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The Rev. N.T. "Tom" Wright disputes modern Gospel interpretations. (Max Nash -- AP)



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  NT Wright: Enemy of the Reformed Faith

Saturday, September 27, 2003

N.T. Wright Study Archive | New Book Defends Gospel Account of Resurrection Story

For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered" (Rom. 4:3-7).

"Wherever the knowledge of it (i.e., justification by faith alone) is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished, religion abolished, the Church destroyed, and the hope of salvation utterly overthrown."

- John Calvin, A Reformation Debate: Calvin's Reply to Sadoleto, p. 66, available on Reformation Bookshelf CD 17 under the title Defending the Reformation: John Calvin Debates the Romanist Sadolet at


+++ Free Resources Refuting N.T. Wright +++


+++ Information about N.T. Wright's belief (or, rather, lack thereof) concerning the virgin birth:

[58] These are not the only questionable areas in the theology of new perspective advocates. Wright, for example, does not come out and say he believes in the virgin birth of Christ but that it is a possibility and that the New Testament authors believed it: "What if we find that, very early within the movement that grew up around [Christ], there arose two independent sources claiming that he had been conceived without a human father? Faced with all of this, a belief in this God, and this Jesus, may compel us to hold open the possibility that this account of his conception might just be true" (Wright, Who Was Jesus?, p. 83). He also states, "One of the best possible answers is that [Matthew and Luke] very firmly believed it to be true" (Wright, Who Was Jesus?, p. 84).

- From footnote 58 at: The New Perspective on Paul: Calvin and N. T. Wright by J. V. Fesko  (What makes the new perspective most harmful to the church is its use of terminology.)


+++ The four free articles (below) on N.T. Wright and the "New Perspective on Paul" heresy have been added below as this man is an enemy to the Reformed Faith (i.e. biblical truth).

N.T. Wright is a liberal heretic, don't be fooled by his fair sounding words. He may pen phrases like "justification by faith," (as the ecumenical Romanists do) though never "justification by faith *alone*," and he denies outright the biblical (Reformation) understanding of justification by faith *alone*!

Moveover, as you will find out in the articles cited below, this false teacher denies much about Scripture that our Reformation forefathers faithfully proclaimed -- even those very truths for which some of our brave Reformation brothers and sisters sealed their testimony with their own blood, as martyrs of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, the Auburn Conference speakers (Doug Wilson, Steve Wilkins, Steve Schlissel, and John Barach) have clearly been drinking from this poison well.

Beware the subtlety of the serpent (2 Cor. 11:3) -- neither the new perspective on Paul nor the new Auburn theology teaches "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3).

+++ 1. "The New Perspective (on Paul) is 'Another Gospel'" by Andy Webb (The system of salvation by Covenant Nomism that Wright advances is a different gospel.)

+++ 2. "New Approaches of Biblical Theology to Justification" by Douglas Kelly (The new perspective on Paul offers us less than the gospel of justification by grace through faith.)

+++ 3. The New Perspective on Paul: Calvin and N. T. Wright by J. V. Fesko (What makes the new perspective most harmful to the church is its use of terminology.)

+++ 4. "N.T. Wright's View of Justification: An Ecumenical Interpretation of Paul" by Sidney D. Dyer, Ph.D (The New Southern Presbyterian Review, Volume I, Number 2, Fall 2002 ed., pp. 84-92


>From #3 above:

+++ Summary and Conclusions

In our comparison and contrast of the analyses of N. T. Wright and Calvin on justification we see great divergence between the two theologians. The new perspective argues that Paul largely deals with matters of ecclesiology and sociology, how Jews and Gentiles can co-exist in the first-century church. Justification is a declaration that God, who is faithful to His covenant promises, which is a display of His righteousness, makes at the consummation of the age to vindicate His people. The Reformation, on the other hand, argues that Paul largely deals with matters of soteriology, which are intermeshed with ecclesiology and eschatology. Consequently, justification is when God declares a person as righteous based upon the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. If anything, this essay has demonstrated that justification rotates on entirely different axes for Wright and Calvin. "To put it bluntly," writes Trueman,

it seems to me that the current revision of the doctrine of justification as formulated by the advocates of the so-called New Perspective on Paul is nothing less than a fundamental repudiation not just of that Protestantism which seeks to stand within the creedal and doctrinal trajectories of the Reformation but also of virtually the entire Western tradition on justification from at least as far back as Augustine.[57]

To borrow language from the history of science, the proponents of the new perspective are beckoning us to look through their telescopes to see that the universe does not revolve around soteriology but rather ecclesiology. Are we at a nexus in church history where a Copernican revolution is underway and the advocates of the old perspective on Paul will soon wear the red faces of chagrin because they have refused to peer into the telescope and see the truth? Quiet frankly, the answer to this question is, No.

When we actually peer into the telescope of the new perspective we have found that it is not aimed at cosmos but instead a planetarium of their own making. The case for the new perspective sounds quite ominous until we see that it lacks any reference to Reformation primary sources despite their repeated mantra of distortion, and that it is built upon an incomplete canon.

So, far from a revolution, the new perspective is simply a small band of peaceful protestors burning effigies of Luther and Calvin. This does not mean, however, that the new perspective on Paul is a harmless theological movement. On the contrary, the new perspective is quite lethal to the church. What makes this school of thought lethal? Is this not overstated rhetoric? Quite simply stated, no, it is not an exaggeration.

What makes the new perspective lethal is that it is presented as a variant of evangelical theology. Yet, the proponents of the new perspective reject the very evangelical understanding of justification that goes as far back as Augustine. Not only do new perspective advocates reject the historic understanding of justification but they also reject the historic evangelical understanding of canon.[58] Yet, Dunn's commentary on Romans, for example, is included in the Word Biblical Commentary series that is supposedly "firmly committed to the authority of Scripture as divine revelation."

Rather than a firm commitment to divine revelation, the exegesis of the new perspective reflects the interpretation of mediocrity on many points. Søren Kierkegaard once observed that the "biblical interpretation of mediocrity goes on interpreting and interpreting Christ's words until it gets out of them its own spiritless meaning-and then, after having removed all difficulties, it is tranquilized, and appeals confidently to Christ's word!"[59] The same may be said of appeals to Paul. Wright confidently appeals to Romans and Galatians to make his case, but he conveniently ignores Ephesians. This, however, is not the most menacing threat.

What makes the new perspective most harmful to the church is its use of terminology. Advocates of the new perspective use terms such as Scripture, sin, justification, works, faith, and gospel, but have given them entirely different meanings. J. Gresham Machen 's words, though written some eighty years ago, still apply to this very issue. "A terrible crisis," writes Machen,

unquestionably has arisen in the Church. In the ministry of evangelical churches are to be found hosts of those who reject the gospel of Christ. By the equivocal use of traditional phrases, by the representation of differences of opinion as though they were only differences about the interpretation of the Bible, entrance into the Church was secured for those who are hostile to the very foundations of the faith.[60]

It is this use of orthodox nomenclature that makes the new perspective seemingly harmless and has some within Reformed circles thinking that Wright is no foe of the Reformation. For example, in a recent review of Wright's book What Saint Paul Really Said, George Grant states that Wright "weighs the evidence and finds that only historic biblical orthodoxy has sufficiently answered the thorny questions of the apostle's contribution to the faith.. Mr. Wright pores over the New Testament data with forensic precision to add new weight to a conservative theological interpretation."[61]

Similarly, Douglas Wilson writes that "while Wright's emphasis on corporate justification is important and necessary, the way he stresses it is a cause for concern. But in a taped lecture of his, I heard him explicitly say that he was not denying the Protestant doctrine of individual justification. Given his overall approach, this is consistent."[62] Yet, one must ask, Does Wright mean justification in the sense of imputed righteousness or as eschatological definition? If it is the former, then he is inconsistent; if it is the latter, then this is precisely the danger of which Machen speaks-orthodox nomenclature that veils liberalism.

It appears that it is the latter because Wilson calls Wright "an outstanding exegete," who "does not shy away from showing how the text conflicts with 'standard' interpretations."[63] The trained theologian or New Testament scholar will readily identify this shift in nomenclature, but the person in the pew who reads Grant's review or Wilson's general approbation may not.

Likewise, Peter Enns, professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia) recently positively reviewed two volumes of sermons by Wright. Enns writes, "I recommend these volumes without reservation to all who wish to know better the biblical Christ and bring the challenge of this Christ to those around them."[64] Yet, if Wright's views on gospel, sin, justification, and faith stand behind his preaching, then we must wonder if Wright's Jesus truly is "the biblical Christ."

The advocates of the new perspective on Paul give us no reason to abandon the old perspective. Their case lacks evidence from primary sources and has fundamental presuppositions that conflict with Scripture itself. Those who drink at the fountain of the new perspective must drink with great discernment because hiding behind orthodox nomenclature lies liberalism, and the heart of liberalism is unbelief. In the end, it looks like Qohelet was right after all-there is nothing new under the sun.

- From: The New Perspective on Paul: Calvin and N. T. Wright by J. V. FeskoWhat makes the new perspective most harmful to the church is its use of terminology.


>From #2 above:

+++ Sample Questions for Theological Examination Committees Regarding Justification and the "New Perspective on Paul"

J. Ligon Duncan, III, Ph.D., Pastor
First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Miss.

1. Do you hold to traditional covenant theology (that is, bi-covenantal, covenant of works/covenant of grace framework)? Why ask this question?: Those who hold to the "new perspective" approach to justification generally have adopted a biblical theology vs. systematic theology paradigm and will have problems with various aspects of historic covenant theology.

2. Do you hold to the classic Reformed understanding of justification? Why ask this question?: Those who hold to the "new perspective" -- if they know any historical theology at all -- have to express disagreement with numerous aspects of the Confession's doctrine of justification (imputation, the extrinsic ground of justification, faith as the alone instrument, sola fide, and more).

3. Do you believe that the Confession?s teaching on imputation is exegetically and theologically sound? Why ask this question?: See #2 above. N. T. Wright explicitly denies that "imputation" is a biblical or exegetical category. According to him it is an example of Reformational eisegesis (reading something into or onto the text). You cannot agree with Wright on this, even mildly, and at the same time affirm the Confession.

4. What is your opinion of the views of E. P. Sanders, James Dunn and N. T. Wright regarding the Pauline doctrine of justification? Why ask this question?: The answer to this question will let you know whether they have a clue about this debate, whether they know the differences between these three proponents, and whether they have sympathy for their various "insights."

5. Do you have any reservations at all regarding the Confession's assertions or emphases relating to justification by faith? Why ask this question?: See #2 above. The Confession and the new perspective(s) are antithetical at numerous points.

6. Do you believe that new discoveries regarding "Second Temple Judaism" require us to rethink the Reformers' understanding of Judaism and the Pauline Gospel? Why ask this question?: Another way of ascertaining sympathy for "re-thinking" the Reformational doctrine of sola fide and justification by grace through faith alone.

7. Is the Gospel encapsulated in Romans 1:1-4 or in Romans 1:16-17 (or 3:21-28)?

Why ask this question?: Wright argues that the Gospel is Romans 1:4 (Jesus is Lord and Messiah) not Romans 1:16-17 (justification by faith). Of course, such is a false antithesis, but his followers have imbibed it.

8. Do you believe there are errors of statement, emphasis, exegesis or theology in the Standards' treatment of justification? [Wright says that traditional Reformed, evangelical, Protestant theology has just missed Paul's point on justification.]

9. Do you believe that "justification" refers to "how you get in," "how you stay in," or "how you know that you are a member of" the covenant community? [Answer: none of the above. It refers "to an act of 'God's free grace whereby ...?" {WLC 70, WSC 33}. Wright says that justification is about "how you know you are a member of the covenant community".]

10. Do you believe that the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's righteousness, as set forth in our Standards, is exegetically and theologically sound? [N. T. Wright denies that "imputation" is a biblical concept, and says that "Christ's righteousness" is an unbiblical concept, and says that "God's righteousness," which he admits to be biblical, is God's alone and thus non-transferable, thus he thinks the traditional Reformed teaching on imputation to be an exegetical blunder and a theological category mistake spawned by a vocabulary/translation error.

11. Do you agree with Norman Shepherd, that justification is by grace alone, but received by the dual instruments of faith and works? [Faith is the sole instrument.]

12. Do you believe that we have underemphasized the relational dimensions of justification in stressing the forensic aspect? [Wright wants to move to relational categories and away from the forensic -- which is, of course, a false dichotomy -- a forensic relationship IS a relationship!!!]

13. Is justification more about how we relate to other Christians or about how we relate to God? [Wright says the former. The Bible says the latter.]

From: "New Approaches of Biblical Theology to Justification" by Douglas Kelly

What do YOU think ?

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Date: Sat, 27 Sep 2003 17:10:54 EDT
Subject: N.T. Wright's views

[FROM ED STEVENS]   I have never been comfortable recommending N.T. Wright's
books and views to fellow preterists, since he is only partial preterist, and consistently avoids revealing what his actual position is on some crucial Biblical doctrines (e.g., see if you can discover in any of his books what he really believes about the conscious or unconscious state of the afterlife of non-Christians after they die physically.   Maybe he believes in "eternal conscious punishment," but he sure doesn't make it easy to find out.   In response to Wright's "New Perspective on Paul" I would recommend listening to the Transition Period tapes that IPA produced last winter.   Only a preterist can correctly understand the relationship of Paul's gospel to the Jewish-based Kingdom of God.   Explaining the transition period from a preterist view is absolutely critical to understanding the function of Paul in the overall establishment of Christ's redemption and reign over His creation.   Because Wright is not a consistent preterist, he is not able to explain the role of Paul in the establishment of the New Heavens and Earth correctly and convincingly.

29 Sep 2003


Fun bashing on NTWright, isn't it? He's only a partial preterist, isn't he? He doesn't have a uniformed view on the after life like full preterists, right? Yeah, right. Take it easy, friends. I strongly suggest checking my site and clicking on NT Wright's "What's he saying" link: Then listen to his own words on RealAudio as taped earlier this year, especially: "God's Gospel, God's Son, God's Righteousness", at: Enjoy it ! William Cheriegate

29 Sep 2003


While it seems more than a bit over the top to say that 1,900 years of Bible commentators have ALL been wrong, it's nevertheless an absolute fact. ALL have been wrong because ALL have proclaimed merely their personal opinions about what happened in the first century and ALL have ignored the true key, namely, complete and consistent typology. ALL of the momentous spiritual fulfillments of the NT (involving people, places, events and time periods) have OT types - AND THAT INCLUDES THE FIRST CENTURY ITSELF!! If preterists could grasp the fact that a certain period of 100 years in the OT typified the true first century they'd understand, among many other things, why Christ's parousia occurred at the end of that century, rather than in AD 70.

01 Oct 2003


Typology 101: In the OT type, the natural judgment of natural Egypt occurred when natural Israel emerged safely from the Red Sea. In the NT fulfillment, the spiritual judgment of spiritual Egypt (natural Israel, see Rev. 11:8) occurred when Christ, the true Israel (see Mt. 2:15), emerged safely from the tomb. Therefore, despite centuries of contrary claims, the judgment of OT Israel occurred in the spring of AD 30 and NOT in the autumn of AD 70.

13 Oct 2003


It would be helpful to read actual arguments that engage with Wright's methodology rather than cutting straight to his conclusions. You may find yourself disagreeing with Wright's views, yet when one examines how Wright arrived to such views, it is quite another task to deny their validity. Though evangelical scholars may not have any more presuppositions than a scholar from any other background, it seems as if they have a harder time recognizing, admitting, and casting off such presuppositions if they no longer work. This is the same sort of dogma that Luther revolted against in his day, yet when a modern day Luther rises up against voices of the past and presents a case against them which they can not dispute, then it is time to move forward. A clear reading of Wright's work (and not a summary like those I have read here which are very poor) and a clear reading of Luther, Calvin, or any other modern voice on this issue will show decidedly who is right.

17 Dec 2003


You have been entirely unfair in the use of a quotation you site at the beginning of this page, namely, [58] These are not the only questionable areas in the theology of new perspective advocates. Wright, for example, does not come out and say he believes in the virgin birth of Christ but that it is a possibility and that the New Testament authors believed it: "What if we find that, very early within the movement that grew up around [Christ], there arose two independent sources claiming that he had been conceived without a human father? Faced with all of this, a belief in this God, and this Jesus, may compel us to hold open the possibility that this account of his conception might just be true" (Wright, Who Was Jesus?, p. 83). He also states, "One of the best possible answers is that [Matthew and Luke] very firmly believed it to be true" (Wright, Who Was Jesus?, p. 84). You have been unfair and unscholarly because Wright is asking hypothetical questions. Hypothetical questions should not be taken as a clear indication of what a person REALLY thinks. To start with, Wright is arguing AGAINST those scholars (of the Jesus Seminar ilk) who flatly deny the virgin birth, among other things. Wright is suggesting that perhaps these scholars are wrong, on the basis that one of the earliest stories circulating about Jesus was a virgin birth. Wright is asking, hypothetically, that if such a story existed then there must be some warrant for believing it to be true, contra those who deny it outright. If you are going to "wright-off" Wright as dangerous, lethal, incidious, heretical, at least do it with a little more integrity than has been shown thus far. The problem many of you face it seems, is that you are so narrowly schooled in your own terminology and method that when someone with a mammoth intellect like Wright appears, you cannot read him without misunderstanding because his program is so large. And just because Wright does not agree with everything the Reformers were doing/writing does not make him a heretic. His difference is not so much one of theology, but of methodology: Wright is a critical realist, not an Enlightenment rationalist. You misunderstand him because he is attempting to refute "postmodern readings of the bible" (NTPG), something which Luther and Calvin never had to contend with. Wright has done more for re-establishing the validity of the gospel in a postmodern era than anyone else I have encountered. His victories will be felt for decades.

08 Apr 2004


It might be better, if you're going to say that Wright doesn't believe in the virgin birth, to find a quote that says so, rather than taking a passage where is says that he does believe in the virgin birth... Perhaps you simply have trouble with figures of speech such as understatement.

22 Jun 2004


I believe that the many interpretations of Wright's arguments that have been presented are due to a misunderstanding of his' material. I also tend to agree with Wright when he claims that the Fathers of the Church (ex. Calvin, Luther) believed that one should use all the sources available in their interpretation of the Biblical Text (notice here that I am not advocating Strong's Commentaries, etc. but instead am refering to the many biblical and cultural manuscripts that have been recovered). One must understand that even though Luther and Calvin were extremely great theologians, they were fallible men just like us all. To critisize Wright's attempts to revision the Biblical Witness through a different approach to certain Biblical doctrines, while using all materials made available to him at this current time, seems to rob him of his right to interpret the Text. Further, to label one as a heretic is a serious thing that is often taken lightly. Heretics have always traditionaly been understood as individuals that were not saved by Christ. For anyone to claim this of Wright, or others for that matter, without presenting a strong case, as no one has done on this sight, is in fact wrong. Personally I agree with Wright concerning his "New Perspectives on Paul", and feel that the Protestant church has condemned him for his beliefs due to their inablity to accept the new. This is the same spirit of schism that haunted the Roman Catholic Church during the Reformation period. Many were blinded of the truths conveyed by Luther and Calvin due to their being wed to their ideologies. I agree with Coleridge when he says that "to begin by loving Christianity more than truth results in one loving their own denomination over Christianity." It saddens me to hear the neglect for eccumenicalism that is found within this sight. In closing, I encourage those reading to pick up Wright, challenge your theology. Whether you agree with him or not you will come out a better person. I also encourage Wright to continue with his incredible writings, for it was him that helped me return to the Faith and it was his writings that have helped give me a solid ground to build my theology upon. -- Robert Lovvorn, Oral Roberts University

19 Jan 2005


"Let us be quite clear. 'The gospel' is the announcement of Jesus' lordship, which works with power to bring people into the family of Abraham, now redefined around Jesus Christ and characterized solely by faith in him. 'Justification' is the doctrine which insists that all those who have this faith belong as full members of this family, on this basis and no other." N.T. Wright "What St. Paul Really Said" 1993, Eerdmans, pg. 133. I really cannot get my mind around what the debate is here. Jesus is Lord. If you believe this you are part of God's people under the covenant, and on this basis only. In Wright's discussion on the virgin birth, he is debating viewpoints like those of Bishop Spong, "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism", and is approaching the argument from a viewpoint that does not presuppose the truth of the virgin birth, but seeks to prove it's truth.(Presupposing the truth of a position makes one's argument circular in Wright's view, see the Introduction to "New Testament and the People of God" for his methods of study and writing). Wright's views on the Gospel and justification are either correct on incorrect. In order to show them incorrect, one cannot, with scholarly integrity, simply compare them to the creeds and confessions. I see no objection based on Biblical text evidence. Wright studies the Bible and history, not the creeds. D. Kromis, Port Richey, FL

Date: 22 Feb 2006
Time: 12:26:34


Disagreement with Calvin and Reformed theology hardely counts as heracy. I find this page uncharitable in the extreme.

Date: 12 Apr 2006
Time: 16:59:50


I think that the above concerns to NT Wright are not only unwarreted, but contextually inaccurate. He is one of the greatest biblical scholars of our day.

Date: 16 Apr 2006
Time: 18:01:19


You guys are on crack, Wright is no heretic! If anything, he is uncovering a Jewish-rooted Jesus and Paul that later Hellenism and Platonism, and even later reformed understandings (not to mention many others) masked. Heretic? You had better re-read some Paul.

And another thing, what was stated in the article above was a statement of faith, faith projected over the precipice of where we presently stand, and aiming towards a truth just beyond its reach; how can you be so sure of your conclusions? Heretic is sure strong a word for something that lacks what we would call “proof of a definitive sort.” Tone it down a bit and cease the name calling. Aren’t we are all in the same boat, all searching for a truth we know exists (truth here denoting not Christ as in Jn. 14:6, but rather correspondence with reality), yet basing our estimations on mere probabilities? All of life is in this boat, and its shows no signs of sinking. How about then searching together rather than singling oneself out as an epistemological giant, calling down fire on one who searches just sincerely, and perhaps, more so, just because there conclusions are a bit different? No one to be sure, is 100% correct on everything they believe; we lack omniscience. Some are though, I

>From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth,
>From the laziness that is content with half-truths,
>From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth
O God of Truth deliver us.
-An Ancient Prayer

Date: 21 May 2007
Time: 12:55:33


It is interesting that you should note that N.T. Wright will not affirm "justification by faith alone." James had something to say about that. He said it couldn't save anyone.

Jas 2:24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

It appears that Martin Luthers slogan was a real winner.

Date: 19 Aug 2007
Time: 05:26:25


Ga 3:11 - Show Context
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

While you argue about what and what did not happen 2006 years ago, people are going to hell. Not because they don't know about what REALLY happen in the 1st century, but because they don't know Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

Knowledge puffs up. Come down off your intellectual soapboxes and focus on what's really important - the souls of men.

Date: 31 Jan 2010
Time: 22:04:27

Your Comments:

Wright's statements regarding the Virgin Birth have been misrepresented by taking them out of context. If you read his full statements they are addressed toward skeptics who want to immediately dismiss miracles, etc., as later additions to the Gospel witness. Wright is trying to convince these folks when he says things like "may compel us to hold open the possibility" or "one of the best possible answers."

Wright unequivocally believes in the Virgin Birth -- he is simply trying to package it as a more reasonable possibility for people who are quick to dismiss such things. And being an academic by training, he sometimes takes a roundabout way to come to a conclusion.



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