A critique of the James Bejon critique of The Day the Revolution Began
James Bejon in his Academia paper, “A Critical Review of Tom Wright’s Revolution” makes four criticisms of Tom Wright’s, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of the Crucifixion.
He cites Tom Wright’s comments that evangelicals see “‘sin’ as the breaking of arbitrary commandments and [of] ‘death’ as the...penalty inflicted by an unblinking divine Justice on all who fail to toe the line” (A Critical Review, 2).
James Bejon acknowledges that Tom Wright’s caricatures are a rhetorical device—but I think Tom Wright’s rhetoric is not without foundation when it comes to some Western Reformed teaching.
For example, Brandon Crowe (associate professor of NT at Westminster Theological Seminary) states, “full obedience” was required of Adam”; —or as the Westminster Catechism states, God required of Adam “personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience.” Thus Crowe (and much Western theology) sees that the lack of such in Eden was our undoing—and therefore argues that “full obedience” is required for our salvation.
From this comes the concept of Imputed Active Obedience, vigorously defended by Brandon Crowe: “Jesus’s incarnate works form an essential part of our salvation.” In this system, which Tom Wright describes (and repudiates) as a “works contract” (The Day the Revolution, 75–77, 224, 240), the gospel is about diverting God’s anger for our failure to be totally obedient to every command.
Tom Wright also points to the danger of falling into the trap of portraying God as an “angry despot” (The Day the Revolution, 43). Thus, James Bejon does not help his argument by conflating the concept that Jesus stood in our place and diverted God’s wrath, with the concept that “God punished Jesus” —articulating the latter (A Critical Review, 3). I do not think they are the same thing, nor does David Instone-Brewer, or John Stott.