Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Grammar of God, Part V: N.T. Wright on John Piper's Definition of God's Righteousness—Full Stop

"Fifth, there is a sense in which what Piper claims about 'God's righteousness' could be seen as going in exactly the wrong direction. He sees it as God's concern for God's own glory, which implies that God's primary concern returns, as it were, to himself. There is always of course a sense in which that is true. But the great story of Scripture, from creation and covenant right on through to the New Jerusalem, is constantly about God's overflowing, generous, creative love—God's concern, if you like, for the flourishing and well-being of everything else. Of course, this too will redound to God's glory because God, as the Creator, is glorified when creation is flourishing and able to praise him gladly and freely. And of course there are plenty of passages where God does what he does precisely not because anybody deserves it but simply 'for the sake of his own name.' But 'God's righteousness' is regularly invoked in Scripture, not when God is acting thus, but when his concern is going out to those in need, particularly to his covenant people. The tsedaqah elohim, the dikaiosyne theou, is an outward-looking characteristic of God, linked of course to the concern for God's own glory but essentially going, as it were, in the opposite direction, that of God's creative, healing, restorative love. God's concern for God's glory is precisely rescued from the appearance of divine narcissism because God, not least God as Trinity, is always giving out, pouring out, lavishing generous love on undeserving people, undeserving Israel and an undeserving world. That is the sort of God he is, and 'God's righteousness' is a way of saying, 'Yes, and God will be true to that character.' Indeed, it is because God will be true to that outward-facing generous, creative love that he must also curse those ways of life, particularly those ways of life within his covenant people, which embody and express the opposite. It isn't that God basically wants to condemn and then finds a way to rescue some from that disaster. It is that God longs to bless, to bless lavishly, and so to rescue and bless those in danger of tragedy—and therefore must curse everything that thwarts and destroys the blessing of his world and his people."

—N.T. Wright, Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision, pp. 70-71


  1. Can't go wrong with Wright! I enjoyed that excerpt especially the last couple of sentences; it is easy to forget that God is, indeed (& in deed), love.

    p.s. I ordered a copy of Hart's Flame Tree today, really loved the poem you read at the rehearsal dinner.

  2. What a terrible image on the cover of the book---a nine inch nail to drive into your hand or the hands of your intimates.

    Especially as the Gospel and Great Calling of Jesus was to love the Lord with all of ones strength, and then, on that basis, to love ones neighbour as ones self--because in Truth and Reality ones neighbour IS ones self.

    What has the image of a nail got to do with that?

    Love is a fragile flower.