Thursday, May 22, 2008

Is the Reformation Over?

To cut straight to it, I think Piper gets it wrong in his recently released book 'The Future of Justification.' Despite his efforts to engage with Tom Wright whilst writing the book and trying to understand where Wright is coming from (a model for a scholarly book engaging another theologian), Piper fails to understand Wright's fresh perspective. And the answer lies in the cover of Piper's and Wright's books. N.T. Wright’s book on justification and Paul has a picture of the Apostle Paul on the cover, whereas Piper’s book on justification and Paul has a picture of Martin Luther.

I’m not saying that Piper is more devoted to Luther than Paul or that Wright is more devoted to Paul than Piper is… only that the picture does express, at least at some level, why Piper just doesn't get it. Piper is commitmented to a Lutheran understanding of the gospel (gospel = justification), and has an apriori belief that the reformation is NOT over.He believes that Wright’s view will be co-opted into the Roman Catholic view (183). Piper then issues his own “Here I Stand” section, where he clearly and unabashedly affirms the traditional Protestant understanding of justification by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ’s righteousness alone (184) in defiance against Roman Catholicism.

However, the Reformation is long ended. The Reformation was about protesting against the abuses and false teaching of the Western Church and trying to change the church. And the last I saw, the protesters (The Protestant Churches) have given up on trying to reform the Roman Catholic Church. I hardly expect any Protestant Churches to now expect to be reunited with Roman church, let alone each other. We've settled down into the current denominational plurality that exists in the west. Wright's work on Paul offers a way forward from the current denominational impasse. However, Piper fears that this solution will be taken hostage by some tough, Catholic apologist. And that is why his book fails to understand NT Wright.


Bully said...

Hi Matthew

Doug Wilson interacts with both Wright and Piper at

Tom Barrett said...

Also some very detailed analysis here

Anonymous said...

Hi Moffat :)
I am not down with this current debate, but a comment on the "current denominational impass". This is quickly eroding. Whilst scholars and leaders argue,average congregants are far more fluid and define themselves not by denomination but theological position such as evangelical, charismatic etc (if they bother to define themselves). Moreover, these definitions are becoming far more blurred.. I am for instance a refomed evangelical charismatic.. but I don't really care. I just read the bible and follow Jesus. I am officiallt Presbyterian but if I start a church it would not be denominatioanl, but would find influence from a general christian community that hold to a general similar poisiont on key issues. Denominations are dying and we are entering a new paradigm. We are yet to make a name for it.. let see what it becomes :P

Joshua Saxby.. the guy from High-school

Moffitt the Prophet said...

Hi Josh,

nice to hear from you (although we didn't go to the same high school...).

It partially agree with you, in that denominationalism is fluid - has been for a long time amongst evangelicals, and is evenmore so now amongst our generation who remain largelly unattached to denominational loyalties. Within mainline evangelical Protestant churches, nobody cares if you were baptised Anglican, baptist or Pressy, as long as you love Jesus.

But I don't so denominationalism dying. Firstly, there has been too much water under the bridge. And secondly, their is too much at stake by the denominations themselves to let them die - protperty, money, culture (can you ever see the Roman Catholics and Baptist churches uniting or blending?).

We are entering a new paradigm, but we may have in fact reached it sometime ago, and already know how to navigate round it.

Grace and peace,