The Biblio-Files

bib·li·o·phile (bĭb'lē-ə-fīl') n.

1. A lover of books.
2. A collector of books.

26.6.07

What Saint Paul Really Said


This book is a popular overview of the work that Wright has done on Paul up to his point (97'). Of course, Wright is a well known advocate of the new perspective on Paul. He is a regular whipping boy for many Calvinists. In reading this book, I have found that N.T. Wright is regularly either misunderstood, or misrepresented. This was a fun book to read, as Wright's theology reads like prose, although I do not recommend it to anyone who doesn't have a firm grasp on the doctrine of justification, or who is unaware of the surrounding controversy. Wright is a biblical theologian and historian through and through. He is well-read in the 1st century sources and Second Temple Judaism. He is a big picture guy for sure. Much of Wright's exegesis is insightful and stimulating, but at places one is left scratching his head as to how he is coming to his conclusions (cf. Rom. 7, Phil 3, 2 Cor 5.21). For the many good things that could be said about this book, I will focus on a few negatives. Wright wants to separate the gospel, and the doctrine of justification more that the Apostle does. In fact, Wright redefines the term justification, along with works of the law, and the righteousness of God (he considers Sander's proposal as established). This has obvious implications for the reformation doctrine of sola fide. On imputation, he writes "If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom." He redefines the righteousness of God as his covenant faithfulness. In my opinion he is unfair to the best of the reformation, and reductionistic at many points. I appreciate Wright's emphasis on Christ's resurrection as thou roughly eschatalogical. Many Calvinists have accused Wright of having ecumenical motives, which seems to me to be unfair. His conclusions are no doubt ecumenical (even calling the doctrine of justification the great ecumenical doctrine), but I truly believe that Wright's honest aim is to be faithful to the text. He just so happens to get fuzzy on the gospel in the meantime, limiting it to 'Jesus is Lord.' He overreacts to Western individualism (even found in Reformed circles) but doesn't do justice to Paul in the meant time. See Richard Gaffin's book "By Faith Not By Sight" for a refutation of such thinking. I think we have much to learn from Bishop Wright, but still think the Reformers had it right.
"As far as Paul was concerned, the most important eschatological event, through which the living God had unveiled (or, if you like, 'apocalypsed') his plan to save the whole cosmos, had occurred when Jesus rose from the dead. He wasn't just living in the last days. He was living in the first days--of a whole new world order." 50

3 comments:

blake white said...

I should add that although, the subtitle of the book is 'Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?', it really only applies to the last chapter and serves as an appendix responding to a book by A.N. Wilson.

Eron said...

Bleezy,

Good post man. I will suppliment this post with mine in a few days. I have to finish my paper for Baptist History first. But, good post. I have come to some of the same conclusions reading my book as you have reading yours. But, good review.

Plev

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