Friday, June 19, 2009

Waters on Wright on Justification

Waters here identifies one of Tom Wright's chief weaknesses:
Wright's discussion of good works and final justification merits two observations. First, some of Wright's critics may indeed deny a final judgment according to works. His Reformed critics do not. They deny a final judgment on the basis of works, but they do not deny a final judgment according to works. In other words, the believer's conduct is not the basis upon which he will sustain God's final judgment. Instead, his conduct will publicly show the Christian to be who he already is: a person justified solely on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ, received through faith. If Wright understands the Reformational doctrine of justification by faith alone to necessitate much less to permit a denial of final judgment according to works, then he has been misinformed. Reformed readers' do not object to Wright's insistence that there shall be a final judgment of the believer at the Day of Judgment. They have objected to what he claims are the place or role of the believer's works in final justification. [source]
I've long believed that, for all his good, Wright does himself, his work, and the Church a great disservice by failing to actually know what he is talking about when discussing Reformed theology - and I wouldn't be surprised if he has failed as much with the Lutherans. One of the first things I noticed when I first read Ridderbos, was how remarkably similar his work was to Wright's (though with some obvious differences as well). A scholar as accomplished as Wright should simply know better - and really, all the grief he's gotten from Reformed folk is really what he deserves for not taking the time to first become well-read in Reformed systematics and biblical theology before attempting to make corrections to it.


Jake Belder said...

This is really interesting. I was sitting in on a ThM class this week taught by Frank James on post-Reformation theological developments, and he brought out the fact, as you allude to here, that when it comes to some of the Reformed and Lutheran doctrines Wright simply has not done his homework. It's unfortunate. He certainly would have a lot more to offer if he took all the relevant perspectives into account.

Pastor Shane Waters said...

I like the post subject line. :)

Scott Schultz said...

@Shane - I thought you might.

@Jake - Indeed. And I've more to say on the subject later.

Fearsome Comrade said...

He's even worse with the Lutherans. He made some offhand comments about Luther a few years ago that basically identified pietistic evangelicalism with his theology, and a number of Reformation scholars took him to task on it. His response? He hadn't read any Luther in at least twenty years.

The problem is that Wright frequently embarks upon critique of Luther and Reformation theology. In doing so, he commits what his most ardent admirers accuse all his detractors of--failing to understand something well before criticizing it. (Of course, judging by his fans' rhetoric, informed criticism of Wright is an oxymoron.)