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Justification According to NT Wright: Part Seven

Overly Short Critique 2

Posted Monday, February 25, 2008 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Theology  

            Wright’s view of imputation is not immediately clear. He rejects the imputed righteousness of Christ except in a very specific sense, saying that neither 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 nor 2 Corinthians 5:21 prove the point.1 But he also says that our incorporation into the Messiah takes care of the same area: when God looks at us, he sees Christ, but not simply the imputed righteousness of Christ.2 Based on the law court metaphor, Wright argues that it is to mix categories to say that the people have the righteousness of God: God’s righteousness is his covenant loyalty; it is not something that can be given to the people.3

This view of imputation and future justification leads to what seems to be somewhat of a conflict in regards to the ground of justification. Is the person justified because of what Jesus did or because of the future justification or some combination thereof? What is the relationship between the work of Christ and the future justification? He says that “justification by faith… is the anticipation in the present of the justification that will occur in the future, and gains its meaning from this anticipation”.4 This seems to drift towards some kind of works salvation, since justification is based on the whole life, although Wright strongly denies accusations of works salvation.5

One further disquieting feeling I have when reading Wright is related to one of his strengths: his presentation of a coherent meta-narrative. Being trained as a chemist, I like a well-ordered system as much as anyone. But my postmodern side makes me question well-ordered systems, such as the one Wright presents. The very lack of loose ends makes me wonder what has gotten chopped off to make everything fit into the box. But then, maybe I am just too postmodern.


1. Wright, “New Perspectives on Paul,” 252-253.

2. Wright, “New Perspectives on Paul,” 260-261.

3. Wright, What Saint Paul Really Said, 99.

4. Wright, “New Perspectives on Paul,” 255.

5. R. Alan Streett, “An Interview with N. T. Wright,” Criswell Theological Review 2 (2005): 6, Wright, “New Perspectives on Paul,” 260.


Monday, March 10, 2008 4:27 PM

Anonymous wrote:  no you are not too postmdern, Wright and his cohorts have to hem and haw to get things to fit their paradigmn. 

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