Salvation: Justification and the Bishop

Posted: January 16, 2009 in Uncategorized


Without a doubt, the most popular New Testament scholar on the planet is N.T. Wright, the Anglican Bishop of Durham, England and for good reasons.  He is likable person who writes well and vigorously defended the historicity of events such as the resurrection against liberal wing-nuts while also calling evangelicals to task for being selfish, materialistic and generally uncaring about God’s whole creation.  I agree.

Yet, Wright’s work on the Christian doctrine of justification sucks. 

N.T. Wright argues that the “Justification in the first century was not about how someone might establish a relationship with God.  It was about God’s eschatalogical definition, both future and present of who was, in fact, a member of his people.” 

So, in Wright’s view, justification is not about how you and I can be reconciled to a Holy God who we have rebelled against but just a declaration by God that you and I can sit at the cool kid’s table.

So what about sin? What about the cross?

Wright really doesn’t have much to say about all of that.  There is some discussion about how Jesus used the cross to end the “exile” of the covenant people but for Wright the cross isn’t really central to the message of the Gospel.  The Gospel, for the Bishop, is the declaration that “Jesus is King.”

Wright has gone so far as to state that what happened on the cross was a mystery.  To be fair, he may simply think such a question is above his pay grade.

Now there are many, many, many, many, many, MANY problems with this view but let’s just hit the biggees, shall we?  Wright argues that the Greek word oft translated as “righteousness” and interpreted essentially as a “not guilty” verdict really means “declared to be in the covenant community.”

Well, okay, I don’t know that the New Testament writers would have picked a legal term for such a “declaration” but you may assume that despite all that surely Bishop Wright can point to a modern Greek Lexicon to support this definition…but you’d be wrong.

Wright cannot find a single Greek lexicographer anywhere to back him up–this is a problem.

Moreover, sin, for Wright, is almost a secondary issue, which means the holiness of God is as well.  Do you get that from your reading of the Bible?

Now, why do I bring all of this up if Wright is nothing more than an icon to a bunch of poindexters in seminaries? Because those poindexters end up preaching in our churches and teaching youth groups this kind of garbage.  Given the level of Biblical illiteracy these days, churches will be in all kinds of trouble in 10 to 20 years.

So, if you hear some 25-year old, cocky, fresh out of seminary preacher begin to teach this stuff…find another church.

  1. azk says:

    Nothing to say about the cross? Nothing to say about sin? You haven’t read Wright if you say those things. Please be fair.

    • RiverCityRevolution says:

      Actually I’ve read every book Wright has written and listened to his lectures ad nauseum for close to 10 years now. He does not place the cross at the center of the Gospel (he doesn’t deny this), he has openly admitted that he doesn’t truly understand how the cross defeats evil (but he’s willing to admit it did) and the only place he is clear on the cross is that it ended the exile of Israel by taking on the curse spoken of in Deuteronomy.

      When Bishop Wright was asked by an Australian theologian at a conference at Cambridge years ago to answer the question, “what would you if someone on their death bed asked you how they could be saved?” he answered, “that’s a good question, I’ll have to think about that!”

      The thief on the cross surely praises God that Wright wasn’t in charge of who got “in to the covenantal community” via the judgment on the “whole life lived”!

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