Christianity,  Theology/Bible

Tom Schreiner and N. T. Wright at ETS

As many of you have read, John Piper is taking an eight-month leave of absence from his ministry beginning in May. His leave will take him away from most of his scheduled appearances for the rest of the year, and that includes the debate with N.T. Wright scheduled to take place at ETS in November in Atlanta.

I just got confirmation, however, that Tom Schreiner will be stepping-in to take Piper’s place at the ETS meeting with Wright. This is happy news, and I will be praying for a fruitful dialogue this November.


  • Andrew Cowan

    I can’t say that I’m not disappointed that Piper won’t be there. I was really looking forward to hearing he and Wright talk in person. Nevertheless, it is certainly no disappointment to hear Tom Schreiner on justification. This substitution (since there must be one) is happy news indeed.

  • Barry

    There could not be a finer choice than Dr. Schreiner. Truly one of the kindest and humble men I have ever known. He is going to knock it out of the park, in his own profoundly scholarly, humble manner. Get the popcorn, M&Ms, and a Coke and sit back and enjoy this one.


  • Don Garlington

    This is a curious substitution, given that Tom’s position is not that far removed from the other Tom, esp. as articulated in the former’s New Testament Theology. I wonder what the sticking points will be.

  • Jason D.

    I was hoping someone more versed in this subject than Piper would step up, like Tom Schreiner or Guy Waters or D.A. Carson. Well good news that SCHREINER is taking it on!!!

  • Matt

    Dr. Schreiner will do an absolutely fantastic job! What an incredible scholar and Christian. The only thing that could be more interesting is if Mark Seifrid were replacing Piper.

    Don Garlington, can you expand a little more on what you mean by “Tom’s position is not that far removed from the other Tom”?

  • Aaron

    This changes everything. Piper vs. Wright in a cage match was an easy call for Piper. His wiry frame and passionate disposition set him up as the clear winner. Schreiner vs. Wright in a cage match is an entirely different situation, and I might have to give Wright the edge here…

  • Mark

    Yes, I am curious what Don Garlington meant by “given that Tom’s position is not that far removed from the other Tom.” I read have read several of Wright’s writings on this subject and I have read Prof. Schreiner’s book on Paul’s view of the law and I cannot say that both Toms are on the same page regarding justification and the law.

  • Mark

    If Prof. Schreiner can’t make it to the ETS debate for some unforeseen circumstance perhaps we can have D. A. Carson as a second backup?

  • Don Garlington

    I was referring to Schreiner’s New Testament Theology, 546-65, and in particular to this statement: “…scholars have often failed to see that he [Paul] also stresses the necessity of good works for justification. No contradiction exists in Paul’s theology here. Indeed, it seems that Paul and James, though they emphasize different truths, are compatible after all” (ibid., 585). Schreiner’s lectures at Oak Hill College (London), accessible on Ardel Caneday’s blog (http://www., are to the same effect. By a simple reflection on texts such as Rom 2:13, Schreiner’s comments are like listening to, or reading, various representatives of the NPP (or its “sympathizers”), who have commended the same interpretation of that verse for at least 20 years now.

    Thanks to John Bell, I’ve just seen the video from SBTS, which helpfully serves to clarify the “sticking points” and how it is that Tom S. can provide a point/counterpoint dialogue with Tom W. The panel does make some valid points about Wright’s theology, with which I have agreed in various publications. But I must say that it is disturbing how much in attitude Schreiner has become like Seifrid. For example, if Tom Wright was ministering comfort to an Anglican congregation (in the north of England), he must have been assuming that those present were believers and not in need of the gospel as such, but rather the comfort that the gospel provides to believers in difficult times. It must be remembered that Wright is a pastor and is obliged to render pastoral minister. This is not a “social gospel” but simply the application of Christ’s benefits to his people.

    All said and done, I’m quite sure that Bishop Tom will be more than able to fend for himself at ETS.

  • Mark

    Don, I don’t know anyone in anti-NPP circles who would disagree with the statement that genuine faith leads to good works. I think the whole debate surrounds around the issue of what the term “justification” means and the Scriptural veracity of active imputation.

  • Matt

    This seems like a strange quote from Dr. Garlington’s post,

    “if Tom Wright was ministering comfort to an Anglican congregation (in the north of England), he must have been assuming that those present were believers and not in need of the gospel as such, but rather the comfort that the gospel provides to believers in difficult times.”

    Having listened to the panel discussion as well, I think it was a completely legitimate point that Dr. Schreiner was making. I don’t know how one brings the comfort of the gospel without bringing the word of the gospel or mentioning the cross and resurrection. Moreover, I did not find anything inappropriate about Dr. Seifrid’s attitude. Is it wrong to be passionate about the meaning of the Word of God?

  • Andy

    Now I hear that N.T. Wright is being replaced by Tom Wright at ETS. Geesh, you’d think they could keep their stuff together over there.

  • Kendall Adams

    Even though I don’t know Dr. Schreiner as Barry does, I have read many of his books and articles and have listened to many sermons and I couldn’t agree more Barry!–a humble, kind and profound scholar.

  • Scott

    Are you seriously questioning if Wright preaches the gospel? I can understand if one wants to question his theology, but the man is utterly dedicated to the cross & the resurrection.

  • Matt

    No, Scott, I am simply commenting on an example that Dr. Schreiner brought up in the panel discussion. If you give it a listen you’ll know what Dr. Garland and I are referring to. I could explain the example but it would take up too much space.

  • emilio

    The NPP is a false gospel I hope that is affirmed with no compromise.

    I have seen the NPP sweep people away into Eastern Orthodoxy and Rome which tore a church apart and lead to the apostasy of several Biola seminarians.

    Gal. 1.9 (I disagree with Piper Wright may be under this curse)

  • Freddy

    To those who say Schreiner is better suited for the debate: have you forgotten that Piper wrote a book dedicated to refuting Wright’s position? Both Schreiner and Carson endorsed it. I’m not saying Schreiner won’t do a great job though. I’m a student at SBTS and have great respect for him, but Piper has been more directly engaged with Wright than anyone in this debate I believe. Piper just isn’t an academic theologian like Schreiner and Carson; he’s a pastor-theologian. That’s not to deminish Piper. He serves a different role primarily than Schreiner, a pastor himself.

  • Barry

    Do not forget that Schreiner has been the main teaching pastor at Clifton Baptist Church here in Louisville (though he has trained up another to take his place in the coming days), and before that when the church was known as Trinity Baptist. This is a man who wears both the pastor’s hat and scholar’s hat with aplomb.


  • Lucas Knisely


    I think perhaps a difference voice and vantage point might be refreshing or eye opening for Wright. You are correct that Schreiner has not be as directly engaged with Wright, which may benefit the discussion greatly.

  • Barry

    Yes, but let’s not kid ourselves here – Schreiner knows Wright’s position extremely well. He’s been studying him for 10+ years. I remember my first PhD seminar in 2001 was with Dr. Schreiner–the whole seminar was devoted to reading and discussing Wright. Schreiner is no neophyte when it comes to NTW.


  • Scott

    It’s not a “false gospel.” Good grief.

    Wright is under the curse of Gal. 1:9? May I ask, what leads you to assume that Biola seminarians are apostate? Did they dare read something that predated Calvin?

  • John Holmberg

    I hope they didn’t, Scott. Reading anything that pre-dates Calvin is the beginning to the slippery slope to liberalism. Don’t you know that anybody other than a Reformed Protestant is not a Christian? Have you not read the Bible?

  • Freddy

    Barry: I am aware of Dr. Schreiner’s pastorate at Clifton. I just see him differently than I do Dr. Piper.

    Larry: Good point.

    Barry: I’m fairly new to the debate but from I’ve observed it seems that Dr. Piper has been, as I said, more directly engaged in it especially with his book. I do not doubt Dr. Schreiner’s ability to hold his own and represent the historic Protestant viewpoint against Dr. Wright. Dr. Schreiner is more than able to do so.

  • Keith Brooks

    I myself am baffled at the differences between Schreiner and Wright. How do people let Schreiner off the hook and yet indict Wright using Gal. 1.9?

    Consider what Schreiner says in his notes on Romans for the ESV study bible. He says that Paul in Romans 2:6-11 is speaking of an actual just. according to works, not hypothetical. “Paul reaffirms the principle enunciated in v. 6-11 that the doers of the law are the ones who are righteous before God and that their justification will be pronounced on the last day.”

    I don’t see any substantive difference between Schreiner and Wright on this issue. Perhaps someone could correct me?

  • Andrew Cowan

    Wright and Schreiner are more similar than most people think, and different in ways that most people do not understand.

    For Schreiner, good works function in the present and at the final judgment as evidence of the fact that one is a believer. The real basis of justification is the imputed/alien righteousness of Jesus, consisting of his active and passive obedience together.

    For Wright, good works function in the final judgment as evidence of the fact that one is a member of the family of God’s covenant people. Justification is a declaration about who the true covenant people are. In Wright’s schema (and this is what makes people worried), it makes no sense to say that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to Christians because he thinks that “righteousness” language refers to covenant membership.

    Basically, people who indict Wright with Gal 1:9 do not understand how radically his redefinition of “justification” and “righteousness” language is. They are worried that he is placing the believer’s obedience in the slot where Schreiner/Reformed folk put Christ’s obedience, but they have not observed how his reshaping of the doctrine avoids this trap.

    If what makes you think that Schreiner and Wright are indistinguishable is the fact that Schreiner seems to interpret Rom 2:13 as a reference to believers who are real “doers of the law,” you may also be interested to learn that Luther also interpreted Rom 2:13 this way in his 1535 Galatians commentary (somewhere around 3:10-14). Interpreting Rom 2:13 this way can be made to fit comfortably with a Reformed understanding of justification. Although Piper doesn’t follow this rendering of 2:13, his book on justification also presents Rom 2:6-11 in terms of an actual rather than hypothetical judgment according to works. Belief in a final judgment according to works (or even that Rom 2:13 refers to this) does not directly commit you to one position or another.

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