The more of N.T. Wright I read the more excited I become. To start, I find that his critique of Piper is spot on with specific regard to the following items:
1. Neglect of the covenant as the context for God’s saving the world. This point resonates with me particularly because this is what my friend and scholar John Oswalt has been saying for decades as recorded in his book Called to be Holy: A Biblical Perspective. Every bit of biblical theology must have some correspondence to the covenant, both in the Old and New Testaments and especially in Paul’s theology. To build a soteriology that attempts to operate outside of the framework of covenant will undoubtedly deviate from a scriptural understanding of salvation.
On this issue, NT Wright says this, “Paul’s doctrine of justification is therefore about what we may call the covenant—the covenant God made with Abraham, the covenant whose purpose was from the beginning the saving call of a worldwide family through whom God’s saving purpose for the world were to be realized. For Piper, and many like him, the very idea of a covenant of this kind remains strangely foreign and alien.” (Wright, Justification: God’s Pan and Paul’s Vision. Kindle Edition).
2. Human Responsibility in Salvation. This issue has been the center of debate between Wesleyan-Arminians and those of the Reformed tradition for centuries. Wright handles the defense of human responsibility in salvation beautifully (and more concisely than I’ve ever seen). He says this, “Piper and others have then accused me of encouraging people to think of their own moral effort as contributing to their final justification, and hence of compromising the gospel itself. I insist that I am simply trying to do justice to what Paul actually says, and that when we factor in the Spirit to the whole picture, we see that the charge is groundless” (Ibid, emphasis added).
3. The Eschatological Framework for Pauline Soteriology. Once again, any attempt building a soteriology outside of the proper 1st century judaic eschatological framework (which itself flows from the meta historical narrative of salvation via covenant) will be utterly inadequate. The Kingdom is now and yet to come. Wright writes this, “Right through Paul’s writings, but once more especially in Romans, he envisages two moments, the final justification when God puts the whole world right and raises his people from the dead, and the present justification in which that moment is anticipated. For John Piper and the school of thought he represents, present justification appears to take the full weight” (Ibid).
Hallelujah for N.T. Wright.