Monday, May 17, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
Some people write books to present ideas that they have. Some people write books to critique the ideas others have. Yet others write books to respond to critiques that others have of their ideas. Justification by N.T. Wright would be primarily the third kind of book, yet displays the first two kinds as well.
In 2007, John Piper wrote The Future of Justification in which he heavily critiqued Wright’s view on justification, by taking things Wright has said throughout his corpus of work and showing why he finds them to be incorrect. Upon the release of this book, Wright got to work on this book, as an attempt to clearly state what his views on justification are and to argue why his view is more correct than Piper’s.
It is probably good to ask the question, “What does it mean to be more correct when it comes to one’s view of justification?” There are multiple ways this question can be answered, all of which should carry some weight. Among these answers are: faithfulness to Scripture, faithfulness to tradition, coherence across both Scripture and tradition, faithfulness to a certain interpretation of Scripture, etc. Both sides of the debate would claim faithfulness to Scripture as one of the main standards of their “correct” answers. However, given that both sides are working from within certain traditions and perspective, the question may actually be, which of these perspectives is the better of the two in giving an answer that presents a cohesive, coherent picture of all of Scripture.
As one can imagine, this question cannot be answered in a blog post. Wright tries to do it in a 250-page book, with a reasonable level of success, in part, because he often points to other writings he has done for further reference, or promises to deal with them in a forthcoming book on Paul. In other words, the 250-page book doesn’t really answer this question either.
With that being said, Wright was clearly frustrated in writing this book. He felt that Piper had presented Wright’s view in a less than charitable manner with misunderstandings throughout Piper’s book. Wright wrote this book, in part, to lay out his view on justification in a single source in an attempt to make clear what his view is on justification and to prevent future critics to cherry pick from his great corpus of work to construct of straw man of Wright’s position. In the process he turns critiques back on Piper and makes the case for his position.
To make a long story short, for Wright, justification is a global concept. Justification is not just about individual humans, but instead, is about all of creation. As Wright continually notes throughout the book, justification is about God’s covenant with Israel. It is his “single plan to put the world to rights” and to do so through Israel. God’s goal from the beginning to was to bring the world to rights through Israel. Justification is not about moral righteousness, but about God’s faithfulness to that covenant. Wright spends the first half of the book establishing this idea, while explaining the first century world in which Paul was writing these ideas and exploring different motivations for different interpretations. The second half of the book becomes a case study where he goes through the main passages in the Pauline epistles and shows how a fuller understanding of the context surrounding the typical proof-texts of the opposing position actually makes the case for his interpretation of the idea of justification, rather than the other perspective. He ends by taking an extensive look at Romans, showing the arc of the entire book to be that of a global justification, rather than particular justifications for individual humans. The final 30 pages of the book moves from the theory to the practice, connecting themes that one finds in other of Wright’s writings with the concept of justification in a way that brings new life and meaning to both.
Of course, there is much greater detail than what I am giving, but I am assuming that most people reading this blog who are interested in this book will be reading it themselves and that those who are not interested are skimming this blog to see if I see anything interesting. Let me say that Wright makes a very compelling case for his view of justification and answers questions that have always lingered in my mind. However, it is clear that your commitments will determine how convincing you find his arguments to be, which leads back to the question I raised earlier about what commitments should determine our reading of Scripture, which are far too big to answer in a single post.
On a final note, if you’re looking to read N.T. Wright and you’re not a scholar, I would highly recommend that you read his book, Surprised by Hope. In that book he addresses the role of a physical, bodily resurrection in relation to Christianity, and finds it to be a core tenant of our faith that is far too often ignored and also gives us far more hope and meaning to our Christianity than we have without it. If you’re looking to get into Wright, I would start there and after that book, maybe move on to Justification, although Wright has written so prolifically, you can really move in many directions depending on your interests in theology. Although this review is the first on N.T. Wright, I can guarantee it will not be the last.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
I recently finished the sequel to the first book reviewed in the most recent instantiation of this blog. SuperFreakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner is an enjoyable read, but is a sequel in a real sense of the word.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
For Christmas, I received The Book of Basketball by Bill Simmons, of ESPN.com. I have been looking forward to this book for some time, as I am a big fan of Simmons' writing and podcasts.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
I'm going to do much more writing this year. I am also going to do more reading. I hope that these two statements would be true, even if I wasn't writing my dissertation this year. On this blog, I want to write up thoughts about what I'm reading, things that might show up in my dissertation, and things that have nothing at all to do with my dissertation.
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
- Successfully run a half-marathon
- Gotten a dissertation topic approved
- Presented a paper on Nicholas Wolterstorff's work in front of him
- Finished teaching at UMHB
- Starting lifting weights again after a shoulder problem prevented that for a couple months
- Had a paper accepted for the Evangelical Philosophical Society conference in November
- Received an Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award for Baylor University
Right now, my "fun" reading consists of:
- Satan and the Problem of Evil by Gregory A. Boyd
- The Sacredness of Questioning Everything by David Dark
The former is the second book in a "trilogy", and I had read the first one, God at War, at the beginning of this year. I've been listening to Boyd's podcasts for awhile, and realized that he treats spiritual warfare with a seriousness that I have not typically encountered. For awhile, I've believed in the reality of spiritual warfare but it didn't actually fit anywhere in my intellectual or practical scheme of life. These books have definitely helped change that, particularly in the intellectual realm. I'm still figuring out how this works out in my life, but think that these books are definitely worth looking at. (The third book in the "trilogy" is actually a forth-coming work that is presently projected to be two volumes, roughly a thousand pages in each.)
As far as music to check out, I've recently become aware of the band Obadiah Parker (fronted by Mat Weddle). They're most famous for an acoustic cover of Outkast's "Hey Ya" but I've enjoyed all of their stuff I've heard. I definitely recommend them. I also recommend the new Kelly Clarkson album, but that's another story.
Ok, that's enough writing for now. Hopefully I can do better with writing and actually get into some ideas worth discussing soon.