Wright responds to Piper's book on justification

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shackleton

Puritan Board Junior
Interview with N.T. Wright - Responding to Piper on Justification Kingdom People

I have just begun to follow this whole thing. I am reading Wright's books and listening to his lectures, and also reading Piper's book. I am not sure Piper was the Right person to to after Wright since he is dispensational and therefore misses many of the main points of scripture that even Wright holds to be true.

I have noticed that outside of Wright's NPP his is fairly close to most reformers in his beliefs but is following a rabbit down it's hole with this new teaching, which is Richard Hays' doctrinal thesis, and it does what a doctrinal thesis should do, it comes up with a new way of looking at something. I am going to have to do more reading on this before coming to a conclusion. But I know one thing, it is not the same thing as the Federal Vision.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
Interview with N.T. Wright - Responding to Piper on Justification Kingdom People

I have noticed that outside of Wright's NPP his is fairly close to most reformers in his beliefs but is following a rabbit down it's hole with this new teaching, which is Richard Hays' doctrinal thesis, and it does what a doctrinal thesis should do, it comes up with a new way of looking at something.

Would this be Hays' work on the pistou Christou (faith/faithfulness of Christ)?
 

ManleyBeasley

Puritan Board Junior

You are correct. Piper is nowhere near dispensational. He is in between covenantal and NCT. He is historic pre-mill and not dispensation pre-trib. He believes in the continuous church from NT to OT and does not believe Israel is ethnic Israel but the church.

-----Added 2/8/2009 at 05:13:12 EST-----

Interview with N.T. Wright - Responding to Piper on Justification Kingdom People

I have just begun to follow this whole thing. I am reading Wright's books and listening to his lectures, and also reading Piper's book. I am not sure Piper was the Right person to to after Wright since he is dispensational and therefore misses many of the main points of scripture that even Wright holds to be true.

I have noticed that outside of Wright's NPP his is fairly close to most reformers in his beliefs but is following a rabbit down it's hole with this new teaching, which is Richard Hays' doctrinal thesis, and it does what a doctrinal thesis should do, it comes up with a new way of looking at something. I am going to have to do more reading on this before coming to a conclusion. But I know one thing, it is not the same thing as the Federal Vision.

I think Piper is the perfect guy to deal with this issue because of his expertise on justification and imputation. The 1st book he wrote against NPP (Counted Righteous in Christ) was said by John Frame to be the best defense of imputation in over 50 years since John Murray wrote his. Michael Horton called it "essential reading".
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I've read Piper's critique of Wright. If Wright is criticizing Piper on the grounds that Piper is dispensational, then he has misunderstood Piper. Of course, this would be highly ironic, since none of Wright's critics have EVER understood him, if you believe Wright.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis

Interesting read. I wouldn't equate Baxter and Wright given that one is more dogmatic and the other exegetical, and because Baxter is working within the framework of individualistic salvation while Wright is drawing out the salvation-history emphasis of Pauline thought. Though I think it is possible to show what is missing in both presentations so far as the doctrine of justification is concerned, as Paul Helm has done.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChristianHedonist View Post
Piper isn't dispensational, and neither is he strictly covenantal. See this link: What does John Piper believe about dispensationalism, covenant theology, and new covenant theology? :: Desiring God Christian Resource Library

ManleyBeasley
You are correct. Piper is nowhere near dispensational. He is in between covenantal and NCT. He is historic pre-mill and not dispensation pre-trib. He believes in the continuous church from NT to OT and does not believe Israel is ethnic Israel but the church.

Thanks for the summary.
It sounds like Mr. Piper, who God is using as a great blessing to many, is heading toward a complete reformed theology, at least trending that way.

It is amazing how powerful reformed theology is ("five points" + covenant theology + confession) and how it comprehensively puts together the whole of scripture to refute the error of those theologies that do not put together systematically the whole counsel of God's revealed will (His Word, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments).
 

shackleton

Puritan Board Junior
Would this be Hays' work on the pistou Christou (faith/faithfulness of Christ)?

It might be. Wright has mentioned that he got his ideas about the NPP from a doctrinal thesis written by Richard Hays.

It might be "Moral Vision of the New Testament," but I do not know that for sure.

"Richard B. Hays is the George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina. Hays is well-known for his criticisms of the Jesus Seminar and the modern Historical Jesus movement. Recently, Hays has been vocal about his criticisms of Dan Brown's best-selling The Da Vinci Code for its controversial historical claims.

Christianity Today named Hays' "Moral Vision of the New Testament" book one of the top 100 most important religious books of the 20th century. His nuanced treatment of homosexuality in "Moral Vision" has drawn some considerable attention. He offers what some may consider a more conservative position while at the same time pleading for charity and friendship. Hays is a committed pacifist. He makes his position clear in The Moral Vision of the New Testament, in which he argues that Jesus Christ taught his disciples to be non-violent." (wikipedia)

Wright talks a lot about the Anglican struggle to know what to do about the homosexual issue. I fear that he might, in an attempt to find the positive in the situation, start loosening his views on homosexuals. However, I hope that I am wrong because I rather like N.T. Wright. As mentioned above Hays has written on the subject. I am not familiar with it but if he influenced Wright on the NPP he could very well affect his view in other areas.

I do agree with Piper that it is not necessarily good to go looking for "A-HA" moments in theology. It usually leads to bad things.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
I've read Piper's critique of Wright. If Wright is criticizing Piper on the grounds that Piper is dispensational, then he has misunderstood Piper. Of course, this would be highly ironic, since none of Wright's critics have EVER understood him, if you believe Wright.

That's one sure way of deflecting criticism. The Mormons use the same tactic. If you're not a Mormon in good standing you can't understand them. If you can't understand them, you can't criticize either.
 

shackleton

Puritan Board Junior
I have noticed that Wright is a "big picture" person. It is not that he does not see or deny the details but he is mostly concerned with where it is all going.

I got my hands on a DVD copy of a pastor's conference where Wright and Gaffin argued their perspective on Pauline theology. I hate to say but Gaffin did not say much and it was mostly disjointed and sort of rambling, while Wright surprisingly, sounded very reformed in his understanding of scripture. There is a sense in which they are saying the same thing but coming at it from different angles, i.e. one guy says an elephant consists of four legs, while the other guy says no an elephant consists of a large trunk and a tail. They are both right they are just describing it from their perspective.

Wright is not a Calvinist nor a Covenant Theologian but he is explaining things the same way just from a different perspective. He does not use the terms COW, COG or imputation but when asked specifically he has the same definition of justification, that is, law-court, legal, forensic. But he says that it is not belief in justification by faith that saves but faith in God through the Messiah that saves and justifies. He says justification puts one into God's family, it is when he says this that he gets into trouble. But he is not denying the forensic aspect of it he is looking at the big picture of what justification ultimately does.

He is trying to understand it from an historical-Jewish perspective. How would a first century Jew have understand what Jesus was doing or had done? And then reads Paul's writings from this perspective.

My opinion: Wright explains the big picture of biblical salvation but does not focus on the details. Reformed people hear what he is saying and say, "Yea, but what about this?" He then goes on to explain things basically the way the believe but using different terminology and this throws them off. They want to hear it said a certain way or they feel they can't trust what he is saying. Piper in his book even states that Wright's beliefs might lead uneducated people astray because they won't understand his perspective. I think that should be up to the people to decide.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
He does not use the terms COW, COG or imputation but when asked specifically he has the same definition of justification, that is, law-court, legal, forensic.

He certainly does talk about a forensic element of justification, but he absolutely does not share a common understanding of justification with us. In fact, it is grossly divergent.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
I have noticed that Wright is a "big picture" person. It is not that he does not see or deny the details but he is mostly concerned with where it is all going.

I got my hands on a DVD copy of a pastor's conference where Wright and Gaffin argued their perspective on Pauline theology. I hate to say but Gaffin did not say much and it was mostly disjointed and sort of rambling ...

That is not surprising, but don't take too much from that. I've heard Gaffin speak before; he is brilliant and all, but a good public speaker he is not. It's not that he's bad, just a bit dry in my purely anecdotal experience.
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
My opinion: Wright explains the big picture of biblical salvation but does not focus on the details. Reformed people hear what he is saying and say, "Yea, but what about this?" He then goes on to explain things basically the way the believe but using different terminology and this throws them off. They want to hear it said a certain way or they feel they can't trust what he is saying. Piper in his book even states that Wright's beliefs might lead uneducated people astray because they won't understand his perspective. I think that should be up to the people to decide.

The problem is, however, it is not just the differing terminology. Even when Wright uses the same terminology, he means something entirely different than us by it (just as was commented in another thread today regarding the fact that Pope Benedict can say without issue "We are justified by faith alone." He simply has a different meaning for each word.)

It is not his differing terminology that throws me off, nor his refusal to use familiar language that causes me to not trust what he's saying: after having read almost all of his major works (and at one point being quite sympathetic and trying/hoping to agree with him), I can honestly say I don't trust his teachings because, whatever language or terminology he does use, they are 1.) Certainly not in accord with our confessions; 2.) Nor in accord with scripture.
 

ManleyBeasley

Puritan Board Junior
I have noticed that Wright is a "big picture" person. It is not that he does not see or deny the details but he is mostly concerned with where it is all going.

I got my hands on a DVD copy of a pastor's conference where Wright and Gaffin argued their perspective on Pauline theology. I hate to say but Gaffin did not say much and it was mostly disjointed and sort of rambling, while Wright surprisingly, sounded very reformed in his understanding of scripture. There is a sense in which they are saying the same thing but coming at it from different angles, i.e. one guy says an elephant consists of four legs, while the other guy says no an elephant consists of a large trunk and a tail. They are both right they are just describing it from their perspective.

Wright is not a Calvinist nor a Covenant Theologian but he is explaining things the same way just from a different perspective. He does not use the terms COW, COG or imputation but when asked specifically he has the same definition of justification, that is, law-court, legal, forensic. But he says that it is not belief in justification by faith that saves but faith in God through the Messiah that saves and justifies. He says justification puts one into God's family, it is when he says this that he gets into trouble. But he is not denying the forensic aspect of it he is looking at the big picture of what justification ultimately does.

He is trying to understand it from an historical-Jewish perspective. How would a first century Jew have understand what Jesus was doing or had done? And then reads Paul's writings from this perspective.

My opinion: Wright explains the big picture of biblical salvation but does not focus on the details. Reformed people hear what he is saying and say, "Yea, but what about this?" He then goes on to explain things basically the way the believe but using different terminology and this throws them off. They want to hear it said a certain way or they feel they can't trust what he is saying. Piper in his book even states that Wright's beliefs might lead uneducated people astray because they won't understand his perspective. I think that should be up to the people to decide.

My issue is that they are determining the meaning of the text by the very uncertain field of history. The history we can rely on is what is given in scripture. The scripture is clear that the Jews of Jesus' day were self righteous because they believed in their own good works (see the parable of the pharisee and the publican). The NPP is exactly that, new. Only the arrogance of these times produce so many people that think theology is a creative enterprise for people to make their mark on the world. It's the opposite. It's a teaching and defending of the old glorious truth.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
Wright is not a Calvinist nor a Covenant Theologian but he is explaining things the same way just from a different perspective. He does not use the terms COW, COG or imputation but when asked specifically he has the same definition of justification, that is, law-court, legal, forensic. But he says that it is not belief in justification by faith that saves but faith in God through the Messiah that saves and justifies. He says justification puts one into God's family, it is when he says this that he gets into trouble. But he is not denying the forensic aspect of it he is looking at the big picture of what justification ultimately does.

I hear you. However, this is not what Wright is doing. He will never say this on the record, but off the record he has said point-blank that he thought the Reformers were wrong on justification (Carl Trueman is my source on this). Wright does not believe in imputation, for instance. As soon as I say this, all sorts of people yell and scream at me, saying, "but haven't you read this, where he says that his formulation does what imputation was supposed to affirm, without actually using that language?" In other words, he doesn't believe in imputation. You cannot play musical chairs with the theology of justification and wind up in the same place. He stresses union with Christ. But, as I've said countless times by now, union with Christ does not make imputation redundant. Roman Catholics believe in union with Christ. They don't believe in imputation. Simply stressing union, and then affirming forensic-but-not-imputation is not enough when it comes to justification.

And Wright's NPP on Paul is simply wrong. His understanding of "the righteousness of God" as God's covenant faithfulness is utterly wrong, as is his usual subjective understanding of "faith of Christ" to mean "faithfulness of Christ" (here is where he is indebted to Hays). His Romans commentary is off all over the place, and hardly contains any actual exegesis.
 

shackleton

Puritan Board Junior
I am certainly still on the journey trying to find out his beliefs of various things. His teaching is remarkably refreshing and sounds so much like good news the way he puts it but I have by no means made up my mind on the matter. I am going to read through his books, since they are short easy reads, hopefully learn something, develop an opinion and then move on. I like to read things from various viewpoints and then formulate my views after getting all the facts.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I have learned a lot from N.T. Wright, don't get me wrong. However, he is a very dangerous man, precisely because he is so winsome and so correct on some things, and also because he angles himself to be attractive to the Reformed world, especially in the US. In the UK, so I've heard, most of the top-level evangelicals do not think very highly of him.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
I can sympathize with feeling like a lot of what Wright says really does sound like good news. When I read What St. Paul Really Said, particularly, it was very engaging and eye-opening (though it was obvious that there were some problems as well: one notable one is the curious fiction of thinking that if you make victory over the powers of evil the central point of the cross you lose nothing else: whereas it is not hard to see that victory over the evil powers could only come by dealing with sin, which had to be by way of propitiation and expiation). But the funny thing is that as I went on reading older writers, I found all the good things from Wright, but without the problems. So in Leo the Great (who naturally does have a few interesting issues of his own), in Alfred Edersheim, in B.B. Warfield, in Hugh Martin, to name just a few, I found what was true and thrilling in Wright, but without having to give up or marginalize any of the great truths set out by the Westminster Assembly. The upshot for me was that I realized that if I read the Reformed of previous times, I didn't need to read Wright.
 

shackleton

Puritan Board Junior
Once again, I guess I found him appealing at this time because he sprung up after dealing with some particularly legalistic people who's idea of the gospel and the bible did not seem like good news at all but legalistic oppression, and it was refreshing to hear it from his point of view. But I can already see a thread of his missing the main points in some major areas, like sin and dealing with sin, and giving people the benefit of the doubt that if baptized then possibly saved. There is not a distinction because he calls this "dualism," and says that the bible is not broken down into, "saved and not saved" but is expressing how God is restoring his creation through the covenant people. But in being a big picture person he sort of misses the details as to how this comes about.

After feeling condemned for so long it was nice to hear someone say it differently where it is not all about condemnation.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I can sympathize with feeling like a lot of what Wright says really does sound like good news. When I read What St. Paul Really Said, particularly, it was very engaging and eye-opening (though it was obvious that there were some problems as well: one notable one is the curious fiction of thinking that if you make victory over the powers of evil the central point of the cross you lose nothing else: whereas it is not hard to see that victory over the evil powers could only come by dealing with sin, which had to be by way of propitiation and expiation). But the funny thing is that as I went on reading older writers, I found all the good things from Wright, but without the problems. So in Leo the Great (who naturally does have a few interesting issues of his own), in Alfred Edersheim, in B.B. Warfield, in Hugh Martin, to name just a few, I found what was true and thrilling in Wright, but without having to give up or marginalize any of the great truths set out by the Westminster Assembly. The upshot for me was that I realized that if I read the Reformed of previous times, I didn't need to read Wright.

Exactly. I think reading solid orthodox writers who have stood the test of time ought to be a pre-requisite before reading contemporary teachers with "new" perspectives. I know that New is exciting to moderns but we confess a catholic, universal faith that should not be undergoing seismic change in each generation. I'm not afraid of reading contemporary writers but they ought to be evaluated within the stream of historical orthodoxy and, if we don't understand that stream, it is perilous to take them on.
 

timmopussycat

Puritan Board Junior
My issue is that they are determining the meaning of the text by the very uncertain field of history. The history we can rely on is what is given in scripture. The scripture is clear that the Jews of Jesus' day were self righteous because they believed in their own good works (see the parable of the pharisee and the publican). The NPP is exactly that, new. Only the arrogance of these times produce so many people that think theology is a creative enterprise for people to make their mark on the world. It's the opposite. It's a teaching and defending of the old glorious truth.

The Scripture is even more explicit in its affirmation that the Jews of Jesus' day were self righteous. Rom. 9:31,32 explicitly makes the point that "Israel did not succeed...Because they did not pursue it [righteousness] by faith, but as if it were based on works."

Since discovering that Sanders' never discusses this text in his books that launched the NPP, I have never had a problem with being misguided by it.
 

Classical Presbyterian

Puritan Board Junior
As one who has been called to labor in the mainline circles of Presbyterianism, I can testify as to the havoc that Wright has brought into the evangelical camps in the PC(USA). Many who formerly held true to Reformed orthodoxy (even within a mainline denomination no less!) have been led astray on the core doctrine of justification by his writings.

I can't tell you how many times I have encountered peers who have fallen victim to the NPP, who in years past might have been Reformed in their doctrine. Yet more teachers are being led into error by this man's work.

I know that it comes as no surprise to those of you who are in doctrinally sound denominations that this would happen to those within the mainlines, but Wright has brought yet more harm into the already shaky doctrine of many in my denomination.

He'll have to answer for that someday.

As for me, I'll hold fast to the OPP (the original perspective of Paul) that we find in the Reformed confessions!
 

discipulo

Puritan Board Junior
These guys are dangerous, that is my simple assessment.

There is no neutrality in science, social, natural or other. Historiography also has an hermeneutical aprioristic.

James G. Dunn, for instance, had a definite agenda (a commission given by E. P Sanders) for his research, one he himself admits, research the relation of 1st century Judaism and early Christianity to object the «preconception» of Judaism as a righteousness by works religion and Christianity as a righteousness by faith instead.

He actually differentiates both by blending them, for instance Dunn denies that Paul «converted to a new religion».

He uses a reversed teleological approach, first accusing traditional conservative Christianity of having an over realized eschatology, while he in fact inverts it and projects justification overlapping sanctification.

In Dunn, Justification also becomes a process, a dynamic justification, eventually one of the contact points with FV.

His «fresh look» at justification (from the title the justice of God: a fresh look at the old doctrine of justification by faith.) is just a continuous exchange of hermeneutic glasses, reading Paul through Judaism and reading back the apostolic writings, and even the Messiah, through this «new found still Jewish Paul».

I imagine that through this manipulative ping pong way you can get anywhere.

He makes Redemptive History go back and forth till it is twisted to his own liking.

This is made with a lot of erudition, cultural and historical apport, that’s why it is so dangerous.

as also in all his (Paul’s) letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 2 Peter 3:16
 

shackleton

Puritan Board Junior
I guess the appeal to it is that it seems to follow a consistent hermeneutic, a historical/cultural understanding and what would the original audience and the original believers have thought of this?
 

Classical Presbyterian

Puritan Board Junior
I guess the appeal to it is that it seems to follow a consistent hermeneutic, a historical/cultural understanding and what would the original audience and the original believers have thought of this?

As opposed to an inconsistent hermeneutic like that of the Reformed orthodoxy of the confessions? Calvin and his heirs were after pure Christianity, as it has always been and always will be. Are you denying that the Reformed faith is not a consistent hermeneutic?
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
I guess the appeal to it is that it seems to follow a consistent hermeneutic, a historical/cultural understanding and what would the original audience and the original believers have thought of this?

As opposed to an inconsistent hermeneutic like that of the Reformed orthodoxy of the confessions? Calvin and his heirs were after pure Christianity, as it has always been and always will be. Are you denying that the Reformed faith is not a consistent hermeneutic?

I deny that the Reformed faith is not a consistent hermeneutic. :stirpot:
 

Classical Presbyterian

Puritan Board Junior
I guess the appeal to it is that it seems to follow a consistent hermeneutic, a historical/cultural understanding and what would the original audience and the original believers have thought of this?

As opposed to an inconsistent hermeneutic like that of the Reformed orthodoxy of the confessions? Calvin and his heirs were after pure Christianity, as it has always been and always will be. Are you denying that the Reformed faith is not a consistent hermeneutic?

I deny that the Reformed faith is not a consistent hermeneutic. :stirpot:

Ack! I wrote that last sentence wrong!!! I was asking if he denied that the Reformed faith IS a consistent hermeneutic! :doh:
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
It might be. Wright has mentioned that he got his ideas about the NPP from a doctrinal thesis written by Richard Hays.

It might be "Moral Vision of the New Testament," but I do not know that for sure.

"Richard B. Hays is the George Washington Ivey Professor of New Testament at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina. Hays is well-known for his criticisms of the Jesus Seminar and the modern Historical Jesus movement. Recently, Hays has been vocal about his criticisms of Dan Brown's best-selling The Da Vinci Code for its controversial historical claims.

Christianity Today named Hays' "Moral Vision of the New Testament" book one of the top 100 most important religious books of the 20th century. His nuanced treatment of homosexuality in "Moral Vision" has drawn some considerable attention. He offers what some may consider a more conservative position while at the same time pleading for charity and friendship. Hays is a committed pacifist. He makes his position clear in The Moral Vision of the New Testament, in which he argues that Jesus Christ taught his disciples to be non-violent." (wikipedia)

Wright talks a lot about the Anglican struggle to know what to do about the homosexual issue. I fear that he might, in an attempt to find the positive in the situation, start loosening his views on homosexuals. However, I hope that I am wrong because I rather like N.T. Wright. As mentioned above Hays has written on the subject. I am not familiar with it but if he influenced Wright on the NPP he could very well affect his view in other areas.

I do agree with Piper that it is not necessarily good to go looking for "A-HA" moments in theology. It usually leads to bad things.

It's probably Hays' commentary on Galatians, which is good in many respects. Hays Conversion of the Imagination is awesome.

As to AHA moments, in my Piperian days, I remember Piper mentioning about a dozen that he had. Kind of odd for him to critique others on "aha" moments.
 
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