Archive for category Justification Debate
Those who read my series of posts on the debate between John Piper and N.T. Wright must read the following interview with N.T. Wright by Trevin Wax. This is one of the clearest, most concise summaries of what exactly is at stake and which issues are on the table in the debate. Let me quote at length Wright’s response to the main question and encourage you read the rest of the interview HERE.
Trevin Wax: What would you say are the key differences between you and Piper on justification? Read the rest of this entry »
We’re comparing the differences between John Piper and N. T. Wright on Paul and the New Perspective using helpful summaries compiled by Trevin Wax featured in the June 2008 edition of Christianity Today. Today we finish up with the final comparison from Wax’s chart dealing with the question of the present and future realities of justification. What do you think?
PIPER: Present justification is based on the substitutionary work of Christ alone, enjoyed in union with him through faith alone. Future justification is the open confirmation and declaration that in Christ Jesus we are perfectly blameless before God. This final judgment accords with our works. That is, the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives will be brought forward as the evidence and confirmation of true faith and union with Christ. Without that validating transformation, there will be no future salvation.
WRIGHT: Present justification is the announcement issued on the basis of faith and faith alone of who is part of the covenant family of God. The present verdict gives the assurance that the verdict announced on the Last Day will match it; the Holy Spirit gives the power through which that future verdict, when given, will be seen to be in accordance with the life the believer has then lived.
Well, as you can see, the debate gets quite technical and complex. The conversation is heated, the stakes are high, the books have been written and each scholar has made his case. For more in-depth study of the broader academic conversation on the so-called “New Perspective” on Paul I recommend the following resources:
ESSAYS, INTERVIEWS & BLOG SERIES
We’re comparing the differences between John Piper and N. T. Wright on Paul and the New Perspective using helpful summaries compiled by Trevin Wax featured in the June 2008 edition of Christianity Today. Today we follow up the significance of the saving work of the gospel of Jesus Christ by asking the question: “How does this happen?” In other words, how does the saving work of Christ get applied to us?
PIPER: By faith we are united with Christ Jesus so that in union with him, his perfect righteousness and punishment are counted as ours (imputed to us). In this way, perfection is provided, sin is forgiven, wrath is removed, and God is totally for us. Thus, Christ alone is the basis of our justification, and the faith that unites us to him is the means or instrument of our justification. Trusting in Christ as Savior, Lord, and Supreme Treasure of our lives produces the fruit of love, or it is dead.
WRIGHT: God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ (the faithful Israelite), has come, allowing the continuation of his plan to rescue human beings, and, through them, the world. The Messiah represents his people, standing in for them, taking upon himself the death that they deserved. God justifies (declares righteous) all those who are “in Christ,” so that the vindication of Jesus upon his resurrection becomes the vindication of all those who trust in him. Justification refers to God’s declaration of who is in the covenant (this worldwide family of Abraham through whom God’s purposes can now be extended into the wider world) and is made on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ alone, not the “works of the Law” (i.e., badges of ethnic identity that once kept Jews and Gentiles apart).
Some of my observations:
1. Here the rubber meets the road in the debate. Yes, Jesus saves. But exactly how? Read the rest of this entry »
We’re comparing the differences between John Piper and N. T. Wright on Paul and the New Perspective using helpful summaries compiled by Trevin Wax featured in the June 2008 edition of Christianity Today. Today we focus on the central message of the gospel.
What is the gospel?
PIPER: The heart of the gospel is the good news that Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead. What makes this good news is that Christ’s death accomplished a perfect righteousness before God and suffered a perfect condemnation from God, both of which are counted as ours through faith alone, so that we have eternal life with God in the new heavens and the new earth.
WRIGHT: 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. When the gospel is preached, God calls people to salvation, out of sheer grace, leading them to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord.
Does anyone see any striking differences between these two understandings of the gospel?
Are they in conflict? Do they have different emphases? If so, what?
Piper’s articulation is far more traditional in it’s wording. The burden of proof therefore lies with Wright to make a case that the gospel is at its heart a royal proclamation that Jesus is King, and therefore Caesar is not. No one would disagree with the truthfulness of this claim, but why does Wright insist we move this royal decree to the center of the meaning of “the gospel” in Paul?
Next time we will tease this issue out more concretely as Piper and Wright provide an explanation of “How this happens”, i.e., how this gospel gets applied to our individual lives.
We’re comparing the differences between John Piper and N. T. Wright on Paul and the New Perspective using helpful summaries compiled by Trevin Wax in the June 2009 edition of Christianity Today. Today we focus on the question:
How do Piper and Wright differ on their understanding of first-century Judaism as the background of Paul’s writings?
PIPER: Many Jews in Jesus’ day (like the Pharisees described in the Gospels) did not see the need for a substitute in order to be right with God, but sought to establish their own righteousness through “works of the Law.” Whether keeping Sabbath or not committing adultery, these works became the basis of one’s right standing with God. The inclination to rely on one’s own ceremonial and moral acts is universal, apart from divine grace.
WRIGHT: Jews in Jesus’ day believed that the Law was given to them as people who were already in covenant with God. Therefore, the Law was not viewed as a way to earn God’s favor, but as a sign that one was already in covenant with God. The “works of the Law” are not ways to earn favor with God, but badges of covenant identity by which one determines who is in the covenant and who is not. Many Jews in Paul’s day were clinging to these identity markers (Sabbath, circumcision) in a way that made their Jewish identity exclusive. Therefore, their exclusivism was keeping the promise of God from flowing to the nations.
Well, what do you think? Do you see the monumental difference between these two views? Read the rest of this entry »
We’re comparing the differences between John Piper and N. T. Wright on Paul and the New Perspective using helpful summaries compiled by Trevin Wax featured in the June edition of Christianity Today. Today we look at “the righteousness of God.”
What does Paul mean by the righteousness of God?
PIPER: The essence of God’s righteousness is his unwavering faithfulness to uphold the glory of his name in all he does. No single action, like covenant keeping, is God’s righteousness. For all his acts are done in righteousness. The essence of human righteousness is the unwavering faithfulness to uphold the glory of God in all we do. The problem is that we all fall short of this glory; that is, no one is righteous.
WRIGHT: God’s righteousness refers to his own faithfulness to the covenant he made with Abraham. Israel has been unfaithful to this commission. What is now required, if the world’s sin is to be dealt with and a worldwide family created for Abraham, is a faithful Israelite who can be faithful to the covenant in Israel’s stead.
Some of my observations include: Read the rest of this entry »
We’re comparing the differences between John Piper and N. T. Wright on Paul and the New Perspective using helpful summaries compiled by Trevin Wax featured in the June edition of Christianity Today. Today we look at their respective views of the Law and Covenant.
What is the purpose of the Law and Covenant?
WRIGHT: God made a covenant with Abraham in order to set in motion his plan to rescue his world through Abraham’s family. God gave his people the Torah, his holy Law, as a pedagogue — a way to keep Israel, God’s wayward people, from going totally off track until the coming of the Messiah. Israel was supposed to embody the law and thus be a light to the nations. But Israel has failed at this task.
PIPER: God revealed himself through the Law, which pointed to Christ as its end and goal, commanded the obedience that comes from faith, increased transgressions, and shut the mouth of all humans because no one has performed the righteousness of the Law so as not to need a substitute.
Some of my impressions: Read the rest of this entry »