Dialogue with Tom Wright about History and Eschatology– Part One

Dialogue with Tom Wright about History and Eschatology– Part One November 11, 2019

BEN: As you rightly note, the Gifford lectures committee has seldom invited a Biblical scholar to come and discourse on ‘natural theology’ (as opposed to ‘unnatural’ theology?), and it seems especially ironic that the last ones before you were James Barr and before that Rudolph Bultmann. Bultmann could hardly be more different in perspective than you. Why do you suppose Biblical scholars are so seldom invited? Do you think the committee somehow thinks ‘natural’ theology is somehow not really connected to Biblical theology or not within the purview or expertise of Biblical scholars?

TOM: I think the modern tradition of ‘natural theology’ has simply screened out the Bible from the start, presumably on the grounds that it’s ‘special revelation’ which by definition is excluded from ‘nature’. But that, as I argue in the book, is only thinkable because of the assumed split between the ‘natural’ and the ‘supernatural’ worlds, with the Bible assumed to belong to the latter and hence unusable for ‘natural theology’. But the irony of this is that it has gone hand in hand with the rise of so-called ‘historical critical scholarship’ in which the Bible has been cut down to size as precisely a ‘natural’ product, i.e. an ‘ordinary human book’ – in other words, ‘natural theology’ has simultaneously treated the Bible as a ‘natural’ book and excluded it as a ‘supernatural’ book. And one of my key points throughout is that this is what it’s done with Jesus, too . . .

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