Future of Justification 18: Piper's Conclusion
We’ve come to the end of a very long series on John Piper’s book The Future of Justification. I have decided to refrain from commenting on the Appendices in Piper’s book. The Appendices are very helpful for those who want to better understand Piper’s framework for understanding justification. Perhaps I will interact with these chapters at a later time. For now, I am ready to close my commentary on this book by offering some comments on Piper’s conclusion.
Earlier in this series, I mentioned why I believe Piper cannot allow Wright’s definition of the gospel (a definition that does not include “justification”) to stand. The concluding chapter of Piper’s book backs up my earlier contention. At some level at least, Piper is driven by a desire to clearly delineate the differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism (181-183). The Reformation is most assuredly not over, according to Piper.
Piper finishes his critique of Wright by once again pointing to Wright’s view of justification and works. He believes that Wright’s view will be co-opted into the Roman Catholic view (183). Piper then issues his own “Here I Stand” section, where he clearly and unabashedly affirms the traditional Protestant understanding of justification by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ’s righteousness alone (184).
I admire Piper’s allegiance to the biblical truths recovered at the time of the Reformation. I too believe that these doctrines are important. They are vital for the health of the church. I agree with Piper that we need more theological clarity and that N.T. Wright has often been unclear as to what he believes, largely because he is not operating within the traditional categories of Protestant exegesis.
I admire N.T. Wright’s determination to hear Paul in his own context, no matter what the cost. I appreciate Wright’s desire to challenge our theological categories and to avoid reducing biblical truths to neat formulas.
Interestingly, N.T. Wright’s book on justification and Paul has a picture of the Apostle Paul on the cover, whereas Piper’s book on justification and Paul has a picture of Martin Luther. I’m not saying that Piper is more devoted to Luther than Paul or that Wright is more devoted to Paul than Piper is… only that the picture does express, at least at some level, one of the reasons this book exists.
N.T. Wright is ready to dismiss certain Reformational teachings if they do not agree with his understanding of Paul in the first century. Piper is ready to affirm Reformational teachings, as he believes that they correctly understood the Apostle.
Both of these men should be commended for their dedication to Scripture and for their hard work in discovering what the text says.
I hope that I have been as fair in this series as Piper has been to Wright in this book. Surely The Future of Justification represents the way that theological debate should take place! As I said at the outset of this debate, both Piper and Wright have good points to make. Though I am closer to Piper on the definition of justification and imputation, I am indebted to Wright for the depth of his historical research and for the terrific and winsome ways he presents old truths.
I thank John Piper for teaching me that our existence is to be totally God-centered. We exist to enjoy him, all to his glory. I thank N.T. Wright for opening up the Gospels to me in a way that helped me understand my Savior and Lord in historical context. We do not worship a timeless talking head, but a flesh-and-blood Jew who walked the shores of Galilee during the first century.
My encouragement to my readers? Read both these men. You will benefit immensely from their scholarship and their pastoral hearts. You won’t agree with either one in everything, but you will be a stronger, more faithful servant of God’s Church for having heard what God has to say through them both.