Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Tuesday, May 12

Justification - Tom Wright II

Well, I finally poughed my way through Tom Wroight's book.

I repeat my previous assertion that it is very hard to read -dense, repetitive, and with over-long sentances. But that's theology for you.

So know I have some knowledge of 'the new perspective on Paul' and some of the debate around it.

Personally, Tom Wright's approach does seem to me to be correct. It makes an awful lot of sense. Not that very question is answered, and not that it does not provoke more questions. But I like his methods, and criteria, etc.

I was concerned that he would teach a doctrine of salvation by works, but he does not. I was concerned he would negate salvation by faith, but he does not. What he does do is flesh out what those things mean.

By way of illustration, my Brethren doctine of slavation by faith, with a massive focus on the cross, was like a child going into a theme park and then turning round to admire the turnstile, ignoring the fanatastic theme park that it lead to. Tom Wright also loves the turnstile - he does not deny that entry is through it, and he doesn not instist that it rotates in the opposite direction. BUt having agreed about the turnstile, his atention focuses on the theme park itself. What have we come into? What is it all for? What does it mean for our day to day life?

Someone who has entered the theme park will tell you of the wonderful rides enjoyed. You don't enter the theme park by riding, but the prupose of entering is to ride. If the preson has no 'ride' stories, you don't believe they have entered the park. So, good works are the purpose and the sign of membership of the kingdom of God, not the entry ticket.

As Tom Wright writes: the Torah was not a ladder by which the Jews could enter the covenant, because they were already in it.

the other main themes of the book are that in Evangelical circles we use the words 'Justification' and 'Righteousness' incorrectly. They have specific meanings in terms of your status in relation to the covenant. Justification only refers to the judicial process of being set right in the eyes of the law. Righteusness does not mean being nice, kind, morally virtuous and a jolly decent chap. It means being right in the eyes of the law. Justification is through the penal substitution of Jesus. Righteousness is received by the penal substitution of Jesus. So Tom Wright does not contradict what I always thought: he just points out how carelessly we have used these words.

But those words and their use are only part of the big theme park, which is the Kingdom of God, or in Tom's book, God's single plan to bless the world through Israel, fulfilled through the faithful Israeilte Jesus. Which is pretty much the same as what I already believed following my time in a charismatic house church, only using different language.

Tom's view comes under the broad heading of 'the new perspective on Paul', but of course that is not a single united new perspective, and much of the mud thrown at the said perspective and much of the alleged negative consequences probably do not apply to the new perspective as outlined by Tom Wright. I don't feel my Evangelical credentials are at all diminished by taking on Tom's teaching on the subject.

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