Wright’s statements are baffling in several ways. One way is that the Jews of Romans 2:17-24 do indeed claim to be successful moralists. They teach morality, but do not teach themselves (v. 21). They preach against stealing, but steal (v. 21). They oppose adultery, but commit adultery (v. 22). They denounce idolatry, but commit idolatry (v. 22). They boast in the law, but dishonor the law (v. 23). And in all this, they cause the Gentiles to blaspheme God (v. 24). How Wright can use this paragraph to distinguish moral boasting from racial boasting escapes me (as does the distinction itself).
Then, there is Wright’s affirmation of Sanders’ claim that the religion of the Pharisees was not the “religion of legalistic works-righteousness,” and that the “The Jew [of Jesus’ day] keeps the law out of gratitude, as the proper response to grace.” The only explanation I can find for such amazing statements is that the testimony of Jesus is denied or obscured. It is my impression that evangelicals enamored by the NPP have not reckoned seriously enough with the fact that the origination of the NPP seems to have taken place in the halls of such denial or obscuring.
When Jesus addressed the Jewish leaders of his day (Pharisees, lawyers, elders, Sadducees, chief priests), his resounding conclusion was they do not even know God. And, not knowing God, their lived-out religion (the kind Jesus is concerned with) is not “out of gratitude,” nor is it a “proper response to grace.”
John Piper asks how NT Wright can claim to be reading the same Bible