A few weeks ago I wrote about what is wrong with John Piper’s theology. But in fact it turns out that in at least one respect his beliefs have been misinterpreted by Adrian Warnock.
I mentioned in my post a post of Adrian’s entitled John Piper: Is N. T. Wright Preaching Another Gospel? (See also the 31 comments on this post, now deleted from Adrian’s blog but saved here.) This was part of Adrian’s series on Piper’s book The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, available online free of charge (PDF format).
Adrian’s title suggests that Piper is claiming that Wright is “preaching another gospel”, and the content of the post seems to confirm this suggestion. But in fact, as I will show here, this suggestion is incorrect: Piper does not consider Wright’s teaching to be “another gospel”.
Now I have not read Piper’s book. I have read several reviews and extracts from it, none of which have convinced me that this is a book I should read. Instead I would like, when time permits, to read critically more of Wright’s own work.
Among the extracts which I have read is this one, part of what has just been posted by Claude Mariottini, which is taken from the Introduction to the book, p.15 (in the PDF).
My conviction concerning N. T. Wright is not that he is under the curse of Galatians 1:8–9, but that his portrayal of the gospel—and of the doctrine of justification in particular—is so disfigured that it becomes difficult to recognize as biblically faithful.
Now Galatians 1:9 specifically applies the curse in question to anybody who preaches another gospel:
If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let that person be under God’s curse!
Galatians 1:9 (TNIV)
So, since Piper says that Wright is not under this curse, and since he accepts these words as authoritative, that implies that he believes that Wright is not preaching a gospel different from what Paul preached.
If Adrian had read and understood this passage from the introduction to the book he was writing, he would have been able to answer his own question, and with a clear negative. But in fact, although in his post Adrian does not give a specific answer to the question, his own words (not Piper’s) clearly invite his readers to infer a positive answer:
That difference in wording, which led to the Reformation itself, almost sounds like a minor nuance when Wright comes along and sweeps the whole concept of an alien righteousness away!
In other words, Adrian implies that Wright’s teaching is more different from the true gospel than was the allegedly distorted version of it which led to the Reformation. Would any of Adrian’s readers imagine that he was answering “No” to his own question?
But the post did leave open one issue, which I raised in one of the comments I saved (10 November, 2007 14:11):
Can we clarify one thing, has Piper used the words “another gospel” in relation to Wright’s views, or are these words only Adrian’s?
In reply Adrian wrote (10 November, 2007 14:39):
The words were mine and intended as a question. Piper does refer to the galatians passage in his foreward but does not directly apply it to Wright
Well, Piper does quote Galatians 1:8 on page 14, the second page of the Introduction, without direct application to Wright. But on the very next page of the same Introduction, in the words quoted above, he refers again to the same passage, this time with direct application to Wright. So Adrian is not correct in saying that Piper “does not directly apply it to Wright”. Did Adrian make this error because he stopped reading the Introduction at this point? Did he sound off about this matter without having read beyond the first two pages of text (not counting the acknowledgements) in the book? Possibly. It seems highly unlikely that he would stop at the section heading “N. T. Wright”. But that is the only explanation I can give for his actions other than deliberate falsification of the evidence.
With one cynical stroke of the pen, the triumph of God’s love over God’s wrath in the death of his beloved Son is blasphemed
By contrast, when writing about Wright Piper is very careful not even to allow room for the suggestion that he is “preaching another gospel”. It is Adrian who made this suggestion, and in doing so he misrepresented Piper and distorted his carefully nuanced message.
It seems to me that Adrian has tried to make Piper’s book into something which Piper had never intended it to be, a judgment of NT Wright as a false teacher – a verdict which Adrian probably considers justified because Wright defended Chalke as well as because he dared to question traditional understandings of the atonement, in the process appealing to true Sola Scriptura rather than to Sola Traditio. For it seems that in Adrian’s simplistic worldview every Christian teacher must be firmly in one or other of two camps: that of good Reformed teachers whose teaching must be accepted without question as more or less infallible; or that of false teachers who must be refuted and opposed in every possible way, with even falsification and deception justified by the greater good of overthrowing their heresies.
Well, I am pleased to say that Piper is a better man than this. While he clearly disagrees with Wright, and explains why (at least I presume he does, in the main part of the book which I have not read), he does not write off Wright as an irredeemable heretic. Instead, still in the Introduction (pp.15-16), he writes with great generosity of spirit:
As critical as this book is of Wright’s understanding of the gospel and justification, the seriousness and scope of the book is a testimony to the stature of his scholarship and the extent of his influence. I am thankful for his strong commitment to Scripture as his final authority, his defense and celebration of the resurrection of the Son of God, his vindication of the deity of Christ, his belief in the virgin birth of Jesus, 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.
Would that every Christian teacher treated his or her opponents in this way.