Posted tagged ‘N.T. Wright’

Said at Southern Interview N.T. Wright on Justification, Sola Scriptura, and More

November 19, 2007

Trevin Wax and Tony Kummer (of Said at Southern) recently interviewed N.T. Wright while he was at Asbury Theological Seminary last week. You can download the podcast by clicking here. Trevin has provided a full transcript of the interview as well as individual excerpts. Here’s the breakdown of the interview:

  1. Introduction
  2. Wright’s conversion, calling, and personal worship
  3. Wright on “the gospel”
  4. Justification by faith
  5. Justification – present and future
  6. Justification and the Roman Catholic Church
  7. Sola Scriptura
  8. Is Wright arrogant to assume he has just now figured out what Paul meant?
  9. Wright on his critics
  10. Justification in practice
  11. Wright on penal substitution
  12. Wright on the resurrection
  13. Wright on Evangelism
  14. Wright on Church and State
  15. Upcoming Writings and Conclusion

From Trevin’s Introduction:

N.T. Wright is a British New Testament scholar whom Christianity Today has described as one of the top five theologians in the world today. After serving many years as the canon theologian of Westminster Abbey, Wright became the Bishop of Durham in 2003 – the third highest ranking position of authority in the Church of England.

Tom Wright has spent his life studying the history surrounding the New Testament and early Christianity. He has written several widely-acclaimed books on the historical Jesus as well as many on the Apostle Paul and the New Testament epistles.

Wright has received both praise and criticism for his work. Anne Rice, the author of the Interview with a Vampire series, has credited Wright’s work on the historical Jesus with bringing her back to her Christian faith. Reformed theologian J.I. Packer has described Wright as “brilliant” and “one of God’s best gifts to our decaying Western Church.”

As Bishop of Durham, Wright has been a lightning rod for controversy from both conservatives who take offense with his political views, and from liberals who reject his traditional views on homosexuality.

As a New Testament scholar, Wright has faced criticism from both sides of the theological aisle. Liberal scholars, such as those who make up the infamous “Jesus Seminar” decry Wright’s work on the historical Jesus as much too conservative and traditional. Conservative scholars appreciate his strong defense of the cardinal doctrines of Christianity such as the bodily resurrection of Christ. But many conservatives of the Reformed persuasion are perplexed by Wright’s views on the doctrine of justification and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Several well-known theologians, such as D.A. Carson, Mark Seifrid, Guy Waters, and now pastor John Piper, have written extensively to refute the “New Perspective on Paul” that Wright advocates.

In our interview with N.T. Wright, we will ask questions that will help illuminate the current discussions within Reformed circles on the legitimacy of Wright’s exegesis of the New Testament texts.

Piper on Justification and the Diminished Work of Christ

November 19, 2007

From Desiring God Blog:

The audio and manuscript (and now video) are posted of John Piper’s lecture last night at the Evangelical Theological Society in San Diego. Here is John Piper’s closing plea:

For the sake of the undiminished fullness of the glory of Christ and for the sake of the radical sacrificial love that the world needs from us, I plead for your allegiance to a robust, biblical, historic vision of Christ whose obedience is counted as ours through faith alone.

An excerpt:

I’m aware that for some in the academic world, perhaps some of you, this very confession calls my fitness into question as a competent exegete. “This fellow has so much personal and pastoral allegiance to what he believes about justification, and feels such a great need for it, and has so much joy in it, that there is no way he can be objective when he comes to the biblical text, or be open to finding that his view is mistaken.” Well, that may be true. But there is another way to look at a person’s passion for particular truths.

A passion for a particular truth may be a blinding passion. That’s true. But it may also be the very means that God uses to make some truths visible and beautiful. I say that because of what Jesus said in John 7:17: “If anyone wills (or desires or wants, thele) to do God’s will, he will know (gnosetai) whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” In other words, Jesus taught that, at least in some matters, right willing precedes right knowing. Jesus is saying, “If you want the will of God you will have the disposition of heart to recognize it when you see it in his word.” He does not say, “If you don’t want the truth God is revealing—if you have no passion for this truth—and therefore have a measure of objective distance and detachment from the truth, you will be able to assess clearly whether something is of God.” He says the opposite. There are some matters in which prior neutrality does not serve the truth, but serves death.

In the next post, I will post the podcast and links to the transcript of the interview Trevin and Tony did with N.T. Wright last week.

Interviews with J.D. Greear and N.T. Wright

November 17, 2007

My friend Doug Baker has recently started a podcast for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina and has already posted three interviews with more to come. One in particular I would like to point your attention to is his interview with J.D. Greear–a young and influential pastor who recently spoke at the Convergent Conference (@ SEBTS) and will be speaking at the upcoming Building Bridges Conference at Ridgecrest. Stay tuned to their podcast for more interviews.

Fellow Said at Southern contributor Trevin Wax has recently interviewed N.T. Wright and will be posted this Monday on Said at Southern. The transcript will also be available on his blog. Trevin said he asked 18 questions, ranging from justification, sola scriptura, critics, etc. Tony Kummer, king of Kummerpolis, has been putting his NASCAR laptop to work with some excellent podcasts this semester. If you haven’t checked out the Said Podcasts, go here.

Book Alert: The Future of Justification (for $5)

October 24, 2007

Title: The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright
Author: John Piper
Release Date: November 1, 2007
Pages: 240
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN 10-digit: 1-5813-49641
ISBN 13-digit: 978-1581349641
Retail Price: $14.99
Table of Contents: No
Intro: No
Sample Chapter: No

From Crossway:

N.T. Wright, a world-renowned New Testament scholar and bishop of Durham in the Church of England, has spent years studying the apostle Paul’s writings and has offered a “fresh perspective” on Paul’s theology. Among his conclusions are that “the discussions of justification in much of the history of the church—certainly since Augustine—got off on the wrong foot, at least in terms of understanding Paul—and they have stayed there ever since.”

Wright’s confidence that the church has gotten it wrong for 1,500 years, given his enormous influence, has set off warning bells for Christian leaders such as John Piper, a pastor and New Testament scholar. If Wright’s framework for interpreting the New Testament text and his understanding of justification find a home in the church, not only could the doctrine of justification be distorted for generations to come, but the New Testament writers’ original intent could be silenced. So Piper is sounding a crucial warning in this book, reminding all Christians to exercise great caution regarding “fresh” interpretations of the Bible and to hold fast to the biblical view of justification.

Buy @:

Desiring God for $5.00 (through Oct. 31, 2007)
Crossway for $14.99
Amazon for $10.19
CBD for $11.99
Wal-Mart for $12.74

Select Online Books by John Piper:

Desiring God
The Pleasures of God (ch. 1-3)
Future Grace (ch. 1-3)
A Hunger for God
Don’t Waste Your Life
God Is the Gospel
What Jesus Demands from the World
When I Don’t Desire God
Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ
The Passion of Jesus Christ
Counted Righteous in Christ
Sex and the Supremacy of Christ

Initial Thoughts:

One of the things I have long admired about John Piper is not only his passion for the gospel, but how this passion propels him to bring a massive offense (the mobilization of missions and evangelism) and a robust defense. Over the years, we have seen Piper defend the gospel from inclusivists and open theists alike and has written on other important issues including abortion, homosexuality, and gender roles. Regarding the issue of justification, Piper is no novice (go here and here for evidence), and it is quite telling that a book that has yet to be released already has a sales ranking of 3,416 on Amazon. However, it is not the popularity of the book or the height of the controversy or even the profundity of Piper’s argument that one should consider; rather, all Christians on whatever side of the debate should consider his gentility and gravitas, his passion and precision, and his due consideration and criticism. In a day where controversies and debates are thriving, perhaps an unintended outcome would be not only a tome of the future of justification but also a manual for Christ-like conversation.


“The so-called ‘New Perspective on Paul’ (NPP) has stirred up enormous controversy, especially, but not exclusively, in the English-speaking world. The issues are so complex that it has taken time to mount a careful evaluation. During the last decade many have undertaken the task, often with helpful contributions. John Piper’s work may not be the last word on the subject, but it brings to Christian leaders everywhere five enormous strengths: (1) By focusing on N. T. Wright, by far the most influential writer of the NPP, Piper brings to bear a badly needed focus. (2) Despite the interlocking complexities of the debate—Tom Wright has an amazing capacity to move theological and exegetical pieces around, creating such a new tableau that words have shifted in meaning and theological notions their conceptual location—Piper has written with admirable clarity. (3) Better yet, John has engaged Tom with simultaneous depth and courtesy. That is a rare but wholly admirable combination. (4) Certain parts of John Piper’s book have quietly broken new ground—not least his handling of “righteousness” and “justification,” their connection with the “gospel,” and his careful insistence that making the words mean different things for the Judge in God’s law-court and for the defendant in that law-court really cannot be sustained in the light of Scripture. (5) John Piper sees the moral and spiritual implications of what he is seeking to explain. Are men and women saved, on the last day, on the basis of the whole life lived? But if not, what is the nature of the connection between justification and good works? The issues are not secondary, and, pastor that he is, John Piper will not allow believers to put their trust in anyone or anything other than the crucified and resurrected Savior.”

— D. A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL

In this captivating and marvelously clear book John Piper defends the truth that justification is the heart of the gospel. Contrary to Wright, justification does not merely declare who is saved. Rather, justification is a doctrine about how we are saved. As Piper rightly emphasizes, justification is about being right with God, receiving the forgiveness of our sins, and being counted righteous in Christ. One of the striking features of the book is that Wright’s views are presented with scrupulous fairness. No cheap or straw-man arguments here. Nor is there even a whiff of animosity against Wright personally. What animates Piper is the stunning beauty of Christ and the crucial importance of the gospel. Piper reminds us, as Luther and Calvin did during the Reformation, that we have no assurance of forgiveness apart from a right understanding of justification. Further, the truth that our righteousness is in Christ gives God all the honor in our salvation, and comforts us with the truth that God is for us. I found this book to be not only doctrinally faithful but also to be spiritually strengthening.

— Thomas R. Schreiner, James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky

Tom Wright’s challenge to the traditional understanding of justification by faith has stirred the church into rethinking one of its most fundamental beliefs. John Piper has taken on the task of examining Wright’s views, which he answers in a gracious but firm manner. This book is a model of how theological disagreements should be handled and the reader is reminded time and again to what extent the Gospel itself stands or falls on this issue. In comparing the works of Tom Wright to the text of the Apostle Paul’s letters Dr Piper lifts us above the controversies of the moment and shows us again how the glorious mercy of God was revealed to us in Jesus Christ. It is essential reading for every pastor and theological student and will be a major contribution to our understanding of what the great Apostle really said.

— Gerald Bray, Research Professor of Theology, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama

A good biblical dialogue needs two good conversation partners, who work hard to understand each other and make their case biblically. Piper’s look at justification does this with a superb tone and a careful presentation of his case. He and Wright exchanged communication before this book went public. Piper appeals to the wisdom of the ages on justification, a wisdom deeply rooted in Scripture. Wright argues his approach is also deeply rooted in Scripture as seen through a fresh appreciation of the first century context of Paul’s writing, a context we too often underestimate. This dialogue is important for the church; Piper has put us in a position to hear both sides of the debate and understand what is at stake. He has served us all well by enabling the reader to be put in the place of considering what Scripture says as he or she listens to this conversation and to our God. Iron sharpens iron, and Scripture is a sword that cuts between the soul and Spirit. Be prepared to be sharpened by a careful dialogue about what justification is.

— Darrell Bock, Research Professor of NT Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

John Piper writes with a scholar’s pen, but he’s driven by a pastor’s heart. He feels deeply about the purity and clarity of the gospel, yet he is gracious, deferential, and obviously respectful of N. T. Wright. Still, his clarion call of what the gospel is, needed to be sounded forth. This book is timely, insightful, balanced, and compelling. And it shows that Wright’s version of the New Perspective is, in some respects, hardly different from the Old Perspective of Rome.

Not everyone will agree with all that Piper says, but the meticulous care with which he researched Wright’s views, and the careful nuancing in his treatment of the same, are a model of Christian grace and scholarship—all motivated, at bottom, by a concern for the health of the sheep and the honor of the Master Shepherd.

— Daniel B. Wallace, Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary, Executive Director, Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, Co-author of Dethroning Jesus

“This book is clear, careful, meticulous, and honest. In a day when too much theological debate is spent loudly praising Diana of the Ephesians, it is refreshing to see a book tackle a subject of controversy in this way. I commend it highly.”

— Douglas Wilson, Pastor, Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho

“Biblical commentators since Augustine have struggled with how to understand the relationship between justification by faith and judgment by works. The advent of the New Perspective on Paul has further heightened this tension in recent days with several authors such as N. T. Wright placing more stress on the role of a transformed life as the basis of justification at the final judgment. In light of this, John Piper provides a constructive and critical engagement with the work of N. T. Wright, and Piper convincingly shows that justification, in its present and future tense, is anchored exclusively in the work of Christ and not in our obedience nor in works inspired by the Holy Spirit. Piper’s case possesses exegetical rigor, theological acumen, and pastoral sensitivity. Piper invites us all to marvel at the glory, the magnificence, and the grace of the God who justifies the ungodly through faith in his Son. This book is not a rehearsal of old dogmas, nor a polemical rant, but it is a fresh articulation of the gospel that Paul preached and it is written with a conviction and verve that will inspire young and old preachers to faithfully set forth the whole counsel of God to their flock.”

— Michael F. Bird, New Testament Lecturer, Highland Theological College, Scotland, Author of The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies on Paul, Justification and the New Perspective

As part of a wider concern that “the doctrine of justification is being blurred” in many of the contemporary debates, John Piper’s challenging yet courteous book takes issue with Bishop Tom Wright’s major theses regarding Paul’s teaching on justification. The Bishop of Durham’s views on God’s righteousness as covenant faithfulness, the relationship of justification to the gospel, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, as well as present and future justification are subjected to lengthy, searching yet sensitive critique. Dr. Piper recognizes that Bishop Wright is “a disciplined, thoughtful, rigorous handler of biblical texts and a lover of the church.” Moreover, he has sought to come to grips with everything Wright has written on Pauline justification, which is no small feat. He cites the bishop at length in order to “treat him with meticulous care.” Yet Piper believes that this fresh perspective disfigures the Pauline gospel. This is a serious critique of one of the foremost representatives of the New Perspective on Paul and deserves to be read by all who want to understand more fully and rejoice in God’s righteousness in Christ and his justifying the ungodly.

— Peter T. O’Brien, Senior Research Fellow, Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia

Additional Related Resources:

>> Interview with John Piper on Wright
Part One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven
>> This Man Went to His House Justified (important for context of book)
>> The Sufficiency of Christ’s Obedience in His Life and Death
>> When Does God Become 100% for Us?
>> Whose Death and Obedience Brings About the Fact That God Is Totally For Us? (part of Piper’s conclusion)