Paul Helm on Tom Wright

More on Tom Wright’s view of justification …

Paul Helm is starting a series of posts on Wright. Expect plenty of insight with a dash of verve and wit.

The first post criticises Wright’s understanding of the Reformed position. He thinks Wright’s covenantal approach is more akin to Reformed theology than Wright realises and also that Wright operates with a characiture of the Reformed view of imputation. But Helm also believes the gap between Wright and the traditional Reformed approach is narrowing and can be narrowed still further.


8 thoughts on “Paul Helm on Tom Wright

  1. Hi Tim,

    I think Helm is incredibly unfair at some points in his review. Saying that Wright’s position is that “anything ‘traditional’ must be rejected or at least viewed with suspicion (e.g. 135, 223…)” is a horrible distortion of what Wright wrote:

    p. 135: “Part of me recoils from having to question this traditional reading… because I can see a great truth underneath the claim being made… but … we must pay attention to the text…”

  2. Hi Tim – I agree with Sam – and indeed would point out that Helm’s belief that Tom Wright has not given Piper the right to respond is also wide of the mark. Wright actually wrote a 10,000 word response to Piper’s pre-publication manuscript and may even have suggested a joint book – but Piper went ahead with his solo venture.
    But I’m glad to see that Helm believes the distance between the two positions has been reduced as I actually think this debate is really a question of perspectives, emphases and paradigms: there are important issues but so much misunderstanding and mudslinging has gone on that has only made matters worse.
    Hope your time in Felixstowe went well – my dad Ron Low chaired the Convention for some years. Oh and thanks for ‘You Can Change’ – part of the way through it and very helpful.

  3. Hi Tim… I am Youth and Community Worker in Ballysally Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland… I have been excited and challenged by your book. Total Church…. I was wondering if you are doing any conferences here in N.Ireland or in England.
    Is it even possible for my pastor and I to come and visit you and Crowded House. We would like to talk to you about certain aspects of church and community…

    Look forward to hearing from you soon,

    In his service

    Jonny Doey

  4. One of the things I find helpful to realise about the ‘New’ Perspective (how much longer can it claim that title??!) is that it is at foundation, a sociological understanding of justification.

    Before we even begin to get drawn into the debate about how correct that sociological reconstruction of inter-testamental Judaism and its views of justification are, we need to ask whether we accept a bottom up, sociological approach, as adequate method for formulating doctrine.

    I for one find it very lacking. Getting drawn into debate over the NP before critiquing its methodology, lends it more credit than it is due…

  5. Peter,
    I would (cheekily, but accurately) submit that Paul’s explication of justification in Galatians takes “sociology”, i.e. the behaviour of people, as it’s starting point (2:11ff) and application (3,28).

    That’s something I’d want to see shaping my doctrine before I’ve even begun to reconstruct inter-testamental Judaism.

  6. re: Sam – touche!

    I agree that we should let the Apostolic teaching on how we should view behaviour as normative and authoritative. But should we be a bit more cautious about building a doctrine of justification upon a non-apostolic sociological reconstruction Judaism; such as that posited by EP Sanders?
    This is what lies at the foundation of the NP….

  7. Peter,
    Your critique and call to caution is applicable to Sanders, but I took your comment as an ill-informed broad stroke across Wright’s poor bearded face.

    Wright is very critical of Sanders, for similar reasons to you (!) – in his book “Justification” he is at pains to build his doctrine very carefully from Scripture. Tarring Wright with a sort of “trendy social studies approach to Scripture” brush is vastly unfair.

    I feel the need to make the comparison with some of the RC “hands-off” propaganda in the 16th C.

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