The Future of Justification: a response to NT Wright – John Piper (IVP)

NT Wright’s ‘portrayal of the gospel—and of the doctrine of justification in particular—is so disfigured that it becomes difficult to recognise as biblically faithful,’ claims US Pastor and author, John Piper.

A harsh accusation against a leading New Testament scholar, now bishop of Durham, whose scholarly books have shed light on Jesus and Paul’s teaching, and has battled for the evangelical position within the C of E.

The debate is complex and not easily simplified. In essence Wright believes that Paul separates ‘The Gospel’ from ‘justification’. The former being the news that Jesus is Lord of all, the latter, ‘the declaration which God makes, that all who share this faith belong to Christ, to his sin-forgiven family, the one family of believing Jews and believing Gentiles together, and are assured of final glorification’.

Piper believes Wright’s definitions and reasoning undermine the way (in his view) Christ imputes his righteousness to us, and fears Wright adopts a position close to Catholicism. So Piper is barrister like, pressing his case, using verbatim passages from Wright’s books, and his definition of Greek words, tenses and the flow of NT passages to press his charge.

His tone is warm and measured but it would be good if he had explained in more detail his presuppositions. I fear he fails to appreciate that the Wright has reframed the whole debate. For me Piper’s case is unproven. Wright has defended himself against such charges before, so if you buy the book, type ‘NT Wright justification’  into the web and decide for yourself.