Trevin Wax posted his recent interview with N.T. Wright on the topic of Wright’s much anticipated response to John Piper which will be published next month in the U.K. and this summer by IVP in the states.
While I enjoy Wright’s stuff and have learned from interacting with the new perspective on Paul, a paragraph from the interview captures why many of us have deep misgivings about where this is going.
Wright says that his understanding of justification differs from Piper’s view in that “for Piper justification through Christ alone is the same in the future (on the last day) as in the present, whereas for Paul, whom I am following very closely at this point, the future justification is given on the basis of the Spirit-generated life that the justified-by-faith-in-the-present person then lives.”
Wright acknowledges at the end of the interview that Reformed theologians will think that he is “smuggling in works-righteousness” to salvation, but he replies that he is actually just being faithful to Paul’s teaching that Christians “really do ‘please God.'”
I’m sure that some of you will disagree, but Wright’s view that we are initially justified by grace and later by grace inspired works seems indistinguishable from the Roman Catholic view. Wright still holds to grace alone, but not faith alone, at least as articulated by Calvin and Luther.
We can discuss the biblical merits of Wright’s case when his book comes out, but today I’m wondering whether people who embrace his new understanding of justification may still consider themselves to be Protestant (inasmuch as sola fide was a central tenet of the Reformation).
Perhaps Wright’s broad church Anglicanism enables him to avoid worrying about this issue, but doesn’t the average Protestant pastor have to think long and hard before he follows Wright here? Of course pastors should ultimately believe whatever they are convinced the Bible is teaching, but don’t those who agree with Wright here owe their congregation a clear explanation of how their view of justification differs from their church’s Protestant position?