Appreciating N. T. Wright
I wish I could have been at Tom Schreiner's presentation last night at the ETS Annual Meeting. According to Justin Taylor, it was a helpful, careful, and charitable critique of N. T. Wright's teaching on justification.
The debate over justification—which is the doctrine in focus this year at ETS—has brought about an emphasis in recent days on differences between believers. That is appropriate, considering our understanding of justification can be a life and death issue, touching the very heart of the gospel. Any differences simply must be paid attention to and worked through if we are to faithfully maintain and pass on the apostolic word.
However, it is always essential to remember that our doctrinal wrestlings are not against one another. This is not and should not be an us-versus-them, "I follow Paul, I follow Apollos" scenario. Our warfare is "against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places," not other believers. The critical need is not for one man or system to be put up and another down, but for all of us to labor and pray together and help each other to fasten on the belt of God's armor, the belt of truth (Ephesians 6:12, 14).
With that in mind, it seems appropriate to share this quote from John Piper's book The Future of Justification on what he appreciates about N. T. Wright. There is an encouraging amount of important things Piper and Wright agree on, regardless of their present (and likewise important) differences over justification.1
Nicholas Thomas Wright . . . is a remarkable blend of weighty academic scholarship, ecclesiastical leadership, ecumenical involvement, prophetic social engagement, popular Christian advocacy, musical talent, and family commitment. . . . I am thankful for his strong commitment to Scripture as his final authority, his defense and celebration of the resurrection of the Son of God, his vindication of the deity of Christ, his belief in the virgin birth of Jesus, his biblical disapproval of homosexual conduct, and the consistent way he presses us to see the big picture of God’s universal purpose for all peoples through the covenant with Abraham—and more. (pp. 15-16)
1For a summary of the primary issues Piper has with Wright's view of justification, see the section "What Is Behind This Book?" (pp. 17-24) in The Future of Justification.