Wright’s New Book: This Is Irenic?

I have recently begun to read N. T. Wright’s new book on justification, Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision. In an earlier post, I noted that this is the book in which Wright responds to John Piper’s book on the same topic. I am not posting a full review here. I only want to make an observation about the book’s tone thus far.

Last month, there was quite a bit of discussion about IVP’s release of the endorsements of the book (see also Justin Taylor’s discussion). Though endorsers touted the book as an “irenic” response to Piper, we found the endorsements to be anything but “irenic.” We withheld judgment about the book itself since it was not yet available.

Having now read through the preface and chapter one, I have to say that Wright is getting off on the wrong foot if he’s trying to be irenic. For starters, Wright employs two patronizing images to describe his theological opponents (such as John Piper) and their traditional, reformed view of Justification.

First, he compares the likes of Piper to those who think the sun revolves around the earth. Wright describes his opponents as having a naïve confidence in their own ability to perceive and interpret the world. The sun looks like it’s moving around the world, therefore it is. The Bible appears to be teaching thus and so about justification, therefore it is. Thus Wright puts himself forward as the one who will tutor his ignorant detractors so that “the penny will drop, the ‘aha’ moment will happen, the new worldview will click into place, and all will become clear” (p. 28).

Second, Wright compares his opponents to old East German Stasi officers, men who belonged to one of the most repressive intelligence and secret police agencies in the world (p. 31). In his illustration, Stasi-theologians like Piper distort and shape the Bible in order to fit it into their own pre-existing theological commitments. Thus, Wright alleges, tradition does violence to the Bible’s true teaching among those who hold a Reformation perspective.

Wright also suggests that those with Piper’s view of justification often have nefarious motives for defending their position. Some, he says, are simply more concerned about maintaining their tradition than they are about basing their beliefs on the Bible (p. 21). Others defend their view of justification because of American culture wars and because they feel their whole way of life is being threatened by the new-fangled ideas of Wright and his ilk (p. 26). Others, he alleges, are simply trying to burnish their “reputations” and maintain their “positions” within the Christian subculture (p. 31).

And finally, the coup de grâce. Wright says that those with Piper’s view of justification have distorted the apostle Paul into “a fictitious character of our own invention, cobbled together from such Pauline jigsaw-pieces as we already know and like, forced together with the power of self-assured dogma and stuck in place with the glue of piety and pastoral concern” (p. 36). This latter item seems really to bother Wright. He wants folks to know that he too is motivated by “pastoral concern,” saying, “John Piper writes, he tells us, as a pastor. So do I” (p. 27).

All of this seems to this reader to be far more patronizing than irenic. But then again, I’m only in chapter one. Maybe it will get better.

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P.S. Don’t miss Doug Wilson’s hilarious review of Wright’s book. You can read here.

P.P.S. Al Gore tells us that he invented the internet. N. T. Wright tells us that he invented “New Perspective.” In his own words: “Questions about the ‘new perspective’ and its various rivals become less important. There are times when I wish that the phrase had never been invented; indeed, perhaps for Freudian reasons, I had quite forgotten that I had invented it myself . . . until J. D. G. Dunn, who is normally credited with it, graciously pointed out that I had used it in my 1978 Tyndale Lecture, in which, as I well remember, he was sitting in the front row” (p. 28).

49 Responses to Wright’s New Book: This Is Irenic?

  1. John Holmberg February 10, 2009 at 7:13 pm #

    Wright says no such thing about himself “inventing” the New Perspective. He said he invented the phrase, the terminology, and Dunn reminded him of this. This is far from saying he invented the whole thing (concept and belief). So nice try with the Gore comparison, but not so close.

    You have proven time and again your incapabilities to review books and your opponents. You clearly hear and read what you want to. That’s why I, and your other readers, should take these as well as subsequent posts about the topic with a grain of salt, and then go out and read the book for ourselves. Calling out somebody for not being “irenic” should be done by somebody who themselves is irenic. This call for a lack of being irenic becomes ironic; indeed, ironic to the highest degree (paronomasia).

  2. Chris Garner February 10, 2009 at 7:52 pm #

    John,

    Are you serious? Dr. Burk has not claimed to irenic as well as noted that this blog would just be an observation not a full review. Did you even read the blog?

    chris

  3. Greg February 10, 2009 at 7:53 pm #

    Oh John…come on. Can’t we all just get along? My goodness, I am so sick and tired of postmodern drivel! This is insane.

    Aren’t you hearing and reading what you want as well?

  4. Andrew February 10, 2009 at 8:39 pm #

    Dean Burk,

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Question: How did you come across a copy? Did you order the UK edition? Amazon is saying that the American version won’t be available till June.

    Andrew

  5. Darius T February 10, 2009 at 8:53 pm #

    John never once bothers to read Denny’s posts before he comments… it’s his modus operandi, you could say. John, you constantly amaze me how blind you are to your own ignorant rants. Like a good liberal, you live and think (if that’s what one calls it) based on emotion. So when Denny says something negative about someone you like, you take it personally and emotionally respond with a rant, rather than thinking for a few seconds and actually reading what Denny wrote.

  6. Russ Ware February 10, 2009 at 8:59 pm #

    This has already become one of those threads that you would just kind of like to delete and start over. But, honestly, it starts with Denny’s post. There are thoughtful things on this blog from time to time. There are some good discussions and some good challenges of thought. This post and thread is none of the above. Abort and retry!?

  7. Denny Burk February 10, 2009 at 9:13 pm #

    Andrew,

    Boyce College is sponsoring a panel discussion of Wright’s book in April featuring Mark Seifrid, Tom Schreiner, Brian Vickers, and yours truly. IVP gave us a pre-publication version of the manuscript so that our panel members might prepare for the event. So that’s where I got my copy.

    If you want a copy, I think you have two options. SPCK is the publisher for the book in the U.K., and IVP has exclusive rights in America. SPCK is releasing the book in the U.K. on February 19, but IVP is holding it back until this summer. You can either wait to buy the IVP version this summer, or you can order the SPCK version this month. You can get the SPCK version from Amazon.com.uk. Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Justification-Gods-Plan-Pauls-Vision/dp/0281060908.

    Much luf,
    Denny

  8. mike February 10, 2009 at 9:27 pm #

    i think it’s absurd that n.t. wright has to defend himself against piper. that’s like albert einstein defending his theory of relativity against a grade school teacher lol. i don’t think we can blame him for sounding unintelligible trying to argue with piper’s stuff.

    still, i think we ought to calm down and sort out both perspectives on justification. they are both within the bounds of orthodoxy.

    by the way, if someone doesn’t realize that piper is an apologist for the reformation, they should take another look! that’s his choice, and it may not be wrong, but it is what it is

  9. jeff miller February 10, 2009 at 11:14 pm #

    Although it may not be what is happening in this instance; it is pretty hard to refrain from being thankful when someone sets aside tradition in favor of the intended meaning of a biblical text. I hope the exchange among students can produce a more well focused fidelity. The benefit in understanding could be much more far reaching than we might at first glance recognize.

  10. John Holmberg February 11, 2009 at 12:39 am #

    So is Denny’s statements at the end, comparing Wright to Gore, fair? Is he not fundamentally misreading what Wright said? Was Wright not saying he coined the term, not the concept and belief, of the NP, and that Dunn reminded him of this?

    That’s what’s ironic. Denny criticizes Wright for not being irenic, then Denny is not irenic in his post and totally misrepresents Wright and misreads what he has written! I can even see this in the little paragraph he posted.

    Stuff like this is not uncommon with Denny, which is why I’m not surprised. I appreciate the name-calling though. You’re always a class-act, Darius. It’s always a pleasure to read what you write 😉

  11. Russ Ware February 11, 2009 at 12:56 am #

    This thread has turned around for the better. 🙂

  12. GLW Johnson February 11, 2009 at 9:15 am #

    I would hope that Wilson’s fellow Federal Vision followers ( Mark Horne, Jeff Meyers and especially Rick Lusk) would take note since they have repeatedly appealed to Wright’s writing for support in their understanding of the doctrinal issues surrounding justification. Lusk in particular has been outspoken in his defense of Wright.

  13. Alan K February 11, 2009 at 10:10 am #

    Denny,

    If you’ve ever met Tom Wright, I do not think you could ever conclude that he is anything less than an irenic man. Most NT scholars would not even bother to write a response to Piper. But Wright does not share such contempt. Rather, he engages.

    In the images you mentioned, Wright is most certainly finding fault with Piper’s method. But, they are not ad hominem attacks. Rather, his comments that you have cited seem to point to an interpretive culture that he finds problematic. Is he not allowed to point out what surely he has encountered in numerous emails, letters, telephone calls, seminars and conferences?

  14. Darius T February 11, 2009 at 10:14 am #

    John, please point out where I called you a name. I said you’re a liberal, but isn’t that true? I’m a conservative, but I’m not ashamed of it. If you’re ashamed of being a liberal, then don’t be one. 🙂 Nice of you to respond with more emotion.

    As for Denny’s comparison of Wright to Gore, it is 100% accurate IF YOU ACTUALLY READ WHAT HE WROTE.

    “N. T. Wright tells us that he invented “New Perspective.””

    In other words, Denny says that Wright claims to have invented the New Perspective term, since he puts it in quotes. Furthermore, I don’t see much difference between inventing a definition and inventing that which it defines, at least in this case. It’s certainly not crystal clear that Wright is seeking credit for only the term and not the idea. Wright seems to do that a lot… every quote of his is trying to set up a straw man position for the other side so he can tear it down. He reminds me of Don Quixote… always tilting at windmills as if they were menacing giants.

  15. Darius T February 11, 2009 at 10:15 am #

    “If you’ve ever met Tom Wright, I do not think you could ever conclude that he is anything less than an irenic man…”

    Alan, quick question. Do any of NT Wright’s WORDS as posted by Denny in the last few weeks indicate an irenic man on this issue?

  16. Darius T February 11, 2009 at 10:17 am #

    Also, Denny, could you clarify what the actual difference between Piper and Wright is on the subject of justification? It seems like they mostly agree but Wright wants to be contrary, so he pretends that Piper drastically disagrees with him.

  17. Brian Krieger February 11, 2009 at 10:31 am #

    I’m not sure if I am qualified to comment here since I had to look up the word paronomasia, but just to throw in a thought anyway…..
    Dr. Burk said that the reviews of the book touted it as having an irenic tone. The tone of the book as far as Dr. Burk had read is quite the opposite and has started off more bombastic and insulting. I haven’t read the book, so I can’t confirm, but what is written appears to be what is written in the book. Far from holding a peacemaking tone, it sounds like Dr. Wright is condescending (patronizing) toward those who disagree with him.

    All that said, this was a comment on merely the preface and chapter one and Dr. Burk states that from the beginning (Having now read through the preface and chapter one, I have to say that Wright is getting off on the wrong foot if he’s trying to be irenic.).

    And we should take what anyone says with a grain of salt, however, there is a vast difference between that and an “incapabilit[y] to review books”. One is a biblical admonition to weigh carefully what we hear (compared with scripture) and the other is simply an attack meant to be injurious. At least it would appear to me, anyway.

    I can understand the vitriol if Dr. Burk had said that Dr. Wright’s book was awful because Dr. Burk disagreed. That isn’t the case. The post was aimed at how the book was championed as a source of a peaceable tone and, thus far (again, only a chapter and preface into it) does much damage to that view. So for the folks who just shredded the original post, what about the book was misquoted or wrong?*

    * – John, the statement was that Wright invented “new perspective”. Not the new perspective. He mimicked Dr. Wright’s statement.

  18. Darius T February 11, 2009 at 10:35 am #

    “John, the statement was that Wright invented “new perspective”. Not the new perspective. He mimicked Dr. Wright’s statement.”

    Exactly Brian. It seems like we have to explain almost every post to some people since they don’t bother to read it themselves.

  19. Alan K February 11, 2009 at 10:40 am #

    Darius,

    I guess it depends upon what one thinks irenic looks like. I remember being at SBL in 1995 and listening to a panel discussion on the Historical Jesus with Wright as one of the panelist. I was sitting right behind Marcus Borg and Dom Crossan as Wright aggressively went after the Jesus Seminar (from method all the way to conclusions) and even looked right at the men throughout his criticisms. After the discussion ended Borg said to Crossan, “Tom was wonderful.” I guess they just weren’t that sensitive. The three went for drinks later on that evening.

    My context for understanding Tom’s character comes from elsewhere than Denny’s postings. I suggest reading his books, listening to his sermons, and looking at the exercise of his pastoral office.

  20. Brian Krieger February 11, 2009 at 10:56 am #

    I am serious when I ask this question. Would the beginning rejoinder parable in Festooned With Ribbons be considered a polemic? Or would that be an incorrect usage of polemic?

    Darius, I think that is Wilson’s question (concern?) as well:
    Perhaps this is because his insights have emerged in a fresh place — his environment of mainstream Anglicanism — which has perhaps been misleading to him. Anglicans are surprised when they discover that their bishop believes in God, and when they go on to discover a published faith in the resurrection, they begin to teeter. Is nothing stable anymore? So then when Wright surfaces in their midst as a kinder, gentler Rushdoony, nobody quite knows where to look. If you are treated like a green space alien for years, it is perhaps excusable to begin thinking you are one.

    PS: Alan, though I disagree with the argument, good comment!

  21. John Holmberg February 11, 2009 at 11:23 am #

    So if Denny meant the term “New Perspective” and not the belief, then why the comparison to Gore? Gore said he invented the actual internet, and he has been made fun of ever since. By Denny saying what he did, he is making fun of Wright and claiming he has said something absurd. Context is everything, and either way, it was a ridiculous thing to include and I don’t even understand the point of adding it in any case.

    Take a hermeneutics class.

  22. John Holmberg February 11, 2009 at 11:28 am #

    And by the way, Gore never even said he invented the internet, so Denny is even including false information in his comparison.

    http://www.snopes.com/quotes/internet.asp

  23. Chris H February 11, 2009 at 1:28 pm #

    “i think it’s absurd that n.t. wright has to defend himself against piper. that’s like albert einstein defending his theory of relativity against a grade school teacher lol. i don’t think we can blame him for sounding unintelligible trying to argue with piper’s stuff.”

    Wow Mike, and I suppose Wright’s dad could beat up Piper’s dad as well.

    If Piper is just a “grade school teacher” then why does Wright feel such a need to respond to Piper’s critiques?

  24. Ryan Kearns February 11, 2009 at 3:19 pm #

    Mike I hope you would retract the statement that Chris H. highlighted by you.

    That scholarly, exclusivist snobbery is eerily similar to how the Catholic church viewed the Bible and only a select few being able to understand it before the Reformation. Also I think Piper is more of a scholar and qualified than you realize, might want to read his book on justification instead of just putting him down.

    Rarely do I hear all the Wright defenders give me reasons for why he is either irenic/ or right, rather they just make assertions. It is not enough to just give your opinion without an argument. In addition, how is stereotyping Piper’s view a solid Biblical engagement by Wright? I am confused by that. For some reason some think it is sufficent to label Piper and consider that to be enough.

  25. Steve Hayes February 11, 2009 at 7:31 pm #

    Can one be honest – even brutally honest – and still be irenic?

    Denny and I have disagreed on a number of topics over the years, but I deeply value his friendship and always hope to remain at peace with him. I have, however, been brutally honest with him about our disagreements. My heart is irenic even though we think very differently about some issues.

    I see no problem with Wright being brutally honest about what he considers to be faulty thinking. Not sure how that makes him any less peaceful in his approach.

  26. Darius T February 11, 2009 at 8:15 pm #

    Is it “brutally honest” to inaccurate (maybe even dishonestly) portray the other side’s views? Is it irenic to compare the opposition to brutal Communist police? If so, I hope I am never brutally honest OR irenic.

  27. Ryan Kearns February 11, 2009 at 8:29 pm #

    Steve,

    I have no problem and actually find it to be refreshing and effective. Truth is though in these theological matters there is often a double standard. When Piper or a Reformed scholar is “brutally honesty” they are labeled as “nasty, dogmatic, intolerant, harsh.” And are met hazy remarks about only wanting a friendly conversation. A guy like Piper or Carson just can’t win.

  28. Steve Hayes February 11, 2009 at 11:37 pm #

    Darius,

    You haven’t even read the book! You haven’t read the context in which those comments were written. You’ve only read Denny’s description of those comments with a few quotes ripped from their overall context. I think it’s weird to review a book based on the first chapter. It tells me that you guys made up your minds about Wright’s tone before you even bothered to read the book. I think that’s short sided and sad. Am I being irenic?

    Ryan,

    You’re right. I think we can chalk this whole thing up to the fact that people don’t know how to disagree without being disagreeable. Society on the whole doesn’t know what to do with the idea of a goodwill disagreement. Unfortunately, this thread summarizes the fact that the Christian community talks “at” each other instead of “to” each other. We’re forced to choose sides based on our allegiances to high profile personalities instead of reading the views for ourselves and coming to our own conclusions.

    And, yes, Piper and Carson can’t win, but neither can Wright. Unless he wrote about butterflies and roses, he’d be accused of being divisive. Sad but true.

  29. Darius T February 12, 2009 at 12:14 am #

    Steve, since you’ve read the book, could you explain where Denny takes quotes out of context and what the context is (especially of the comparison of Piper to Stasi officers)?

  30. Steve Hayes February 12, 2009 at 12:16 pm #

    I haven’t read the book, and neither have you, and neither has Denny. The fact is, none of us really know if the tenor of this book is irenic or not, so why is this even at issue? I’m asserting that since we have all of two quotes to go on here, we shouldn’t judge this book to be irenic or not. All I’m saying is that I’m not going to base my judgement on Denny’s one chapter review or two independent quotes. I’m also uncomfortable with the idea that people with an N.T. Wright ax to grind can objectively determine whether or not his book is irenic.

    Don’t get me wrong, Darius. I’m not saying the book is or isn’t irenic. I’m just saying that based on this very incomplete chapter review, the verdict is still out. I’ll hold my judgement until I read the entire book. That seems like the prudent course of action for any right thinking individual.

  31. Darius T February 12, 2009 at 12:33 pm #

    Fair enough. I don’t think Denny was asserting that the entire book is not irenic, but just that so far, the first chapter doesn’t give him much hope.

  32. Steve Hayes February 12, 2009 at 1:08 pm #

    Darius,

    True. Denny didn’t claim that the whole book was not irenic. But if Wright started out on the wrong foot, Denny stomped on Wright’s foot in his review. He basically set the tone for his reading of the rest of the book, and I’ll be shocked if Denny somehow changes his mind upon completion (unless Wright decides to resign his post and join Piper’s congregation in the last chapter).

    Even Doug Wilson, in his review, doesn’t claim that the book is not irenic. As a matter of fact, he gives credit to Wright for comments like this: “It is because I sense that picture in John Piper’s work, and because, unlike some of my critics (including some of those whose words are quoted on the back cover of his book!), he has been scrupulously fair, courteous and generous in all our exchanges” (p. 11). Wilson’s critique is that Wright is out of touch with his critic’s theological framework, but he never claims that he isn’t engaging and peaceful in his tone.

    Anyway, like I said, I’ll wait to read the book and come to my own conclusions. Thanks for the discussion.

  33. Darius T February 12, 2009 at 1:11 pm #

    Irenic may not be the word… perhaps ungracious or ignorant?

  34. Nathan February 12, 2009 at 1:32 pm #

    I guess I’m somewhat confused on why it is such a big deal for Wright to be irenic. Based on what Denny says it seems the publishers are attempting to give us that view.

    Regardless, since when is it so important that theologians have to play patty-cake with each other?

    If we are going to drill Wright for sniping at Piper, shouldn’t we have a debate on whether we can read Luther? I mean, the guy demolished anyone who disagreed with him. Now one might say he was always right, but is that the barometer?

    Secondly, it goes without saying that Wright is not the apostle Paul nor Piper the apostle John, so their books (all of them) are full of flaws. Let’s be extremely careful about placing any literature into the canonical stratosphere.

    Wright has flaws. So does Piper. It was not all that long ago that Piper was ready to abandon baptism by immersion as a prerequisite to church membership and then recanted after friends and other theologians stood against him. (Now, if you are not baptistic this may seem trivial or you may say amen, but it was a huge deal)

    I can’t spell out Wright’s infractions specifically, but I know there are some in his past. I am simply not that knowledgeable on his life.

    But the entirety of church history is full of flawed people, many of which had extreme flaws after conversion. Luther, as we already noted and could go further. Calvin basically murdered a heretic, but we still read him. Origen emasculated himself and we still read him. We read Augustine concerning sex, but if there was ever a guy that was messed up in that area, it was him.

    I could go on and on. Have we become so politically correct that two theologians who disagree can’t battle it out in their books?

    Read who you like and burn who you don’t. Instead, read both and form your own opinions. Better yet, study the bible on your own and ask the Holy Spirit to give you an appropriate understanding.

    And if you all are not irenic in your replies to me, then your hypocrites.. LOL

  35. Steve Hayes February 12, 2009 at 2:21 pm #

    Nathan,

    Who said anything about these guys being apostles or the like? You have a good point to make here, but it seems misplaced. I don’t recall anyone placing these guys in such high regard that we’re ready to canonize their writings. Of course they are flawed! Where has anyone stated anything to the contrary?

    It’s a big deal to be irenic because the Bible says that we are to be gracious to each other (Ephesians 4:32). I guess we could be like Calvin in Geneva and hang those who disagree with us, but that may not be the best way to handle a disagreement (no offense to Calvin or anything).

    We’re not talking about heretics here. Wright and Piper would agree on many things. I don’t think their salvation is in question here. So, it makes sense that they would and should treat each other as brothers. Sure, they’ll disagree with each other – and sometimes strongly disagree with each other – but they should remain irenic. You disagree?

  36. Nathan February 12, 2009 at 2:34 pm #

    I was not implying that anyone said they were apostles, only noting that we can fall prey to placing men on pedastals, typically those who we agree the most with.

    “It’s a big deal to be irenic because the Bible says that we are to be gracious to each other (Ephesians 4:32).”

    Church history doesn’t favor your statement as most writings were to espouse something in retaliation to someone or something else and much of it is fairly harsh.

    “We’re not talking about heretics here. Wright and Piper would agree on many things. I don’t think their salvation is in question here.”

    Nobody is accusing either men of being heretics nor questioning their salvation. So I’m not sure where you perceived that from my comment.

    And, as others have commented already, it is difficult to discern just how irenic or not Wright is based on one chapter.

    So, I guess you don’t read much Luther then? Or is he allowed a pass?

  37. Nathan February 12, 2009 at 2:48 pm #

    By the way Steve, I was essentially arguing the points you made in previous posts from a different perspective. Guess that just goes to show you how easily miscontrued words can be.

  38. Mike Templin February 12, 2009 at 6:00 pm #

    Yeah Pipers a real “grade schooler”…

    -Bachelor Wheaton College
    -Master Fuller Seminary
    -D. Theol University of Munich

    Wow that was an uneducated remark mike…He went to the 2 best theological schools in America and did a Doctorate of Theology in Germany! I love Wright, don’t get me wrong, but piper is indeed a great theologian.

  39. Steve Hayes February 12, 2009 at 7:50 pm #

    No offense, Nathan, but you weren’t arguing my points. I was arguing for a more comprehensive reading of Wright’s book before making a determination of its tone. I was also saying that, from what I had read in Denny’s post and elsewhere, I wasn’t convinced that Wright was being anything other than irenic.

    You seem to be arguing for a return to the tactics of Luther, who wrote his criticisms in a very different context. The reason I brought up heretical beliefs is because Luther was dealing with an entire institution that he believed to be heretical. He was fighting a war against the prevailing power of his day, which he believed to be evil and in need of serious reformation. In light of that, his responses were meant to bring down institutional corruption and heresy.

    Let’s not forget that the rhetoric between Luther and the RCC resulted in bitter fighting, and is, to this day, a volatile force in places such as Northern Ireland. Again, I don’t think this situation warrants such division.

    Piper and Wright aren’t engaged in an institutional battle over corruption and heresy, therefore there is no need for them to be anything but brotherly in their debate. I have yet to see anything that convincingly demonstrates that they have behaved or are interested in behaving to the contrary. It seems that those aligned with the two are stirring this pot more vigorously than the two themselves.

  40. Steve Hayes February 12, 2009 at 8:06 pm #

    Also, Nathan, you rightly point out that these men are flawed, but fail to see that the “fairly harsh” tone of “much of church history” might be flawed as well. Perhaps some of our “Fathers” might have done well to follow Ephesians 4:32 in favor of harsh rhetoric.

    There were, however, times when the forces of darkness had to be beaten back instead of given a time out. In such cases I am thankful for the bravery of men like Luther, who had the courage to fight for what was right.

  41. Thog February 12, 2009 at 11:13 pm #

    Nathan-
    The point is, this book has been touted as irenic. The blurbs by those who (I assume) have read it before publishing talk about how irenic it is. So all Denny is saying is the first chapter doesn’t look good on that front.

    Steve- Like it or not- the first chapter is the intro to the book- it sets the tone for the book and how you view the rest of the book. That is part of the purpose of it. So what Denny said is not unreasonable. He hasn’t read the book, but he has read the first chapter. The parts he has quoted and also from what Wilson has said, do not seem to be irenic. Equating someone with the Nazis is not irenic, and it is not “brutally honest” it is a loaded statement designed to give negative feelings about -and ascribe sinister motivations to -someone. Brutally honest is fine, and sometimes it seems harsh. but comparing someone to Nazis and the village idiot does not qualify as brutally honest. It is basically an add hominim (sp) attack. The fact that you can’t see this is raises concerns about your ability to judge whether Wright is irenic or not (not that that really matters- just you were questioning others). FWIW- I have never read Wright- I am just getting caught up on this whole debate and I am very interested in learning what he has to say- even if it is not irenic. Also from interviews and other statements I have read from both Piper and Wright, they both seem to be charitable to each other. I don’t think either is angry or resentful. They both feel they are fighting for Biblical truth and that is important and their brother is in error on this issue. I hope the rest of the book is not in the tone the first chapter seems to be in, and I don’t think that hope is unfounded because of the respect Wright has shown Piper in the past.
    My two cents

  42. Nathan February 12, 2009 at 11:51 pm #

    I don’t disagree that some of the “fathers” may well have done better had they taken a more irenic approach. However, hindsight is what it is.

    By the way, Luther also went head to head with other reformers (Zwingli comes to mind), so he did not reserve his rhetoric only to the Holy Roman Empire.

    I’m not arguing for Luther’s style as the only way. It seemed to me that the majority of the posts were slamming Wright for speaking his mind. And until the entire book is judged it might be well to withhold judgment.

  43. Steve Hayes February 13, 2009 at 1:03 am #

    Thog,

    You wrote, “I hope the rest of the book is not in the tone the first chapter seems to be in, and I don’t think that hope is unfounded because of the respect Wright has shown Piper in the past.”

    Let me translate: I hope the rest of the book (which none of us have read) is not in the tone the first chapter (which I have not read and have only heard about from someone with an ax to grind against the author) SEEMS to be in, and I don’t think that hope is unfounded (because it goes against everything the author and his primary critic have demonstrated thus far).

    See, Thog (if that is your real name), you have just shown the utter ridiculousness of this entire thread. Denny doesn’t even give us the direct quote about the Stasi officers. We don’t even know what Wright wrote! So, we’re basically arguing that Wright comes out swinging against his detractors based on things we haven’t read, and a one chapter review by one of his detractors! I am insane now.

    Denny failed to mention the quote that Wilson noted that was generous and very irenic, and – I’m making a huge assumption here – I’ll bet that wasn’t the only nice thing Wright had to say about Piper in the book. Perhaps the Stasi officer comparison (which, again, we haven’t seen with our own eyes) was poorly conceived, but I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve read the entire book. Not sure why this is such a novel approach, but apparently it is.

    Nathan,

    I agree with you. Sorry if I beat you over the head. I understand the points you’re making. Thanks for the discussion.

  44. Thog February 13, 2009 at 10:11 am #

    obviously Thog is not my real name- My real name is Tony and I am an Arkansas Razorback fan- hence the name I use.
    We’ll just wait for the book =)
    I still think that both illustrations are not irenic. Even if they are presented in the most polite way possible they say- you are an idiot (sun revolves around the world) and.. well he is calling people Nazis basically… doesn’t really need an explanation.
    Denny has read the first chapter and has presented 2 analogies that are there (with page numbers). THose analogies are not irenic in my opinion.

  45. Thog February 13, 2009 at 10:15 am #

    also-
    Denny’s post is not that the book is not irenic– it is that the first chapter isn’t. True that is his opinion. But again- those examples are difficult to put in the category of irenic

  46. Darius T February 13, 2009 at 10:27 am #

    “I am an Arkansas Razorback fan”

    I’m so sorry.

  47. Paul February 14, 2009 at 10:00 am #

    Nathan wrote: “until the entire book is judged it might be well to withhold judgment.”

    Bingo! If we should not judge a book by its cover neither should we judge it by its introductory readings. Give Wright a chance here, folks. I would like to believe the Apostle Paul would do so. Moreover, would you not expect others to read your entire works before offering an appraisal? C’mon! Hermeneutics 101 = CONTEXT BEFORE CONTENT!

  48. Bradley Cochran February 16, 2009 at 3:12 am #

    It’s going to be painful watching such great Christian thinkers get so tangled up in their differences over justification. Not that it healthy theological exchange of their differences does not need to happen on some levels; I just wish it didn’t have to happen the way it does.

  49. tobi March 26, 2010 at 6:56 am #

    …discussions like this make me long for heaven.

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