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November 23, 2012



I can't speak for the commenters directly, who I would take to be sincere and concerned with the text. But on a different front, I am aware of a new wave of ecclesiological misogyny among certain strains of neo-calvinism that are deeply disconcerting and, unfortunately, actually picking up steam and impacting those local churches that begin to buy in.

To me, Wright's argument is important and powerful because it re-orients us around the Gospel message and the function of Christ's resurrection as a hermeneutical guide to NT authors who were still working out the implications.

But beyond that, even needing an argument on this issue should begin to sound silly. Do we still need an argument against racism? As if a close study of the text is required to disentangle Paul from his assumptions re: slavery. That was perhaps necessary when the slave-owners still held the high-ground 'biblically speaking.' But to carry on with that argument now, having been led by the Spirit to see racism as inherently immoral, is asinine.

I had thought we were getting to that point with the issue of women. Unfortunately, we've been set back by 50 or 100 years while the culture has moved on. It can appear that this is an argument from progressivism, but could we not also simply say that on this point, at this time, the Gospel itself concerning women is leavening the culture more easily than the church, because we are using an archaic (but not ancient!) and uninspired interpretation of the Bible against the advance of the Kingdom. In which case, Lord have mercy.


Interesting piece. The negative comments on this article (above) include several assertions about what Tom Wright has said in the article that are simply wrong - and in some cases he is saying the opposite of what they assert that he is saying. And this with the article still there above the comment for us all to read. Why do this? Stupidity? Bias? Arrogance? I don't know, but interesting...


fake ideas of progress by Tom Wright

the abandonment of the meta-narrative in the name of embracing post-modernity is a rubbish concept which fails to consider that the unfolding will of God reflects the most 'meta' of narratives.

The humour involved in humans discerning the direction of history and the trends of society only affirms the safety of obedience to scriptural principles that guide the blind and bolster the lame.

Jesus embraced and empowered faithful women; and the Spirit of Christ inspired and led Paul to give fairly clear instruction to the church.

What more must a student armed with a bible and a lexicon do to become a 'serious scholar'? What WILL authenticate varied opinions? When does authority come to bear?

Dustin B

I read this over breakfast (which I think everything worthy should be done over) and sipped tea while mulling over this argument and why it didn't sit as well with me as my toast.

As a young, modern day Anglican I am wary of articles like this that say "No, listen guys, this isn't about progress! It's really about the bible! Look, right here it says..."

This argument invariably translates into, "Gosh, if only the people before us had simply looked in their bibles. I wonder where our society would have progressed to today?" (is this starting to smell like something other than simple exegetical justification? a bad egg, perhaps?)

Do you see my problem now? The people who came before us were people like Augustine, Cramner, Lewis (who probably wouldn't take too kindly to be quoted in this argument) etc. They read their bibles unearthly amounts and who am I, steeped in my modern liberalism, to question their ancient wisdom? The church isn't the way it is because of a few 2000 year old conservative oversights, it is, I trust, the way it is because we have a spirit-driven history.

Sure, hey– woman bishops. The anglican church decided to ordain woman and this inevitably comes with that decision. But don't try to make this argument a modern feel-good exegetical one, because I wont bite. I just don't trust some eggs.

Robert Dimmick

Well said. I particularly like the bit about Mary Magdalene. The argument that "all the disciples were men" is probably less valid than "the three most important people God chose to work with Jesus were called Mary". (His mother; the Anointer and sister of Lazarus; and the Magdalene, probably a different person.) So we shouldn't allow anyone not named Mary to minister???

Millicent A.

Fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing this. Poignant, relevant and well-articulated. Bravo. Warm regard,
Millicent A.

Annie Weatherly-Barton

Wow! Wow! And Wow! Fantastic.

Anthony Flemming

I feel moved to comment. Setting aside the assumptions that because CS Lewis said it, it must be true (really?), look at paragraph 6. Progress simultaneously delivered liberal democracy AND the guilotine, gas chambers etc. Gas chambers (and their use, more to the point) derived from an anchronistic promulgation of illiberal views i.e. (since the author declares himself unsure of what liberal means) those on race, sexual orientation, justice et al that were used to justify guilotines and the rest. To claim that (technological) progress made available new methods for enabling these horrors does not allow you to claim it produced the ideas that justified their use - and it really is the ideas that matter here. This is obvious isn't it? As far as I can see this seems to be the only argument presented to reject 'progress', the rest is just assertion that we should or just unexplained denouncement. I think 'progress' remains unhindered.

We are then invited to prefer an argument for women bishops based on close analysis of texts whose original sources are lost or fragmentary and where no one can agree, we are told, on the correct tranlsation anyway. I don't see much hope that way. Is this really better than the living, breathing argument of a society which concludes that there is no reason to discriminate between genders? This is, after all, a view Anglicans seem happy with for priests, only bishops are somehow different it appears. This is amid a confused argument that seems to run that because the early church set out against the status quo then.....but hang on, that would, surely, make the early church..... progressive! And progress is bad. I just give up on this one.

And finally if you're going to make statements like "[the] ambiguous 'progress' of the Enlightenment" and "Modern ideas of “progress” are simply a parody" you really do have to offer some sort of argument by way of explanation. Personally I think the contribution of medicine, sanitation, human rights, the use of reason, among other miraculous enlightenment achievements, to alleviating human suffering seem rather unambiguous. Certainly compared to the contribition to humanity of not having women bishops in the Anglican church at any rate.

I don't think progress is the problem the Anglicans had in their synod, lack of coherent thought might have been though....

Ross Clark

A brilliant piece, indeed, even though I disagree with his arguments for women bishops.
Remembering that every Christian truth will be accompanied by two equal and opposite errors, the transformation in gender roles which the Church offered was away from a patriarchy in which women were treated very badly, agreed - but it wasn't in the direction of modern feminism either. In many ways it sees itself as a beneficiary of Enlightenment "progress" as well.


I have read several articles and letters offering 'support' to me and my ministry. This is the only one that makes me feel like carrying on...

Clarion Journal

This is a reprint from other sites. Brilliant stuff and worth considering on other theological and pastoral fronts.

Laura Merzig Fabrycky

Absolutely fantastic piece by Tom Wright. Is this original content or published elsewhere? Well done, either way!

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