Monday, October 5, 2009

Piper v. Wright? I'll take Wallace.

In today's diverse world of Christian theology, one of the most important ongoing debates is over a position called "The New Perspective" on the Apostle Paul's gospel teaching in the New Testament.

This debate concerns the essence of the Christian gospel: Does God satisfy both his infinite justice and loving mercy through His Son Jesus' perfect life and substitutionary sacrificial death? If so, how?

The debate hinges upon our understanding of Paul's teaching on justification in New Testament books like Romans. Christians who follow the historic position of the Protestant Reformation (like me), understand the Bible to teach that a Christian's salvation (particularly his/her justification before God) depends upon God's imputing to them the righteousness of Christ. Thus, justification in Paul's teaching is understood to be primarily legal. In "The New Perspective", justification in Paul's writings is understood to be primarily communal, a result of God's faithfulness to his covenant with the true spiritual Israel.

The debate has played out publicly in the writings of John Piper and N.T. Wright. Lately, I've avoided the debate because I don't have as much time to read theology as I would like. I respect the ministries of both Piper and Wright, but the theologian who has captured my attention on this subject recently is Daniel Wallace.

Wallace writes: "I would view Wright’s synthesis of Romans as a brilliant failure—brilliant because of how coherent it is, but a failure because it sits three feet above the text at all points where it would be inconvenient to wrestle with what the text actually says. In this respect, Wright’s view simply cannot handle the ‘inconvenient truth’ (to borrow a phrase from Al Gore) that Romans is."

You can read the entire article here.

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