I’ve just spent a week at college listening to lectures on the apostle Paul’s doctrine of justification by Douglas Moo. I’m still thinking through the things that I’ve learned, but thought I’d mention the two books we needed to read in preparation for the course.
These two books, one written by John Piper in response to N.T. Wright, and the other written by Wright in response to Piper’s book. The two books have very different levels of civility about them (Piper trying to be careful to give Wright’s scholarship and influence full credit, and Wright comparing people who disagree with him to universe-heliocentricity deniers), and they’re written at different levels of scholarship (Piper has Greek words in the text, Wright transliterates them).
If you’re not familiar with the Christian term “justification”, then – briefly – it describes the way that Christians are made right with God. In the Bible, there is a word (dikaiosune) that means “right with God”, and then in Christian theology there is an idea of “righteousness” that goes beyond the use of that particular word.
N.T. Wright’s thesis on justification is different to that of Piper, and Piper writes a book that explains how they disagree, and where he thinks Wright has it wrong. Wright comes back and explains that Piper has misunderstood what he was saying, and spells it out in a little more detail.
If you’re trying to wrap your head around how Christians understand salvation, and what will be argued about in the years to come, these are a couple of important books to interact with, but ultimately, you’ll be left wanting to hear from each of these authors again on the subject, to try and clarify who is saying what.