God is Setting All Things Right. So I am Blogging Through the Bible in a Year.

Friday, August 24, 2012

N. T. Wright and Romans for the 21st Century

This week I have been listening to the “Romans in a Week” lecture series by N.T. Wright that my father-in-law gave me a few months ago. Needless to say, I bumped it up to the front of my queue (past 955 tracks, 330 hours of music podcasts and lectures – I know, I’m a hoarder). Listening through it I find myself both sad and excited.

Why must you spoil my fun, N.T. Wright?

I am sad because I thought (though am embarrassed to admit) I had come up with something new or, to say it better, realized something lost: Romans is written not as a systematic theology but to make peace between two groups, the Jews and Gentiles who are fighting over who are the true children of God.


Almost everything I have been teaching in the Romans class on Sundays was taught in a better style and with more scholarship and depth – he even reads the Greek from memory – by Wright in this series.


Tim Spivey this week wrote a post “Theological Cartography Syndrome” meaning the inability to think critically about our favorite theologian(s). That worried me. Am I following Wright without critique? At this point I realized I did not come to these conclusions because I read or listened to N.T. Wright. I came to these conclusions before I listened to these lectures. Huzzah! I agree with Wright because we read and teach Romans the same way – as ancient history. It has a cultural context which must be addressed before we attempt to make sense of the text. This is what I (woefully) have tried to do in my posts so far – describe the history and mindset of the Jews and Gentiles in Rome reading Paul’s letter for the first time.

My Task: Romans Applied for the 21st Century

Where my work differs from N.T. Wright (at least in this series) is that  I want to go beyond mere exegesis and look at a new way to apply Romans today. I wish to compare the 1st Century to the 21st Century. I see many parallels between the Jews then and Churched Christians now which Wright may not agree with. This task is fraught with peril, for I realize there are not one-to-one equal comparatives between these two groups and it is uncomfortable to place yourself in the cross hairs of Paul’s rhetorical arguments; however, the similarities are too great to dismiss. What I wright will be similar to Wright’s findings. But know that these things come from me, not from a devotion to N. T. Wright.

This is why I have entitled the study Romans for the 21st Century. Just as Paul radically challenged the Jews and Gentiles of the 1st Century to live united together in Rome I want to challenge those who wish to obey God inside and outside of a church in the 21st Century to live united together wherever we live. ('united together' was intentional)