I have recently put the finishing touches on a review of Charles Lee Irons' recent publication, The Righteousness of God: A Lexical Examination of the Covenant-Faithfulness Interpretation, to be published in Bibliotheca Sacra in coming months. As a teaser, here's my conclusion:
In his book Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision (IVP Academic, 2009), N. T. Wright uses a metaphor of two friends arguing over the relation of the sun and the earth to illustrate how his approach to justification is better than the traditional view. The traditionalist points to the sunrise to say, “See, the sun revolves around the earth!” while his enlightened interlocutor points to a model of the solar system to say, “No, in reality the earth revolves around the sun.” Despite the historical weight of the traditional view of justification as a forensic declaration, Wright and others take a new position, arguing that his view of justification connected to the individual’s identification with and participation in God’s covenant community is more holistic, encompassing, and capable of dealing with all the biblical data. In response to Irons’ work, we might invoke a different metaphor to describe the current interpretive situation. Wright is an emperor who hired Cremer and others from 20th century scholarship to sew for him a new suit for his justification. Everyone around Wright applauds the garment, remarking on how wonderful it is, how it wears so well. Irons stands out as the lone voice who points out that in reality the emperor isn’t wearing anything at all. What Wright points to as a beautiful suit, Irons shows has been made from whole cloth. Irons' work deserves a very careful reading, and those who wish to argue for the covenantal view for “the righteousness of God” have their work cut out for them.