Douglas Moo Reviews NT Wright’s “Paul and the Faithfulness of God”

Douglas Moo, Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies at Wheaton College, has already done a review of N.T. Wright’s highly anticipated Paul and the Faithfulness of God, two-book fourth volume in Wright’s Christian Origins and the Question of God.

Professor Moo begins his review,

“Reviewing N. T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God is like trying to get a handle on the U.S. tax code. In 1,513 pages (like Luke-Acts, split into two volumes), Wright not only outlines his distinctive vision of Paul’s theology (chs. 9-11); he also describes the worldview that generates that theology (chs. 6-8) and, in keeping with his view of theology as historically rooted, sets it in first-century context. After an introductory chapter, therefore, Wright offers a rather lengthy description of Paul’s first-century context (four chapters on Judaism, Greek philosophy, Greco-Roman religion and culture, and Roman imperial ideology, respectively). In chiastic fashion, Wright then toward the end of the book returns to assess the way in which Paul’s theologizing addresses these first-century realities. The result is a “Pauline theology” unlike any we’ve seen before—and a long, complex, at times repetitive book that’s extraordinarily difficult to review. (What possessed me to agree to do this? I asked myself more than once!) Moo’s full review here

At some point I will like to add Paul and the Faithfulness of God to my never-ending Wright collection, not to mention his magisterial series Christian Origins and the Question of God.

But since I’m a sucker for Pauline theology, I have no choice but to add this new work–making it a great Christmas gift.

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12 Responses to Douglas Moo Reviews NT Wright’s “Paul and the Faithfulness of God”

  1. Jon Hughes says:

    I’m with you, TC, and will be purchasing it on my Kindle (nice large print!) as soon as it is available. I know a brother who listened to Wright give an interview on Premier Christian Radio on Saturday, where he spoke of his forthcoming book. This brother immediately phoned me to tell me that Wright’s not saved as far as he is concerned. It’s fair to say that a respectful but heated conversation resulted! Unfortunately, these are the circles in which I mix.

    I love Tom Wright. He’s refreshing and brilliant.

    God bless.

    • TC says:

      Jon, it’s time for we to agree with the likes of Wright. It’s unfortunate that the brother in the Lord thinks that way. We may disagree with Wright on points, but he is hardly a heretic or the like. In fact, Wright is one of the leading defenders of the historic Christian gospels alive today.

      • Jon Hughes says:

        Exactly. Even Dr. Will Varner (Pastor of Sojourners Fellowship, Grace Community Church) has acknowledged as much. He’s a huge N.T. Wright fan. And yet, his colleague Phil Johnson has pronounced Wright under the curse of Galatians 1:8 – charming fellow that he is.

        Old habits die hard.

        Here’s an amusing truism concerning any new theory, which may indeed end up being the case with N.P.P. as well:

        1) It is attacked as absurd.

        2) Then it is admitted to be true, but obvious and insignificant.

        3) Finally, it is seen to be so important that its adversaries claim that they themselves discovered it.

  2. Scott Lencke says:

    TC –

    What I find disturbing is how people keep over-reacting to the nuance of the 2 phrases “according to” and “on the basis of” with regards to the role of works in future justification. Not so much Moo, though he mentions it, but I think this is what many reformed and reformed Baptists do, such as Denny Burk in his recent post. Here were my thoughts on both Denny’s and TGC’s posts:

    I think Tom Wright has done well to point out more than anything that people are “getting their knickers in a twist” (a good British expression) over two phrases that actually could be, and probably are, communicating the exact same thing. Those 2 phrases are: “according to” and “on the basis of”. He has spent much time clarifying what he means and how these 2 phrases are simply a way to talk about the issue of future justification in Paul.

    Not to mention that, in creating our systematic theologies (which aren’t terribly bad, but can cause problems when dealing with actual wording of Scripture passages), we forget about faithfully dealing with the detailed wording of passages like Rom 2:5-16; Gal 5:5-6 or even Jesus’ words in the parable of the sheep & goats in Matt 25: Come to the kingdom prepared for youwhy?For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.

    I think Wright does well to show how present & future justification connect strongly. Who inherits the kingdom? The community of people who lived in accordance with the kingdom, all because their lives were transformed after seeing the kingdom through new birth.

  3. Scott Lencke says:

    Also, just as a small side note: Paul and the Faithfulness of God is book 4 of 6 in that greater series, Christian Origins and the Question of God.

  4. Colin says:

    This one is on my Amazon wishlist, though I doubt it will appear at Christmas – a bit too pricey with a largish family! In anticipation I had started re-reading his other 4 directly tomes, in published order, with the intention of better grasping the flow of his emerging opinions. And Piper’s “Future of justification” is my effective Volume 3. To be honest most of the opposition I havecome across to Wright and his views has seemed largely nit picking over details rather than on core essentials. To call him a heretic looks like slipping into Reformation era name calling – anyone slightly different to be burned at the stake.

    Incidentally I do recommend the Grove booklet B26 New Perspective on Paul by Michael Thompson. A good very basic introduction.

  5. TC says:

    Jon: Phil Johnson is bred from the same stock of the elder John MacArthur. Phil often spurs MacArthur on in these controversies. Nice amusing truism, but too much objections on record for objectors to take credit. 🙂

    Scott: Regarding “future justification,” I believe Romans 2 nailed it for me a long time ago. Yes, even a Douglas Moo holds this position in his fine NICNT commentary on “Romans.” Besides, Wright’s position on future justification is quite Christocentric.

    If Burk is the best reformed Baptists have to offer, then we are of all evangelicals most to be pitied.

    What are the other two volumes in the Christian Origins and the Question of God series going to be on?

    Colin: Piper’s work is quite admirable but not nuanced enough. I believe it failed to deliver. An admirable critique of Wright that fell short.

    Yes, enough heretic-hunting.

    • Jon Hughes says:


      These guys might just pull off the third point after all. They’ve already managed to say that “all” doesn’t mean all, and “world” doesn’t mean world, elsewhere. They can get around anything 🙂

      • Jon Hughes says:

        As for Wright’s remaining two volumes, I believe the next one will be on the Gospels, and the final one a general summing up.

      • TC says:

        It wouldn’t surprise me. 😀

        I can see a work on the Gospel, but an entire volume summing up all his work? I don’t know. May be a bit too redundant.

  6. Scott Lencke says:

    TC –

    The four books in the Christian Origins and the Question of God series can be seen here:

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