Paul Holloway, Professor of New Testament at the University of the South’s School of Theology, published a letter in the Sewanee Purple complaining that the School of Theology should not have awarded N.T. Wright an honorary degree:
Some of the readers of this letter will know Wright as an outspoken opponent of LGBT rights and a vociferous critic of the Episcopal Church for its progressive stance. I find Wright’s position on these matters offensive and harmful. It is an affront to the School of Theology in general and to its LGBT community and its allies in particular.
But that is not my complaint here. My complaint is that Sewanee has recognized Wright as a scholar in my discipline, when in fact he is little more than a book-a-year apologist. Wright comes to the evidence not with honest questions but with ideologically generated answers that he seeks to defend. I know of no critical scholar in the field who trusts his work. He contradicts what I stand for professionally as well as the kind of hard-won intellectual integrity I hope to instill in my students. I feel like the professor of biology who has had to sit by and watch a Biblical creationist receive an honorary degree in science.
What do you think? Should Sewanee have recognized N.T. Wright with an honorary degree?
The Rev. Bryan Owen, blogging at Creedal Christian, disagrees with Holloway:
Setting aside the caustically contemptuous and intolerant tone of the letter, as well as its open hostility to Christian orthodoxy, here’s the gist of what Professor Holloway says: “N. T. Wright disagrees with my views on particular matters and he represents theological positions that contradict my own. That offends and embarrasses me. Therefore, Wright is not a real scholar and he doesn’t deserve an honorary degree.”
It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in logic to see how silly this “argument” is.
Nor does it take a genius to see that if Professor Holloway’s letter makes the rounds among moderate-to-conservative lay and clergy graduates of The School of Theology, they just might decide to send their money to other institutions. I’m aware of persons who have made just that decision before this letter was even written. This letter will simply underscore that they made the right decision. And there are others for whom Professor Holloway’s letter may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back when it comes to financially supporting The School of Theology. I doubt that’s the outcome the Sewanee administration had in mind when they issued the invitation for Bishop Wright to speak and receive an honorary degree!