Editor’s Note: I have no intention to criticize Piper or Wright. My knowledge at this point of the entire “justification” controversy is somewhat limited. Hence, I do not intend to be critical, but rather simply to summarize, and when appropriate, add a few remarks along the way. These posts–should I be consistent–are meant to be short and concise.
Piper begins his introduction by summarizing the seriousness of our call to feed the sheep (John 21:17). He writes that the “seriousness of our calling comes from the magnitude of what is at stake. If we do not feed the sheep in our charge with the ‘whole counsel of God,’ their blood is on our hands” (Piper, pg. 14). Speaking of Wright, Piper writes that he is not “under the curse of Galatians 1:8-9, but that his portrayal of the gospel–and of the doctrine of justification in particular–is so disfigured that it becomes difficult to recognize as biblically faithful” (pg. 15). Unlike so many critics of Wright– who condemn him before even reading him– Piper offers praise to a man who has been a strong defender of Christian orthodoxy and who has become an expert in humiliating members of the Jesus Seminar. Nevertheless, Piper’s desire is clear:
I hope that those who consider this book and read N.T. Wright will read him with greater care, deeper understanding and less inclination to find Wright’s retelling of the story of justification compelling. (16)
In the mid-seventies Wright was re-awakened to the theology of St. Paul. He found that the book of Romans did not fit with the book of Galatians if one begins with a Reformational paradigm. Wright concluded that Romans 10:3 speaks of a covenant status which is for Jews only. This understanding led to a complete re-working of the traditional definitions. However the Reformers had understood Paul, they did not account for how Israel’s history was crucial to Pauline theology. Piper seeks to confront Wright’s assertion, but first acknowledges that “we all wear colored glasses” (17) and that if there is ever going to be any substantial interaction it must be on the foundation of Biblical exegesis. Only the Bible is the “final arbiter of truth” (17). Both Wright and Piper come to the table with this presupposition.