Monday, May 19, 2008

Book Review: 'The Future of Justification'

John Piper is probably one of the best-known Calvinist authors writing today. This book is his response to Bishop N.T. Wright of Durham's take on the 'New Perspective on Paul. Written with all the passion and clarity that we have come to expect from Piper, it is an excellent book for those wishing to understand the 'New Perspective' according to its most well-known advocate.

Piper quotes extensively from Wright's works, comparing Wright with the Apostle Paul, whom Wright claims to have a superior understanding of. In this book Piper shows that Wright's understanding of Justification and righteousness is overly simplistic, and that in many places words such as 'Faith', 'righteousness' and 'justification' simply cannot have the meanings that Wright gives to them. He shows that Wright's understanding of the righteousness of God as God's doing what is right is simply not deep enough. It is not simply that God does what is right (although he certainly does so), but that He is righteous in nature.

This is primarily an exegetical book. Piper takes the principal texts dealing with justification and exegetes them, showing what the Bible means by Justification. He highlights concerns with Wright's views, and sets the reader thinking. This is not only a response to N.T. Wright, it is a defence of the Reformation understanding of the Scriptures. Highly recommended.

The Future of Justification is published by Intervarisity Press (UK), and is available here for £9.99.


azk said...

The ancient Hebrews would have been mystified by Piper's suggestion that God's nature can be separated from God's acts. Piper's well-meaning book only makes sense if one agrees to the methodological limitations he sets out at the beginning of the volume, limitations that encourage a skepticism toward new understandings of the context within which the biblical literature arose. These limitations result in the privileging of Reformational readings (meaning confessionalism) over all others. Therefore, Piper's arguments will only persuade those who agree with the limitations.

Highland Host said...

'Azk'. I am not sure what you mean. Should we not be sceptical of 'new understandings' of Second Temple Judaism that contradict the witness of Scripture? Our Lord condemned the Pharisees for their legalism, yet the 'New Perspective' likes to tell us that 'Second Temple Judaism' (as if there was one unified understanding at that time) was a religion of grace. Surely this results from a privileging of extra-biblical documents over the New Testament. But documents from Qumran are simply representative of the Essene tradition.

It seems to me that such a methodology proceeds from a scepticism towards the New Testament that is out of place in the Church.

I have not the time nor the inclination to enter into a protracted debate, but don't let that put you off.