Justification for Everyone
by Burk Parsons
For years we have wrestled with the question as to whether we should produce an issue of Tabletalk devoted to the new perspectives on Paul on the doctrine of justification, and for years we concluded that many of our readers would be generally unaware of what has been, until recently, an academic discussion among studied churchmen the world over. However, with the release of N.T. Wright’s popular-level book What Saint Paul Really Said, coupled with his international ministry among laity and winsome personality, his popularity and teaching have spread like wildfire from the seminaries to the pulpits to the pews of churches around the world.
The first popular-level response to N.T. Wright’s teaching came from the pen of Dr. John Piper. With pastoral care, academic integrity, and unrelenting graciousness, Piper gave us The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright, which in turn elicited a response from Wright. In correspondence with Piper’s pastoral assistant David Mathis, we agreed it would be appropriate to provide readers with a word of introduction from Dr. Piper to help explain our purpose and to help set the needed tone for this special issue of Tabletalk. I am truly thankful for his words: “Nicholas Thomas Wright is an English scholar and the Anglican Bishop of Durham, England. He is a remarkable blend of weighty academic scholarship, ecclesiastical leadership, popular Christian advocacy, musical talent, and family commitment. As critical as the articles in this magazine are of Wright’s understanding of the gospel and justification, the seriousness and scope of the issue is a testimony to the stature of his scholarship and the extent of his influence. I am thankful for his strong commitment to the authority of Scripture; his defense of the virgin birth, deity, and resurrection of Christ; his biblical disapproval of homosexual conduct; and the consistent way he presses us to see the big picture of God’s universal purpose for all peoples through the covenant with Abraham — and more. My conviction concerning Wright is not that he is under the curse of Galatians 1, but that his portrayal of the gospel — and of justification in particular — is so disfigured that it becomes difficult to recognize as biblically faithful. In my judgment, what he has written will lead to a kind of preaching that will not announce clearly what makes the lordship of Christ good news for guilty sinners, or show those who are overwhelmed with sin how they may stand righteous in the presence of God.”
In quoting N.T. Wright directly and providing concise responses from some of the world’s most trusted churchmen, it is our sincere prayer that this issue will serve to equip the church to know and defend that precious doctrine upon which each individual stands or falls before the face of God, by faith alone and for His glory alone.