding human renewal as the beginning, the pointer toward, and even the means of, God's eventual eradication of evil from the world and the bringing to birth of the new creation itself. Thus, so the early Christians believed, Gods' word was at work by the Spirit within the community, to put Jesus achievement into effect, and thus to advance the final Kingdom." (p. 59)

Notice: the authority of the Word is in its proper place in the first quote (and we would hope the proper Biblical understanding of redemption and renewal) followed by what I would view as the ambiguity of some "kingdom" at work within the community which is moving toward a final Kingdom in the second quote. What does he mean when he says: Jesus' achievement?  Do you know?  In reading the book it seems to me he means not simply an individual person becoming a member of the Kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ but something greater and MORE important to Jesus. It is the establishing of his kingdom upon earth and through the "church." 

Too harsh of a review you might think?  I think he meant... you might say. Well - let's look at another quote. It is from his introductory remark to chapter 8 which he titles, "How to Get Back on Track." 

"We urgently need an integrated view of the dense and complex phrase 'the authority of scripture.'  Such an integrated view needs to highlight the role of the Spirit as the powerful, transformative agent. It needs to keep as its central focus the goal of God's Kingdom, inaugurated by Jesus on earth as in heaven and one day to be completed under that same rubric. It must envisage the church as characterized, at the very heart of its life, by prayerful listening to, strenuous wrestling with, humble obedience before, and powerful proclamation of scripture, particularly in the ministries of its authorized leaders." (p. 114).

There is one problem, however, because many of our churches and our culture are being "transformed" into an integrated move toward the kingdom of antichrist. This is becoming more and more obvious to any true believer. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit who convinces of sin, righteousness, and judgment, who is the "regenerating" agent and on-going "renewal" agent of any true Christian. So does N.T. Wright mean the Spirit transforms ME or YOU or THE CHURCH or our VIEW of what the Kingdom is?  Is the Spirit of God transforming our culture so we can usher in the Kingdom of God and this is Jesus plan?  But this is not what the Holy Spirit had in mind when He breathed out the truths of the coming Kingdom in the Scriptures or when Jesus preached the Kingdom!  The spirit behind the teachings and ambiguity introduced by N.T. Wright is that of antichrist.

Which leads us to another problem: God's Kingdom was NOT inaugurated on earth as it is in heaven by Jesus!!!  This is an absolute misunderstanding of the Word of God. This is the language of emergence, the language of the "new age," the language of the coming kingdom of Antichrist.  If you somehow think this is not so: ask a question. Is the lion lying down with the lamb?  (See Isaiah 11:1-10)  When Jesus Kingdom comes like Wright is saying then this is what will happen.  But it is not here, yet. 

Problem: "...THAT SAME RUBRIC???"  The "consummation" is not "that same rubric." His first coming: to proclaim the Kingdom of God in the sense of His work in redemption: the gospel and Scripture in authority over the life of His people and the reality of judgment for those who reject. His second coming: is not the "completion" of the kingdom. It is the start of His kingdom. It is NOT the same rubric. It is no wonder that it is reported that N.T. Wright has a new take on the teaching of Paul and justification by faith. He has a new take on the Kingdom of God! We have had 2,000 years to speak it clearly: why the ambiguity? Well - time will tell if you believe I am being too harsh. But you need to actually SEE what he wrote and consider the realities of what I have shared.

Copyright, David Sheldon, 2006, all rights reserved.
Can be copied in its entirety for personal use or to be distributed, but not for profit.

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