Tuesday, July 07, 2009

New Perspectives, explained . . .

Over the past few years there has been a major theological brouhaha over the important doctrine of justification, or more properly, the "New Perspective" on justification (as opposed to the traditional reformational view/teaching of the doctrine). It is a nuanced argument that can be very hard to follow in the academic writings of the principle players involved. So recently Christianity Today asked Pastor and Blogger, Travis Wax, to come up with a "layman’s" guide to the problem and issues. Below are two pieces from him, as well as a bunch of links you can follow to become more informed of the key issues.

I suggest the best place to start is to download and review the PDF chart linked in both articles below. It gives a good summary of the major issues at stake, as well as the two perspectives set side-by-side in a digestible format.

First, Travis' introduction to the problem and his writing about it ......

Piper vs. Wright on Justification: A Layman’s Guide
Filed under: Reformed Theology, Theology — Trevin Wax

Some friends have encouraged me to explain “in a nutshell” and in easy-to-understand laymen’s terms what the big debate between John Piper and N.T. Wright is all about. Many who enjoy reading the works of these men have discovered they lack the time (or patience) to sift through all of the relevant material surrounding the New Perspective on Paul, and just how Wright’s version of this perspective is different from the traditional perspective maintained by men like John Piper.

“The Justification Debate: A Primer” (Christianity Today, June 2009) is my humble attempt at summarizing the two views as succintly and simply as possible. Please note that both John Piper and N.T. Wright looked over my work and made some slight revisions regarding their respective summaries. (To see the summary statements in the form of a helpful chart, download the pdf here.)

Together with the Piper/Wright summaries is an article written by myself and Ted Olsen entitled “Not An Academic Question.” This second article lets pastors sound off on how this theological debate is influencing their ministry.

Second, below is the beginning of the article and discussion between Piper and Wright which appears in Christianity Today; this will get you started, and I have linked the entire article at the bottom .......

The Justification Debate: A Primer

Two of the world's most prominent pastor-theologians on justification—and what difference it makes. John Piper and N.T. Wright, compiled by Trevin Wax posted 6/26/2009 09:54AM
Related articles and links

Since Christianity Today's August 2007 cover story, "What Did Paul Really Mean?" Piper and Wright have taken the debate on justification from the academy to the masses. Here is where the two evangelicals differ. Download a PDF of this article here.

John Piper: Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. Author of The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright.

N.T. Wright: Bishop of Durham, Church of England. Author of Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision.

The Problem

Piper: God created a good world that was subjected to futility because of the sinful, treasonous choice of the first human beings. Because of this offense against the glory of God, humans are alienated from their Creator and deserve his just condemnation for their sins.

Wright: God created a good world, designed to be looked after and brought to its intended purpose through his image-bearing human beings. This purpose was thwarted by the sinful choice of the first human beings. Because of human sinfulness, the world needs to be put to rights again and its original purpose taken forward to completion. God's purpose in putting humans "right" is that through them, the world can be put to rights.

The Law

Piper: God revealed himself through the Law, which pointed to Christ as its end and goal, commanded the obedience that comes from faith, increased transgressions, and shut the mouths of all humans because no one has performed the righteousness of the Law so as not to need a substitute.

Wright: God made a covenant with Abraham in order to set in motion his plan to rescue his world through Abraham's family. God gave his people the Torah, his holy Law, as a pedagogue—a way to keep Israel, God's wayward people, from going totally off track until the coming of the Messiah. Israel was supposed to embody the law and thus be a light to the nations. But Israel has failed at this task.

God's Righteousness

Piper: The essence of God's righteousness is his unwavering faithfulness to uphold the glory of his name in all he does. No single action, like covenant keeping, is God's righteousness. For all his acts are done in righteousness. The essence of human righteousness is the unwavering faithfulness to uphold the glory of God in all we do. The problem is that we all fall short of this glory; that is, no one is righteous.

Wright: God's righteousness refers to his own faithfulness to the covenant he made with Abraham. Israel has been unfaithful to this commission. What is now required, if the world's sin is to be dealt with and a worldwide family created for Abraham, is a faithful Israelite who can be faithful to the covenant in Israel's stead.

Read the rest of the discussion here >>

3 John 8
Bill H.

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