A few years ago while in Spain we toured Barcelona. One of the fascinating sites was the Sagrada Familia under construction since 1882 and not expected to be complete until 2026. The finished product will reflect a number of architectural influences. For instance, the image to the left illustrates the influence of Antoni Gaudi – where we get “gaudy.” Once finished the structure will be something of an architectural symphony.
Wheaton College hosted N.T. Wright and a small circle of friends for their annual “Theology Conference” – “Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N.T. Wright.” Friday was given to Jesus and the People of God while Saturday focused on Paul and the People of God.
Some 1100 registrants enjoyed some outstanding papers, often presented rather creatively. Each presenter paid compliments to Bishop Tom and sought to offer a constructive critique to the theological project found in what some of us affectionately refer to as “his big books” – to date they are red, blue and green. These books as well as countless other writings comprise the “symphonic project” of N.T. Wright. He is able to write for the academy as well as for “everyman.” Often a person writes for one audience or the other and never the twain shall meet. But, with Wright, he melds these two gifts admirably.
I met Bishop Tom a few years ago at a conference in Nassau. On more than one occasion we shared a conversation revealing quite and affable and gregarious New Testament scholar. For some those two adjectives seem worlds apart from the “academy.” But, Bishop Tom truly enjoys people and seems as if he will have a good time in the process.
Michael Gorman has offered his reflections on the conference. He noted something that should well carry all who listen, and I hope many do. When undertaking such a sizable project it is a good idea to get a sense of the “audience” or at least “primary” audience the writer appears to be engaging. Gorman offers the insight as he replays the Hays-Wright rift that is on its way to a healing.
My engagement with the content of the papers presented and Wright himself will follow a particular course. Many of the conversations I have about life and faith take place either as pastor or as friend. Many times people sit and we discuss the implications of the life of Jesus for the life they live. Other times I am privileged to be a conversation partner with other pastors, friends who follow Jesus and others who do not. Invariably my thoughts will wind through these different contexts. I will make no attempt to interact with each paper but instead will draw attention to themes I find helpful.
Join along and let’s share a conversation and add to the symphony.