Wheaton's Theology Conference was outstanding! N. T. Wright's work was in the spotlight, and scholars from all over were invited to come and respond to him -- highlighting where they think Wright is right, and where he is wrong. Almost all the lectures are available for download, including his chapel message to Wheaton College students on Friday morning, so you can listen to the stimulating conversation for yourself.
Friday's theme was "Jesus and the People of God." The highlights of the day were hearing Richard Hays (from Duke) and N. T. Wright's evening lecture. Listen to Wright first for an entry-level explanation of his reading of the gospels. Hays has much in common with Wright but wants to see more attention to the literary shape of the gospels (as opposed to the history behind them). For what it's worth, Wright's book Jesus and the Victory of God was not written on a blank slate, but rather in response to the Jesus Seminar's discrediting of the Gospels. He puts himself squarely on their playing field, using only the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and emphasizing their historical reliability. He wishes that he had been able to give more attention to the ways in which each of the four Gospels present Jesus in a unique way, but constraints of time and space did not permit that.
Saturday was devoted to "Paul and the People of God." If you've heard about the current scholarly debate over 'justification' then you will want to listen to Wright's evening lecture, followed by Kevin Vanhoozer's hilarious yet substantive critique of Wright's position. It may be helpful to know in advance that Wright has been drawn (by John Piper) into the debate reluctantly. He does not feel that justification is the main point of Paul's writings. Community concerns are primary (the uniting of Jew and Gentile as the one people of God). Wright says that the Reformers did a great job answering late medieval questions, but that those questions have been allowed to set the agenda ever since. He wants to re-situate our reading of Paul in its 1st-century Jewish historical context. Vanhoozer (who teaches at Wheaton Graduate School) argued for a mediating position (between Piper and Wright).
Jeremy Begbie (from Duke) gave a fascinating lecture on the relationship between the emerging church and N. T. Wright. Hopefully the audio version includes his original piano composition in honor of Wright. The panel discussions were a lot of fun and very interesting, but they will probably only make sense if you first listen to all the presenters from that day. Let me know what you think!