Hilarious Lecture on NT Wright’s Theology

If anyone is considering or reevaluation traditional Protestant soteriology, or is just interested in theology and New Testament studies, then he or she must listen to Kevin Vanhoozer’s lecture on NT Wright’s theology.   Vanhoozer is a gifted speaker (almost as much as Wright himself!).  Vanhoozer is a Calvinist (PCUSA!  Yikes!) who actually agrees with Wright’s project, but he offers (rightly, I think) some helpful corrections to Wright.

More importantly Vanhoozer realizes that while Wright does not intend to sinister(ly) reintroduce semi-Pelagian Popish errors back into the Church (he effectively clears Wright of that charge), he does admit that Wright’s own project calls for serious reworking of Calvinist theology.

For example, while the Federal Visionists and Wright himself may label themselves as Reformed Calvinists, we must also point out that Wright rejects imputation (which many consider to be even more “heart of the gospel” than justification) and Wright also rejects the Calvinist readings of Romans 9 and Ephesians 1.

Vanhoozer understands the difficulties that Wright brings to Reformed theology.   Vanhoozer realizes that imputation theology as such cannot stand careful scrutiny (he does reference a John Milbank essay where Milbank runs a blistering critique on Calvin’s theology), but Vanhoozer wonders if some form of God’s righteousness being ours is still salvageable.

Therefore, Vanhoozer presents something like locutive righteousness.  He is drawing from his previous works on “speech-act theory.”  For example, many times when one says something, one is creating a new situation (e.g., “I pronounce you man and wife”).  Therefore, when God declares us righteous, it is not a legal fiction but God is actually creating a new situation.

So will this work?  (Never mind if it is actually correct for the moment).  Will Reformed pastors rally to “locutive righteousness?”   I say they won’t for the following reasons:

  • Not only do most Reformed theologians consider the substance of their system to be the sacred gospel itself, they also consider the words that describe the system as sacred.  And if you change the words, or even suggest materially synonymous words, on their gloss one is abandoning the gospel and embracing popish error.
  • If one stood up before being licensed in the Reformed camp and said, “I don’t believe that the way imputation is described is theologically tenable, but that’s okay because I think we can get the same truth by calling it “locutive righteousness,” not only will one not get the job, but will probably be run out of the room!   Vanhoozer is in the PCUSA and they don’t have these particular problems (though Vanhoozer would likely get in trouble for believing in…traditional Christianity or something).
  • Here’s the problem with using the latest philosophical categories to explain Christian truth–especially on sensitive subjects.  While your own position might be right (and I am impressed with how Vanhoozer construed it), you have to assume that your audience is up-to-date on the latest philosophical trends, but who is sufficient for that?  I mean, I read this stuff for fun, and I read more than most, but I maybe read 5% of the current theological  scene.

Still, kudos to Vanhoozer.

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2 comments on “Hilarious Lecture on NT Wright’s Theology

  1. As I listen to this I keep wondering why God’s righteousness cannot be the Holy Spirit. If God’s righteousness is the Holy Spirit, our salvation precisely is the reception of Christ’s righteousness. And God declares us righteous precisely by pouring out His righteousness on us.

    I have difficulty saying that Christ saves us by giving us his righteousness if his righteousness is not itself (or Himself) Divine, because then we value Christ because of his righteousness, and because He gives us His righteousness, and his righteousness and our righteousness we receive from Him are then less than Christ Himself, and we, in valuing righteousness, and in seeking righteousness from Christ, seek something created, and less than Christ, and thus we ought not love Christ because he makes us righteous, but righteousness because it allows us to come to Christ, and thus righteousness itself is the mediator between God and man.

    But if Christ’s righteousness is the Holy Spirit, not a static Spirit, but an active Spirit, then salvation precisely is, and must be, reception of Christ’s righteousness as our own, and then God’s declaration that we are righteous precisely does make us righteous, because it is and contains the pouring out of the Spirit upon us.

    Moreover, it is His covenant faithfulness, because the Spirit is the Unity of the Father and the Son (at least for the West).

  2. tesla1389 says:

    I am about to do a post on imputed righteousness. You might find it interesting. Not sure I want to say at the moment that HS is God’s righteousness. Still thinking.

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