Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Paul Helm on N.T. Wright

Paul Helm is starting a four part review of N.T. Wrights' new book on justification. This quote was interesting:

"I gained three general impressions of theological nature. One is that the gap between Wright and the classic Reformation view of justification (as expressed by John Piper, for example) seems to be not as great as before. If one presses the logic of Wright’s present position, then the gap is even less. Where the gap has already narrowed is over the question, Are believers justified now? Or are they only justified at the last, on the basis of a whole life? In the new book he writes that the future judgment responds to the present verdict which is issued simply and solely on the basis of faith’ (165) See also 179, 207-12, 223. But it has to be admitted that Wright wobbles on this, as in 166-7 ‘the verdict on the last day will truly reflect what people have actually done’. The vagueness of the language irritates: 'corresponds to', 'anticpate', 'reflect'. How corresponds to, anticipates, reflects?, one vainly asks."


Sam said...

Helm is IMO incredibly unfair at some points in his review. Saying that Wright's position is that "anything ‘traditional’ must be rejected or at least viewed with suspicion (e.g. 135, 223...)" is a horrible distortion of what Wright wrote:

p. 135: "Part of me recoils from having to question this traditional reading... because I can see a great truth underneath the claim being made... but ... we must pay attention to the text..."

Mich said...

You are so right!
Isn't it ironic that Wright and Piper seem able to disagree in an irenic fashion, but their followers cannot resist yelling heretic!


Andrew Cowan said...

Isn't the answer to Helm's question that the two verdicts correspond in that they both declare who the true members of God's covenant people are, and that the final verdict "reflects" what people have actually done in the sense that their actions have demonstrated (or not) their participation in that covenant family? I think that Wright is only vague if you haven't yet grasped the case that he believes is being tried before the divine tribunal; the court (according to Wright) is considering the question, "Who are the true members of God's covenant people?"

davey said...

Wright thinks we shall be judged on what state of character we have achieved. So, if Christians have carried on sinning a lot, they will be less able to appreciate the coming Kingdom, so will get less than others who have worked harder at being virtuous. So, Christians need to get working now, or else they will miss out on a lot that the Kingdom has to offer.

Personally, I don't find this idea of Wright's very congenial.

Paul said...

Yours is perhaps one of the more cogent comments on Wright's meaning than the hundreds of pages I've read in other places! Thanks for your keen eye.