Monday, April 07, 2008

Wright, Colonialism, and Third-World Debt

Doug Wilson on N.T. Wright's new book on heaven, after giving it very high praise:

. . . But then, when he gets to his prescriptions for what we actually ought to do out there in the world, he slips a cog, and says that we need to do a bunch of crazy stuff. It is like hearing a magnificent sermon on how faith without works is dead, and the theology of the thing is handled with brilliance, and the errors of works-righteousness and mere propositionalism are clearly identified and refuted, and the preacher soars to greater and greater heights for forty minutes. And then, when he gets to the applications in the last ten minutes or so of the sermon, he urges us all make a poultice out of Oreo cookie crumbs, in order to apply it to the back of the neck to get rid of the bad juju demons that are giving us our spiritual headaches. Something of a let down, if you follow what I mean here.

Wright tells us that the "number one moral issue of the day" is the "ridiculous and unpayable Third World debt." Now I don't want anyone to run ahead of me here, because I actually agree with him that it is a very important issue, a very serious problem. But his particular solution for it is no solution at all, and would only make the terrible conditions far, far worse than they are, and they are already really bad. In the posts to come on this, I would like to outline exactly how this is so, but allow me just a few comments now.

Wright is painting himself into a corner. The only way Wright's proposals (simple cancelation of all such debts) could be implemented and not end in a horrific humanitarian disaster is if they occured in the context of a resurgent neo-colonialism. But Wright is flat out opposed to imperialism and colonialism, which means that he is insisting on the humanitarian disaster option . . . in the name of Jesus. And of course, he is doing all this inadvertantly. He means well. And while Wright does well in showing how St. Paul insists that our labors in the Lord are not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58), the apostle is silent on whether our colossal blunders are perpetrated in vain or not.

This really is a tragic error, and because it occurs in the midst of so much good teaching, something has to be said about it. Lord willing, more to come.

Read the whole thing.