Friday, August 28, 2009

Tom Wright: Justification 1

I am reading through N.T. Tom Wright's Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision. I have read excerpts from Wright before, but this is the first of his works that I have read. It is essentially a book defending his approach to justification and responding to his critics, especially John Piper and his The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T.Wright, it is also availble as a free PDF here. Just for the record I will be reading and blogging on Piper's book as well.

Wright, rightly, brings what seems to me, a holistic approach to theology that has us read all of the Pauline literature together. As well, Wright bring a perspective [Wright, Old, New, or otherwise] that holds the OT & the NT together. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Chapter 1: "What's all this about, and why does it matter?"
One of Piper's critique's of Wright and others (Piper lumps a whole bunch of people together and calls it the "New Perspective") is that they use new theories as they approach justification and don't follow the reformers.
"The greatest honour we can pay the Reformers is not to treat them as infallible... There is considerable irony, at the level of method, when John Piper suggests that, according to me, the church has been 'on the wrong foot for fifteen hundred years'. It isn't so much that I don't actually claim that. It is that that is exactly what people said to his heroes, to Luther, Calvin and the rest. Luther and Calvin answered from scripture, the Council of Trent responded by insisting on tradition" (6-7).
If I can be blunt - Piper is dead wrong at this point. The writings of Luther, Calvin, Simons, and any other theologian (including Piper, Wright & Bells) are NOT on par with Scripture. We don't have the final, complete, full picture.

Wright points out: "We are not the center of the universe" (7). To treat the doctrine of justification of ME by faith as the center of things is to get things out of focus. Wright states clearly: "Salvation is hugely important" (7), but adds:
"God made humans for a purpose: not simply for themselves, not simply so they could be in relationship with him, but so that through thim, as his image-bearers, he could bring his wise, glad, fruitful order to the world" (7) [emphsis is Wright's].
And so Wright, brings the reminder that salvation, justification is not about ME: "It's all about God and his purposes" (8).

Wright then goes on to make an important statement about this purpose of this book and the discussion around it.
"...the present battles are symptoms of some much larger issues that face the church at the start of the twenty-first century... particularily the failure to read scripture for all its worth, and the geocentric theology and piety..." (9)
On pages 10-11, Wright an excellent reminder about how we discuss / argue about issues. He observes the "cyberspace equivalent of road-rage... vicious, angry, slanderous and inaccurate accusations... because they feel their world view to be under attack."

Wright's final key point in this opening chapter is all the pieces of the jigsaw must be used. Here Wright points out that Piper has not discussion of Romans 2:25-29 or 10:6-9, passages which Wright sees as cruicial in Paul's argument [remember that Piper's book is a response to what Wright's work].

In summary, Wright is easy to read. I find his arguments clear. In this opening chapter he has laid some of the groundwork for his argument. I'm looking forward to the rest of the book.

1 comment:

Terry K. said...

Appreciate your insights/comments here Mike. I've only read Wright's "Simply Christian" which I liked a lot (kind of a modern day 'Mere Christianity'). Have read no Piper but have certainly heard of him and am anxious to learn more about his theology. Look forward to reading more of your posts about this.