Saturday, August 14, 2010

N.T. Wright on Justification

I have almost finished N.T.Wright's book Justification - God's Promise and Paul's Vision and the review essay required on it for my class. Taking a pause before lunch I thought I would jot a few notes while they are fresh in my mind. Understanding Wright requires effort. One problem with Wright, to use his own analogy, is that he rearranges and discards the traditional puzzle pieces so much he leaves you more than a bit confused, and concerned, if not outright frustrated. While surfing around I stumbled across a short post entitled "N.T. Wright's Doctrine of Justification - In Layman's Terms!" For the most part his brief summary hits the main points of what I read in his book. A blog post cannot possiblly do justice to a thorough review of his work, and if time allows I may post my own paper later. Suffice it to say that Wright, while endeavoring to appear quite biblical and evangelical, has managed to completely upset any traditional understanding we Lutherans ever had on the doctrine of Justification. In fact, his comments throughout the book betray a not so thinly veiled distaste for any Reformation-based statement on the doctrine. So where does that leave him? To accept his thesis you would have to scrap whatever understanding you had of Romans prior to this, and start over. You would have to accept a new vocabulary and new definitions of familiar terms. In short, you would have to start over.

Yet would you still end up with grace and faith alone once you did this? Hard to tell. On the surface it seems so at times. Yet one wonders, especially when he talks about eschatology and the verdict at the end based on works. Christ is there, too, but not as forcefully as in the "old perspective," in my opinion. When you jettison the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the sinner you lose something. A lot, to be sure. I'm just not sure where we get back what we lost when Wright is done dismantling it. Perhaps someone out there has read Wright as well and would like to shed some light in an attempt to better understand him. I'd be interested to hear your insights.

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