Evidently we need to be warned about N.T. Wright and his view of justification. I read a post over at the BHT suggesting we need to fear the late Leslie Newbign too. (Noting the satirical nature of Joel’s post leaves me hoping there is something satirical about the great “threat that is N.T. Wright.) When I read that John Piper would produce a book refuting
N.T. Wright I e-mailed my PCA friend Mark and exhorted him to be on top of this as he seems to have a better understanding than I on the debate. I have read N.T. Wright and as of yet cannot discover the hard distinctions that create the uproar. [I realize this statement as it is opens me up to wide criticism on a number of levels not the least of which would come from many who would suggest I do not understand Reformed theology. Oh, but I do. In addition, though I
have not read them all, I have three of Wright’s “Big Books” and the larger commentary on Romans.]
At any rate, encouraged by Michael over at the BHT, I read the manuscript. The argument Piper makes tends to be based on his understanding of the Pharisees intent when Jesus tells us he prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, …” (Luke 18:11) To presume the prayer expresses gratitude to God for working righteousness in him seems to be a reach of eisegetical proportions. Even if one thinks the hazardous view
of justification by Wright tends toward a distinction between, “that for your justification you not look at or trust in what God has worked in you [Piper’s understanding of Wright]. But that you look at and trust in Christ alone and all that God is for you in him.[Piper’s corrective]” you cannot find this in the text of Luke 18:9-14.
Not only do the few commentaries I own on the Gospel of Luke place the parable in the context of humble prayer, none of them suggest the “thanking of God” to be anything more than an expression of conceit. Not one suggests the Pharisee is really thanking God for making him like other men. Instead it appears he is arrogantly suggesting to God that is own righteousness is something for which he thanks God and not that it is derived from anything God is doing in him.
Mark offers some thoughts of his own on the matter likely worth more time than mine own. Certainly anyone with some influence on Piper will suggest he find a better text to support his argument. [Which begs the exegetical question and any presuppositions we bring to any given text as to how it might speak to any given subject rather than letting the text say what it says in its context.]