What’s wrong with Wright? part one

“The other book is a response to N. T. Wright on the doctrine of justification. I have no immediate plan to publish it until I get the feedback from critical readers. My motivation in writing it is that I think his understanding of Paul is wrong and his view of justification is harmful to the church and to the human soul. Few things are more precious than the truth of justification by faith alone because of Christ alone. As a shepherd of a flock of God’s blood-bought church, I feel responsible to lead the sheep to life-giving pastures. That is not what the sheep find in Wright’s view of Paul on justification. He is an eloquent and influential writer and is, I believe, misleading many people on the doctrine of justification. I will keep you posted on what becomes of this manuscript.”

John Piper – August 2, 2006.

Ah – time to reflect. I am livid, to be sure, and while I know that will come through, I am not sure that is a bad thing. We shall see.

I bought a few books this week, one of which I thought was the book Piper was referring to in the above quote. I found, upon re-reading his article, that it is not, however the book by N.T. Wright that I did pick up Evil and the Justice of God is, I am sure, equally disturbing. I say disturbing because, from everything I have seen at local bookstores (Christian or secular – 6 of which I have visited locally in recent months) Wright is one of the most accessable, and I daresay influential Christian authors. I say influential, not just because Piper has, but because his books make it into top sellers… and because I was first introduced to him as the author of the only document of substance on Rob Bell’s church’s website.

I am half way through the book, but it was not until the middle chapters that I found myself ready to weep over his teachings.

The early chapters seem to point to a God that really does not know what He is doing. Reading Wright, you kind of feel sorry for Him… “God’s anxiety that Adam might now take fruit from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever in his fallen state leads to His equal anxiety that arrogant humankind would be able to plot ever greatr and greater folly….” pg 52 The next page Wright talks about God’s loneliness, grief, exasperation that He knows He will continue to experience. Page 76 Wright suggests that “God (the Creator God, please note)… has undertaken a plan: it is a daring and risky plan, involving God in so much ambiguity… that He begins to look like a double agent, becoming compromised at many points in order to pull of the solution.” That Wright can even use the word “sovereignty” at all baffles me, because he clearly does not mean a God that does whatever He pleases.

“all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” ” Daniel 4:35 See also Job 23:13, Psalms 115:3 and 135:6.

That Jesus did not really know what was going on when He first showed up on earth is evidenced in a couple of places:

“Jesus CAME TO BELIEVE… he had to take its full force upon Himself so that everyone else could be spared.” pg 87 and “Why did Jesus die?… Jesus Himself believed, in some sense, that it was His vocation.” pg 75.

Again – where is the sovereignty of God?

There were a number of other teachings I found either uncomfortable, bizarre, or just plain not-in-the-Word. Among them – a vague sense of maximizing the concept of “evil”, but minimizing “everyday sin” (which might reduce the Gospel to “a farce” pg 87); referring to Christ as “prophet”; and a downplay of both Satan and Hell.

It was not until I got to page 94 though, that I felt the need to write, and weep, and pray… oh, how my heart burns for those that begin to believe this!

“The Gospels thus tell the story, centrally and crucially, which stands unique in the world’s great literature, the world’s religious theories and visions: the story of the Creator God taking responsibility for what has happened to creation, bearing the weight of its problems on His own shoulders. As Sydney Carter put it in one of his finest songs, “It’s God they ought to crucify, instead of you and me.” Or, as one old evangelistic tract put it, the nations of the world got together to pronounce judgment on God for all the evils in the world, only to realize with a shock that GOD HAD ALREADY SERVED HIS SENTENCE.”

So – we, according to Wright, have a God who messed up, and realises He did, so He sent His Son to fix His big mistake…. I do not know yet how this plays out in the rest of the book, I only know that this is not the God that I know….


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. clearly
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 10:46:12


    I haven’t read the book yet, but your review has definitely peaked my interest — sounds very troubling.

    Something to consider: some overstress the sovereignty of God and end up in the same place. The strongest of Calvinists will actually teach that God is the author of sin. We need to find a biblical middle-ground between God’s decrees and God’s permissive will. Some things he is sovereign in allowing; others he sovereign in commanding/decreeing. Finding that line is tough.


  2. Verity
    Oct 17, 2007 @ 12:22:46

    The balance is presented well in Suffering and the Sovereignty of God – edited by Piper. It is expounded still further in Beyond the Bounds, also edited by Piper – I just have not got to reading the latter book yet…. Too many good books on the go…

    I think Wright is worth reading, because he is so foundational for the emerging church… I have been reading a little Pratchitt, and am curious at the constant need-to-look-at-the-culture mentality of the emerging church, that somehow manages to undermine the value of the Inspired Word for today’s readers.


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