Skip to comments.The New Perspective of N. T. Wright on the Doctrine of Justification
Posted on 01/10/2008 10:05:54 AM PST by Gamecock
It is apparent that there is a difference of view within the United Reformed Church in North America on questions related to justification. This brief paper is not a review of what is being taught by URC men. It is to show how the interpretation of Scripture by N. T. Wright, a British New Testament scholar, will influence us if his viewpoint is accepted. His writings are read avidly by some ministers; there is considerable fascination with him. It would be good to know how much agreement there is with him. Wright’s doctrine bears directly on the gospel i , affects our pulpits, and forces us to ask what degree of latitude is permitted in the Three Forms of Unity. We face a challenge in a very crucial matter. This is a simple paper. Those who desire more substantial articles addressing Wright’s theology more capably, are referred to the sources in the footnotes.
What does justification mean to N. T. Wright?
For Wright, justification is not the main thrust of Paul’s evangelistic message, 94. It
“is not what Paul means by ‘the gospel.’ It is implied by the gospel; when the gospel is proclaimed, people come to faith and so are regarded as members of His people... Justification is the doctrine which insists that all those who have this faith belong as full members of this family on this basis and no other.” 132,133.
In other words, justification is not about how sinners are saved or ‘get in’. It is not about being declared righteous by God based on the obedience of Christ imputed to us.ii Rather Wright’s version of justification is a kind of divine “after-comment” that declares believers to be in already. “It is a declaration that they have become a Christian,” 125. When he uses the term “righteous” it is not because any righteousness has been given to us at all, but because we have received a favorable verdict in God’s court when we believe that Jesus is Lord, and are recognized as loyal covenant members. In other words, our Holy God can actually accept people as righteous in Wright’s use of the word, when they are not really “righteous” i.e., pronounced fully obedient to God’s law. (In reformed doctrine, we do have that in Christ”) So the meaning of righteous has undergone a major modification. It will affect everything N. T. Wright has to say about justification and every text that is related to it.
Wright teaches that all we have in justification is an acquittal in God’s court. And that acquittal is not even the ultimate thing, because it is just an anticipation of an eventual acquittal on the Day of Judgment, when OUR lives will be part of the basis of the final verdict, 131.iii I think Paul did not teach a temporary justification with the eventual ultimate one resting in any way on our obedience. (No wonder a number of his fellow evangelical Anglicans are so dismayed with his doctrine.) iv
Wright rejects the traditional meaning of justification based on the imputed righteousness of Christ.v He is quite aware that he has turned from the understanding of the reformers. He describes their view as one “a later age has dreamed up.” vi That is not a compliment to the Three Forms of Unity. It is very clear Wright could never agree with the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession or the Westminster standards. He thinks justification is not part of the gospel; it is a result.vii He admits he was dissatisfied with the reformed position of a certain author.viii He thinks reformed teachers have been misusing the texts of Paul to arrive at our doctrine. Wright is emphatic about this, 116. Acknowledging that the reformed view is the popular view, he says the reformers’ understanding of Paul’s doctrine “distorts it at various points,” 113. He warns us that if you start with the popular view of justification, you may actually lose sight of the heart of Paul’s gospel,” 113. In other words his disagreement with reformed doctrine is intentional. He warns us if we who do not accept the definitions of Paul’s words he proposes, that we are “locking ourselves out from the possibility of ever really understanding what the text actually does say,” 41. N. T. Wright claims that the reformed view is a tradition that leads us to misread Paul for “it manifestly has” done so. ix He could not be more clear that our doctrine is wrong.
So his writings constitute a large “correction” of what the URC Church confesses on justification. The reformers read Romans a different way from him, so Wright warns us that “this way of reading Romans has systematically done violence to the text for hundreds of years,” 117. Meanwhile a number of our ministers express a measure of agreement, naming him very favorably, with admissions here and there of some agreement. We need to pay attention to what is happening. I would like to hear from them to what extent they agree with Wright and if they think the Pauline texts do teach imputed righteousness.
It must be said to his credit that Wright is very disciplined to deal with the texts. It is an embarrassment to those reformed ministers who favor him so much, that he does not always hold to inerrancy, but that deficiency rarely shows. A basic objection that must be made is that his method leans heavily toward interpreting the New Testament text only after deciding what justification means from sources outside Scripture, and from a novel appraisal of the religious thinking in the Judaism of that day.x I suggest that his historical view is debatable, and more, it is wrong. I refer my reader to the sources in the footnotes of this paper.xi
I hope we hold that in the gospel a righteousness comes from God to us which becomes ours when we believe, Romans 1:16,17. We believe that Christ was made to be sin for us – a clear case of imputation because sin is not a description of our Lord’s conduct but ours. We also believe that Christ’s righteousness is made ours, when we say in 2 Cor. 5:21 that in Him we have become the righteousness of God. Again this is a clear case of imputation since righteousness in that text has no reference to our conduct but His. Later I will show how Wright interprets some of these texts.
A true theology of Paul must include imputation, the way the apostle himself included it in Romans 4. It is not enough to speak of faith alone as the means, or Christ alone as the object of faith. We must include righteousness, the real kind, a righteousness that is in compliance with the whole law. And we must have the act of God that puts it to our account, which act is imputation. John Murray said in his commentary on Romans 4:6-8, “to ‘impute righteousness without works’ is equivalent to justification without works.” Wright dismisses the concept of imputation as if it were analogous to physically moving a commodity, a silly distortion indeed. A forensic act is not like moving coal or passing sugar. The non-imputation of sin is identical to an acquittal or a ‘no condemnation’ decision in a courtroom. Just as sin is not charged to a sinner when forgiven, even so righteousness is accounted in exactly the same judicial way to the believing sinner. Since the sinner has no such righteousness of his own, like Abraham, righteousness must be imputed to him. By rejecting imputation, Wright has denied justification itself, a grievous theological error.
We hold that Philippians 3:9 means that we have no righteousness of our own for justification but only the righteousness from God that comes by faith in Christ. And we believe that Romans 3 tells us of a righteousness from God apart from our law-keeping, and thus different from our righteousness for sure. That righteousness in Philippians 3:9 is from or “out of” God. (The Greek preposition ‘ek’ used here, means ‘out of’ or ‘from’.)
All I have just affirmed from these texts, N. T. Wright stoutly denies. He also devotes a page to his different understanding of Romans 9 & 10 on justification, but says very little on Romans 5:12-21. My paper is not a refutation of Wright but one designed merely to show that his view is against our doctrine and merits vigorous attention. Therefore I will not deal with all the texts where he gives his new view of justification. Before I give some of his interpretations of these, let us note the stance the Heidelberg Catechism takes on justification.
59. Q. But what does it help you now that you believe all this?
A. In Christ I am righteous before God and heir to life everlasting.
Habakkuk 2:4; John 3:36; Rom. 1:17; 5:1,2.
60. Q. How are you righteous before God?
A. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.  Although my conscience accuses me that I have grievously sinned against all God's commandments, have never kept any of them, and am still inclined to all evil, yet God, without any merit of my own, out of mere grace, imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ. He grants these to me as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and as if I myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me, if only I accept this gift with a believing heart.
 Rom. 3:21-28; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 3:8-11.  Rom. 3:9, 10.  Rom. 7:23.  Deut. 9:6; Ezek. 36:22; Tit. 3:4, 5.  Rom. 3:24; Eph. 2:8.  Rom. 4:3-5; II Cor. 5:17-19; I John 2:1,2.  Rom. 4:24, 25; II Cor. 5:21.  John 3:18; Acts 16:30, 31; Rom. 3:22.
61. Q. Why do you say that you are righteous only by faith?
A. Not that I am acceptable to God on account of the worthiness of my faith, for only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ is my righteousness before God. I can receive this righteousness and make it my own by faith only.
 I Cor. 1:30, 31; 2:2.  Rom. 10:10; I John 5:10-12.
62. Q. But why can our good works not be our righteousness before God, or at least a part of it?
A. Because the righteousness which can stand before God's judgment must be absolutely perfect and in complete agreement with the law of God, whereas even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.
 Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10.  Is. 64:6.
How Wright understands some key texts that teach justification:
Reformed people have always thought that the gospel is that God saves those who come in their sin. Wright says the righteousness of God “operates through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for the benefit of all those who in turn are faithful,” 109. If that is ‘what Paul really said,’ I will be in the same kind of dismay Luther had before he learned the gospel. This alone should be enough to show that the gospel has been corrupted into a religion of works.xii The real gospel is that God brings His salvation (or benefit) to the unfaithful when He justifies the ungodly who believe in Jesus.
Wright thinks the righteousness of God in every NT text is never the righteousness given to us. By such words, he argues Paul really meant only God’s covenant faithfulness to deal with sin, 109,110. I strongly object to changing the needed “faith” of sinners (who come to Christ empty of all virtue) into some kind of faithfulness that is supposed to come from sinners, but which no sinner has according to Romans 3:9-20. By turning faith into faithfulness, Wright does great damage to the gospel and opens the door to eventual justification by works.
Again Wright claims we have not really understood what it means when it says that “in him we might become the righteousness of God”. Wright thinks generations reading this verse were wrong, because in this verse Paul is not really talking about all believers becoming righteousness. He thinks Paul was speaking here just of his own apostolic ministry! (When it says “we,” plural, that is a reference to Paul plus his associates in ministry.) Paul’s ministry “including his suffering, fear and apparent failure, is itself an incarnation of the covenant faithfulness of God,” 104,105. So what Saint Paul is really saying is that he and his colleagues, as ambassadors for God, have become in some way ‘the righteousness of God’ to people they serve. And how so? Well Paul and his companions are the living embodiment of the message they proclaim as ministers of the Lord and so in their ministry they reflect God’s His glory.
I implore my readers to see that that is a very different reading of this verse. If this British scholar is right, the reformers really did not know how to read the New Testament. And it seems no one else did either,xiii but that is the kind of difficulty a person is caught in if he has a wrong view of a doctrine and then must find some way to make all the texts fit the new view. We must not forget that N. T. Wright boldly claims the reformers simply did not know what Saint Paul was really saying!
Here Wright argues that this verse means a righteous status from God, while denying that Paul teaches that any personal righteousness from Jesus is given to sinners, a truth at the core of this verse. It is the essence of the Reformation itself to assert that Paul here means that the righteousness that comes from God is the righteousness of Christ given to us upon faith. Wright says justification in this text is covenant membership and faith is the badge of such membership. (That makes faith not quite the same as resting upon Christ.)
Again ‘God’s righteousness’ means to Wright no more than God’s covenant faithfulness. He thinks Romans 3 is not about righteousness from God received by faith in Christ, but the faithfulness of God’s saving activity seen in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The faithfulness of Jesus is the means whereby the righteousness of God is revealed. Note no righteousness is imputed to us or given to us. According to Wright, all Paul means in Romans 3 is that God’s righteousness is seen in His activity, righteous in the sense that God has kept His promise to intervene for His people. That interpretation has some legitimacy, but he insists that no text allows that righteousness is imputed. Wright warns us that any time in any text that the words “righteousness of God” occur, we must never think Paul is speaking of imputed righteousness. He says if we give those words that meaning “the whole thing will get muddled.” But if we read it the way he says, then “everything becomes clear.” (See pp. 105-109). How plain can he be that reformed theology is wrong?
"We who are Jews by birth and not `Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. Galatians 2:15,16
[In this text three times words are used in Greek that may be translated “works of law”.]
Here is a major part of Wright’s system. We have always thought when Paul denied that our salvation was by ‘the works of the law’ that Paul meant by that, any and all good works. Wright insists that justification is not about how one becomes a Christian, but only how to define one. He understands Paul’s strong words in Galatians 2 that we are not justified by the works of the law as meaning simply that we are not defined as Christians by circumcision, Sabbath keeping or kosher food laws. If we take it to mean that we are not justified by any of our obedience to the law, Dr. Wright will say that is not what Paul was talking about. (This has deservedly caught the attention of many evangelical scholars.) If all Paul was warning about was justification by those things and no more, then the door is opened for those who think their faithfulness contributes to justification. Against this radical revision, I must stand with the tradition that Paul in Galatians 2 was talking about not being justified by anything we do.
Wright reduces the warnings in Galatians to smaller matters. Notice how justification is reduced: “Justification, in Galatians, is the doctrine which insists that all who share faith in Christ belong at the same table, no matter what their racial differences…” 120-122. I know that sounds good, but when it dawns on us that Wright is telling us that that is all Paul meant by justification in this epistle, we then see, I hope, that a great deal has been lost. Wright thinks the words “works of the law” refer only to the ethnic badges that identified and distinguished Jews as true Israel, things like circumcision, dietary laws and the Sabbath. So he argues that when Paul speaks against justification by ‘the works of the law’ those ethnic markers are all that Paul has in mind, and not the whole range of moral activity.
A former adherent of such thinking, Professor Francis Watson, explains this new view: [Paul was]
“… criticizing the claim that only members of the Jewish community are truly righteous … For Paul the antithesis of faith and works has to do with the scope of God’s saving action. It has little or nothing to do with the old Protestant contrast of divine grace and human effort; it asserts that God-saving actions must be seen inclusively,” (emphasis in original).
By ‘scope’ Watson means how wide is the scope of God’s salvation, i.e., not Jews only or the circumcised alone or only those who bear Jewish marks. Gentiles who believe in Jesus Christ are included as God’s true Israel even though they remain Gentiles. Watson sees how the doctrine of justification has been reduced to a simple question of who is in.
It might fool people when Wright holds people’s attention to some aspect of truth. Justification really does have the consequence that all who believe in Jesus are accepted, or are “in”. But that is not all there is to justification! When Wright makes the doctrine smaller than it is, he uses one truth to delete another. His argument goes something like this: “All that justification is, is …” Then at that point he fills in the blank with some Biblical truths AND leaves out the imputation to the justified of Jesus’ righteousness, which in other places he is quite frank to refute.
In N. T. Wright’s view, justification has lost its central focus of a sinner in his sins having his status changed when he trusts Christ. I assert Paul taught that at the moment of such trust, the sinner becomes one standing in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. God is so satisfied with the righteous conduct of Jesus Christ under the law that His holy eyes demand no additional obedience of the sinner for full and eternal acceptance of us. (Obedience will be produced in the believer, but not one speck of it enters the mind of God as a reason for the sinner’s justification.) God can never impute the perfect human righteousness of Jesus to the believer and then view that justified soul in any other way than “righteous”. Justification is not, as Wright presents, just a declaration of covenantal inclusion among the people of God. It is far more; genuine justification is the reason we can ever be the people of God. I am very sorry Wright denies this. His doctrine of justification is a small doctrine. If he is right in his revision, then he is also right that justification is a secondary doctrine. Such a conclusion cannot stand and must be challenged, because when Paul preached, defended or explained his gospel he did so in terms of justification. xiv
Notice the danger. Wright says we cannot read Galatians 2:15,16 as if Paul was speaking there of all our works. We thus lose the support of this text to show that our good works do not save us. This weakens our Biblical support against inserting OUR obedience as a condition of justification. Francis Watson says of this new understanding of ‘the works of the law,’ “It has little or nothing to with the old Protestant contrast of divine grace and human effort…” xv The door is thereby opened even further to the current confusion whether our justification rests only on the human conduct of the Lord Jesus Christ many years ago, or whether we may allow in our obedience as a means to inherit eternal life. The danger the reformers faced is still with us. Arguments against it show up with a slightly different coating painted over some recurring error.
Ministers and others in the broader reformed fellowship who look up to Wright as a clear thinker on covenant and justification, are in danger of adopting a view which is quite opposed to our doctrine as set out in our confession and catechism. Wright is very clear; he cannot be more clear. He does not agree with the Reformation. He cannot subscribe to our Three Forms of Unity. He does not profess to. No one can intelligently and truthfully say he agrees with both Dr. Wright and any reformation document. Wright thinks that for hundreds of years we have not been able to read what Saint Paul was really saying. The two positions are not compatible. Wright is clear: the reformers were wrong; the confessions they wrote are wrong; and people have only been able to understood Paul’s historical setting and writings in the last 25 years when books by certain living British scholars first appeared.
Thus it is fair and necessary for us to check with ministers who reveal their delight in some of N.T. Wright’s writings. We ought to insist that we must know how they read these New Testament texts. Those who want “exegetical liberty” should not have the liberty in a confessional church to promote Wright’s interpretation of Paul. One PCA minister who admires Wright admits the Westminster Confession should be revised. That is the proper route to go when one does not genuinely agree with what one confesses as his own sincere doctrine. It is either accept it, revise it constitutionally, or failing either, leave.
Notice how Wright describes a version of gospel he rejects: “The gospel is supposed to be a description of … the theological mechanism whereby … Christ takes our sin and we his righteousness…” 41. I reply that that is exactly what the gospel is – a message that Christ took our sin and we having His righteousness by faith alone. Thus we must resist Wright’s doctrine and his influence among us. His new view is like a theological bandwagon with ministers climbing on not yet aware of the replies that are being made and will be. I predict and hope that Wright’s view of justification is a fad that will pass. Meanwhile it will do a lot of damage.
I have not made a judgment whether Tom Wright personally trusts in Jesus Christ alone for his salvation. I will gladly admit that he is more than interesting to read. In a number of ways he defends orthodoxy. He should have due credit for that. I must not make a virtue out of brilliance and creativity, so I will not. One can learn helpful things from a man who has immersed himself in the Scriptures and the history of the time of the New Testament and earlier. But I must plead that no one reading this paper may quote that statement as an endorsement on my part of his writings; please do not do so. One had better have his theology well in place before reading Wright, because he may sweep people off their feet, and they may end up what Wright himself would not want. Wright does believe that the Lord Jesus of the Bible is the resurrected Son of God and Lord of all; I do not question the veracity of that confession. But Dr. Wright’s handling of the texts, and the explanation of justification he espouses, will steer his readers away from the righteousness that saves, and that is a disaster. Then with the imputed perfect righteousness removed as the basis of our justification, the vacuum may well be filled, I fear, by some alternative replacement righteousness of a demonic kind, attractive to our natural sense of works-righteousness.xvi Such an error is eternally fatal. In short, for his welfare, I hope Wright does not consistently believe his own doctrine, because we can only stand before God in the righteousness of Christ. This righteousness is received by a divine imputation of it to us when we sinners, with no righteousness whatsoever, cast ourselves on Christ. When we believe in Jesus Christ’s vicarious law keeping, God is delighted to declare us righteous in that obedience and for that reason alone He takes us in as part of the people of God. I wish N. T. Wright had the same gospel as Paul. I hope the people in our churches are getting the right version of it.
i For N. T. Wright’s view of justification, I will refer to What Saint Paul Really Said, © 1997, Eerdmans. All page numbers above are from this book, in which Wright says, “I have concentrated particularly in this book on two things: ‘the gospel’ and ‘justification’, 151
ii Wright here does not mean that we are really declared righteous in some fashion in God’s eyes. This is just a metaphor to show that God has granted a favorable verdict on some basis. He denies that a literal perfect righteousness is in our possession. We must remember that in Wright’s doctrine: whenever Paul speaks of us being “declared righteousness” it is merely a figure of speech meaning we are vindicated and have already been admitted as part of the community of God.
iii This is one of the major disagreements. Can we say we have been justified as in Romans 5:1, or should we with Norman Shepherd teach that there is a final justification in which our works do enter into the picture!! Wright says our future justification is on the basis of our entire life, 129. This kind of thing is exactly what happens when the perfect righteousness of Christ is removed from our doctrine; we must have righteousness from some source and here Wright inserts ours! I would have nothing but terror if I believed my future status depended in any way on my obedience. I know God demands perfection, and in the gospel He provides it for us in His Son. It is my only hope in life and in death.
ivPaul Barnett: Tom Wright and The New Perspective www.anglicanmediasydney.asn.au/pwb/ntwright_perspective.htm
Bishop Barnett takes a look at NT Wright’s views on salvation and justification. He complains, “Between the pronouncement of the Gospel and the ‘justification’ of the believer Wright interposes a number of elements, for example, the work of the Spirit and the incorporation into the community of faith by baptism.” Barnett drew this conclusion from reading p. 116 of What Saint Paul Really Said. He further laments that Wright has made justification a process in www.anglicanmediasydney.asn.au/electionsynod2001/forsyth_faith.htm Bishop Robert Forsyth says the New Testament position is, “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works and doings.” The Anglicans in Australia now contend with a different view of justification now held by a fellow evangelical Anglican.
v Wright speaks of “the vexed question of imputation” in The Shape of Justification p. 5. He says, “… it makes no sense that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or gas that can be passed across the courtroom,” 98. This is the only place I can remember him being very unreasonable. Wright is a cool and intelligent man. Our URC ministers tend to disagree with him here as if justification meant that the judge’s righteousness is imputed, when it is Christ’s that is. How many of our men are committed to the imputed righteousness of Christ is the chief question we need to pursue. But what we have here is a clear example of Wright rejecting any idea of imputed righteousness, and he treats it as silly. In this he is not a good influence. See: www.angelfire.com/mi2/paulpage/Shape.html
vi “… We are always at risk when we try to grapple with a thinker such as Paul, of assuming too readily that Paul can be fitted into moulds and models which in fact a later age has dreamed up. It is so easy to slip into traditional ways of expounding Paul which in fact distort him.” 153.
vii From The Shape of Justification, p. 2: “By the gospel, Paul does not mean ‘justification by faith’ itself… Justification by faith itself is a second-order doctrine.”
viii P. 4 The Shape of Justification. This paper is a reply to Bishop Paul Barnett of Sydney, Australia.
ix The Shape of Justification pp. 4,5.
x My paper is meant to be an introduction to the problem of Wright’s theology in our circles, not a full-fledged rebuttal. In fact, I am not really equipped at this point to do that. I have read enough of Wright and reviews of him to speak as much as this paper does. I do want to point out the research and writing of others at this juncture. The Francis Watson paper is mentioned in a later footnote. To this I add some material from Paul Missionary Theologian, A Survey of his Missionary Labours and Theology © 2000 Robert L. Reymond, Christian Focus Publications, Fearn Ross-shire, Scotland.
Wright’s contention is that in the time of Paul and earlier, the Jews did not conceive of their justification as being based on their own law-keeping to merit their acceptance with God. The arguments being made for such a large claim are now being refuted. Scholars are producing evidence from sources outside Scripture that the Jews of that time did think that way. And that can only mean that Wright’s premise is erroneous. Reymond gives examples and reasons to reject Wright’s new reading of Paul in pp. 452-465. Here is but one, from Josephus, “the just shall remember only their righteous actions, whereby they have attained the heavenly kingdom.” That is legalism. It is the kind of error Paul wrote against when he gave the gospel in Galatians. The idea that the Jews or people of any age or religion did not have a serious problem with the error of works-righteousness is a great misreading of that time, the Bible itself, and all of human nature to boot. So I say the evangelical replies to Wright thankfully are beginning to appear. Wright’s argument carries great weight when he makes us wonder if we truly understand the problem Paul was refuting in the New Testament. It is agreed: to misstate the problem will inevitably lead to misunderstanding the answer. What is emerging now is that it is Wright who does not grasp the thinking of Jews in Paul’s day. The reformers did read the writings of Paul correctly, so our Catechism and Confession are not way off base in the doctrine of justification.
xi I recommend The Great Exchange by Philip H. Eveson, Principal of London Theological Seminary (UK), © 1996 Day One Publications, Bromley, Kent UK. Eveson has a very helpful section called “Modern Revision” [i.e. of justification] with two chapters: The Wright Position and Is Wright Right?
Douglas J. Moo and D. A Carson, both of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois have written papers in theological journals and published works interacting with and correcting the kind of view held by Wright and some of his predecessors. Moo is the author of the new commentary on Romans in the New International Commentary of the New Testament, pub. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids. Carson with Peter T. O’Brien and Mark A Seifrid edited Justification and Variegated Nomism, Vol. 1 – The Complexities of Second Temple Judaism, published by Baker, Grand Rapids.
xii The full sentence is: “ The gospel, he says, reveals or unveils God’s own righteousness, his covenant faithfulness, which operates through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for the benefit of all those who in turn are faithful (‘from faith to faith’), p. 109, emphasis mine.
xiii Eveson says, “Protestant scholars of the past and present have seen 2 Corinthians 5:21 as an unambiguous reference to a status of righteousness which is credited to the believer.” The Great Exchange, p. 24.
xiv See Reymond, Paul Missionary Theologian, p. 421: The centrality of the doctrine of justification by faith alone in the Christian gospel may be seen in the fact that when Paul begins to elucidate the "gospel of God" to which he had been set apart (Rom 1:1), of which he was not ashamed (Rom 1:16), and which he proclaimed early on at Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:38-39), he does so precisely in terms of justification by faith, declaring that "in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith, from first to last" (Rom 1:17).
Some other articles posted in the Internet worthy of further study are:
xvi Wright must include some sense of moral righteousness in his version of justification. He has no room in his system for the imputation of Christ’s, so the typical recourse is to admit the behavior of the justified person. In his definition of Righteousness in The New Dictionary of Theology, IVPress, he points only to the morality of the member of the covenant.
According to the New Testament, the people of God do indeed have ‘righteousness’. This is not, strictly speaking, God’s own righteousness (though cf. 2 Cor. 5:21), but that which is proper to the person in whose favour the court has found; within the covenant context, it is the right standing of a member of the people of God. ‘Righteousness’ thus comes to mean, more or less, ‘covenant membership’, with all the overtones of appropriate behaviour (e.g. Phil. 1:11), (emphasis mine).
[N.B. Do not overlook Wright’s use of the Philippians 1:11 text, where Paul is speaking of our sanctification!]
Couldn’t get this to format properly, but it is still readable.
I have read from other reformed thinkers on NT Wright’s oft-subtle errors that have grabbed hold of so many. Seems to me people are trying to find a new way to describe or relate to God. Gnosticism by any other name is still error, heresy in some cases.
Anything that dilutes the Scriptural truth of Christ's imputation of His righteousness onto the sinner, and instead tries to get us to think in terms of our own infused righteousness is just backdoor Romanism.
Thankfully the PCA denounced this for what it is -- glorifying the creature instead of the Creator.
I'm curious. In your view which of the nine points from the PCA Study Committee dealt specifically with Wright's views?
Report of Ad Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision,
New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theologies (PCA)
Report on Justification (OPC) (PDF format)
Preamble, Affirmations and Denials of the Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly, Concerning the Doctrines of Biblical Revelation, Covenant of Works, Covenant of Grace, Justification, Baptism, Good Works, The Church and the Westminster Standards. (RPC)
REPORT OF THE SPECIAL COMMITTEE TO STUDY JUSTIFICATION
IN LIGHT OF THE CURRENT JUSTIFICATION CONTROVERSY (RCUS)
A Précis of The New Perspective(s) on Paul (NPP) (Mississippi Valley Presbytery of the PCA)
Modern unbiblical Challenges to Traditional Reformed Covenant Theology (Links to material from both sides)
Let's start with the Preface to see if they addressed Wright's views:
"therefore, our study of NPP will focus primarily on Wrights writings."
I. Election and Covenant
"The version of the NPP most attractive to Reformed evangelicals is taught by N.T. Wright. Wright is more theologically conservative and has a higher view of Scripture than other major figures associated with the NPP (such as E.P Sanders and James D.G. Dunn). Wright also sees himself standing in both continuity and discontinuity with the NPP, often preferring to call his view a fresh perspective and disagreeing with key ideas that are affirmed by other NPP exponents."
"Wright emphasizes the importance of covenant theology in Pauls thought and writings. According to Wright, what Paul says about Jesus and the Law reflects his belief that the covenant purposes of Israels God had reached their climactic moment in the events of Jesus death and resurrection. Wright argues that Paul has redefined the Jewish theology of monotheism and election, God and Israel, via the doctrines of the person and work of Christ and the Spirit.
"What is also striking in Wrights version of covenant theology is the emphasis on corporate categories."
As will be detailed in the next section, Wrights redefinition of election will lead to a reworking of justification."
See also II.B.2 and II.D, as well as III.B. for extensive discussion of Wright.
The committee boiled the matter down to nine points. Based on your reading of Wright, which point(s) do you believe specifically apply to him.
BTW, I’m not advocating any position. Just asking how the committee report actually maps to the theology of Wright or Wilkins or Wilson or whomever.
The declarations dealing with justification and perseverance (2, 7, 8, 9) map back to III.B., which deals almost entirely with Wright.
The Declaration on Imputation (5) also seems to track back to there.
The declaration on Baptism (6) tend to point to Wilkin’s writings, and to an extend, Wilson’s and Lusk’s more than directly to Wright.
Someone else can tackle 1, 3, and 4.
This statement struck me as ironic, because any way other than imputation makes grace a "measurable" commodity.
I can’t find the other threads where we have discussed NPP and FV, but I wanted to pass along an update to any of you all who may have missed the latest news.
It is my understanding that the PCA filed charges against Louisiana Presbytery over the FV issues surrounding Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church, and the Presbytery’s failure to properly deal with the situation.
In any event, the upshot was that Steve Wilkens (the biggest, but not only FV advocate in the PCA) got his church to vote to leave the PCA for the CREC, where they can pursue their error in peace. Interestingly enough, CREC didn’t accept them as full members of the denomination, but classified them as a ‘mission church’ under another CREC congregation.
So Wilkins is gone from the PCA; it remains to be seen how many other preachers and churches leave the PCA, and whether there will be enough left of Louisiana Presbytery to be viable, or whether it will merge with a neighboring presbytery (either voluntarily or through process).
If I got anything wrong, please post correction. Most of the info came from blogs that I have only recently found; the change of affiliation of AAPC is noted on their web site.
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