Archive for February 21st, 2013

PiperPiper, John. The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2007.

Before covering the positives of the book, I will first  cover a few negatives regarding this book.  Negatives of this book can be found in these areas: some unclear areas, defense of N.T. Wright, and perhaps the lack of exposure to the dangers of N.T. Wright’s clever perspectives regarding justification.  In light of the negatives, I will first tackle the issue of the book being unclear in some areas.

Although I appreciate John Piper’s attempt in trying to address this issue, I did find it hard at times reading his book.  Towards the latter part of his book, the issues started to make sense (i.e. covenant community, justification, etc.).  But I wish I did not have trouble understanding the concepts in the beginning chapters of his books.  Understanding it better at the beginning would of given a better flow of the reading.  If Piper would have provided a clear proposition regarding the crux of the matter, the reading would have been less convoluting and more fruitful to me as a reader.

I appreciate Piper’s graciousness towards others who are not in agreement because we are called to be gentle and gracious to those who are in opposition (1 Peter 3:15).  However, I think Pastor Piper maybe a bit too gracious to Wright.  Wright’s view of justification is really no different from Rome and hence is a works righteous understanding of justification.  Wright believes that one is declared righteous or justified at the eschaton.  Based on Wright’s understanding of justification, he is treading on dangerous ground and falls under the condemnation as described by Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:6-9.  I find it hard for me to see him as an evangelical.  Paul condemns the notion of works righteousness that was implemented by the Judaizers.  Here in this book, Wright is implementing the notion of works righteousness that is finally realized at the eschaton.  But justification is realized at the moment when one places his faith in Christ.

I think it would have been helpful if Piper uncovered Wright’s cleverness.  Wright does seem to be subtle in terms of how he teaches his view of justification.  As a result, it is hard for some who are not familiar with the terms he uses to be lost.  Hence, I think it would be helpful for Piper to uncover his dangerous subtleness.

In regards to the positives of the book, here are the areas I would like to cover: Piper’s familiarity with the topic, Piper’s exegesis, and Piper’s breakdown of the misinterpreted term of justification used by N.T. Wright.

In terms of Piper’s strengths, I really enjoyed his breakdown of the misinterpretation of justification.  For example, he clarified the mishandling of the term by explaining the relationship between covenant and law-court imagery, law-court dynamics of justification and the meaning of God’s righteousness, law-court dynamics of justification and the necessity of real moral righteousness, law-court dynamics of justification and the necessity of real moral righteousness, justification and the Gospel, the place of our works in justification, imputed righteousness, second-temple Judaism, etc. (Piper, Table of Contents).

Another strength by Piper is his familiarity with the topic. He understood Wright’s views and was able to define it well.  For that, I commend him.


The Gospel hinges on the doctrine of justification because the doctrine of justification hinges on penal substitution.  If one has a misunderstanding of justification, then it is safe to say that one has a misunderstanding of penal substitution.  For example, when one sees penal substitution in its biblical lens, one will believe that His sacrifice is enough to declare one right.

Justification happens and becomes a reality because of the sacrifice of Christ and is operated once one places his faith in Christ.  He is not justified at the eschaton as Wright suggests.  With that said, justification has nothing to do with one being part of the covenant community because one cannot be part of the covenant community unless one is justified by Christ (Theo. III notes; pg. 188).  As a result, justification has nothing to do with whether we are members of God’s covenant people.  To say that justification is related to members of the covenant people is to blur the line of justification and ecclesiology.  Justification is solely soteriological.

It must be understand by the people of God for the sake of assurance, that justification is a once in a lifetime transaction by God.  In other words, God justifies only once.  Not only is justification once in a lifetime, but justification has no degrees. Scripture is clear that positionally; we are justified at the same level.  No one is more justified than another person.  But to embrace Wright’s justification would imply a works righteousness process.  Justification has nothing to do with works.  Moreover, once one is justified, one cannot be unjustified.  But to pursue a works righteousness system would open up a Pandora box of one possibly being unjustified if one does not live a righteous life.

Because justification is an important topic, much has been said.  For me to worry about a system of works as Wright described is no different from Rome.  To believe in Wright’s view of justification would cause much worry and anxiety upon a believer.  But to believe in the biblical understanding of justification brings peace when we take our last breath here on earth because we know that God will forgive us for our imperfections.

For a free PDF book of Future Justification, please see this linkFuture Justification




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