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Is Tom Right?: An Extended Review of N. T. Wright's Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 July 2012

Douglas A. Campbell*
The Divinity School, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708,


In this extended review I first describe Wright's complex account of the doctrine of justification in Paul, which combines emphases on the covenant, the lawcourt, Christ and eschatology and includes, further, important translation claims concerning ‘the righteousness of God’ as God's covenant faithfulness, ‘justification’ as vindication in a lawcourt setting, ‘works of law’ as sociological boundary markers, and ‘faith’ as speaking not infrequently of Christ's fidelity rather than the generic Christian's (although these last two things are not separate; the former grounds the latter making it a badge of Christian membership). I then suggest, second, that Wright needs to recognise more clearly a particular danger in the traditional approach to justification that he is trying to move beyond – ‘foundationalist individualism’, or ‘forward thinking’. That is, the traditional reading of justification in Paul understands him to be arguing and thinking forward, from a nasty, legalistic, and essentially Jewish, plight, to a solution which is a gospel generously grasped by faith alone. This narrative, rooted in a certain reading of Romans 1–4, creates a large number of difficulties. (It begins with natural theology. It characterises Judaism unfairly. It asks a lot of sinful individuals unenlightened by grace. And so on.) And I am not convinced that Wright's complex revisionist account of justification has avoided them all. In particular, (1) he continues to emphasise a particular notion of the lawcourt in Paul's argument and thereby unleashes an account of God's character primarily in terms of retributive justice and hence in terms of Western politics. (2) He tends to define the covenant before he has taken full account of christology. The covenant should be defined by christology, rather than the other way around. One sign that things have not been tied together here as they ought to be is the number of different definitions of Israel that Wright supplies – as many as four. Moreover (3) even his revisionist sociological account of ‘works of law’ reproduces a key difficulty in the older approach, i.e. a jaundiced description of Judaism. And (4) his account of faith in Abraham does not explicitly link Paul's controversial reification of Genesis 15:6 to a christological hermeneutic, as it needs to in order to avoid crass reductionism. But Wright's definitive account of Paul is not yet fully articulated, so suitable adjustments might well allay my concerns here, with various aspects of foundationalism presently appearing within his theological description.

Research Article
Copyright © Scottish Journal of Theology Ltd 2012

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1 Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009. All page references hereafter are to this book unless otherwise indicated. Cf. Piper, John, The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007)Google Scholar. Piper's book is commendably charitable in tone but will generally disappoint the specialist. It defends a reading of Paul in strict accordance with the Westminster Confession, but does not generally argue for anything, relying on work done elsewhere and sometimes some time ago. There is no appreciation of major recent movements in Pauline studies – e.g. of the new view of Judaism, post-Sanders. Its position on the historical method is odd (and Wright correctly lambasts this in Justification, pp. 46–53, 86–7). Its description of Wright's position is not illuminating (i.e. it is difficult to gain any sense of Wright's actual position from Piper's work). However, some of its concerns are worth noting – certainly with Wright's position on Christian assurance, and his general clarity. Underlying Piper's defence of the doctrine of imputed righteousness one might also detect a concern for a more vicarious emphasis in Wright's account of Paul's christology. I will revisit some of these concerns below.

2 He has now taken up full-time academic work at the University of St Andrews in large measure to finish this and other such projects.

3 Cf. inter alia, ‘‘The Messiah and the People of God: A Study in Pauline Theology with Particular Reference to the Argument of the Epistle to the Romans’ (DPhil, Oxford, 1980); The Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1991); The New Testament and the People of God (London: SPCK, 1992); Jesus and the Victory of God (London: SPCK, 1996); ‘The Law in Romans 2’, in J. D. G. Dunn (ed.), Paul and the Mosaic Law (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1996), pp. 131–50; ‘The Letter to the Romans: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections’, in L. Keck (ed.), The New Interpreter's Bible (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 2002), pp. 393–770; The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis,: Fortress, 2003); Paul for Everyone: Romans, part 1: Chapters 1–8, and Paul for Everyone: Romans, part 2: Chapters 9–16 (London: SPCK, 2004); Paul: In Fresh Perspective (London: SPCK, 2005); ‘4QMMT and Paul: Justification, “Works”, and Eschatology’, in S. Aaron Son (ed.), History and Exegesis: New Testament Essays in Honor of Dr E. Earle Ellis on his 80th Birthday, ed. S. Aaron Son (London: T&T Clark, 2006), pp. 104–32. Justification contains a full (impressively long) bibliography on pp. 264–7.

4 See inter alia Seifrid, Mark A., ‘Unrighteous by Faith: Apostolic Proclamation in Romans 1:18–3:20’, in Carson, D. A., Seifrid, Mark A. and O'Brien, Peter T. (eds), Justification and Variegated Nomism, vol. 2, The Paradoxes of Paul (Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 2001), pp. 105–46Google Scholar, esp. pp. 118–39; Christ, our Righteousness: Paul's Theology of Justification (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), pp. 18, 21–5, 39–40; ‘In What Sense is “Justification” a Declaration?’, Churchman 114 (2000), pp. 123–36; and ‘The Narrative of Scripture and Justification by Faith: A Fresh Response to N. T. Wright’, Concordia Theological Quarterly 72 (2008), pp. 19–44.

5 Both Wright and I view Ephesians as authentically Pauline (cf. pp. 43–4, 168–75, 247).

6 Cf. ‘the single-plan-of-the-creator-through-Abraham-and-Israel-for-the-world’ (p. 97; cf. also pp. 94–100). Wright also speaks of the divine ‘purpose’.

7 Cf. esp. MacIntyre, Alisdair, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (3rd edn.Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007 [1981])Google Scholar. Lakoff, George, Metaphors we Live by (2nd edn.Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2003 [1980])CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think (2nd edn. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002 [1996]); and The Political Mind: A Cognitive Scientist's Guide to your Brain and its Politics (New York: Penguin, 2009).

8 In close relation to the foregoing, Wright can be criticised for introducing Jewish stories into almost everything Paul says, esp. in Romans. He is very much a maximalist in this respect. However, it seems pointless to make blanket charges concerning this practice. Some intertextuality is almost always in play in Paul, as in everyone else, so the basic question is really one of degree. Moreover, if we feed an awareness of reader response into the original epistolary situation(s) then we end up with a spectrum of possible readings, at which point it seems difficult to deny the detection of multiple Jewish echoes along the lines that Wright suggests by any auditors of Paul who were steeped in the Jewish sources. Such auditors would not necessarily be typical listeners, but they can hardly be excluded from the letters’ receptions. Hence, we must simply consider the intertextual and narrative dimensions of individual texts as they come up, aware that at times both maximalist and minimalist readings in Jewish intertextual terms may be possible.

9 Krister Stendahl's famous designation which has long outlived its helpfulness; see ‘The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience of the West’, Harvard Theological Review 56 (1963), pp. 199–215.

10 Cf. ‘the [mistaken] belief that Christian truth is all about me and my salvation’ (p. 23; emphasis original); and ‘[w]e are in orbit around God and his purposes, not the other way around’ (p. 24; emphases original).

11 ‘Paul does indeed think of history as a continuous line . . . But within this continuous line there is a mighty crash, like the great chord in the Surprise symphony which wakes everyone up with a start even though it belongs exactly within the harmony and rhythm of the movement: an apocalyptic moment within the covenant story, the moment – to change the musical image – when the soloist bursts into the music with a torrent of violent chords, which yet reveal themselves on reflection as the point towards which the orchestral introduction had been heading all along’ (pp. 34–5; emphasis original).

12 His programmatic emphases on Jewish intertextuality and narrative have already been noted.

13 ’Paul's doctrine of justification is the place where four themes meet’ (p. 11); cf. also pp. 11–13, 86–108 (ch. 4, ss. 2 and 3).

14 Wright is in part trying to avoid here the well-known problem that the verb in Paul is said by some to denote a strange legal fiction – God's acquittal of sinners despite their guilt. He is also creating the possibility of explaining Christ's ‘justification’ in terms of ‘vindication’; cf. Rom 1:4; 1 Tim 3:16. Moreover, this commitment problematises the notion of imputed righteousness for Wright; the notion that a judge would somehow transfer his or her righteousness to a defendant in a generic lawcourt just makes no sense to him.

15 Wright makes an important statement co-ordinating the covenant and lawcourt imagery on p. 100; Daniel is an important text for him in this relation.

16 Piper is particularly concerned about the insecurities generated by the future judgement here when the imputed righteousness of Christ has been denied. Of course, Christ's perfect imputed righteousness would enable the believer to face this judgement without anxiety, but Wright views any such procedure as incomprehensible and unfaithful to Paul's texts, and Piper's perspective on the final judgement as unnecessarily anxious.

17 Cf. also the title ‘Lord’, which denotes variously Christ's heavenly enthronement, sovereignty, rule and divinity.

18 Cf. pp. 10–11, 106–7.

19 Here Wright is building on his earlier work undertaken in relation to Jesus as much as to Paul, and inveighing against the pervasive Christian conception of final salvation essentially in terms of the immortality of the soul. Wright wants to emphasise both the embodiment of future salvation and its comprehensive, cosmic breadth; cf. The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003); also Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: HarperOne, 2008).

20 Any discussion of justification in Paul will tend to involve certain well-defined texts which articulate an opposition between ‘works of law’ and ‘faith’ in terms of righteousness or justification – in the Greek, texts which use a lot of pist- and dikaio- language, and also the phrase ergôn nomou. These are found principally in Rom 1–4, 10, Gal 2–3, and Phil 3.

21 Eph 2 speaks strongly of these concerns for Wright.

22 Perhaps for Wright his 1980 doctoral thesis, ‘The Messiah and the People of God’, fills this role, but it is inaccessible and presumably a bit dated. (Should a revised version be published?) Key studies of detailed questions for Romans include ‘The Law in Romans 2’, The Climax of the Covenant, chs. 2 and 10–13, pp. 18–40, 193–257, and ‘4QMMT and Paul: Justification, “Works”, and Eschatology’. His reading of Romans in total is best gleaned from his thesis and ‘The Letter to the Romans’ (see n. 4). Paul's eschatology is treated in detail in The Resurrection of the Son of God, although the critical primary texts come from the Corinthian correspondence. I have learned a great deal from Wright's exegesis, which can be deeply insightful. He has recently led me to rethink substantially my account of Rom 4:17–22, and I am grateful for it.

23 See esp. Romans 1–8 and Romans 9–16 (Dallas, TX: Word, 1988); and Galatians, BNTC (London: A&C Black, 1993).

24 Wright's comments on the bottom of p. 40 in Justification are most indicative.

25 Beker, J.-C., Paul the Apostle: The Triumph of God in Life and Thought (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980), esp. pp. 1119Google Scholar; cf. also pp. 23–36; and pp. xiii–xx in the 1984 paperback edn.

26 Wright would doubtless reply that he does generally treat Paul's letters circumstantially but that Romans is a special case – its peculiar circumstances entailed that a largely systematic letter was called for. Suffice it to say that I don't find this rejoinder persuasive. I don't find Wright's account of Romans’ contingency persuasive in its own terms. I also think a better account can be provided, which leads to a different treatment of the letter body. Moreover, I don't find the evidence persuasive in support of the further claim that ‘this’ is how Paul argues systematically when the need arises; in my view this basically begs the question, and is contradicted by evidence from elsewhere in Paul's corpus – a little ironically, particularly from Ephesians! But these are complex matters best treated elsewhere. See my The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009), ch. 13, pp. 469–518.

27 Cf. The Deliverance of God, passim. These are, incidentally, key issues not at all peculiar to my work which I simply want to introduce into the conversation.

28 Wright resists just this notion on pp. 86–8.

29 Cf. Sanders, E. P., Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), pp. 434–5Google Scholar, 38–40, 42, 74–85. Note, Sanders can put this point in different ways. Often he asserts that scholars have been reading Paul ‘backwards’ when they have been articulating him prospectively.

30 Cf. Martyn, J. Louis, ‘Epistemology at the Turn of the Ages’, in Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul (Edinburgh: T&T Clark; Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1997), pp. 89110Google Scholar (orig. 1967).

31 Buckley's, M. incisive thesis: cf. At the Origins of Modern Atheism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1987)Google Scholar.

32 See Thielicke, Helmut, The Evangelical Faith, vol. 1, Prolegomena, trans. Bromiley, G. W. (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1974 [1968])Google Scholar. I use the adjective ‘rationalistic’ to denote an especially confident, post-Enlightenment view of ‘reason’ in humanity. The possession of this nature and degree of reason in humanity can – and should – be denied but the rational aspect of humanity still affirmed.

33 It ought to be emphasised that God is depicted as fundamentally just – i.e. in essentially retributive terms – in this schema; this is his basic nature and posture towards humanity underlying the broad contracts which constrain the cosmos. He can therefore be conditioned into benevolence towards a smaller group who contract out of their situation in dependence on the work of Christ. But this whole arrangement is essentially secondary, taking place within the framework established by the prior definition of the problem. In this whole relation see the incisive treatment by Torrance, James B., ‘Covenant or Contract? A Study of the Theological Background of Worship in Seventeenth-Century Scotland’, Scottish Journal of Theology 23 (1970), pp. 5466CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

34 This claim is documented further in The Deliverance of God, ch. 4, pp. 96–124.

35 Things are of course usually not stated this baldly. The model is often concealed – doubtless at times unintentionally – by technical exegetical displays, not to mention mitigated by an easy blending of dogmatic categories when that seems necessary. Cf. The Deliverance of God, chs. 9 and 10, pp. 284–337. Piper's The Future of Justification is (again) a pristine example of these dynamics.

36 It should also now be apparent why calling this construct the Lutheran reading, when it occurs in some variation in Paul, is unhelpful. This model can be found in Luther, and is even dominant in some of his later disciples, like Melanchthon. But a great deal in Luther is not reducible to this approach and even stands firmly against it. The legacy of the entire Reformation meanwhile should emphatically not be reduced to this approach. Moreover, the Catholic tradition is arguably characterised by similar ambiguity. Wright is constantly concerned in Justification to introduce similar qualifications in relation to the heritage of the Reformation.

37 Someone might query at this point whether I am overstating the antithesis between foundationalist and non-foundationalist accounts of Paul's thought. I don't think so. This is in effect the difference between finding in Paul the endorsement of Athanasius or of Arius, of orthodoxy or heresy. Does Paul's gospel witness to the trinitarian faith of the church through the ages, or does he witness to its opposite? The stakes here simply couldn't be higher, and anyone denying this probably hasn't grasped the nature and gravity of the issues involved. Having said this, the situation is even more precariously poised in Paul than this because few doubt that in many texts he does witness to a retrospective, christological gospel, that is, to the orthodox, non-foundationalist approach. Consequently, to admit an alternative, foundationalist account of the ‘gospel’ in any significant way to other parts of his thinking is not merely to corrupt an unalloyed witness to the true gospel and to risk overriding that witness but also to characterise his thought as being in a state of fundamental confusion. This is why I view these questions as critical. It is hard to put the issues more clearly than A. I. C. Heron, ‘Homoousios with the Father’, in T. F. Torrance (ed.), The Incarnation: Ecumenical Studies in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed A.D. 381 (Edinburgh: Handsel Press, 1981), pp. 58–87. The case for a contradictory Paul has been made most famously by Räisänen, Heikki in Paul and the Law (2nd edn. WUNT 29; Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1987 [1983])Google Scholar.

38 Cf. pp. 68–70, 90–2, 100–2.

39 The apostle's Greek dikaio- terms (originally often reflecting Hebrew terms from tsdq) have been translated in terms of Latin iust- terms leading ultimately to the English ‘justice’ (etc.); the Hebrew torah and Greek nomos have been rendered as lex and ultimately ‘law’; and, perhaps most damagingly, berit and diathêkê have been rendered in terms of foedus, which has passed into much law as ‘contract’ as against ‘covenant’, or even as ‘covenant’ with the actual meaning of ‘contract’. (Wright touches on these issues on pp. 88–92; see also J. B. Torrance, ‘Covenant versus Contract’.)

40 Cf. pp. 92, 157, 223.

41 Cf. pp. 225, 29–33, 39. Wright tends to reply at such points that his position is simply in the texts. But they are only ‘in’ the texts because of the way he is reading them. Hence, this rejoinder would be fair if no exegetical alternatives were available, but they are. Indeed, in this relation Wright arguably conflates Paul's future judgement texts a little carelessly. I do not concede that any except Rom 2 describe a scenario in which salvation itself is at stake and in strict relation to deeds – i.e. future accountability conceived of in terms of desert. And I contend that there are lots of good reasons for reading Rom 2 in a way which does not relate its claims strictly to Paul's positions. In my view, all the other future judgement texts in Paul denote accountability. But most personal situations of accountability do not involve calculi of desert – only serious western judicial processes. And clearly it is a great matter to project such a process into the final action of God, reducing him to conditionality at the end, and apparently irrespective of both christology and faith! It is worth noting finally that 1 Cor 3 seems to stand in explicit contradiction to this scenario; the deeds themselves will be exposed, but the doer of unsatisfactory deeds will be saved, albeit through fire. All in all, it seems that we can read Paul another way, and at this point we probably should. Cf. esp. de Boer, Martinus C., ‘Paul and Apocalyptic Eschatology’, in Collins, J. J. (ed.), The Encyclopaedia of Apocalypticism, vol. 1, The Origins of Apocalypticism in Judaism and Christianity (New York: Continuum, 1999), pp. 345–83Google Scholar; and Travis, Stephen, Christ and the Judgment of God: The Limits of Divine Retribution in New Testament Thought (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2009)Google Scholar.

42 Tamez', Elsa felicitous phrase in The Amnesty of Grace: Justification by Faith from a Latin American Perspective, trans. Ringe, Sharon H. (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1993)Google Scholar.

43 Cf. Rom 8:30, 33. Wright notes how John's Gospel has grasped this point, apparently with approval, but curiously resists reading Paul in the same way; cf. p. 263, n. 4.

44 My suspicion is that some of Wright's maintenance of an amount of traditional unreconstructed judgement language in Paul is rooted in ethical concern. But he doesn't need such a strongly open-ended, future scenario to generate ethical traction within Paul's gospel. When the apostle was challenged concerning ethical laxity he did not respond in Rom 6 with future threats but with a strong reiteration of transformation in Christ, coupled with an argument for the unintelligibility of sinfulness (and this is where his argument references the future – in consequential terms). And this should not surprise us. To underplay the ethical effectiveness of the Christ event is effectively to undermine Paul's entire gospel! If Christ has not come and truly dealt with sin then we are still in it, and perhaps to be pitied above all people. Certainly, leaving key parts of the law behind seems unintelligible. Perhaps then Wright underestimates the ontological realism which seems to underpin many of Paul's claims at such points. It is true that we are to ‘regard’ each other as dead to sin and alive to righteousness in Christ, but this is no mere change of viewpoint; it is a regard grounded in the underlying reality of what we are regarding! This is one of the main claims of Rom 5:12–21, the passage which frames ch. 6. If we take Paul at his word regarding life in Christ, then there is no need for heavy reliance on a future scenario which will threaten the disobedient in Christ with definitive exclusion and punishment. Paul's ethics in Christ seem to make such threats unnecessary, and his christology makes such a scenario implausible.

45 God's integrity is called directly into account if the covenant functions in different stages with an earlier stage bound to fail. The mediator becomes formally unnecessary – a stop-gap. God then loses his christological nature, actually becoming another sort of God. Grace becomes secondary. And sin is treated trivially and also redefined nomistically, rather than in opposition to grace, where its depth and absurdity are apparent. These issues are put well by Karl Barth in special relation to federal theology; cf. Church Dogmatics, IV/1, The Doctrine of Reconciliation, trans. G. W. Bromiley (Edinburgh: T&T Clark [Continuum], 2004 [1956]), pp. 54–66. J. B. Torrance points out some of the further dangers of conditionality in ‘Covenant versus Contract’.

46 This account can include a programmatic emphasis on faith, suitably interpreted. Unsuitably interpreted, faith creates an alternative account of Israel. See more on this just below.

47 Wright seems ambiguous here. Sometimes the covenant is described as ‘unbreakable’ (i.e. presumably unconditional; cf. p. 226), but at others it has conditions and is therefore necessarily breakable (cf. p. 63).

48 Arguably a resolutely christological approach also eliminates ex definitio the notion of supersessionism. But this is not the place to elaborate that claim, significant as it is.

49 Wright and Dunn both make their case for this reading primarily in Galatians. They need a certain construal of the brief and contested Gal 2:11–14 to hold firm, along with a plausible continuation through some of Paul's most difficult material which begins in 2:15. (They argue in slightly different ways of course, and interpret pistis very differently.) This fragile case seems to me to struggle desperately in Romans though. The key phrase occurs in 3:20, but seems overtly anticipated by 2:6–8, 13–16, where generic works of righteousness are indisputably in view. That is, the context favours the traditional reading, and nothing in the context of 3:20 supports the alternative, sociological account. 4:2–8 can then hardly overrule these earlier indications, and any attempt to do so would rely in turn on a definitive reading of another very difficult, contested text (i.e. Rom 4). I assess this reading, in Dunn's hands, in more detail in The Deliverance of God, pp. 444–55; a detailed discussion of Rom 4 is on pp. 715–61. To exegetical fragility we must add the argumentative weaknesses of the reading; it provides no coherent rationale for ‘faith’ as the apparently critical new indicator of Christian identity and salvation. Dunn is more vulnerable to this critique than Wright because he retains the traditional reading of faith as the Christian's act of appropriation of the gospel. There is then, for him, no coherent argumentative journey from the constricting ethnicity of works of law to salvation by faith alone; the correct response to hoarding works would be unselfish sharing, while it is difficult to conceive of the correct response to ethnic practices per se, but it is unlikely to be faith. (Hegel provided detailed arguments for this position, in terms of universality and particularity, but New Testament scholars like Dunn do not generally endorse those.) Wright's reading of faith is rather different from Dunn's, but I fail to see how it answers these particular argumentative concerns.

50 Wright's contingent weakness hurts him esp. at this point. Martyn has charted a viable way forward here, reading ‘works of law’ in relation to a Jewish Christian teacher who misunderstands Paul's gospel of grace and corrupts it retrospectively with the addition of particular Jewish conditions. (In Wright's parlance we could say that this Jewish Christian misunderstands his own Jewish story.) This concrete contingency could well be the reason why Paul wrote his justification texts. See Martyn, , Galatians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 1997)Google Scholar.

51 It is critical to note that Wright's important sociological and supra-ethnic concerns can still be retained, if not strengthened, by an alternative, retrospective reading of works. These positions are not all mutually exclusive.

52 It has already been noted that Wright himself has, a little ironically, said a great deal about this narrative; his good friend Richard Hays has written the classic account of the contentious pistis genitives, where the christological narrative is clear: The Faith of Jesus Christ: The Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3:1–4:11 (2nd edn. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002 [1983]).

53 Indeed, perhaps something of a general historicising tendency is detectable in much of his work – a typically modern form of foundationalism. But there is insufficient space to document this suspicion here. Note, this is not to negate the value either of history or of historical investigation, but only to suggest that these should not function foundationally.

54 That is, asserting corporate categories in place of individual ones, historical analysis instead of ahistorical treatments, and a canonically sensitive, progressive position over against the rather harsh testamentary opposition affirmed by vulgar Lutheranism.

55 The political problems of a foundationalist salvation-history are perhaps never seen more clearly than in their endorsement of Afrikaaner theology and politics during the apartheid era in South Africa. We certainly should not rely on a general liberal political background and culture to mitigate the problematic political implications of a foundationalist salvation-history. Other outstanding historical examples of the ferocious ethnicity which can be endorsed by such an approach include the ante-bellum south of the USA, and Serbia's behaviour during the breakup of Yugoslavia.

56 This seems to be indicated by Wright's constant claim that Judaism was Paul's ‘framework’, a metaphor suggesting the existence of a key prior structure within it on which everything subsequent is built. Wright might be better served by using the language of ‘encyclopedia’, which would denote that Judaism was the critical semantic and narrative reservoir for Paul who nevertheless crafted something new under the impress of the revelation of Christ. Wright's language of ‘quarry’ would serve the same purpose (p. 228). Unfortunately, there is again insufficient space to develop these suspicions here.

57 This is clearly one of Piper's concerns.

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