Podcast: N.T. Wright and His Reformed Critics

Mere FidelityThe latest Mere Fidelity podcast has just gone online. A couple of weeks ago, we discussed the theology of N.T. Wright. This week, Derek Rishmawy, Andrew Wilson, and I explore the subject of N.T. Wright and his Reformed critics. Take a listen, and leave your thoughts in the comments!

We are on iTunes and also have a RSS feed.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Bible, Controversies, N.T. Wright, NT, NT Theology, Podcasts, Theological. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Podcast: N.T. Wright and His Reformed Critics

  1. whitefrozen says:

    Ya’ll need an intro song or song clip or something.

    • I’ve said that too! Any suggestions?🙂

      • whitefrozen says:

        I actually haven’t been able to think of anything that would fit…maybe, MAYBE, Cowboy Bebop’s theme song, ‘Tank’. Maybe.

        Regarding the podcast – again, very good listening. I’m rather curious as to your opinion on Wright’s criticism of classical dogmatic formulations/language – he’s done a bit of wrighting (haw haw) basically saying that things like persons, nature, substance, hypostatic union, etc, are concepts that are superfluous and not even needed when we have the Jewish concepts of word, wisdom, glory, etc, to describe the relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit. So far as I can tell, the meat of his criticism is that rather than developing a dogmatic grammar from the outside, we should have looked to Scripture and seen the built-in grammar therein. I forget the essay where he really went into a bit of detail – but he says that Chalcedon seemed like a bit of a confidence trick. What’s your take on that topic?

      • I don’t have time for a proper answer at the moment, but I think that Wright and others who take that line fail to appreciate the task that dogmatic and confessional formulations are designed to perform. They are often consensus documents, designed to establish common ground between positions that read the terms of Scripture in rather different ways. They need to engage with prevailing errors and philosophical positions and establish biblical truth in a manner accessible to the culture for the purposes of pedagogy.

  2. Matt Petersen says:

    Why is justification described as being on the basis of Christ’s works, not his Person? His works are created, his Person is not.

    Luther, for instance arguing against Catholic seems to ground our justification not in the works, but in the Person who works, when he says “Even though we collect in one mass the works of all the monks, however splendidly they may shine, they would not be as noble and good as if God should pick up a straw. Why? Because the person is nobler and better.”

    On a similar analogy, it is not the works of Christ, considered in the abstract, which are important: Had they been done by a human person, they would be worthless. Rather it is because they are the works not of a human person, but of the Second Person of the Trinity that they are efficacious. That is to say, in the way I use language, the basis is *not* the works, but the Person who works.

    I believe a similar concern is raised by the Orthodox. It is, on the Orthodox understanding, specifically God’s own “property” of righteousness that is given to the believer, as we actually participate in this Energy, and *not* the created acts of the mediator.

    (Perhaps what is at issue is the extra?)

    • We can’t have one without the other. The benefit of Christ’s works are received by union with his Person. As Calvin put it: ‘First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us’—Institutes, III.i.1. I don’t believe that playing one off against the other would be helpful. The ‘work’ of Christ isn’t just some accrual of merit, but a sacrificial movement bringing about communion and overcoming alienation. And this movement cannot easily be separated from his personhood and the relations of the Trinity.

      • Matt Petersen says:

        But in the quote from Calvin, union with Christ is a means to the end of union with his work, rather than his works being a means to the end of our union with His Person. Whereas in the Luther quote (from his large catechism), the works derive all their meaning from the Person, and so are a means of uniting us to the Person. (Luther’s point is perhaps clearer if I gave the whole quote “Even though we collect in one mass the works of all the monks, however splendidly they may shine, they would not be as noble and good as if God should pick up a straw. Why? Because the person is nobler and better. Here, then, we must not estimate the person according to the works, but the works according to the person, from whom they must derive their nobility.”)

        (Though, that may just be a feature of the particular quotes.)

      • Calvin immediately goes on to speak of what we possess in terms that stress communion and relationship. I don’t think that it would be fair to say that union with Christ is a means to an end within his thought.

      • Matt Petersen says:

        Fair enough. Though I’m still confused linguistically. If we talk about “The imputation of the righteousness of Christ” the accent is on his *righteousness*, which is created (isn’t it? Orthodox may say it isn’t but I think the Reformed would say it is created), not on the uncreated Person who is righteous, and from Whom, the works derive their nobility.

      • Matt Petersen says:

        And I’m not saying that’s wrong, only that I’m confused.

    • whitefrozen says:

      ‘Reformed theology interprets participation in the divine nature as the union and 
      communion we are given to have with Christ in his human nature, as participation 
      in his Incarnate Sonship, and therefore as sharing in him in the divine Life and 
      Love.  That is to say, it interprets ‘deification’ precisely in the same way as  Athanasius in the Contra Arianos.  It is only through real and substantial union 
      (Calvin’s expression) with him in his human nature that we partake of all his  benefits, such as justification and sanctification and regeneration, but because in 
      him human nature is hypostatically united to divine nature so that the Godhead 
      dwells in him ‘bodily’, in him we really are made partakers of the eternal Life of  God himself.’ (3 Thomas F. Torrance, “The Roman Doctrine of grace from the Point of View of Reformed Theology,” in  Theology in Reconstruction, 184. )

  3. Hi Matt,

    Jesus’s “righteousness” is often tied to his resurrection – it is the righteousness of a renewed creation. So it’s not so much about “person” or even “work” (although both of those things are involved), but about resurrection. The resurrection of Christ inaugurates the New creation and by virtue of our union with him, we share in that new creation glory and become a new creation ourselves.

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