NT Wright's Justification is a book that I've picked up and put down over and over again for the past several years. Having just finished some of Wright's other books, I thought I'd give Justification another try.
At the core of the book is a conflict between NT Wright and John Piper over several key theological words, concepts and methods. This kind of writing can be tedious to read, but Wright finds ways to make the conversation entertaining. One of the best was a analogy he used of a person who is convinced that the sun revolves around the earth. Can you imagine trying to convince someone that the earth revolves around the sun? They have plain "evidence" on their side every morning and are supported by hundreds and hundreds of years of tradition. What a comparison!
I found Wright's argument utterly convincing. Though, as usual, I think he runs the risk of overplaying his hand, I think he's essentially correct on the following:
- We have to follow Scripture even if it goes against our traditions
- Paul wrote with God's covenant with Abraham in mind
- Paul saw Jesus as fulfilling God's covenant
- Paul was concerned about the Jew/Gentile divide
- Paul uses "justification" and "righteousness" in very specific ways to address his particular concerns (ie. not necessarily ours)
I found that this book challenged me in the same way Barth's Romans challenged me ... how deeply is my reading of Paul influenced by Luther and the controversies of his age? This, at first, may not look like a big deal. But fighting and refighting Martin Luther's battles may leave me ill-equipped for the particular conversations and conflicts that are swirling around me in the present day ... and to which God's word might even now be speaking.
One conversation and conflict that comes to mind is the conversation around a multiethnic church. If all I hear in Paul is the "faith vs. works" conversation, I may miss out on what he has to say about God's multiethnic family, where people of all ethnicities are included in the family because of Christ.
Theological reading isn't for everyone and I wouldn't recommend this book to folks who haven't already spent some time reading Wright or Piper. But I found the book helpful and entertaining (on this reading).