Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Piper's "The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright"


Thanks to Mom for picking up this book for me at Christmas!

In this book, John Piper gently, yet very directly, discounts much of N.T. Wright's views on justification. Here's my take (please correct my view if you think I misrepresent either position or my understanding of theology proper).

Background on N.T. Wright . . . the key issue is justification. Justification is the theological belief that God declares sinners (people who commit unrighteous acts) as righteous (that is ones who in God's sight have committed non-sinful/obedient acts). Traditional Reformed Theology, believes that this happens at the moment someone puts their total trust in the salvation and Lordship of Jesus Christ. They believe that God does not only forgive a person, that is wipe away their sins . . . but God actually gives them the righteousness of Jesus Christ. His death provides the sacrifice we need for forgiveness (passive obedience) and his perfect life lived gets credited to us (active obedience). Traditional Reformed Theology calls the reception of Christ's righteousness as imputation . . . that is God places (imputes, reckons) the perfection of the life of Christ upon us!

N.T. Wright argues against some of these traditional ideas. One key issue is that N.T. Wright thinks it is irrational to believe humans can take on the righteousness only God can have. He believes God's righteousness is His unique possession and so the traditional view of humans taking on the righteousness of the divine Son/Christ (imputation) does not hold up. Another key issue (connected to what it means for God to declare someone righteous) is that Wright believes God's final declaration of righteousness does not occur at the moment of faith, but in light of a whole life lived. That is, people are righteous IF they have lived a life of faith. One key N.T. Wright view also says justification is more a declaration of who IS saved/in the Christian family. This stands against the traditional view that justification describes HOW one enters into salvation and the Christian family. Some may wonder why Wright’s opinions matter. The reason is that Wright is great Biblical scholar. He cherishes the Bible and has argued extensively that the Bible is accurate and trustworthy for all things. Wright says and believes a lot of great things and seeks to honor God in all he does. Piper does a nice job of honoring Wright’s work and faith. Piper demonstrates the humility and tact that is required to disagree, but not demonize someone who takes a different (and potentially dangerous) theological position.

My reaction to the book will be in the next post!

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