A Week with the Right Reverend: N. T. Wright as Visiting Scholar in the Humanities

Gordon welcomed N. T. Wright, one of the world’s leading New Testament scholars, for a week-long visit to campus as the 2017–18 Malcolm Reid Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the Humanities.

For his first speaking engagement of the week, Wright preached a sermon entitled “Prayer and the Present Dilemma” in Chapel on Monday morning, April 23. He implored students to live into the fullness of power in prayer—particularly, the power in simply offering up suffering in God’s presence even if we cannot articulate the pain. Students, faculty, staff and members of the North Shore community flooded A. J. Gordon Memorial Chapel, filling the pews and leaving standing room only.

“I’ve had good times here in the past,” said Wright of his previous visit to campus in 2000.  “I’ve been very much looking forward to this week!”

His recent visit continued with another Chapel address on Wednesday morning: “How the Spirit Convicts the World.” Wright proposed that a vital role of the Church is to, in humility, join the Spirit in speaking truth to power. “Pray that the Spirit will enable you, and just as importantly the whole church community where you are, to bear witness before the powers of the world,” Wright entreated.

Between lectures, Wright spent time with a wide variety of classes and student groups. He shared meals with the Nathan R. Wood Ministry Fellows and lectured in Core classes including The Great Conversation, Christian Theology and New Testament Survey. He visited smaller classes as well—Evangelism and Discipleship with Leah Knight, the Jerusalem and Athens Forum, and Trinity and Christology with Dr. Amy Hughes.

On Thursday afternoon, Wright delivered the keynote address for Gordon’s Symposium 2018: Hope in Suffering entitled “Signposts from a Suffering World.” Drawing primarily from his latest book, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’ Crucifixion, Wright argued for his ground-breaking construction of natural theology—one in which the seven “sign-posts” (justice, beauty, freedom, truth, power, spirituality and relationship) only offer proof of the living God in retrospect from the cross.

“The trail of broken sign-posts points to the broken God of the cross,” said Wright.

A prolific author and speaker, Wright has written and published over 80 books—among them, Simply Christian, Surprised by Hope, and The Resurrection of the Son of God. He recently delivered the renowned Gifford Lectures (Aberdeen University, Scotland), which have represented the world’s leading scholarship in the realm of natural theology since their establishment in 1888. Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Jürgen Moltmann and Rowan Williams are among those who have lectured.

“I was sitting with one of the most brilliant minds, yet his humility made him seemingly unaware of his own brilliance,” said Maddie Berry ’18 (social work and biblical studies). “He prays for the next generation of scholars and pastors, because he is excited to learn from them. N.T. Wright expanded my view, and I hope to someday expand his.”

Currently, Wright is continuing to develop a series of online New Testament courses. “N. T. Wright Online” provides access for those inspired by his scholarship to pursue higher education in New Testament studies from any location around the globe.

By Grace Shaw ’19, philosophy