Posts Tagged ‘Justification’
Multi-Part Review of Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision by N.T. Wright: PArt 1
I received a review copy of N.T. Wright’s ‘Justification:God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision’ a few days ago. It has been written by Wright as a response to a critique of his position on justification by John Piper. John Piper has been a tremendous help and influence, particularly in my late teens and early twenties,on myself. Piper’s writings, sermons, and conference messages introduced me to a passionate Calvinism which is God centred and values the glory and sovereignty of God. For this I am thankful. However, as I look back on these years, I realise that ,although I had a doctrine of God, my theology of creation was stunted. God, I believed, was the creator (literal 6 days) but his plan, to bring glory to himself, concerned his choosing, justifying and glorifying of the elect. The cosmos, the created world, was merely the backdrop and stage in which this saving action took place. I favoured evangelism over what I perceived as a liberal concern for social action and justice. I would not say that Piper explicitly taught a dualistic (secular/spiritual divide) world-view but I think it is fair to say that there was not enough ‘creation theology’ within Piper to counteract the implicit dualism of much on evangelicalism. At this time I began to explore the work of N.T. Wright. I began with ‘Jesus and the Victory of God’ and before long had consumed, with youthful energy, most of the N.T. Wright books I could get my hands on. Instead of a reduced gospel of individualism and evangelism, I was developing a larger theology in which God is calling a people to himself to be a blessing to the world. A gospel which embraced justice and social concern as well as a need to evangelise. So here I find myself reading the second part of a dialogue/conversation/polite argument between these two men of God, and biblical scholars, who have shaped, at two different stages of my life, my thinking. After reading each chapter I will seek to jot down a few comments.
This will be a multi-part review. Here I will offer my comments on the first chapter entitled ‘What’s all this about, and why does it matter?’ which covers 20 pages of the total of 224. Wright begins this chapter with a provocative illustration in which Piper is seen to be similar to a friend who thinks the earth goes around the sun. He offers this illustration for a number of reasons but one of them stands out. Wright says ‘we are not the centre of the universe, God is not circling around us. We are circling around him'(7). I agree wholeheartedly with Wright’s statement but it does seem to suggest that Piper holds to a gospel of ‘it’s about me, I’m the centre of the universe.’ This, if I am reading Wright correctly, is a gross caricature of Piper’s position. In fact I know of no other Pastor/Teacher/Theologian who has consistently taught from such a God centred perspective as John Piper. For those not convinced read John Piper’s The Pleasures of God or spend a few minutes looking around any of his writings. Like I said in my introduction I think Piper is God centred, but from my many years of listening/reading Piper, I find that salvation is to easily reduced to individualism and God’s salvific purposes for the cosmos are not given enough status. …… (more to follow soon)