Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘NT Wright’

I have, over the past couple years, had some exposure to Open Theists.  To be fair I have never read their books or heard their speeches.  My friends who are interested in converting to Open Theism tell me their understanding of the theology.  My two main concerns are these: first, that the reason Open Theism is attractive is because God as described by the Bible is unattractive and so unacceptable to them; and second, that while Open Theists may find some verses that support their theory, their theory disregards and occasionally contradicts other passages of Scripture.  So before you convert to Open Theism, don’t you think you should be very familiar with the whole Bible, even those obscure God-revealing passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah and Ecclesiastes and Acts (I’ve started a list) that point to God’s sovereignty and comprehensive omniscience? Conveniently, God did not set us in the world interpreting the Bible – or even books about the Bible – by ourselves.  So even if I am not acquainted with a relevant passage of Scripture, it is likely that one of my concerned and involved friends will be.  I appreciate that.

In fact, in every case I can remember where my friends found it necessary to point out where the Bible contradicted my ideas, I came away respecting them much more, willing to listen to anything they have to say much more, and considerably humbler in my own handling of the topics of God and the Bible.  General observation would declare that I have a ways to go in the field of humility, so I am welcoming further interference by God’s Word-wielding friends.  That is one of the reasons Open Theism has become a fixture of tension-perspective in my studying.  My friends have been led by their investigation of the theory into bringing up parts of the Bible and God’s character that are rarely examined, parts I find comfortable to ignore.

Anyway, the other month someone mentioned NT Wright, and in the back of my mind I remembered reading that his theology was weird, but that was before I’d ever really heard of Open Theism, and something said maybe NT Wright was one of the original Open Theists.  I Googled his name and Open Theism and not much came up, so I was wrong, but then I was wondering what his deal was.

Two weeks ago a friend mentioned he was reading an article by NT Wright about the authority of Scripture.  Wow.  It’s so hard to explain that these are all connected in my mind, these topics, but trust me.  I am, as far as the “five points” go, a Calvinist.  And I discovered when I admitted I was a Calvinist that I had been a Calvinist all along.  Because Calvinists are those people who believe that God is smarter, wiser, and better than we are, so they submit to Him.  Submitting to Him is usually manifest, to these intellectual theologians, by submitting to the written Word of God, the “inerrant Scriptures”.  Sola Scriptura is the Latin phrase for one of the (again, five) pillars of the reformation.  Anyway, Calvinists almost always subscribe to Sola Scriptura (except for the CJ Mahaney, Sovereign Grace crowd) and I am a Calvinist, and Open Theists don’t agree with the Five Points much at all, so NT Wright arguing against the authority of Scripture is associated with Open Theism.  There.

Anyway, I’m interested in the “sola” part of Scriptura, having run around a bit with that Sovereign Grace crowd but having depended my whole life on the revelation of God being complete in the Bible.  So I went over to NT Wright’s article myself (online for free) and read it. Obviously most of the theologians I read would be skeptical of a Christian leader who sidesteps the authority of Scripture, so maybe, I thought, that was the questionable thing I had heard about him years ago.  The article is long, transcribed from a speech, but I skimmed and paid more attention to interesting parts.  Essentially his thesis is that the Bible was not written to be a law, so it is not set to be our authority.

Mostly the Bible is narrative, accounts of God’s ways, of God’s character.  The Bible is true, but how authoritative is it that once upon a time a prophet cured poisoned water by throwing flour in it?  Is it more authoritative that once upon a time a prophet told the Church to collect money weekly to have it ready to give to the poor when the messengers came for it?  Or is it authoritative that the apostles commanded the Roman Christians to submit to governing authorities?  Are the promises for us?  Are the commands?  Instructions?  Reasoning?  And, my goodness! Have you ever noticed how the apostles interpreted Scripture!  We don’t do it like them at all!

While still pondering these things, I was babysitting for a friend who is ordained in the Presbyterian Church.  Thus his house is full of Calvin, Sproul, Piper, and Grudem.  He is also an inner-city church planter, so he has numerous books that are borderline Emergent, books about “missional” living and “incarnational” ministry, the messy life books like Blue Like Jazz and semi-mystical works of early Christian authors like Augustine.  Every time I am at their house, I scan their bookshelves.  On this occasion, after the two little boys were in bed I picked up an issue of RC Sproul’s Tabletalk Magazine to read in the quiet evening ahead.  The subject was NT Wright’s doctrine of justification.  I discovered that this was the subject on which I had heard warnings against NT Wright.  For the purpose of this blog, I will not here describe or refute the “new Paul” ideas NT Wright has proposed.  (Piper wrote a whole book on it. Download as PDF at this link.)  Because while I was edified by Reformed teachers talking about justification, substitutionary atonement, etc. the most interesting article was the last one.

The final article in that edition of Tabletalk Magazine was not directly related to NT Wright at all.  It was a review, a recommendation for John Newton’s “On Controversy,” a letter of Christian wisdom written to a friend about to confront another man about a matter of disagreement.  I have been learning a lot lately about meekness and confrontation and debate, challenged to listen more and pray more and bite my tongue more.  This article reaffirmed that and pushed me farther.  There remains value in discussion, in communicating disagreement or different perspectives, especially when there is mutual respect and interest not to be seen as the winner, the correct one, but in having everyone know the truth.  We should not pretend unity by avoiding difficult subjects.  In fact we ought to have more in mind than mere consensus.

I have a friend who is a poet, who is burdened about the division in the Church and about the way Christians have boiled the Word of God down to a list of rules.  He wrote a poem about that and much more that I want to finish with, but you have to go read it at his blog.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I’m reading John Piper’s new book, Future of Justification.  He is defending the definition of justification as accepted by protestants for centuries.  N.T. Wright, an English scholar on the New Testament, sparked John Piper’s book by writing one of his own, in which he presents apparently a comprehensive theology centered on the idea that the gospel is that Jesus is Lord, not that we can be saved by Jesus’ substitutionary atonement: justification. 

At one point in the introduction, John Piper says that to help people believe the gospel in a saving way, we have to announce why it is good news for them.  (Gospel, of course, meaning “good news.”) 

Just this week I was sharing my testimony with a friend.  I was saved the day I turned 6.  Opened presents, remembered all the times my Sunday school teachers told me Jesus died for my sins, and decided this was it.  I needed forgiveness, and I asked God for it because Jesus could save me.  That’s faith, right? 

“Did you ever wonder if it was for real?” my friend asked me.  Yes, I did.  When I really started learning the Bible (three years later) I wondered why I hadn’t been learning before.  In sixth grade again I was getting to the point where my faith was challenged, and standing, and I made sure it was for real.  No doubts since then.  Looking back, I still believe I was saved when I was six.  And it didn’t matter whether I knew what atonement meant, or about eternal security.  I didn’t know about sovereignty and couldn’t define justification.  But if it’s true that we are saved by grace through faith not of ourselves, then God was doing the saving.  And if God is saving, ignorance of any but the main facts is not important.  God will discipline us by grace and mature us into understanding and conformity to His Son’s image. 

Some people think we ought to preach the “cost” of following Jesus, preach His lordship, to nonbelievers:  Anyone who is saved will also recognize Jesus as their Lord.  Faith without works is dead, and we need to tell people that, so won’t get it wrong. 

Actually, we could say that our presentation of the gospel is so important that if we get it wrong, people won’t actually be saved.  We could say that people need to know about Lordship so that they can get salvation right

That doesn’t sound all that grace-based, though, does it?  If we’re saved by faith, can’t we evangelize by faith, too?  Don’t you think that if God, who convicts hearts of sin and need for a Savior, who justifies, regenerates, rebirths, and seals those still without strength, is saving someone, and using your obedience to His call for making disciples of all nations, He’s able to make sure it’s done right? 

I believe in having a solid, truth-based grasp on theology as much as anyone you know.  Using clarity when we talk about Jesus and the Bible is important; confusion has birthed so many mistakes not intended by the teacher or translator.  But God can work through our weakness.  When we rely on Him for the words to say (maybe even use His words, not ours? see 2 Timothy 3:15), He’ll provide the right ones. 

Maybe this is why in the New Testament we see so many different wordings of the gospel message.  The message is the same.  Everyone is saved the same way.  Depending on what they already knew, and their attitude, the different apostles and evangelists answered them where they were at.  God gave the words that the sinner needed to hear, and God did the saving. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »