A Critical Analysis of N.T. Wright’s View of Spiritual Formation in His “Paul and Faithfulness of God”
Fredriksson, Tero Allan
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The New Perspective on Paul is one of the most discussed theological approaches of the modern era. It has raised several theological debates regarding the doctrine of justification. One of its most famous proponents is N.T. Wright. This research seeks to extend the discussion beyond that debate, and analyses Wright’s view of humanity’s plight and the solution to the plight. The research attempts to show Wright’s solution to the plight of a believer. N.T. Wright’s hermeneutical and soteriological frameworks are surveyed. His soteriology strongly depends on his hermeneutics and demythologised apocalyptic. Wright’s soteriology, despite his strong association with the New Perspective on Paul, is Augustinian throughout. The Augustinian influence can clearly be seen in his exclusion of free choice from his soteriology. In Wright’s intertextual study of key passages in the New Testament, the Holy Spirit plays an important role as the Shekinah-glory. Wright seems to use Shekinah for practical reasons and not to be intentionally anachronistic. Regardless of one’s view on the felicitousness of the term Shekinah, Wright showed that there are clear references in the Old Testament to God’s presence. However, the Old Testament concept of God’s presence does not refer to the Holy Spirit in all occasions. The literature survey shows that the Holy Spirit has a substantial role in Wright’s approach. He postulates that a cognitive renewal leads to the right behaviour, so believers can respond to God with worship, suffering, and serving in the ministry by using spiritual gifts. However, Wright does not clearly denote how the spiritual enablement happens, which implies an idea of a mysterious non-interactive intervention of the Holy Spirit. N.T. Wright uses Philippians 2:5 and Romans 12:2 to support the importance of a cognitive renewal. The researcher provides an alternative translation for Philippians 2:5 and showed that Romans 12:2 was decontextualized in Wright’s discussion. This has led him to exaggerate the role of a cognitive renewal in spiritual transformation. Four biblical texts are discussed (Isa 63:7-14; Gal 4:1-12a; 2 Cor 2:15-18; Rom 7:25b-8:27). The New Testament passages are evaluated in the light of N.T. Wright’s research. The analyses are performed by using Zuck’s exegetical methodologies, which focus primarily on the biblical text in its historical-linguistic context. Galatians 4:1-12a shows the possibility that believers can regress from spiritual maturity. 2 Cor 2:15-18 pointed out the importance of the multifaceted inter-relatedness within the community of the believers. The inclusion of Isaiah 63:7-14 is presented as an Old Testament antecedent for Romans 7:25b-8:17. These texts both support and complete Wright’s view that the Christian walk has similarities with Israel’s Exodus from Egypt, as it is described in Isaiah 63:7-14. The discussion of these passages shows that interrelatedness in the Christian community has an important role in the spiritual formation process as it forms a sphere where the Holy Spirit empowers and enables. This research is an attempt to analyse N.T. Wright’s view of the spiritual transformation and especially his ‘New Exodus’ paradigm, and use it as a platform from which theories of spiritual transformation can proceed. The ‘New Exodus’ paradigm as the re-told Israel’s Exodus to the church is a four-step process: redemption, baptism and the new life, ongoing sin and life according to the Spirit. The same pattern is evident in the Old Testament, in Israel’s Exodus. Apparently, God has had the same redemptive pattern to provide a solution to the plight of humanity. N.T. Wright’s narrative approach and the historical, grammatical, literary interpretation (or hermeneutics) of this research are sometimes difficult to reconcile. However, the narrative approach does not necessarily contradict with those who hold the propositional nature of the Bible (e.g. historical, grammatical, literary Interpretation). Moreover, the interaction between the approaches could open the fruitful field for further research.
- Theology