The Justification of Tom Wright

I am very near the completion of my ebook on the justification of N.T. Wright. I’ve written this book in an attempt to breakdown and address a few of the key issues that have come up in the Justification debate over and over again in on-line forums. These issues include, what is the Gospel? How can the phrase ‘Righteousness of God’ mean ‘Covenant Faithfulness’? Doesn’t the Bible clearly teach imputation (KJV)? And more.


“It was about this time that John Piper published a book against N.T. Wright titled Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright. I’m glad he did. At the time my head was still reeling as I tried to wrap my mind around New Perspective concepts, but some of Wright’s work, especially What Saint Paul Really Said, left me with many unanswered questions. What did Wright mean when he said that “the gospel is not about how to get saved” or that justification was not about “getting in” but about “being in”? I was glad to know that I was not the only one more than a little confused by these statements. Piper raised the same questions and more besides. Now what everyone wanted, needed even, was a response from Wright. It was a call for clarification. And so Wright did respond somewhat reluctantly with a book titled Justification: God’s Plan, Paul’s Vision. At this I share Brian McLaren’s sentiments exactly when he writes:

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.”

But the debate was just heating up. Despite what seemed to be clear explanations, people still managed to muddle up what Wright was saying. When the good scholar pastorally reminds us in an article on the New Perspective that

“We are not justified by faith by believing in justification by faith. We are justified by faith by believing in the gospel itself – in other words, that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead.”

R.C. Sproul shoots back with “[Wright’s comment] is the king of all straw men. It is the Goliath of scarecrow, the King Kong of straw man fallacies.” Then Sproul ironically follows that up by publishing a small tract on Justification that proves Wright’s point.

The debates being shot back and forth in books, on blogs and at conferences helped me to solidify my acceptance of Wright’s views. It was a long and difficult struggle within me to overcome five-hundreds years of tradition that had been repeatedly stamped into my cerebral cortex ever since I first became a Christian. The last bit of his doctrine of justification that was a camel to swallow was his interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:21 (I explain why in Chapter 2). But I finally understood what Wright was saying, and saw for myself in the biblical text, when I went to the Wheaton conference Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N.T. Wright in 2010. This event also gave me the impression of who Wright, as a scholar, as a Christian, as a person, was. His humble engagement mingled with his massive intellect brought me to an even deeper appreciation of him.

The debates, misinformation, miscommunication and misunderstanding then swirled down around the common folk in the blogosphere and in churches where the battle-lines were drawn more sharply. For one says “I will follow Piper” and another, “I will follow Wright;” both scholars I’m sure would eschew such notions. Nonetheless this has become the reality. One day while working at the Christian bookstore a gentleman came in and began to browse our academic department. By striking up a conversation with him I discovered that he was a huge fan of John Piper, and so I had asked him if he read Piper’s book against Wright. With excitement he took the book out of my hand and with great interest began to scan it over. I then followed that up by showing him Wright’s book responding to Piper. When I tried to hand it to him the man leaped back with both hands up in the air as if by touching it he might get infected. He let me know in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t interested in reading it. He purchased Piper’s book and I have not seen him since.”


Yes I want to know when it is available

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  • Warren Montgomery

    Was that 2nd Corinthians 5:21? Thanks. wm

    • Derek Ouellette

      Yes, thanks for pointing out my typo.