To the Editor of The Purple:
Professor Paul Holloway’s recent letter concerning the honorary degree awarded to Bishop N. T. Wright speaks for itself.
So also does the citation read at the time the degree was conferred:
The Right Reverend Nicholas Thomas Wright, known academically as “N. T. Wright” and otherwise as “Tom,” was born in 1948, in Morpeth, in Northumberland. He has said that he can never remember a time when he was not aware of God’s presence and love. He recalls as a small child, “sitting by myself at Morpeth and being completely overcome, coming to tears, by the fact that God loved me so much that he died for me. Everything that has happened to me since has produced wave upon wave of the same.”
Bishop Wright was educated at Sedbergh School in Yorkshire. He specialized in classics, and went on in 1968 to Exeter College, Oxford, where he read literae humaniores, and then theology. During his time at Oxford he was President of the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union. From 1971 to 1975, he studied for the ministry at Wycliffe Hall. N. T. Wright as a New Testament scholar is erudite, massively learned, and extraordinarily widely read. So, of course, are many others. Two things, however, characterize Bishop Wright’s work and set it apart from much that has been recently fashionable in academic biblical studies.
First, Evelyn Underhill once reminded an Archbishop of Canterbury that the most interesting thing about the church is God. Bishop Wright has never failed to recall that God is also the most interesting thing about the New Testament. He refuses to separate in the name of an alleged, but in fact entirely spurious, “academic objectivity” what God has joined together: namely, theology and the books of the Bible. His major academic studies, published under the general title Christian Origins and the Question of God, are models of this commitment.
Second, despite the strength of his own views, Bishop Wright has never been unwilling or afraid to have conversation with scholars of widely different opinions. Published volumes on the life of Our Lord and on His resurrection, written in open dialogue with members of the Jesus Seminar, are evidence of his ability and willingness to listen to those with whom he profoundly disagrees, to respond graciously, and above all to show that faith in the Triune God and in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior has nothing to fear from any honest pursuit of truth.
With gratitude to God for a faithful ministry characterized by service to the academy and the church, The University of the South is honored to bestow upon Nicholas Thomas Wright the degree of Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa.
John M. McCardell, Jr.