Wright responds to Piper's book on justification

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by shackleton, Feb 8, 2009.

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  1. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    Erick, I agree that there is much allure in Wright. However, I must disagree about the consistency of the hermeneutic. By nature, it must be a fluid hermeneutic, constantly changing with the trends of historical analysis. With every new text or new way of reading a text from the second temple Jewish period, the thesis which underlies the reading of the New Testament is forced to change.

    The question one has to answer before they can read the New Testament is: whose model of Second Temple Judaism do I hold to be true? Sanders? Neusner? Wright? Someone else? To say anything positive of the New Testament requires first an accurate interpretation of another religious system.

    Now, I will certainly not deny the great added value which can come to our understanding of of the New Testament through study of the relevant Jewish literature (actually, a copy of the Damascus Document and of the Mishnah are open on my desk right now); but, contra Sanders et al, I think we ought to be much more centered on the biblical description of Judaism of Paul's day which is found in scripture itself. For instance: do we, with Sanders, study the relevant material and decide that the Pharisees wouldn't really have had too big of a problem with Jesus doing what he was doing, and thereby modify the biblical accounts? I don't think that's a responsible method.

    It seems, rather, that scripture itself contains enough material that we can adequately interpret Paul without having a necessary recourse to secondary Jewish literature. Of course, such literature can only be helpful, and grant more insight, but the Qumran community should be consulted for help only after we have received the testimony of the Holy Spirit himself: the author. Instead of assuming that the DSS must contain the key for unlocking the theology of Paul's opponents and therefore the key to Paul and the scriptures themselves, we ought first to interpret scripture, and then in light of this, decide whether and how relevant the DSS are.

    When reading people like Dunn and Wright, it's easy to overlook the fact that scripture is not an ordinary book or a human composition. It's author is divine, and included within his work the best interpretive key, and continues to abide in his words, speaking them to us as we read it in faith.

    In the end, I guess all I wanted to say at the start of this horribly long and winding (perhaps irrelevant post), was that I think the Reformed tradition has a much more consistent and credible hermeneutic.
  2. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Without the Burning in the Bosom, there can be no understanding?
  3. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Prufrock: Outstanding response. I wish I had not exceeded my Thanks quota. You are spot on. "Scholars" do the same with Paul offering a "new perspective" on head coverings relating to prostitution when Paul interprets the reason right in the text of 1 Cor. But, at least they're consistent.

    I think it comes as quite a shock to people who erroneously believe that the Jews didn't believe in grace to hear that they actually did. It's the same kind of thing that sends people over the deep end when they learn that Roman Catholics believe in grace and salvation by faith.

    Wright assumes that, in reading of the nature of 2nd Temple Judaism, he is a more astute observer of the Pharisee's understanding of grace than Paul was. It's not that Paul doubted the Jews held to a form of grace but, as Galatians points out, there is a difference between beginning and ending by grace through faith and beginning by grace through faith and finishing by grace through cooperation.
  4. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    I believe you are correct. This appears to be the book in question:

    The Faith of Jesus Christ: The Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3:1-4:11, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.

    I read a good portion of this for a seminary paper back in 2001 (objective v. subjective genitive reading for pistis Christou). Is this one of the sources that influenced Wright?
  5. Prufrock

    Prufrock Arbitrary Moderation

    Excellent. I mostly just wanted to quote this so it would show up a second time, in case someone missed it the first time around. Very important observation.

    I think we too often see a similitude of words, and thus assume that we have common teachings; all the while forgetting that we all get our words from the same place: even the most outrageous of heretics use the same Bible. We're always going to, prima facie, sound similar. This is one of the reasons why our pastors and elders are so crucially important: their lives are dedicated to the study and teaching of these things to the flock, and can show us where things differ, though they sound the same. If you're reading Wright, and find that you like him, and can't figure out why the rest of us confessional-types don't seem to like him: talk to you pastor. I'm sure he'd love it.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2009
  6. discipulo

    discipulo Puritan Board Junior

    Very sharply seen, they even know more about Paul than Paul himself.

    Oddly enough Sanders started by defending Imputation and Salvation by Grace alone as a Jewish Doctrine.

    Something that the Abrahamic covenant makes clear, as does the Ceremonial Law, the offering and sacrifice of innocent blameless animals, the laying of hands, etc

    But then Wright builds from Sanders, away from Imputation in Soteriology, to a kind of engraving in the Visible Church, as just a premise of salvation, putting forth the substance to an uncertain eschatological fulfilment.

    Justification’ in the first century was not about how someone might establish a relationship with God. It was about God’s eschatological definition, both future and present, of who was, in fact, a member of his people. In Sanders’ terms, it was not so much about ‘getting in,’ or indeed about ‘staying in,’ as about ‘how you could tell who was in.’ In standard Christian theological language, it wasn’t so much about soteriology as about ecclesiology; not so much about salvation as about the church

    N. T. Wright . What Saint Paul Really Said. Was Paul of Tarsus the Real founder of Christianity?

    So when the Apostle Paul makes clear those shadows are the foresight of the Imputation of Christ’s righteousness and His Vicarious Work, N T Wright goes forth to deny that clear doctrine from Scripture.

    Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom. For the judge to be righteous does not mean that the court has found in his favour. For the plaintiff or defendant to be righteous does not mean that he or she has tried the case properly or impartially. To imagine the defendant somehow receiving the judge's righteousness is simply a category mistake. N. T. Wright

    This way Wright also completely denies all the Forensic Scope of the Vicarious Expiation of Christ, so clear throughout all the New Testament.

    Behold the lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. John 1:29
  7. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

  8. Witsius

    Witsius Puritan Board Freshman

    I am not (though I know of it) familiar with this particular debate, so heistate to comment.


    I have read several of Wright's works (NT & the People of God, What St. Paul Really Said, The Climax of the Covenant, Paul in Fresh Perspective, and several smaller pieces) and even more of the published critiques; and I will say that (In my humble opinion, I am thoroughly uneducated) Wright is not basically Reformed or even trying to say the same thing.

    Sorry, but I am currently way to busy to document this argument, but I am sure others will concur.
  9. shackleton

    shackleton Puritan Board Junior

    I have been reading and listening to enough of Wright's works now that I can see where it is lacking in areas. He never focuses on why Jesus was killed. By that I mean that he puts such a spin on other areas and such a different spin on the beliefs of the Jews that it is like he misses the fact that it was the Jews who crucified their own Messiah because he did not live up to their legalistic notion of the law.

    He is trying to interpret the NT and Paul based on intertestimental writings and trying to understand what the Jews of the first century would have thought based on these and the Qumran texts. But the fact is that all these people got it wrong and brutally killed their own Messiah, so they must not have understood something.

    It also has the "liberal" flare to it in that it pushes the doing of your faith and that fact that if one has been baptized then we are not to debate their salvation. He calls it "dualism" saying that most of western Christianity is concerned with are you a sheep or a goat and how one becomes one or the other. The notion is that if you are a part of the visible church and have been baptized then technically you are justified, since to be justified simply means to be a member of God's family.

    I think the same spirit is driving this that is driving Osteen and Joyce Meyers and that is they are led to find something more appealing than the "hell fire and brimstone" preaching of the early part of this century. Under this system God does not seem mad all the time but it is about how God is renewing creation back to it's original glory through his people, Israel and then the church.
  10. Ex Nihilo

    Ex Nihilo Puritan Board Senior

    For all of Wright's flaws, I don't think this is one. It's been a while since I read it, but I vaguely recall that several hundred pages of Jesus and the Victory of God discuss this. And The New Testament and the People of God spends hundreds of pages discussing how different Jewish sects got their theology wrong. You can't assume that Wright thinks the first-century Jews had it right just because he uses intertestamental writings to shed light on the New Testament -- he doesn't. Honestly, understanding why first-century Jews would want to crucify Jesus is precisely the area where I think Wright is helpful. His teachings on justification, on the other hand, are rightly critiqued.
  11. shackleton

    shackleton Puritan Board Junior

    I have not read his books on Jesus yet only his works on Paul and justification, so thanks. I guess I am now guilty of the same thing he is always accused of, he did not say this so he must no believe it.
  12. Ex Nihilo

    Ex Nihilo Puritan Board Senior

    Well, I haven't read the books on Paul and justification (and probably won't), but I realized after posting that your critique may well apply to those. Even if he factually realizes that first-century Jews had it wrong when he discusses Jesus, he may not incorporate that into his understanding of Paul. :)
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