Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ben Witherington III Comes to the Rescue

Ben Witherington has published a post defending NT Wright against his critics:
"Of course the sad irony of this situation is that the very people who ought to be most appreciating and applauding the good bishop's work, including on this very subject, are those who are most strongly attacking it--conservative Evangelicals from the űber-Reformed side of the ledger. In particular he is being attacked by folks like Don Carson, John Piper, and their disciples (e.g. Simon Gathercole). What makes this an especially noxious and obnoxious situation is that in fact, at the end of the day, Wright is taking a very traditional view of the doctrine of justification, namely that Paul, when he uses the dikaios/dikaiosune etc. word group is largely referring to forensic righteousness, right standing with God established by grace and through faith in the dying and rising Messiah Jesus. Further, in very Reformed fashion he wants to argue that in Romans and elsewhere what the phrase 'the righteousness of God' refers to is God's covenant faithfulness to promises he made. Sounds like a good traditional Reformed reading of Paul to most of us."
It's a great read, especially as BW3 explains Wright's covenantal theology. I found this quite helpful:
"Wright is not a universalist... Nevertheless, Wright believes that salvation has both cosmic scope and personal benefit. He believes that the resurrection of Jesus is not just about creating a born again set of individuals receiving eternal security and winding up in heaven. No he believes that Christ's history is the believer's eschatological destiny. He believes that the finish line for the Christian is not heaven but the new creation on earth. He believes that salvation in Christ is not a reaction to the failure of Israel to save the world, but rather the completion of her task by means of the true Israelite, Jesus, the Jewish Messiah and world Saviour (bold added)."
You can read it here.


Mike Bull said...

Fair enough. But why is it that Wright seems to miss some of the issues Piper is rightly raising? Piper is engaging with Wright, but Wright has failed to really engage with Piper.

I already have issues with Ben Witherington:

"Ben Witherington's Boring Discovery"

Matthew Moffitt said...

That was a fairly rude post over at bayly blog. It's not fair to cast such assertions on Witherington's character.

Anyway, we don't read people's books/blogs because we agree with them, but so that we can take what is right whilst rejecting what is wrong.

I have no problems with Piper asking the questions. But I think Piper has seriously failed to engage with Wright and has ultimately misrepesented his views.


Mike Bull said...

Wright and Piper have differing views on justification, or at the very least differing emphases. It was Wright's reply to Piper's first reply that seriously failed to engage with much that Piper said at all.

The Bayly blog isn't pointing out a character flaw but a compromise that led BW to see a stand of godly courage in other Christians as a "nefarious" plot. The views presented were no ruder than BW's. I guess I'm just sick of smart scholars who set their own authority above Scripture on crucial social issues, confuse everybody and water down clear passages of Scripture. As the blogger said, at least one writer had the guts to say he thought Paul was actually wrong. These others muddy the waters in a cloud of words, and it needs to stop. The world needs a clear stand from the church whether it wants it or not.

Matthew Moffitt said...

Have you read Wright's 'reply'?

As Wright makes clear in his introduction, his reply to Piper is a point for point response to Piper's book; rather it is a response to many of the issues his critics have raised.

But you can't say that because he doesn't go blow for blow that he's not engaging with Piper...he does he a full blown exegesis of justification in Paul!

Mike Bull said...

I haven't read it all. But it is more like he uses it as an explanation to go over it all again. Apparently Piper went through Wright's arguments, interacted with them closely, asked Wright to review what he had done, made adjustments accordingly, and his book was published. But Wright seems to fail to show where Piper actually misunderstands him, and in some cases misrepresents or misunderstands what Piper stands for. The view of the Reformers was hardly narrow. They changed the world. Who is the one out there challenging the principalities ad powers, standing against abortion, even preaching a sermon to the President? Piper.

Matthew Moffitt said...

I disagree.

Your comment about who's the one preaching to principality and powers is obscurantist. I didn't know that preaching to the President was the high water mark of maturity.

And by the way, Wright has preached regular sermons in the House of Lords on issues like and obstruction of Christian university groups, and has many of his papers challenging the principalities and powers published in major UK newspapers, if that is the measure we're using.

Mike Bull said...

Cool. My point was that Piper's view is not as narrow (at least in practice) as Perhaps Wright thinks it is.

Matthew Moffitt said...


pascale said...

I thought you might be interested in learning about OUR Jewish traditions which embrace the real Christ. We are the Frankist Association of America. One of our members has a new book out:

These are our teachings passed on through generations. If you can't afford the book you can see the website of one of our teachers -


Beth El Jacob Frank