Notes on Wright – Justification – 4

Notes on N.T. Wright, Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision, Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2009

Chapter 3 – First Century Judaism: Covenant, Law, and Lawcourt

Getting to heaven when they died was not the major concern of first century Judaism. Rather, they were concerned with the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. It was common for Jews of the time to understand themselves to still be in a time of exile. This concern and solutions to is found expression in a variety of what we might call Judaisms. (It’s important to recognize, he says, that Judaism was not just one thing at that time.) Daniel 9, with its outline of God’s promised salvation, was prominent in several strains. In v. 7, the Lord’s righteousness is referenced – God’s righteousness in sending judgment on Israel, and God’s hoped for righteousness in bringing them redemption. The notion that God’s righteousness is primarily God’s faithfulness to his covenant is central to Wright’s whole argument in the book.

Piper, in contrast, proclaims that God’s righteousness “is God’s concern for God’s own glory.” (p. 64) Wright offers five reasons for rejecting this definition.

  1. Piper ignores most of the scholarship on the righteousness of God. He does praise Piper for not going the direction of much popular talk of emphasizing righteousness as a relational term
  2. Piper’s argument centers on the imputation of righteousness to the believer. If God’s righteousness is “God’s concern for God’s own glory,” it is hard to imagine the logic of this being imputed to believers.
  3. Since he treats Israel as at most illustrative, he misses key parts of Romans.

  4. Piper’s treatment of the lawcourt imagery doesn’t work well. Status is what is in view here. “When the judge in the lawcourt justifies someone, he does not give that person his own particular ‘righteousness.’ He creates the status the vindicated defendant now possesses, by an act of declaration.” (p. 69)
  5. The whole biblical story is not only about more than me and my salvation, it is more than simply about God’s reputation. It is, rather, a story about God’s great love and loving actions on the behalf of all of creation. Responding directly to Piper he says, “God’s concern for God’s glory is precisely rescued from the appearance of divine narcissism because God, not least God as Trinity, is always giving out, pouring out, lavishing generous love on undeserving people, undeserving Israel and an undeserving world.” (p. 70f)

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