Challies responds to expected interview with Rick Warren. Overall, Challies offers some irenic thoughts on the matter, in the end, doubting, or at least remaining uncertain about the genuineness of Warren’s answers. You can read his analysis here.
One of the central issues for me has to do with definitions. I am willing to preserve a broad definition for Reformed, while remaining skeptical of those who would use for political gain.
Here are my comments on Tim’s blog:
Tim, there needs to be a both/and approach this interview. I am devoutly Reformed, but I am also catholic. I desire strong ecumenical relations with other bodies. Your comments regarding Warren’s lecture to the Jews demands a link to the original document or transcript. I am not sure we can have the full picture on these issues nor the strategy Warren adopted in that particular scenario. I do believe certain conversations require different tactics, and yes, even difference answers (though not conflicting with one another–I can clearly speak of grace on the one hand, and have an immensely high view of human responsibility that would make some calvinists cringe). Your critique is helpful, but I learned one thing from Dr. Sproul in my days in Orlando, and that is, what Luther so carefully stated that we ought to give others–especially believers–the benefit of the doubt on these statements…while at the same time, arguing for our differences in strategy and theology.
Piper summarizes some of his main concerns with Wright’s theology. Among them, is Wright’s affirmation that the gospel is not about how to get saved (18). Wright affirms that the gospel “refers to the proclamation that Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah , is the one, true and only Lord of the world” (18). Piper has no problem affirming this definition of the gospel, nevertheless he finds it troublesome that Wright would deny that the gospel is not about how one gets saved. Wright believes that the gospel is a cosmic proclamation of the lordship of Christ over all political systems and earthly authority.
Wright’s proposition that the gospel is about a cosmic proclamation corrects much of the dualistic thinking in the evangelical world. The Lordship of Christ is a comprehensive and authoritative claim over all mankind. At the same time, by refusing to extend this lordship to the question What must I do to be saved seems rather minimalistic. The gospel is both authoritative– bringing earthly rulers under the authority of Messiah and salvific–and it answers the question what must I do to be saved with a definitive call to embrace Messiah as Lord and you shall be saved (I Corinthians 15:1-2).
Editor’s Note: I have no intention to criticize Piper or Wright. My knowledge at this point of the entire “justification” controversy is somewhat limited. Hence, I do not intend to be critical, but rather simply to summarize, and when appropriate, add a few remarks along the way. These posts–should I be consistent–are meant to be short and concise.
Piper begins his introduction by summarizing the seriousness of our call to feed the sheep (John 21:17). He writes that the “seriousness of our calling comes from the magnitude of what is at stake. If we do not feed the sheep in our charge with the ‘whole counsel of God,’ their blood is on our hands” (Piper, pg. 14). Speaking of Wright, Piper writes that he is not “under the curse of Galatians 1:8-9, but that his portrayal of the gospel–and of the doctrine of justification in particular–is so disfigured that it becomes difficult to recognize as biblically faithful” (pg. 15). Unlike so many critics of Wright– who condemn him before even reading him– Piper offers praise to a man who has been a strong defender of Christian orthodoxy and who has become an expert in humiliating members of the Jesus Seminar. Nevertheless, Piper’s desire is clear:
I hope that those who consider this book and read N.T. Wright will read him with greater care, deeper understanding and less inclination to find Wright’s retelling of the story of justification compelling. (16)
In the mid-seventies Wright was re-awakened to the theology of St. Paul. He found that the book of Romans did not fit with the book of Galatians if one begins with a Reformational paradigm. Wright concluded that Romans 10:3 speaks of a covenant status which is for Jews only. This understanding led to a complete re-working of the traditional definitions. However the Reformers had understood Paul, they did not account for how Israel’s history was crucial to Pauline theology. Piper seeks to confront Wright’s assertion, but first acknowledges that “we all wear colored glasses” (17) and that if there is ever going to be any substantial interaction it must be on the foundation of Biblical exegesis. Only the Bible is the “final arbiter of truth” (17). Both Wright and Piper come to the table with this presupposition.
Editor’s Note: I would like to begin blogging through Piper’s book. I have no intention to be thorough, but merely to offer some thoughts–whether one paragraph or ten.
Pastor John Piper’s book The Future of Justification attempts to answer Bishop N.T. Wright’s profound affect on the Protestant world. Piper’s book is sure to add a new volume of scholarly dialogue. Though I have not yet begun to interact with the substance of the book, the Acknowledgments offer a helpful model for future interaction. On page 10, Piper writes that “more than any other book…this one was critiqued in the process by very serious scholars.” Among those scholars was Wright himself who offered a 11,000-word response to Piper’s first draft. As a result, Piper’s book will be better for this rich interaction. This to me, is a helpful model for proper engagement. Can you imagine what this would do to our churches if certain Presbyterian writers showed the courtesy to send their first drafts to their theological opponents?