Friday, June 4, 2010

Wright's Bad Habit

Tom Wright has a bad habit of mischaracterizing the views of those with whom he disagrees.

His latest book, After You Believe has been reviewed in CT by Michael Horton. While Horton appreciates much in Wright and his latest book, the bishop's bad habit is on full display once again. Horton is confounded by Wright's assertion that the Reformers were not interested in personal virtue. Anyone who has a remedial acquaintance with the writings of the Reformers will find this charge to be somewhere between amusing ("O, that's just Bishop Wright!") and dishonest ("Why are we still reading this guy?").

Of course the bigger issue with Wright is his continued denial of the biblical doctrines of justification and imputation. If he had little or no influence then we could just move on. But Wright's influence is deep and profound. He has impacted not only the dwindling ranks of the emergent kids but is having an impact on many PCA congregations.

John Piper sums up his concern over Wright's theology and influence in his outstanding book The Future of Justification:

My conviction concerning N. T. Wright is ... that his portrayal of the Gospel—and of the doctrine of justification in particular—is so disfigured that it becomes difficult to recognise as Biblically faithful. It may be that in his own mind and heartWright has a clear and firm grasp on the Gospel of Christ and the Biblical meaning of justification. But in my judgment, what he has written will lead to a kind of preaching that will not announce clearly what makes the lordship of Christ good news for guilty sinners or show those who are overwhelmed with sin how they may stand righteous in the presence of God (p. 15).

Read Gerald Bray's excellent critique of Wright HERE.

The problem with Bishop Wright’s analysis is that in attempting to get beyond the limitations of the individual, he constructs a pattern of salvation that is essentially abstract. This can be seen from the way in which he establishes a parallel between Israel and Jesus. How was Israel originally expected to save the world? The entire nation could not have died as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind, so that idea must be ruled out. Could Israel have fulfilled its side of the covenant by keeping the law, in faithfulness to the God who gave it to them? This also seems very unlikely, not least because every single Israelite would have had to keep every jot and tittle of the law for that to have happened. But who would have been able to police that? The truth, of course, is that Israel was never intended to save the world. God chose Abraham and his descendants to be a blessing to the nations, but that is not the same thing as salvation. The presence of Jews or Christians is a blessing to any society, but that does not guarantee that it is thereby saved. Israel was meant to be a light to the nations, proclaiming God’s standards and promises to those who accepted them, but only until such time as the Messiah should come. Far from being a sort of plan B, the incarnation of the Son of God in Jesus Christ was the culmination of the divine purpose from the beginning. For that reason, Israel must be interpreted in the light of Christ and his work, not the other way round. Bishop Wright’s elaborate hermeneutical construction is unsound at the root, and so we should not be surprised that it has been rejected as unsatisfactory by those like Mr. Piper who have taken the trouble to examine it.

Michael Horton on Wright's understanding of Justification HERE.

Dan Wallace critiques Wright's rhetoric and exegesis HERE.


Reformation said...

Excellent queue of articles to read. Thanks.

Ryan H. said...

I don't find Wright's formulation of these doctrines as frightening as some, bu Bray's comment that "in attempting to get beyond the limitations of the individual, [Wright] constructs a pattern of salvation that is essentially abstract" absolutely hits the nail on the head as to why Wright's formulation of these doctrines is insufficient.

Todd Pruitt said...

"Frightening" is not the word I word I would use. "Wrong" is the better word. It's just that when someone is wrong about justification and imputation it matters quite a bit.

threegirldad said...

Clearly, you have not read everything Wright has ever written, so you aren't qualified to criticize anything he says.


Clearly, you simply don't understand the man's towering intellect.