Monday, April 20, 2009

N. T. Wright's Justification

Wright's latest book, Justification: God's Plan & Paul's VIsion, is going to hit stores at the end of May. In case you weren't aware, this is Wright's answer to John Piper's A Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright.

Now, John Piper is certainly an intelligent fellow, and he seems to have a passion for drawing others into serious followship of Christ. I'm not incredibly familiar with all of Piper's work myself: I understand he's Reformed, which is a bad start in my mind, but he also has some nice things to say about St. Athanasius, which is a positive. I'm hoping to read one of Piper's books for myself this summer.

Regardless, though, of my general feelings towards John Piper, in this case--the Piper-Wright debate--I just feel sorry for the guy.

First, because he's picking a fight with N. T. Wright... over a topic related to the New Testament. 'Nuff said.

Second, because of the support I keep seeing for Wright.
Here are a couple of the reviews for Justification that I've read:

"For some time now, I have watched in puzzlement as some critics, imagining themselves as defenders of Paul's gospel, have derided Tom Wright as a dangerous betrayer of the Christian faith. In fact, Paul's gospel of God's reconciling, world-transforming grace has no more ardent and eloquent exponent in our time than Tom Wright. If his detractors read this book carefully, they will find themselves engaged in close exegesis of Paul's letters, and they will be challenged to join Wright in grappling with the deepest logic of Paul's message. Beyond slogans and caricatures of 'Lutheran readings' and 'the New Perspective,' the task we all face is to interpret these difficult, theologically generative letters afresh for our time. Wright's sweeping, incisive sketch of Paul's thought, set forward in this book, will help us all in that task." —Richard B. Hays, Duke University

"Tom Wright has out-Reformed America's newest religious zealots--the neo-Reformed--by taking them back to Scripture and to its meaning in its historical context. Wright reveals that the neo-Reformed are more committed to tradition than to the sacred text. This irony is palpable on every page of this judicious, hard-hitting, respectful study." —Scot McKnight, North Park University

On his blog, after offering a summary of Wright's views on justification, Ben Witherington III concluded: "I think Tom is 100% correct in this assessment."

N. T. Wright, Richard Hays, Scot McKnight, Ben Witherington III (among others)... this show of force on one side would elicit my pity for any opponent, frankly.

Perhaps I should go ahead and make A Future of Justification the first of Piper's works I pick up, if for no other reason than to prepare for Wright's rebuttal. Though, if those of you who have more experience with John Piper can make any suggestions, that would be most appreciated. I'm (of course) thinking about Desiring God, Don't Waste Your Life, and the other popular titles for a nice intro to the man.


Anonymous said...

You could of course start with A Future of Justification, but it will give you a much narrower focus than if you want to generally get introduced to his thinking. I would recommend Desiring God (as you mentioned) or The Pleasures of God for a start into his thought.

After that you have all kinds of books you can pick from, from devotional, to short Christian biography, to men's and women's roles, to poetry, and more. Most are available online for free here:

Your can also find free audio, video, and text only resources online at the website as well.


Daniel McLain Hixon said...

Hey Nance,

You should check out Piper - he is a serious thinker with some real insight. My major gripe with Piper is not even so much his 5-point Calvinism, but his use of often over-the-top rhetoric: it seesms that everyone who disagrees with him, no matter how much he may respect them, is striking at the very root of Christianity and will destroy our faith! And this, I doubt.