David Westerfield

Theology, Culture, Technology, Reviews, and Other Commentary

When You Can’t Beat ‘Em Yourself …

… Have your big scholarly brother step up and speak for you. :)

(Original): http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/review/code=3863 – I find some of these surprising and others not so much.

(Archive): http://www.westerfunk.net/archives/christianity/Justification%20-%20N.T.%20Wright%20-%20Endorsements/

In speaking of N.T. Wright’s new book, Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision, responding to and critiquing Piper’s defense of justification, entitled, The Future of Justification, itself critiquing Wright’s understanding of justification, McLaren says, “John Piper, it turns out, has done us all a wonderful favor. In writing the critique that invited this response, he has given Bishop Wright the opportunity to clearly, directly, passionately and concisely summarize many of the key themes of his still-in-process yet already historic scholarly and pastoral project. Wright shows–convincingly–how the comprehensive view of Paul, Romans, justification, Jesus, and the Christian life and mission that he has helped articulate embraces ‘both the truths the Reformers were eager to set forth and also the truths which, in their eagerness, they sidelined.’ Eavesdropping on this conversation will help readers who are new to Wright get into the main themes of his work and the important conversation of which it is a part. And it will give Wright’s critics a clearer sense than ever of what they are rejecting when they cling to their cherished old wineskins of conventional thought.” —Brian McLaren, author A Generous Orthodoxy

“Old wineskins of conventional thought?” McLaren does truly see this as a new perspective … not so much on Paul, but upon justification itself, the crux of the Gospel message as articuled by none other than Paul Himself. This new perspective of justification (or rather, an old perspective that fits more with Roman Catholicism than Protestantism) endorses McLaren’s own self-made, cherry-picked perspective that the Gospel is not so much about eternal life, but the temporal fixing of various problems humanity is plagued with as a result of sin. This is and always has been the heart of the theological liberal: focused not one iota upon eternity, but upon merely the here and now. For the theological liberal, the Gospel is about, “A God without wrath [who] brought man without sin into a  kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” – H. Reinhold Niebuhr

I thought the truth of God was timeless, transcending cultures, including Western, postmodern cultures? Yet this is the very cultural perspective, cultural grid through which McLaren views Scripture itself. Postmodernism, when adopted, allows you to make the Scriptures say whatever you want.

McLaren acts as if this book puts the nail in the coffin or something against the Reformational understanding of justification, when in fact, it is simply a theological slide back toward Rome, which is exactly why people like McLaren (and Wright) believe the Reformation was to no avail. I simply cannot believe such nonsense.

But besides the craziness coming from McLaren, I’m very interested to read Wright’s work and see him critique Piper for sure, having read Piper’s book just a few weeks ago. It may very well be we could gain something of a better perspective (at points) of first century Judaism, all the while reading it with a grain of salt. In fact, I’m sure we will gain some insight. However we must be very careful about “new” ideas, for there really are never any new ideas on anything concerning Scripture, just old one’s re-fabricated in light of modern culture. Satan is crafty, craftier “than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.” (Genesis 3:1)

Do you not think Satan works in ways, big and small, that are so subtle in attempting to take the church off the mark ever so slightly and gradually, so that in the long run we lose the Gospel itself and God’s glory is eclipsed? Is this not the story of the church after the major councils had affirmed the solid doctrinal truths of the Trinity, the Hypostatic Union and Grace Alone in salvation? Is this not the story of liberal Protestantism in Europe and North America over the 19th and 20th centuries, resulting in such deadness today in the 21st? Is this not the very thing that happened in the Garden of Eden resulting in the fall? The questioning of God’s Word to us?

Falling away from the truth of God’s timeless, culturally transcending Word and the Gospel always starts in the form of asking ourselves, “Did God actually say ___?” This thinking comes directly from the mind of Satan and oddly enough, it is the postmodern mindset. “Did God actually say ___? What if instead He actually meant ___? Yes, that is what He meant, not what we used to think.” How in the world can we possibly adopt such thinking into the church? We must be very leery of such teachings, especially of the McLaren variety. However, there are things we can glean from Wright, but we must watch very carefully over our doctrine of the Gospel itself. Satan is one crafty beast.

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