wright and wrongs

I know I should probably return to Wright’s “Justification” and give a full review, but I am so disappointed by his lack of clarity (per our last discussion) that I’m not sure it’s worth it.  I think it’s a good book and I’m thankful for it, but I’d prefer to save my time for when Wright actually engages Piper.

While I’m waiting others are beginning to post.  I appreciate what Kevin DeYoung said today.  Some of you will say that he misread Wright on the basis of justification, but if so, I’d say the fault lies with Wright rather than Kevin.  At any rate, Kevin states well what many of us Calvinisticish folks are thinking.  I especially resonated with this paragraph:

“My main critique of Wright is that he gets the big picture right but then forces that big picture on the individual verses in such a way that doesn’t do justice to all the important points Paul is making along the way. Often Wright says a whole book or an entire section is about this, therefore if you talk about this other specific thing, you aren’t really paying attention to the context. But the context in any given section may have its own crucially important point, a complementary or even more important point.”






5 responses to “wright and wrongs”

  1. Unlike Piper, Wright has enough professionalism to address an idea and not title his book against a person. Wright was addressing Piper, but also the larger evangelical community.

    one of my big peevs with Piper’s book was the fact he put Wright’s name on the cover (although it might have helped sell a few more copies!) We critique ideas and theories, not people. It somewhat unacademic to critique someone in such a public and popularized fashion.

    Wright has his critics and many of the same pedigree. While they do differ with Wright, they choose to address this through academic societies such as SBL or journal articles.

    A final thought: leave the names of individuals to the footnotes and not the cover of a book.

  2. Jonathan Shelley


    Obviously you haven’t actually read Piper’s book. If you had, you would know that Piper is critiquing Wright’s earlier writings on justification and not Wright personally. You might also have picked up that Piper invited Wright to read and comment on his manuscript before sending it to publication (the epitome of professional consideration). Furthermore, having a colleague write a manuscript-length critique of your position is, by all accounts, the highest praise one can receive in academia. It is certainly better than a 40 minute presentation at a localized seminar or a 20 page journal article. Piper’s book demonstrates that Wright’s ideas have sufficient depth and interest that people are willing to read a 240 page critique of them – that’s 10 journal articles!

    A final thought: Perhaps you might like to take your own advice and offer specific critiques of Piper’s book rather than implicitly degrading him based on your own projections of what you think Piper was doing.

  3. mikewittmer


    I think that you are being unfair to Piper, who was exceedingly gracious throughout his book. I never sensed that he was attacking a person but was asking penetrating questions about his views, questions which Wright did not engage. And from the start Wright says that he is responding to Piper. He doesn’t bury this in his footnotes, and I don’t think that he should. In short, I don’t see much difference between putting someone’s name on the front page or on the cover (which by the way, is typically at the publisher’s discretion rather than the author’s). To the point: I don’t think that either Piper or Wright were anything but gracious to the other (though Wright’s insistence that Piper’s view is as shortsighted as Ptolemy’s worldview came close), and I don’t think that either feels slighted by the other. So let’s not create an issue where none exists.

  4. Let me defend Wright on one point of the clarity issue: Although Wright may not be 100% clear in this book, he does have another book on Paul and a major commentary on Romans. So I think a lot of the answers to the questions people are asking are out there…

    That being said, I agree with your quote from Kevin, Wright seems to do exactly that (of course, Piper – whom I love – may do the same thing with his big picture of God’s glory and applying it to every verse). But, did you notice Kevin’s other posts speak of “going to heaven”? You can’t be too happy about that…

  5. mikewittmer


    I did notice, which is why I didn’t link to that one! 🙂 I think he makes a good point there, but misses the big picture (thereby pulling a reverse Wright). I agree that Piper misses a lot of forest for the sake of his one, very big tree as well. You’re right that Wright’s stuff is “out there,” but it’s still inexcusable that he couldn’t explain himself clearly in the one place where his stated goal was to do just that. For a man of his talent, it is simply unfathomable.

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