NT Wright, Kingdom and Justification

Many of us were blown away by the teachings of NT Wright (Winter Retreat 2015). But the teacher is only as good as his content. And what ultimately amazes us is the awe-inspiring coherence of the story of God in the books of the Bible. And when Jesus is understood in that Great Story of God, and salvation becomes the story of how God is restoring all creation by becoming King through Jesus and through us, our hearts are stirred. In that story of New-Creation, our personal salvation doesn't become less personal. Our individual lives matter to God who has our names engraved on his palm. But our salvation is freed from the privatized and the isolated concept of a life in heaven. And frankly, life up there in heaven sounds a bit boring. But a life saved to serve the King and to be part of the restoration of this earth through my gifts sounds like a movement worth giving one's life to. 

Now there are those who question whether Wright goes too far in emphasizing the Kingdom aspect and loses the essence of salvation. That in making salvation an act of becoming the "people of God," salvation is reduced to ecclesiology, that it is simply a matter of joining a community. That in emphasizing that faith always leads to work, that he is saying that work is necessary for salvation. 

This latter is the strongest charge against Wright, that he is threatening the central doctrine of "justification by faith" which is the cornerstone of Protestantism. 

John Piper wrote an engaging and thoughtful essay on this (link below). 

I think these theological conversations, to a point, are helpful as they might force us to clarify exactly what we believe. But of greater importance is that we go back to the scripture itself. If the conversations make us pay more attention to scripture, then the conversations has done their part. If we get stuck on parsing the doctrines as stated by theologians and scholars, whether they be Luther, NT Wright, or Piper, and we are basically brandish our arguments under a flag of certain school (I believe the Corinthian church was doing that), then we have mired ourselves in needless dispute.

What is evident and beyond dispute is the main plot of the Great Story, that Jesus rose from the dead, resurrection is the inauguration of God's rule, we are offered forgiveness if we repent, and as people of God we are enlisted and empowered to renew this earth. So after our discussions on theological matters, let's go out and do the work that unites us for the God who has already united us. 

John Piper's book on Justification by Faith. NT Wright's interview response to some of the questions on his teachings.

But more important than these writings and interviews, Scripture.

Read Ephesians and Galatians in their entirety and in one sitting so you can the whole edifice of Paul's argument. Then you can hear for yourself what Paul is saying when he says  "We are saved by faith and not by works."