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Earlier this week Michael Horton’s review of the N.T. Wright’s new book After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters appeared on the Christianity Today website (it was available in CT print version earlier this month). Horton, while in many ways positive about Wright’s book, critiqued him strongly on his reading of the Reformers.

Earlier this week, I interviewed Wright about his book, and several other items, and had a chance to ask him about Horton’s review and how he would respond. My question, and Wright’s response, follow:

Matthew: In a recent review, Michael Horton, writing for Christianity Today, was generally supportive of your book. Yet, he took issue with your, at times, negative articulation of the Reformation and its impact on Christian ethics stating, “in addition to caricaturing Luther’s positions, [Wright’s] criticisms lack any nuance in distinguishing between Reformation traditions.” He argues that your critique is actually more characteristic of “Wesleyan” tradition, rather than the Reformed or Lutheran.

How do you respond to this critique?

Wright: I’m not a church historian and defer to those who are, from whom I hope to learn. I was fascinated by the critique of the medieval ‘virtue’ tradition I found in various sixteenth-century writers, and tried to note that as I went by. I wasn’t trying to give a systematic account of how the different post-Reformation traditions have understood virtue, but was hoping rather to show that the cultural pressures towards a romantic ‘spontaneity’ and an existentialist ‘authenticity’, both of which I see as radically undermining a proper appropriation of NT ethics, have gained (spurious) validation in many quarters by appearing to say what the Reformers say. Some have indeed argued that Luther paved the way for the Enlightenment.

There is a sense in which I think this is true – just as, more obviously, Luther paved the way for Rudolf Bultmann. But life is always more complicated than these over-simplifications. I am much, much more concerned by the fact – and it is a fact – that the Reformers, whom I love and revere, and their various would-be successors to this day, have caricatured St Paul and failed to distinguish different things in his thought. That’s a larger debate I suspect Michael Horton and I ought to have some day. I’ve never met him but I think we would have an interesting conversation.

Read the full interview this coming Saturday.

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4 Responses to “N.T. Wright Responds to Michael Horton’s Review of After You Believe…”

  1. Tweets that mention Christianbook.com Academics » Blog Archive » N.T. Wright Responds to Michael Horton’s Review of After You Believe… -- Topsy.com says:

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  2. [...] matters, but thinks the Reformers disagreed. We covered it here. Well Bishop NT Wright has responded: Matthew: In a recent review, Michael Horton, writing for Christianity Today, was generally [...]

  3. [...] of Christianbook.com interviewed N. T. Wright recently and asked him about this review. Here is the exchange: Matthew: In a recent review, Michael Horton, writing for Christianity Today, was generally [...]

  4. chicago dave says:

    It’s interesting to note that Horton has been criticized for the same thing. If you go back a few years, Gerstner criticized Horton and C.U.R.E. (Christians United for Reformation) and sided with MacArthur on his criticism of the latter’s The Gospel According to the Apostles. Gerstner’s take was that the emphasis in Horton, at least then, was not thoroughly Reformed (was it Lutheran?) as also was his enthusiastic support of the Law/Gospel take of the Lutherans. Wright is following McGrath (One of Horton’s mentors) on some of his understandings of the distinctions of this historical period.

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