Monday, November 19, 2007

John Piper on Right Belief

I just downloaded a PDF copy of John Piper's new book The Future of Justification, his response to N. T. Wright. It's available for free download from here.

I can already tell I'm going to like it.

In the book's introduction, John Piper is talking about some of Wright's statements, and then talks about the implications, sort of whetting the appetite for the rest of the book. One part mentions one of Wright's famous statements, "We are not justified by faith by believing in justification by faith." But Piper's introductory reply to this statement also speaks to those from the Emerging Church and elsewhere who would divorce right belief from a relationship with Jesus. I particularly like what he says at the end about the one who claims a relationship with God while at the same time rejecting the Gospel which is set forth in Scripture.

Fourth, part of the implication of what Wright has said so far is that we are not justified by believing in justification by faith but by believing in Jesus: "We are not justified by faith by believing in justification by faith. We are justified by faith by believing in the gospel itself—in other words, that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead."18 This sounds right. Of course, we are not saved by doctrine. We are saved by Christ. But it is misleading, because it leaves the meaning of "believing in the gospel" undefined. Believing in the gospel for what? Prosperity? Healing? A new job? If we are going to help people believe the gospel in a saving way (not the way the demons believe, and not the way Simon the magician believed, James 2:19; Acts 8:13, 21–23), we will have to announce the good news that Christ died for them; that is, we will have to announce why this death and resurrection are good news for them.

There is more than one way to say it. Many people have been saved without hearing the language of justification. The same is true with regard to the words and realities of "regeneration" and "propitiation" and "redemption" and "reconciliation" and "forgiveness." A baby believer does not have to understand all of the glorious things that have happened to him in order to be saved. But these things do all have to happen to him. And if he comes to the settled conviction, when he hears about them, that he will not trust Christ for any one of them, there is a serious question mark over his salvation. Therefore, it is misleading to say that we are not saved by believing in justification by faith. If we hear that part of the gospel and cast ourselves on God for this divine gift, we are saved. If we hear that part of the gospel and reject it, while trying to embrace Christ on other terms, we will not be saved.

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