Doug Chaplin has finished a short, but excellent series on John Piper‘s book The Future of Justification. Piper’s book is an examination of Tom Wright’s view on some aspects of Pauline Theology; what is often called the New Perspective on Paul (though the term was not coined by Wright). If you are interested in getting some insights into some of the current hot issues in Pauline studies, then Doug’s posts which are not very technical would be a good place to start. As is the case with these Blog series, you actually have to go to the last one to get all the links you need, but it’s best to read it from the start.
It might surprise some of you that I recommend Doug’s articles because in his review of Piper’s criticism of Wright, Doug comes down fairly and squarely on the side of Wright, not Piper. For most Evangelicals John Piper has a status approaching infallible. However, on this question, everything I’ve read leads me to side with Tom Wright (though I will fully admit to not yet having read Piper’s book). The most important observation to my mind is at the very end of Doug’s final article.
The only possible explanation for Piper’s rejection of Wright, here as in the rest of the issues this brief series has looked at, is that he is so accustomed to his doctrinal spectacles, that he has entirely forgotten that he is wearing them. There are a number of places where one can take issue with Wright, both in the detail and in the development of some of his major themes. But on these points where Piper chooses to engage him – issues perhaps especially significant for the evangelical constituency – it is fairly clear to me that it is Wright who engages the text, for better or worse, and Piper who reads his tradition into it.
It is a difficult thing for we Evangelicals to admit, but we can be just as guilty of holding on to tradition and not allowing the text of Scripture to shape our thinking and theology as the next person.
If you would like to know more about what Tom Wright is saying, this brief interview gives a good introduction and if you are really keen there is a selection of his books below (if the Amazon search box picks up John Piper’s Future of Justification, remember that you can download it for free at the link above – don’t buy it).