Phil Johnson of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, on N T Wright’s book “The New Perspective on Paul”.
My major concern about N T Wright is I think he seriously muddies the doctrine of justification by faith which is the very heart of the Gospel. He says it’s not the heart of the Gospel. He says justification by faith is an ecumenical doctrine and that the Gospel is really a different message simply about the Lordship and the victory of Christ. Of course the Gospel does declare the victory of Christ over sin and His Lordship, but the Gospel, the good news of the Gospel, is about how sinners can be right with God. And I think N T Wright gets that seriously wrong, and for that reason I think his writings in general, particularly when he talks about the things he talks about the most, Paul’s theology and the Gospel, I think he causes more confusion than clarity. And so I am wary about what he’s written and concerned about how it reconciles with Scripture. Basically my argument is this, N T Wright says you can’t understand Paul correctly unless you study other extra-Biblical sources about 1st Century Judaism and understand what it was Paul was up against. And he says basically we have totally misunderstood 1st Century Judaism. It’s not a religion of works etc. My answer to that is, the best place to really understand what Paul was up against is from the context of Scripture it’s self. And the best way to understand what was defective about 1st Century Judaism, and especially the religion of the Pharisees, is to study what Jesus said when he encountered the Pharisees and refuted their teaching. And Jesus was very clear, the problem with it is it was a religion of works. In the words of Paul himself from Romans 10, the problem was they were going about trying to establish their own righteousness, rather than depending on the righteousness of God. … the problem with the view of justification N T Wright teaches, he says it’s OK to establish your own righteousness rather than seeing the imputed righteousness of Christ as the basis of a right standing with God.