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  • « Spirit Empowered Preaching | Main | How May We Know Whether We Love God? »

    Book Review: The Future of Justification, by John Piper

    Synopsis: As unpleasant and heart-wrenching as controversy in the Church might be, it may nevertheless be put to very useful ends, when handled appropriately. The new ideas that become the subject of scrutiny may have some elements of truth by which to nuance more accurately the old, beloved doctrines. The refutation of all which rings false in those new ideas calls for new arguments and a more involved and minute understanding of the doctrines under question. In either case, the end result is that the truth is understood more clearly, provided the controversy is approached with the wisdom and Christian grace and sobriety that ought to characterize the leaders of the Church. Polemical works which reflect these qualities (rare as they may be!) are an indispensable help in addressing the contemporary needs of the Church. The Future of Justification, by John Piper, is one of those works – clear-minded, fair, gracious, and sober – which turns a controversy into an opportunity for growth. It is all but indispensable for the pastor or Christian leader who would be up to date on the current issues within Christianity.

    Anyone who does not know of N.T. Wright, his teachings on justification, second temple Judaism, etc., and the ways – good or bad – which they affect the historic Protestant understanding of justification, should do what he can to acquaint himself with these matters. These are probably not simply faddish ideas that will pass away in a few years. They are having a tremendous effect on an entire generation of believers, and it is likely that the effect will remain. But not only should believers be familiarizing themselves with these teachings, they should also be subjecting them to a scrutinous examination, in the light of biblical teaching and the historic formation of doctrine. Anytime a new idea begins to challenge an entrenched understanding within the Church, whether that idea is right or wrong, much serious consideration ought to be employed before accepting it. This rigorous consideration, like it or not, is highly difficult work. But I believe that Piper's book will prove to be a significant help in that task, for the following reasons:

    First, it is scrupulously fair. Piper has gone to much labor to ensure that he is understanding Wright as accurately as possible. He is not dealing with straw men here, but the very ideas of N.T. Wright, presented in the way that N.T. Wright would present them. This quality is as rare as it is laudable.

    Second, it is profoundly insightful. Piper has an ability to trace foundational propositions to their logical outcomes in a very helpful way. He has an unusual knack for detecting the difference between semantic and substantive quarrels. He not only presents Wright's ideas, he then subjects them to a careful critique, backed by a lifetime of serious reflection on the texts under consideration.

    Third, it is forward-looking. Piper is concerned, not just with what is being said, but also with the trajectory upon which the Church is being put through what is being said. His concern is not merely with the ideas as they are now being expressed, but also with the effect that the original propositions will have upon the people of God, as they develop along logical lines, and as they are liable to be misunderstood because of any imprecision in wording.

    Fourth, it is eminently pastoral. Ideas have an effect on how people see and pursue and feel and hope in the precious realities of the gospel. With the heart of a lifelong shepherd, Piper has approached the controversy with this question always on his mind: “When a believer buys into these ideas, and the worries and cares of life assault his faith, will he be emboldened by them to cling more closely to Christ and his cross, or will he be driven back upon himself and his own works?”

    For these and other reasons, this book is a must-read for Christian leaders, who would be knowledgable on the issues of the day, and the effect they will have on the sheep under their care; for believers who share Wright's point of view, and who would be acquainted with the best arguments for a serious alternative; and for believers who do not share or are not familiar with Wright's point of view, but desire a well thought-through summary and analysis of the basic controversy. The Future of Justification is a model blend of graciousness, passion, and intellectual acumen that cannot fail to be helpful to anyone who gives it a careful read.

    Available at Monergism Books

    Posted by Nathan on December 13, 2007 12:38 PM

    Comments

    I think the Boars Head Tavern Boss is unhappy with Mr. Piper's book.

    "Trevin Wax takes a big step in criticizing Piper on the place of justification in the gospel. We all know what’s next. Hope you are keeping up with Trevin’s Piper-Wright series. Very helpful."
    Posted by: Michael Spencer @ 10:59 am | Trackback
    http://www.boarsheadtavern.com/archives/2007/12/10/1056905.html

    I trust Mr. Piper's judgments and discernment a zillion zillion more times than the Boss of the Tavern. Actually, I don't trust The Boss at all, he is too mean and bossy.

    "Make no mistake about it. Trevin Wax is one bright blogger. In chapter 12 of his look at Piper’s Anti-Wright book, he nails it. Piper has to disallow Wright’s definition of the Gospel because it will admit Roman Catholics, Orthodox, etc. as Christians.

    This older post from David Fitch has a nice sermon series setup on “Jesus and Money.”

    This post brought to you by a person with no cell phone and no reception for 17 miles. And Triablogue finds me despicable. Times are bad."
    http://www.boarsheadtavern.com/archives/2007/12/12/2157005.html

    Actually, The Tamed Boar is "poisoning the well" isn't he, he is lying about John Piper isn't he? John Piper's book 'The Future of Justification' is NOT "Anti-Wright" is it? It exposes the incorrect teachings of Mr. Wright's on Justification doesn't it?

    I think The Boss Hog is very dangerous to the unsuspecting.

    Douglas,

    I don't know anything about the Boar's Head Tavern, but it doesn't surprise me at all that the book would stir up a lot of controversy. I think that Wright is a serious enough scholar, with enough helpful things to say, that he's going to have a fairly devoted following in circles of intelligent and orthodox Christians. So when someone takes issue with some of his teaching, it's going to get things stirred up. I hope the interaction will be helpful. I hope that a lot of people will get to the point where they can say, "Ok, Wright has been really helpful to me, but I can see that he is aberrant on justification, in spite of all the useful things he's brought out about the significance of the resurrection, the unity of the biblical story, etc.".

    As far as your question: No, I guess I wouldn't call Piper "anti-Wright" necessarily -- he was very gracious and non-condemning of him -- but I would definitely call him "anti-Wright's-position-on-justification".

    I know this tread is not dealing specifically with the curse of Galatians 1:8-9, but you did bring it up as did Piper. Within his courteous treatment of Wright, Piper used these words and others to describe Wright’s treatment of the gospel and justification - “disfigured,” “distorted,” and “blurred.” Just how disfigured, distorted and blurred does teaching on the gospel have to become before Galatians 1:8-9 applies? I would like to know where Piper and others would draw the line.

    Happy New Year!
    http://www.reformedcow.com

    Tandy,

    You ask a difficult question, but in my opinion, Wright is not a candidate for the Galatians curse. I don't think he teaches works righteousness at all, or else he would be. But the problem is (in my opinion) that he's come up with a slanted way of looking at things which will inevitably lead to greater error, as more and more people follow in his steps, and miss some of his finer nuances, which keep him somewhat tethered to the Reformation's sola fide.

    That's my take, anyway.

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