Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Theology of Anti-Americanism

Denny Burks examines N. T. Wright's anti-Americanism in this paper delivered at ETS. Here's the issue in a nutshell:

In what N. T. Wright has dubbed a “Fresh Perspective” (FP) on Paul, this new strand of scholarship holds as axiomatic at least two assumptions, with a third assumption being increasingly advocated in the literature. First, it is assumed that the Roman imperial cult was pervasive in Paul’s missionary context. Second, Paul’s gospel is, therefore, both theopolitical and counterimperial in that it offers an explicit repudiation of the Roman empire. Third, “Paul’s gospel [therefore] confronts all imperial systems, and especially the new American empire of global consumerism and military might.” In this new movement, the analogy between America and Rome is so direct, that Pauline repudiations of the “powers” of his day imply a direct confrontation of American imperial power in our own day. Thus the FP on Paul confirms the critique of American empire that political liberals have been lodging against the United States’ economic and foreign policies.

Here are Dr. Burk's aims in this paper:

What I hope to show is that the counter-imperial, post-colonial interpretations of Paul are not so much motivated by a “fresh” and more accurate understanding of Paul as they are being motivated by the desire of some to find in Paul an endorsement of their own political and cultural biases. I suggest that while evangelicals may debate the pro’s and con’s of empires, this eisegetical hermeneutic does not produce a better understanding of Paul or a more faithful application of his message to the contemporary political scene. Regardless of how one evaluates the historical claims of the fresh perspective, reading a counterimperial (and thus anti-American) bias into Paul’s gospel is not a helpful way for evangelicals to approach Paul’s letters.