From the Bishop of Durham
Sir, — I was surprised and delighted to be “outed” as a dangerous radical in the review of John Piper’s new book about my views on justification (Books, 9 May). Since Piper’s views are becoming widespread, I shall soon have to reply properly, but perhaps I could just say three things to be going on with.
First, the key question is not about atonement, on which Piper and I broadly agree, but the meaning of “righteousness” in Paul, and how it applies both to God and to Christians. This has been a tricky issue for centuries, with many subtly different positions being taken. Nothing is gained by false polarisations.
Second, unlike some critics, Piper has been gracious and courteous to me personally. He doesn’t think, as the reviewer suggests, that my views put my salvation in jeopardy (unlike one American website, which informs me that I am not only a heretic but a heresiarch and that I will “forever burn under God’s wrath” if I don’t change my views).
Third, from my point of view, one of the key things at stake is the good Reformation principle of scripture as against tradition. What counts for me is what Paul actually wrote, not what the 17th-century confessions took him to mean.
Bishop Auckland DL14 7NR