Darryl, thanks for the props on Englishness. If you think about it, it’s not that weird that the Scots and Scots-Irish would be the British exceptionalists. Bad experiences with Cromwell notwithstanding, the Scottish and Scots-Irish comprise the survival of muscular puritanism in the three kingdoms. That puritanism was marked by both relentless reformation and by separatism – even though many of the separatists technically supported establishment (the formation of the Reformed Presbytery in the 18th century is a good example). The British experience through the centuries following the Reformation continually enforced exceptionalism.
As for Wright … I was about to accuse you of being a Hauerwasian postliberal! Or, more precisely, I was about to accuse the Westminster West school of thought (Scott, you listening?). One of the major differences between Wright and Hauerwas is that the former understands the zero-sum game to be eschatological in nature – which I agree with. At the last day, Caesar is a goner (along with the Hanoverians, Bushes, etc.). Wright believes that the eschaton is brought to bear on this age through social and political action. British Christians seem to be instinctively left-wing, mirroring the instinctive right-wing leanings of American evangelicals. Certainly the Tories give them no feasible alternative. Hauerwas is deeply postmodern by contrast, making community-membership supreme. Within the Christian community, the contest between Christ and Caesar is certainly zero-sum. But Hauerwas is not subtle in his implication that outsiders simply have different communities, languages, rules, rulers, and gods. Hauerwas emphasizes that Yahweh is the god of ISRAEL. Other nations have other gods (and, maybe, should). Wright properly understands that Yahweh is revealed to and through Israel, but is truly the god of the whole world – as is demonstrated conclusively by his victory in Jesus’ resurrection.
The biggest difference, as is often the case, is not ethical but hermeneutical. In The New Testament and the People of God Wright goes to pains to support the possibility of a hermeneutical spiral – the potential to change one’s worldview through interaction with the text, driving deeper into it as we go. I detect tremendous similarities to Paul Ricoeur, Kevin Vanhoozer, and Anthony Thiselton here. (Lefebvre would be a good one to comment on this.) Hauerwas assumes a circle: the text is part of our circle of thought. To accept the circle is to accept the text; to reject the circle is to reject the text. If you reject both, they are not true for you. At best this is a gutsy pluralism – it sets its foot down with regard to conduct and use of language within the Christian community but regards Christian ethics and belief as, shall we say, nearly useless for those outside. I have read articles in Modern Reformation in recent years that make me think this approach is in vogue in the orange groves of Escondido. Let me be clear: I like Will Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas a lot, and appreciate their brash tone and (in Hauerwas’s words) “tendency to be ‘against’”. But I can’t accept reading the “two kingdoms” concept through postliberal eyes. I don’t think that’s historically or theologically acceptable. I have read enough Wittgenstein to know that language games aren’t ultimately discrete. Communication begins with God, and the curse of Babel has been ameliorated by his common grace.