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Shadows of Divine Things

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This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Wright on Justification in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (Introduction)

As promised, I stated that I would post my thoughts on Wright’s work titled What Saint Paul Really Said. Well, here is the first of several posts which I will periodically discuss in the upcoming days or weeks. To preempt these posts it should be stated here that many contemporary reformers who I have either heard in lectures or read their books/articles disagree with Wright’s conclusions in this work. While I have also researched those who oppose Wright, as an 'historical reformer' when I read certain contemporary reformers the trouble I always tend to run into usually ends up being anachronistic interpretations of Paul's letters.

What I mean by this is when Paul’s letters are discussed; it is usually the case, with certain contemporary reformers, that these letters are almost always interpreted in light of Luther’s contentions with Erasmus, or Augustine’s contentions with Pelagius. While those subjects are fine to research in and of themselves, my question is always, what do these contentions have to do with Paul’s epistles? Paul is clearly not writing his letters to Galatia, or Corinth, etc. to deal with these same contentions. Therefore, why would anyone force these contentions upon the text of Paul?

In this work, Wright sheds light on certain epistles of Paul which have been, for lack of better term, misinterpreted (perhaps misapplied) in recent commentary history to fit a “reformed mold,” if you will. Having read Wright's work, for the second time now (once before seminary once after), and also having heard certain popular reformed evangelical thinkers respond to it, I think Wright has been wrongly assessed by these thinkers. In this work, Wright is not denying nor rejecting the “reformed doctrine of justification,” rather he is simply declaring that Paul is not communicating this doctrine in his epistles which many contemporary reformed thinkers have concluded that he is. I believe Wright has shed some very important light on these texts that perhaps has long been overlooked; perhaps this is so due to a search for passages (proof-texting) in order to 'prove' a particular doctrine (i.e. the reformed doctrine of justification).

To this end, I will proceed to comment on Wright’s work and would appreciate your thoughts as well, especially those of you who are currently doing work on Paul’s epistles in your doctoral programs.

38 Comments:

Blogger Mr. Baggins said...

Hello, my name is Rev. Lane Keister. I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on NTW. I am a moderator of a debate page on the NPP. The URL is:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nppdebate

Whenever you post here, you could copy and paste it there. We're doing a chapter by chapter rendering of his theology, and would like to have you join us.

11:10 AM, February 22, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Erm, when you say that the idea of a transfer of righteousness is nonsense, methinks you _are_ denying the reformed doctrine.

5:15 PM, February 22, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Anon,
Well, I never said a "transfer of righteousness" is nonsense - also, a "transfer" of righteousness is not the reformed doctrine of justification - unless you have an explanation for why you think it is, do you?

5:33 PM, February 22, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Mr. Baggins,
(any relation to certain hobbits?)

;-)

I actually would enjoy participating in the discussion group you mentioned, however, I am very limited in time these days due to my current job hunt, so I am afraid I cannot at this time.

Feel free, however, to make any comments here regarding my posts on Wright - I will eventually be able to respond, and always enjoy the discussions - maybe when I land a job and get adjected I can contribute my thoughts - if you guys will let me in the future.

9:35 PM, February 22, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

baggins,
that las comment should include the word "adjusted" and not "adjected" (whatever that means)

;-)

10:26 AM, February 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You didn't get me - it's Wright who says that the idea of imputed righteousness is nonsense. He lampoons it as if the judge was sending gas across the courtroom, remember!

"Wherefore, in order to accomplish a full expiation, he made his soul to "'asham", i. e., a propitiatory victim for sin, (as the prophet says, Is. 53: 5, 10,) on which the guilt and penalty being in a manner laid, ceases to be imputed to us. The Apostle declares this more plainly when he says, that "he made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," (2 Cor. 5: 21.) For the Son of God, though spotlessly pure, took upon him the disgrace and ignominy of our iniquities, and in return clothed us with his purity."

That's a guy who knows what Reformed theology is. If the imputation of Christ's righteousness is not part of the Reformed doctrine of justification, then I guess we'd all better head up to Durham to do penance right now.

(The quote's Calvin, BTW).

Here's Hodge, A:
"The transfer is only of guilt from us to him, and of merit from him to us. He justly suffered the punishment due to our sins, and we justly receive the rewards due to his righteousness."

Hodge, C:

"this idea of imputation is one of the most familiar ideas in the Bible and is expressed in numerous instances where the word is not used."

If you think that Wright doesn't disagree with the Reformed doctrine of justification, then you need to do some more library time to find out just what that doctrine is!

4:07 PM, February 23, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Anon,

First, why don't you reveal yourself so we can all see who you are?

Second, where does Wright declare that the idea of imputed righteousness is nonsense?

You declare, "He [I'm assuming you mean Wright] lampoons it [I'm assuming you mean imputed righteousness] as if the judge was sending gas across the courtroom, remember! [I'm not sure what the "remember" refers to - ??? Unless you are an SES student, or ex-SES student who had certain classes with me - and that is what remember is - you are being quite vague here]

Third, where are you quoting Calvin - from what work? (site your references)

Lastly, why would Paul be discussing imputation in Galations? What does imputation have to do with whether an ex-pagan should be circumsized or not?

Siting from Calvin, or Hodge or any other Reformer or thinker for that matter only proves that those particular theologians held to a particular view, it does not get to the heart of what Paul is addressing.

When you declare, "If you think that Wright doesn't disagree with the Reformed doctrine of justification, then you need to do some more library time to find out just what that doctrine is!"

Remarks like that are ad hominem attacks against me - not very charitable on your part - and doesn't lend to your case at all.

7:01 PM, February 23, 2006  
Anonymous Steven Harris said...

This looks like an interesting series, thanks for doing it.

Anonymous - Wright does not deny that we are declared to be righteous in Christ. What he does deny is that we are given God's own righteousness, and he reaches this conclusion on exegetical grounds, and it needs to be refuted exegetically. There are no instances in the NT where dikaiosune theou is spoken of as being transferred to believers. God's righteousness is bound up with his role as judge and creator - this is not imputed to us. But this does not mean that we have no righteousness at all.

In Wright's system God does declare us to be righteous because we are in Christ, but this is not the same thing as saying he makes us righteous in exactly the same way that he is.

2:53 AM, February 25, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Steven,
I appreciate your comments. Also, very good point when you declare, "There are no instances in the NT where dikaiosune theou is spoken of as being transferred to believers."

This was the very thing that clinched Wright's assessment/argument for me; albeit there were other factors/things, that one was the biggest. This is also one of the things that led me to think that contemporary reformers were potentially misreading the text.

9:04 AM, February 25, 2006  
Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Mike Bird has written on this very subject recently, in an article that attempts a sympathetic bridge-building between Wright and those who are 'Wright will go to hell':

"Incorporated Righteousness: A Response to Recent Evangelical
Discussion Concerning the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness in Justification." (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47.2
[2004]: 253-75)

Really worth a read.

9:28 AM, February 25, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Todd you said...
"In this work, Wright is not denying nor rejecting the “reformed doctrine of justification,” rather he is simply declaring that Paul is not communicating this doctrine in his epistles which many contemporary reformed thinkers have concluded that he is."
Todd- I am curious if you and/or NT Wright don't think Paul is teaching or alluding to justification by faith alone in his letters, then how do we understand verses like: Gal 3:6?
Phil 3:9, 2nd Cor 5:19-21, Col 1:22, Romans 4:3 and especially 4:5 and others. Is this what you call proof-texting? It seems to me that Paul explains at least (In the plain reading) what I think is the Reformed View of Justification-

It seems to me that when you say, he is not denying or rejecting the Doctrine of Justification, but that Paul is simply not discussing it as modern reformed folk might think- You are saying it doesn't exist in the text? Am I reading you wrong?

"But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness." Who's Righteousness is it that I have had reckoned to my account?

Gage

12:16 AM, February 26, 2006  
Anonymous Steven Harris said...

Gage,

Wright doesn't deny justication by faith alone either. What he does say is that it occupies a slighlty different place in the order of salvation.

Put simply, in Jewish thought there would be a great Last Day of Judgment in which God would judge the world. He would condemn the guilty and declare the faithful to be righteous, and it would be the righteous who would inherit the world to come.

Until that day comes, those who believed they would be vindicated and declared righteous at the last day demonstrated their confidence that they would be vindicated by God by observing the works of the law. The Jews who were zealous for the law in the present were doing so out of confidence that they would be justified at the last day. Paul says however that it is not the works of the law that show that one belongs to the group of people who will inherit the world to come, but faith in Jesus Christ.

So in this system one shows oneself to belong to the people of God who will be vindicated at the last day ("justified") not by works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Your faith in Jesus Christ in the present is a sin that you be finally be saved at the last day.

In the Reformed position (although this itself is variegated) faith is something that gets you in to the covenant people, whereas Wright argues the NT teaches that faith shows that you already are in. Wright would say that what "gets you in" in the NT is a response to the preaching of the Word enabled by the Holy Spirit. Faith/faithfulness is an evidence of the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:23) and that you have believed the Gospel.

As for the rightouesness reckoned to you, in Wright's system God will simply declare you to be righteous in the end-time courtroom (as opposed to condemning you) because you belong to Christ. This is not the same thing as God giving his own righteousness to you however, and it is difficult to find this in the NT.

3:50 AM, February 26, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Gage,
Glad you have visited my blog, and revealed yourself; now the context of your comments make much more sense (I’m assuming the “remember” remark was referring to the time when you, David Piske and myself were discussing this very book at care group - ?)

Before I answer your questions (which I certainly will) . . . you never answered mine – where does Wright declare that the notion of imputed righteousness is nonsense? I really am interested to know where you read these very words from Wright.

10:02 PM, February 26, 2006  
Blogger Gage Browning said...

Todd,
I'm baffled. Todd- you are assuming wrong!
FYI...- My latest post was my first post. I have always declared myself at the end of my post. Brother, you need to direct your response to someone else- hence- I never said, "Remember" and I never said "Wright declares the notion of imputed righteousness as nonsense." Your argument in that matter is with someone else. I have and always will declare my identity. What I have said about NT Wright can be found with MY name attached.

Gage

9:27 AM, February 27, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Gage,
Ok, well then I am confusing you with the "first" anonymous commenter - my fault, I apologize.

Hmmm . . . oh well, not sure who the first anonymous commenter was then - so be it.

Well, give me some time and I'll post a response to your comments - however, several of your "verse concerns" will be discussed in upcoming posts. Once again, ignore the confusion between you and the first anonymous commenter.

10:48 AM, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Gage Browning said...

Todd,

You said on your site: “What I mean by this is when Paul’s letters are discussed; it is usually the case, with certain contemporary reformers, that these letters are almost always interpreted in light of Luther’s contentions with Erasmus, or Augustine’s contentions with Pelagius. While those subjects are fine to research in and of themselves, my question is always, what do these contentions have to do with Paul’s epistles? Paul is clearly not writing his letters to Galatia, or Corinth, etc. to deal with these same contentions. Therefore, why would anyone force these contentions upon the text of Paul?”

To summarize your quote… It seems to me that you accuse contemporary reformers of interpreting their Bible through the Reformers lens. Can’t the same accusation be leveled at the feet of Wright himself? Can he alone interpret free of the tyranny of history? Is it safe to assume that he is free from any and all prejudices? It's ironic that Wright and other champions of the NPP accuse contemporary reformed folks or that the Reformers themselves are guilty of reading into the NT a sort of prejudice based on their context and conflicts. It seems to me that Wright and other NPP advocates are possibly guilty of reading their own prejudices back into the text as well. It also seems plausible to me that it is easy to ignore the ecumenism of Wright and his NPP advocates. Wrights ecumenical motives are clear. On page (158) of What Paul Really Said, he writes,
“Paul's doctrine of justification by faith impels the churches, in their current fragmented state, into the ecumenical task. It cannot be right that the very doctrine which declares that all who believe in Jesus belong at the same table (Galatians 2) should be used as a way of saying that some, who define the doctrine of justification differently, belong at a different table. The doctrine of justification, in other words, is not merely a doctrine in which Catholic and Protestant might just be able to agree on, as a result of hard ecumenical endeavour. It is itself the ecumenical doctrine, the doctrine that rebukes all our petty and often culture-bound church groupings, and which declares that all who believe in Jesus belong together in the one family. . . . The doctrine of justification is in fact the great ecumenical doctrine….Many Christians both in the Reformation and in the counter-Reformation traditions, have done themselves and the church a great disservice by treating the doctrine of ‘justification’ as central to their debates and by supposing that it described the system by which people attained salvation….Because what matters is believing in Jesus, detailed agreement on justification itself, properly conceived, isn’t the thing which should determine Eucharistic fellowship.” Hardcore Ecumenism baby!

Reading through Wright again, it does seem to me that Wright thinks Imputation is in fact "non-sense." An anonymous blogger, (not me by the way) said Wright thought imputation was nonsense. I thought I remembered seeing that. And then you asked anon
“Second, where does Wright declare that the idea of imputed righteousness is nonsense?”

Here it is: Page 98- What Paul Really Said
"If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatsoever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom." Isn’t the phrase “It doesn’t make sense” and the phrase “nonsense” eerily similar? Would not the plain reading of “it doesn’t make sense” be summed up nicely by saying it is indeed “nonsense”?

Brother- to deny imputation is scary to me. I know there are many other issues that are fruitful to discuss, but it seems to me that the Central Issue is imputation and Wright flat denies it.

Texts on Imputation

Our sin to Christ
Is. 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, but the Lord has laid upon him, the iniquity of us all.

Christ righteousness to me
1 Cor. 1:30- It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God- that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.
Phil. 3:9- And may I be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ- the righteousness that comes FROM GOD and is by faith.

"It is entirely by the intervention of Christ's righteousness that we obtain justification before God. This is equivalent to saying that man is not just in himself, but that the righteousness of Christ is communicated to him by imputation, while he is strictly deserving of punishment."
John Calvin
Calvin’s Institutes
(3:11:23)

6:48 PM, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Gage Browning said...

Steven ,
I wrote a response to your comments, but they did not seem to take on the blog...(don't know what happened). My previous post was rather lengthy and I'll respond again in a couple of posts- mainly for time's sake.

Initially- What about imputation?

First- I am concerned with your response to me regarding "whose righteousness is it that is credited to me" in regards to Rom 4:5. I thought NPP proponets probably downplayed the doctrine of imputation. It seems that was a nice way to say it. It seems to me that the imputation of Christ' righteousness is denied altogether, and then defended by saying "it's hard to find it the NT" (I see you and Todd have both mentioned that -at least to say that it’s hard to find in the NT).

What about Acts 13:38-39, where Luke records how Paul preached the gospel in Antioch. After mentioning the resurrection, Paul said, "Therefore my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you: [notice how he equates the forgiveness of sins with the doctrine of justification:] Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses."

In Romans 4: 6-8 Paul explains what reckoned righteousness is from Scripture: “So also David pronounces a blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.’” David thought God’s “reckoning righteousness apart from works” (Rom. 4:6) as the forgiveness of sins and the covering of sins, and not “reckoning” or “counting” sins against him. It seems to me that Paul takes this definition of justification as his own. Paul does not say justification is being “in the family”, or “being in or out of the covenant” but “having sins forgiven or covered.” For Paul the main problem for all of mankind is sin not just being out of the family! Then he turns to how a person can have their sin problem dealt with. Interestingly enough, Paul makes the point that the faith being reckoned as righteousness was given to Abraham before he received circumcision and before, ironically, he ever became a part of the covenant people. (cf. Gen. 15:6).

6:52 PM, February 27, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Gage,
I'm going to answer your questions a little bit at a time (as time permits me to do so) since you have posted a great deal of information and concerns.

You declare, "To summarize your quote… It seems to me that you accuse contemporary reformers of interpreting their Bible through the Reformers lens. Can’t the same accusation be leveled at the feet of Wright himself? Can he alone interpret free of the tyranny of history?"

Essentially I narrowed down my comment to Reformers and not the whole of Church history as you seem to be implying that Wright would have to have with him as he interprets scripture. There is a big difference between the two. Your applying the whole of history to Wright as he interprets is very broad and my declaring that contemporary reformers bring certain reformer's contentions to the text is much more narrow.

Certainly Wright would say (and in fact does say) that we take our "baggage" to the text. This is, to a certain degree, inevitable. However, there is a differnece between attempting to read and interpret Paul within Paul's historical context as opposed to reading and interpreting Paul within a Reformation context.

To take Luther's contentions with Erasmus, etc. and impose that upon the text of Paul is very poorly performed hermeneutics.

Furthermore, what do you mean by the "tyranny of history?" Do you see Church history, or history in general as pajorative? Certainly you would agree that Church history is vital to our understanding of the gospel and the Word of God, would you not?

(As time permits I'll get to some of your other questions)

9:30 PM, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Gage Browning said...

Todd, You said, "This is, to a certain degree, inevitable. However, there is a differnece between attempting to read and interpret Paul within Paul's historical context as opposed to reading and interpreting Paul within a Reformation context."

I understand that...My only point was Wright is not exempt from baggage. His paraphrasing of Phil 3:9- on page 124 is an example of that.
To take an ecumenical desire of joining Protestants and Catholics together and impose that upon the text of Paul is also "very poorly performed hermeneutics". That was my point.

In Phil 3:9 the term
“righteousness” is replaced by “covenant membership”.

Wright is saying, in effect: I, though possessing covenant membership according to the flesh, did not regard that covenant membership as something to exploit; I emptied myself, sharing the death of the Messiah; wherefore God has given me the membership that really counts, in which I too will share the glory of Christ.”

On history- obviously I don't think history is pajorative. I too understand that history is vital to our understanding of the gospel. I'm just not sure Wright believes that (that is what I call the "tyrrany of history"). It seems to me he downplays the history of the doctrine of justification from Augustine to Calvin.

11:19 PM, February 27, 2006  
Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Gage, do have a read of the article I linked to above, you'll find it very helpful. If you need a pdf, ask the author - he may send you one.

5:21 AM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Gage,
you stated: "Brother- to deny imputation is scary to me. I know there are many other issues that are fruitful to discuss, but it seems to me that the Central Issue is imputation and Wright flat denies it."

Do you think imputation is the gospel?

Is an understanding and embracing of the doctrine of imputation a necessary condition for someone to become (or convert) a Christian (become "saved" so to speak).

8:04 AM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Chris,
can you provide a link here to Mike Bird's article? There is no link where you first mentioned it. I am very interested in reading it.

8:33 AM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Hi Todd,
Sorry, by link, I didn't err, mean link! I just meant reference. But ask Mike and he may send you a pdf.
All the best,
Chris
BTW, I think I know what gets hits now! Just post on Tom Wright!

8:34 AM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger Gage Browning said...

"There is more of Paul in Luther than many twentieth-century scholars are inclined to allow....Students who want to understand Paul but feel they have nothing to learn from a Martin Luther should consider rather a career in metallurgy. Exegesis is learned from the masters."

-Stephen Westerholm
Israel's Law and the Church

10:27 AM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Gage,
You did not answer my questions.

Do you think imputation is the gospel?

Is an understanding and embracing of the doctrine of imputation a necessary condition for someone to become a Christian (become "saved" so to speak)?

10:53 AM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger Gage Browning said...

Todd,
I was not ducking your question... I can only respond as my schedule permits. I gave that quote simply because I liked it. Now to answer your questions:
1) Do I think imputation is the gospel? No. The gospel is the Perfect life, death, burial and resurrection of Christ! (Period). With that said, I do believe however, that justification is the logical outcome of trusting in Christ alone. More on that in a moment.
2) Is an understandiing and embracing of the doctrine of imputation a necessary condition for someone to become a Christian? Obviously, not- hence little children and many housewives would not be saved as an example (Obviously we are not justified by our knowledge of justification alone). However, to deny imputation is to deny what is the logical outcome of trusting in Christ alone. It seems to me that Wright denies that.. do you? Wright denies imputation and relegates it to nonsense... (I have already sited that quote in a previous post...)

Imputation is key: Here's why- Christ' righteousness is the judicial ground of our acceptance with God, so that our pardon is an act of justice.... It is not mere pardon, but justification alone, that gives us peace with God (Rom 5:1).
In the classic reformational view of justification, the expressions “by faith alone” (sola fide) and “on account of Christ alone” (solo Christo) are used to affirm precisely what the doctrine of imputation affirms. We are said to be justified “by faith alone” (sola fide), not because the faith that alone justifies is an alone faith (without works), but because it is the exclusive instrument or means to receive the free gift of righteousness that is the basis for our acceptance with God.
If Christ’s life, death burial and resurrection occurred in the place of his people, then it logically follows that all that he accomplished counts as theirs, so far as God is concerned. How could Christ’s work on their behalf and for their benefit not be reckoned to their account, if indeed it is just as though they had performed it! When believers become united to Christ through faith, they come to participate in all the benefits of his saving work. Faith is the “empty hand” by which believers acknowledge and receive all that Christ has accomplished for them.

1:28 PM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger Gage Browning said...

Chris,
I don't know how to get that article. I would like to read it. Any thoughts on that...?

I would also encourage the reading of "Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul" by Guy Prentiss Waters- Waters was a former doctoral student of EP Sanders. It has been a big help to me in understanding NPP and the evolution of the number of variances between the NPP and Reformed thought.

1:33 PM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger Gage Browning said...

“Q. How are you righteous before God? A. Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; that is, though my conscience accuse me that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God and kept none of them, and am still inclined to all evil, yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never had nor committed any sin, and myself had accomplished all the obedience which Christ has rendered for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.”
(Heidelberg Catechism, Q. & A. 60)

Jonathan Edwards on Imputation-
http://www.apuritansmind.com/Justification/EdwardsJonathanJustification.htm

"And by that righteousness being imputed to us, is meant no other than this, that the righteousness of Christ is accepted for us, and admitted instead of that perfect inherent righteousness which ought to be in ourselves. Christ’s perfect obedience shall be reckoned to our account, so that we shall have the benefit of it, as though we had performed it ourselves. And so we suppose that a title to eternal life is given us as the reward of this righteousness. The Scripture uses the word impute in this sense, viz. for reckoning anything belonging to any person, to another person’s account: As Phm. 18, "If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account."

"The opposers of this doctrine suppose that there is an absurdity in supposing that God imputes Christ’s obedience to us. It is to suppose that God is mistaken, and thinks that we performed that obedience which Christ performed. But why cannot that righteousness be reckoned to our account, and be accepted for us, without any such absurdity? Why is there any more absurdity in it, than in a merchant’s transferring debt or credit from one man’s account to another, when one man pays a price for another, so that it shall be accepted as if that other had paid it? Why is there any more absurdity in supposing that Christ’s obedience is imputed to us, than that his satisfaction is imputed? If Christ has suffered the penalty of the law in our stead, then it will follow, that his suffering that penalty is imputed to us, that is, accepted for us, and in our stead, and is reckoned to our account, as though we had suffered it. But why may not his obeying the law of God be as rationally reckoned to our account, as his suffering the penalty of the law? Why may not a price to bring into debt, be as rationally transferred from one person’s account to another, as a price to pay a debt? Having thus explained what we mean by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness."

"It is absolutely necessary, that in order to a sinner’s being justified, the righteousness of some other should be reckoned to his account. For it is declared that the person justified is looked upon as (in himself) ungodly, but God neither will nor can justify a person without a righteousness."

1:49 PM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Gage you state/answer: “Is an understanding and embracing of the doctrine of imputation a necessary condition for someone to become a Christian? Obviously, not- hence little children and many housewives would not be saved as an example (Obviously we are not justified by our knowledge of justification alone). However, to deny imputation is to deny what is the logical outcome of trusting in Christ alone.”

I agree with your answer here, Gage. The gospel is certainly not the doctrine of imputation, imputation is merely the result (or effect) perhaps of someone hearing the gospel message (the proclamation of Jesus as Lord). However, whenever you continue on and declare “to deny imputation is to deny what is the logical outcome of trusting in Christ alone” I must say that by a person’s doing so all they are “denying” is the effect of the gospel, not the gospel itself. For someone to think that by denying imputation one should doubt or question whether they are truly a Christian seems to confuse the effect of hearing and responding to the gospel with the gospel itself.

While I myself do not deny imputation as a possible result of the hearing and embracing of the gospel, I am not of the opinion that anyone who rejects the doctrine of imputation is denying the gospel message and thus has “forfeited” their salvation. I understand, especially knowing you and your family as well as I do, why this might disturb or disrupt your reformed theology/thinking.

Keep in mind, that I am not rejecting imputation (but you will probably think I am by virtue of me suggesting that Wright may in fact be correct). I have spent the last 6 or 7 years trying to find that very language in Paul’s epistles presented in the fashion which contemporary reformed theologians have declared that it is in the texts of Paul. Moreover, after over ten years of studying Luther’s theology I have concluded that he came to the conclusions he did, within his reading of Paul’s epistles, based upon his own circumstances and contentions with the Roman Catholic Church, and not necessarily based on the historical context of Paul. Since Luther, reformers (especially those in the last 50 years) it seems have done the same thing.

I see this occur with newly converted reformers (i.e. Calvinists) . . . they go to the Bible and look for texts that support their newly found views of Calvin, etc. So there is much more going on here than just a mere reading of N.T. Wright (which I will actually post in my upcoming article titled “after thoughts”). Anyway, I will do my best to answer all your questions/objections that you have posted here but there is a lot, so you might want to call me so we can talk about this on the phone – otherwise, I’ll trickle out answers as I can here.

2:23 PM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger Gage Browning said...

Todd, you said, "However, whenever you continue on and declare “to deny imputation is to deny what is the logical outcome of trusting in Christ alone” I must say that by a person’s doing so all they are “denying” is the effect of the gospel, not the gospel itself.

"All they are denying?" I tremble at the thought of denying the outcome of saving faith... which is the imputed righteousness of Christ!

You go on to say "For someone to think that by denying imputation one should doubt or question whether they are truly a Christian seems to confuse the effect of hearing and responding to the gospel with the gospel itself." That's a straw man Todd- I never said that. I didn't say "if one deny's imputation then one should doubt or question whether they are truly a Christian. (Although if one denies that he has had the meritorious works of Christ credited to them, what will he claim before God?)
My fear is this: To you deny imputation which Wright does- is to denegrate the effect of actually believing in the gospel (which is having the imputed righteousness of Christ credited to my account.)

You also said.."Keep in mind, that I am not rejecting imputation (but you will probably think I am by virtue of me suggesting that Wright may in fact be correct)." -Todd if you agree with Wright on imputation you do deny imputation! (He denies imputation)

You also said...
"Moreover, after over ten years of studying Luther’s theology I have concluded that he came to the conclusions he did, within his reading of Paul’s epistles, based upon his own circumstances and contentions with the Roman Catholic Church, and not necessarily based on the historical context of Paul. Since Luther, reformers (especially those in the last 50 years) it seems have done the same thing."

That is interesting to me Todd. Would you also characterize Luther's conclusions about the depravity of man in "Bondage of the Will" to be merely a product of his conflict with Rome rather than a correct understanding of Romans 1,2 and 3? Do you honestly relegate Luther to one who didn't understand the historical context?

If I did the same thing with Wright- many would jump to his defense. If I did the same thing with Wright I could say, "He's only concerned with being ecumenical so much so that he denies imputation, and only exegetes the epistles through his ecumenical eyes." I could say, "His ecumenical leanings are effecting his view of the epistles." It's easy to question someone's exegesis by saying they just didn't understand the historical context or are effected by their own historical biases!

Concluding.. and I'm sure I hear the Amen's on that...(:

I understand that I have probably worn out my welcome. I will post no more musings (or at least sparingly) and will observe from afar. I'm sure I have taken plenty of bandwidth here... My apologies for (lengthy-ness)


Godspeed

3:12 PM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

You go on to say "For someone to think that by denying imputation one should doubt or question whether they are truly a Christian seems to confuse the effect of hearing and responding to the gospel with the gospel itself." That's a straw man Todd- I never said that. I didn't say "if one deny's imputation then one should doubt or question whether they are truly a Christian. (Although if one denies that he has had the meritorious works of Christ credited to them, what will he claim before God?)

Gage, as to the above - I never said that you said that - I am coming to those conclusions on my own based upon my thought regarding the issues themselves. Just to get that clarified. The last part of your comment simply sparked my thought regarding that issue.

You declare: "Although if one denies that he has had the meritorious works of Christ credited to them, what will he claim before God?"

As to that comment I would respond that one who has heard the gospel, believed and embraced it can now be assured that they are a part of the Kingdom of God.

Wright would claim (to your above comment) that God is actually the one who makes the proclamation in the eschaton (and the here and now) who belongs to Christ and His Kingdom (just to give you his answer). Moreover, in Wright's thought on these issues we do not earn our salvation by anything we do (i.e. works), contrary to what Guy Prentiss Waters has mistakenly declared in his response to NPP.

Also, Brother, you have not worn out your welcome here at all. I appreciate your comments and thoughts, so feel free to continue with them, just keep in mind that I can only answer when I have the time.

N.B. since Guy Prentiss Waters book has been mentioned, and I do recommend anyone who is interested should read it, let me provide a link to a fairly thorough review of Waters's work here . . . http://www.rabbisaul.com/watersreview.htm

3:36 PM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Gage declares: "If I did the same thing with Wright- many would jump to his defense. If I did the same thing with Wright I could say, "He's only concerned with being ecumenical so much so that he denies imputation, and only exegetes the epistles through his ecumenical eyes." I could say, "His ecumenical leanings are effecting his view of the epistles." It's easy to question someone's exegesis by saying they just didn't understand the historical context or are effected by their own historical biases!"

You are correct about that Gage, and I agree with you. However, the question remains, whether it is Wright or Luther coming to the text of Paul one of them must be correct or they are both wrong. That is essentially what it boils down to.

You also declare, "That is interesting to me Todd. Would you also characterize Luther's conclusions about the depravity of man in "Bondage of the Will" to be merely a product of his conflict with Rome rather than a correct understanding of Romans 1,2 and 3? Do you honestly relegate Luther to one who didn't understand the historical context?"

Actually that was his conflict with Erasmus (who was not necessarily representing Rome per se), but yes, if Luther is "using" the texts of Paul to prove his point to Erasmus and not to understand the historical context in which Paul wrote his letters, then Luther is practicing improper hermeneutics, and thus runs into problems.

4:25 PM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

For anyone interested . . . Here is a link to Mike Bird's article that Chris Tilling mentioned above:

http://www.etsjets.org/jets/journal/47/47-2/47-2-pp253-275_JETS.pdf

5:53 PM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Hey, online! Great!

6:17 PM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger Chris Tilling said...

BTW, this is the 35th comment on this post. That's gotta be some kinda record for the likes of us, isn't it?!

6:18 PM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger Chris Tilling said...

36.
OK, I'll shut up and leave.

6:18 PM, February 28, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Well Chris, let's go for broke! Comment number 37!

8-)

7:47 PM, February 28, 2006  
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4:05 AM, February 15, 2008  

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