If you want a quick-but-tedious way to separate some of the shallower evanjellyfish from the more theologically-serious evangelicals in your circle of friends, here’s a simple method: call N.T. Wright a heretic. It’s quick because the blowback you will surely experience can be timed in microseconds. It’s tedious because you will be subjected to a series of overweeningly shrill diatribes, accompanied by confident insinuations that anyone who says such a thing is a divisive dolt. But a more effective method is difficult to find.
N.T. Wright is a heretic. There, I’ve said it. Let the ranting begin.
John Piper is a trailblazer when it comes to serving as a punching-bag for online ranters. On February 26, 2011, he tweeted a response to Rob Bell’s promotional video for his hell-denying book, Love Wins.1YouTube video: “Rob Bell Love Wins Short Video for New book.” It read, “Farewell, Rob Bell.” Three words that aroused the theological snowflakes and buttercups of the Internet to levels of digital rage usually reserved for political street mobs. I can only dream of such notoriety.
More than a year later Piper was asked about that episode. It turns out that his comment was not about Bell’s view of hell. He pointed out that he also disagreed with John Stott’s view of hell, but never tweeted about it. Rather it was Bell’s “cynicism concerning the Cross of Jesus Christ as a place where the Father atoned for the sins of his children and dealt with his own wrath by punishing me in his son.”2Justin Taylor, “Farewell Rob Bell?” March 30, 2012, The Gospel Coalition. I and others like me now have the same issue with N.T. Wright. But for any of us to go into our Twitter accounts and tweet, “Farewell, N.T. Wright”—well, that would be so six years ago, now, wouldn’t it?
And like Bell, it has actually been Wright who has been saying “Farewell” to the evangelical church for quite some time now—a whole lot longer than Bell did!—and it seems as though he’s been quite enjoying himself in the process. Anyone who thinks that Bell and Wright have been ostracized by heresy hunters and doctrinal elitists have simply been ignoring the way the both of them have been [insert reference to crude hand gesture here] to all of evangelicalism for years now.
So, before we get into the latest way Wright has chosen to say, “Farewell,” let’s look at how he’s been doing it for at least the past 20 years. According to Wright…
1. The Gospel is not about “getting saved.”
Wright puts it this way:
I must stress again that the doctrine of justification by faith is not what Paul means by ‘the gospel’. It is implied by the gospel; when the gospel is proclaimed, people come to faith and so are regarded by God as members of his people. But ‘the gospel’ is not an account of how people get saved.”3Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 132-133.
The problem is, that Paul tells us what he means by “the gospel,” and it seems to have quite a bit to do with how people get saved:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
(1Cor. 15:1-5, ESV. Emphasis added.)
It also has quite a bit to do with faith: “so we preach and so you believed,” (v. 11), and it is quite clear that Paul’s gospel message of Christ’s death is inseparably connected to the question of how we are justified (declared righteous) before God: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” (Rom 5:9 ESV)
So then, how does Wright think the gospel should be defined? He writes, “The gospel is the royal announcement that the crucified and risen Jesus, who died for our sins and rose again according to the Scriptures, has been enthroned as the true Lord of the world.”4Trevin Wax, “Gospel Definitions: N.T. Wright,” September 4, 2008, The Gospel Coalition. Of course, this truth is a necessary prerequisite to the gospel. It is certainly good news (the basic meaning of “gospel”) that Jesus reigns as Lord of all, but how exactly is that good news to me, unless it somehow answers the question of where I will spend eternity?
2. Justification is not about being declared righteous in Christ here and now.
In fact, according to Wright, it’s not even really about being declared righteous at all.
Justification is the covenant declaration, which will be issued on the last day, in which the true people of God will be vindicated and those who insist on worshipping false gods will be shown to be in the wrong.5Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 131.
Wright often uses familiar language in describing justification, but he means something very different from what historic evangelical Protestants have meant by the same language. For example, he uses the word “forensic,” to refer to God’s legal verdict, but that verdict is not based on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to believers. Far from it! (But more on that later.)
Likewise, in keeping with his own brand of the New Perspective on Paul, Wright gives the word “justification” a complete makeover. In spite of being defined in every Greek lexicon as “the act of pronouncing righteous,” or something similar, he redefines it to mean membership in God’s covenant people. In connection with this, D.A. Carson records the following humorous incident:
I cannot resist an anecdote. A few years ago I found myself in prolonged conversation with a retired classicist and expert on the Septuagint. He had heard, vaguely, of the new perspective, and wanted me to explain it to him. I took a half-hour or so to give him a potted history of some of the stances that fall within that rubric, including the view that “justification,” for some, has come to mean something like “God’s declaration that certain people truly belong to the covenant community.” He asked a simple question: “Do those who hold this view know any Greek at all?”6Carson, “The Vindication of Imputation,” in Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier, eds., Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates, (Downers Grove, IL, USA and Leicester, UK: InterVarsity Press and Apollos, 2004), 50-51.
3. There is a “final justification” by works.
Wright interprets Paul’s statement in Romans 2:13, “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified” (ESV), as meaning that at the judgment seat of Christ believers will be justified on the basis of works.7“It is strange, above all, that the first mention of justification in Romans is a mention of justification by works—apparently with Paul’s approval (2:13: ‘It is not the hearers of the law who will be righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified’). The right way to understand this, I believe, is to see that Paul is talking about the final justification.” What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? (Grand Rapids, MI, USA and Cincinnati, OH, USA: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company and Forward Movement Publications, 1997), 126. Wright also wrote: “The whole point about ‘justification by faith’ is that it is something which happens in the present time (Romans 3.26) as a proper anticipation of the eventual judgment which will be announced, on the basis of the whole life led, in the future (Romans 2.1–16).” Paul in Fresh Perspective, (Minneapolis, MN, USA: Fortress Press, 2005), 57. Never mind the fact that in the very next chapter Paul writes, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Rom 3:20 ESV)
As Cornelis Venema has pointed out:
From an historical perspective, Wright’s position is not unlike that of the medieval Roman Catholic Church, which also claimed that the Reformation’s view of justification by faith alone failed to do justice to the biblical theme of a final acquittal before God based upon works. If, as Wright insists, the justification of believers requires a final phase or “completion,” which will be determined by the works of the justified, then it seems evident that he teaches a doctrine of justification by grace through faith plus works. The apostle Paul’s teaching that works are wholly excluded as a basis for the justification of believers is incompatible with the idea that (final) justification will ultimately be based upon works.8Venema, “A Future Justification Based on Works?” February 1, 2010, Ligonier Ministries.
4. Christ’s righteousness is not imputed to believers.
Wright is very emphatic about this:
If and when God does act to vindicate his people, his people will then, metaphorically speaking, have the status of ‘righteousness.’…But the righteousness they have will not be God’s own righteousness.9Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 99.
Of course, Paul thought otherwise: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21, ESV. Emphasis added)
5. The final judgment of God’s people is not ultimately about salvation from sin.
But then, there is not much need for either legal or personal righteousness in Wright’s system, at least not when it comes to the final judgment.
Note that in our previous citation, Wright was only willing to go so far as to say that at the last judgment, God’s people will have a righteous status “metaphorically speaking,” i.e., only as a figure of speech. Notice also his use of the word “vindicated.” It’s one of his favorite terms.
For Wright, the ultimate point of the final judgement is not that the redeemed are put on display as trophies of grace before the entire universe. Rather, the point is that they are “vindicated as the true people of the one true God.”10Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 31. All talk of a “righteous status” is purely metaphorical. What really makes God’s people different is not that they are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (although Wright has never come out and denied that), but that they played for the right team. They didn’t side with those who worshiped idols.
And now for the latest.
Sometimes theologians with heterodox beliefs wait for years before they show their full hand. Sometimes they wait until they have field tested their heresies in college and seminary classrooms. Other times they wait until they have built a respectable reputation in the academic community. And then, when they feel the time is right, they spring their “provocative” new “findings” on an unsuspecting church. It is somewhat questionable as to whether N.T. Wright has ever taken this approach.
For the past few decades he seems to have been quite transparent about the manner in which he departs from received orthodoxy. At least until now.
Twenty-five years ago one could honestly say that Wright explicitly taught the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. Back then he wrote:
Jesus, the innocent one, was drawing on to himself the holy wrath of God against human sin in general, so that human sinners like you and me can find, as we look at the cross, that the load of sin and guilt we have been carrying is taken away from us. Jesus takes it on himself, and somehow absorbs it, so that when we look back there is nothing there. Our sins have been dealt with, and we need never carry their burden again.11Wright, The Crown and the Fire: Meditations on the Cross and the Life of the Spirit, (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1992), 51.
And ten years ago it could even be said that he had built up something of a track record in defense of penal substitution.12Trevin Wax, “Don’t Tell Me N.T. Wright Denies ‘Penal Subustitution,'” April 24, 2007, The Gospel Coalition. But it was right around that time that Wright’s relationship with that doctrine seemed to start going haywire.
It started when he endorsed a book that referred to the penal-substitutionary understanding of the atonement as “cosmic child abuse—a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed.”13Steve Chalke and Alan Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus, (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Zondervan, 2003), 182. And then he panned an excellent book that defends penal substitution and carried the written endorsements of 46 prominent evangelical theologians inside its front cover.14Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach, Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution, (Wheaton, IL, USA: Crossway Books, 2007). He labeled it “hopelessly sub-biblical” and “disturbingly unbiblical.”15Trevin Wax, “Wright on Penal Substitution,” November 18, 2007, The Gospel Coalition. (One might be forgiven for wondering whether such endorsers as D.A. Carson, I. Howard Marshall, Roger Nicole, J.I. Packer, Thomas R. Schreiner, Carl R. Trueman, David. F. Wells, and 39 other scholars might be more capable of determining what is “sub-biblical” or “unbiblical” than Wright is.)
So here’s a man who’s gone on record as defending penal substitution, and he’s suddenly endorsing the opposing view while blasting the one he claims to defend. What gives?
Wright keeps his cake and eats it, too.
In his most recent book, The Day the Revolution Began, Wright completes his 180-degree turn on this issue that seems to have been well underway ten years ago. He wrote:
…in much popular modern Christian thought we have made a three-layered mistake. We have Platonized our eschatology (substituting “souls going to heaven” for the promised new creation) and have therefore moralized our anthropology (substituting a qualifying examination of moral performance for the biblical notion of the human vocation), with the result that we have paganized our soteriology, our understanding of “salvation” (substituting the idea of “God killing Jesus to satisfy his wrath” for the genuinely biblical notions we are about to explore).16Wright, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion, (New York, NY, USA: HarperOne, 2016), Google Books edition, 76-77. Emphasis his.
According to Wright, it is “pagan” to see our salvation as involving “a transaction in which God’s wrath was poured out against his son rather than against sinful humans.”17Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, Google Books edition, 20. “Pagan! Pagan! Pagan!” Wright uses the word “pagan” more than 80 times. He really wants to get this point across, even though it was thoroughly answered by Leon Morris’s classic The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross18Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, 3rd ed., (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965). (a book he never mentions) more than a half-century ago.
Wright says that the “real danger in expounding the meaning of Jesus’s death is to collapse it into a kind of pagan scenario in which an angry God is pacified by taking out his wrath on Jesus.”19Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, Google Books edition, 131 And you know what? Every proponent of penal substitution absolutely agrees with this statement! It is wrong to suggest that Jesus came to bear the Father’s wrath so that the Father could then love us. The atonement does not make us “lovable.” We were loved from all eternity, before Christ ever died for us.
The aforementioned book defending penal substitution, which Wright called “sub-biblical,” clearly made this point: “…it was love that motivated God to send his Son to die; love was not somehow generated by the atonement.”[20. Jeffery, Ovey, and Sach, Pierced for Our Transgressions, 288.] To say the opposite would, indeed, probably be a “pagan” notion. It is wrong to assert that Scripture teaches that the atonement purchased God’s love—and it would be wrong to caricature the doctrine of penal substitution as teaching such a thing. It’s a straw man argument. And it is one that Wright returns to incessantly, ad nauseum.
And yet all along he claims that he still supports the notion that sin must be punished, and that it was punished in Christ. And, so: see? He really does believe in penal substitution after all!
But what he means by that is utterly different from what most people mean by such words. When the vast majority of people speak of “punishing sin,” it is a figure of speech (a metonymy20A “figure of speech consisting of the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated (such as ‘crown’ in ‘lands belonging to the crown’).” Merriam-Webster. to be precise) that means “punishing sinners.” In the context of Christian theology it refers to Christ willingly taking the punishment of sinners upon himself. But for Wright, it means something so utterly outside our experience as to be a bit bizarre:
Now we see what he means. “There is no condemnation for those in the Messiah . . . because God . . . condemned Sin right there in the flesh.” The punishment has been meted out. But the punishment is on Sin itself, the combined, accumulated, and personified force that has wreaked such havoc in the world and in human lives.21Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, Google Books edition, 145. Emphasis added; ellipsis in the original.
So it is not Christ who takes our punishment. Rather, somehow, sin itself is “punished.” An abstract concept somehow pays the penalty. Just how is that done? Can it be done? Although Wright somehow manages to extract this notion from Romans 8:3 to use as the foundation of his version of “penal substitution,” we certainly do not find such a concept anywhere in Scripture, and it stretches credulity to think that Paul went so far in his rhetorical personification of sin that he considered sin an entity that can bear punishment. It is a foundation built on exegetical sand.22For better explanations of Rom. 8:3, cf. commentaries by Douglas Moo, John R.W. Stott, Charles Hodge, Leon Morris, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, etc.
And thus, for Wright, Christ Himself takes no punishment as our substitute, because even though He was hanging, suffering on the cross, it was not Him who is being punished, but sin—and yet, somehow, He was still our substitute. And so—Voilà!—Wright has convinced himself (and all his acolytes, I might add) that he still believes in penal substitution! In fact, he says this is precisely how we must “rescue this substitution from its pagan captivity.”23Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, Google Books edition, 145.
The death of Jesus, seen in this light, is certainly penal. It has to do with the punishment on Sin—not, to say it again, on Jesus—but it is punishment nonetheless. Equally, it is certainly substitutionary: God condemned Sin (in the flesh of the Messiah), and therefore sinners who are “in the Messiah” are not condemned.24Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, Google Books edition, 145.
But after he spent so much time attacking penal substitution as “pagan,” it is puzzling to consider why he wants to keep the term. In any event, it’s okay by Wright to keep using the term “penal substitution,” as long as by it we do not mean that Christ bore our penalty as our substitute, which, of course, is what it’s always meant.
This couldn’t be some kind of slippery rhetorical sleight-of-hand, could it?
But is he a heretic?
First, let me get one thing out of the way: by calling N.T. Wright a “heretic,” I am emphatically not saying that he is going to hell. This has been a special announcement. We now resume our normal programming.
Generally speaking, there are two schools of thought on the subject of what exactly constitutes a heretic in the context of historic evangelical Protestantism. For Alister McGrath, “the nature of Protestantism makes it very difficult to use the term ‘heresy’ to refer to divergent schools of thought within that movement, unless they reproduce ideas that the church as a whole as agreed are unorthodox.”25McGrath, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution—a History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First, (New York, NY, USA: HarperOne, 2007), 230.
Depending on how you define “the church as a whole,” this would mean either that you can’t call anything a heresy that was not addressed by the seven ecumenical councils of the church (ending with the Second Council of Nicaea in AD 787), or that you can’t call anything a heresy that was not addressed by the first three councils (ending with the Council of Ephesus in AD 431), since the Monophysite Churches (e.g., Coptic Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, etc.) opted out of the councils that followed those.
But does anyone really believe that no new heresies were espoused over the past 1,230 to 1,586 years? A far more realistic approach was taken by Harold O.J. Brown:
It is evident that within the broader Christian fellowship there is considerable disagreement concerning which dogmas are essential and must be believed. A certain level of disagreement is compatible with Christianity, and indeed has always existed, but beyond a certain point of disagreement one can no longer speak of a community of faith. When the dogma in dispute is so important that it breaks up a community, it is a heresy. Those on our side, who reject it, thus “keep the faith,” and are orthodox; the others are heretics.26Harold O.J. Brown, Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church, (Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers, reprinted 2000), 22.
Historic evangelical Protestantism has always held that justification by faith alone is the doctrine, or “article [of faith] by which the church stands or falls.”[28. articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae.] And essential to any stable doctrine of justification by faith is a proper definition of the object of that faith: the person, nature, and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus penal substitution has stood as an indispensable theological underpinning for the doctrine of salvation as a whole—and Wright has twisted all of this beyond recognition. This has made him a heretic within evangelicalism, albeit one of the most popular heretics, especially among evangelical academics, to come along in a long, long time.
What does that say about the state of the evangelical academy?
The dead branches continue to fall.
Fifteen years ago Ligon Duncan highlighted all the reasons for appreciating N.T. Wright.
Has he not forthrightly contended in manly fashion with the dark forces of the Jesus Seminar? Has he not written one of the best books in defense of the resurrection of Christ? Is he not winsome and charming?
Yes. And the most effective heretics are the ones who choose their orthodoxies most cleverly, and present them in the most attractive packages.
In the end, the popularity of N.T. Wright’s writings, and of all the other versions of the New Perspective on Paul, have actually done the church a service.
It has functioned as a “theological ice storm” to show us where the dead limbs were on evangelicalism’s tree. That’s important pastorally. We needed to know how bad a shape we were in. Now we know and can work to do something about it.27Ligon Duncan, “The Attractions of the New Perspective(s) on Paul,” Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is also available on the Ligonier Ministries web site.Ω
© 2017, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.
|↑1||YouTube video: “Rob Bell Love Wins Short Video for New book.”|
|↑2||Justin Taylor, “Farewell Rob Bell?” March 30, 2012, The Gospel Coalition.|
|↑3||Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 132-133.|
|↑4||Trevin Wax, “Gospel Definitions: N.T. Wright,” September 4, 2008, The Gospel Coalition.|
|↑5||Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 131.|
|↑6||Carson, “The Vindication of Imputation,” in Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier, eds., Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates, (Downers Grove, IL, USA and Leicester, UK: InterVarsity Press and Apollos, 2004), 50-51.|
|↑7||“It is strange, above all, that the first mention of justification in Romans is a mention of justification by works—apparently with Paul’s approval (2:13: ‘It is not the hearers of the law who will be righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified’). The right way to understand this, I believe, is to see that Paul is talking about the final justification.” What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? (Grand Rapids, MI, USA and Cincinnati, OH, USA: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company and Forward Movement Publications, 1997), 126. Wright also wrote: “The whole point about ‘justification by faith’ is that it is something which happens in the present time (Romans 3.26) as a proper anticipation of the eventual judgment which will be announced, on the basis of the whole life led, in the future (Romans 2.1–16).” Paul in Fresh Perspective, (Minneapolis, MN, USA: Fortress Press, 2005), 57.|
|↑8||Venema, “A Future Justification Based on Works?” February 1, 2010, Ligonier Ministries.|
|↑9||Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 99.|
|↑10||Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 31.|
|↑11||Wright, The Crown and the Fire: Meditations on the Cross and the Life of the Spirit, (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1992), 51.|
|↑12||Trevin Wax, “Don’t Tell Me N.T. Wright Denies ‘Penal Subustitution,'” April 24, 2007, The Gospel Coalition.|
|↑13||Steve Chalke and Alan Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus, (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Zondervan, 2003), 182.|
|↑14||Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach, Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution, (Wheaton, IL, USA: Crossway Books, 2007).|
|↑15||Trevin Wax, “Wright on Penal Substitution,” November 18, 2007, The Gospel Coalition.|
|↑16||Wright, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion, (New York, NY, USA: HarperOne, 2016), Google Books edition, 76-77. Emphasis his.|
|↑17||Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, Google Books edition, 20.|
|↑18||Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, 3rd ed., (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965).|
|↑19||Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, Google Books edition, 131|
|↑20||A “figure of speech consisting of the use of the name of one thing for that of another of which it is an attribute or with which it is associated (such as ‘crown’ in ‘lands belonging to the crown’).” Merriam-Webster.|
|↑21||Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, Google Books edition, 145. Emphasis added; ellipsis in the original.|
|↑22||For better explanations of Rom. 8:3, cf. commentaries by Douglas Moo, John R.W. Stott, Charles Hodge, Leon Morris, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, etc.|
|↑23, ↑24||Wright, The Day the Revolution Began, Google Books edition, 145.|
|↑25||McGrath, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution—a History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First, (New York, NY, USA: HarperOne, 2007), 230.|
|↑26||Harold O.J. Brown, Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church, (Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers, reprinted 2000), 22.|
|↑27||Ligon Duncan, “The Attractions of the New Perspective(s) on Paul,” Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is also available on the Ligonier Ministries web site.|
NT Wright was never an Evangelical Protestant.
Ironically, according to NTW, I am a ‘false teacher’ In one of his books (I can’t locate the reference off hand), he made the following derogatory comments regarding people who take a more historical view of the creation account in Genesis:
“I wonder whether we are right even to treat the young-earth position as a kind of allowable if regrettable alternative, something we know our cousins down the road get up to but which shouldn’t stop us from getting together at Christmas … ”
Continuing in the same condescending tone he seemingly questions whether people who hold to the Genesis creation account should even be allowed to associate with fellow Christians:
“And if, as I suspect, many of us don’t think of young-earthism as an allowable alternative, is this simply for the pragmatic reason that it makes it hard for us to be Christians because the wider world looks at those folks and thinks we must be like that too?”
One wonders if Wright realises the utter contempt for fellow believers he is actually displaying here. It’s like saying he wonders if it’s even OK to associate with those small-minded simpletons that believe Genesis as it’s actually written. And his disgust at the wider world actually considering ‘educated’ Christians like himself and his compromising kin even being related with those Christians who believe the word of God as plainly written is quite evident. He even goes so far as to accuse YECs of false teaching. He writes: “That’s the danger of false teaching; it isn’t just that you’re making a mess; you are using that mess to cover up something that ought to be brought urgently to light”.
That last comment inspired me to produce a ‘meme’ based on an original picture lifted (without permission!) from a ‘Christianity Today’ magazine article on NT Wright. I can’t post it here but I’ll e-mail MWCO a copy.
There is yet another irony here – Creationists are often falsely accused of maintaining that salvation is dependent on belief in a literal Genesis and that a person can’t be saved without such a belief. In fact you would be very hard pressed to find a Creationist who holds to that view or even one who makes a blanket ad hominem attack on those who hold to a non-literal view of Genesis in the un-gracious way NTW regards Creationists. A reading of the testimonies of leading Creationists shows that most were converts to Christ who continued to believe in theistic evolution and only later in their Christian walk moved to a Creationist view of origins.
A further comment on NT Wright:
What NT Wright said on the resurrection of Jesus:
In the words of New Testament scholar N.T. Wright, “Once you allow that something
remarkable happened to the body that morning, all the other data fall into place with ease.
Once you insist that nothing so outlandish happened, you are driven to ever more complex and fantastic hypotheses.”§
The best explanation for all of the known facts is that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead.
So, this is What NT Wright *could* have said about Creation using the same line of
“Once you allow that something remarkable happened in the Genesis account, all the
other data fall into place with ease. Once you insist that nothing so outlandish happened [i.e. as outlandish as Creation in six 24 hour days only thousands of years ago], you are driven to ever more complex and fantastic hypotheses.”
The best explanation for all of the known facts is that God did in fact accomplish Creation of the Universe in six 24 hour days and did not use evolutionary processes over billions of years.”
§ The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions by NT Wright and Marcus Borg (SPCK, 1999) p124
as quoted by Robert E Bowman in Jesus: Fact or Fiction – a Rose Publishing Bible
Here’s another NT Wright quote that’s ironically pertinent, “Heresy happens when the Church forgets a bit of its teaching; somebody else picks that up and makes a whole system out of it.”
Thanks Roger. If you are accurate that NT Wright positions those of us who hold to a historical 7 day revelation of creation as ……. it sounds like a nice way of calling us unwanted idiots, it reveals something more to me about his Jewish Paul historic interpretation claim. Evidence of another inconsistency.
Roger , 7 days , right?( I don’t call myself a young earther anymore. I am creationist by historical revelation . 10,000 years is ancient history.
If you ever meet NT Wright you can share with him I am similarly upset by years of Christians inaccurately interpreting the scriptures of Genesis. I leave it to God to know his motive for doing it .
Thanks for your response Tammy. Maybe NTW would like to send us to a ‘re-education camp’ for naughty people who question Darwinian naturalism.
The cross is the only place in history where justice and love and mercy and grace converge and are perfectly displayed. If we are not justified (declared actually righteous b/c we are clothed in Christ’s perfect righteousness) by grace, through faith which is a gift of God and not of ourselves so no one can boast, where is the good news? Where is the resting for the redeemed in having been reconciled to the Father through trusting in the finished work of Jesus for everyone who believes on Him? How can we stand in grace without this reconciliation that is actual? Jesus did not come to show us what He discovered about how to be reconciled to God (religion), He came to be our Reconciliation.
Thank you for this overview. Very helpful.
it’s just this sort of baloney that is driving young people from the church in droves. Get a real job so you have something of value to share with others.
Nice call!!! N T Wright should indeed get a real job!
Just wanted to clarify which baloney you’re referencing. Is the article too polemical for you? Not “real” enough? What qualifies as “something of value”?
Excellent! I am passing this along to my mailing list of fellow pastors. I also recommend the following on this subject:
Peter Adam, “N.T. Wright and the Death of Jesus: A Review of ‘The Day the Revolution Began’” (6 APR 2017), on The Gospel Coalition Australia at https://australia.thegospelcoalition.org/article/n-t-wright-vs-straw-men-a-review-of-the-day-the-revolution-began [accessed 18 APR 2017].
Michael Horton, “N. T. Wright Reconsiders the Meaning of Jesus’s Death” (10 OCT 2016), on The Gospel Coalition at https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/book-reviews-the-day-the-revolution-began [accessed 10 OCT 2016].
Phil Johnson, “What’s Wrong with Wright: Examining the New Perspective on Paul,” on Ligonier Ministries at http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/whats-
wrong-wright-examining-new-perspective-paul/ [accessed 20 FEB 2014].
Thomas Schreiner, “Wright Is Wrong on Imputation,” in Tabletalk Magazine (1 FEB 2010), on Ligonier Ministries at http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/wright-wrong-imputation/ [accessed 9 MAR 2017].
Guy Waters, “Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision,” on Reformation 21 at http://www.reformation21.org/shelf-life/justification-gods-plan-and-pauls-vision.php [accessed 20 FEB 2014].
The link to Phil Johnson’s article is broken. I must have hit the space bar inadvertently prior to posting which separated the first half of the URL from the end. Perhaps you could adjust this so the link works for your readers. Sorry about the error.
Your first quote/rebuke of Wright is way off. And you lost my interest after that. Here’s why:
You quoted this from him, “I must stress again that the doctrine of justification by faith is not what Paul means by ‘the gospel’. It is implied by the gospel; when the gospel is proclaimed, people come to faith and so are regarded by God as members of his people. But ‘the gospel’ is not an account of how people get saved.”
Then you went on to show how Paul says, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved.”
Now, you didn’t bother to actually prove how NT Wright is wrong. You just pointed out in closing “It is certainly good news (the basic meaning of “gospel”) that Jesus reigns as Lord of all, but how exactly is that good news to me, unless it somehow answers the question of where I will spend eternity?”
In fact, what Wright is trying to say in your the first quote is that the Paul’s gospel is strictly an account of what Jesus has done. The application, according to Wright, of hearing what Jesus has done is that people hear it and say “Yes! I want to submit to Jesus as Lord.”
And what Wright argues is supported throughout the book of Acts when you read Peter and others sharing the gospel, they begin how? By telling a people-centered message about how God fills the hole in their life? OR by telling a God-centered message about what Jesus has done? You will see it is the latter. Finally, the application of the gospel message about Jesus occurs when the apostles tell their listeners “Therefore, repent!”
This is what Wright believes, like it or not. But you have not represented Wright fairly. My hope and prayer for you is that you don’t do interpret the Bible the same way you interpret Wright.
Thank you for your comment.
But I still don’t think Wright’s view does justice to Paul’s presentation of the gospel. It is far more than “strictly an account of what Jesus has done.” It includes, example what will happen “on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” (Rom 2:16 ESV) Wright truncates the gospel message, and thus distorts it.
Nor do I think your objection does justice to Wright’s declaration to the effect that the gospel is not about how to get saved. Thus Wright tries to skate around 1 Cor. 15:1-5, especially verse 2: “and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” And so, Wright has missed Paul’s core point: the reason that “what Jesus has done” (v. 3-9) is so important is because by that “you are saved” (v. 2). And that “message of salvation” (Acts 13:26, NIV) is merely some “implication” of the gospel, but it lies at its core.
Wright also fails badly in his attempt to capture the emphasis of the book of Acts. If the goal of the gospel can be essentially summarized in the response, “Yes! I want to submit to Jesus as Lord,” then why is it that we never find that actually expressed as its goal? Why instead do we find the following?
“‘And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'” (Act 2:21 ESV)
“And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Act 2:47b ESV)
“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Act 4:12 ESV)
“‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon who is called Peter; he will declare to you a message by which you will be saved, you and all your household.'” (Act 11:13b-14 ESV)
“Brothers, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to us has been sent the message of this salvation.” (Act 13:26 ESV)
“For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'” (Act 13:47 ESV)
“But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Act 15:11 ESV)
“Then he brought them out and said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
(Act 16:30-31 ESV)
“Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” (Act 28:28 ESV)
Why is it that we find more references to personal eternal salvation in Acts than in any gospel except Luke? (Unless, perhaps, we count references to “eternal life” of which there are only two in Acts, both in the space of three verses, but a slew of them in John.)
I think Wright makes a lot of statements that sound plausible, perhaps even wonderful to many, until you actually examine the text of Scripture. And when you do, you’ll find my observation is spot-on.
There are two prominent evangelical voices you should listen to because they don’t buy everything Wright says, but they don’t err in their representation of him. Michael Bird and Preston Sprinkle. Trevin Wax might also be added to that list. These men have a fitting respect for Wright as well as evangelical conservatives like Piper, who disagree with Wright.
I’d encourage you to check out a copy of “Paul and the Gift” by John Barclay. Not only is this a brilliant book on Paul, Barclay was taught by Wright; he is a brilliant “Old Perspective” proponent who disagrees in many points with Wright. Yet he fairly represents him and doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Why is it that every time a Wright fan recommends a book, it’s one that’s gonna set me back at least 50 bucks?
Actually, it looks like a worthy volume. I see that Tom Schreiner gave it a lengthy review over on the Themelios site, and while he has some criticisms he also has good things to say about it. I’ve put it on my Amazon wish list for when I can afford it.
I understand what you mean about “Paul and the Gift”. I have had my copy borrowed from my local “government” library for over 2 months. They have 3 copies in circulation, none of which are on hold. People should be reading this book! But you can probably read it for free if you have a good library system.
BTW, you mentioned you appreciated the endorsement from Schreiner. Let me tell you, there’s a big difference between the way Schreiner characterizes Wright and someone like John Piper. Schreiner has never (in anything I’ve read or heard) called Wright a heretic or not-an-evangelical, or anything like that.
I encourage you to pay attention to how Schreiner argues with Wright, you can find these debates on youtube and other places online. He is very careful not to paint Wright with too broad a stroke because he knows Wright is not a heretic. Wright is very odd in some ways. And he mischaracterizes “Lutheran theology” at times. But Wright is a devout Christian who has dedicated his life to God, to his Word, and his Church. He is idiosynchratic. His definitions, to you and me, can be unsatisfactory.
But the more you dig, as Schreiner has, the less you find Wright as a heretic.
All I can do is refer you back to the section of my article labeled “But is he a heretic?” There is where I present what I mean by that. I do not mean that Wright is going to hell. But I do mean that, by the standards of historic evangelical theology, which I identify with the gospel preached by the 16th century Protestant Reformers, Wright is most certainly a heretic. I realize that this violates the definition of “heretic” that many would prefer that I use, but I am not of a mind to revise my view at this point.
But all I’m saying is that your standard for “heretic” is 1600 years too late.
You wrote: “But all I’m saying is that your standard for ‘heretic’ is 1600 years too late.”
And all I’m saying is that in my article I directly addressed why I think I have that I have the correct standard and you have the wrong one for using the word “heretic.” It is found in the section to which I previously referred: “But is he a heretic?”
Thank you for responding.
Yes, I agree there is an eschatological element to the gospel, as you point out. Wright would agree. That is part of the “announcment of Jesus as Lord” that you can read many times in Acts. And in no way does that contradict what Wright is saying.
In fact, of all the quotes you shared from Acts about when the gospel is shared, none of them present the “the doctrine of justification” as Paul defines it in Romans and Galatians. Of course, what Paul says in those books affirms the gospel in Acts, but they are not the same thing. One (the gospel) is a call for people to believe in Jesus as Lord. The other (justification) is an explanation of how faith in the gospel of Jesus is used by God to put people right with Him.
The reason this distinction matters is that people need to trust personally solely in Christ. They do not need to trust personally in the doctrine of justification by faith.
People who know Christ and receive him by faith alone are saved. But they need not be able to articulate the doctrine of justification in order to have fully received Jesus and be saved.
In fact, I’m pretty sure that Peter, in Acts 2, could not have articulated the doctrine of justification by faith alone until after what transpired in Acts 10 and Galatians 2. Peter seemed to think, up until that point that faith in Jesus would not make Gentile as much “right with God” as it would a Jew.
Yet, Peter was still correct in what he presented in Acts 2, because this it the gospel, the message about Jesus. Not the message of the doctrine of justification by faith.
Now, when the Peter speaks and acts contrary the gospel in Gal 2, you start to see the necessity of articulating this doctrine within the leadership of the church. Enter Paul, the man called by God to do that. But “the doctrine of justification by faith” is never part of the evangelistic message in Acts. The message is “here is Jesus, here’s what he did, what he’s doing and when he’s returning” and “now repent, receive Jesus, and prepare for his return”.
But, again, at no point is the doctrine of “justification by faith” explained in the gospel presentations of Acts.
Finally, let me also point out that a lot of the New and Old perspective argument about “the gospel” ignores the meaning of the actual word. You asked in your article, “but how exactly is that good news *to me*, unless it somehow answers the question of where I will spend eternity?” And you italicized that portion that I put stars around. You did that, it seems, to show that the gospel is “that which is good news to you and to me”.
But “good news to me” just wasn’t the meaning of the word “gospel” anywhere in Scripture or the secular usage of the word. Search high and low for “good news to me” in the Bible and ancient literature, you won’t find that phrase.
Here’s why I think that is.
The word “gospel” refers throughout the ancient world to a royal announcement of a new king. It is not “good news” because it repairs any individual’s life, though it may and often did.
Rather, it’s good news because the king is to be honored as good in and of himself. And when this “gospel” is not proclaimed and received with due respect, it most certainly does not result in a good consequence for the person who treats it lightly.
And, frankly, you see Paul using the exact same culture associations with that word. Paul argues many places that the gospel is good irrespective of response of those who hear it. The gospel is good in and of itself, regardless of whether it brings judgment or salvation to a person. It is good because it is about Jesus, who is good.
Nowhere in the Bible will you read “good news for you” or “good news for me”. What is good about the good news is the Person to Whom it refers, Jesus. And yes, getting that right and believing it makes it a good change in yours and my life. No one is denying that. But that happens when the gospel is applied to a person who accepts it. And the gospel is good regardless of whether someone does that. Because Jesus is good whether or not someone sees that He is.
Jesus is certainly called “Lord” many times in Acts, and He is announced as “Lord and Christ” in Acts 2:36, but “many times?” I have tried to corroborate that, but it looks like you’ll have to do it.
In any case, announcing him as Lord is *not* the same as preaching the gospel. This, I think, is so plain as to provoke the question of how familiar with the New Testament anyone might be who tries to say otherwise. Wright is simply wrong about this.
And I think you’re avoiding the issue by quickly jumping to the fact that the Acts citations I provided do not mention justification by faith. Of course, justification by faith is most certainly mentioned in Acts, and indeed, it is mentioned in conjunction with the preaching of the gospel: “…by him everyone who believes is freed [literally: ‘justified,’ δικαιόω/dikaioō] from everything from which you could not be freed [literally: ‘justified,’ δικαιόω/dikaioō] by the law of Moses,” (Act 13:39 ESV). As Darrell Bock points out in his commentary on Acts, “It is the awkwardness of the English in using ‘justified’ that leads to the other rendering” of “freed,” but the text is clearly speaking of “the declaration of righteousness” that constitutes justification by faith (p. 459). To insist that it had to be “explained” as part of the Acts narrative in order to accept that it was understood is to confuse the narrative and didactic genres.
But your appeal to the lack of references to justification in the quotes I provided is simply a red herring. I was not using those quotes to establish that the gospel consists of justification by faith—although that does lie at the gospel’s core—but rather that it is about being saved, which Wright denies. To ignore the fact that I have disproven Wright’s thesis while simultaneously diverting to a different topic does not help your case.
To assume that evangelicals completely equate the gospel with justification by faith is both a reductionist caricature and a straw man. Justification by faith is meaningless without a biblical doctrine of sin, the incarnation, the atonement, and eternal life, and all of these, set before the backdrop of the glory of the Triune God, are combined in appropriate measure in the historic, evangelical Protestant presentation of the gospel. Yes, it is proper to distinguish them as features of the gospel, but it is entirely improper in biblical theology to detach them from the gospel and lay them to one side as if they were extraneous to it. And yet that error in methodology lies near the heart of Wright’s theological project, even as he accuses evangelicals of being reductionist!
This is what makes him so poor as both a systematic and historical theologian—areas in which he has attempted to excuse his own previous gaffes by appealing to the fact that those are not his specialities. Well, when you critique the views of the Reformers, it seems you should know what they actually were, and that involves both systematic and historical theology.
No competent evangelical presentation of the gospel has ever equated it with “trusting” in the doctrine of justification by faith. And yet, it is impossible for a real evangelical to understand how people can amputate justification by faith from the gospel and still think they have the gospel that Paul preached. They don’t.
Paul did not get upset with the Galatians for flirting with a different gospel because they abandoned “the royal announcement of a new king.” He got upset with them for flirting with abandoning the doctrine of justification by faith alone! That, according to Paul, would be choosing a different gospel!
Neither has any competent evangelical ever even insisted that a person needs to be trained in the doctrine of justification by faith in order to actually be justified by faith. On the other hand, I think your confidence that Peter could not have articulated those doctrines prior to the events of Acts 10 and Galatians 2 rests on insufficient grounds—and is ironic, considering those are texts concerning full Gentile inclusion in the church, one of Wright’s misbegotten and unnecessary prosthetic attachments to the concept of justification.
Finally, I find it extremely difficult to take seriously the argument that because one does not find a precise phrase indicating that the gospel is “good news to me” that this was not part of the gospel. Paul wrote, “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,” (Gal 2:20 ESV). He did not say, “I live by faith in the royal announcement of a new king.” If you searched “high and low” and did not find this, it is quite a pity. In your zeal to promote Wright’s distortion of the gospel, you passed right by Paul’s statement of its core—the core by which he lived—without even noticing it.
Regarding justification in Acts. I didn’t say the words justification and faith were never used together. My point is that the doctrine of justification by faith is not expounded in Acts. And specifically, it is not expounded in any gospel presentations in Acts.
Regarding “Lordship” in gospel presentations, what I said was not that the phrase itself “Jesus is Lord” is the gospel on its own. But that the announcement of Jesus as Lord involved a description of Jesus past, present, and future work.
Still, it is plainly there in Acts’ that Jesus is specifically announced as “Lord” in the earliest gospel presentations, not only in Acts 2:36, but 3:19, 4:33, 7:55-60, 9:5, 10:36, not to mention the prevalence of the gospel called the “word of the Lord” (12:24; 13:44; 13:48; 15:35; 16:32; 19:10, 20). Not that a person couldn’t use a synonym with Jews like “Son of Man” and “Messiah” without the exact same connotation being meant.
Incidentally, I heard about this article from Phil Johnson’s twitter. I wonder if you’re familiar at all with the “Lordship Controversy”. That Jesus was presented as “Lord” in the early gospel presentations is one of John MacArthur’s focal points. I am a big fan of both MacArthur and Wright. I know there are many opponents who disagreed with MacArthur’s point that a person MUST accept Jesus as Lord and not Savior only. But the contentions of Wright and MacArthur are similar in emphasis, though different in other obvious ways.
All that to say, I’m surprised this isn’t more clear to you than what I’m seeing back. Did you find yourself more on the free grace side that de-emphasized “Lordship salvation”? Either way, I expect we can find common ground in looking at those verses in Acts.
Wright does say “Jesus is Lord” is the summary of the gospel. Sometimes Wright’s rhetoric may sound (out of context) like those three words are fine on their own. But if you read chapters, not paragraphs of Wright (long-winded as he can be), he insists on showing why a clear definition of “Jesus” and “Lord” were crucial in Paul’s time.
Just finally, Romans 10 seems to clear up why all this is important ” if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”. So, there you have the reason Jesus must be proclaimed as the crucified, risen Lord.
It seems to me that you either do not grasp or you are ignoring my main objections to your argument about justification: (1) it is a diversionary tactic to avoid the fact that I have proven that, according to Acts, the gospel is about “getting saved” after all, and (2) the lack of exposition on justification in Acts does nothing to support Wright’s views.
I have examined your new list of references in Acts, and I conclude that they do not demonstrate the thesis that is really at issue here, namely, that the gospel all boils down to the “royal announcement” that Jesus is Lord. That is Wright’s specific contention. He does not merely contend that Jesus was “announced as ‘Lord,'” but rather that that announcement is, in fact, the gospel.
And not to put too sharp a point on it, but all your references actually do is demonstrate that Jesus was referred to as Lord, not that he was “announced” as such, per se. The only reference that might qualify as such an announcement is Acts 2:36; surely not any of the ones you’ve provided.
Yes, of course I am familiar with the “Lordship Controversy.” It began the year I was born (1959) with a published debate between Everett F. Harrison and John R.W. Stott, and I first read about it my first year in Bible College (1977-1978). By that time it was simmering in the writings of various authors, and continued to do so until it exploded with John MacArthur’s book, The Gospel According to Jesus, in 1988. By then it had been going on for nearly 30 years, and I was quite aware of it for at least 10.
I don’t see any connection whatsoever between the “Lordship Controversy” and the issues with N.T. Wright. As for my position: I am thoroughly Reformed in my theology. As a PCA elder I have taken a vow to uphold the Westminster Standards (Confession of Faith, Shorter and Larger Catechisms), and I also joyfully subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity (Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dort). I also love the Second Helvetic Confession. Perhaps that tells you something about where I land on this controversy.
The fishermen opinion-
I have not read Wright from beginning to end. I have read little of him actually , small amounts through the years in the way of excerpts. I have actually paid little attention to him. I immerse myself in scripture instead of reading theological position.I usually check something out when it seems to be impacting another believer and/or it is presented to me. So, because of a Christian ‘voice’ who sent me a ‘teahing’ through email and used NT Wright as the source of the opinion I did some searching . I did this because I discerned a counterfeit within what was presented. This particular ‘teaching’ related to Romans 8. My thoughts were directly related to what the ‘teacher’ presented. In my search for wanting to see a more complete picture I started to google direct questions of NT Wright’s position. I did not have to read all works of NT Wright from beginning to end to discern I found something of his interpretation of scripture to be in error.
So, for instance I googled ” how does NT Wright believe someone is saved”. I did not read commentary on NT Wright. I read his answer to the question.
What I discerned: it appears NT Wright systematic framework includes an understating individual salvation of a human and over emphasizing the whole of creations redemption , equalling human redemption with the new creation of everything else. He sets this up by creating a tension that present Christianity doesn’t understand the focus isn’t salvation
, as in present escape to heaven , but that God will make everything new. In this, he sets up a straw man by discribing a presumption of an overall Christian position instead of who actually holds what he presented. Anotherwards, he is arguing against a ghost in order to present his interpretation.
For example , he would assume as an individual I do not understand that God is going to make the earth itself new. I do. He assumes I believe I weigh salvation on an I am escaping hell. I do not. My hope is in the resurrection and death and sin will be done away with.
Summed up – as he describes his interpretation it sounds to me as he is theogically overreacting to individualism in the church . It sounds to me he is understating that salvation comes to us as individuals who are heirs with Christ unto a new creation . Just as it is wrong for individuals to ignore the relationship of the body in Christ , found in local covenant relationship, it is wrong for an individual Christian( NT Wright) to ignore that we are first saved as individuals through our faith that Jesus has saved ME from my sin and death while knowing he is the resurrected Lord because it is what I am born again to that I may receive with it the promises of the family which will someday be revealed with the entire bribe of Christ in a new heavens and new earth .
Salvation of individuals and creation are in view under different conditions. Creation is under subjection of fustration, and will be made new no matter what in the future.Individuals who are condemned already must come into the light to become a new creation in Christ in the present, thereby receiving the future promises of all things that will be made new.
I wonder if his position has become an interpretation in reaction to an escotology he disagrees with and then a presentation of his escotological position as he understands revelation.
Thanks for joining the conversation. I would recommend you read a book by Wright or watch an entire message he gives on youtube. Either of these would be more productive for you than reactions and interpretations other people make online.
As I mentioned I read NT Wright himself on certain responses to specific questions. Therefore, he has submitted to context of a question. Also the “teacher” quoted his work. ( Original source)
Something I did not touch on that I have grave concern with NT Wright is with regard to defining human. Then of the same related concern : ” sin is missing the mark of genuine humanness.”
Nt Wright quote:
“If you worship idols or whatever you’re saying that you want to get life from these things – but they cannot give you that. They can give you little bits of pleasure but they cannot give you life. So salvation is rescue from idolatry and death. And between idolatry and death is this word “sin” because sin is what happens when you are worshipping an idol, whether it’s money or sex or power – you will do things which are sub-human which are not genuinely human. They are not reflecting God in the world and do not reflect the world back to God. Sin is missing the mark of genuine humanness.”
You can find the completed article here: https://hellochristian.com/2262-what-it-actually-means-to-be-saved-according-to-nt-wright
NT Wright: “The other thing which I think is underneath the rather sharp opposition, not only from Dr. Piper but from some others, is my insistence–in line with Paul’s own vision of renewed creation in Romans 8 and elsewhere–that Paul saw the gospel and “salvation” not in terms of a “spiritual” escape from the present world but as the transformation of this present world.”
“Third, I understand Paul’s doctrine of justification as eschatological, that is, the justification of the faithful in the present time is both the fulfilment of the long story of Israel and the anticipation of the eventual verdict to be delivered on the last day, as in Romans 2.1-16 and 8.1-30.”
N.T. Wright: What’s missing is the big, Pauline picture of God’s gospel going out to redeem the whole world, all of creation, with ourselves as part of that.
You can find the complete article here:https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/trevinwax/2009/01/13/interview-with-nt-wright-responding-to-piper-on-justification/
I have read more. If there is something you would like to challenge in what I originally wrote as inaccurate, please do.
In that case I will move to an original source discussion in any original source you provide.
You are correct to point out that Wright has “submitted to the context of the question” in answering briefly on certain videos. But when you, someone who openly acknowledges not having read a book or watched an entire message, critiques him as you do, you make a lot of assumptions beyond the scope of those videos.
For instance, you write, “Something I did not touch on that I have grave concern with NT Wright is with regard to defining human. Then of the same related concern : ‘sin is missing the mark of genuine humanness.'”
Now, to you, that quote reveals that Wright has an inadequate view of sin and humanity. But that quote really says nothing about either if you don’t know how he defines those things. If you want to know how he defines them, you must read his book. And if you did, you would see that “genuine humanness” throughout Wright’s writings, is epitomized in Christ. And “missing the mark” is actually a literal definition of one of the most common words Paul uses for sin.
Wright is articulating something that very few academic evangelical conservatives would ever argue. But he’s saying it in a way that is different. And because he uses different pharses to say essentially the same thing you or I already believe, we tend to view it with more skepticism.
On the other hand, there are things I disagree with Wright about. But the concerns raised in this blog post (and many of the comments in reply) show that most of these people just haven’t done the work to know what he means by what he says. He’s long-winded, and he’s contentious, but quite often he’s right. And in the areas he is wrong, he’s not as wrong as many people seem to think. That’s why you should read a book of his or listen to a lecture or two online.
The thread is not giving us an orderly ‘reply’ option,
I am responding with an available ‘reply’ to your last response and it may be placed out of order. ( I asked Don about this and he is aware.)
Because of what I wrote and your response I am deciding if my choice in time would be invested as it should be to what would be a lengthier response or possible further discourse. I am confident edification and glory to God needs to be the heart of our work or anyone who may read our engagement .
In this short response I simply want to state that I would need to write in a lengthier response an addressing to the assumptions you cast as if to be my understanding. So, I simply state to the reader assumptions are present on things I did not assert .
Thanks thus far,
[David > The word “gospel” refers throughout the ancient world to a royal announcement of a new king. It is not “good news” because it repairs any individual’s life, though it may and often did. … Nowhere in the Bible will you read “good news for you” or “good news for me”. What is good about the good news is the Person to Whom it refers, Jesus. And yes, getting that right and believing it makes it a good change in yours and my life. No one is denying that. But that happens when the gospel is applied to a person who accepts it. And the gospel is good regardless of whether someone does that. Because Jesus is good whether or not someone sees that He is.
This strikes me as a very odd perspective.
The first time that “good news” is mentioned in the Bible [in a Gospel context], it’s in Isaiah. (There are a couple references to the “good news” of the death of Saul, and the restoration of David’s kingdom, but those aren’t trying to be Gospel-centric)
[paraphrased for brevity]
Isaiah 40: Lift up your voice and proclaim the Good News: “Behold your God!” He comes with might to rescue His people and destroy His enemies. He tends His flock and gathers them in His bosom and gently leads them.
Isaiah 52: How lovely on the mountain are the feet of those who bring good news: “Our God reigns!” He bares His arm so the whole world sees His salvation. Depart from there [Babylon, ie the world]; touch no unclean thing. Who can believe this proclamation of Good News? He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows. He bore our grief. Stricken and smitten by God. Wounded for our transgressions; crushed for our iniquities. All we like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. It was the will of the Lord to crush Him. Out of the anguish of His [the Son’s] soul, He [the Father] will see and be satisfied. By His knowledge shall the righteous one make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities.
Isaiah 60 – They will come bringing gold and frankincense and Good News, the praised of the Lord. Nations shall hope for Me, for the Name of the Lord your God and the Holy One of Israel has made you beautiful. Nations who do not serve you will perish and be laid waste.
Is 61 – The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me because the Lord has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God.
In all these references, the Good News is not just the declaration of a new Sheriff in town, but that the Lord is
1) rescuing His people (to their benefit!) and
2) judging His enemies (to their destruction!)
Paul echoes the same in 2 Thess 1 when he consoles his persecuted brethren by saying they will receive relief when Jesus comes in blazing glory to rescue them and destroy His enemies with “flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus” (v8)
How then can anyone say that we don’t find the Gospel given as “good news for you”?!?! It is presented as precisely that: Good News for those who believe. And they receive it with praise, adoration and cheering (both in Isaiah and in 2 Thess 1 ..and Rev 19, where they rejoice to see God’s enemies destroyed and tormented: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” 19:3, repeated in 4 and 5)
And how does someone say that Sin (and not Christ) is punished on the cross when Is 53 makes it abundantly clear that Christ Himself is being punished by the Father?
Are we then to suppose that sin – and not sinners – are punished in hell?? Is that not a necessary corollary?
I have not read Wright, but I find Ron’s article deeply troubling. How is it that so many evangelicals hold Wright in high regard while he spits on the sacred ground evangelicals stand on?
Good call. His trajectory has been obvious for a while.
I agree with the article that Wright has gone squishy on the atonement. God condemned “sin in the flesh,” not merely “sin,” and the price that Jesus personally paid “in the flesh” is the heart of Anglican worship, which NT, an Anglican and once bishop of our Church, seems sadly to miss.
I agree with NT Wright that Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith is a polemical argument with a narrow application. It means one thing and one thing only, that Paul’s Gentile converts are equal and fellow believers with Jewish Christians. Therefore, much of Protestant preaching is based on poor exegesis, committing a logical fallacy called ultra vires.
English is a language with both definite and indefinite articles so that one can distinguish between “a righteousness based on law” and “a righteousness based on faith.” Greek has the article so that one must choose in English between being “justified by faith” or “justified by the Faith” when the article appears as a modifier, which it does in critical Pauline passages. Latin has no articles at all so the meaning must be determined by literary context. Traditional translations since the Vulgate have errors in that detail. Ironically, the Geneva Bible properly translates several passages that say we are justified by the Faith.
The plain salvation-historical truth of Paul’s doctrine is that we are justified by the Faith of Jesus Christ, tangentially when we believe in Christ, and not by works of the Law. In other words, Christianity has superseded Judaism as the world’s only true religion. In the ancient world to believe in someone meant that you both trusted his work of salvation and followed his example in life. Christianity was first called the Way. Not following the Way of the Master meant that you were unfaithful to him. How does that save you? It makes you only a user and not a lover.
So, the religion of Christianity is not based on faith alone and saving faith is not a gift from God to an individual that is pre-selected. James wrote, “A man is justified by works and not by faith alone,” and that “[saving] faith is completed by works.” Believing in Christ is a commandment; so, whoever does it is “doing the work that God requires.”
So, Wright is correct that final justification follows from a lifetime of obedience to the Faith once and for all time delivered to the saints. Saints are those that, having endured all, endure to the end.
But this is where it gets really dicey with Wright: he has not fully accepted the apocalyptic vision of the New Testament. If as the Creed says we believe in “the life of the world to come,” why are we wasting time and energy to fix up the mess of “the present evil age?” The Faith and all that it requires, from first believing (initial sanctification through imparted righteousness in the gift of the Spirit, IOW being born again) to being sanctified whole (final justification, “whoever loves is born of God and knows God”), is preparation for eternity not for the transformation of the world.
This world is toast.
Thank you for your comment. However, I do not believe that an accurate reading of Galatians or Romans supports anything Wright has said about justification, or anything you have written in his defense. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Dear Ron, an “accurate” reading depends on accurate translation, which the Geneva Bible provides.
It’s ridiculous to think that those who do not obey God will go to heaven. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets … your righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees … You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
Paul wrote that the immoral will not enter the kingdom as did Jesus … a far cry from salvation by faith alone.
The simple passages explain the difficult ones.
“Without holiness shall no man see the Lord.”
Start there, Brother.
Regarding your appeal to the Geneva Bible, I refer to my previous comment (marked 6:39 pm).
Regarding your use of Matt. 5:17-18 and 1 Cor. 6:9-10, I would refer you to John 7:19, Rom. 3:10-20, especially when read in the light of John 6:39, 10:27-28, and Phil. 1:6.
I also recommend the Reformed confessions’ and catechisms’ treatments of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, but that reflects my own theological bias, and not the official position of MCOI.
I would also address your remark: “The plain salvation-historical truth of Paul’s doctrine is that we are justified by the Faith of Jesus Christ, tangentially when we believe in Christ, and not by works of the Law.” In the context of the NPP, you seem to be echoing a particular emphasis of Wright, who (contra James D.G. Dunn) would translate πίστις Χριστοῦ (pistis Christou) as “faithfulness of Christ” rather than “faith in Christ.” The upshot of Wright’s thesis is that Paul’s point is that we are “vindicated” (Wright often prefers that word to “justified”) specifically because of Christ’s faithfulness, and not that the instrument of justification is faith alone. On the one hand, there is something appealing in Wright’s thesis, since it would seem to lend support the very thing he denies: the imputed righteousness of Christ to believers. On the other hand, it also seems to cut the ground out from under justification by faith alone.
In any case, you seem to be basing your support for Wright’s thesis on the use of the Greek article, and you think the Geneva Bible (1599) supports you in this. The problem is that you make two key errors.
First, there are only five instances in the NT of the phrase “justified by faith,” occurring in four verses. In none of them do we find the word for “faith” preceded by the article, and only two of them, both located in the same verse (not “several”), does the Geneva Bible use the definite article with “faith” (i.e., “justified by the faith”). The passages are as follows:
Rom. 3:28: δικαιοῦσθαι πίστει (dikaiousthai pistei)
Geneva Bible: “iustified by faith”
Rom. 5:1: Δικαιωθέντες…ἐκ πίστεως (dikaiōthentes…ek pisteōs)
Geneva Bible: “iustified by faith”
Gal. 2:16a: δικαιοῦται…διὰ πίστεως (dikaioutai…dia pisteōs)
Geneva Bible: “iustified…by the faith”
Gal. 2:16b: δικαιωθῶμεν ἐκ πίστεως (dikaiōthōmen ek pisteōs)
Geneva Bible:: “iustified by the faith”
Gal. 3:24: ἐκ πίστεως δικαιωθῶμεν (ek pisteōs dikaiōthōmen)
Geneva Bible: “made righteous by faith”
In Gal. 2:16, the GB translators supplied the word “the” twice, even though the Greek text does not have the article before πίστεως (pisteōs) in either occurence of the word in the verse. So, no, this was not a case of the GB translators supplying a more “proper” translation than our modern versions, because the article is not in the Greek text. The most likely reason for them supplying a definite article in English is that in both cases “justified by faith” is part of a larger expression, either “faith in Jesus Christ,” or “faith in Christ,” and the 16th century conventions of English style required inserting it in such cases, whereas today it does not.
This conclusion is supported by the fact that when we look at the use of the noun δικαιοσύνη (dikaiousunē) in such phrases as “righteousness by faith,” not only does the GB, in one instance, supply a definite article when there is no article in the Greek, but in another instance it does not supply a definite article when a Greek article is present:
Rom. 3:22: δικαιοσύνη…διὰ πίστεως (dikaiosunē…dia pisteōs)
Geneva Bible: “righteousnesse…by the faith”
Rom. 4:13: δικαιοσύνης πίστεως (dikaiosunēs pisteōs)
Geneva Bible: “righteousnesse of faith”
Rom 9:30: δικαιοσύνην…τὴν ἐκ πίστεως (dikaiosunē…tēn ek pisteōs)
Geneva Bible: “righteousnes which is of faith.”
The question of whether πίστις Χριστοῦ (pistis Christou) should be rendered “faithfulness of Christ” rather than “faith in Christ” involves more than the specifics of Greek syntax. I recommend reading ‘Faith in Christ’ or “‘Faithfulness of Christ’? What’s the Difference?” by Collin Hansen, “‘Faith in Christ’ or ‘Faithfulness of Christ,'” by Trevin Wax, and The Faith of Jesus Christ: Exegetical, Biblical, and Theological Studies, edited by Michael F. Bird and Preston M. Sprinkle.
But there are instances where the definite article does appear to modify faith and then says it depends on faith. We have the fallacy of a false choice here. The Faith calls people to believe. Gentile converts did believe just as Abraham believed when the word of promise came to him and 400 years before the Law, meaning Judaism.
But again, it is ridiculous to think that God will save anyone that does not obey in in everything he says.
Given Paul’s limited scope, i.e. a polemic against Jews and Judaizing teachers, the clear meaning is that it is not faith alone but faith in the inception for his Gentile converts. Let them in so that they can have access to the full grace of God!
Romans 8 is key. The righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in those that walk according to he Spirit and we are heirs “provided” we suffer with him in order that we might be glorified with him.
Paul never said faith alone. He said the Faith apart from the Law.
As Wesley said, there is no place in Scripture that says Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer.
It says faith is reckoned as righteousness and that faith is completed by works.
“But there are instances where the definite article does appear to modify faith and then says it depends on faith.”
Then why haven’t you shown me any? I would submit it’s because there aren’t any. Although I invite any examples you might care to provide.
Even in the example I provided from Rom. 9:30, δικαιοσύνην…τὴν ἐκ πίστεως (dikaiosunē…ek pisteōs), the article τὴν (tēn) cannot be translated into readable English because it does not modify “faith” (πίστεως/pisteōs)—in fact, it technically can’t, because the article is accusative and πίστεως (pisteōs) is genetive. Instead, it’s modifying the genitive phrase ἐκ πίστεως (ek pisteōs), “by (or from) faith).” But if we translated the article, we’d end up with something like, “righteousness the by faith,” or, perhaps, “the by-faith righteousness.” (Cf. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, 235-236.) While, the latter options may have its charms, such as they are, it doesn’t convey the meaning of the phrase any better than the more readable, “righteousness by faith.”
So, exactly where it is that “the definite article does appear appear to modify faith and then says it depends on faith?” May I be so bold as to assume that you are referring to the RSV and ESV translations of Rom. 4:16 and Phil. 3:9, the only two places of which I am aware where any version uses the phrase “depends on faith?” Well, let’s take a look at them:
Rom. 4:16: Διὰ τοῦτο ἐκ πίστεως (Dia touto ek pisteōs), “That is why it depends on faith.” No article here!
Phil. 3:9: δικαιοσύνην ἐπὶ τῇ πίστει (dikaiosunēn epi tē pistei), “the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” Okay, now we have something to talk about!
So, just because you see an article here in the Greek, you want to translate this phrase as, “the righteousness from God that depends on the faith?”
Well, if you read the entire Greek verse, it should be immediately clear that the τῇ (tē) in the final phrase is anaphoric—or as I was taught to call it in my first year of Greek, “the article of previous reference.” Its only function is to identify this use of the noun with its prior use in the same context. “The first mention of the substantive is usually anarthrous [i.e., lacking the article] because it is merely being introduced. But subsequent mentions of it use the article, for the article is now pointing back to the substantive previously mentioned.” (Wallace, ibid., 217-218. Emphasis his.) In this case, the τῇ (tē) in τῇ πίστει (tē pistei) is telling Paul’s readers that he’s referring to the same faith he mentioned in the previous phrase, τὴν διὰ πίστεως Χριστοῦ (tēn dia pisteōs Christou), “through faith in Christ,” where πίστεως (pisteōs), “faith,” is anarthrous because it’s the first time it’s being mentioned in the immediate context. (Yes, that prior phrase has an article, τὴν [tēn], but once again, just as in Rom. 9:30, we’re looking at an article the modifies the phrase διὰ πίστεως Χριστοῦ [dia pisteōs Christou], “through faith in Christ,” not πίστεως [pisteōs], “faith,” itself, because τὴν [tēn] is accusative and πίστεως [pisteōs] is genitive.)
But then, even if we were to find a specimen where what is normally translated as “justified by faith” could legitimately be translated as “justified by the faith”—and thus far we have not—what exactly do you think that would mean? In English, “the faith” often serves as an idiomatic shorthand for the content of our faith, the things which we believe. In Greek, the phrase ἡ πίστις (hē pistis), “the faith,” often carries this same meaning (e.g., Acts 6:7; 2 Cor. 13:5; Col. 1:23), but often it doesn’t (e.g., Acts 3:16; Eph. 1:15; 2 Tim. 2:18), or whether it does is debatable (2 Tim. 4:7), and there are times when it carries this meaning but does not have the article (e.g., Rom. 14:22).
Is that what you’re saying? You’re not being very clear. But if that’s what you’re saying, are you suggesting that we are being saved by our orthodoxy? And, in any case, I think you are misconstruing the function of the Greek article. Wallace has quite a lot to say about this (ibid., especially 209ff.).
So you’re saying that we must achieve sinless perfection before we can be saved? I’m not sure how else to read you here.
I have found no place where Paul uses the phrase χωρὶς νόμου (chōris nomou), “apart from the law” in conjunction with the phrase ἡ πίστις (hē pistis), “the faith.” He uses χωρὶς νόμου (chōris nomou) three times, in Rom. 3:21, and 7:8-9. Additionally, he uses the phrase χωρὶς ἔργων νόμου (chōris ergōn nomou), “apart from works of [the] law” in Rom. 3:28. And out of all these cases, only in Rom. 3:21 and 28 is πίστις (pistis), “faith,” found in the context, when Paul refers in v. 22 to δικαιοσύνη…θεοῦ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (dikaiosunē…theou dia pisteōs Iēsou Christou), “[the] righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ”—and again: there is no article in the Greek before “faith!”
So, contrary to your statement, Paul did not say “the Faith apart from the Law.”
But in addition to telling us that the faith that saves is “apart from the law,” and thus “apart from the works of the law,” he also said that “God counts righteousness apart from works”—ὁ θεὸς λογίζεται δικαιοσύνην χωρὶς ἔργων (ho theos logizetai dikaiosunēn chōris ergōn)—i.e., any works! Paul repeated tells us that our salvation is οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων (ouk ex ergōn), “not as a result of works,” (Eph. 2:9), οὐ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα ἡμῶν (ou kata ta erga hēmōn) “not because of our works,” (2 Tim. 1:9), and οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων τῶν ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ ἃ ἐποιήσαμεν ἡμεῖς (ouk ex ergōn tōn en dikaiosunē a epoiēsamen hēmeis), “not because of works done by us in righteousness,” (Tit 3:5).
What seems truly ridiculous to me is that anyone can say that God demands from a sinner obedience “in everything he says” before He will grant that person salvation when the entire the NT actually condemns that message. It insists that no sinner is capable of rendering such obedience, and that, in fact the only way any sinner can be saved is to have Christ take the penalty of that person’s sins upon Himself as God counts Christ’s righteousness as if it were the sinner’s. As Paul wrote, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,” i.e., the sinless Christ Himself suffered the penalty of our sins, “so that in him,” i.e., by being placed in him “who knew no sin,” so that when God looks at us He sees us clothed in His righteousness, “we,” i.e., we who knew no righteousness, because of our lost, sinful condition (cf. Rom. 3:10-20), “might become the righteousness of God,” i.e., have the very righteousness earned by the incarnate Second Person of the Trinity credited to our account with God! (2 Cor 5:21 ESV)
So, then, according to this and other passages in the NT, Wesley was just plain wrong. The only way to be saved is to “be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith,” (Phi 3:9 ESV).
Faith is reckoned as righteousness on the ground of the righteousness that belongs to faith’s object, namely, Christ. And yes, faith is completed by works, but only in the sense that works demonstrate the reality of the faith which is the only means by which we receive Christ’s righteousness, in order to be justified before God. We are not saved by grace through faith plus works. We are saved completely apart from works, and thus by faith alone.
Thank you, Ron,
Here are key passages properly translated fro the Geneva Bible:
To wit, the righteousness of God by the faith of Jesus Christ, unto all, and upon all that believe. (Romans 3:22)
To shew at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and a justifier of him which is of the faith of Jesus. (Romans 3:26)
Know that a man is not justified by the works of the Law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we, I say, have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the Law, because that by the works of the Law, no flesh shall be justified. (Galatians 2:16)
But the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by the faith of Jesus Christ should be given to them that believe. (Galatians 3:22)
And might be found in him, that is, not having my own righteousness, which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, even the righteousness which is of God through faith, (Philippians 3:9).
I’m getting the impression that you do not read most of my comments, or, if you do, you don’t read them thoroughly.
I have already addressed Rom. 3:22, Gal. 2:16, and Phil. 3:9, as follows
2017/07/29 at 6:39 pm—Rom. 3:22: No article in the Greek text!
2017/07/29 at 6:39 pm—Gal. 3:16: No article in the Greek text!
2017/07/30 at 3:43 am—Phil. 3:9: The article is anaphoric, and properly untranslated.
As I explained in my previous comments, the Geneva Bible seems to have inserted the article for stylistic reasons that do not apply in current English usage.
This leaves Rom. 3:26 and Gal. 3:22:
Rom. 3:26: τὸν ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ (ton ek pisteōs Iēsou Christou): The accusative masculine article modifies the genitive phrase, not the genitive feminine word πίστεως (pisteōs)!
Gal. 3:22: ἐκ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (ek pisteōs Iēsou Christou): No article in the Greek text!
In these two cases, the Geneva Bible was also resorting to what was then contemporary English style and not the principles of literal translation. If you reread my previous comments it should bring you up-to-date on why all the verses you have thus far submitted, including the ones in your most recent comment, fail to validate your thesis.
Yes, sometimes the definite article is supplied in English where it does not appear in the Greek for the same reason: it makes more sense, especially given what happened: see Acts 15.
Plus, justification is not a forensic term but a logical one answering the question, “What justification is there for letting the Gentile believers in without being circumcised?”
Paul’s Gentile converts believed the Gospel just as Abraham believed the word of promise given to him. His faith as reckoned as righteousness.
It is not the righteousness of Christ that is reckoned to us but our faith is reckoned as righteousness … and faith is completed by works.
TO WIT, if it is a commandment to believe in Christ and a person believes in Christ, and keeps on believing, then he has done the work God requires and is saved by works as dozens of NT passages teach.
Again, it is not work in general that Paul rejects but works of the Law specifically.
hat’s all; God bless you, Ron.
The Faith is everything the NT Says.
A sinner can be saved by obedience when he repents, is baptized, and receives the Spirit, as Peter said on the Day of Pentecost. Acts 2:38 Then the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in those that walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:4
That pretty much confirms what I was thinking you that probably meant. But I’ll maintain my stand. “The Faith” is not only everything that the NT says, but it’s everything the OT says as well. It is the whole counsel of God. But the whole counsel of God is not the gospel message. In that counsel there is law and there is gospel—as well as other things, such as wisdom, ecclesiastical instruction, psalms of worship, and so on.
The NT says a lot of things that are not the gospel message. It tells us to take care of widows and orphans, but that is not the gospel message. It tells husbands to love their wives, but that is not the gospel message. They are divinely-inspired implications of how we are to live in light of the gospel message, which seems to me that Wright and his followers are trying to drive the gospel in reverse.
Can we have the permission to translate this article into spanish providing a link to the original one?
I was with you until your admiration of Piper who, himself, has a notebook full of more than questionable teachings and impulsive tweets.
Never minding that and to the topic, Wright is an academician first, as I have read and observed. His periphrastic writing method is exhausting and tedious, at times. But kudos to his pursuit of every iota of detail. That is what a good academician does which, somewhat ironically, is his Achilles heal while simultaneously, is what appears to attract so many aspiring theologians to his work. The volume of work and attention to minutia is quite impressive.
All that said, in the end, there is so much to sift through and throw away that what he might offer in the way of edification is so intertwined with his errant Pauline doctrine and philosophical exegesis that you’d get more out of a Jack Hyles sermon than one of his entire books.
Thank you for commenting—and forgive me for not checking with your notebook before expressing my “admiration” for Piper by quoting him, or discussing an episode from his career, or whatever you think I did. I didn’t realize that such things are automatic expression of esteem.
But, of course, you know and I know they aren’t. And perhaps you also know that slamming something because of its source rather than its content is an example of the genetic fallacy (a conclusion based solely on origin rather than meaning), and when it’s personal as you’ve made it it’s also an ad hominem fallacy (a reaction directed at the person rather than what they are saying). So you’re two-for-two in fallacy attempts here.
Now, I don’t want to mislead you: I do admire Piper. We have our differences. I know about them. He doesn’t. (Which, of course, is because we never met, and if we did they wouldn’t be the first things I brought up.)
If there are points on which you and I agree, they would be that Wright is devoted to details (although “attention to minutiae” is hardly the gold standard of scholarship), and his conclusions on Pauline doctrine are errant. But as for whether there is anything to get out of a Jack Hyles sermon other than a migraine headache and training in anti-social tendencies, I’ll leave it for others more expert in that area to decide.
Attention to minutiae may not be the gold standard of scholarship, but then I didn’t make the claim (ahem, details, details) I only noted that is what a good academician does but ht to the correct spelling of minutiae.
I am a bit fascinated by my mild comment regarding Piper being interpreted as a slam, however. A bit of an overreaction, eh?
Anyway, glad we agree, Wright ain’t right.
I guess I am confused about how Wright can be leaving evangelicalism since he has always been, to my knowledge, an Anglican theologian. How can he leave something he never professed to belong to in the first place? Perhaps it was evangelicals that jumped into Wright’s camp, not quite understanding his theology from the outset and now they are the ones saying goodbye because he doesn’t line up perfectly with their theological nuances?
Thank you for your comment. Ever since the 16th century Protestant Reformation there has existed a strong evangelical wing within the Anglican communion. During the 19th century, Bishop J.C. Ryle’s books were read by the same audience that followed Charles H. Spurgeon. And Anglicanism continues to feature influential evangelicals. J.I. Packer and John R.W. Stott have been two of the most prominent over the past 50 years or more.
I don’t know to what extent N.T. Wright has explicitly identified himself as an evangelical, but he’s clearly staked out most of his academic and publishing associations within the evangelical community. His books are published by evangelical publishing companies (e.g., IVP, Eerdmans, Baker, Zondervan, SPCK, etc.), he has published articles in evangelical journals (e.g., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Evangelical Quarterly, Themelios, The Expository Times, etc.), all of the controversies he’s actively participated in have been within evangelicalism, or have defended evangelical positions against outsiders (e.g., his book on the bodily resurrection of Christ), and he has been repeatedly labeled as an evangelical by prominent evangelical theologians—and I’ve never heard him disavow the label.
Like all Anglicans (except the liberal apostate ones that we are actively isolating through GAFCON, AAC, and the ACNA) NT Wright calls himself Reformed. He does not want to give up that descriptor, though he may fall short in many ways, as I think he does.
This summer we Anglicans consecrated a missionary bishop for Scotland because the Church there approved homosexual weddings, which proves they fell away. Justin Welby is nervous because he knows we will come after him next if the Church of England does not hold.
I suppose that a Reformed Catholic is not the same as a Pop-evangelical but we have several kinds of real Evangelicals in the Anglican Church: Calvinists, Wesleyans, Charismatics, and nondescript West Coast-types that I do not pretend to understand. Even our Anglo-Catholics are solid on PSA. That is what makes us Anglicans and not Roman Catholics. We have people that have died for that and I know some that are currently risking their lives for it.
Wright and I have a mutual friend that studied at Saint Andrews. I corresponded with Wright and, though being gracious to reply, he did not give me a straight answer but wanted me to buy his book.
That’s all I know and offer it here as both an appeal to be fair and to consider facts. JI Packer, BTW, is solid on PSA.
I thank you for the article as it was helpful on a number of fronts. I am writing a PhD dissertation on Wright’s doctrine of justification so this was helpful of some of his current ideas. I had stopped with his Paul and the faithfulness of God.
I am of the opinion that you were entirely right to call Wright a heretic.
The list of key doctrines that he holds that are contrary to Scripture are actually quite long and they have been there almost from the beginning of his writings.
1. Denial of the doctrine of imputation
2. Redefining justification to be covenant faithfulness (God’s side) and covenant membership (man’s side) instead of the two-fold aspect of justification that is “the legal and formal acquittal from guilt by God as judge” and the equally important “pronouncement of the sinner as righteous.”
3. Wright has argued for #2 because he suggests that it is only the national sins of Israel that were dealt with at the cross. Personal sins are called “petty” in one of his books. He has a very low view of the effect of individual sins which I am sure is one of the ways that he justifies his idea of the atonement that you presented here.
4. His idea of the timing of justification is that it is in three tenses (Past, present, and future). He argues this because he views justification as a corporate function instead of the individual being justified at the moment of salvation. It is also how he introduces his faulty concept of justification being based on the totality or the whole of the life lived. If one remembers that sin is both the things I have done that were against God and the right things I should have done then it is impossible for anyone to believe for a moment that they have lived in such a way that it would qualify as a basis of justification. The only basis for our justification is the finished work of Christ, where we are acquitted and forgiven of both kinds of sins.
5. Wright denies there is a literal hell and he also denies that there is a literal heaven, arguing that this world will be transformed. As with many of his ideas there is a grain of truth here that makes the lie seem more attractive. There will be new earth in the eternal state but there will also be a new heavens. Yet there is even now a literal place called heaven and this sin cursed world is not it.
Again, thank you for the helpful article.
Hahaha. The “ranting”? Not in the least. You have cherry picked Tom Wright. Your claims about things he’s said are often wrong. But thank you so much for more verbosity on dividing the church. This is really what we need: Christians disagreeing. It makes the whole thing look so attractive to people who are looking in.
I loved the entire article, except the comment where you clarified “I’m not saying NT Wright is going to hell.” Why not? You just made as compelling a case as any that his gospel is indeed, “another gospel.” It’s not even remotely close to the orthodox, Christian gospel. So? Is the Galatians 1 warning really that hospitable and “big tent” that two diametrically opposed gospels can exist side-by-side? Because if NT Wright does NOT fall under the Galatians 1 anathema, then we shouldn’t have our feathers so ruffled over his teachings; it’s just as innocent as eschatological or liturgical disagreements. It’s an acceptable gospel in that scenario, and all the urgent responses out there from you and others are overreaction. All of the urgency of your warning was lost in that one statement IMO.
I was struck by your dishonesty.
Yes NT Wright said “The Gospel is not about ‘getting saved.’” But you left out what he said next. He said “It is that but it is also about being part of the kingdom of God in the hear and now.”
He was speaking in the context of the dualism that Christians inherited from Plato and later Epicureans in denial of “thy kingdom come, on earth as in heaven.” In other words, it is about a vocation one is called to be of in the redemption and restoration Jesus began at his resurrection!
Mmmm. Listen, NT wright is highly dishonest in virtually every statement he makes. As the writer says, his arguments are generally paper houses. He DENIES the idea if an angry God, he says penal substitution (and thus all the blood sacrifices in the Bible) is pagan. The guy is a historian, do the idea he doesn’t realise he is lying is hard to believe. In my opinion, NT Wright is a serial deceiver, and he knows it.
To the writer of this article – what an excellent piece. Yes, Wright is a heretic.
He defends heretics like Steve Chalke also, and Chalke is basically a universalist or agent of the one world religion that is fast arriving.
In fact, virtually every statement I heR Wright make on YouTube in some way mocks God. You’ve only scratched the surface. I’ve heard him say Jesus’s death and ressurection was to ‘glorify man’, that God is a child abuse, that he rejects an angry God (thus he rejects the God of the Bible) that the whole of Israelite animal sacrifice is pagan in origin.
The guy clearly doesn’t care much for the truth of the Bible.
As you rightly say, any Christian with any grasp of the Bible should see his arguments are paper thin immediately.
You don’t even need any historical background to see through him IF you believe the Bible.
If you don’t believe the Bible is the Word of God, or if you are blinded by smooth talking intellectual voices then, yes, you will be fooled by NT Wright.
Will that lead to the hell he is keen to pretend doesn’t really exist or won’t be very full?
Maybe not yet, but Wrightbis fast leading people to a false ‘anything goes’ one world religion, which will definitely lead to hell.