Waters Reviews Wright’s Latest

At Ref21.

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  1. So I have a question:

    How ought the regular Reformed parishioner approach N.T. Wright’s work?

    I’ve been attempting to better understand his line of thought for a few months now (NPP as well as the Federal Vision) and find it to be fundamentally out of accord with Reformed and Protestant theology. I think I’m slowly beginning to make some real sense of the issue and it’s central driving motivations.

    And yet what concerns me is how the rest of the Reformed Church is to approach these teachings and their proponents.

    I sense a certain attitude of leniency and provision within Reformdism that is quite troubling. Wrights arguments are so much similar to Rome’s (and seemingly motivated towards it’s conclusions) that I don’t understand how any Protestant (let alone Reformed) Christian look upon them with only passing concern.

    However, I’m also concerned that I am not myself becoming hyper-judgmental over issues I deem as serious as these.

    How do we approach issues like this? How do we consider Wright and his teachings? Do we engage him actively or only passively. Do we outright appose these teachings and demolish their arguments using the light of Scripture and sound reason? Or do we let their views fester within our Churches un-encumbered — in order to play themselves out? The answer would seem obvious to me. What do we do?

    • Hi Brendon,

      Officially a number of confessional Reformed Churches have rejected NTW’s views. Here’s a summary of the state of play:


      See also R. Scott Clark, ed. Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry (click on the link above on the top of this page for more info).

      No, it’s not the case that those who believe the Reformed confessions are tolerant of NTW. Guy Waters’ review is typical of the way confessional folk have analyzed and rejected Wright’s reconstruction and revision of Protestant theology. Mike Horton has made some very telling criticisms in his third volume with WJKP as has Guy Waters (see the link above for more info).

      You’re instincts are correct. Wright is not advocating a Protestant doctrine of justification. He’s not advocating a Protestant definition of justification. His claim to be following Calvin is just silly.

      Unofficially there are still proponents of Wright’s views in the confessional churches. That’s a matter of discipline. Pastors and elders need to be encouraged to do their duty and bring charges where necessary.

  2. Scott is spot on here-the on going problem in our midst concerns the various advocates of the ‘Federal Vision’ (despite Doug Wilson’s recent critique of NT Wright’s response to John Piper)- are in reality Wright’s foot soliders. Some of these individuals are ordained in confessional churches like the PCA and the OPC, both of whom have made special reports that ruled Wright’s views as well as the Federal Vision out of bounds- and discipline is most certainly needed.

  3. R. Scott Clark: “Pastors and elders need to be encouraged to do their duty and bring charges where necessary.”

    GLW Johnson: “…and discipline is most certainly needed.”

    Per RS Clark, has it been necessary to bring charges? If so, have charges been filed? If not, and yet it’s been deemed (by whoever) that charges are necessary, what does this then say about the shepherds whose duty and obligation it is to administer discipline?

    And what if necessary discipline incurs unwanted division in the Reformed church/denomination?

  4. TU…aD
    Now I am sure you know that that particular alarm has always been sounded by a host of people down through the centuries regardless of the nature of the theological controversy-i.e. Arianism ( you will remember that Athanasius was repeatedly exiled for opposing Arius who was described as “a peaceful and charming fellow”). The same was said about Arminius and his followers. Machen was repeatedly told that his opponents in the Presbyterian controversy were ‘nice men’.

    • Yes, I know. I was wondering whether anyone would state what they think is the historical lesson to be taught from the dynamic tension between discipline and division throughout history.

      ISTM, that the Enemy says, in effect, to pick your poison. Because it’s exceedingly difficult and rare to balance Purity, Unity, and Peace. If you aim for true teaching by disciplining wolves, then it often results in disunity and conflict. And if you aim for unity and peace, then it often results in harmful leaven that damages the Gospel and hurts the sheep.

      I.e., as a reader of Tim Bayly’s blog, I know that they have brought charges against some churches in the PCA for reasons associated with egalitarianism.

      At the same time, Tim is good friends with Doug Wilson who I understand to be a proponent of the Federal Vision. Something that I’m still trying to learn more about. I.e., what is FV’s relationship to NPP and basically, what is all the hullabaloo about FV all about.

      Lastly, I repeat my earlier questions: “has it been necessary to bring charges? If so, have charges been filed? If not, and yet it’s been deemed (by whoever) that charges are necessary, what does this then say about the shepherds whose duty and obligation it is to administer discipline?”

      • having spend all my Christian life in a particular segment of churches that NEVER discipline anybody and is as FLEXIBLE as they can be on theological acceptance, it causes MORE Church conflicts, disunity, and Church splits then any other segments of churches in North America.

        I have notice theological flexibility made the congregation indifferent on the teachings of the Word of God, the mindset is simple, if there are multiple interpretations, and the church says all of them are legitimate, even if they are contradictory, then why bother taking God’s Word seriously when my take on the Bible is just as valid as the next person, even the teachers/pastors of the Church?

        Then everyone has an opinion on how the church should be run, what worship service should be like, how ministries should be conducted, and who should have what power, and everyone has their own opinion that they think is legitimate and should be seriously consider. But you see the problem, when you take one side you offend the other, vice-versa. Let the Bible settle it you say? But that’s the problem of theological flexibility – my take is just as valid as the next guy.

        The point is that if the congregation are not taught to take the Word of God seriously with conviction, and yes even when we are imperfect but that doesn’t stop us from following the most consistent expression of the Word, and stick with that conviction, and ask for God’s forgiveness if we do err that we err out of honest and not out of appeasement to men.

  5. Thanks Reformed Sinner. Discipline is said to be one of the marks of a church.

    I’ve observed the same thing as you. More or less. Here are more brief observations:

    (1) Discipline done right. Can and still does cause division, disunity, conflict, and controversy. Sometimes it goes well and the person(s) repents and is restored. Hallelujah.

    (2) Discipline done wrong. Even worse division, disunity, conflict, and controversy.

    (3) Discipline not done at all. Division, disunity, conflict, and controversy.

    (4) Talking almost endlessly about discipline, giving lip service to the need for discipline, how important it is for biblical discipline to occur, but really doing nothing about the problem. Meanwhile, “facts on the ground” keep occurring and multiplying, and the leaven of false teaching keeps growing, both politically and spiritually.

    (5) Discipline is needed for False Shepherds in the Pulpit. If identified, then defenders of the False Shepherds scream “heresy hunters!”. It’s almost to the point that “heresy hunters” are just as bad as heretics.

    (6) Unruly, rebellious flock of sheep. The pastoral staff is reluctant to administer overdue discipline for fear of repercussions. Some/many pastoral staff are likely to be man-pleasers in addition to trying to be God-pleasers.

    IMHO, the Accuser of the Brethren can really pervert and muck up biblical discipline until God redeems it.


    (A) Too eager to discipline VS. (B) Never discipline.

    (A) Too quick to discipline VS. (B) Way too slow to discipline.

    Being a man-pleaser and worrying about reputation and being well-liked.

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