justification

July 23, 2009 | 2 Comments

I’ve read a respectable chunk of NT Wright’s work, and he takes up more space on my bookshelf than any other author. It’s not often that I read one of his books and am left wanting. But after reading Justification, that’s where I found myself.

That’s not to say that Justification isn’t a good book. Like most Wright books, it is well written (even when it gets technical), and his arguments are well developed.

I was left wanting more from where I sat as the reader than where he came from as the writer. I have at best dabbled on the fringes of the conversations about Pauline theology — specifically those related to the New Perspective(s) on Paul. It is a large conversation that I’ve not yet had the interest or personal resources (ie time and energy) to invest in it.

My hope was that Justification would take a large theological conversation and present it at the popular level. Wright does this so well, as we have seen in Simply Christian and Surprised by Hope. (Yes, the fact that this was published as part of IVP‘s Academic should have served a warning to me that this wasn’t the case.)

The reader should know that Justification primarily serves as a response to John Piper’s The Future of Justification — a book I haven’t read. I walked away with more understanding, even having only read part of the conversation. But when I do decide to work my way a little further into the Pauline discussions, I hope that someone like Wright will offer a helpful introduction.

  • gary

    John, Wright’s book “What St. Paul Really Said” offers a good introduction to his perspective on this (and I’m guessing his “Paul” book probably does too, although I haven’t read that one). Granted it was written back in ’97 and the discussion has developed quite a bit since then, but if you’re looking for an NT Wright intro for the NPP, I would start there.

  • I actually have the book on my shelf as well, but haven’t read it yet due to my large seminary reading list. However, from what I know, he doesn’t really argue anything new, and it is definitely intended as a rebuttal to Piper. Another potentially helpful book, which is more academic than even Wright’s book, is Mark Seifrid’s Christ, Our Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Justification. I will say up front that it is poorly written insofar as readability is concerned (good biblical scholars are not always necessary good writers), but he interacts very substantively with the key passages concerning the debate, putting his perspective in dialogue with both the more traditional view and the “New” Perspective. He actually breaks a little bit of new ground as well, and is brilliant when he does (especially when explaining the relationship between faith and works). If you’d like to read my review of the book, I’d be happy to email it to you. But I would definitely recommend it, if you can handle a bit of tersity.