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The Future Of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright Paperback – Nov 1 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway (Nov. 1 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1581349645
  • ISBN-13: 978-1581349641
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14 x 1.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #252,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Stephen on March 19 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a good book but inconsistent at times. Piper suggests on one hand that the very gospel itself is at stake (citing Paul's famous words in chapter one of Galatians), yet he shies away from calling the "new perspectives" heretical. In one moment it seems he is playing the role of a Martin Luther and in another moment he's full of compliments for the genius and scholarship of those with whom he disagrees. Piper is clearly striving to be gracious, but I would have preferred if he were more direct.

I will also admit that this book was not nearly as engaging as Venema's book on the same subject (titled "The Gospel of Free Acceptance in Christ"). Piper is an outstanding pastor, teacher and author, but I found his argumentation confusing at times. I am very grateful for what Piper has done, and I am glad that he has contributed something in response to this dangerous heresy that is creeping into the Church. Still, I would suggest that those who would like to read more on this subject should read Venema's work. I highly recommend it. It is an outstanding resource that not only deals effectively with Wright, but more than that it exalts the glorious sufficiency of the work of Christ. It was not only intellectually stimulating, it was a comfort and blessing to my heart.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 41 reviews
70 of 76 people found the following review helpful
The Basics Nov. 14 2011
By A. D. Handman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Granted I am writing this after a quick and sometimes headache inducing read of this book, but I will try to get to the heart of the issue as concisely as possible. Piper fears that theologian N.T. Wright is promoting a view of salvation that is both overly complicated and misrepresents God's ordained way of saving people from their sin. Wright defines "saved" as "being a member of God's true family", that is to say, a recipient of the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 15, a family with no necessary blood relation or ethnic borders but defined by faith in Christ. All other benefits flow out of this reality.

Piper appreciates that this view of salvation seems fashionable and different from the traditional view which focuses on Christ dying on the cross to pay for the sin of humanity. He also believes it can be complicated and risks misleading the amateur theologian.

While Piper's concern is plausible, we should not mistake the simple for the accurate. Wright answers most of Piper's concerns in his book Justification (in particular, the exegetical chapter on Galatians) and asserts that we must take the writings of Paul in their own context, not contexts that make things "easier to understand by ordinary folk" as Piper puts it. In any case, the following may help summarize the arguments that Piper fills out at greater length through the book.

Piper's view of justification:
1) A person responds to God's call to faith through baptism.
2) The person then has Christ's moral perfection imputed to them IN FULL.
3) On the BASIS of that fully imputed moral perfection, the person is declared justified.
4) Because of this, the person increases in Spirit-generated good works and ultimately shares Christ's resurrection. In other words, we all POSSESS moral perfection upon belief and baptism, but it manifests in our lives little by little.

Wright's view (to which Piper objects):
1) A person responds to God's call to faith through baptism, showing them to be a member of God's true family, the true descendants of Abraham.
2) The person is now LEGALLY absolved of all unrighteousness, and destined for future glorification.
3) The Spirit begins manifesting in the form of good works in the person's life, and ULTIMATELY shares Christ's resurrection and moral perfection.
4) The BASIS of justification is this entire COMPREHENSIVE process, steps one through three. In other words, moral perfection is not imputed all at once, nor do we possess it all at once, but it is developed over time through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Is Piper easier to understand? Yes. But he is also motivated to defend the interpretation of his tradition, and Wright does better in exegesis.

Piper's objection seems to be: How can a person be declared innocent by God without in fact having actual moral perfection "imputed" to them? Wouldn't God be creating a legal fiction?

Wright's response seems to be: It is no fiction. God makes his declaration based on what he sees as moral perfection being made complete IN THE FUTURE. We mortals can only make declarations based on what we see in the here and now. God can see what will be.
36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
The past of justification Feb. 13 2011
By ecclesial hypostasis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The 'New Perspective on Paul' (NPP), in its reception by the Reformed community, has taken over the past few decades the course that William James laid out for any new theory. First it 'is attacked as absurd; then it is admitted to be true, but obvious and insignificant; finally it is seen to be so important that its adversaries claim that they themselves discovered it'. John Piper is still, however, fighting a pitched battle on the first stage, this book his attempt to trounce N.T. Wright, the most persuasive representative of the New Perspective. The NPP is essentially a paradigm for reading the Apostle as addressing primarily the concerns of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the church rather than the issues of an individual believer before God. It emphasises ecclesiology over soteriology as the import of the doctrine of justification.

I am not a fan of dense exegetical warfare and subtle arguments about Greek verbs, so 'The Future of Justification' required a bit of concentration, as I think it will for most of its intended audience (whom I take to be the educated layperson troubled by the debate). Piper is a skilled Biblical exegete, and he does find some of the weaknesses of Wright's views. However, this detail tends to obscure the real structure of his thinking and his engagement with Wright. Depending on how you look at it, what is at stake here is either a minor variation within Reformed soteriology (not that they haven't split churches over less) or two radically different visions of the Christian faith. Wright often protests, and I believe him, that what he is talking about is only a re-thinking of the vocabulary and emphases of how we discuss the gospel. He desires more of a focus on the role of Christ as the messianic head of the new community, the proclamation of the good news of his resurrection heralding a new age for the world and its liberation from oppression by political and spiritual evil. This is in contrast with the tradition that focusses on how the individual wrestling with sin finds a gracious God and free forgiveness through faith. But Wright believes he is as Reformed as the next man.

I think Piper, however, perceives correctly that Wright's system poses a grave challenge to his own. Piper is driven by the theological vision of Jonathan Edwards - following Calvin - with an overwhelming emphasis on the glory of God and the idea that glorifying himself is God's overriding concern (and should be ours too). This transcendent mystical vision entails the necessity of radical human abasement and the abolition of any ground whatsoever that grace may be construed as operating in any way with our consent or co-operation. Wright, on the other hand, derives his vision more from a purely biblical perspective of the God who calls a people with a mission for the world and empowers them to achieve it. Thus he is far more positive about human possibility and the necessity for real sanctification as part of justification and not just as a response to it. The grave fear that this engenders in Piper and others is that this brings us close to Roman Catholic theology (which indeed it does, and Wright thinks it should).

I don't entirely agree with either Piper or Wright, though I am more sympathetic with Wright. I think that Piper constructs a vision of the Christian church that is precisely vulnerable to Wright's critique, in that for Piper it is a community that glories in its being the chosen people of God set apart from the world and driven by awareness of this 'grace' to works of righteousness. Wright is correct that this is precisely the attitude that Paul is arguing against in Romans and Galatians.

Overall, this is not a bad overview of the issue for those who admire Piper and are predisposed to read his books, though it would need to be balanced by a more sympathetic and full treatment of the NPP. The praise Piper has received for his 'charitable' and irenic stance, and his own self-congratulation for his attitude to controversy, are not entirely warranted, since he does proceed forthwith to paint Wright as almost irredeemably lacking in exegetical skill and insight.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
An Unsuccessful Attempt toTake on the NP Dec 1 2012
By Samuel Wilwerding - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I greatly respect John Piper, but whether you agree with him or not on this issue of justification, you have to admit that it might have been better if he had not written this book. First of all, as previous reviews have pointed out, "The Future of Justification" does not fully engage in the main issues of the debate. Secondly, N. T. Wright's response to this book, "Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision," was probably his most cogent and concise defense of his Pauline theology to date, which has convinced, on a massive scale, many non-NP people to begin to lean in that direction (myself included). Not only was Wright's response more convincing in general, it was so in a particular way that Piper's was not, i.e. on the basis of solid biblical theology. It's hard to say that Piper's book either contributed to the debate or that it didn't actually result in a gain for the "other side."
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Sound Scholarship, but Tedious Feb. 20 2011
By Travis Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In The Future of Justification, John Piper takes on N. T. Wright's championing of what is commonly called the "New Perspective on Paul." Piper, who often writes in a very pastoral, if also deep, style, is fully engaged in Bible-scholar mode for this work. Piper takes Wright's challenge to the historic understanding of justification in the writings of Paul very seriously, and the book that Piper has written shows that seriousness.

Positives

The primary positive that I will mention about this work is that Piper has Paul right and Wright has Paul wrong. John Piper portrays in this book a very clear, very historic, very biblical understanding of what the apostle meant when he wrote of justification. Piper's defense of justification and the imputation of Christ's righteousness is spot-on, and thus his book is necessarily strong.

Piper is also extremely respectful and loving in his tone. In polemic works, it is not uncommon to find authors caricaturing one another, taking cheap shots at straw men. Piper is nothing but kind to Wright. He points to Wright's brilliance and winsomeness quite regularly. Where Piper fears, or hopes, he could have misunderstood Wright, he is quick to point this out.

Negatives

This book is not an easy read. Piper, writing as Bible scholar, is not the most riveting author on the market. Piper's thoroughness in dealing with the discussion can sometimes make his writing tedious. The scholarly slant in this work can certainly make it inaccessible for some laypersons who might pick it up because they have heard friends recommend, "Read anything by John Piper."

I also found myself wanting Piper to go into greater depth regarding the Jewish understanding of salvation. Wright, and Sanders before him, argue that second-temple Judaism was not marred by legalism as is often understood. Piper disagrees with the assessment of these men, and does a fine job of pointing out reasons why. Piper does not, however, give us a few pages to explain how Jews of this period understood their salvation or how they were actually saved. I think such an excurses would have been quite helpful.

Conclusion and Recommendation

Because I agree with Piper's assessment, I am happy to recommend The Future of Justification to anyone dealing with New Perspective on Paul issues. A person who has been convinced by N. T. Wright that the church has, for sixteen hundred years or more, misunderstood Paul, can be aided by Piper's scholarship. If these issues are before you, you certainly should give Piper's book a hearing.

However, not every Christian needs to read this book. Many have never heard of the New Perspective. Many have a right understanding of justification and do not need to take up their reading time with an argument against a position that they are not being challenged to refute. This book is neither an easy nor a fun read. If you are looking for something to feed the soul, look to others among Piper's writings.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Initially Convinced by Wright April 18 2011
By Ryan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I was initially convinced by Wright after reading some of his papers from conferences. His interpretation seems entirely plausible: We are not actually made righteous, but counted righteous and thus vindicated with Christ--as in a law-court. We are still sinners, but Christ's atonement covers us, and God is now just to count (in a legal sense) us not-guilty.

I still am somewhat persuaded by that interpretation, and I think it is in part correct. But I think it also misses something hugely important, which John Piper clearly and importantly describes in this work--the Biblical importance and wonder of being MADE righteous in Christ.

"It is significant that Paul does not say in Romans 5:19 that "by the one man's disobedience the many were made" guilty. That is true. But it is important to see that what he actually says is: "By the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners." This is important because the imputation of Adam's sin is more than the imputation of a "status." We are counted as having sinned in Adam. Therefore, when Paul goes on to say, "so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous," he does not mean only that Christ's status was imputed to us. Rather, in Christ we are counted as having done all the righteousness that God requires. Imputation is not the conferring of a status without a ground of real imputed moral righteousness. It is the counting of an alien, real, moral, perfect righteousness, namely Christ's, as ours." - JP (174-75)

Wright's interpretation IS appealing! But let us not take law-court imagery too far; the wonder of the gospel is precisely the "nonsense" of which Wright speaks--that the judge might give us his righteousness in declaring us righteous.


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