N. T. Wright's response to John Piper's critique (The Future of Justification) is his most thorough book on Paul yet. It is, in many ways, a masterful unpacking of Paul's thought. Wright shows how Paul's theology of justification is grounded in God's covenant with Abraham and plan to bring redemption to the world through Israel, and ultimately through Jesus. He explores how justification is informed by Jewish law-court imagery, eschatology, and Christology. Wright's unpacking of the narrative substructure to Paul's thought is, at times, brilliant. And after reading this book, I think that Wright and Piper are actually much closer in their thinking than either one of them may think.
However, confusion and misunderstanding continues, and this due not least of all, to Wright himself. It's unfortunate that he sometimes caricatures positions that he rejects out of hand and misconstrues the thought and theology of his opponents. (Can anyone who knows John Piper seriously believe that there is no place for the Holy Spirit in his theology?!) Wright's reasons for rejecting imputation are not fully convincing. I still suspect that he takes some wrong steps in his exegesis at some crucial points. And his articulation of how justification by faith in the present relates to future judgment according to works is still a little fuzzy and subject to misunderstanding.
With that said, I think Wright's unpacking of the believer's union with Christ comes fairly close to achieving what imputation achieves for Piper and traditional Reformed theology. Not all his critics agree, but Wright should at least be carefully read and listened to before stones are cast.
I've heard Don Carson say before that Wright's problem is in backgrounding what should be in the foreground and foregrounding what should be in the background. I think I understand that critique. But after reading both Wright and Piper (and Waters, and Westerholm, and Carson, and Moo!) I am wanting to see a synthesis of the different insights and strengths these pastors and scholars bring to the table.
I recommend this book to those who are following the conversation on the New Perspective on Paul. If you've read Piper, definitely read Wright. But in my opinion, it would be better to read neither than to read only one side of the argument. 3 1/2 stars.