Wednesday, May 6, 2009

NT Wright, Justification, and the New Perspective

Scot McKnight, who is a popular Protestant speaker and biblical scholar, has begun posting his thoughts on the new book by NT Wright which deals with the issue of St. Paul and justification. The book is in response to criticism Wright has faced from Christians of the Reformed tradition, most notably the very influential John Piper. Wright is in favor of the "New Perspective of Paul" school, which was built by such prominent biblical scholars as EP Sanders and James Dunn. If you would like to read a brief overview of the "New Perspective", you can go here and here.

Below is a description of Wright's new book:
The work of Anglican bishop N. T. Wright on the topic of justification and Paul has provoked a focused yet enthusiastic wave of controversy in certain theological circles. Reformed theologian and pastor John Piper has recently published a strong critique of his ideas. This book is Wright's gracious yet pointed response to Piper and others who would claim that his understanding of the doctrine of justification is potentially dangerous and even destructive to the integrity of Paul's message and ultimately to the meaning of the gospel. Here Wright not only responds to his critics but also provides his most lucid explanation yet on the so-called new perspective on Paul, clarifying misunderstandings and providing a full articulation of his views. This irenic response is an important contribution for those on both sides of the debate-and those still in between. Whether you're a fan of Wright's work or have read Piper's book and would like to know the other side of the story, here is a chance to interact with Wright's views on the issues at stake and form your own conclusions.

The introductory post, at Scot McKnight's Jesus Creed Blog can be read here, followed by the most recent here. While this is a "purely Protestant debate", as Scot points outs, I think it is essential that all Christians, including Catholics, keep up on these important debates within Christendom. I plan to pick up Wright's book sometime this week, since I now have plenty of time to do more reading with graduate course work being all completed! Yippie!

If anyone is interested, perhaps we could have a series of discussions on this blog about the issues focused on in Wright's new book. Yeah, that's right, a "Catholic Perspective on the New Perspective of Paul". If interested, please indicate in the comment box. Obviously, you will need to pick up the book in the next week or so.


jogomu said...

I am somewhat familiar with the "New Perspective"... it was one stepping stone towards my conversion to Catholicism, but not because of its content... more because of its credibility. If there are multiple credible readings on a topic as fundamental as being in a right standing before God, then the Bible is not "perspicuous" on its own, and God must have "other things" fill in the gap (Tradition, Magisterium). Or so I figured...

Some fairly simple insights into Rom 4:4-5 and Rom 7:1-4 unwound the whole Protestant schema in my own journey to date. I now believe that Paul's major concern is as follows:

How do we get from the law of Adam to the law of Christ? Not by succeeding under the law of Adam, but by a gracious new birth (faith and baptism in whichever order), whereby we are enabled to keep the law of Christ and so be saved.

Really the concern is, "How do we get a new nature?"

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