Friday, May 4, 2018

Tom Wright and the Search for Truth: A Theological Evaluation (Book Review)

London: Apiary Publishing, 2017, 495 pages
Reviewed by Keith Thompson

Tom Holland is a New Testament scholar and historian whose previous research on Paul and the Paschal New Exodus theology is similar in field to Wright’s scholarly endeavors (p. 7). Holland is therefore in a good position to be able to assess and critique Wright on the most pressing matters in the latter’s writings, as well as other aspects other respondents have failed to adequately treat. In this book Holland accomplishes this task thoroughly, forcefully, and also graciously. Many Christians have been troubled by Wright’s erroneous claims about justification, works of the law, the atonement, the exile, and so on.  The best one-volume antidote to these errors is Holland’s book. It addresses and corrects them one at a time very systematically. Holland is a good exegete (his ability to interpret Paul is a major strength of the book) and I find myself largely in agreement with him in most areas, including the New Exodus themes he finds in the New Testament. And his views of a multi-faceted justification (including a corporate element) are interesting and compatible with the traditional Protestant understanding of sola fide I subscribe to. As Holland confirms, “the Jews had not fulfilled the requirements of the law (and from the context this must refer to the moral demands that it made), they must believe, repent, and be forgiven in order to be justified (get right with God)” (p. 338). In his critique, Holland examines all of Wright’s work on Paul, including the massive and recent 2-volume Paul and the Faithfulness of God. The so-called “new perspective on Paul”, although refuted elsewhere, is, I think, given the final death knell from Holland. There are just too many historical and exegetical problems with it as the book shows. Holland’s chapters (chs. 2, 3, 4) on Paul’s political, theological and intellectual identity are also fascinating and make for good scholarly reading. These are other areas Wright has written on, but which do not often get challenged. But Holland leaves no stone unturned. All in all, I give Holland a hearty “amen” and recommend his book to everyone interested in Paul, Wright, salvation and what the Bible broadly teaches.

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