5.13.2009

Towards clarity on current dialogue.

Scot McKight's Jesuscreed.org has recently begun a series on N.T. Wright's recent Justification: God's Plan & Paul's Vision entitled, Justification and New Perspective. This work of Wright's is an essential response to current criticisms and writings on the current stream of the New Perspective on Paul. Most notable to this particular work of Wright is that this particular book is a response to John Piper's "The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright"

What I appreciate thus far is the clarity that N.T. Wright is bringing that is resulting from the response from within the church. The criticisms are serving to create a greater definition and elucidation of the issues. And of course, this in turn is serving all who are listening in on the conversation with eager interest. I hope to read this book sometime in the near future.

The excerpt below is, I thought a very helpful and foundational ground laying to the "rules of engagement" (so aptly and pithy put!) Taken from the fifth in the series. Enjoy!

"The 2d chp of this book deals with the rules of engagement. Here is Wright's simple approach: "The rules for engagement for any debate about Paul must be, therefore, exegesis first and foremost, with all historical tools in full play, not to dominate or to squeeze the text out of shape into which it naturally forms itself but to support and illuminate a text-sensitive, argument-senstive, nuance-sensitive reading" (51).

In other words: (1) read the text (2) in its immediate, authorial, biblical context, and (3) all in their historical contexts so far as we can discern them.

John Piper counters this method by suggesting in his book that Wright gives too much credence to non-biblical sources and to novel interpretations. Piper thinks too much biblical theology has become too fascinated with historical context that is then used to reinterpret Paul's plain sense. For some reason (Piper, The Future of Justification, 34-35), Piper thinks our knowledge of the NT is more secure than our readings of non-biblical texts. This, so it seems to me, begs the question and it is simply not accurate: this all depends on text and scholar. I know plenty who know more about the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Rabbis or the Pseudepigrapha than they do about the New Testament. Still, Piper's point is of importance: there is a history of interpretation, accurate or not (is the point), that can guide us in NT reading and some bring issues from elsewhere to the NT and then reinterpret the NT and get it wrong. But Wright's point then needs to be clearly stated: that interpretive history Piper defers to may be wrong, and when it is wrong it can be stubbornly resistant to change."