76: Plug Me Into the Bible Matrix

In this episode John begins by voicing concern that his current “infatuation” with N. T. Wright may be misplaced: is Wright as good as he sounds (and as right as Gregg seems to think he is)? John explains that he went looking for criticisms of N. T. Wright and found several such podcasts, and so wonders whether he is being persuaded more by Wright’s convincing speech or by his standing in the Christian community?

Gregg responds by highlighting how, relative to the prominent theologians of the past that Wright’s perspective contradicts (Augustine, Luther, and Calvin) Wright is seen by many who champion the views of these historical thinkers as second-tier scholar or even an upstart. So on the question of eminence persons versus evidence of facts, Wright, as an exegete, offers a densely argued factual presentation of his conclusions that other can—and have—engaged with. Yet among scholars Wright’s views have stood the test of counterargument.

In Gregg’s mind, then, the issue here is essentially how rightly to view / understand God, humanity, and the relationship between the two. Yet Gregg argues that this three-part issue cannot be resolved by deciding between Wright’s view and, for instance, a reformed or Calvinist view. Rather, N. T. Wright’s work represents the essential groundwork to address the issue but remains insufficient because it too remains tied to the very terms of engagement according to which the discussion, to this point, has taken place. And these terms are insufficient.

So even as Wright argues that correctly understanding God necessitates expanding how one views and approaches the biblical text (as in the need to understand Jesus covenantally or to understand “the gospel” on the basis of the gospels) [On this latter point see Wright’s book, How God Became King], Gregg argues that one’s approach must be expanded further still: one must consider the questions of God’s nature and identity, human nature and identity, and the interface between the two with the fullest scope of applicable information, gained by employing the broadest range of relevant dialogue partners and human faculties.

In this way, Gregg believes that such disciplines as psychology, biology, philosophy, neuroscience, geology, economics, etc., are not optional but indispensable to reaching our fullest conclusions on such a matter. Similarly, he views each human faculties (not only our rationality but sense perceptions, imagination, emotional responses and memory, all of which combine within and for experiences) as an invaluable asset to coming to the most truthful understandings concerning God’s nature and identity, human nature and identity, and how the two are meant to interface.

Stated otherwise, Gregg argues that because theology and exegesis are not the sole sources of truth concerning humanity, the Christian God, or the relationship between the two they necessarily cannot be the only voices on these subjects that are deemed to be credible (nor likewise should only those human attributes / faculties necessary to successfully engaging in theology or exegesis be so privileged).

The upshot is that we need not only respond to statements about the Christian God, humanity, and the relationship between the two by exchanging theological volleys using exegetical ammunition. Instead, we can reasonably (and necessarily!) ask of someone like John Piper, when he explains that he would have no issue if God did not choose to accept his Christian sons but instead condemned them to hell, whether this makes any sense from the within a parenting model?

By way of analogy Gregg questions whether, if Piper’s wife claimed that she might, at any time, end her relationship with her sons by killing them, would Piper consider this to be healthy (or even viable) marriage? Would he not only tolerate it but celebrate it? How then, if God is not only sovereign but parent, can Piper’s perspective be seen to represent a healthy (or even viable) basis for relating to God?

John suggests that people wouldn’t accept an analogy like this because God is mysterious and can do whatever God wants, yet Gregg immediately retorts: last week’s podcast showed that this is not at all the sense of mystery that the New Testament focuses on!

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