Daniel Kirk referees John Piper and N.T.Wright (1)
J. R. Daniel Kirk, New Testament Professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in his blog Storied Theology has decided to referee between John Piper and N.T.Wright. This promises to be four interesting blog posts.
A couple of times over the past month or so I’ve been asked in one way or another to weigh in on what is becoming the Piper v. Wright showdown, what before that was the Presbyterian v. Wright showdown, what before that was a vigorous conversation in New Testament scholarship. Since I discovered just yesterday that Piper has been selected as the “leading exegete” to represent North America at the Lausanne Conference in South Africa, I figured now was the time.
Here’s how I dissect the different positions on offer by Piper and Wright: Piper’s understanding of righteousness and justification flows from an understanding of the cosmos in which the law of God (an essentially timeless entity, but with some historical representations such as the Decalogue) regulates humanity’s standing before God. Wright’s understanding of righteousness and justification flows from an understanding of the cosmos in which the in-time story of Israel, and God’s covenants with this particular people, regulates humanity’s standing before God.
Both Piper and Wright actually agree that “righteousness” in and of itself, its lexical definition, is not going to solve this conundrum. The question is, what sort of biblical / theological framework helps us understand what it means for God to do what is right.
The challenge that faces both exegetes as they turn to Paul is that the larger frameworks are often what must come into play when the specific term “righteousness” or “righteousness of God” appears.
Thus, Piper will turn to Rom 3:23 and say, “All sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and there show how God’s own glory must be to make up for the deficit of glory-rendering due his name. So God will manifest his righteousness in the death of Jesus, condemning him representatively for all who failed to glorify him.
Alternatively, Wright will ask us to take stock of how all of chs. 3-4 or Romans (and reaching back into ch. 2 at points) are about how God will fulfill the promise to Abraham to make one world-wide family. Within this covenant promise, God has to overcome Israel’s own faithlessness to be a missionary people, and provide an alternate means for the blessing of Abraham to come to the nations.
more to come.