Tom Wright – Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision

Its a ripper of a book and the best theological read I have had for a while. Tom Wright’s latest book is, for me, his most enjoyable yet. Its called Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision and its a well written answer to John Piper’s “The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright”, which I found a little long and unwieldy, and needing Tom Wright’s response to complete it. And now that response is here.

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Tom Wright argues that “righteousness” has to do with the status of being declared in the right by God, rather than with a moral righteousness imputed by a Righteous Judge. Tom also suggests quite strongly that a Reformed view of Paul’s work lacks continuity with God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen 3)and the nation of Israel (Dt. 27-30), something which Paul makes clear and is yet often ignored by modern day evangelicalism. He also accuses Reformed theology (but not Calvin) of being too individualistic, sidestepping the Trinity and avoiding an understanding of all creation and its redemption. Tom even throws some punches at the NIV [for pandering to current thinking rather than biblical accuracy] and Don Carson for his misplaced comments on the back of Piper’s book.

Tom Wright has written a great book on one of the most interesting theological debates in this millennium. It moves quickly, has fire on its tail, unlike his more relaxed theological books. This one ismore than its subject – its more than just Romans and its more than “justification. It even goes beyond the “new perspective”. This is a book on how to do theology in general, what questions to ask, how to view the wider sweep of Scripture and attempt to get our heads out of a 16th Century mindset. Its also a parallel argument to what is going on in the emerging church; what Wright points out as the inadequacies of a mediaeval theology are strikingly similar to what emerging church leaders have found as inadequate and unbiblical ecclesiastic practices that need to be overcome. The questions asked are similar and that is why I predict most emerging church practitioners will side with Wright rather than Piper on this one, despite both men being godly leaders and great scholar/pastors.

Have you read it? What do you think?

Previously . . . on Tallskinnykiwi: Tom Wright and the Emerging church, Tom Wright’s ‘Surprised By Hope’ is my Top Book of 2008

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Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Jay says:

    I have not read it yet, but it is on my list now. Thanks for the review.

  • Dana Ames says:

    It’s not out in the US for another few weeks, but I’ve preordered 🙂

  • My thoughts.
    Grace and Peace,

  • Becky says:

    Ordered my press copy – and can comment in a few weeks. If it’s anything like “Surprised by Hope,” I’m in for an amazing ride.

  • Doug Wilson ( has just finished his own review, interacting extensively with Wright over the course of – I kid you not – 26 posts. I can’t say much about the review since I haven’t seen the book yet, but if you know anything about Doug Wilson you can probably guess at where he takes issue with Wright.

  • michael says:

    Thanks for the review. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  • Dan Wilt says:

    The “right-relatedness” vision of righteousness is so central to unmooring the term from our typical moralistic cement.
    That is not to say that morality is unimportant, but rather that it is not the essence of the Genesis to Revelation narrative –
    A world is being put to rights,
    A world is being put to right-relatedness
    A world is being confronted by a God and a people who relate rightly in the world.
    New Creation is a vision far grander than a judge dismissing a case – it is an Artist fixing His damaged masterpiece.
    Thanks Andrew, for pointing us to the new text. Surprised By Hope has been my favorite so far, and a growing favorite of many artists and worship leaders with which I work.

  • William Varner says:

    I ordered the British version and devoured it over a weekend. It is his clearest statement yet about justification. My guess, however, is that people won’t stay with it because he takes so long in laying the groundwork for his view that many readers will tire and give up before they get into the heart of the book.
    On the positive side. How anyone could read this book and still raise charges of heresy or his lack of orthodoxy is beyond my comprehension. His reading of Romans is “spot on.” But even if one disagrees with this point or that point, they will find no evidence of heresy – unless they read into it!!
    I have found that Wright is often opposed simply because he says it differently, not because his critics can find something substantive to criticize. “He doesn’t say it like Luther did, so he must be wrong.” It is hard to deal with such people. They will never be convinced otherwise. Wright won’t silence his critics with this book. He will clarify for some what he means. The Pied Piper(s) among his critics will still have their multitude of lemmings following them. Oh, well.

  • Becky says:

    Some of it is also that whole mainline church vs evangelical divide (and I’m using the word the way it is employed in the US not in the UK). Amazing how many solid folks there are in both respective camps that the other side won’t bother reading. As an Episcopalian, I’ve lost track of the number of times I was going to hell because say I was baptized as an infant, my dad wore a dress to church (he was the priest and it was called a cassock) and you get the drift. Meanwhile the Frozen Chosen weren’t exactly receptive to their evangelical brothers at times either.

  • David says:

    I just got the British version in the mail today and read the Introduction at lunch. I’ve read most of Wright since the early 1990s, not counting his 1986 commentary on Colossians. I continue to be mystified at how so many bright theologians can misread Wright. That makes me squeamish on how they can read the Bible. But then again, there’s the rub.

  • Paul says:

    Just finished it and found Wright right! My summary comments here, along with multiple links to worthy discussions elsewhere.

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