Theology In the Public Square

Just as Jewish monotheism stood over against dualism, paganism, Epicureanism and Stoicism, so the Christian version of Jewish monotheism must stand, as it did in Paul’s preaching, over against all other alternative theologies….If we are claiming with the Pauline gospel, the high ground of speaking for the one true God, made known in Jesus and the Spirit, then we must be prepared to show how the language of theology relates intimately and vitally to the whole of life, culture, love, art, politics and even religion. This could mean challenging the academic world in a new way by showing how the study of theology is vitally linked to all other disciplines.

N. T. Wright (What St Paul Really Said - 1997 pp 163-163)

It was interesting and exciting to hear Tom Wright interviewed on a Spectator Podcast recently regarding his latest book - Paul: A Biography and for a review of that book to appear in the latest edition of the Spectator magazine (24th of March). The review is very good and the podcast superb (a link to it is found below). Wright comes across very well indeed. He sounds personable, erudite, passionate and persuasive…everything we would want in a public intellectual, especially with regards to the Christian faith. During the last decades the church has seemed increasingly irrelevant and has been increasingly marginalised in the mainstream media. Therefore it was so refreshing to see and hear a Christian intellectual getting some exposure regarding his research and knowledge. The quote at the top of the post is from Tom’s smaller work on Paul from twenty years ago but is so relevant to the theme we have started on this blog regarding the relationship and dynamic between Athens and Jerusalem (see previous posts).

In the Eighties and Nineties we saw the emergence of what was called the “Third Culture.” This relates to the phenomenon whereby Scientists emerged as public intellectuals with a wide appeal. Taking over in popularity from literary scholars and philosophers, scientists regularly published best sellers and the media did a wonderful job of promoting them. They were seen as being able to answer not only the big questions of life but a lot of smaller ones too and for many years the general public couldn’t get enough of them. I would argue that this exposure laid the ground for the success of the New Atheist movement post 9/11. At this time the Church was barely noticed, and if we were it was, unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons. Listening to the Spectator podcast made me think that Tom Wright was fulfilling the mission so eloquently set out in the quote that starts this post. We certainly need more of this and must pray that God would raise up a new generation of gifted intellectuals and public communicators to meet the need of hour. In the meantime, do yourself a favour and listen to the podcast. Great stuff indeed!


by Rev Dr Russel Moffat

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