Anglican Resurrection Stoush: Carnely vs. Wright

Anglican Resurrection Stoush: Carnely vs. Wright June 5, 2019

Peter Carnley
Resurrection in Retrospect: A Critical Examination of the Theology of N. T. Wright
Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2019.
Available at Wipf & Stock.

Look, I am biased, but I think N.T. Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God is the best book on the resurrection and probably the best tome on the topic in church history (that said, I think Dale Allison’s big essay in Resurrecting Jesus, is a great minority report too).

Australian Anglican Archbishop Peter Carnley wrote his own book on the resurrection some three decades ago (The Structure of Resurrection Belief [1987]) and he here returns to the subject with a riposte against Wright.

Here’s the blurb

In 2003 the British New Testament scholar N. T. Wright published The Resurrection of the Son of God, arguing vigorously that the Resurrection of Christ should be handled purely as a historical event—subjected to historical reason and critical-historical research. This book critically examines Wright’s arguments. Peter Carnley demonstrates the flaws in the view that the Resurrection should be understood essentially as Jesus’ return from the dead to this world of space and time in a material and physical body. Carnley argues that the Resurrection of Christ is a “mystery of God,” which must necessarily be appropriated, not by reason alone, but by faith. Evidence relating to a past occurrence can be known only retrospectively. Yet Easter faith has to do with apprehending in the present a concretely experienced reality—which Saint Paul called “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2). An epistemology of the identification of the Spirit in faith as the living presence of Christ will be found in the companion volume to this book: The Reconstruction of Resurrection Belief.

I haven’t read the book yet, but I get the impression that Carnely wants to go back to the old liberal view of resurrection as something subjective and interior where Jesus rises into the kerygma or some kind of quest for existential authenticity. I can think of a good John Updike poem that dispenses with that view. Anyway, those who want to keep their disgust with Wright fresh might enjoy such a book; otherwise, I will be curious to see if Carnley rehashes the old 1960s arguments or really advances the conversation forward.

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