N.T. Wright Justification Book Video

Tom Wright’s new book is out, and here is a promo video from IVPress.

As I said in a previous blog, I endorsed this book for the publishers (SCM and IVP), and I absolutely love Tom’s “big-picture” interpretation of Paul (which he mentions toward the end of the video). But that does not mean we see exactly eye-to-eye on justification itself. The majority of his critics criticize him for being insufficiently reformed. This seems like an odd criticism of a biblical scholar, unless we understand the Rule of Faith to be much more than the ecumenical creeds—which is precisely what most of Tom’s critics do. Our understanding of Paul’s understanding of justification should be guided primarily by Paul’s own words within the context of his letters, his Scriptures, and his world. The results should then be used to judge the tradition, not the other way ’round.

I do not mean to discount the theological tradition—not at all. But if we discover that Paul’s view of justification is (as I and others argue) more participatory and inherently transformative than some Reformation texts and traditions suggest, then what needs to be challenged is those traditions, not Paul. And that is happening. A growing number of historians of theology are arguing, for example, that participation is the key to the Reformation understandings of justification.

Let the debate continue…

2 Responses to “N.T. Wright Justification Book Video”

  1. Sue says:

    What a strange cover for a book on religion, especially about Jesus.

    Didnt Jesus call everyone to Love the Lord Thy God with all of ones heart, mind, soul and body, and THEN on that basis, because it is intrinsically obvious that ones neighbour IS ones self, to practice self-transcending love in all relationships intrinsically.

    What therefore has a nail got to do with the self-transcending discipline of Love?

    Plus True Religion is a celebration of The Beautiful or ecstatic mindless participation in Boundless Radiance.

    Again what has a nail got to do with either The Beautiful or Boundless Radiance?

  2. MJG says:


    Thanks for the thoughtful reply and questions. I agree that the cover is a bit strange, but perhaps for different reasons. I’m sure it was chosen because for Paul (the person whose teaching is the subject of the book) and the Christian tradition, justification, or right relations with God and others (or however one defines it), is brought about at least in part by Jesus’ death on the cross—his crucifixion. Hence the symbol of the nail.

    For Paul, as well as for Jesus, and thus for Christians, Jesus’ self-giving love–indeed, God’s own self-giving love—was espressed most fully in his self-giving death that paradoxically and mysteriously gives us life. Paul, especially in 1 Corinthians 1-2, spoke about the paradox and the offense of the crucified Messiah, claiming that it was the redefinition of power and wisdom: not in its blood and gore but in its profound identification with us in our own powerlessness, demonstrating that God’s love can bring life to the dead and hope to the hopeless, and can make peoplle who are thought to be nobodies into somebodies. In that sense, I think Paul would say that Christ crucified also redefines beauty. But I suspect that some would be offended by that claim, not less than by the claim that somehow the crucifixion of Jesus reveals divine love, power, and wisdom.

    I quite agree that Jesus called everyone to love God and neighbor, but I am not at all confident that it is “intrinsically obvious” or even true that “one’s neighbor IS one’s self.” More to the point, however, Jesus himself made it abundantly clear, according to the Gospels, that the love he was talking about is a self-giving, others-preferring love that is symbolized appropriately by phrases like “taking up the cross” and “laying down one’s life.” So, as odd as it first appears, we are back to the nail.

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