I’m currently reading By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification, edited by Gary Johnson and Guy Waters. The first four chapters deal extensively with the New Perspective on Paul, and special attention is given to N. T. Wright. Cornelis Venema, T. David Gordon, Richard Phillips and C. Fitzsimons Allison are all concerned to expose the fundamental problems with Wright on the question of imputation. Wright dismisses imputation and for that reason he falls outside the bounds of biblical orthodoxy. Among other things, he has argued that “the righteousness of God” refers to his covenant faithfulness in key passages such as Romans 1:17 and Romans 3:21, rather than a status imputed. He says that there is no imputation of God’s righteousness for the Christian. This contradicts both Scripture and the faithful summary thereof in our Reformed confessions (e.g. HC LD 23 & BC 22).
When it comes to justification (the heart of the gospel), Wright is a false teacher. I don’t say that cavalierly. I say that having studied Wright’s arguments and the counter-arguments. If anyone questions that conclusion, I would urge you to get this book and read it carefully.
But the authors not only critique Wright, they also present a solid case for a faithful biblical doctrine of justification that includes getting imputation correct. I like the way that Phillips expresses it:
Indeed, the glory of imputed righteousness is not merely that it overcomes the threat that I have looked upon with mortal horror, namely, the perfect righteousness of the divine Judge. The glory of this scriptural truth is not mainly that it permits me to escape this praiseworthy office of God and his glorious attributes of perfect holiness, justice, and truth. Instead, the glory of imputed righteousness is that it provides the grounds by which the Judge in his perfect justice acclaims me righteous and embraces me to his heart. Clothed in the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ I no longer fear God’s justice but I rejoice in it, for it now demands that I be entered into life with all the blessings of heaven. God “shows his righteousness” in my justification; he is “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).
Praise God for the gospel! Let us believe it and faithfully defend it.