Wright on Justification

N. T. Wright’s new book, Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision, is primarily a response to John Piper’s The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright though he engages others as well (e.g., Westerholm). For another extended review of Piper’s book, sympathetic to Wright, see Trevin Wax’s interaction with the book as well as his interview with Wright

Reformed theologians and scholars are disturbed by Wright’s defense of the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) and his, as they see it, rejection of the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone. Guy Waters, of Reformed Theological Seminary, has written a fair-minded and on point review of Wright’s new book.  If you want to read a good Reformed response to Wright, I think that is a good place to start.

I have no desire to pursue a point by point discussion in this post. Rather, I simply want to offer my thoughts on what I think is at issue in Wright’s book. I have not followed the “debate” over NPP and justification very closely in the past few years and consequently, to some extent, I am “out of the loop” on this one. But as one who has studied Refomed theology and read widely in Wright, I want to share what I think is significant about this particular contribution by N. T. Wright.

As I read Wright, his intent is to “go beyond the new perspective/old perspective divide” and appropriate from both perspectives since “both are necessary parts of what Paul is actually saying” (p. 212). The “emphases of the old and new perspectives belong…intimately together” (p. 200). Wright intends to present “Paul’s own majestic synthesis” where “old and new perspectives on Paul come together and, though tossed and tumbled about in the process, they are transformed and transcended, and together they give rise to prayer and praise” (p. 174-175). In many ways, the old and new perspectives “sit comfortably side by side” like a “parit of theological Siamese twins sharing a single heart” (p. 118).  For example, faith in Christ is both (1) our boundary marker rather than Torah works (NPP) and (2) the means of our justification before God (OPP).

I have shared this approach to the NPP and OPP for several years. I think the approaches can be complementary rather than antagonistic. But let me first point out where the NPP (as Wright presents it) would be problematic in terms of traditional Evangelical/Reformed/Lutheran theology. While there are many exegetical issues, my concern in this brief review is the theological points of contention–the soteriological questions. Here are a few:

  • Centrality of Justification. Is the central soteri0logical doctrine of the Christian faith  “justification by faith alone”? Protestants, based on Romans and Galatians, have generally thought so. But Wright thinks the emphasis on justification in Romans and Galatians is primarily about the question of Torah or faith in Jesus as boundary markers of the people of God. Justification is not so much about individual appropriation of the forgiveness of sins (though it includes that!), but the identification of the covenant people of God (pp. 75-76, 242). The overemphasis on Romans and Galatians–particularly a stress on justification–creates an imbalance within Paul’s own theology (e.g., what if Ephesians and Colossians had been the center of the Reformation movement?) as well as an imbalance in relation to the gospel of the kingdom in the Gospels (pp. 43, 176, 248). Justification–as traditionally explained– is one piece of soteriology, but it is not the whole of it.
  • Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness. Are we justificed by the forensic imputation of the moral righteousness of Christ? While Wright believes in a substitutionary atonement based on the representative faithfulness of Jesus who enacted the covenant for us, he does not believe it is necessary to read Paul as grounding this in the imputation of Christ’s moral efforts to our moral account (pp. 206-207, 217, 231-233). The faithfulness of Jesus is his “faithfulness unto death, the redeeming death, the dealing-with-sin death” which is the declaration that we are “in the right” (p. 203). Our present status (justification) derives from God’s righteousness faithfully enacted by Jesus and we claim this status through faith in Jesus.
  • Works” and Salvation. In what sense are we “judged by works” on the last day?  Evangelicals, Reformed, and Lutherans have generally relativized Paul’s language in Romans 2 (and other places) such that obedience (sanctification) does not function as a criterion of judgment. While recognizing the legitimate pastoral concerns about assurance, there is–acccording to Wright–a role for works in the eschatological judgment of God through love (not merit!) empowered by the Spirit (pp. 184-189).

Without reviewing Wright’s sustained argument in the book, his positive presentation which seeks to transcend the divide on the above three points looks something like this.

  • Union with Christ rather than Justification is Paul’s central soteriological theme.  Justification (our present righteous status before God) happens through incorporation rather than vice versa (pp. 142, 151).  We are justified because we are united with Christ. If union with Christ is the central point, then we can more appropriately see how salvation is both declaration (staus–the traditional theological category of “justification”) and participation (life–the traditional theological category of “sanctification”). Indeed, historic Reformed theology has stressed this point, which Wright recognizes (p. 72).
  • The righteousness of God is God’s faithfulness enacted through the faithfulness of Christ that gives those who trust in Christ a righteous status before God. The “righteousness of God” does not refer to God’s gift of the righteousness of Christ (p. 233) but rather to the God’s covenant faithfulness through Christ (p. 66-67). Justification is a forensic declaration in terms of status, and God’s declares his people justified (p. 69). It is a lawcourt verdict in terms of status which arises out of God’s righteousness–his faithfulness.
  • The living sign of our status is a holy life enabled by the Spirit of God. Righteousness (justification) is also a term used by Paul to talk about life (or, in traditional theological terminology, sanctification). Wright’s critics claim that he is moralistic at this point and ends up saving people by their works, but this misunderstands his point. There is no “Pauline doctrine of assurance” without a “Pauline doctrine of the Spirit,” that is, where there are no signs of holy living, “there is no sign of life” (p. 237). Together, our righteousness status through faith in Christ and the living signs of that status enacted in our life by the Spirit, anticipate the final judgment of justification on the last day (p. 239). The “verdict already announced is indeed a true anticipation of the verdict yet to be announced” (p. 225), and that final verdict “will truly reflect what people have actually done” by the power of the Spirit at work in their lives (p. 191-2).

One of Wright’s major concerns is the introduction of ecclesiology, pneumatology and eschatology into the discussion of the doctrine of justification which, he believes, is lacking in some discussions of Justification. We might say it something like this:

  • The sign of present justification is “membership in God’s people” (ecclesiology) “as the advance sign of soteriology (being saved on the last day)” (p. 147). This participation in the covenant community (church) is missional–“a people based on the work of the Servant and the work of the Spirit, who now carry God’s light, truth and teaching to the waiting nations” (p. 197). The gospel of the kingdom (which is missional ecclesiology), so prominent in the Gospels, must hearld that God has created in Jesus and by the Spirit a people who celebrate their status (forgiven) through extending God’s purposes in the world (p. 248).
  • The Spirit is the forgotten member of the Trinity in many versions of Justification where God forgives sins in Christ and this is the essence of soteriology. When we recognize that righteousness is also about sanctification and eschatological judgment, then we look to the role of the Spirit as the one who sanctifies us and empowers us for holy living as signs of the future eschatological judgment (pp. 236-240).
  • The present status of believers in Christ as justified is the already of an eschatological not-yet. It is an inaugurated reality that is only “partially realized” (p. 101). It will be progressively realized in us by the power of the Spirit and eschatologically verified on the day of judgment.  Faith in Christ “includes a trust in the Spirt, not least, a sure trust that” God will complete his work when the Lord comes again (p. 107).

If we are going to use “Justification” as a comprehensive soteriological idea, then it needs to include all the elements of soteriology–ecclesiology, Christology, eschatology, sanctification, pneumatology.  If we are going to use “Justification” as a narrow identification of the lawcourt declaration of status on the basis of Christ’s work, then we should not speak of “Justification” as the center (or even the most important aspect) of soteriology since it is only one part of the whole.

If we conceive it “broadly” (and this is one possible angle since “righteousness” is used to describe many dimensions of soteriology, including past, present and future–but there are also other angles as well), it seems to me that something like the following might find some common ground between the NPP and the OPP as well as represent Wright’s point in his book:

God’s covenant faithfulness justifies (declares righteous) those who are in the Messiah because he faithfully surrendered to God’s purposes and thus dealt with sin and death through his own death and resurrection. By faith we are incorporated into the Messiah and thus participate in God’s covenant community entrusted with God’s mission in the world. Empowered by the Spirit, this community anticipates the final verdict on the last day through heralding and embodying that verdict in the present as instruments of God’s kingdom purpose to renew the creation.

If both NPP and OPP can find agreement in such a statement, then perhaps the theological tempest might calm a bit and the mission pursued more vigorously. We can only hope, I suppose.

61 Responses to “Wright on Justification”

  1.   Danny Holman Says:

    Thanks! I am putting a copy of this inside the binding of Wright’s NPP. Hope life is going well for you.

  2.   Adam Gonnerman Says:

    Thank you for reviewing this. I’ll need to pick up a copy of the books sometime soon.

  3.   randall Says:

    Thanks for the post. I have not read enough of either Piper or Wright and I wish I understood them better. Perhaps my brain in used up but I found it difficult to follow some of what you wrote and I wish I did understand better.

    When we talk about God viewing us as righteous or viewing us as in Christ is there a distinction to be made? I am not sure I understand the difference between a person coming to faith in Christ and Christ’s righteousness being imputed to that person – I guess it is the sequence? I am not even sure I understand the difference between substitutionary atonement and penal substitutionary atonement. (You didn’t mention hat here but I think you have made a distinction in other posts/comments.) If Christ was our substitute doesn’t that necessary imply that we needed a substitute because we were wrong and punishment for our wrongs? –perhaps you can see just how confused I am–

    Are you suggesting that some view justification so narrowly as to keep it very separate from living a more sanctified life and our ultimate goal of being like him?

    I guess I could see that some may talk about it that way for the sake of defining the terms they are using. In the end I don’t see how one can talk about having been saved from the penalty of sin w/o it naturally leading to discussion of how we are in the process of being saved from the power and pleasure of sin as we work with him to be more like him. Of course, being more like him means living like him and sharing his love for the lost. And of course our ultimate goal of being free from even the presence of sin. (With apologies to A.W. Pink for a poor paraphrase of his sermon.)

    I’m getting older and my mind and body are not what they once were. If you can undo my confusion and help me to see plainly the distinction being made between Wright’s NPP and the OPP of Piper and others I would ever so grateful.


    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      Randall, it does get fairly technical and the discussions are seemingly endless. Wright suggests–as others have as well–that when God declares us righteous in terms of status that this does not necessarily entail an imputation of Christ’s righteousness but a kind of “speech-cact” where by God pronounces us righteous based on what Christ has done in dealing with sin and death.

      Thus, one of the major concerns of Reformed theologians has been that Wright denies the “great exchange” in terms of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and the imputation of our sin to Christ. He does deny this. Not because he thinks that the faithfulness of Christ is not the basis of our salvation but that he does not think the great exchange (penal substitution) is necessary or taught by Paul. Rather, Paul–according to Wright–teaches that Christ represents us and is thus a substitution for us in that his faithfulness accomplished God’s purposes where we could not do so on our own. It is a substitution, but not a penal “great exchange” substitution whereby our moral characters are mutually exchanged by imputation.

      Some do talk about about forgiveness (salvation) apart from any real connection with sanctification. In other words, sanctification is about the level of reward “in heaven” (according to one view) whereas justification is the guarentee of getting “to heaven.” Thus, living out of the power of Christ is not only unnecessary but relatively inconsequential.

      I hope that helps explain the point. But, to my mind, sometimes we get way beyond ourselves (and the text) in doing this kind of theological think about the mystery of what God has done in our salvation. I much prefer to stay within the “economic” boundaries of the history of redemption rather than extrapolating from a few texts a theological system that entails a very specific and nuanced atonement theory that is deduced from rather than stated in the text.


      John Mark

      •   randall Says:

        Thanks John Mark. That helps.

        Like many, I am so conformed to the OPP and penal substitution that it is difficult to think otherwise. I do think Wright adds something to the understanding and the church may well have been a little too focused on forensics.

        But it seems I must read Wright and NPP with the OPP. Isn’t that what you suggested? Like you, ” I much prefer to stay within the ‘economic’ boundaries of the history of redemption rather than extrapolating from a few texts a theological system that entails a very specific and nuanced atonement theory that is deduced from rather than stated in the text.” On the other hand, Ican’t help but try to understand more than is explicitly stated in the text.

        So how do I understand the necessity of Jesus death on the cross? (That is a really important question for me.) If not to pay my penalty what was it for? In what since is he my lamb that has been sacrificed (I’m thinking of the transfer of the sins of the people to the sacrifice), or the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. How did Jesus become sin for my sake? I realize I’ve alluded to only a few texts and I don’t want to build a system on them, nor use them to contradict another perspective. I do want to understand them.

        It is very difficult for me to understand the necessity of the cross apart from penal substitution. Surely a holy and blameless life by God incarnate would have been sufficient (apart from the cross) for Christ to deal with sin and my impending death so God would/could pronounce me righteous. Perhaps I have thought in that penal substitution rut so long I can’t think outside of it.

        Maybe someone could say he had to die to demonstrate the resurrection and victory over death, but it seems like a very costly demonstration.

        Also, I strongly believe obedience to God and works should be at the top on the agenda of all the saved b/c it is the right way to live, not b/c it will increase my reward. Sinners like me would be happy to be God’s stable boy in the eschaton.

        Thanks for the post and the extra explanation you provided.


      •   John Mark Hicks Says:

        Yes, I think there is a level at which NPP and OPP can be read as complementary, but there are several specific theological issues that create a chasm between them. One of those is penal substitution with the implications about imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

        I would suggest that atonement is much larger than substitution and though I think penal has a role, it is not the gospel itself. Expanding our horizons in terms of thinking about the mystery of Christ’s death (the depth of its meaning) as well as the atoning role of incarnation and resurrection and, as Wright notes well, ascension. To see the Christ Event as a whole–as a mystery–rather than hanging our theological hat on one peg of the event because even that peg is not understood without its own mysteries.

        The glory is Christ for us and Christ in us. For us, he is our righteousness, holiness and redemption. In us, he is the power of holy living. This is the mystery of God’s saving work.

      •   randall Says:

        Thanks again John Mark. I appreciate the explanation and the perspective you have presented. Seems like there are a number of particular doctrines related to Christ that are deeper and broader than initially meets the eye.

        In you reply to me you said: “To see the Christ Event as a whole–as a mystery–rather than hanging our theological hat on one peg of the event because even that peg is not understood without its own mysteries.” I gotta agree with that.

        Thanks again for taking the time and making the effort.

      •   Jr Says:

        My issue hasn’t been to those who say the atonement encompasses more than penal substitution; my concern has been with those who have taken that “peg”, which should be the size of a redwood tree trunk, and have either chopped it down (thus eliminating it altogether) or have reduced its significance to a splinter.

        Thus, in regards to the Gospel: I do believe if penal substitution is removed then indeed we lose the Gospel. Sins must be punished by a Holy God. If that didn’t happen on the Cross, we’re all screwed; and all of our fight for “social justice” won’t mean a rain drop in a lake of fire.

        I’m looking forward to Michael Horton’s review of Wright’s latest which he is releasing in weekly parts at the White Horse Inn blog.

        Grace be with each of you –

      •   John Mark Hicks Says:

        Jr, I do not think penal substitution is the sine qua non of the gospel, nor do I think understanding it (even if true) is necessary to believing the gospel (and you did not say that it is). It is worthy of discussion, and Christians can disagree about it without underming, it seems to me, the preaching of the good news of Jesus (which includes the coming of the kingdom just as much as it includes the preaching of the cross).

      •   Royce Says:

        John Mark,

        Will you please clarify your statement, “..it seems to me, the preaching of the good news of Jesus (which includes the coming of the kingdom just as much as it includes the preaching of the cross).”

        I don’t think you finished the sentence. I don’t believe the message of the cross and the message of the kingdom are on equal ground. What Paul termed of “first importance” (1 Cor:15) did not even mention the kingdom.

        One further question. Is “penal substitution” more than that Jesus took the penalty for our sins in our stead? If not that what did he do?


      •   John Mark Hicks Says:

        You are correct, Royce, I did not finish the sentence. My bad! 🙂 I guess I need to not be in such a rush. Thanks for calling attention to my oversight.

        My opinion is that the preaching of Jesus is the gospel–this includes both cross and the hearlding of the kingdom. The Gospels reflect this.

        Paul’s “first importance” includes the message of the cross and the eschatological message of the kingdom (e.g., resurrection) as new creation (as Wright argues, for example,in Surprised by Hope. Resurrection–new life, new creation–is the gospel of the kingdom, as I understand it.

        Most theories of atonement use the language of ransom (payment) for sin, but the penal theory is much more specific about a legal exchange where Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us and our sin is imputed to Christ as a matter of satisfaction and justice. I don’t deny that there is important language reflective of something like that in the text, but I don’t see it as the central metaphor or the all-encompasing metaphor, nor is it as narrow a legal concept as some penal substitutionists contend.

        I hope that helps to clarify. Thanks.

      •   nick gill Says:

        Jesus’ title, Christ, is the title of the King of God’s kingdom.

        Paul specifically uses the title Christ, not the name Jesus, in his exposition of the gospel in 1 Cor 15.

        And, since it is by the power of the kingdom that our Christ is resurrected, I think the entire chapter is about the kingdom, and that includes the “raised” part — and the according to the Scriptures part — of 1 Cor 15:1-4.

      •   Royce Says:

        Well Nick, I guess I’m out on a technical.


  4.   nick gill Says:

    Like Trevin, I don’t understand why Piper would pick this battle.

    One of my favorite things about Wright is his desire to honor the truth in his critics — so much of is writing comes from a desire to absorb the critique and come out the other side, rather than defending his own thoughts at all cost.

    I think your review honors that desire of Dr. Wright’s. Great work, brother.

    In HIS love,

    PS – do you get the sense, too, that Wright himself would prefer to speak more simply, but there is so much water under the theological bridge over the last 2k years that he must speak with such complexity? The whole struggle of theologians to say everything they believe lest they be accused of not believing the thing they forgot to say…?

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      Yes, I think he would prefer to speak more simply, and speak more in terms of the exegetical language itself (the language of the text). However, 500 years of Reformation debate about “works,” the legal frame for that discussion, etc. have severely complicated the matter.

      John Mark

      •   Andy Says:

        2 Cor 11:3ff haunts me on this score. How, in fact, do we get led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ, into the complexity that takes us, degree by degree, off course over the long voyage. And how do we discern if, in fact, there is something darkly divisive and devious afoot? We never, ever, ever want o accuse anyone of being a partaker in any deflection but Paul did bring it up. And I don’t suppose I am better than the Corinthians on that score.

  5.   Adam Gonnerman Says:

    Nick, hope you don’t mind me jumping in here. I tend to suspect that it is precisely the “2k” years of history that make what Bishop Wright says sound complex. Every time I start talking about heaven not being the goal, people get perplexed. When I try to explain resurrection and New Heavens/New Earth as the true hope of the Gospel, I lose people entirely.

    Sometimes it feels like trying to explain the “necessity” (note the quotes, I’m trying to be careful here) of baptism to believers in “faith alone” (the vast majority of evangelicals). It seems as plain as day to me in Scripture, but there was a time it wasn’t. Explanations as to why baptism is the point where the fullness of God’s promises for this age are applied seemed terribly “out there.” Then one day it all fell into place and now I can’t miss it.

  6.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    I’ve neither read Wright’s book (though it is on my Amazon wish list) or Piper’s book, so I am truly out of the loop when it comes to the OPP and NPP discussion. However, I remember having Dr. Oster for NT Theology at HUGSR and he was challenging all of us, who uncritically read the NT through the OPP, with the NPP. This included readings from E.P. Sanders and some others. One thing that I appreciated about the NPP view (which Dr. Oster held) was its attention to not just scripture but reading scripture through the lens of the OT rather than problems facing the early reformers.

    Though I cannot articulate the NPP the way Wright or Oster could, I found it more compelling not only for the reason above but also because it harmonizes with NT passages such as James 2.17 as well as 2 Cor 5.10 & Rev 20.12-13; 22.12 which suggest that works/deeds are a part of the larger soteriological scope than the OPP is willing to allow.

    Grace and peace,


  7.   Royce Says:

    I must admit that I to am a bit lost when reading this post. I probably don’t know enough about Wright and his views to be critical, either for or against. I do largly agree with Piper on the doctrine of salvation.

    Here is where I part with many of my friends. I believe justification to be wholly by faith and wrought wholly by the work and worth of Christ but also believe that justification is only one facet of salvation. My salvation began in eternity past and will be completed in the future when I receive a glorified body not unlike Christs’

    Salvation is justification, sanctification, and glorification, all possible only through Christ and without my contribution.


    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      I think the dispute, to some degree, is about the relationship of justification to sanctification in terms of “works,” that is, in terms of living out the life of God by the power of the Spirit.

      It is only possible through Christ–all would agree. That it is received by faith–all would agree. Without of our contribution–in terms of merit or worth, all would agree. But here is where the rub comes, I think–what role does our participation in the life of God play in both the final verdict of judgment (what is the meaning of judged by works?) and in the accomplishment of the mission of God in the world?

  8.   rich constant Says:

    john mark
    have you come to any new conclusions on gal-4?
    did wright even mention the word “nullified” and we are ONE in spirit the body of light in a dark world,as he is, to the glory of the father.
    what he seems to be saying is this.
    the boundary being faith in god’s righteous act of love through the FAITH once for all delivered to the saints

    eph.2:14 For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, 2:15 when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace,
    2:16 and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed.

    power of sin nullified through the one act of faithful righteousness.rom.5-18
    then there is always 1ST peter 1st chapter

    as i understand that word the law of sin and death is still in effect if you fall outside the spiritual body of the faithful.
    a legal term
    we are known of god now…

    thanks john mark
    you are one good piece of work.
    i know , i know….
    i will think up another descriptive phrase.
    by the way the men’s’ fellowship class is great…
    i look forward to that every Thursday night.
    there starting to get to know me. and laugh a little now knowing “even i don’t take my self to seriously”
    and it isn’t about me it is us being of one spirit.
    1st pet. 3,8-12

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      Wright does talk about the removal of Torah boundary markers as identity markers of the people of God. The people of God are now identified by faith in Christ because of the faithfulness of Christ and the Spirit empowers living out the law written on our hearts.

  9.   rich constant Says:

    on being “known by God”Gal.4.9 the father…why ?faithful righteous act’s
    see rom 10.
    rom 2:29 but someone is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart by the Spirit and not by the written code. This person’s praise is not from people but from God.

  10.   Jr Says:

    There has been so much written on this it is difficult to get it all straight. I wrote a short synopsis of the NPP; what it argues, why it is attractive, and its problems. It is from a lecture by Ligon Duncan. You can read my synopsis of it here

    To highlight some of why the NPP is mistaken:

    1) Their interpretation of the historical context is wrong. It paints too rosy of a picture of Rabbinic Judaism. Sanders mistakes the semi-Pelagian for the Pelagian; thus he misunderstands Luther’s criticism of the Roman Church as well as Luther’s reaction to Paul. Sanders battles something that doesn’t exist. NPP folks think the reformers were battling Pelagianism of Rome but they were not – they were battling semi-Pelagianism. The problem was not with the bold proclamation of works-based righteousness it was with the subtle insertion of Christ plus works. That is what the reformers battled and that is what Paul battled with the Jews. Christ plus anything is semi-Pelagianism

    2) NPP has an exegetical problem with Paul. NPP removes Paul’s doctrine of man and sin. When we read Romans ch.1-3 we see the following: a)Man = under the wrath and condemnation of God because of sin. b)Sin = no one is righteous no not one. c)Solution = justified apart from works of the Law

    2b) There isn’t a single use of “righteous” to mean “membership in group” or “justify” to mean “declare member in group” in ancient language (lexicon study). Wright flat out makes up vocabulary to fit the theory.

    2c) NPP allows provisional theory regarding their interpretation of Judaism prior to and contemporary with the time of the early Christians to dominate their exegesis. The biblical text takes a back seat to proposed theoretical context.

    3) Pastoral/Theological problems. NPP is reductionist and minimalist in nature. Reduces the importance of the death of Jesus.
    -Downplays or separates the work of Christ with the person of Christ
    -Diminishes importance of the real problem of sin
    -Changes the Gospel from God’s work on the Cross to “covenant membership”

    It is really hard for me to not see a political motivation for the NPP when I read the material. Wright certainly possesses an over-realized eschatology. Kevin DeYoung said it humorously in one of his responses. He writes:
    “Wright argues that the Jews in the first century were not sitting around discussing how to go to heaven, and swapping views on the finer points of synergism and sanctification (55). Perhaps, but I’m willing to bet their discussions had much more to do with the afterlife and how people were saved and how people got holy than with relieving third world debt. The sword of rhetorical anachronism cuts both ways don’t you know.”

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:


      We will have to disagree about this, I suppose. I judge that your points about NPP (as they apply to Wright) are a cariacture and do not represent what is actually said by Wright. For example, Wright does not say that the word “justification” means “membership in a group,” but actually says that it is a lawcourt declaration of righteousness–it is a status of being righteous. Within the frame of the narrative of Scripture–the story of God’s covenant people, it also entails as a theological idea membership in the covenant.

      But I don’t want to go point-by-point here. Rather, I am much more interested in what is held in common between NPP and OPP, that is, that there is common ground between these readings of Paul.

      BYTW, Jewish believers did talk about the injustice of landowners and the way debtors were treated, as this is evidenced in the prophets and the New Testament itself. That is parallel to third-world debt as we think about the meaning of kingdom theology in the present.

  11.   Larry Short Says:

    Often, I am sure that God is more multi-faceted than our theologies. In the discussion above, I think the sacrifice of Jesus can be viewed as; God’s love (Jn 3), atonement satisfaction of God’s justice (lots of Hebrews), or reconciliation to God’s fathership (huge hint & theme of OT, Jesus’ parables, and Paul’s letters. Instead of debating the best view, most correct theology probably all are correct and many more.
    Randall, don’t give up discovering why He died. Just don’t expect one answer to be the one and only correct one. On this one I suspect it less like finding the pearl of great price, instead as Jacob discovered “God is also in this place”. Why God cares about us at all and to the extreme of the cross, takes us a lot of ways of looking to understand.

  12.   eirenetheou Says:

    These kinds of arguments always put me in mind of the Blind Men of Hindustan, “observing” their elephant ever so carefully. “Each was partly in the right,” the poet concludes, “and all were in the wrong.”

    God has no end of advisers who would require him to do things their way, or else. Yet much of what we read in the Bible is laden with paradox and ambiguity, and our personal, intimate knowledge of our own fallibility should encourage us to cut one another some slack in the matter of exactly how and why and when God cleanses, heals, and liberates us. We are all, in the end of things, “saved” by grace, as God’s gift, and not by one particular understanding of salvation. Let us then, withal, seek that peace of God that “passes all understanding.”

    God’s Peace to you.


    •   John Mark Hicks Says:


      It seems to me our confession of salvation by grace through faith will never approach the mystery of what God has actually done for us. In this, we all need some humility and demonstrate grace toward each other in our discussions.

      Thanks for the kind reminder, my brother.

      John Mark

  13.   Greg McKinzie Says:

    I just read Piper and Wright together a couple of weeks ago, so this is a timely discussion for me.

    Wright’s “going beyond” the NP/OP divide is one of the most consequential aspects of the book, since, as he admits, he really isn’t saying anything he hasn’t said before–although there is a lot to be said for rearticulation, especially in the context of a challenge like Piper’s. Yet, in my estimation, Wright accomplished distancing himself from a caricature or generalization of the NP more than actually bridging the distance between his position and the NP. It is still an accomplishment, to be sure, because he makes clear that a number of usual criticisms of the NP (see Jr’s post above) do not apply to his particular view.

    On the other hand, I think Wright’s conciliatory approach downplays rhetorically what is still very much front and center between him and (representatively) Piper. The two issues that the OP fixates on are the very points that Wright is not interested in perpetuating. To keep the “law court” where many NP folks throw it out is something, I suppose, but imputed righteousness is the essence of the OP system. As Randall’s comments point out, substituted merit is the logic of the cross for the OP, without which it is difficult to make much sense of the death of the Messiah (short of the paradigm shift that Wright is advocating). Secondly, the OP is deeply preoccupied with “works righteousness,” whereas Wright’s view of sanctification obviously crosses into the territory of human contribution to the “final verdict.” While Wright makes a clear distinction between his point and “merit,” the OP has such a hedge around “faith alone” that the distinction is moot in my estimation.

    I can’t say I think Wright could have approached Piper’s criticism more gracefully, and he is probably wisest to have played up common ground. As he put it, his is a “flanking maneuver” rather than a frontal assault, and there is something about such a disposition that commends his perspective. It’s just that part of me wishes he had forthrightly admitted that it is impossible actually to reconcile his exegesis with the concerns at the heart of the OP. An easy “both/and” seems impossible to me. On the other hand, Wright does make a sustained comparison of his view with the Copernican revolution and the OP with geocentrism. That’s a fair enough representation of the difference between the two.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:


      Wright does make it clear that his understanding of the role of works in the final verdict and his rejection of Christ’s imputed righteousnes are critical differences. But what I find conciliatory about the way he addresses this is that he recognizes that the Reformed tradition can accomodate the emphasis on works through emphasizing Spirit-empowered sanctification and that God’s declaration of righteousness for us acomplishes the same goal as the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. In other words, he gets to the same place but through another means. This is why I appeal to a broad statement to which both can subscribe while still disagreeing about the modus operandi which belongs more to theological theory than it does to the theology of the text itself.

  14.   Greg McKinzie Says:

    Fair enough. From where I stand, I like that approach, because it emphasizes that place we’re trying to get as well as that it is still only through Christ that we get there. Being on the Wright’s side of things, so to speak =), that is what I would hope for in terms of practical Christian fellowship. I think the point in the back of my mind as I was typing my first post is that Piper and his compatriots, while admonishing kindly, are quite ready to compare Wright’s perspective with the false gospel of Galatians. That is, as Wright often points out, modus operandi is the gospel the for the OP. That is what I mean by the “concerns at the heart of the OP”–not that “getting there through Christ” isn’t a concern shared by both. I’m just not sure that the OP–and I don’t think you’re representative here–can ever compromise with a general statement that tolerates “another means.” As I type that, I see the danger of generalizing the OP as it does the NP. Only insofar as Piper is actually representative of the OP do I stand by the point I’m trying to make.

    As an aside, do you really think the articulation of the modus operandi is foreign to the theology of the text?

    Thanks for engaging.

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      I suppose it depends on what we think modus operandi refers. 🙂

      If we think it refers to the actual means by which God deals with sin, holiness and justice (that is, what actually happens in the life of the Triune God), then I think it belongs to theological theory.

      If we think it refers to the metaphors of redemptive work (redemption, reconciliation, ransom, propitiation, etc.), then we learn something of the reality of the mystery of God–we get a glimpse that is incomplete, accomodative and evocative. But it is not the mystery itself which transcends our grasping.

      I hope the clarifies. 🙂 Perhaps not, and it won’t be the first time. 🙂

  15.   Charles Meadows Says:


    It’s a great topic!

    Wright has been pretty well trounced on a lot of reformed blogs, which I think is a shame. He certainly is not an American evangelical, and as such sees some of the concerns of “conservative” theologians as strange. For Wright the questioning of traditional orthodoxy is not bad if it leads to good results. There is a disconnect there I think – and hence his lack of urgency to respond to others (like Piper) whom he percieves to be reacting more to his deviation from orthodoxy than his actual position!

    He also seems to be frustrated a bit by the fact that his critics don’t see his “big picture”, the fact that he is linking Paul with the OT in a very Jewish way, and in a way that makes good sense of Jesus’ portrait in the gospels. He complained that Piper did not seem to understand what he was saying. this is evident in the writings of those who criticise, for example, his identification of God’s righteousness with His covenant-faithfulness. Piper, and others, say that this is way too limited and does not play out in scripture. Wright sees this as a misunderstanding since for him the covenant encompasses EVERYTHING – God’s whole purpose. So covenant-faithfulness for Wright is a huge term, not a limited one.

    I am not sold on Wright yet. And I would like to see a good full response to him from someone in reformed circles. But I think he has given us all a great new challenge.

  16.   rich constant Says:

    john mark
    thinking on this a bit here is a question.
    since Paul winds up and unwinds god’s act of redemption at the cross how does wright deal with the issue from a point of view that is focused on the real issue of the creation ROM 5?
    sin is not imputed where there is no law,
    although all men are condemned to death…because of deviating from “gods” good.

    also i see a lot of people talk of the wrath of god exercised the is a difference between god’s wrath and god’s curse because of missing the mark of law, yes?

    also how does the op define faith,in faith only.and where and how in the scripture does that come about.

    if that comes from rom.3.21-26… they do have an issue of why would the h.s. leave out the work of Christ in the act of redemption for those that were born prior to the law and apart from gods people.
    the NP takes up the slack there through the faithful act of god in Christ, the servant’s faith to the will of god to cleans the the eternal things of god’s creation through a participation of loving goodness apart from law. faith working through love and not the objective gender of faith IN Christ.

    blessings john mark and all

    for those of the
    if Jesus was righteous by law,
    was God unrighteous to curse his son…
    what is that thing called
    the Law of Contradiction…
    the answer will only arise through subjective gender of ROM 3.21-31 and gal. 2.16-20 the faithfulness of Christ brought about a righteous quickening spirit to “righteous faith” for all ALL THOSE WHO BELIEVE.”IN GOD’S GOSPEL” HIS WORK IN CHRIST…

    •   rich constant Says:

      john mark
      would you run the translation of Isa 53.8
      i think that it is interesting, the use of the Hebrew word, that can be translated deviate.
      seems to work right along with Romans 5 and the result of the righteous act of faith unto redemption,

      if you don’t mind

  17.   rich constant Says:

    p.s. john mark
    there seems to me to be a clear distinction
    between the righteousness of the faith of abraham(imputed righteous)
    and the blessing to follow from the seed born under the law, that the curse could not dis annul because the BLESSING was through grace and not by merit(law) so that by death through law the promise took on eternal life (quickening SPIRIT)because of righteous faith.
    and so it goes

  18.   rich constant Says:

    another P.S.

    imputed righteous
    10:4 Staring at him and becoming greatly afraid, Cornelius replied, “What is it, Lord?” The angel said to him, “Your prayers and your acts of charity have gone up as a MEMORIAL before God.

    The language used in the expression gone up as a memorial before God parallels what one would say of acceptable sacrifices (Ps 141:2; Sir 35:6; 50:16).

    PETER’S AMAZEMENT of the father’s acceptance
    10:34 Then Peter started speaking: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people, 10:35 but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is welcomed before him.

    GOD’S GOSPEL BELIEVED (they heard the word of god and believed ROM 10 the holy one of god was raised)

    10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell on all those who heard the message. 10:45 The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were greatly astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles,

    peter continues WITH CHRIST’S MESSAGE,
    with the commission given to him by his lord and savor Jesus the Messiah.WHO IS GIVEN ALL AUTHORITY BY GOD PS.2
    and deems the definition of who has true life giving righteous faith (GOD’S SPIRIT FILLED FAITHFULNESS)

    the quicking act of grace through faith

    10:47 “No one can withhold the water for these people to be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” 10:48 So he gave orders to have them baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

    2:11 In him you also were circumcised – not, however, with a circumcision performed by human hands, but by the removal of the fleshly body, 23 that is, through the circumcision done by Christ. 2:12 Having been buried with him in baptism, you also have been raised with him through your faith in the power of God who raised him from the dead. 2:14 He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.

    also rom 7

    blessings john mark
    by the way i know you don’t like the scripture paste

    just the only way to get the point out
    as always
    alter or delete this if you like when you read this in the morning.

  19.   Joey Tilton Says:

    John Mark,
    I haven’t quite finished Wright’s Justification, but I think your review is accurate, and helpful. Thank you. (Although, that isn’t at all to say that I am even qualified to make such an assessment. I’m not. This stuff is way out of my league.)

    From this lay person’s standpoint (and one who cannot stand Piper’s theology) here are some things that stand out for me in the book:

    1) I quite liked Wright’s regular sarcasm at Piper’s expense. I laughed out loud several times while reading the book. Here’s an example.
    From page 96: “All these things need to be held together – a task extremely easy in the first century for someone like Paul, and apparently next to impossible for those whose soteriology never had an Israel-dimension and who don’t want to start thinking about one now.”
    2) 2 Corinthians 5:21. Wright’s discussion of this well-known passage is rich and was just a joy to read. He refutes the alleged imputation of righteousness as based upon 5:21 He deals with this passage a little differently here http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Becoming_Righteousness.pdf
    Elsewhere (The Climax of the Covenant?), he argues for the rendering of “hamartias” as “sin offering.” McGuiggan takes this view, as well (The Dragon Slayer).
    3) Elsewhere, again, Wright explicitly says that he does not believe in pen sub atonement (I can’t remember where I read him saying this, but I know I did!) However, in Justification he comes too close for my comfort to pen sub with his substitutionary speech. I know he is not dealing with pen sub in this book, but I still wish he were a little more precise in what he says. His rejection of the idea of imputation of righteousness would require him to also reject the imputation of our sins to Jesus, a requirement in pen sub. Over and over Wright’s discussion of what happened at the Cross acknowledges that happened was much bigger than punishment; bigger than an “eye-for-eye”; bigger, even, than just forgiveness. I wish he would just specifically address the issue. I keep thinking this might be addressed by John Mark Hicks, too. :0) Which kinda brings me to…
    4) Royce, if you’re still reading… You said, “I do largely agree with Piper on the doctrine of salvation.” Let me suggest that if you carry Piper’s views on God to their, I judge, NECESSARY CONCLUSIONS, that you would not agree with Piper. Piper’s view on God is that God is all wrapped up in himself and seeks nothing but his own glorification. His is a very self-centered God, and an awful God, at that. Piper’s views on atonement MUST conclude with predestination, and irresistible grace, etc. Piper would say (no, says!) that God created some (most?) people for no other reason than eternal torture. Our God is not like that!

    •   Jr Says:

      “[Piper’s God] is a very self-centered God” … “Our God is not like that!”

      Slow down there chap …

      “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
      I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”
      (Isaiah 48:9-11)

      Also, take a good long read at Ezekiel 20.

      There are plenty more; but now on to the NT:

      “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,…”

      and why does He do that? …

      “…in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—” (Rom 9:22-23; never-mind the entire chapter)

      Then there is Ephesians 1. Where a question we may ask, “why does God save?” is answered “to the praise of his glorious grace,” “to the praise of his glory,” and again, “to the praise of his glory.” All of which is “according to the purpose of his will,” “according to his purpose,” and “according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”

      What does Jesus have to say about this?
      “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:23)

      In essence: we were created by God… to worship God.

      So, maybe God IS primarily concerned about His Name and getting all the glory. What you call self-centeredness I call His Perfect Nature.

      We must not over-anthropomorphize God’s attributes. They are not like fallen man’s attributes. It is impossible for God to be negatively self-centered. He is Holy Holy Holy and perfect in every way. He can’t help but glorify Himself. It’s in His very nature to be glory for and to Himself. He created for Himself. He sent Jesus to the Cross for Himself. We are blessed by pure grace to even be a part of the entirety of it all in the fact that He shares Himself with us.

      He deserves to be worshipped and He knows it. And to that I say, “Amen.”

      •   John Mark Hicks Says:

        We all recognize that God creates for his glory, but I think Irenaeus had it right that the glory of God is a human being fully living out the passion of God.

        Of course, it is impossible for God to be self-centered. The point is that the Reformed picture can sometimes appear to paint God as self-centered.

        I would suggest, as I noted in the post to which I pointed in a comment on this page, that the glory of God is to love and enjoy the creation. The Reformed agenda, it seems to me, undermines that glory.

        But…here we go again in terms of differences when I would rather stress continuities and common ground. Both Reformed and Arminian worship the God who saves in Jesus through faith. We simply disagree about which system best handles all the biblical data and theological reflections involved in understanding the faith more deeply.

        Blessings, Jr.

  20.   Joey Tilton Says:

    I would also add that reading Justification one might get the impression that Wright is saying Paul’s message was only (mostly?) to Jews. Wright surely doesn’t actually believe this.
    Oh, and one more thing…Wright’s writing is sometimes very tedious to read. Some of his sentences, like Paul’s, go on-and-on-and-on. I found myself on several occasions saying, “What was the subject of this sentence?!”

  21.   Joey Tilton Says:

    Oooo..let me add (thank you for letting me say my little thoughts)…It is so hard for us to NOT think from a Reformed mindset, isn’t it? At the very least, Wright gets us to consider that maybe we DON’T have it all figured out theologically and that there’s more to this Christianity stuff than church-attendance and being nice people. I’ll shut up now.

  22.   Royce Says:


    What do you do with scores of passages that stand in stark contrast to what you believe? Ignore them? That is what most free willers do with them.

    How about Revelation 13:8 “and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”

    Your “awful God” rant arises from ignorance or dishonesty. I am not sure which. Perhaps you should get to know what Piper teaches better before you make such foolish assertions.


    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      I believe Joey indicated that it was his judgment that the logical consequences of Piper’s understanding leads to the conclusions he noted. I have suggested something similiar in my post at http://johnmarkhicks.wordpress.com/2008/05/08/the-love-and-glory-of-god/ though I have, as you know, great respect for the Reformed tradition.

      As you know, Arminians have texts too (as, for example, God is not willing that any should perish) and they have understandings of texts like Revelation 13:8 that are consistent (seemingly) with their convictions. That debate goes back a long way. 🙂

      As for “awful God,” even Calvin called it a “horribile” decree as God is the cause of reprobation–the Latin probably means something like “frightening” (as Calvin’s French translation of his comment indicates). This is, of coursw, is true only of classic Reformed theology and not perhaps the many variations that have attempted to mitigate or mystify the decree.

      •   randall Says:

        Royce and JMH,
        You may recall my statement to the effect that Calvinism is the worst possible understanding of the sovereignty of God, except for all the other understandings I am familiar with.

        To think that God created Pharaoh (and others) for the purpose of demonstrating his power, hardened Pharaoh’s heart and then condemned Pharaoh for having a hard heart may not please everyone.

        OTOH, to think that God has a child (perhaps you or me) that he wants to save and is unable to do it b/c I would not yield my stubborn will is also an unattractive prospect. If my salvation rested in my own ability to yield to him or persevere I would have no confidence.

        No doubt there is some mystery here beyond my poor ability to grasp. In the meantime I know that my savior loves me and I am his forever. I don’t doubt that a classic Arminian believes that as well.

        Sometimes I wonder where the semi-Pelagians and Pelagians find any rest. I assume they are simply inconsistent in their beliefs and recognize something of the greatness of God’s love and forgiveness. They would not be the only ones that are inconsistent in their thinking.

      •   John Mark Hicks Says:

        Funny, semi-Pelagians–even classic Arminians–wonder how Calvinist find rest. 🙂

        I’m grateful that we can all rest in God’s grace through faith without the necessity figuring out how all this works as we all live with some mystery in our theology. I would be wary if there were no mysteries.

        John Mark

      •   rich constant Says:

        JOHN MARK
        just think
        IF: oh boy

        IF all babies born have no sin “say they got
        it wrong” would we not start out in the
        book of life….and then…
        just another thought…
        kinda like a what is it a gestalt perception…
        blessings all
        ps hope that doesn,t keep anyone up late 🙂

  23.   Joey Tilton Says:

    Royce, I wish you well.

  24.   Adam Gonnerman Says:

    Lovely how believers in Christ are so able to discuss their faith in such harmony and mutual respect. I’m just glad I wasn’t on the receiving end of so much brotherly love this time. A discussion of the atoning death of Christ that leads to this. And I’m sure everyone feels justified and right about what they said and how they said it.

    Checking out now. Again.

  25.   Joey Tilton Says:

    I am deeply sorry (especially to John Mark). I did not intend to sound abrasive. I genuinely had the impression that Royce was not familiar with Piper’s beliefs. Apparently he is and is accepting of them. Had I known that, I would not have directed any comments towards him. I certainly was not trying to question his honesty or intelligence. I am so sorry.

  26.   Royce Says:

    John Mark,

    I believe I remember you saying that you embrace parts of both the Reformed and Armenian views as do I.

    It is very easy to get caught in the tangle of technical language and mistake what someone teaches.

    The bottom line is this for me. I believe God alone saves sinful men (whom the Bible describes as “dead”). Others believe it is a join venture, a partnership between God and man with the sinner making some contrubution to his own eventual salvation. I reject that view.

    I doubt that we will finally solve for everyone’s satisfaction questions that have been discussed by good men for many, many centuries.

    I appreciate your study and that you gladly share it with your readers.


  27.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Joey and Royce,

    Thanks for the further comments. I appreciate your responsiveness.

    God alone saves. God saves in Christ. God saves through faith. God empowers us to participate in the divine love. God gifts us to participate in the divine mission.

    It seems to me both Arminian and Calvinist can agree with the paragraph above. I think that is sufficient for loving each other and showing each other mutual respect in Christ even when we think the other holds additional perspectives that either deny or undermine those truths in our own particular opinions.

    Blessings to all, grace and peace.

    John Mark

    •   Royce Says:

      John Mark,

      On this we completely agree. What binds us together as family is our common trust in Jesus, not our various views of doctrine.

      One of the RM fathers said something like “Where ever I find a person who claims Jesus as Lord I have found a brother”. Thats where I am. Different is not of necessarily wrong, or harmful.

      Perhaps unfortunately for me, I have never found any comfort in running with the pack. I have had to find my own way as to theology and doctrine and along the winding path I have both been deeply loved and accepted, and strongly rejected as a heritic. There is always more lovers than haters, thank God.

      Blessing to you and your ministry,

  28.   rich constant Says:

    ah yes you guys,
    diversity if we can learn to use that as a shared gift may be we will all benefit tomorrow with what god calls good and realise it ain’t me.
    through our honest interaction and applying the word to expose our failures in faithfulness we help one another grow in strength and humility of our walk of sanctification through the Spirit of the LORD OUR GOD.
    i think you talked about diversity in your hermeneutics section it sure has helped me with my issues of personal dichotomies, which taught me to look at the proverbial log in my eye.

    crud guys, we all can only get better…:-)
    blessing to all

  29.   rich constant Says:

    and p.s. all
    there is a free down load.
    it is called n.e.t. bible
    that will allow you to read this like the npp is alluding to with out thinking to do the manipulation in your head.

    3:8 More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! 10 – that I may gain Christ, 3:9 and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s FAITHFULNESS 11 – a righteousness from God that is in fact 12 based on Christ’s 13 FAITHFULNESS. 14 3:10 My aim is to know him, 15 to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, 16 and to be like him in his death, 3:11 and so, somehow, 17 to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

    11 tn Or “faith in Christ.” A decision is difficult here. Though traditionally translated “faith in Jesus Christ,” an increasing number of NT scholars are arguing that πίστις Χριστοῦ (pisti” Cristou) and similar phrases in Paul (here and in Rom 3:22, 26; Gal 2:16, 20; 3:22; Eph 3:12) involve a subjective genitive and mean “Christ’s faith” or “Christ’s faithfulness” (cf., e.g., G. Howard, “The ‘Faith of Christ’,” ExpTim 85 [1974]: 212-15; R. B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ [SBLDS]; Morna D. Hooker, “Πίστις Χριστοῦ,” NTS 35 [1989]: 321-42). Noteworthy among the arguments for the subjective genitive view is that when πίστις takes a personal genitive it is almost never an objective genitive (cf. Matt 9:2, 22, 29; Mark 2:5; 5:34; 10:52; Luke 5:20; 7:50; 8:25, 48; 17:19; 18:42; 22:32; Rom 1:8; 12; 3:3; 4:5, 12, 16; 1 Cor 2:5; 15:14, 17; 2 Cor 10:15; Phil 2:17; Col 1:4; 2:5; 1 Thess 1:8; 3:2, 5, 10; 2 Thess 1:3; Titus 1:1; Phlm 6; 1 Pet 1:9, 21; 2 Pet 1:5). On the other hand, the objective genitive view has its adherents: A. Hultgren, “The Pistis Christou Formulations in Paul,” NovT 22 (1980): 248-63; J. D. G. Dunn, “Once More, ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ,” SBL Seminar Papers, 1991, 730-44. Most commentaries on Romans and Galatians usually side with the objective view.

    sn ExSyn 116, which notes that the grammar is not decisive, nevertheless suggests that “the faith/faithfulness of Christ is not a denial of faith in Christ as a Pauline concept (for the idea is expressed in many of the same contexts, only with the verb πιστεύω rather than the noun), but implies that the object of faith is a worthy object, for he himself is faithful.” Though Paul elsewhere teaches justification by faith, this presupposes that the object of our faith is reliable and worthy of such faith.



  30.   Joey Tilton Says:

    Rich – Wow! What a great resource. Thanks for the link. I just read the chapter and footnotes on Romans 3, with particular attention to verse 25. You have made my day.

  31.   rich constant Says:

    thank you Joey
    that will give me good thoughts the rest of the day.
    glad to help.

  32.   Jr Says:

    Been reading Michael Horton’s review on Wright. You can catch it in parts at the White Hourse Inn blog.

    I’m catching a common theme in that it seems the Reformed responders to Wright are growing tired of him for a very basic reason outside of the topic of justification itself: and that is Wright is downright ignorant of the reformers. He sets up straw man after straw man then places his views against those.

    On another note; anybody who gets McLaren and Bell to pitch a book for them is questionable (at best). Even McKnight and Kimball have distanced themselves from those types; yet for the publisher of Wright’s latest they were seen as authorities on justification?

    This world has gone insane.

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