Friday, December 09, 2005
Gene Vieth on N.T. Wright
The new attack on justification
N. T. Wright is an Anglican bishop in England. Evangelicals and other theological conservatives like him because, among other things, he wrote a stirring scholarly defense of the historicity of the resurrection of Christ. But he believed that Luther had it wrong with this justification by grace through faith stuff. This is because Luther misunderstood the writings of St. Paul, who, according to Wright, was just talking about freedom from the Jewish ceremonial law, not the moral law. Actually, according to Wright, we are saved by good works after all.
Though this is being called the "new perspective on Paul," this is not particularly new. This is basically the Roman Catholic take on what Paul says. Anglicans have never been particularly strong on justification. But what is remarkable to me is how so many evangelicals are seizing on this. Both liberal evangelicals and conservative evangelicals (including some otherwise hard-core Calvinists).
The Wall Street Journal has a column praising Wright from John Wilson, editor of "Books and Culture." (Click "continue reading" for the article.) I think many evangelicals have been wanting to make salvation a function of good works for a long time, and this gives them a good excuse. Salvation comes from living like Jesus did. That usually gets translated into either conservative or liberal politics, or trivial lifestyle choices like not driving SUVs, recycling, affirming gays, or--on the complementary side--not drinking, smoking, or going to movies. I have yet to see the person who lives with the moral purity of Christ. But go ahead and try. And then when you fail, perhaps you will appreciate how Jesus really chose to live His life. By dying for you.
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Posted by John Zahl at 4:54 PM