Future of Justification 1: Some Preliminary Thoughts
Over the next few weeks, I plan on blogging chapter by chapter through John Piper’s new book The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright.
I admire both John Piper and N.T. Wright. Both are men of God who have a deep love for the Scriptures. Both have devoted their lives to the service of the kingdom. Both men are scholars who are simultaneously devoted to the Church.
Piper’s book is an important contribution to the current debates surrounding the “new perspective” on Paul. I also believe Piper’s critique of N.T. Wright to be gracious and even-handed.
Why have I decided to weigh in on this controversy? I hope this series will not be misconstrued as the ramblings of a seminary student who overestimates his own importance. I am a minister, first and foremost – a servant of God’s church. I do not have the intellect of N.T. Wright. Nor do I have the pastoral experience of John Piper.
But I do believe that my experience in mission work overseas has helped to alert me to several deficiencies in the way we present the “gospel” in evangelical circles in the U.S.
I began reading John Piper and N.T. Wright at about the same time (2003). I have benefited greatly from both of these men’s works. It has been theologically sharpening for me to have read extensively from both sides of this debate.
I have grown weary of the constant battling between “new” and “old” perspectives. So far, the discussion has been polarizing. You are either in the Reformed traditional camp or you are a Federal Vision/New Perspective proponent. In other words, either Wright is completely wrong and Piper, Carson, Seifrid, etc. are completely right or Wright is completely right and Piper and the other critics are completely off-base.
But what if the proponents of both sides of this debate are right on some things and wrong on others? What if, when reading both Wright and Piper, we come away from their works saying, “Yes, but…”? I’m afraid that Piper’s book may serve as ammunition for those who take target at Wright without ever reading him. Likewise, I’m afraid Wright fans might dismiss Piper’s book as just another critic who “doesn’t really understand the bishop.”
Piper’s critique is terrific in its scope, attractive in its clarity, and devastating in much of his argumentation against Wright. And yet, there are points where I think Piper totally misses the mark and Wright has offered some insights that we must take into account.
The evangelical Church has much to learn from these two scholars.
So, perhaps I am qualified to weigh in on this debate about justification. Perhaps I am not. That will be left for the reader to decide. I do pray that this series will shine light on this subject and that those who come across these posts will be better pastors, laypeople and faithful Christians – faithful to the gospel and to our Savior – for having read it.
written by Trevin Wax © 2007 Kingdom People blog