Yesterday, Tom Schreiner, Mark Seifrid, Brian Vickers, and I had a conversation with the students of Boyce College about Paul’s doctrine of justification. In particular, we discussed Tom Wright’s new book Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision, which is largely a response to John Piper’s 2007 book The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright. You can download the audio of this discussion at the Boyce College blog, or you can listen to it by pressing the play button below.[audio:http://www.sbts.edu/MP3/BoycePodcast/20090415_Boyce_Chapel.mp3]
In the main, the panel members agree that Wright’s book doesn’t advance the discussion beyond where it was before. The central concern of John Piper’s book is his charge that N. T. Wright interprets Paul to teach final justification on the basis works. Here’s what Tom Schreiner said about Wright’s response to Piper on this point:
“Wright does not answer the question and in that sense I think the book represents no progress at all over what he had written previously. . . It’s simply a restatement, and the most fundamental question that Piper poses . . . he doesn’t answer that question.”
In the book, Wright simply reasserts what he has written elsewhere and argues that initial justification is by faith and that final justification happens on the basis of Spirit-inspired works. In this sense, Wright appears more Augustinian than Protestant. Seifrid described it this way:
“Wright doesn’t mean to be Catholic. I don’t think he knows that he’s becoming an Anglo-Catholic, but that in effect is what he is doing. I suspect (I could be wrong) that the poor man doesn’t know what he’s talking about. . . He’s very good on the historical Jesus, but here he is absolutely horrid. . . so there’s something to be appreciated but not in this book.”
The panel also agreed that the tone of Wright’s book was patronizing towards his opponents. I think this is a fair critique of Wright’s book, but readers will have to judge this for themselves.
As you can see, the response from the panel was generally critical of Wright’s exegesis of Paul and of his mode of engagement with opponents. For more on this conversation, I encourage you to listen to the whole thing at the Boyce College blog.