Tom Wright has sent the following, which he wanted to post as a comment, but which is too long. I commend it for people who have been following the debate here (Baffled by Wright - or maybe not!) and here (Clarifying Wright - maybe! - and can I just add I'm entirely with him on anonymous posting, please see the comments policy which appears at the bottom of every article here and still gets ignored!):
I'm glad to see that some clarification is coming. The confusion around the blessed word 'basis' is instructive. The word itself, of course, is not biblical. None the worse for that; as you say, the word 'Trinity' isn't, either, and I agree with those who say it's a fine and solid summary of things that are firmly there in scripture. That's not my problem. The problem is that words like 'basis' -- and other terms such as the 'heart' or 'centre' of Pauline theology, and so on -- can be far more slippery than they sound. I notice, John, that in your own original posting you say that I said something which meant that 'this transformation will be the basis of a 'final verdict' on their lives' -- whereas I had done my best to keep the word 'basis' out of it for the moment! It creeps back in. You likewise say in a later post something about present justification 'on the basis of faith' -- on which see below. Now I don't think that's a bad thing. The trouble is that clearly for some in the neo- or hyper-Reformed camp (I'm not sure how strictly Reformed they all are) the word carries far more freight than it has ever done, in my experience, for most English Reformed Christians. The strict (Piperesque?) interpretation seems to use it to mean 'the sole foundation upon which everything rests'. But that's tricky, isn't it? After all, even Paul could use 'foundation' in 1 Cor 3 to refer to Jesus Christ himself and in Eph 2 to refer to the apostles and prophets -- with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone holding them together. Why not shift metaphors if it helps? But there has crept in a kind of word-concept fallacy about slippery terms like 'basis' where it can only mean one thing. (One of your correspondents, trying to put me right, suggests that Piper and I are saying the same thing in different words. That is sometimes true -- and I have said so myself, quoting Newman about the difference between words and things-- and sometimes it is clearly, manifestly, not the case, for instance in the imputation question.)
When I used the word 'basis' (as I obviously did -- when I was preparing for the conference I was surrounded by unopened boxes and all the stuff of moving house, so couldn't check; and I knew I hadn't taken the theological position that the Piperites were accusing me of), I was not meaning it in that strict and narrow sense. I was using it in the way people speak of being justified in the present 'on the basis of faith'--which a lot of people do say without intending any heresy!, but which we know is shorthand for 'on the basis of God's action in Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection, and by the work of the Spirit through the proclamation of the gospel which leads to . . . faith'. Phew! In other words, I wasn't meaning 'this and only this, without reference to Jesus and the Spirit'. I was meaning -- as I make abundantly clear in several passages -- that Paul insists in Romans 2 and elsewhere that 'to those who by patience in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life'. Again and again over decades I have stressed to students, readers, and anyone else who will listen, that this isn't a proposal for a Pelagian-style self-effort moralistic auto-justification, such as everyone from Augustine to Luther and beyond declared to be off limits. It's a way of saying -- which Paul then elaborates as the letter goes on -- that when the Spirit works in someone's life the transformation which is effected will show up in a changed direction, a different tenor of life, which, even though not perfect (Philippians 3.12-16), nevertheless indicates the work of the Spirit.
Part of the problem is that the debate has regularly been conducted at one or two removes from exegesis, and people have a truncated view of what Paul said as a result. Paul's exposition of justification in Romans doesn't stop with chapter 4 (still less with 3.28 as you might think from some!). Romans 8.31-39 is all about justification -- but you only get that glorious conclusion as a result of working through 8.1-30, with the bracing imperatives of 8.12-16 in particular: if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live! Pretty clear stuff, that. And it doesn't mean a smuggling in of 'works' by the back door; nor does it mean a diminution of the solid assurance given in justification by faith, as some have absurdly charged me with implying.
One of the great problems is that many on both sides of the Atlantic who have been taught 'justification by faith' in a simple (simplistic?) format have never spotted that in the NT there are three tenses of justification. I have highlighted present and future, and there is a major difference between them (present, as in Romans 3.21-26; future, as in Romans 2.1-16). Part of Paul's whole argument in Rom 1-8 hinges on the apparent tension between these, and how Paul resolves it so splendidly in 8.1, running on to 8.31-39. That is the arena in which debate should be held -- discussion of what Paul really meant -- rather than discussing whether this or that view is 'more properly reformed'.(By the way, you seem at one point in your post to identify 'Reformed' with Luther, which is surely precisely the wrong point -- Luther had a negative view of the Law, Calvin a positive one.) If you want to know my position on the Reformed doctrine, I think I agree with most of it (though I try to put it in a more biblical and less mediaeval framework) except 'imputed righteousness', which as I've argued in great detail is trying to do an important job but is doing it in a strictly less-then-fully-biblical way. But, as I said in Atlanta in the meeting which started all this (well, it didn't exactly start it, but in that loose sense it was ... shall we say, the 'basis' for it ...), this is a debate about scripture and tradition. Evangelicals have always said we must assess all traditions, including our own, in the light of scripture. That was Luther's and Calvin's principle, and it has been mine ever since I was old enough to understand these things.
I don't think, by the way, the parable of the sower is germane to this. It's about the way the Kingdom works... Nor is 1 Cor 3 strictly relevant, since it isn't about everybody's final judgment but about church leaders/teachers/apostles who are building on the foundation. Still, it could be thought to apply obliquely I suppose.
I was particularly struck (as in, surprised) by your formulation of 'salvation (how we are saved) and justification (that we are saved)'. At first I wondered whether you'd deliberately said that the wrong way round to see who was awake at the back of the class... Surely if we are to have a serious discussion one must be a bit more nuanced and sharp than that? Salvation means 'rescue', which in Paul means rescue from sin and death (as opposed to the Gnostics for whom it meant rescue from the material world/body). It therefore connotes resurrection, the new immortal body which will be incapable of both sin and death (and pain etc). Justification means 'the verdict "in the right" which is the precondition for that salvation. God utters that verdict "in the right" whenever someone believes that God raised Jesus from the dead (Rom 4.24f., 10.9-19). But that verdict, issued firmly and irrevocably in the present, will be reaffirmed in the future . . . when, however, the Spirit who (through the proclamation of the gospel) inspired that faith in the first place continues his work to produce the fruits of which Paul speaks again and again from Rom 2.25-9 through Rom 6 and 8 to Rom 12-15. And what will the Spirit actually do at that point? Why, raise us from the dead. So, in terms of final justification, the actual event in question will be the same event resurrection into the life of God's new world) as 'salvation', but the two will connote quite different thing. I agree with you, by the way, that baptism is the public event, corresponding to faith as the private event, which marks out God's people in the present. But, on final justification, as I said on someone else's blog, I wonder why nobody has mentioned Galatians 5.5f., where it's future justification on the basis of . . . whoops, I mean of course in accordance with ... 'faith working through love'. Has Paul thereby gone back on the great 'faith-alone' statements of Gal 2, 3 and 4? Of course not. They are about the present justification; this is about the future. The same Spirit who inspired faith will inspire such 'working through love' as will be the sign for the future.
I hope all this is reasonably clear. I didn't know whether to be amused or insulted by the chap on your blog who said I must be unclear because I'd never been a parish priest. (I suppose being Dean of a cathedral doesn't count either.) I would like to show him the files and files of letters, postcards, emails and so on from the Old Mrs Joneses of this world who have thanked me heartily for explaining things, in sermons and books, in a way they can understand and in a way that their own vicar had never made clear . . . But maybe he doesn't realise (some don't) that the NT Wright of the academic books is also the Tom Wright of the Everyone series...
I was also struck by the attempt by Ro Mody to systematize a Wright-says-this and Reformed-says-that view. It really doesn't work like that though I haven't got the time to explain why. But please be it noted: I have always, always, stressed penal substitution as being right at the heart of things, both for Jesus and for Paul. I do that in preaching and teaching as well as writing. It is one of the saddest slurs I encounter when people suggest I don't really believe or teach this. It's a way of saying 'we don't understand Tom Wright and he's saying things we didn't hear in Sunday School so he's probably a wicked liberal, and since wicked liberals don't believe in penal substitution he probably doesn't either.' In fact, chapter 12 of Jesus and the Victory of God is, I think I'm right in saying, the longest ever modern justification of seeing Isaiah 53 at the very centre of Jesus' own self-understanding -- which is at the very heart of everything else about the meaning of the cross. That is not to say, of course, that I agree with every way in which penal substitution is expressed. Like all doctrines, it's possible to state it in less than fully biblical ways, which then introduce their own new distortions. Put it back in its biblical context -- which includes Jesus' message about the kingdom of God, though you'd never know it from some evangelical writing -- and it makes glorious sense. Gospel sense.
Enough for now. Perhaps it's no bad thing for casual bloggers, slagging someone off cheerfully as some of your folks do, to know that the person concerned may actually read what they say from time to time... but then if they hide behind anonymous alias identities I suppose that makes it all right ...?
Greetings and good wishes, not least for Advent Sunday which is almost upon us,
reminding us of the great future in which all our past and present is finally resolved.
N T Wright, St Andrews
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