Remember when the homespun small-town sheriff, Andy Griffith, used to furrow his brow as he “studied on” an oddity he encountered?
“Curious, curious…” he’d muse, as Barney looked confused.
Well, I furrowed my brow this week this week as I saw what used to be an anomaly in the denomination of my youth: the Southern Baptist Convention.
Baptist churches, a generation ago, were as conservative biblically and culturally as you’d likely find anywhere.
The anomaly of which I speak is the scheduled presentation at North Phoenix [Arizona] Baptist Church of New Testament scholar N.T. Wright.
“Tom” Wright is a retired Anglican bishop, author, and fast becoming a hero to Evangelical Millennials in America, many of who seem to long for credibility among the intellectual elite.
That’s another reason the invitation to speak from North Phoenix is so dismaying. From the church’s website:
“World-renowned New Testament theologian and prolific author Dr. N.T. Wright is coming to Phoenix. In partnership with our neighbors and friends at Fuller Seminary, we will be opening the Worship Center on Tuesday, April 29 to an evening with Dr. Wright. The event is free and open to the public.”
For those who love and appreciate Israel, past, present and future, the reference to Fuller is deeply troubling, as is Wright’s view of Christian Zionism. In his 1994 book, Jerusalem Past and Present in the Purpose of God, Wright wrote the following false view of Christian Zionism, that it is:
“The geographical equivalent of a soi-disant ‘Christian’ apartheid, and ought to be rejected as such.”
Wow, who is the hater here?
In 2011, Dalton Thomas analyzed Wright’s views of Replacement Theology, and offers fascinating insights into how anti-Israel theologians and activists manipulate language:
“Though he cringes at the term ‘Replacement Theology’ he is a classic Replacement Theologian. While Wright is much more affectionate in tone than his predecessors and contemporaries, he promotes basic Supercessionism and embraces a theological system that divests Israel of their historical identity and prophetic destiny (something the prophets and apostles labored to affirm as irrevocable).
“When preaching or teaching on Supercessionism I often mention N. T. Wright as an example of a contemporary advocate. And more often than not I am met with strong and passionate criticism (as Wright fans are generally quite committed). ‘Who are you to challenge one of the greatest theologians on the planet?!’ they ask before they declare emphatically that ‘Wright isn’t a Replacement Theologian!’
“I disagree. Strongly.”
This is a chilling indictment of Wright’s theological views. It is further troubling that Millennial leaders like Relevant magazine publisher Cameron Strang never miss an opportunity to promote Wright. Displaying a breathtaking hubris in a 2012 article in Relevant, Wright felt it necessary to tweak Bible-believing Christians:
“Taken as a whole, the Church clearly can’t live without the Bible—but it doesn’t seem to have much idea how to live with it, either.
“It''s not surprising that all kinds of misreadings of Scripture have grown up, both among those who count themselves as Bible-believers and among those who distance themselves from that label while claiming some continuity at least with the biblical tradition. Many of these misreadings are now so common they are taken for granted in large segments of the Church.”
Wright then goes on to tell us how to understand the Bible, even though we can also read English.
This is how an elitist scholar like Wright influences people to believe his interpretation of Scripture, especially as regards Israel in predictive prophecy. In Wright’s world, “fundies” misinterpret the Bible all the day long, and were it not for careful thinkers like, well, N.T. Wright, biblical illiteracy would submerge anyone and everyone.
The truth of course is that Wright is also biased—we all are—yet pretends that his bias is based on proper interpretation.
All this makes the invitation from North Phoenix Baptist Church so tragic. Should the subject of Israel come up, the congregants will be subjected to leftist propaganda about the Jewish state, and her friends.
For decades, Israel support among Southern Baptist churches in America was almost total. Now, it no longer is, due to pastors and scholars who lack discernment.
(Jim Fletcher is a researcher, writer, and speaker, and a long-time advocate for Israel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)