I got about half way through Justification, and jumped over to The Challenge of Jesus. I got the gist of where he was headed with the first book, but also realized that that book really is a response to other theologians (primarily John Piper) response to much of Wright's earlier work. Particularly they are responding to Wright's attempt to re-frame our understanding of Paul's writing.
In a nutshell (it's a pretty big nut) Wright is claiming that much of the accepted common understanding of Paul's writing results from medieval, enlightenment and reformation overlays, rather than from what Paul was actually saying. To get to Paul's actual intent, you have to look at the culture and circumstances in which Paul was actually steeped in his day. If you do, you can see that the concept of Justification is not so much about personal salvation (Jesus died to save ME from MY sins) as it is about God saving the whole world, through Jesus who is the completion and climax of God's eternal-all-the-world-saving-plan through his chosen people.
There's a lot more to it than that, as you might imagine. Here's how Mr. Wright himself explains it.
As I see it, bottom line, is that it's another case of people setting up the either/or proposition and getting hung up on it. It seems to me like this is more of a both/and sort of deal. Jesus, Paul, and others used many kinds of pictures to explain what God is doing.
- Adoption into God's family
- Redemption from Slavery
- Declared in the right in a court of law
- Grafting onto the tree of Israel
- Spiritual circumcision
- Made into the people of God - a new chosen nation
So, I decided to leave that argument for a while, and get a fuller picture of what's been going on to lead up to it. That's where I am so far. I read in snatches, mostly in time stolen here and there. I'm waiting to get to Jesus and the Victory of God, and Surprised by Hope. I have a ways to go yet.