I was thinking today about the recent exchanges between NT Wright and Richard Hays. The first round of the debate was when Wright at SBL Boston gave an unexpectedly negative review of the collection of essays that Hays edited on Jesus: Seeking the Identity of Jesus: A Pilgrimage. Hays’ rejoinder to this came at the Wheaton Theology Conference back in April. Both have argued for the importance of story and narrative, so I think there was an expectation previously that they were in basic agreement about its role. In simple terms, Wright is arguing for ‘story’, but he is particularly concerned with history. On the other hand, Hays is concerned that this creates almost a 5th gospel, so he is thus more concerned with the narrative of each of the 4 Gospels, reading them through the lens provided by the narrators, which generally accords with later church perspectives on the text. Mike Gorman puts it up to the age-old question of the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith debate.
I was considering this issue this afternoon and the question struck me: is this a debate of competing mindsets, post-conservative (Wright) vs post-liberal (Hays)?
I suppose this is speculative, but I wonder if it has legs. I’m not sure Wright would identify himself as ‘post-conservative’, but he is a member of Fulcrum, which self-identifies as ‘open evangelical’. Based upon Peter Broadbent’s Towards a definition of “Open Evangelical” (search down in the comments), the English Anglican term ‘Open Evangelical’ seems to roughly line up with ‘post-conservative’ in the US. There seems to be a more calvinist stream of post-conservatives represented by Kevin Vanhoozer and a more arminian stream represented by Roger Olsen, but many of the core values are similar if debates about particular aspects remain. I assume that Wright would be more on the Vanhoozer side. Hays, on the other hand, with his emphasis on narrative theology is clearly influenced by the Yale-school and ‘postliberalism’, although with his own emphases.
While there seems to be a real rapport between post-conservatives and post-liberals, is there still an epistemological divide between Wright’s critical-realism and Hays’ narrative theology, which is representative of their respective traditions? Based on the recent exchange between Wright and Hays, this divide does exist, but is it representative of larger schools of thought? Clearly this larger question depends on whether post-conservatives would mostly hold to an epistemology like Wright’s. Is this the case?