Response to SBTS Panel
September 4, 2009, 1:21 pm
Filed under: Biblical Studies, Books, Gospel, Systematic Theology

(This is a response to the previous post regarding yesterday’s panel discussion at SBTS concerning Wright’s views of justification.)

This week the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary held a faculty panel discussion about Bishop N. T. Wright’s views on the doctrine of justification. The panel featured Denny Burk, Tom Schreiner, Mark Seifrid, and Brian Vickers, with President Al Mohler moderating.

After watching the almost hour long video I have come to a few conclusions regarding not only the panel, but the New/Old Perspective debate in general.

First, concerning the panel discussion, I will always think it to be unfair for any academic institution to not have direct dialogue with someone who can carefully articulate the opponents view, that person being the opponent or someone who holds to a similar view. However, I can understand that many times this is impossible. That being said, while SBTS did not have Wright come to the discussion, I am understanding to reasons why.

Second, I have been blessed by a friendship with Denny Burk. He taught me New Testament Survey at Criswell College and shared several intimate conversations about my sin, frustrations in ministry, and times of blessing in my Christian life. Also, Tom Schreiner (probably the most prolific biblical scholar at SBTS) has unknowingly been influential in my biblical interpretation through his works on Romans (BECNT), his Pauline theology, and his New Testament theology. I haven’t engaged Seifrid’s or Vickers’ major texts, but have read some journal articles they have published.

Third, I thought the panel asked honest questions that need to be answered by Wright and those who advocate the NPP. The panel is thinking in a primarily pastoral way (which is not lacking in Wright, but is fleshed out in a different direction), which I think should be commended.

Fourth, and my most important objection to the form of the discussion, the panel does not engage Wright on any text (with maybe the exception of Dr. Seifrid on Galatians 2 and Dr. Burk on 2 Cor 5.21) but only engages him on a Reformational level. Burk says as much: “This [Wright’s view on justification] is not what our traditional has held.” Seifrid makes my point for me, saying that we can no longer engage Wright on a traditional level but that “someone is going to have to engage Wright on the Bible itself.” This is really the heart of the matter for me. Opponents of the NPP, including Guy Waters andJohn Piper (definitely not as much as Waters), have continued to draw their conclusions from Reformed doctrinal tradition, even if they engage in texts.

The differences in the SBTS faculty and Dr. Wright are fundamental. SBTS is known for being a solidly systematic-theological school. It seems that exegetical theology will always be submissive to a Reformed systematic theology. This is why these men (and others like them, i.e. Gerald Bray) throw up the traditional red flag everytime something within the reformational framework is questioned. ‘Why shouldn’t you believe in the doctrine of justification as articulated by Wright and others like him?’ you might ask. ‘Because it steps outside our doctrinal tradition’ would be their reply. It is rare to hear someone from the Neo-Reformed community engage questions on a purely exegetical level. This is the best explanation to the reason why in an entire hour of discussion on Wright, not one time was their a serious exegetical discussion. Instead, nearly 20 minutes was dedicated to the systematic doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer.

In closing, if someone is going to genuinely take on Wright in a public, academic forum like this, they will have to follow Dr. Seifrid’s advice and engage him on an exclusively textual level. Let’s put aside the theo-babble, open our Greek text and have good-hearted, passionate, edifying discussion. If this doesn’t happen we’ll still only be speaking into the air.


SBTS Panel Discusses Tom Wright’s Views on Justification
September 4, 2009, 11:51 am
Filed under: Biblical Studies, Current Events, Media, Systematic Theology

This is video from a panel discussion at SBTS yesterday concerning N. T. Wright’s views on justification. I’ll interact with the comments made at a later time.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “SBTS Panel Discusses Tom Wright’s Vie…“, posted with vodpod

Zondervan Announces NIV Revisions; TNIV R.I.P.
September 2, 2009, 6:04 am
Filed under: Biblical Studies, Books, Translation

News came from Zondervan yesterday that they will be stopping production of the TNIV (Today’s New International Version), my translation of choice. But, that’s not all; they also announced that in doing so they will be making revisions to the overwhelmingly popular NIV (New International Version) in order “to refresh the text by going back to the original Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew and translate God’s unchanging word using today’s most contemporary English.”

Along with the announcement came a sort of apology for the production of the TNIV. Moe Girkins, president of Zondervan, called the TNIV “divisive” and claiming the responsibility to “undo the damage” the TNIV has caused. The aim now is to revise the 1984 updated version of the NIV and publish the 2011 version (

This affects me, personally, as I have just become comfortable with the TNIV in my daily bible reading and scholarly work (the TNIV is the only version to translate Mark 1.41 correctly). I do, however, have faith in the Committee on Bible Translation that they will produce an even better version than the TNIV.

The bad news today is that the division between egalitarians and complementarians will be even more deep. With the praise of Zondervan’s apology from the likes of Ligon Duncan, president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, I’m sure the egalitarian blood will begin to boil and we won’t be rid of controversy, but will see more to come.

Tornadoes and Worldviews
August 22, 2009, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Biblical Studies, Current Events

John Piper, bible scholar and pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN, is no stranger to post-catastrophe commentary. After the bridge collapse in 2007, he penned this. Greg Boyd, also a biblical scholar and pastor of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, MN, responded in his usual way here.

Now the dueling pastors are at it again. In case you haven’t heard, this past week tornadoes touched down in the Minneapolis area. A particular tornado struck during the meeting of the ELCA  (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America), where the issue at hand was the ordination and support of gay clergy. (They voted that monogamous gays can serve.)You can read about all that here and other sources.

The next day Piper posted his commentary on the whole matter. The whole point of his post is that moments like this are a glimpse of God’s judgment on sin and should lead us to repentance (arguing mostly from Luke 13 and other similar passages). (Piper posted a clarification of Thursday’s post here, which basically rehashes his main point.) Yesterday, Boyd responded with a detailed critique of Piper’s comments.

The repeated disagreement between the Minnesota pastors stems from a clash of worldviews. Boyd is an Arminian and an Open Theist; Piper is a Calvinist and determinist. These theological “systems” are totally opposed to each other and represent different views of God. One’s view of God impacts one’s view of the world and therefore, influences how one interprets world events.

It’s not surprising that Piper and Boyd disagree. The best that we onlookers can do is to take notes, carefully weigh the exegesis from both sides, and think long and hard about how we view God, his justice, the powers, and the Scriptures.

Wright is Right on Justification
August 21, 2009, 2:33 pm
Filed under: Biblical Studies, Books

I just finished reading N. T. Wright’s Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision. It is a must read for anyone who is studying either the book of Romans or Paul’s letters in general. I have been entrenched in this debate in my reading time over the last year or two. Last year I read several books and even more articles trying to figure out my view on the New Perspective on Paul. As I waded through some, definitely not all, of the material published recently in books and scholarly journals, I came across John Piper’s book, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright. I read through it shortly after I read Wright’s What Saint Paul Really Said and was convinced of neither side’s views. I struggled with Wright’s redefinition of diakaisyne theou and also struggled with the Reformed doctrine of imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

It wasn’t until I listened to a set of three lectures delivered by Wright at Calvin College in January 2003 that things began to click. (You can find the lectures here.) Wright took Romans 1-11 and divided it into three sections and lectured for an hour over each part and then took questions over the material. It was the most informative time I had spent in regard to my study of the New Perspective. The pieces of the narrative framework began to take shape.

Fastfoward to August 2009 when I read Justification. This book has reinforced the key features of Paul’s letters. It’s not only about “how I am justified,” but seeing Paul’s theology in light of the bigger picture of Israel’s history and its climax in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

The point of this post is that no matter what the critics may say, give Wright a chance. Justification will show that Wright is right on justification.

Witherington on Arminianism
August 17, 2009, 10:05 am
Filed under: Biblical Studies, Systematic Theology

Christ died for the sins of the world, and to ransom that world. 1 Tim. 2.4-5 puts the matter succinctly. God our savior “wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.” One could compare this to John 3.17, God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but to save the world, or the repeated refrain in Hebrews that Christ died once for all time, for all persons, and so on. (See the discussion of these matters in my forthcoming volumes on NT Theology and Ethics entitled The Indelible Image).

But this is not just a matter of finding sufficient proof texts (of which there are many more), it is a matter of one’s theology of the divine character. God is love, holy love, to be sure, but nonetheless love, and as 1 Tim. 2.4 says, the desire of God’s heart is that all persons be saved. It is not just the elect whom God loves, but as John 3.16 says, the world, for whom Christ was sent to die. It follows from this that Christ’s atoning death is sufficient for the salvation of all persons, but only efficient for those who respond in faith to God’s gracious provision of redemption.

Even more foundational is the understanding of the meaning of saying that God is love. Among other things, this means God is committed to relating to those created in his image in love. Now real love must be freely given, and freely received. It cannot be predetermined, manipulated, coerced or else it becomes contrary to what the Bible says love is (see 1 Cor. 13). In the debate between whether the primary trait of God is God’s sovereignty or God’s love, it seems clear that God exercises his power in love, and for loving ends. Even his acts of judgment, short of final judgment, are not meant to be punitive but rather corrective and restorative. God in short, is unlike vindictive human beings, very unlike them. Thus Hosea relates that God says “All my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger … For I am God and not a human being.” God, the divine parent, is not less loving than the best of human parents, God is more loving. If Christ is the perfect incarnation of the character of God, then the answer to the question, for whom did Christ die, becomes theologically self-evident— for the world which God created and still loves.

This is a clear presentation of the Arminian view of the extent of the atonement. The key phrases are “Christ’s atoning death is sufficient for the salvation of all persons, but only efficient for those who respond in faith” and, “Now real love must be freely given, and freely received.” Christ’s death makes it possible for people to accept the gift of forgiveness of sin. But it is only a possibility. The finality of the transaction (if we can use this metaphor) is dependent upon the human rather than God.

The attractive part of this view is its emphasis on God’s love for the cosmos. God does indeed love the world. This can be seen in the call of Abraham and his descendents (including those of us who also trust God to fulfill his end of the bargain – see Romans and Galatians) to be a blessing to the world. Romans 8 emphasizes a view of redemption that is not totally exclusive to individual Christians, but toward the entire created order. That chapter ends with a confirmation that nothing can separate us from God’s love. It is God’s love that compels him to save not only us that make up his people, but also put the entire world to rights.

The problem with the Arminian view is that it does not deal properly with the texts that speak of election and predestination. This is of course where the controversy comes. Discussion of the extent of the atonement usually is complicated by unnecessary debates about decretal theology and the use of funny words like supralapsarianism. In some sense or another God has predestined and chosen a people for himself and has shed his son’s blood for their redemption. At the same time, however, the call to join God’s people is given to anyone who has ears to hear. How all that plays out is just simply not laid out in the text. Sometimes it’s better to embrace paradox rather than trying to figure everything out.

HT: Euangelion

N. T. Wright On What Happens After Death
August 3, 2009, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Biblical Studies