I am reading N.T Wright’s new book Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision. This is Wright’s response to John Piper’s book The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright. It’s very stimulating and it also emphasizes just how big a brain Wright is. I do say this partly tongue in cheek, but also partly seriously, if I was John Piper I would be a little apprehensive – having someone who is way ahead of me in scholarship writing a response to one of my books. Of course that is not to say John Piper can’t be right – but it does mean that all the weak arguments in Piper’s work will be exposed by Wright.
One of the things that Wright says in this new book is something I also have felt for quite a while. N.T says:
Again and again, when faced with both the new perspective and some other features of more recent Pauline scholarship, ‘conservative ‘ churches have reached, not for scripture, but for tradition, as with Piper’s complaint that I am sweeping away fifteen hundred years of the church’s understanding. Of course Piper himself wants to sweep away most of the same fifteen hundred years, especially anything from mediaeval catholicism and to rely instead on the narrow strand which comes through Calvin and the Westminster Confession. But whichever way you look at it, the objection is odd.
Wright hits the nail on the head. Too many times I hear reformed theologians defending the reformed tradition instead of scripture. The reformed tradition (and I love the reformed tradition) is not what we are called to defend and expound – we are to defend and expound scripture. As Wright says 20% of what people say is wrong – the issue is we don’t know which 20%. No one would say the reformed tradition is infallible or perfect – so, 20% of reformed theology is wrong – which 20% we may not know – but it’s wrong. So, lets spend our energies defending the Bible – the glory of God, the risen Christ and not a system, or a tradition – however wonderful, or excellent that tradition is, it’s not infallible – but scripture is.