We are working our way through Tom Wright’s new book, Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision, and how the new perspective (Tom Wright’s version of it anyway) is playing out today.
What about the Law then? How does Wright understand the Law?
Wright begins by sketching, in bold figure, how Luther saw the Law as the bad guy and then quotes Edmund Clowney, in a book edited by DA Carson, who says this of Calvin’s view of the Law: “It was to a delivered people that God addressed the words of his covenant at Sinai.” The irony, Wright observes, of it all: that is, the Calvinist view of the Law is not unlike Ed Sanders’ “covenantal nomism”: “now that you’re in the covenant, here is the law to keep” (72).
Something I’ve often thought too: Wright observes that had the Calvinist view of the Law been the dominant one, there would never been a need for the new perspective. The new perspective responded far more to the Lutheran sketch of Judaism than it did to the Reformed view. Wright sums it up and says he can’t tell if he’s summarizing Sanders or Calvin!
He sketches the 2-volume set edited by Carson that, in some ways, confirms what Sanders argued for Judaism but which, in other ways, shows that Sanders may have played his hand too hard. The point is this: the Law followed covenant and followed election.
Wright now pushes back against Piper. Piper’s theory is that Judaism and humans are essentially and incurably legalistic and works-righteousness-minded and self-justifying. Where, if the above sketch about law following covenant, does the idea of legalism and self-justification come if it doesn’t come from a supposed interpretation of the Jewish world? This is a powerful pushback question from Wright.
Wright sketches how works fit into covenant:
1. The question is not about individual salvation but about God’s purposes for Israel and the world. The Pharisees said those who obeyed the Torah would enter the Age to Come [this gets individualistic in Wright]. Those who would be vindicated then are those who obey Torah now.
2. 4QMMT connects, as does Paul in Romans 10, Deut 30 to specific works that indicate who will be justified…. Paul sees that Torah anticipated in Deut 30 to have been fulfilled in Christ.