Future of Justification 3: On Controversy
Why is John Piper taking on N.T. Wright, devoting an entire book to arguing against his theology? “On Controversy” lays out the reasons why Piper is writing this book as well as some ground rules for how the debate must take place.
Some followers of the “new perspective” discussion might be perplexed to see Piper criticizing Wright, arguably the most conservative and traditional scholar writing from the New Perspective landscape. Piper gives good reasons for targeting Wright. Because Wright is the most conservative proponent of the New Perspective, a prolific evangelical writer, and a widely-read scholar in evangelical circles, it only makes sense that Piper would see Wright as a bigger threat to evangelicalism than Sanders, Dunn and others (27).
I appreciate Piper’s belief that truth must not be compromised in the name of “unity.” Unity is indeed a second-order doctrine which follows from truth. Peace is a virtue that all Christians should seek after, yet true and lasting peace stems from agreement on Christian doctrine (30-31).
I found myself in total agreement with Piper in this section. He wisely points to earlier evangelical controversies and the way that older evangelical statesmen engaged in polemics as examples for the present discussion (28-29). (This emphasis on past controversies foreshadows one of the major critiques Piper levels against Wright – a lack of appreciation for the wisdom from older theologians.)
Hopefully, readers of The Future of Justification will not skip over the “On Controversy” section. We must be careful to not feed ourselves on doctrinal disputes – to crave controversy and polemical discourse. Piper’s reminder is good for us all:
“Faithful Christians do not love controversy; they love peace. They love their brothers and sisters who disagree with them. They long for a common mind for the cause of Christ. But for this very reason they are bound by their conscience and by the Word of God to try to persuade the church concerning the fullness of the truth and beauty of God’s Word” (31-32).
written by Trevin Wax © 2007 Kingdom People blog