John Piper + N. T. Wright = A Chinese Theology of Salvation

John Piper + N. T. Wright = A Chinese Theology of Salvation June 18, 2013

What do John Piper and N. T. Wright have in common? China.

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Together, they give us a better understand of a Chinese theology of salvation.

“Picking Truth” or “Picking Teams”?

Piper and Wright’s influence on me is quite evident in the last major chapter of Saving God’s Face.

I can’t tell you how many times people told me that I need to be careful about using NT Wright’s ideas in my book. “They will think you are a liberal,” I was told. I know plenty of conservative evangelicals who are not very eager to publicly talk about their appreciation for Wright’s work. They fear people will misunderstand them, thinking they have compromised the gospel. I’m not exaggerating at all.

Do we really have to “pick teams”?

Some people will say, “We’re picking truth, not teams.” I suggest we pick teams when we are hesitant to acknowledge what someone gets right and then incorporate it into our own thinking. We pick teams when we only have two categories: right and wrong

Truth is more complicated. One can get all the pieces “right” and still get so much wrong. In any passage, there may be 1 or 2 major points, we a number of smaller, minor points. Whether major or minor, each point is true in what it affirms.

We need to take this perspective more often. When we think someone is denying biblical truth, perhaps we need to consider the possibility that they are simply disputing major and minor emphases. Often, if you look closely, you will find the truth you affirm. However, it may not be expressed in the way we’re used to.

Let me give two possible reasons why people often talk past one another.

1. when someone is seeking to correct certain views, they will not be as balanced as one would like. This is only natural.

2. I suspect many debates are simply due to differences in method and perspective. For example, it is very possible that something be true within systematic theology (i.e. the doctrine is correctly deduced from a variety of texts), yet the particular idea itself is never clearly stated by any of the biblical authors. Finding the latter is the goal of biblical theology.

Whether Piper, Wright, or anyone, we can probably learn something from them. It is both wise and humble to read those we tend to disagree with. Often, those people will have good instincts but simply argue their point all wrong.

So, is it really possible for conservative evangelicals to draw from BOTH the “Old Perspective” of Piper and the “New Perspective” of Wright?

Cover of "Justification and Variegated No...Without writing an entire book, let me simply note an observation

Take the term “New Perspective on Paul” (NPP). The term is barely useful because their are so many shades of the NPP.  People immediately think of E.P Sanders or James Dunn, assuming that to accept some idea labeled “NPP” automatically means one will endorse their leftish conclusions.

For many years, evangelicals have utilized many insights deriving from the NPP debate. The two-volume series Justification and Variegated Nomism (edited by D. A. Carson, …… ) was written in response to the NPP, yet the writers clearly express their appreciation for various “NPP ideas.” I could point you to other evangelicals as well like Michael Bird, Tim Gombis, and Preston Sprinkle.


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