Chapter 2: Rules of Engagement
In an interesting and stimulating chapter Wright sets forth some of his own methodology and concerns about Piper’s approach.
Wright reminds his readers of the danger of following a systematic approach to the bible which brings a ‘theology’ to the text rather than letting the text speak for itself. ‘But start with exegesis, and remind yourself that the end in view is not a tidy system, sitting in the hard covers of a shelf where one may look up the ‘correct answers’, but the sermon, or the shared pastoral reading, or the scriptural word to Synod or other formal church gatherings, or indeed the life witness to the love of God… this is letting scripture be scripture’ (24)
For Wright it is vital that when looking at ‘justification’ we ‘pay attention tot he actual flow of the letters’. We should also listen to the other Pauline texts such as Ephesians and Colossians.
Wright engages with Piper on the role of 1st century sources for illuminating an interpretation of the bible. Piper says that first century sources can be used to ‘distort and silence what the New Testament writers intended to say.’ This can happen through misunderstanding the first century idea. Piper brings in as support the book edited by Carson ‘Justification and Variegated Nomism’ which seeks to show, at least Carson’s editorial hand does, that Sanders was incorrect to describe second temple Judaism as being covenantal nomist. Wright disagrees with Piper in saying that Carson’s concluding comments do not necessarily match the scholarly work contained in the chapters. His is a point which has been made by several reviewers of Justification and Variegated Nomism.
Piper is reluctant to let 1st century texts inform our reading of scripture. Wright demonstrates extensively that we simply must let other texts inform our reading for unless we read other Greek texts we would not know what the Greek New Testament was saying. Wright shows how the NIV sometimes lets his theological agenda control its translation of scripture. Particular attention is paid to Romans 3:21-26 in which the NIV translates in a way which supports its own theological stance but obscures the Greek meaning.
In summary we can say that Wright wants his approach to a be a ‘historical approach’. He is wary of a theological approach which does not take history seriously.