21 June 2006

Back again

by Phil Johnson

I'm back from my weekend trip. We got back early Monday, but I have been too busy to read the blog, much less make a post explaining where I was over the weekend. Sorry to have been so mysterious.

Darlene and I were in Florida. My best friend for almost 35 years is Steve Kreloff, who is celebrating his 25th anniversary as senior pastor of Lakeside Community Chapel in Clearwater. (Incidentally, Steve is now podcasting. I'll add a permanent link in the sidebar when I get a minute.) The Lakeside elders graciously asked me to come and preach as part of Steve's anniversary celebration. My coming was supposed to be a surprise. Steve figured it out anyway. It was still a great day, capped by a long reel of bloopers and comic moments from Steve's preaching career.

Anyway, now I'm back, with an even more hectic week on deck. The illustrious Pecadillo will graduate from the LAPD Academy Friday morning, and hordes of relatives are coming to town for the event. So don't expect me to be very prolific this week.

However, James Spurgeon reminded me today that I began a series on 2 Corinthians 5:21 several weeks ago, and the "series" seems to have stalled right out of the gate.

To tell the truth, I almost forgot I started that. Let's get back to it:



Why put so much weight on the doctrine of justification?

In a post last month, I argued that justification by faith is the marrow of the gospel message. The apostle Paul said something similar in 2 Corinthians 5:21—where he gives a simple, succinct statement of the essence of evangelical truth, with the principles of substitution, imputation, and propitiation all printed in bold type and highlighted.

In other words, justification by faith is no optional second- or third-tier truth. On the contrary, I'd put it at the head of any list of fundamental, non-negotiable doctrines.

Why give such prominence to this one doctrine? After all, there are many other, more widely-agreed-upon doctrines that are absolutely essential to true Christianity. The deity of Christ, His incarnation, His bodily resurrection, and the promise of the second coming—all of those are explicitly named in Scripture as nonnegotiables—essential to true Christianity and essential to authentic faith. Not to mention all the key doctrines of Trinitarianism. Deny any of those and you have in effect departed from the Christian faith. Or the doctrines of the inspiration and authority of Scripture. Abandon your confidence in Scripture, and you have opened the door for every other kind of error.

So why put justification by faith at the head of a list like that?

Justification by faith is unique, I believe, precisely because it distills the pure essence of everything else that is fundamental to and distinctive about Christianity.

Here's what I mean: A person can affirm the deity of Christ, give lip service to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, be very sound in all the basic points of Trinitarian doctrine—and still come under the curse of Galatians 1:8-9 because he preaches a different gospel.

Someone could also affirm the virgin birth of Christ, have a solid grasp on the incarnation, believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ, and yet be one of those described in Romans 4:4 and Romans 9:32 and Romans 10:3 who—rather than trusting in Christ alone for justification—are seeking to establish a righteousness of their own by works.

In other words, you can be basically sound on Christology or theology proper and unsound on the gospel. If so, believing the wrong gospel will damn you without remedy, regardless of how well-tuned your Trinitarianism is.

The converse is pretty hard to imagine. I've never met anyone who had a sound belief about justification by faith but who was unsound on Christology or Trinitarian doctrine.

After all, if you affirm the principle of imputed righteousness, then you are almost certainly going to affirm the deity of Christ. Because the imputation of righteousness requires a perfect Substitute, with perfect righteousness—as perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. The only Substitute who qualifies is a Christ who is also God. So the necessity of Christ's deity is practically built right into a sound understanding of justification by faith.

I realize there are probably exceptions to that rule, but it is a plain fact that every major denomination and creed that affirms sola fide also affirms the deity of Christ and all the other doctrines generally referred to as "fundamental."

That's because all the fundamental doctrines of Christianity—the incarnation, substitutionary atonement, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the truth of a Trinitarian Godhead, the doctrine of original sin and the fallenness of all humanity, the freedom of divine grace, and the authority of Scripture—are all linked in one way or another so that the better you understand this doctrine of justification by faith, the more sound you will be in all of your theology.

That's why if you were to ask me to name the one principle in all of theology that is most vital; the one doctrine that carries the most weight; the one conviction to hold most tightly; the one precept most important to handle with care and most vital to proclaim accurately; the one article of faith you need to master well—it would not be a difficult choice. It's the doctrine of justification by faith—the Reformation principle of sola fide. This one doctrine encompasses the heart and soul of everything that is essential to Christianity, everything that is fundamental to our faith.

The doctrine of justification by faith is the very life and nerve of the gospel itself.

That is, I believe, one of the inescapable implications of 2 Corinthians 5:21.

We'll look more closely at the text itself in some upcoming posts. Hang on; this series is far from over.

Phil's signature

99 comments:

Carla said...

Welcome back Phil. I look forward to more of this series.

SDG...

Even So... said...

Oh well, I'm still awake, and I might as well say it before someone else does:

Luther said that sola fide is the article upon which the Church stands or falls.

I agree.

Jeremy Weaver said...

I was going to ask if you would continue the series on tyour next post...Now I don't have to!

Luther said that were the Word is preached and the sacraments are rightly administered is where the ture Church is. Or somehting like that.

Would you disagree with him and say that where justification by faith alone is preached is where the true church is?

Mathew Sims said...

Phil
Great post. I have recently interacted with those who would argue that we as in conservative evangelicals are lifting proper theology over a "relationship with Jesus" (i.e., placing your trust in Him).

My response would be there is a difference between a new convert not knowing doctrine and being teachable when errors come up and someone who purposes to be a teacher and is spouting off error as truth.

What say everyone else? How would you respond?

Mathew Sims
Soli Deo Gloria

SFB said...

Brother Sims, I agree with you. There is something to be said for a new convert who only knows 'he was blind and now can see'; there is nothing to be said, except repent ye and believe the Gospel, to a man or woman who perverts the ways of God, knowing that we who teach are under a heavier responsibility. Remember, this "relationship over doctrine" business is what drives semi-pelagian doctrine today and is the fuel for the false and damnable ecumenical movement toward Rome.

Phil, you are correct in your assessment of the 'pride of place' that must be given to the holy doctrine of justification by faith alone. I would offer this thought: trusting in any other doctrine's correctness while denying sola fide is in fact itself a religion of works-based justification, no matter who the savior is that they confess.

TheBlueRaja said...

Is justification and imputation the same thing?

Jeremy Weaver said...

Blue,
No...but you can't have one without the other.

Mike Y said...

Phil,

First, welcome back.

I welcome this continuation and as many articles as you care to publish on the subject. I'm in full agreement with you that I find a misunderstanding of this subject leads to errors elsewhere, even if things seem straight on the surface. And I too find the converse to be opposite.

I cannot tell you how many are now turning to reformed writers, out of the IFBx movement. Yet many are still inclined to believe they're saved by their own faith as opposed to the imparted faith of Eph 2:8. The end result is they still have a work-salvation mentality and their understanding of imputed sin and imputed righteousness wane.

And Matthew Sims, I agree with you. I would expect teachers to follow the aorist imperative in 2Tim 2:15 that they might not be ashamed. I wouldn't expect a novice to do this. They're to be equipped by those over them.

Just my biased opinion.

-Mike

TheBlueRaja said...

I agree, Jeremy, and I think that justification, that is, being acquitted of sin and made right with God, must be at the core of what the Gospel is. I also agree that nothing but sheer self-renouncing trust in the saving love of Jesus is our only salvation.

It seems as though this post, though, is saying that imputation is really the nerve center of the Gospel. I believe that our righteousness is found in our union Christ and that we've escaped judgment because our sins have fallen upon Him; but I'm just wondering if one can believe in Christ as our substitution for sin, reject salvation-by-works, and recieve Christ in faith and still believe that the word "imputation" isn't the best way to describe the transaction. Here's an example.

Jim Crigler said...

If James can remind you about a recent thread start, may I remind you about an old one? There was the one on personal revelation (or some such, the archive links only go back as far as January) that got derailed into the cessation/continuation debate. My real interest was the original subject, especially the hinted material on Blackaby and Gothard.

Jim Crigler said...

Can we consider justification by faith the "glue" that holds the rest together? Or is it all really just one thing? Or are they distinct but inseparable (a categorization RC Sproul uses, though I'm not sure he does it on this particular subject)?

Jeremy Weaver said...

Blue,
I don't think Phil equates justification to imputation in this article.

But In response to your comment I'll tell you what I think:

Imputation is the grounds of our justification. In other words, God is not a liar.
God cannot and will not declare anyone to be just or righteous if it is not true. So there must be a real imputation of Christ's righteousness coupled with the imputation of our sins to Christ before a declaration of 'Justified' can be made.

I'm at work so I don't have time to go to the link you provided, but will do so later.

TheBlueRaja said...

Fair enough. Thanks, Jeremy.

SolaMeanie said...

Good stuff, as usual.

As one who grew up in the non-instrumental church of Christ (their way of spelling it), I am very familiar with a list of orthodoxies ruined by a dogged insistance on including a work within salvation i.e. baptismal regeneration. It's very sad. This is a good reminder of what the Lord Jesus has really done for those who trust in Him completely for their salvation apart from works.

Broken Messenger said...

Phil,

Would you disagree with him and say that where justification by faith alone is preached is where the true church is?

Great post, very encouraging. Jeremy's question is one that left my ears burning too and I wouldn't mind hearing your thoughts on it as well as knowing what a picture of this would look like and what groups you would be concerned over. Thanks.

Brad

donsands said...

Looking forward to this upcoming study.

By faith alone. Amen and Amen! Satan sure does abuse and distort this doctrine though.

I love what James says to the Church as well: "I will show you my faith by my works."

philness said...

Can we establish here just what good works are? Is walking old ladies across the street a good work? How about studying Gods word? What about praying? Studying and praying requires labor. At least for me it does. And what about praising God? Its work to keep from slapping the person next to me in the pew who is singing proudly and loudly out of tune. Its work and laborious to keep from sinning- Is that a good work? How about sharing the Gospel? What about loving our neighbors? Taking a bath more than once a week-is this a good work?

Preachers can pretty much guaranteed themselves they posses good works but what about us lay folk. What would constitute a good work for us? Going to church? Keeping our yard looking good? Sharing our power tools with the mormons across the street?

If "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" Heb.11:1, then how do we reckon this verse with what James says about showing our works. I would like to show my works, but what exactly are they? And if I do show them will this nullify the existance of my faith seeing that my faith is based on things unseen? (Or will showing my works cause me to be puffy? I have enough sin to worry about then have to fight yet another battle like that). Hmm...upon reading this back to myself it kinda reminded me of Andy Rooney.

Mike Y said...

philness,

First of all, keep up the slapping. After meeting the woman who would soon become my wife, I enlisted in the choir to be near her. She got out the next week and I was stuck there for 5 years lip syncing away. Though nothing came out of my mouth, it was hard work-- especially when I was told to "project".

Anyway, my definition of good works would be "consistently living in obedience to the word of God". I'd like to emphasize the consistent part and the obedience part.

As the children of God, we're free from the bondage of sin and free to obey God's word.

-Mike

Jeremy Weaver said...

Philness,
The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, and gentleness. Whatever works come from these are good works.

Blue,
I'll read the article tonight after prayer meeting.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Blue,
I think this quote by Michael Bird sums up his position pretty well;
"Through faith, believers are incorporated or identified with the risen and justified Messiah, and they are justified by virtue of their participation in him."

I have one problem with this. Where does the New Testament speak of Christ being justified? Vindicated? Yes. Justified? No.

In my opinion, 'impute' in Paul's writings does in fact mean 'to reckon', or 'to credit to one's account'.
As far as incorporation or identification with Christ goes, I can buy that. In fact, most everyone who reads here would not have anything to say against union with Christ being the grounds of justification. But imputation is the vehicle of our union.
"One has died for all, therefore all have died." 2 Cor 5:14
In what way can it be said that Christ died for all? Is it solely as a representative, or by being a sin-bearer for all? "... he made him to be sin who knew no sin." 2 Cor 5:21 This seems to make it clear that some sort of imputation of our sin to Christ took place, and if that is the case, then our becoming 'the righteousness of God' consists of an imputation of of righteousness to us.

Finally, there must be some basis for God's declaring us righteous. It can either be that we are righteous apart fom Christ (any takers?), or that Christ's own righteousness really and truly has been credited to our account.

TheBlueRaja said...

Jeremy,

Christ is the righteous one who exemplifies a right status with God - and being "in Him" we are reckoned (i.e. regarded as) righteous. In any case, it merits the question of whether you could call the actual mechanism of imputation as both essential to the doctrine of justification and therefore at the nerve of the Gospel.


The verses you cite don't actually spell out the mechanism of this change in status, do they? Moreover, doesn't the idea of incorporation actually find more support as a mechanism for recieving Christ's righteousness in the text? Becoming the righteousness of God takes place, after all "in Him".

MikeD said...

I was just curious as to how one can reconcile Matthew 25:32-45 with Sola Fide.

Chris Freeland said...

Tell Pecadillo congrats from his fan club in Texas.

Sutton wants to know how she can arrange a ride along. She's hoping to meet a big tough police dog.

Karen said...

miked wrote: I was just curious as to how one can reconcile Matthew 25:32-45 with Sola Fide.

Jesus also said: (Matt. 7:22-23) "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

You figure out what reconciles the two passages.

Jeremy Weaver said...

Blue,
If imputation is true in any way, shape, or form, and I believe it is, then it is essential to the doctrine of justification and at the heart of the Gospel. And we know that it is true because Paul speaks about imputation in Romans 4 in his argument in favor of justification by faith. So there's no reason to throw out the term.

No the verses in I Corinthians do not spell out the mechanism, but if 'becoming the righteousness of God in Him' means being incorporated into Him (which I believe we are) then what does that do to 'Jesus being made sin'? Would that not find Christ to be eternally in sin and therefore not justified?
In other words, if this verse is merely saying that Christ became one of us (which in and of itself does not imply sin), then there is no grounds for justification in being identified with Him, because He is merely one of us.

Brad said...

"I was just curious as to how one can reconcile Matthew 25:32-45 with Sola Fide."

I think that's a great question, miked. I'd be interested in hearing someone really take it on without milking the life out of the otherwise clear implications of the passage.

Taliesin said...

The Blue Raja wrote:

"The verses you cite don't actually spell out the mechanism of this change in status, do they?"

1 Peter 2:24 states, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed." While this verse only explicitly expresses one half of Luther's "great exchange" - our sins being imputed to Christ - it establishes imputation as "essential to the doctrine of justification". It also implies the other half of the "great exchange" - Christ's righteousness being imputed to us.

Phil, looking forward to more exposition on this passage.

Taliesin said...

jim crigler wrote:

"There was the one on personal revelation (or some such, the archive links only go back as far as January)"

Try here - next to last post on the page.

Taliesin said...

miked wrote: "I was just curious as to how one can reconcile Matthew 25:32-45 with Sola Fide."

I'll leave the detailed explanations to more learned men than I, but this is very similar to asking how one would reconcile justification by faith alone with James 2:8-26. The answer is Ephesians 2:8-10. Those whom Jesus saves by grace through faith "are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (v. 10) Which is to say, "faith alone saves, but not that faith which is alone."

donsands said...

The foundation to our faith is that of grace. Paul says, it's all His grace why I do what I do.
Jesus says, "for without Me you can do nothing". John 15:5

And though we don't deserve and commendation for these things we do, Paul says, "Therefore judge nothing before the time until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the cousels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise from God." 1 Cor. 4:5

There's a lot more here to think about, but I think this correlates with Matt. 25.

Exist~Dissolve said...

I have to say that your conclusion of the primacy of "justification by faith" (as Protestants understand it) to the rest of the "classic" doctrines of the church is quite theologically and historically untenable. The truly orthodox beliefs of the church (those which have been codified historically in the ecumencial councils of the church) were around for quite a while before the Protestants manufactured the doctrine (which they said they got "straight from Paul"). Therefore, there is nothing in the Protestant conception of "justification by faith" that necessarily anticipates the classic dogmas of the church and any causal linking is, actually, artificial.

James Spurgeon said...

exist~dissolve writes: I have to say that your conclusion of the primacy of "justification by faith" (as Protestants understand it) to the rest of the "classic" doctrines of the church is quite theologically and historically untenable.

I notice how you throw in "theologically" with "historically" untenable. I think you believe yourself equipped to debate the latter part of that. I can't imagine how you think yourself prepared to debate the former. You've yet to even attempt to give Scripture for your theological disagreement with me concerning God's desire to display his just wrath. I think you hide behind a cloak of basic traditional orthodoxy and make the rest of your theology up out of thin air.

Am I wrong?

Why don't you go ahead and show Scripturally how the primacy of sola fide is theologically untenable? That way I'll have to take back everything I've said. Wouldn't that be fun? In the meantime, I think my assessment of you is accurate. In fact, not only do I think the Scriptures are unimportant to you, I'm doubting you even believe them. Care to correct me on that?


exist~dissolve also wrote: The truly orthodox beliefs of the church (those which have been codified historically in the ecumencial councils of the church) were around for quite a while before the Protestants manufactured the doctrine (which they said they got "straight from Paul").

So where was the cut-off date for codification?

TheBlueRaja said...

Jeremy,

I obviously think that those verses which speak of Christ bearing my sin and me having God's righteousness are true - I'm just saying that it's nowhere clear to me that the mechanism by which this takes place is best described as "imputation", and I think Bird's right to call it "incorporation". And if imputation is really the crucial doctrine which makes justification "the nerve center of the Gospel", I'm not sure what to do with, as Bird pointed out, the Augsburg confession, Richard Baxter, Christopher Cartwright, John Goodwin, Benjamin Woodbridge and John Wesley etc. It seems to me that no matter how one views the transformation of status from "sinner" to "righteous in Christ", the crucial thing about justification is that Christ makes sinners right with God by bearing their sin and becoming their mediator. I think the article I linked decisively deals with the language of Romans 4 (on page 12), showing how the word "reckon" can't bear the weight of systematic formulations of imputation. In the NT its our union with Christ that provides the consistent explanation for how we are considered righteous. Romans 5 is a great example.

As for being incorporated into Him meaning that we bear our sins because He bore our sins, I would say that He bore our sins ON THE TREE - I don't think anyone contends that for Christ to become "sin" on our behalf means that He is still currently regarded as sinful before God. Being united in Christ means that we died to sin in his death, and raised to new life in His resurrection. In fact one criticism of traditional formulations of imputation is that it doesn't take Christ's resurrection into account for securing justification, focusing instead on His death (but see Ro. 4:25).

Talesin,

This verse, and all of the verses important to the doctrine of imputation, never actually spell out how all of this works. It says that He bore our sins, but it doesn't say how, or what that means. It says that He is our righteousness, but it doesn't ever explain the precise mechanism by which this takes place. The fact that our change in status does take place, that it is forensic, and that righteousness is not "infused" doesn't necessitate the model of transaction detailed by certain formulations of imputation.

All that to say this: the Gospel, as Luther said, is "the story about Christ, God's and David's Son, who died and was raised and is established as Lord. This is the gospel in a nutshell." The personal appropriation of that message, though, must involve a word about sin, judgment and righteousness. The Good News is that you can be forgiven and made right with your creator, though you are a sinner (justification). This change of status takes place by Christ's death and resurrection on your behalf. Are the details of how this takes place (i.e. imputation) really essential to the Gospel?

TheBlueRaja said...

Taliesin (sorry for spelling your name wrong earlier),

Your explanation of Mt. 25:32-45 doesn't seem to account for how a person's actions are given as the basis for judgment.

jerryb said...

I tried to stay out of it and mind my own business, really I did but...

Jeremy said:
Imputation is the grounds of our justification. In other words, God is not a liar.
God cannot and will not declare anyone to be just or righteous if it is not true

Did you really mean to say that God declares one righteous because they are righteous thru imputation? Looks like you are trying too hard to be logical. Paul says "God justifies the ungodly" Rom. 4:5, not the righteous. And ..."when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through he death of His son, (Rom. 5:10). It appears to me that it is just the opposite of your statement. God imputes Christ's righteousness to those he declares righteous specifically when they were not. Your first statement may be true, your second cannot be.

Anyhow blessings on you

AND

good to see Exit back again,

Exit have you ever read about Luther's struggle with the phrase the "Righteousness of God"? He hated the term. Even though he sought be the best monk possible, he knew it was not enough. Everything the Church told him to do did not help him but only added to his guilt. That is, until he understood Paul. One is not in good standing with God through God's righteousness, the kind of righteousness by which He acts and judges. One is in good standing with God thru the righteousness He shares with those who demonstrate faith apart from works. Paul gave up all attempts for good works to be found in Christ (not having my own righteous but that which is through faith in Christ Phil. 3:9). Good works are then done out of love not merit. When Luther understood this, then he loved the phrase "the righteousness of God" as much as he had hated it before.

Jeremy Weaver said...

What I meant, Blue, was that in I Corinthians 5:21, if we say that becoming the righteousness of God means being incorporated into Christ, then the statement, He made Him to be sin, would necessarily mean that Christ is incorporated into us. We have to be consistent in the way we interpret the verse. I just don't think that we can say that Christ became sin solely on the basis of taking on human form, which is what Bird's interpretation seems to do. Rather, there is an act of God whereby our sin is credited to Christ's account.
If that is the correct interpretation of the first half of the verse, then we becoming the righteousness of God in Him means that His righteousness is credited to our account.
If we say that incorporation into Christ is the means by which we are considered to be righteous, then it is incorporation into humanity that makes Christ sin. Christ becomes human before we are justified, thus identifying Himself with humanity, He becomes sin by virtue of identification, therefore, He is not able to bear our sin on the cross, because He is no longer righteous.

Clear as mud, right?

I do think people like Baxter, Doug Wilson, John Wesley, etc. can be wrong about this and still be saved, if they are trusting in Christ death and resurrection as their basis for justification. So there's no dilemma there for me. They are saved by imputation even if they do not realize it.

Jerry B,

Does God declare us righteous before we believe or after? Justification is the result of faith in Christ, which is trusting Him to be our righteousness. So God does not call us righteous until we believe and repent.

TheBlueRaja said...

Jeremy,

I think I see what you mean - but doesn't that imply that Jesus still, right now, bearing our sin? I'm saying that he did that on the cross, not in the incarnation. God, in a decisive moment in the past - i.e. aorist active indicative - MADE Christ to be sin such that when we come to Christ, we are united with Him in His death to sin (in bearing God's judgment) and His resurrection to life. That's the "act of God" whereby our sin falls upon Him. We are united to Christ by faith alone. I'm probably missing something in what you were trying to say - but I don't see the problem.

I think you're absolutely right about Baxter, Doug Wilson, Wesley, etc - which is why I don't think that the doctrine of justification (and hence, as Phil says, the Gospel) necessarily hinges on the doctrine of imputation, narrowly defined.

TheBlueRaja said...

By the way, it's because of the conversation I've just had with the doxoblogist that I see a problem with Phil's virtual equivocation of justification and imputation:

Justification is the core of the Gospel, imputation is the core of justification, and sola fide is the banner which represents all of this. Imputation, for all intents and purposes, IS the Gospel, and when one says the words sola fide they are affirming a particular view of imputation. All of these terms, it seems, can almost be used interchangably.

But I think that's profoundly wrongheaded. One can believe he has been made right with God because of the death and resurrection of Jesus without affirming Berkhof's definition of imputation. One can, for that matter, believe the Gospel, clinging to Jesus in His death and resurrection without immediately understanding anything about justification. That's why saying "the Gospel is justification by faith" is misleading.

It is, no doubt, very important for our understanding of what happened to us once we've been saved (as is election, adoption, sanctification, the indwelling of the Spirit, etc), but its not what must be believed in order to be saved. I don't think there's a single example of anyone in the NT preaching justification by faith to unbelievers.

One can start a car without knowing how the engine works.

Karen said...

"faith alone saves, but not that faith which is alone."

Up to this line I was with you. There are no 'buts' after faith alone. I know what you are getting at, but you just have to see that the devil grins everytime he sees a 'but' after justification by faith alone.

jerryb said...

Hi Jeremy,
Great question, but may I talk with you about 2 Cor. 5:21 and some thoughts about it.
The two parts of the verse are not equal. He was made sin, we become righteous. Here there are two different kinds of transactions.

Here's how:

1) Substitution is expressed in the phrase: "He was MADE sin". This does not mean that Christ was a sinner or that he experienced sin or that he even became sin. He was CONSIDERED to be, or recognized as sin by God. He took our place as our substitute. BUT

2) Imputation is expressed in the phrase: "that we might BECOME the righteousness of God". Note: made and become are different verbs. Here is the imputation aspect. We are not just considered righteous, we are made righteous (in the legal sense initially, of course) through the merit of Christ.

By establishing the difference between "made" and "become" both substitution and imputation are more clearly seen. Christ took my place so that I could become like Him.

And if you are looking for the "glue", perhaps "reconciliation" could be the broad term that properly connects the parts. If I am to be reconciled to God, I need a substitute and imputed righteousness which will only be granted by God to those who have faith alone in His provision. Perhaps as we stand back and look at 2 Cor. 5:21 as a whole we see reconciliation.

Your Question:
As to the timing of the events of salvation, it is very difficult to nail down actions that are instantaneous. So perhaps we are talking about logically preceding events. Or perhaps it is cause and effect. When a stone parts the water both the water and stone are moving at the same time. One is cause, one is effect.
-Repentance is both a gift and a responsibility. Acts 11.18 / 17:30
-The new birth provides the new life which enables us to believe. John 1:13; 3:21
-Faith pleases God so that He determines to credit to our account the righteousness of Christ. Rom. 4.5
-We are declared righteous and then we enter into "union with Christ" so that we fully become what He has declared us to be.
So they all happen at once. God is the first cause, then we respond, then He responds, all before that second cup of coffee.

Phil Johnson said...

Raja: "...Phil's virtual equivocation of justification and imputation"

Raja, I made no such "virtual equivocation." That fact was already pointed out to you once by Jeremy ("I don't think Phil equates justification to imputation in this article").

What I would say (and did hint at) is that the language of imputation is writ large every time the apostle Paul explains or defends the doctrine of justification against people who subtly try to smuggle some kind of works into the formula.

So imputation is an important aspect of justification. Remove it, and you do serious violence to the biblical concept. But that is not to suggest that imputation is all there is to justification. In fact, I would strongly deny that.

I do, however, seriously wonder about the motives of someone like yourself who seems to have an agenda to attack imputation at every opportunity (even resorting to a caricature of my position in order to manufacture such an "opportunity" where there really isn't one).

BTW, this kind of stuff from you is really getting tiring. Perhaps you're just trying to be irritating, and if so, you'll probably consider a reply from me some kind of triumph. But one reply is all you are going to get. I don't have time to spar with you today. I'll probably just unceremoniously delete future remarks like this from you on the grounds that they are Rule-3 violations.

If you want to attack imputation, either do it on your own blog, kick it around with the tavern-dudes, or wait until I actually deal substantively with the concept, and then perhaps you can respond to some point that I actually made, instead of needing to attack something I never even said.

Better yet, post a remark or two like your comments above at Triablog. Steve Hays might have more time than I do to give you the kind of answer you need.

TheBlueRaja said...

Phil,

1. I know Jeremy said that you didn't equivocate the two, but instead closely connected them - that's why I used the word "vitual" and explained how this was done.

2. The pleasantness of the exchange, as usual, has come to an end with a barbed response from you. If you'd like Steve Hays to be an example as to how differences of opinions are expressed, I'd say that does "serious violence" to the biblical guidelines for our speech.

3. Expressing my own opinions is not an "agenda". If differences of opinion are unwelcome here, I'd suggest you include it in your rules.

4. I didn't caricature your position, I responded to what you wrote. You answered your own question about the weight you put on the doctrine of justification by describing the significance of imputation.

5. I didn't ask you to respond, and imagining a celebration on my part for seeing you do so might presume to much.

6. I didn't attack imputation, I didn't attack you, and I didn't "respond to claims you didn't make". I was, in fact, responding to the statement that:

The converse is pretty hard to imagine. I've never met anyone who had a sound belief about justification by faith but who was unsound on Christology or Trinitarian doctrine. After all, if you affirm the principle of imputed righteousness, then you are almost certainly going to affirm the deity of Christ.

7. Delete whatever comments you'd like - but I think its more out of irritation with me personally than with the appropriateness of my comments. And that's fine. I didn't ask you to like me, agree with me, or even respond to me.

Jeremy Weaver said...

JerryB,
I was arguing for imputed righteousness, not against it.
I think the parts of my comments where I interpret the verse according to Bird's logic may have confused you about what I was saying.

TheBlueRaja said...

Jeremy - I clearly didn't get what you were saying with the Bird article - but if you have any questions about it, I'm sure he'd respond to your inquiries. Saying that Christ became sin on our behalf (hyper hymwn) is different than saying he became sin "in us". He was sin on our behalf, we are righteous "in Him". Does that address what you were saying at all?

In any case, I'm interested to see the answer to your questions, and the bit about Matthew 25 as well.

TheBlueRaja said...

Sorry - the link was michaelfbird.blogspot.com . If this one doesn't work either, just paste it into your browser and you'll find his email address through that site.

Karen said...

Blue Raja, for the record, I saw the same thing Phil Johnson saw in your comment. The game playing was similar, to me, that one gets from Federal Vision people. Your agenda in this case was an unstated desire to question the imputation of Jesus' active obedience (an angle of attack of the FV people in their more particular attempt to get works into the doctrine of justification by faith alone). So to do this you wrangled what PJ wrote and bent it for your own use, which was a backdoor, or unstated agenda.

These kinds of responses are annoying to people because so much has to be untangled and reset and when the motivation of the commentor was disingenuous to begin with it becomes like playing games with sophists or juvenile delinquents.

TheBlueRaja said...

Karen, when you're done discerning my motives from thin air I'll remind you that my comments were directly related to what Phil was talking about, or at least every bit as much as Brad's or philness' comments. Attempting to eliminate discussion because a person's perspective runs counter to your own might be construed as a bit sophistic (and annoying), but I'll digress and simply point out that a few of my theology professors at the seminary associated with Phil's church don't believe in active obedience. Neither do I. They don't embrace Federal Vision. Neither do I, though I appreciate what guys like Doug Wilson are trying to say. I'm sure that's small comfort to you, though.

In any case, I don't find that the doctrine of imputation and its relationship to justification and the Gospel are completely irrelevant to this post. Do you?

TheBlueRaja said...

Did I mention that Federal Vision does leave room for affirming the imputation of Christ's active obedience, by the way? Doug Wilson, for example, believes in active obedience.

Phil Johnson said...

Raja:

Last warning.

1. This post was not about the FV, active obedience, or the views of professors at TMS (though for the record, they all sign a doctrinal statement that expressly affirms the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the believer.) Quit fishing for new layers of controversy.

2. Incidentally, I'm fully aware that Doug Wilson (whom I count as a friend, BTW) affirms both imputation and active obedience. Your last comment made no point relevant to anything that has been said here. Like many of your comments, it seems to serve little purpose other than to deflect from the real issue (and perhaps start a whole different squabble).

3. No one suggested that "the doctrine of imputation and its relationship to justification and the Gospel are completely irrelevant to this post." I gave you the rule-3 warning because the direction you are trying to take the discussion has nothing to do with any actual point I made. Your claim that I reduce all of justification to the issue of imputation is a deliberate misrepresentation of my position. What has you on such thin ice is the fact that after repeated clarifications, you still insist on trying to discuss the issue on those grounds.

4. You said, "The pleasantness of the exchange, as usual, has come to an end with a barbed response from you." It's not as "pleasant" as you might think to have a full-time smart-aleck trying to one-up every commenter who takes a more or less conventional view on some doctrine you have decided needs an overhaul.

Karen said...

Blue Raja said:
"In any case, I don't find that the doctrine of imputation and its relationship to justification and the Gospel are completely irrelevant to this post. Do you?"

Well, a statement of the power and centrality of justification by faith alone doesn't require one to write about active and passive obedience and imputation or the ground of justification or federal theology or the Covenant of Works; but what you chose to write about was a currently hot topic debatable position that most Reformed people think (know) undermines the power of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and is therefore another matter altogether. And you introduced it all from an oblique, forced angle irrelevant to what the the post was about.

I do find it interesting, though (a side note) that Reformed Baptists don't seem to discern the seriousness and nature of the attack on orthodox, Reformed doctrine coming from Federal Vision and its various proponents. I think Reformed Baptists need to get in the game on that one somewhat. It may be a way for them to increase their understanding of federal theology. Grudem sees it, afterall, doesn't he? What a great systematic theology written by that Reformed baptist.

Taliesin said...

Karen,

I suspect we agree (at least to a large extent) and my wording was unclear. When answering what James means when he says that "a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" some form of that statement (faith alone saves, but not that faith which is alone) is made. The statement does not deny that our justification based soley on the work of Christ, given to us completely by God's grace, and applied through faith. The statement is simply (though apparently not clearly) meant to reflect that once we are justified, there will be some evidence (fruit) in the form of good works. That is, if I profess to know Christ, and there is no change in my life, I should be very concerned. Because, in James' terminology, my faith may be dead faith.

Karen said...

Taliesin,

Laura Ingraham has a thing on her radio show where she highlights a 'but' monkey. Like: John Kerry starting a sentence "Of course I support the troops..." and you know there is a 'but' about to follow. This particular type of 'but' is usually placed in the same way after the phrase justification by faith alone by Roman Catholics and Federal Vision types and similar types. I personaly see NO reason to put one in there. I think it should be obvious that real faith is real faith and faith doesn't need to be qualified by inserting a reference to works. Just how I see it. I know you weren't doing it the way an FV or RC would do it, but it does give them something to run with. It's a 'breach'. An unnecessary one, IMO.

The doctrine of justification by faith alone is the central doctrine in another way Phil didn't mention (not that he was hitting on a complete list of everything): it is the center-of-gravity of the devil's attacks on biblical doctrine. If that can be successfully attacked then man can be put in the place of God and man can be convinced he can do what only God can do and the darkness of the kingdom of satan is upon you. It has real, practical meaning. Internally in a believer. It is central to the part of the order of salvation that requires knowledge and understanding of doctrine: conversion. It's not just an abstract, intellectual thing. It is a part of one's armor.

I'm preaching, and it's not directed at you because I know you weren't saying anything of this, but I see the power of orthodox doctrine and I see how it is constantly being attacked (usually in the same old ways of course, but each generation has to deal with the usual tactics from the 'other side'). It's a part of spiritual warfare. You have to stop and say: "No. I know the truth. What you're saying is not true." (referring to the usual types who attempt to put works into justification). You have to stand.

TheBlueRaja said...

Phil,

All in all this all seems like a weird power-play to me. I read through all of my posts again and I can't see how anything I said was off-topic, aggresive, diversionary, inappropriate or even significantly different in character from any other commenter. I didn't even bring up the Federal Vision or active obedience - someone else did and I responded to them. I've done nothing offensive here, and the offense you've taken is simply because of the motives you impute to me along because of your personal distaste for me. I can't find where I said anything "smart alecky" about you, or badgered other commenters.

And for the record I didn't say that you "reduce all of justification to imputation". I said that you used the terms in this article interchangably, and I quoted the paragraph where I saw it. It's hard to believe the comments I've made here merit a banning on any objective level.

Phil Johnson said...

Raja, I'm taking into account your long history. You used up all your coupons here a long time ago.

TheBlueRaja said...

Phil,

I haven't said anything that justifies a huffy response, or the use of a "coupon". Moreover I thought I'd asked forgiveness for past offenses and both personally and even publicly apologized to you for any misunderstanding, as I wasn't consciously trying to offend. In contrast, when communicating areas where I've taken offense at you, you haven't exactly responded in kind.

And while my memory could be clouded more recent history, and while I've not always been patient and kind (see above) I don't recall any responses to my comments which resembled patience or kindness.

But this medium isn't the best for communicating sincerity - so I guess understand the hesitation (though I can't always understand what you percieve to be attacks, agendas or "not dealing with the issues").

Taliesin said...

Karen,

Likely our differences here are due to age (I'm still cautious not to let the easy believism of the past have an openning) and experience (I live in the rural midwest, so a lot of your concerns are about issues that really haven't hit here yet - e.g. I've never heard of Federal Vision before today).

That said, I want to make a clear affirmation that I agree with Phil's post. Perhaps a better way of responding to miked's question of reconciling Sola Fide with Matthew 25:32-45 might be the following:

What does Jesus mean when He passes judgment on the sheep and the goats based on how they treated "these My brothers?" The answer is that those who have been justified by faith alone evidence this through love by feeding and clothing and visiting other believers, particularly those who are otherwise overlooked. The lack of love displayed by the goats evidences that have never been saved. In 1 John, John is writing to we who believe (we who are justified by faith alone) to give us assurance of our salvation. "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death." (1 John 3:14) The verb - "have passed out" - indicates something that occurred in the past with lasting impact. "We love," however, is present tense, it is ongoing now. So we know we have in the past been saved (gone from death to life) because we now display the fruit of that belief, we love the brothers. John here explains what Jesus said in Matthew 25:32-45. Did you care for believers? Feed them? Clothe them? Risk your life by visiting them while they were jailed for their faith? Then this love shows that you have been born of God (1 John 4:7). You are not God's children because you love, instead your love displays that the Holy Spirit has regenerated you, giving you faith so that you are justified.

That's how I would reconcile Matthew 25:32-45 with Sola Fide.

Karen said...

Taliesin,

I think your take on that is brilliantly written and true. I found it enlightening particularly when you point out that it is other believers being talked of. I mean, love thy enemy still applies, and turn the other cheek, and also Rom. 12:20 'Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.' ... Not to mention evangelization. And not to mention charity in general. But showing that instant recognition and bonding with another believer when you see a cross or see an action (something performed by them, or something done against them and empathising or admiring an act of strength or not succumbing to tempation, &c.) or hear a word that gives it away is truly something new in your life once you are reborn and converted...

Boy, this is an area too where Muslims really try to imitate true faith. (I see Islam as an anti-Christian heresy which attempts to reflect the light of the true faith - like the moon reflects the light of the sun - yet denies all the truths of the true faith.) They are big on this brother-to-brother thing. I believe this is a way the devil makes true religion look bad (and even dissuades Christians from doing what the faith inspires us to do) because we see Muslims doing it and we see how it results with them. Like, they read their 'holy' book assiduously. It actually makes such activity look bad. Same with their brotherly affection for fellow Muslims. Which is really coercion in Muslim lands, and conspiracy in other lands... I digress.

Exist~Dissolve said...

James Spurgeon--

You said:

I notice how you throw in "theologically" with "historically" untenable. I think you believe yourself equipped to debate the latter part of that. I can't imagine how you think yourself prepared to debate the former.

Well, let's get to it, then. I don't want you to have to be burdened by your false conceptions of what I am and am not capable of doing.

You've yet to even attempt to give Scripture for your theological disagreement with me concerning God's desire to display his just wrath.

??? You must be speaking about some other blog. Perhaps we could stay on topic.

I think you hide behind a cloak of basic traditional orthodoxy and make the rest of your theology up out of thin air.

Hmm... First of all, I don't see what could possibly be derisive about affirming a "basic traditional orthodoxy" as such is the very marrow of the church's belief throughout the centuries--far before any of the "solas" came along. Secondly, your characterization of my theological methodology smacks of hollowness and ignorance as you do not even know me.

Am I wrong?

Let's find out.

Why don't you go ahead and show Scripturally how the primacy of sola fide is theologically untenable?

Ok, let me gather up all my proof-texts and we'll see who has more. Doh! Determining the theological meaningfulness of a certain doctrine cannot simply be based upon stringing a bunch of verses to the end of it. There is much more involved to the search, and it is these other issues which I am attempting to bring to light in order to cast an alternative perspective on the concept of "sola fidei" which is so often and uncritically accepted as "scriptural."

That way I'll have to take back everything I've said. Wouldn't that be fun?

Maybe for you. I could care less if you take back anything.

In the meantime, I think my assessment of you is accurate. In fact, not only do I think the Scriptures are unimportant to you, I'm doubting you even believe them. Care to correct me on that?

How am I to correct you? Should I quote a bunch of verses for you? Maybe sing some bible songs? Make up some T-shirts with verses about God's wrath on them? Or should I blindly capitulate to your theological presuppositions since you clearly consider yourself to be superior in your abilities of interpretation.

Obviously, you do not desire to (or are not capable of) actually engage my thought and methodology but are rather content to attempt to malign me among your peers by spewing your own vitriolic opinions about me that you have no reasonable basis of knowing whatsoever.

So where was the cut-off date for codification?

I would say that the "cut-off date" would be somewhere around where the church ceased to be meaningfully ecumenical.

Exist~Dissolve said...

Exit have you ever read about Luther's struggle with the phrase the "Righteousness of God"?

More than most, probably.

He hated the term. Even though he sought be the best monk possible, he knew it was not enough. Everything the Church told him to do did not help him but only added to his guilt.

That is because the righteousness he sought was premised upon works devised and prescribed by humans. He would have had no crisis if he would have been engaged in doing the work of God.

That is, until he understood Paul. One is not in good standing with God through God's righteousness, the kind of righteousness by which He acts and judges. One is in good standing with God thru the righteousness He shares with those who demonstrate faith apart from works. Paul gave up all attempts for good works to be found in Christ (not having my own righteous but that which is through faith in Christ Phil. 3:9). Good works are then done out of love not merit. When Luther understood this, then he loved the phrase "the righteousness of God" as much as he had hated it before.

Yes, and in coming to "understand" Paul, he effectively undermined the words of Jesus who taught that the righteous are those who are faithful in following and doing the will of God. Christ taught nothing of "vicarious" righteousness.

Therefore, we have a conundrum. Either Christ and Paul are opposed, or Paul has been misinterpreted (and wrongly fronted as the lens through which to view Jesus' teachings). I would argue that the latter is more probable.

Finally, I do not mean to malign Luther. I am glad that his interpretation of Scripture was able to provide him and his followers some relief from their existential and spiritual angst. However, his ideas (which were hardly systematic) have been applied too far and too rigidly to have any meaningful relationship to the imperative of "doing God's will" which Christ clearly taught and exemplified.

jerryb said...

Thanks Exit D
1) How did you happen to read so much of Luther?

2) You mention that Luther did the wrong kind of works. Wasn't he following the path laid out for him by the church. You mentioned in a previous post your respect for "The truly orthodox beliefs of the church".

3) How do you know he would have had "no problem" with his guilt if he had done the proper good works. What would they be?

4) Your big point is that Christ never taught vicarious righteousness. If that were true then either: A) Paul has misunderstood Christ, or B) The Bible is contradictory, or C) We have misunderstood Paul.

Of course you know that I think Christ did teach and demonstration the doctrine of imputation. So here goes (thanks for listening):
- It is taught in the forgiveness he offered.

-To the paralytic, he said Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you. Matt. 9:2
Forgiveness based upon faith not works

-To the sinful woman: Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, Lk 7:47
Forgiveness was declared to a woman who had not done good works.

-To the crowds, Jesus stated, "unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees you will by no means see the kingdom of God" Matt. 5:20. That's like saying unless you are more righteous than an Augustinian Monk like Luther you don't have salvation; A shocking statement to anyone trying to merit righteousness before God. It would be hopeless.

-When asked what work was necessary to gain God's favor. Jesus said: This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent. John 6:29 Or again: He who hears my word and believes has everlasting life. John 5:24

Final points:
1) Christ taught and demonstrated exactly the point made in the Old Testament: "Abraham believed in the LORD and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Gen. 15:6

2) Did Christ "highlight" the doctrine, not so much, since God's sovereign plan was for Christ to be rejected. Christ proclaimed the "what" (forgiveness) more than the "how" (imputation). The Jews were blinded by God's sovereign plan. Many OT verse declare this.

3) Consider the importance of Christ's parable of the wedding feast (Mt. 22). Those invited refused to come (The Jews). Others were then gathered to attend (Gentiles ). Both good and bad were brought in. The only requirement was that they accept and wear the wedding garment. Their best garments were offensive to the king.

Exit D, which garment will you wear when you stand before God, your good works or Christ's righteousness?

James Spurgeon said...

exit~d, may I call you that for short? Thank-you.

I wrote: I notice how you throw in "theologically" with "historically" untenable. I think you believe yourself equipped to debate the latter part of that. I can't imagine how you think yourself prepared to debate the former.

You responded: Well, let's get to it, then. I don't want you to have to be burdened by your false conceptions of what I am and am not capable of doing.

Please, unburden me. :>)


I wrote: You've yet to even attempt to give Scripture for your theological disagreement with me concerning God's desire to display his just wrath.

exit~d: ??? You must be speaking about some other blog. Perhaps we could stay on topic.

I was talking about a previous post of mine on this blog where you disagreed with me. When I asked for you to correct my understanding of the Scripture you never returned. Perhaps you forgot. Perhaps my thinking that you were a hit and run poster with no staying power was a misunderstanding on my part. It wouldn't be my first mistake.



I said: I think you hide behind a cloak of basic traditional orthodoxy and make the rest of your theology up out of thin air.

exit~d: Hmm... First of all, I don't see what could possibly be derisive about affirming a "basic traditional orthodoxy" as such is the very marrow of the church's belief throughout the centuries--far before any of the "solas" came along.

There is nothing at all derisive about affirming a basic traditional orthodoxy in the form of the creeds. I never said there was. The problem with them is that they don't cover a whole lot and some of them are quite ambiguous. That's why they can be affirmed often by diverse groups of people who are often diametrically opposed on very important issues of theology. Both groups can claim to believe, for example, the Nicene Creed, yet each interprets it differently. So saying you hold to the creeds is certainly not enough. If that were the case, then Rome should embrace me, for I hold to them. Yet, according to Trent, at the same time that I hold to those creeds I am anathems. Go figure. Maybe, just maybe, the early creeds don't go far enough to determine orthodoxy.

exit~d continues: Secondly, your characterization of my theological methodology smacks of hollowness and ignorance as you do not even know me.

Perhaps. But that would be easy to disprove, would it not?


I asked: Am I wrong?

exit~d responded: Let's find out.

Now here is where it gets a bit dodgy.

I requested: Why don't you go ahead and show Scripturally how the primacy of sola fide is theologically untenable?

exit~d responded: Ok, let me gather up all my proof-texts and we'll see who has more. Doh! Determining the theological meaningfulness of a certain doctrine cannot simply be based upon stringing a bunch of verses to the end of it. There is much more involved to the search, and it is these other issues which I am attempting to bring to light in order to cast an alternative perspective on the concept of "sola fidei" which is so often and uncritically accepted as "scriptural."

No kidding. No one asked you for a "string of proof-texts." That's a nice caricature of what sola scriptura amounts to, but it ain't gonna wash with me. NOw if you don't want to base our arguments on the Scriptural evidence, that's fine with me. However, I've noted that you like to appeal to the life of Jesus in your arguments, just where do you get the information on his life and teachings if not from Scripture? And if that is the case then bring forth your reasoning from what Jesus specifically said or did. That's all I'm asking. It seems a nice dodge to me that you would appeal ambiguously to Jesus in this way but balk at giving actual details which back up your claim. We are people of the book, are we not?

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righ teousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.


I said: That way I'll have to take back everything I've said. Wouldn't that be fun?

To which exit~d responded: Maybe for you. I could care less if you take back anything.

Then why are you even here if not to convince someone? What's the point in even commenting, engaging us in the arena of ideas, if you don't care whether we are influenced or not by what you say? What, then, is your game?


I commented: In the meantime, I think my assessment of you is accurate. In fact, not only do I think the Scriptures are unimportant to you, I'm doubting you even believe them. Care to correct me on that?

exit~d: How am I to correct you?

Well, let's see. You could make a positive affirmation - something like: "Yes, I hold the Scriptures in high regard." Or you could demonstrate that affirmation by making an appeal to the Scriptures. Or you could just be a smart-aleck and continue your stereotyping of those who hold to Sola Scriptura as a bunch of ignorant Bible-thumpers. Let's see what exit~d will choose . . . Yep. I was right. He chose the latter.

Exit~d: Should I quote a bunch of verses for you? Maybe sing some bible songs? Make up some T-shirts with verses about God's wrath on them? Or should I blindly capitulate to your theological presuppositions since you clearly consider yourself to be superior in your abilities of interpretation.

Maybe you could just do the obvious and make your argument from Scripture. This has nothing to do with either your or my abilities of interpretation. This has everything to do with the truth and what the truth says (John 17:17). So you can try to make this into some personal ego battle between you and me at who has the more proof-texts if you want. It's obvious you'd rather think that's all we have to offer over here and it would be easier to live in your little world if you could maintain that stereotype in your mind. But it isn't true.

Isaiah 8:20 (KJV)
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

I am quite willing to listen to you make your point from Scripture and if you can prove your point using Scripture and sound reason I am more than willing to bow to God's truth and repent of my theological error and embrace the truth. Now, are you an ambassador for God's truth or not?


exit~d: Obviously, you do not desire to (or are not capable of) actually engage my thought and methodology but are rather content to attempt to malign me among your peers by spewing your own vitriolic opinions about me that you have no reasonable basis of knowing whatsoever.

I simply issued a challenge by giving my opinions, opinions which would be quite easily refuted by you if you wished. I am not incorrigible. So you "obviously" missed the point of my remarks.


Finally, I asked: So where was the cut-off date for codification?

To which exit~d responded: I would say that the "cut-off date" would be somewhere around where the church ceased to be meaningfully ecumenical.

And on what authority do you base that determination?

philness said...

Can it just be simply said that works are a bi-product of true faith?

philness said...

Yikes, that last comment was not in response to James' but was summing up what jerryb was saying to exit-d. Let me get out of yalls way James. Peace.

Exist~Dissolve said...

jerry b:

1) How did you happen to read so much of Luther?

I am an avid reader. Plus, I have taken a few seminar classes on his theology.

2) You mention that Luther did the wrong kind of works. Wasn't he following the path laid out for him by the church. You mentioned in a previous post your respect for "The truly orthodox beliefs of the church".

Yes, I did say that. However, I do not equate “church” with Rome. The Rome of Luther’s day had departed significantly from the ecumenical faith of the early church. He was right to reject much that Rome taught. However, in doing so, I think he went well beyond what was theologically helpful or faithful to historic Christian thought.

3) How do you know he would have had "no problem" with his guilt if he had done the proper good works. What would they be?

I didn’t say anything about him doing “proper good works.” I said that his crisis would not have occurred if he’d been engaged in the work of God, of building the kingdom, of showing mercy and justice in the world around him–-something which, for all his later “faith,” he frequently failed to do even though such was the crux of Christ's teaching.

4) Your big point is that Christ never taught vicarious righteousness. If that were true then either: A) Paul has misunderstood Christ, or B) The Bible is contradictory, or C) We have misunderstood Paul.

Of course you know that I think Christ did teach and demonstration the doctrine of imputation. So here goes (thanks for listening):


- It is taught in the forgiveness he offered.

-To the paralytic, he said Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you. Matt. 9:2
Forgiveness based upon faith not works

-To the sinful woman: Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, Lk 7:47
Forgiveness was declared to a woman who had not done good works.


First of all, I have not suggested that righteousness is based upon doing “good works.” Those are your words, not mine, and seem to reflect a misunderstanding in what I am saying.

Secondly, as I understand it, there is quite a big difference between “forgiveness” and “justification” (the later of which I am talking about). Forgiveness is always an unconditional gift from one to another. It would be quite unintelligible if Christ had premised these people’s forgiveness upon “merit” when he conversely commands us to forgive others without condition.

-To the crowds, Jesus stated, "unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees you will by no means see the kingdom of God" Matt. 5:20. That's like saying unless you are more righteous than an Augustinian Monk like Luther you don't have salvation; A shocking statement to anyone trying to merit righteousness before God. It would be hopeless.

But look at why Jesus denounced the Pharisees. It wasn’t because they were “doing things” to be righteous. Rather, his more frequent point is that they are condemned because they fail to fulfill the heart-–not the letter–-of the law, which is to have mercy upon the weak and poor and to give justice to the oppressed and downtrodden. In this way, their works are condemned not because they are “works,” but rather because these very works are antithetical to the heart of the law and prevent the fulfilment of the law (mercy and justice for the marginalized).

-When asked what work was necessary to gain God's favor. Jesus said: This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent. John 6:29 Or again: He who hears my word and believes has everlasting life. John 5:24

But what does it mean to “believe” in Jesus? The same John says, “1 John 3:21-24 "Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us."

Final points:
1) Christ taught and demonstrated exactly the point made in the Old Testament: "Abraham believed in the LORD and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Gen. 15:6


I agree. However, if we look at what Christ taught about “doing God’s will,” the example of Abraham takes on quite a bit different meaning than Protestants have often applied to it.

2) Did Christ "highlight" the doctrine, not so much, since God's sovereign plan was for Christ to be rejected. Christ proclaimed the "what" (forgiveness) more than the "how" (imputation). The Jews were blinded by God's sovereign plan. Many OT verse declare this.

Again, as “forgiveness” and “justification” are two different things, I’m sure how relevant this is to the discussion.

3) Consider the importance of Christ's parable of the wedding feast (Mt. 22). Those invited refused to come (The Jews). Others were then gathered to attend (Gentiles ). Both good and bad were brought in. The only requirement was that they accept and wear the wedding garment. Their best garments were offensive to the king.

The last part is a bit more allegorical than I would be comfortable with and I don’t think it can be strictly applied to delineating the issue of “justification by faith.”

Exit D, which garment will you wear when you stand before God, your good works or Christ's righteousness?

Again, you are bringing up the strawman of “good works,” something which I am not talking about. Moreover, I think there is a false dichotomy created between “one’s own righteousness” and “Christ’s righteousness.” Christ became human that we might become God. We are created and recreated to participate within Christ’s righteousness, not simply to slip it on like a robe.

James Spurgeon said...

exit~d wrote: Christ became human that we might become God.

I would like some elaboration or clarification of this.

Exist~Dissolve said...

exit~d wrote: Christ became human that we might become God.

I would like some elaboration or clarification of this.


Sure. It is a direct quotation of St. Athanasius who alludes to the ancient church's understanding of "theosis," i.e., the teaching that our very natures are being and will be transformed into the nature of Christ. This is further supported by Ireneaus' conception of "recapitulation," in which the nature that Christ assumes (human nature) will be transformed into the fulness of the nature of Christ. Therefore, the concept that "God became human that humans might become God" simply signifies the truth that we have, are, and will continually be recreated in the image of Christ. In so far as human nature is able, we will be "deified," joined to Christ to share in the fulness of the humanity which Christ, as God-made-human, has redeemed.

Of course, this ancient teaching of the church strikes deeply at the heart of Reformation theology which only admits that we can be "seen" as righteous through the righteousness of Christ. Unfortunately, the latter misses the biblical and historical faith of the church which teaches that we will truly "become like Christ," not merely by proxy, but in our very natures.

James Spurgeon said...

exit~d: Of course, this ancient teaching of the church strikes deeply at the heart of Reformation theology which only admits that we can be "seen" as righteous through the righteousness of Christ. Unfortunately, the latter misses the biblical and historical faith of the church which teaches that we will truly "become like Christ," not merely by proxy, but in our very natures.

Really?

Methinks your knowledge of reformation soteriology is imperfect.

That which Christ has begun in us he will perform until the day of Christ. We are being made into His image and justification is only a part of that work.

Exist~Dissolve said...

James Spurgeon--

I was talking about a previous post of mine on this blog where you disagreed with me. When I asked for you to correct my understanding of the Scripture you never returned. Perhaps you forgot. Perhaps my thinking that you were a hit and run poster with no staying power was a misunderstanding on my part. It wouldn't be my first mistake.

I am currently involved in many blogs, and sometimes I miss the responses to my responses, especially when several days have elapsed. I apologize that I did not respond to yours.

There is nothing at all derisive about affirming a basic traditional orthodoxy in the form of the creeds. I never said there was. The problem with them is that they don't cover a whole lot and some of them are quite ambiguous.

??? As “orthodoxy” is precisely the referrent of the content and teachings of the ecumenical councils of the church, I do not see how one can say that they do not “cover a whole lot.” The ancient creeds of the church have been sufficient for the past 2000 years–apparently, then, the ambiguity is not as apparent as you would suggest.

That's why they can be affirmed often by diverse groups of people who are often diametrically opposed on very important issues of theology.

Again, I do not entirely understand your point here. As the “very important issues of theology” are precisely those which are the object of the ecumencial creeds, I am at a loss to understand what comprises the “very important issues of theology” to which you are referring.

Both groups can claim to believe, for example, the Nicene Creed, yet each interprets it differently.

Just as an example, which groups do you see as interpreting the “Nicene Creed” differently? Furthermore, I would ask whether or not these same groups also affirm the other ecumenical creeds of the church. If so, it would difficult to imagine that their understandings could be too far apart and still be consonant with the testimony of the entire historic, ecumenical church.

So saying you hold to the creeds is certainly not enough. If that were the case, then Rome should embrace me, for I hold to them. Yet, according to Trent, at the same time that I hold to those creeds I am anathems. Go figure.

You are not anathema to Rome. You are a separated brother. However, I would ask to which of the historic, ecumencial creeds you hold?

Maybe, just maybe, the early creeds don't go far enough to determine orthodoxy.

Again, as “orthodoxy” is the referent of the historic, ecumenical creeds of the church, this statement doesn’t make any sense. Moreover, would you honestly suggest that orthodoxy should be defined by a marginal, upstart sect of the church without regard for ecumenicity? That seems to be what the Arians wanted to do...

We are people of the book, are we not?

I am not. I affirm the usefulness of the Scriptures and their place in the formation of belief. However, I would not, by any means, characterize myself as a person of “the book.” A person of the church, perhaps. A person of Christ, most definitely.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righ teousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.


So you want us to limit our Scriptural references to the Tenakh? Alright...

Well, let's see. You could make a positive affirmation - something like: "Yes, I hold the Scriptures in high regard."

Done.

Or you could demonstrate that affirmation by making an appeal to the Scriptures.

I have.

Maybe you could just do the obvious and make your argument from Scripture. This has nothing to do with either your or my abilities of interpretation.

It actually have everything to do with it. You say, “make your argument from Scripture.” However, I have done this very thing–I have argued along the lines of how I interpret the Scriptures. You do not recognize it because you do not share my hermeneutic paradigm, even as your quotation of a million verses will not convince me that your argument is Scriptural, but merely a marshalling of proof-text to support your interpretive presuppositions about the text.

And on what authority do you base that determination?

On the authority of the ecumenical, catholic church whom Christ taught about the truth of God through the apostles.

Exist~Dissolve said...

Methinks your knowledge of reformation soteriology is imperfect.

My knowledge of all things is imperfect. Sorry to disappoint.

That which Christ has begun in us he will perform until the day of Christ. We are being made into His image and justification is only a part of that work.

But if "justification" is a forensic work, it is always a forensic work. If righteousness is imputed, it is ever imputed. Or does it change? But if it changes, why the need for the delay?

jerryb said...

Exit D
I appreciate your straight forward answers. If it's OK, I would like to just let them stand on their own merit.

Just a brief comment on the connection between forgiveness and justification. To illustrate my point, I have decided to forgive all of your credit card debt and mortgage loans. That is an absurd notion isn't it. I can't forgive them because they are not owed to me. In other words, forgiveness isn't free. It costs one as much as the other receives. If I forgive you the million, it cost me a million.

If God is to forgive an infinite debt of sin which we each owe, it must be paid for by him.

Paul refers to this idea in Rom. 3:25

"Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood through faith to demonstrate His righteousness because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed."

God was forgiving sin in the OT with the understanding the Christ would be the propitiation for them. Had the Cross not occurred God would have been unrighteous for failing to judge sin.

Jesus proclaimed forgiveness and He paid for it.

-Forgivenessis the "what" of
reconciliation.

-Justification is the "how"

James Spurgeon said...

Reformation soteriology does not begin and end with justification. Justification is only a sub-set of salvation as a whole - a salvation which was chosen for us by the Father in eternity, accomplished/purchased for us by Christ at Calvary, and is applied to us in the fullness of time by the Holy Spirit. It includes things like regeneration, justification, sanctification. glorification, redemption, etc. - none of which is the whole.

I think all agree that the final result is that we are made into the image of Christ. The process by which that takes place and to what extent we are active or passive in this great work and what it took to bring it about is where we would disagree.

I gotta run for the day but I'll get back to you sometime.

Karen said...

exist-dissolve, regeneration is not the same as glorification.

You're writing things as if regeneration includes the eschatological state of glorification.

As to your question "why the wait?" just as the iniquity of the Amorites needed time to be fulfilled the calling of the elect needs time to be fulfilled. (The fulness of time is a biblical phrase referring to things that need time to be come to fruition in the course of God's plan -- such as when Jesus was to incarnate.) Yet once reborn you are now with Christ in the heavenlies. The question as to why a reborn believer must 'play out the string', so to speak, i.e. live the rest of their life and physically die is another question. It has to do with sanctification and the role God's regenerated and converted elect play in carrying out His plan (such things as evangelization for instance).

Taliesin said...

Exist~Dissolve wrote:
You wrote: Christ taught nothing of "vicarious" righteousness.

The first question is whether or not this statement matters. For example, if Jesus teaches nothing about the union of Jews and Gentiles in the church, does that mean we should throw out Ephesians 3? Since He says nothing with respect to Gentiles not needing to be circumcised, should we dismiss the Epistle to the Galatians?

In other words, when you state: "Therefore, we have a conundrum. Either Christ and Paul are opposed, or Paul has been misinterpreted" there is a third option. That option is that this may be something on which Jesus simply did not teach.

The second question is whether or not the statement is true.

"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45 ESV) So Jesus clearly sees His death as vicarious ("performed or suffered by one person as a substitute for another or to the benefit or advantage of another").

Elsewhere: "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep." (John 10:14-15 ESV)

The picture of being sacrificed for the sheep points back to Isaiah 53:6 (All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.) Jesus said He would lay down His life for the sheep. Given His frequent appeal to the Old Testament, we know His familarity with it. I don't think the analogy of giving His life for the sheep is intended to be lost on us. He was pointing us to Isaiah.

In Isaiah 53:8 we are told that "he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people." Isaiah concludes this section with:

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

If this passage is not speaking of Jesus, then who? Should we be looking for someone else who will bear the sin of many? Someone else who will justify the many?

Later you appeal to John to support an infused righteousness (or something like it):
But what does it mean to "believe" in Jesus? The same John says. You then quote 1 John 3:21-24.

Along with others here who have responded already, I embrace the verses from 1 John. As for keeping God's commands, John describes them as believing in Jesus and loving one another. If we have been justified by faith, we do believe in Jesus. As for loving one another, our faith is a result of regeneration (being born of God), which results in our loving our brothers (this is what John says in 1 John 3:14).

Finally, you wrote:
But if "justification" is a forensic work, it is always a forensic work. If righteousness is imputed, it is ever imputed. Or does it change? But if it changes, why the need for the delay?

Justification and imputation are one time works in our lives, the effects of which are with us through eternity. God will ever see me through the righteousness of Christ.

But, justification by faith alone and imputation do not deny nor negate sanctification. The first two deal directly with my standing before God. The latter deals with my relationship to the continuing presence of sin in my life. One day, the good work that was begun in me will be brought to completion and I will sin no more. But today, I still sin. God works in me to conform me to Jesus and to produce the fruit of the Spirit.

As I think someone else has already pointed out here, as believers we have been justified, we are being sanctified, and we will be glorified.

Exist~Dissolve said...

Jerry--

Just a brief comment on the connection between forgiveness and justification. To illustrate my point, I have decided to forgive all of your credit card debt and mortgage loans. That is an absurd notion isn't it. I can't forgive them because they are not owed to me. In other words, forgiveness isn't free. It costs one as much as the other receives. If I forgive you the million, it cost me a million.

Even though I would question the applicability of a legal/financial metaphor to the relational reality that is forgiveness, I do not necessarily disagree that forgiveness is "costly." It cost the life of God Incarnate. However, this does not mean that forgiveness is conditional, which is my point.

If God is to forgive an infinite debt of sin which we each owe, it must be paid for by him.

But there is no "debt" sin. Forgiveness between God and humanity is necessary because sinful humans are separated from God, not because God has some "notched stick" (Luther's words) that needs accounting for.

Paul refers to this idea in Rom. 3:25

"Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood through faith to demonstrate His righteousness because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed."

God was forgiving sin in the OT with the understanding the Christ would be the propitiation for them. Had the Cross not occurred God would have been unrighteous for failing to judge sin.


I disagree. God would not be unjust in not judging sin, for whatever God does is just. There is no standard outside of Godself that compels God to achieve a certain standard in order for God to be considered just.

Jesus proclaimed forgiveness and He paid for it.

Exactly. Jesus came to forgive, and sinful humanity made him "pay"--they killed him for his act of self-giving.

-Forgivenessis the "what" of
reconciliation.

-Justification is the "how"


I'm not sure that this follows. Reconciliation is the "what" of reconciliation. Forgiveness given and received is the "how" of reconciliation.

Exist~Dissolve said...

exist-dissolve, regeneration is not the same as glorification.

I never said it was :)

Exist~Dissolve said...

taliesen--

The first question is whether or not this statement matters. For example, if Jesus teaches nothing about the union of Jews and Gentiles in the church, does that mean we should throw out Ephesians 3? Since He says nothing with respect to Gentiles not needing to be circumcised, should we dismiss the Epistle to the Galatians?

These are different issues, for Christ did say something about righteouness, and the "something" which he said about it repudiates the "vicarious righteousness" which has been read into Paul by Protestants.

In other words, when you state: "Therefore, we have a conundrum. Either Christ and Paul are opposed, or Paul has been misinterpreted" there is a third option. That option is that this may be something on which Jesus simply did not teach.

The second question is whether or not the statement is true.


He didn't teach on "vicarious" righteousness because he taught about its antithesis.

"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45 ESV) So Jesus clearly sees His death as vicarious ("performed or suffered by one person as a substitute for another or to the benefit or advantage of another").

Elsewhere: "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep." (John 10:14-15 ESV)

The picture of being sacrificed for the sheep points back to Isaiah 53:6 (All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.) Jesus said He would lay down His life for the sheep. Given His frequent appeal to the Old Testament, we know His familarity with it. I don't think the analogy of giving His life for the sheep is intended to be lost on us. He was pointing us to Isaiah.

In Isaiah 53:8 we are told that "he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people." Isaiah concludes this section with:

Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

If this passage is not speaking of Jesus, then who? Should we be looking for someone else who will bear the sin of many? Someone else who will justify the many?


First of all, most of these passages are not even talking about righteousness-vicarious or other. You are merely established that the idea of vicariousness is mentioned--this does not mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that Jesus was intending this meaning to apply to "righteousness."

Secondly, you know where I stand on the Isaiah bits. If the NT writers found useful portions and similarities to Christ therein, that is wonderful. However, we cannot make the assumption that this text is fully and perspicuously Christological in meaning. That would be a hermeneutical error of the highest degree.

Along with others here who have responded already, I embrace the verses from 1 John. As for keeping God's commands, John describes them as believing in Jesus and loving one another. If we have been justified by faith, we do believe in Jesus.

YOu are reading that into John. He says nothing of that.

As for loving one another, our faith is a result of regeneration (being born of God), which results in our loving our brothers (this is what John says in 1 John 3:14).

Yes, being born of God means that we love our brothers. However, the Protestant conception of "regeneration" which you are reading into the text is simply not there.

Justification and imputation are one time works in our lives, the effects of which are with us through eternity. God will ever see me through the righteousness of Christ.

Thank you. You are the only one, thus far, who has been consistent in this regard to imputed righteousness. This is, in fact, what Reformation theology teaches, the forever-imputation of righteousness.

But, justification by faith alone and imputation do not deny nor negate sanctification. The first two deal directly with my standing before God. The latter deals with my relationship to the continuing presence of sin in my life. One day, the good work that was begun in me will be brought to completion and I will sin no more. But today, I still sin. God works in me to conform me to Jesus and to produce the fruit of the Spirit.

Justification, as you have described it, may not "deny or negate" sanctification, but it certainly makes it a fairly superfluous and unnecessary conception. After all, I GOd eternally sees me as holy and righteous because Christ's righteousness forms blinders on God's eyes, then what I am in relation to my own nature and in relation to sin is really a non-issue. I might as well sin to the maximum, for as justification, in your words, is a "one-time work" whose benefits are eternal in nature, I will forever and indellibly be seen as righteous in Christ regardless of how big of a devil I am.

As I think someone else has already pointed out here, as believers we have been justified, we are being sanctified, and we will be glorified.

Again, this is fine. However, the way in which you have deployed your conception of justification, sanctification, regeneration and glorification are really nothing more than phenomenological christmas bows (you'll never see that phrase anywhere than here!)--they make things look good on the outside but are quite irrelevant to what is inside.

Taliesin said...

Exist~Dissolve

You wrote: Justification, as you have described it, may not "deny or negate" sanctification, but it certainly makes it a fairly superfluous and unnecessary conception. After all, I GOd eternally sees me as holy and righteous because Christ's righteousness forms blinders on God's eyes, then what I am in relation to my own nature and in relation to sin is really a non-issue. I might as well sin to the maximum, for as justification, in your words, is a "one-time work" whose benefits are eternal in nature, I will forever and indellibly be seen as righteous in Christ regardless of how big of a devil I am.

Then I have preached Paul's gospel to you. He received the same type of objections. Because, to summarize your paragraph, what you are essentially saying is that if justification works as I've described it, then you can just continue in sin and let grace abound (Romans 6:1).

The reality is if you have been justified by faith then you are a new creation. The old self was crucified with Christ. Sure, it is a daily struggle to put on the new man (Ephesians 4:24), but why would I become a devil? I have a Father who loves me, a Savior who died in my place, bearing my sin and my shame, and the Holy Spirit indwelling me to lead me to truth and righteousness. So yes, I am saved by grace alone through faith alone on the merit of Christ alone, but I am saved so I may do (not "by doing" but "to do") "good works" (Ephesians 2:8-10) to bring glory to God alone.

Exist~Dissolve said...

Taliesen--

Then I have preached Paul's gospel to you. He received the same type of objections. Because, to summarize your paragraph, what you are essentially saying is that if justification works as I've described it, then you can just continue in sin and let grace abound (Romans 6:1).

Perhaps there's a reason the same objections were raised to what Paul said...or how people wrongly interpreted him...hmmm...

The reality is if you have been justified by faith then you are a new creation. The old self was crucified with Christ. Sure, it is a daily struggle to put on the new man (Ephesians 4:24), but why would I become a devil? I have a Father who loves me, a Savior who died in my place, bearing my sin and my shame, and the Holy Spirit indwelling me to lead me to truth and righteousness. So yes, I am saved by grace alone through faith alone on the merit of Christ alone, but I am saved so I may do (not "by doing" but "to do") "good works" (Ephesians 2:8-10) to bring glory to God alone.

How are you a new creature? According to the "justification by faith" which you are advocating, justification is a change in God's perspective towards the human person, not an actual change. God sees Christ, not the human, for as justification by faith dictates, justified humans are still simulataneously saint and sinner. So where is the new creation? The fact is that it does not exist and the only thing that is "new" is the perspective through which God deceptively looks at us.

James Spurgeon said...

exit~d writes: How are you a new creature? According to the "justification by faith" which you are advocating, justification is a change in God's perspective towards the human person, not an actual change. God sees Christ, not the human, for as justification by faith dictates, justified humans are still simulataneously saint and sinner. So where is the new creation? The fact is that it does not exist and the only thing that is "new" is the perspective through which God deceptively looks at us.

For some reason you seem unable to grasp the idea that justification is but one aspect of the whole of salvation. You keep treating it as if we believe justification is all God does for us. Sorry to burst your bubble, but God initiates our salvation through regeneration, gifting us with a new nature by his grace, enabling us to believe and upon said faith justifying us and beginning the process of sanctification which will be carried on until death after which we carried to be with Christ to await the resurrection and our final glorification.

When we are discussing justification, we are discussing a part of a whole. Your comments indicate an inability to see that distinction.

James Spurgeon said...

BTW, exit~d, the fact that God looks at us as legally righteous is not deceptive at all. It is exactly what Christ purchased for us at Calvary and is ensured to his elect through his resurrection from the dead.

Romans 4:20-25 (ESV)
No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was "counted to him as righteousness." But the words "it was counted to him" were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

That declaration of "just" is a righteous declaration. The just judge must declare the sinner righteous if the righteous Substitute has made propitiation for that sinner's sins. The acceptance of that substitutionary atonement by the Father is evidenced by the resurrection and guarantees the justification of all those for whom He stood as sin-bearer.

Christ took my sin and gives me his righteousness. That perfect law-obedience is imputed to my account through faith alone.

Exist~Dissolve said...

James--

For some reason you seem unable to grasp the idea that justification is but one aspect of the whole of salvation.

I don't have an inability in grasping that reality. Rather, the problem that exists is the way in which justification by faith relates to these other issues or, more appropriately, how it actually doesn't relate (at least not as you conceive of JBF). I realize that sanctification, glorification, regeneration, etc. are all apart of salvation. However, what I do not understand is the way in which justification by faith (again, as you have described it) has anything to do with these other things. In this way, you have not provided an intelligible description of how JFB relates to sanctification, regeneration, etc., only that the others "exist also." So what? Apples and oranges exist concomitantly, but that doesn't mean that they have any meaningful, necessary relationship to one another. In the same way, your conception of JFB has little or nothing to do (in a necessary and meaningful way) with regeneration, sanctification, glorification, etc. The only way in which you can hold them together is to say that they're "there."

You keep treating it as if we believe justification is all God does for us.

I am fully aware that you believe there is something "other" than justification. My point is that because of the way in which you describe JFB, there is no need for the "other," nor is the "other" meaningfully or necessarily related to JFB.

Sorry to burst your bubble, but God initiates our salvation through regeneration, gifting us with a new nature by his grace, enabling us to believe and upon said faith justifying us and beginning the process of sanctification which will be carried on until death after which we carried to be with Christ to await the resurrection and our final glorification.

So God has to regenerate us (giving us a new nature to replace the old nature) in order to "see" us as Christ's righteousness, even though we are still sinners, even though we have been regenerated. Oh, and I forgot, we are sanctified and then finally glorified, even though for all of eternity we will be seen by God through Christ's righteousness imputed to us...somewhere along there I missed the need or intelligibility of regeneration, sanctification and glorification in relationship to being "declared" righteous by God.

Answer me this question: If God has been convinced that we're holy (even though we are not) because of Christ's righteousness which has been imputed to us (and imposed upon God), why do we need to be sanctified or glorified?

And if we are monergistically regenerated by God, why do we remain sinful? If the effectual call to salvation is so great, why is God unable (or unwilling, perhaps?) to make the regeneration "take?"

When we are discussing justification, we are discussing a part of a whole. Your comments indicate an inability to see that distinction.

No, my comments are getting at the relationship of the part to the whole. The "part" which you are describing doesn't fit the whole. You are talking about a peice of 2x4 when the discussion is about a Ford. The part doesn't fit, and it has very little to do with the whole. Unless you're building a deck. Then the "whole" which we are discussing (the Ford) is the wrong topic of discussion. Either way, the part doesn't fit, so either the part or the whole is inappropriate.

Exist~Dissolve said...

James--

BTW, exit~d, the fact that God looks at us as legally righteous is not deceptive at all. It is exactly what Christ purchased for us at Calvary and is ensured to his elect through his resurrection from the dead.

Yes, it is deceptive. We are not righteous, as you advocate, but are rather always sinners. Therefore, even if God is convinced (or compelled, as you later advocate) by Christ to consider us righteous, we are not actually. Therefore, one is in a curious position of alleging that God believes something about us that is not actually true. Most people call that neurosis.

That declaration of "just" is a righteous declaration. The just judge must declare the sinner righteous if the righteous Substitute has made propitiation for that sinner's sins.

God "must" declare the sinner righteous? This "shotgun acquittal" that you advocate is seriously dysfunctional. I cannot countenance that Christ blackmailed the Father to declare us righteous, for Christ has done something which compels the Father to do something which God was not otherwise disposed to do. Reconciliation then becomes something that is not desired either on the Father's (for why did the Father not freely forgive?) nor the sinner's behalf (for we, as you will no doubt advocate, are "totally depraved), but is rather something imposed upon both by the heavy-handed and sado-masochistic devices of Christ. Truly odd...

Christ took my sin and gives me his righteousness. That perfect law-obedience is imputed to my account through faith alone.

If what you're saying is true, he didn't "give" you anything, but shoved it down yours and the Father's collective throats, for neither of you were desirious for reconcilation between humanity and God.

Taliesin said...

james spurgeon wrote:

God initiates our salvation through regeneration, gifting us with a new nature by his grace, enabling us to believe and upon said faith justifying us and beginning the process of sanctification which will be carried on until death after which we carried to be with Christ to await the resurrection and our final glorification.

And all God's children said, "Amen."

Taliesin said...

exist~dissolve wrote:
what I do not understand is the way in which justification by faith (again, as you have described it) has anything to do with these other things.

and I am fully aware that you believe there is something "other" than justification. My point is that because of the way in which you describe JFB, there is no need for the "other," nor is the "other" meaningfully or necessarily related to JFB.

Then you really don't get Reformed Theology at all. In Reformed Theology, regeneration is God's causal act to give us faith. Believing in Jesus is not possible for the unregenerate; they are dead. Upon the Holy Spirit's quickening (regeneration), we are given "eyes to see and ears to hear" (we are a new creation) and respond to the glory of Christ. Responding then in faith we are justified by God, because our representative is no longer Adam, but Jesus.

exist~dissolve continues:
Answer me this question: If God has been convinced that we're holy (even though we are not) because of Christ's righteousness which has been imputed to us (and imposed upon God), why do we need to be sanctified or glorified?

First, you keep trying to place the Father against the Son when they are working in perfect unity. Christ's righteousness is not "imposed upon God" because this was the Father's plan. He established representation.

Second, God has not been "convinced" of anything. What does Scripture mean by, "I will remember their sin and lawless deeds no more" (Hebrews 10:17)? Does it mean that the omniscient God forgets? No, it means He treats us as if we hadn't sinned. Likewise, it is not that the Father has been "convinced" that we are as righteous as Jesus, but that He will treat us as if are as righteous as Jesus.

So, third, onto your question. Why are these other aspects necessary? Sanctification is necessary (1) because the Father's purpose in saving us was that we would display His glory (Ephesians 1:12); (2) because however God "sees" us, sin is rebellion and pulls us away from Him, so that we do not enjoy the benefits of being His child (Hebrews 12:5-7); (3) because, having been regenerated, we want to be like Jesus (Romans 7:21-25); (4) because we are in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit and are God's temple so we should not participate in sin (1 Corinthians 6:19-20); (5) we still live with the affects of sin - God has not altered the "whatsoever a man sows, that also shall he reap" principle (Galatians 6:7); others can probably add more.

As for glorification, it is the end of the curse for all of creation and the culmination of our sanctification. "And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Romans 8:23). So it is when the struggles of Romans 7 come to an end in Romans 8:16-23. What place does glorification have? It means I will be with God forever and be free of this corruptable body.

"I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 'Death is swallowed up in victory.' 'O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?' The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 15:50-57 ESV)

Taliesin said...

exist~dissolve wrote:
God "must" declare the sinner righteous? This "shotgun acquittal" that you advocate is seriously dysfunctional.

The "must" here is an extension of "it is impossible for God to lie" (Hebrews 6:18). God established a representative system. Just as Adam's sin "must" be applied to his progeny, so "must" Christ's righteousness be applied to those who have faith. It is the economy of the universe that God created. Could God, theoretically, have created a different universe? I suppose so, but He didn't. So it is not a "shotgun acquittal" because God is following the rules He established (because if He didn't follow the rules He established, He would be a liar).

exist~dissolve wrote:
I cannot countenance that Christ blackmailed the Father to declare us righteous, for Christ has done something which compels the Father to do something which God was not otherwise disposed to do.

Neither can anyone here. But neither is anyone here advocating this. The Father and Son were, are, and ever will be in perfect agreement over the Son bearing the penalty of our sin that we might be declared righteous in Him. All that God may be glorified.

exist~dissolve wrote:
Truly odd...

"For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1 Corinthians 1:22-25 ESV)

Exist~Dissolve said...

Taliesen--

Then you really don't get Reformed Theology at all. In Reformed Theology, regeneration is God's causal act to give us faith.

Yes, I understand that.

Believing in Jesus is not possible for the unregenerate; they are dead. Upon the Holy Spirit's quickening (regeneration), we are given "eyes to see and ears to hear" (we are a new creation) and respond to the glory of Christ. Responding then in faith we are justified by God, because our representative is no longer Adam, but Jesus.

But again, we are not really "new creations." The old has not gone, for we still need God to look at us through Christ. Therefore, regeneration has not actually accomplished anything, other than allowing the Reformed theologian an extra step in an otherwise unnecessary order of salvation. If we are "new" creations, there should be no need for justification. Yet if we are "justified" (seen through Jesus' righteousness), then regeneration is itself irrelevant. Moreover, when one adds in "causal acts" of God, the entire complex becomes entirely unnecessary and smacks of little more than the attempts of a theologian to create a system.

First, you keep trying to place the Father against the Son when they are working in perfect unity. Christ's righteousness is not "imposed upon God" because this was the Father's plan. He established representation.

I am not trying to place them against each other at all; quite to the contrary, I wish to see the act of God in Christ as being a work of harmony in the Godhead. What I have been showing, however, is precisely the way in which Reformed theology--both in soteriology and atonement theology--pit the Father against the Son over the fate of humanity.

Your conception of justification is, indeed, an imposition of the righteousness on God (and humanity), for there is no reason why God could not directly justify human beings. Therefore, the need for this intermediary righteousness reveals that either 1.) God doesn't desire to justify and the justification of humanity is imposed upon God (for otherwise he could freely justify and still be just) or 2.) God likes a lot of unnecessary theatrics. In other words, either God MUST pursue justification this way (which brings into question the "freedom" of God which Reformed theology seeks to vociferously to defend) or the Reformed crowd is going about the issue all wrong.

Second, God has not been "convinced" of anything. What does Scripture mean by, "I will remember their sin and lawless deeds no more" (Hebrews 10:17)? Does it mean that the omniscient God forgets? No, it means He treats us as if we hadn't sinned. Likewise, it is not that the Father has been "convinced" that we are as righteous as Jesus, but that He will treat us as if are as righteous as Jesus.

This is fine, but I see no reason, then, why you would insist that the righteousness of Christ must be "imputed" to us (since what you are describing is a psychological and volitional change in God) nor why Christ needed to die. You will advocate that Christ's death somehow creates the possibility of God treating us this way. However, if God is not willing to treat us this way apart from the cross, my original argument still stands that either Christ's cross blackmails GOd's changed treatment and perspective of humanity, or God is the maximal sado-masochist in the universe, desiring the death of Christ for justification when such death was entirely unnecessary.

So, third, onto your question. Why are these other aspects necessary? Sanctification is necessary (1) because the Father's purpose in saving us was that we would display His glory (Ephesians 1:12);

But God's glory will not be detracted nor added to by the sanctification of the regenerate, justified believer. Therefore, this is a poor "necessity."

(2) because however God "sees" us, sin is rebellion and pulls us away from Him, so that we do not enjoy the benefits of being His child (Hebrews 12:5-7);

Will we not "persevere" unalterably, though? We will enjoy the benefits of being God's child eternally for we have been indelibly saved by the "causal act" of God. Therefore, sanctification is still completely unnecessary and, given your conception of the way in which God has eternally decreed even the very rebellion in which you and I will persist, it is highly anscillary to the discussion.

(3) because, having been regenerated, we want to be like Jesus (Romans 7:21-25);

God, per justification, already treats us as such.

(4) because we are in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit and are God's temple so we should not participate in sin (1 Corinthians 6:19-20); (5) we still live with the affects of sin - God has not altered the "whatsoever a man sows, that also shall he reap" principle (Galatians 6:7); others can probably add more.

I understand what you are trying to get at. However, my question still remains that if per justification one is "seen and treated" by God as if one were Jesus, I do not understand the necessity of sanctification. Sure, it may make us look "prettier" on the outside to those who see us and know us, but this achieves little more than religious aesthetics. What is the actual necessity (not benefit) of sanctification for the believer--what would happen without it?

As for glorification, it is the end of the curse for all of creation and the culmination of our sanctification. "And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies" (Romans 8:23). So it is when the struggles of Romans 7 come to an end in Romans 8:16-23. What place does glorification have? It means I will be with God forever and be free of this corruptable body.

You seem to link the propensity for sinfulness with being a temporal, embodied creature. Is this true?

Exist~Dissolve said...

Taliesen--

The "must" here is an extension of "it is impossible for God to lie" (Hebrews 6:18). God established a representative system. Just as Adam's sin "must" be applied to his progeny, so "must" Christ's righteousness be applied to those who have faith. It is the economy of the universe that God created. Could God, theoretically, have created a different universe? I suppose so, but He didn't. So it is not a "shotgun acquittal" because God is following the rules He established (because if He didn't follow the rules He established, He would be a liar).

No, God is truthful in whatever God does, even if God changes the "rules" that God has established. To say that God "cannot lie" is not a eternal truth about God (for such would indicate that there is a "truth" above God to which God's actions must be applied to determine whether or not they are "true" or "false"), but is rather a human way of speaking about God's faithfulness. Therefore, the use of "must" is still entirely inappropriate and indicates that one has erected a philosophical system to which God's actions must align.

Neither can anyone here. But neither is anyone here advocating this.

I understand that you are not conciously advocating it. However, it is the natural and necessary conclusion of your philosophical system.

The Father and Son were, are, and ever will be in perfect agreement over the Son bearing the penalty of our sin that we might be declared righteous in Him. All that God may be glorified.

But this is sado-masochistic, for you advocate that God has eternally decreed that this penalty should exist. Therefore, not only do you have the awkward scenario of God creating the necessary conditions in which the penalty must be paid, but concomitantly deciding from all eternity that Christ would bear the God-created penalty.

exist~dissolve wrote:
Truly odd...

"For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1 Corinthians 1:22-25 ESV)


Give me a break. Just because I think what you have described is absurd does not mean that this is because I have been offended by your "preaching of the cross." I find Arianism, Scientology and World Cup Soccer equally absurd, but I would not countenance that either of these are "preaching the cross of Christ."

James Spurgeon said...

It would be an interesting study to go back and count up how many times exist~dissolve has referenced Holy Writ to back up his truth claims compared to those who have argued against his viewpoints.

I note that every time the Scripture is referenced to show from where our truth claims are derived, those Scriptures are dismissed as not applicable, poor hermeneutics, so on and so forth.

But other than the dismissal, no alternative understanding is given, no attempt is made to back up the claim that the Scripture is not applicable or that the hermeneutics are bad. There is just a dismissal coupled with faulty logic like, "Well, if you believe that, you must believe "X" about God or salvation or whatever as if reformed soteriology had never encountered anyone or anything quite like our beloved exit~d and his reasoning skills.

I repeat: there has been no refutation of the Scriptures or their interpretation, there have only been dismissals of them as absurd with nothing of substance to back up the dismissals or convince us their dismissal is reasonable.

But why should we be surprised? My appeal to Sola Scriptura was met with the same scoffing, unsubstantiated dismissal as all the Scripture references.

The bottom line is this: most of those who deny Sola Fide do so because they are not Bible believers.

Go ahead. Wait for exit~d to make his case from the word of God. But you will be waiting a long, long time.

Taliesin said...

exist~dissolve responded:
No, God is truthful in whatever God does, even if God changes the "rules" that God has established. To say that God "cannot lie" is not a eternal truth about God (for such would indicate that there is a "truth" above God to which God's actions must be applied to determine whether or not they are "true" or "false"), but is rather a human way of speaking about God's faithfulness.

No, I think the Bible means this is an eternal truth about God. It even mentions twice (Hebrews 6:18 and Titus 1:2) that God does not lie. Paul in 2 Timothy 2:13 puts it this way: "if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself." (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV) See, it is not that there is something outside of God that binds God, but God's own character (His attributes) directs His actions.

You say:
Your conception of justification is, indeed, an imposition of the righteousness on God (and humanity), for there is no reason why God could not directly justify human beings.

But there is a reason. Why, in the words of Romans 3:25 was the cross necessary to show display God's righteousness in relationships to sins that had already been committed? In your scheme, God doesn't need the cross, He can pass over sin and still be righteous. But according to Paul, the death of Jesus was necessary to display God's righteousness. Why? Because a holy God has to punish sin, and God is holy and just (and true).

You continued:
Therefore, the need for this intermediary righteousness reveals that either 1.) God doesn't desire to justify and the justification of humanity is imposed upon God (for otherwise he could freely justify and still be just) or 2.) God likes a lot of unnecessary theatrics. In other words, either God MUST pursue justification this way (which brings into question the "freedom" of God which Reformed theology seeks to vociferously to defend) or the Reformed crowd is going about the issue all wrong.

Or 3.) God wants to reveal who He is to His creation. He wants to reveal that He is just, that He is merciful, that He is holy, that He is gracious, that He is faithful, that He is sovereign, that He is omnipotent, that He is omniscient, and more. How God chooses to do that is not for me to question. But I can assure you that none of what God does is "unnecessary theatrics."

So you want to argue I have a convoluted the philosophical system, but it seems to me like your the one who is basing his arguments on a philosphical (i.e. non-Biblical) concept of God.

So I will ask one simple question. In the concept of God which you describe, what does Romans 3:25 ("whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins." ESV)
mean? Why was it necessary for Jesus to die on the cross in relationship to "former sins" if God can directly justify human beings.

Exist~Dissolve said...

Taliesin--

No, I think the Bible means this is an eternal truth about God. It even mentions twice (Hebrews 6:18 and Titus 1:2) that God does not lie. Paul in 2 Timothy 2:13 puts it this way: "if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself." (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV) See, it is not that there is something outside of God that binds God, but God's own character (His attributes) directs His actions.

This is tautological. Again, as that which God does is that which reflects God's character, any action (whether it appears, from a phenomenological standpoint, to be truthful or not) will be "godly." So to say that God's character directs God's actions provides nothing in the way of phenomenological assessment.

Why, in the words of Romans 3:25 was the cross necessary to show display God's righteousness in relationships to sins that had already been committed? In your scheme, God doesn't need the cross, He can pass over sin and still be righteous. But according to Paul, the death of Jesus was necessary to display God's righteousness. Why? Because a holy God has to punish sin, and God is holy and just (and true).

You are right in saying that in my scheme, God doesn't need the cross. However, as the problem of sinfulness which the cross seeks to resolve is a human, not divine problem, it is humanity--and not God!--that needs the cross (and Incarnation, resurrection, ascension, etc.). The cross is not an act wherein God is compelled to change God's assessment of humanity, as Reformed theology proposes. Rather, it is means by which humanity is changed to have the chance of existing in proper relationship with God.

Or 3.) God wants to reveal who He is to His creation. He wants to reveal that He is just, that He is merciful, that He is holy, that He is gracious, that He is faithful, that He is sovereign, that He is omnipotent, that He is omniscient, and more. How God chooses to do that is not for me to question. But I can assure you that none of what God does is "unnecessary theatrics."

Obviously, I will disagree with the way in which you construe revelation.

So you want to argue I have a convoluted the philosophical system, but it seems to me like your the one who is basing his arguments on a philosphical (i.e. non-Biblical) concept of God.

Who determines what a "biblical" argument is? Again, if you want, we can stack up proof-texts against one another and see who has the most, but this, IMO, does not constitute a biblical argument. Each of us interprets Paul differently on this issue (since what Jesus says seems quite anscilary to the discussion of justification), and so each has a "biblical" argument. However, you seem to be mildly asserting that there is a transcendent "biblical" argument to which can have access if they only come at the texts the right way. I, on the other hand, completely disagree with this and believe it reflects an uncritical assessment of the many ways (often devious) in which one's philosophical presuppositions color and determine interpretation.

So I will ask one simple question. In the concept of God which you describe, what does Romans 3:25 ("whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins." ESV)
mean? Why was it necessary for Jesus to die on the cross in relationship to "former sins" if God can directly justify human beings.


Why? Because humans are still sinful; the power and violence of sin had to be broken in order that human beings could respond to the forgiving love of God and be reconciled. By breaking and conquering the power of sin, Christ created a new way by which humans might be recreated in the image of Christ and be reconciled to God. As I have said before many times, the crux of atonement is that humans--NOT GOD--need to be changed.

jerryb said...

Exit D

You have renewed my faith...


my faith in the fact that no one can be reasoned into faith. You are not neutral in seeking to understand Scripture. You throw up arguments you assume are winning based upon your "scheme". Are you really so sure. Have you noticed that you are your own authority? Arguing with you feeds your pride that you have answers. Paul refers to it as "suppressing the truth", like the kid sitting on the lid of the bucket trying to keep the racoon from escaping, denying that anything is under the lid at all. Right now, God calls out to you, first as an command and then as a warning "be reconciled to God", 2 Cor. 5:17-21.

To others who stop by, I sure hope Phil says more about 2 Cor. 5:21. It is such a glorious verse, worthy of extended reflection.

Exist~Dissolve said...

jerry--

my faith in the fact that no one can be reasoned into faith.

I agree.

You are not neutral in seeking to understand Scripture.

I have never claimed neutrality in approaching Scripture, for neutrality is entirely impossible. We will all interpret it from various contexts which will invariably color our conclusions.

Taliesin said...

[If I didn't suspect that the number of people still checking this thread could be counted on one hand, I wouldn't post something this long.]

exist~dissolve

You wrote:
No, God is truthful in whatever God does, even if God changes the "rules" that God has established.

To which I responded:
No, I think the Bible means this is an eternal truth about God. It even mentions twice (Hebrews 6:18 and Titus 1:2) that God does not lie. Paul in 2 Timothy 2:13 puts it this way: "if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself." (2 Timothy 2:13 ESV) See, it is not that there is something outside of God that binds God, but God's own character (His attributes) directs His actions.

Your response:
This is tautological. Again, as that which God does is that which reflects God's character, any action (whether it appears, from a phenomenological standpoint, to be truthful or not) will be "godly." So to say that God's character directs God's actions provides nothing in the way of phenomenological assessment.

That God acts in accordance with His nature may indeed be tautological (in the sense of "a statement that is always true") but that doesn't mean it didn't address your assertion that "God is truthful in whatever God does, even if God changes the "rules" that God has established." The "rule" being discussed was representation. I had argued that since God has established representation as the "rule" of His universe, He has bound Himself to follow it. This is consistent with the argument of Galatians 3:15-18, where Paul says that God cannot annul the promise to Abraham via the Law. Likewise, the argument of Hebrews 6:16-18 is similar, and describes God's purposes as "unchangable." Now, if you want to disagree with the assertion that representation is a "rule" God established, be my guest. But do not try to say that once God made the "rule" He would not keep it.

But, if you want to talk fallacious agruments, let's consider a few.

(1) You wrote:
Therefore, the need for this intermediary righteousness reveals that either 1.) God doesn't desire to justify and the justification of humanity is imposed upon God (for otherwise he could freely justify and still be just) or 2.) God likes a lot of unnecessary theatrics.

This is a false dilemma. You claim that there are only two options, but in fact there are more. You claim to understand Reformed Theology, so in setting up this false dilemma did you intentionally exclude the Reformed position or were sloppy in your argumentation? Or can you show that to be a logical fallacy by presenting a third option?

(2) Then, when I pointed out the Reformed option to you: "Or 3.) God wants to reveal who He is to His creation. He wants to reveal that He is just, . . ."

You respond with:
Obviously, I will disagree with the way in which you construe revelation.

Which is not a fallacious argument as it is no argument at all. For example, you stated, "However, it is the natural and necessary conclusion of your philosophical system."

Obviously, I disagree with your understanding of my philosophical system.

Gee, that's helpful, isn't it.

(3) When asked to support your arguments Biblically, you respond with: Ok, let me gather up all my proof-texts and we'll see who has more. Doh! Determining the theological meaningfulness of a certain doctrine cannot simply be based upon stringing a bunch of verses to the end of it.

Sorry, but we never asked you for proof texts. If we are wrong, what is the flow of Paul's argument in Romans? If we have justification wrong, what does the word justified mean? If righteousness is not imputed, what does the Bible mean by "Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness?" There are Biblical defenses other than proof texts.

(4) You wrote:
[Luther] effectively undermined the words of Jesus who taught that the righteous are those who are faithful in following and doing the will of God. Christ taught nothing of "vicarious" righteousness. Therefore, we have a conundrum. Either Christ and Paul are opposed, or Paul has been misinterpreted (and wrongly fronted as the lens through which to view Jesus' teachings). I would argue that the latter is more probable.

But just because Jesus taught nothing about about "vicarious" righteousness does not automatically mean that He and Paul are opposed if Paul does put forth "vicarious" righteousness. This is another false dilemma, unless in the background you are assuming that Jesus taught something contrary to "vicarious" righteousness.

But you must not have been, because later you wrote, "Each of us interprets Paul differently on this issue (since what Jesus says seems quite anscilary [sic] to the discussion of justification)." But if what Jesus says is ancillary to the discussion of justification, and Paul teaches a doctrine of justification by faith alone, Paul would not necessarily be opposed to Jesus as you have presumed.

(5) In this part of the discussion, jerry b wrote: "Did Christ "highlight" the doctrine, not so much, since God's sovereign plan was for Christ to be rejected. Christ proclaimed the 'what' (forgiveness) more than the 'how' (imputation)." Thus pointing out your false dilemma.

Your response was, "Again, as "forgiveness" and "justification" are two different things, I’m sure how relevant this is to the discussion. It is relevant because you had been claiming that Jesus and Paul were opposed. jerry b was pointing out that what Jesus taught was focused on the "what" of forgiveness and, since this is ancillary to the doctrine of imputation/justification by faith alone, you cannot say that if Paul taught justification by faith alone, he was contradicting Jesus.

You also wrote:
These are different issues, for Christ did say something about righteouness, and the "something" which he said about it repudiates the "vicarious righteousness" which has been read into Paul by Protestants. But if this is true, what Jesus had to say was not ancillary to justification, which I noted earlier that you also stated. But let's press on.

(6) You make accusations of "straw men" being made of your position, but then you write, "We are created and recreated to participate within Christ’s righteousness, not simply to slip it on like a robe." Yet this is a straw man of the Reformed position, which, again, you claim to understand. The Reformed position holds to the resurrection, when we will receive new bodies untainted by sin, not that we merely slip on Christ's righteousness like a robe.

You continue torching this straw man by saying, "Of course, this ancient teaching of the church strikes deeply at the heart of Reformation theology which only admits that we can be "seen" as righteous through the righteousness of Christ. Unfortunately, the latter misses the biblical and historical faith of the church which teaches that we will truly "become like Christ," not merely by proxy, but in our very natures.

But Dabney writes in his Systematic Theology (p. 712): "And as we were federally connected, first with Adam, and then with Christ, we bear first the animal body, (Adam’s) and then the spiritual (Christ’s ). And Christ’s humanity also, during His humiliation, passed through that first stage, to the second; because he assumed all the innocent weaknesses and affections of a literal man. Our σωμα πνευματικον , then, is defined to be what Christ’s glorified body now in Heaven is." The Westminster Confession states that in the resurrection our bodies shall "be made conformable to His own glorious body." I can only conclude that you have presented a straw man of Reformed Theology either intentionally or out of ignorance of what Reformed Theology teaches.

(7) You responded to me:
You know where I stand on the Isaiah bits. If the NT writers found useful portions and similarities to Christ therein, that is wonderful. However, we cannot make the assumption that this text is fully and perspicuously Christological in meaning. That would be a hermeneutical error of the highest degree.

But this didn't address my questions, which were, "If this passage [Isaiah 53] is not speaking of Jesus, then who? Should we be looking for someone else who will bear the sin of many? Someone else who will justify the many?" These are not rhetorical questions. If Isaiah is not speaking of Jesus, then of whom does He speak?

(8) When I had written, "As for keeping God's commands, John describes them as believing in Jesus and loving one another. If we have been justified by faith, we do believe in Jesus."

You responded:
YOu are reading that into John. He says nothing of that.

1 John 3:23: And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. (ESV) So John clearly says that Jesus' commandment is that we believe in Him and love one another. And justification by faith implying that we believe seems pretty uncontroversial to me, since to have faith is to believe.

(9) In response to my reference to 1 John 3:14 you wrote:
Yes, being born of God means that we love our brothers. However, the Protestant conception of "regeneration" which you are reading into the text is simply not there.

Here, I give you your due. 1 John 3:14 does not address this issue. I gave the wrong reference. The correct reference is 1 John 4:7 (Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. ESV). "Loves" is present tense and "has been born" is perfect tense. Our on-going love is evidence that we have, in the past, been born of God (regenerated). Love is a fruit of the Spirit and evidence of our salvation. This is the Reformed doctrine of regeneration. You may not like it is. You may claim it is not needed in our theology (you would be wrong, but you can make that claim). But it is the Reformed doctrine of regeneration.

This is already way too long, so let me conclude with the following:

(10) With respect to Romans 3:25 and the need for the cross, you wrote:
Why? Because humans are still sinful; the power and violence of sin had to be broken in order that human beings could respond to the forgiving love of God and be reconciled. By breaking and conquering the power of sin, Christ created a new way by which humans might be recreated in the image of Christ and be reconciled to God. As I have said before many times, the crux of atonement is that humans--NOT GOD--need to be changed.

In general terms, I don't find much to disagree with until the last sentence. And there it's primarily the assumptions behind that sentence that I object too.

The problem is your explanation doesn't say anything about Romans 3:25. I don't see any references to God's righteousness or to sins previously committed. This is not proof-texting. If it were, I wouldn't be asking for your interpretation I'd be saying Romans 3:25 ends the discussion. But Paul has to mean something by this verse, and by the words "God's righteousness" and "former sins." The question is still what does he mean, if not the Reformed understanding of the verse.

Exist~Dissolve said...

Taliesin--

That God acts in accordance with His nature may indeed be tautological (in the sense of "a statement that is always true") but that doesn't mean it didn't address your assertion that "God is truthful in whatever God does, even if God changes the "rules" that God has established." The "rule" being discussed was representation. I had argued that since God has established representation as the "rule" of His universe, He has bound Himself to follow it. This is consistent with the argument of Galatians 3:15-18, where Paul says that God cannot annul the promise to Abraham via the Law. Likewise, the argument of Hebrews 6:16-18 is similar, and describes God's purposes as "unchangable." Now, if you want to disagree with the assertion that representation is a "rule" God established, be my guest. But do not try to say that once God made the "rule" He would not keep it.

My point is that our assessment of the "rules" which God has established are imperfect. Therefore, the "consistency" which we believe God expresses in divine action may or not be actual. Therefore, when Paul (not God) speaks about "representation," he is using human language and its corolary inexactness to finitely express something about the eternal nature and revelatory act of God in salvation history. To make Paul's words into assertive, propositional statements which are expected to encapsulate correlation to the divine nature is misguided and is not honest about the limititations and metaphorical nature of language in reference to God-speak.


This is a false dilemma. You claim that there are only two options, but in fact there are more. You claim to understand Reformed Theology, so in setting up this false dilemma did you intentionally exclude the Reformed position or were sloppy in your argumentation? Or can you show that to be a logical fallacy by presenting a third option?


I do not believe that I am presenting a false dilemma. Rather, I am cutting through the rhetoric of Reformed theology to get at the natural conclusions which must be necessitated by Reformed theology's starting philosophical assumptions about the nature of God in relation to the created order. I obviously am not claiming that this is what Reformed theologian's overtly state. Rather, I am showing the options left to the Reformed theologian if they are intellectually honest about their philosophical methods.

(2) Then, when I pointed out the Reformed option to you: "Or 3.) God wants to reveal who He is to His creation. He wants to reveal that He is just, . . ."

You respond with:
Obviously, I will disagree with the way in which you construe revelation.

Which is not a fallacious argument as it is no argument at all. For example, you stated, "However, it is the natural and necessary conclusion of your philosophical system."

Obviously, I disagree with your understanding of my philosophical system.

Gee, that's helpful, isn't it.


Indeed.

Sorry, but we never asked you for proof texts. If we are wrong, what is the flow of Paul's argument in Romans? If we have justification wrong, what does the word justified mean? If righteousness is not imputed, what does the Bible mean by "Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness?" There are Biblical defenses other than proof texts.

I've been through this on this thread already--I believe that Paul's discussion about justification is most a counter to the Judaizer's belief that salvation and justification were rooted in an ideological and cultural identification--i.e., being a Jew (circumcised, following food rituals, etc.). Against these claims of exclusivity, Paul disavows that the "works of the law" (mere identification and participation within the Jewish system) bring justification. Interestingly enough, it was the Judaizers who affirmed a quasi-imputation of righteousness (that is, righteousness by identification with the Jewish law) and it is this precise notion which Paul completely undermines in his writings. To Paul, justification comes by being made into a new creation by following Christ in faithfulness to the will of God.


But just because Jesus taught nothing about about "vicarious" righteousness does not automatically mean that He and Paul are opposed if Paul does put forth "vicarious" righteousness. This is another false dilemma, unless in the background you are assuming that Jesus taught something contrary to "vicarious" righteousness.


And to this, obviously, I would respond that I do not see anywhere that Paul teaches vicarious righteousness. In fact, in opposition to the Judaizers, Paul actually preaches vociferously against such a notion.

But you must not have been, because later you wrote, "Each of us interprets Paul differently on this issue (since what Jesus says seems quite anscilary [sic] to the discussion of justification)." But if what Jesus says is ancillary to the discussion of justification, and Paul teaches a doctrine of justification by faith alone, Paul would not necessarily be opposed to Jesus as you have presumed.

My comments about Jesus' teachings being ancillary to the discussion of justification was tongue in cheek. I think Christ's words should take preeminence in the discussion. However, as Protestant theology has tended to do, it is Paul who is more often than not the sole voice in the discussion of justification by faith. I think this is a colossal mistake, one which has contributed to the false conceptions of justification by faith which are rampant in evangelical Christianity today.

(5) In this part of the discussion, jerry b wrote: "Did Christ "highlight" the doctrine, not so much, since God's sovereign plan was for Christ to be rejected. Christ proclaimed the 'what' (forgiveness) more than the 'how' (imputation)." Thus pointing out your false dilemma.

Your response was, "Again, as "forgiveness" and "justification" are two different things, I’m sure how relevant this is to the discussion. It is relevant because you had been claiming that Jesus and Paul were opposed. jerry b was pointing out that what Jesus taught was focused on the "what" of forgiveness and, since this is ancillary to the doctrine of imputation/justification by faith alone, you cannot say that if Paul taught justification by faith alone, he was contradicting Jesus.

You also wrote:
These are different issues, for Christ did say something about righteouness, and the "something" which he said about it repudiates the "vicarious righteousness" which has been read into Paul by Protestants. But if this is true, what Jesus had to say was not ancillary to justification, which I noted earlier that you also stated. But let's press on.


I agree that what Jesus says is not ancillary to justification, and this has been my point from the beginning. My comments about Jesus' ideas being irrelevant to the discussion was said sarcastically, but obviously it did not translate through the text.

You make accusations of "straw men" being made of your position, but then you write, "We are created and recreated to participate within Christ’s righteousness, not simply to slip it on like a robe." Yet this is a straw man of the Reformed position, which, again, you claim to understand. The Reformed position holds to the resurrection, when we will receive new bodies untainted by sin, not that we merely slip on Christ's righteousness like a robe.

No, this is exactly how Jerry described righteousness, for he asked me if I'd be "wearing my own or Christ's righteousness."

Moreover, our bodies are not tainted with sin--that is gnostic thinking, something which the historical church has condemned as heretical for thousands of years. I would presume that you do not wish to align yourself with such ideas...

But Dabney writes in his Systematic Theology (p. 712): "And as we were federally connected, first with Adam, and then with Christ, we bear first the animal body, (Adam’s) and then the spiritual (Christ’s ). And Christ’s humanity also, during His humiliation, passed through that first stage, to the second; because he assumed all the innocent weaknesses and affections of a literal man. Our σωμα πνευματικον , then, is defined to be what Christ’s glorified body now in Heaven is." The Westminster Confession states that in the resurrection our bodies shall "be made conformable to His own glorious body." I can only conclude that you have presented a straw man of Reformed Theology either intentionally or out of ignorance of what Reformed Theology teaches.

I see nothing in this comment that talks about my conception of being conformed to the image of Christ in deification. All that Dabney seems to be saying is that our resurrected "bodies" will be the same as Christ. In this comment, he says nothing of the fundamental nature of the human person, for it is obvious that a dichtomy of body/person is being assumed in his discussion of resurrection. Moreover, in qualifying Jesus' experience of the "innocent" weaknesses and affectations of human bodily experience, it is clear that my characterization still holds, for Dabney is only advocating (in this quote) that the finiteness of the "body" are being overcome. This quotation says nothing of the need of the dichotomized soul to be imputed with the righteousness of Christ (as Reformed theology assumes).

But this didn't address my questions, which were, "If this passage [Isaiah 53] is not speaking of Jesus, then who? Should we be looking for someone else who will bear the sin of many? Someone else who will justify the many?" These are not rhetorical questions. If Isaiah is not speaking of Jesus, then of whom does He speak?

I have no idea. Biblical scholarship over the centuries has offered many suggestions, some more compelling than others. As the writer does not mention any names, it is impossible to tell who the writer had in mind when writing this. All that we know is that the NT writers read Christ back into these passages, just as they did with many other passages (many of which appear to have absolutely no Messianic meaning at all). However, the fact that they selectively chose particular verses or segments of Scripture does not mean that they intended to incorporate the entire context of the passages which they quoted.

The correct reference is 1 John 4:7 (Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. ESV). "Loves" is present tense and "has been born" is perfect tense. Our on-going love is evidence that we have, in the past, been born of God (regenerated). Love is a fruit of the Spirit and evidence of our salvation. This is the Reformed doctrine of regeneration. You may not like it is. You may claim it is not needed in our theology (you would be wrong, but you can make that claim). But it is the Reformed doctrine of regeneration.

Well, that is not the "full" Reformed doctrine of regeneration, for even theologies that stand anti-thetically to Reformed theology would advocate that "we love because God first loved us." So you are forced to rely on very specific presuppositions about what being "born of God" means in order to flesh out and utilize this text for your theological system (something which I, too, am forced to do).

In general terms, I don't find much to disagree with until the last sentence. And there it's primarily the assumptions behind that sentence that I object too.

So you believe that the purpose of the cross was to bring about a change--a necessary change--in God? This is what your denial of "my last sentence" would seem to imply.

The problem is your explanation doesn't say anything about Romans 3:25. I don't see any references to God's righteousness or to sins previously committed. This is not proof-texting. If it were, I wouldn't be asking for your interpretation I'd be saying Romans 3:25 ends the discussion. But Paul has to mean something by this verse, and by the words "God's righteousness" and "former sins." The question is still what does he mean, if not the Reformed understanding of the verse.

This conversation of Paul's occurs within the context of one of his numerous diatribes against the claims of exclusivity of the Judaizers who believed that justification and righteousness were the sole property of the Jews. Paul is saying, in Romans 3:25, that justification has always come apart from the law and through Christ. To Paul, the cross reveals that God has been justified throughout history to be patient and forgive, freely accepting and forgiving sinners apart from the "law" (and again, this is a polemic against the Judaizers who asserted that God could only "justify" as one was rightly related to the Law). Just a little bit later, Paul will describe what the paramters for justification actually is, and will use the example of Abraham's obedience to follow the will of God.

Taliesin said...

exist~dissolve

Therefore, when Paul (not God) speaks about "representation," he is using human language and its corolary inexactness to finitely express something about the eternal nature and revelatory act of God in salvation history.

When Paul speaks in Scripture, it is God speaking. You may disagree with this assessment, but if so we have little basis for discussion and I see why you shun Bible based arguments. Also, while language is indeed imperfect, it is the means God uses to communicate with us. His word is our "light" and is truthful. So if Paul, as you have agreed, in Romans 5 speaks of representation as the way God works, then that is the way God works.

I do not believe that I am presenting a false dilemma.

And I didn't really expect you to agree that you were. But you did not "cut through the rhetoric of Reformed Theology" you ignored its position that the cross is necessary for God to be both just and justifier. You have asserted that God can forgive sin without punishment, but you have yet to demonstrate in any meaningful way that assertion.

Interestingly enough, it was the Judaizers who affirmed a quasi-imputation of righteousness (that is, righteousness by identification with the Jewish law) and it is this precise notion which Paul completely undermines in his writings.

Please. Up to this point you were at least making a decent argument. There was nothing "imputed" in the righteousness the Judiazers were seeking. They were looking for quid pro quo. We do this and earn God's favor.

To Paul, justification comes by being made into a new creation by following Christ in faithfulness to the will of God.

No, in Paul justification comes by faith. In Romans Paul does not mention anything related to the new creation until chapter 6, well after he has discussed justification. Even then in chapter 6 and 7 he presents the Christian life as a constant struggle against the "flesh."

Chapter 4 is Paul's great explanation of justification using the Old Testament, in which it is Abraham's faith that gets credited (counted, reckoned) as righteousness. In the New Testament it is not an action, but an attitude that links us to God. In Hebrews 11 the list of the heroes of the faith focuses not on mighty deeds which they had done, but a persevering trust in God.

I think Christ's words should take preeminence in the discussion. However, as Protestant theology has tended to do, it is Paul who is more often than not the sole voice in the discussion of justification by faith. I think this is a colossal mistake, one which has contributed to the false conceptions of justification by faith which are rampant in evangelical Christianity today.

Jesus' words are important, but so are Paul's, Peter's, John's, et. al. There is no preeminence in their words. To discuss preeminence assumes that the words will be in conflict, which they are not. The Protestant emphasis on Paul is because he wrote directly on these issues more than once. But Peter is not silent, saying Jesus "bore our sins in His body." Similarly, the author of Hebrews states that Jesus was "offered once to bear the sins of many."

I agree that what Jesus says is not ancillary to justification, and this has been my point from the beginning.

So what is it that Jesus says? What are the works of God? "Then they said to him, 'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?' Jesus answered them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.'" (John 6:28-29 ESV) But the discussion doesn't stop there. What if I want eternal life?

"Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.'" (John 6:35-40 ESV)

Jesus' teaching is very centered on His work, not on some change in us. The activity of those who are children of God is that that have looked to the Son and believed in Him. In v. 47 Jesus says, "'Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.'" (John 6:47 ESV) This is salvation, of which justification is a component, by faith. This is such an important statement that Jesus begins with "Amen, Amen" to emphasize the statement.

Moreover, our bodies are not tainted with sin--that is gnostic thinking, something which the historical church has condemned as heretical for thousands of years. I would presume that you do not wish to align yourself with such ideas...

Close, but the Gnostics believed everything material is inherently evil. As for the church, we believe that sin has tainted everything, but not destroyed all the goodness. The material, including our bodies, is not inherently evil (sinful) but sin has had its effects and tainted our mind, will, emotions, and, yes, even our flesh. That is why we and all of creation long for the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:18-23).

for Dabney is only advocating (in this quote) that the finiteness of the "body" are being overcome.

As you surmised, the quote focused on the resurrection of the body. Elsewhere, Dabney states, "The complete sanctification of believers at death would hardly be denied by any, who admitted that their souls entered at once into the place of our Saviour’s glorified residence, and of God’s visible throne." He also notes that "Over the true man, the being who feels, and hopes and fears, it [death] has no dominion. The body alone falls under its stroke; but when it does so, it is unconscious of that stroke."

Charles Hodge writing on this subject notes, "The Protestant doctrine is that the souls of believers are at death made perfect in holiness." There is much more on the subject, particularly in Hodge. The doctrine reflects that "We shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is."

Regarding Isaiah 53: I have no idea. Biblical scholarship over the centuries has offered many suggestions, some more compelling than others. As the writer does not mention any names, it is impossible to tell who the writer had in mind when writing this.

But I don't think it is impossible at all. Look at the descriptions Isaiah makes:

- "His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance." (Is. 52:14)
- "He was despised and rejected by men." (Is. 53:3)
- "They made His grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in His death." (Is. 53:9)
- "the righteous one, my servant" (Is. 53:11)
- "He poured out His soul to death." (Is. 53:12)
- "He was numbered with the transgressors." (Is. 53:12)

This is not coincidental.

However, the fact that they selectively chose particular verses or segments of Scripture does not mean that they intended to incorporate the entire context of the passages which they quoted.

Let's see just what they quoted (not including allusions):
- Is. 52:15 cited in Romans 15:21
- Is. 53:1 cited in John 12:38 and Romans 10:16
- Is. 53:5-6 cited in 1 Peter 2:24-25
- Is. 53:7-8 cited in Acts 8:32-33
- Is. 53:9 cited in 1 Peter 2:22

So out of fifteen verses (starting in Isaiah 52:13) seven are cited. Also, the citations by Peter are in the context of saying that Jesus bore our sins in His body (imputation).

So you believe that the purpose of the cross was to bring about a change--a necessary change--in God? This is what your denial of "my last sentence" would seem to imply.

No, I state it was the assumptions behind the sentence with which I disagreed. Specifically that the cross has no relation to God. Yes, we need to be changed. We cannot believe without being changed. But the cross is also the satisfaction of God's justice that He might adopt us.

Regarding Romans 3:25: This conversation of Paul's occurs within the context of one of his numerous diatribes against the claims of exclusivity of the Judaizers who believed that justification and righteousness were the sole property of the Jews.

But Paul is not dealing with Judiazers in Romans. That "Jew" in Romans is not a reference to Judiazers is seen in Romans 1:16, where Paul sets forth the priority of the gospel message - first to Jews (not Judiazers, but ethnic Israel and, perhaps, converts) then to those outside (the Greeks). This priority is seen in Paul's practice, where, even as the Apostle to the Gentiles, he would first go to the synagogue and only after being rejected there go to the general gentile population.

Continuing: Paul is saying, in Romans 3:25, that justification has always come apart from the law and through Christ. To Paul, the cross reveals that God has been justified throughout history to be patient and forgive, freely accepting and forgiving sinners apart from the "law" (and again, this is a polemic against the Judaizers who asserted that God could only "justify" as one was rightly related to the Law).

The key is the part I've highlighted above. The question is what does this mean. I can say this, but I mean the cross reveals God's righteousness because on the cross God punished sin. When you say the "cross reveals that God has been justified throughout history to be patient and forgive" what do you mean? I assume you don't mean what I mean? So how is it that the cross does this in your theology?

Just a little bit later, Paul will describe what the paramters for justification actually is, and will use the example of Abraham's obedience to follow the will of God.

Reread Romans 4. Nowhere is Abraham's "obedience" (in the sense of outward action) mentioned. Paul is very careful to only mention Abraham's faith and belief. The only thing close to "obedience" is receiving the sign of circumcision, but this is mentioned only so Paul can show Abraham's faith was already "credited to him as righteousness" before that act. In fact, in Romans 4 Paul repeats no less than four times that righteousness is credited (imputed) to Abraham on the basis of his faith.

As I stated above, I think the key question here is how is that the "cross reveals that God has been justified throughout history to be patient and forgive" in your theology?

Exist~Dissolve said...

taliesin–

When Paul speaks in Scripture, it is God speaking. You may disagree with this assessment, but if so we have little basis for discussion and I see why you shun Bible based arguments. Also, while language is indeed imperfect, it is the means God uses to communicate with us. His word is our "light" and is truthful. So if Paul, as you have agreed, in Romans 5 speaks of representation as the way God works, then that is the way God works.

I do not shun “bible based arguments.” Rather, I reject many arguments based upon interpretations of Scripture which I feel are arbitrary and misuse the texts. Is this a subjective approach and conclusion? Sure. But that is all we have.

And even if Paul does establish the idea of “representation,” this does not, by proxy, mean that your interpretation of “representation” is also established. Given the cultural, linguistic and religious gap between us and Paul, it is quite abrupt to assume that one’s own conception of “representation” would fully correlate to Paul’s intended meaning, what that might have been. Therefore, to say that because Paul says “representation” is the “way God works” is an uncritical equation of your own particular presuppositions about the nature of the concept of “representation” with the meaning and intention communicated by Paul in the text.

And I didn't really expect you to agree that you were. But you did not "cut through the rhetoric of Reformed Theology" you ignored its position that the cross is necessary for God to be both just and justifier. You have asserted that God can forgive sin without punishment, but you have yet to demonstrate in any meaningful way that assertion.

Again, we get back to the issue of “necessity” for God. You believe that there are conditions to which God is subject in order for God to do “X.” I do not. I believe God is free to do whatever God has determined to do. I would suggest, contrary to your assertion, that the onus is, in fact, upon you to show why the God of infinite freedom must do “X” in order to be able to do “Y”. To say that God has bound Godself to do “X” is not an acceptable answer, either, for such a conception brings up the sticky issue of God acting in complete contradiction to Godself in fulfilling the requisites which God has placed upon Godself to act as God has dictated God should act...

Please. Up to this point you were at least making a decent argument. There was nothing "imputed" in the righteousness the Judiazers were seeking. They were looking for quid pro quo. We do this and earn God's favor.

Quid pro quo, “this for that,” is exactly the Protestant doctrine of imputation. Per Luther’s bride/bridegroom metaphor, Christ gets all our sinfulness while we get all his righteousness. In the end, the Judaizers and the “imputors” are teaching exactly the same thing.

No, in Paul justification comes by faith.

That’s what I said. Faith is not an intellectual assent to propositional sets of beliefs, nor is it an existential alignment with some “feeling” or presence. Faith is trust, and trust is action. To live in faithfulness to God’s will IS faith, and to have faith is to be a faithful participant in God’s will. To create a bifurcation is to engage in the fallacy of the Judaizers, the very ones against whom Paul directed his teaching about justification by faith.

In Romans Paul does not mention anything related to the new creation until chapter 6, well after he has discussed justification. Even then in chapter 6 and 7 he presents the Christian life as a constant struggle against the "flesh."

Give me a break. “Until chapter 6?” So the chronology of Romans represents the logical chronology of justification, regeneration, etc? This is ridiculous and suggests that you are prooftexting, not taking the whole to provide comprehensibility for the parts.

Chapter 4 is Paul's great explanation of justification using the Old Testament, in which it is Abraham's faith that gets credited (counted, reckoned) as righteousness. In the New Testament it is not an action, but an attitude that links us to God. In Hebrews 11 the list of the heroes of the faith focuses not on mighty deeds which they had done, but a persevering trust in God.

But what was Abraham’s (and all the other’s) faith? Was it them having a certain attitude towards God? Sure. But it was much more. The call came to Abraham. Abraham had “faith” by leaving everything and following God–this is “faith,” faithfulness to do the will of God.

Jesus' words are important, but so are Paul's, Peter's, John's, et. al. There is no preeminence in their words. To discuss preeminence assumes that the words will be in conflict, which they are not. The Protestant emphasis on Paul is because he wrote directly on these issues more than once. But Peter is not silent, saying Jesus "bore our sins in His body." Similarly, the author of Hebrews states that Jesus was "offered once to bear the sins of many."

But Protestants do place the preeminence of this issue on Paul–not because he is the only one to say anything, but rather because he uses the vocabulary that Protestants can best deploy to defend and justify their particular philosophical conception of faith. Luther himself said that the paradigm of “justification by faith” was that which determined what was and wasn’t Scripture, and, therefore, had no qualms at all about deliberately ignoring major sections of Scripture that did not align with his particular hermeneutical complex.

So what is it that Jesus says? What are the works of God? "Then they said to him, 'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?' Jesus answered them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.'" (John 6:28-29 ESV)

Yes, but what does Jesus mean by belief? If Matthew 25 is taken as authoritative, to call Christ “Lord” – to have true belief, is to feed the poor, care for the sick, visit the imprisoned. Therefore, to Christ, faith and true belief are manifested not in “belief” or “attitude,” but rather in action.

But the discussion doesn't stop there. What if I want eternal life? "Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.'" (John 6:35-40 ESV)

But again, you are importing your conceptions of “belief” into the interpretation of Jesus’ meaning of belief. If the rest of Jesus’ teaching and work are brought to bear upon the subject of “belief” (again Matthew 25), it is clear that Jesus does not mean “belief” in the attitudinal sense, but rather as an call to action, to participate within the Kingdom of God by doing the will of God.

Jesus' teaching is very centered on His work, not on some change in us. The activity of those who are children of God is that that have looked to the Son and believed in Him. In v. 47 Jesus says, "'Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.'" (John 6:47 ESV) This is salvation, of which justification is a component, by faith. This is such an important statement that Jesus begins with "Amen, Amen" to emphasize the statement.

This is getting redundant, but those who truly believe, per Jesus’ very words, are those who do the will of God.

As you surmised, the quote focused on the resurrection of the body. Elsewhere, Dabney states, "The complete sanctification of believers at death would hardly be denied by any, who admitted that their souls entered at once into the place of our Saviour’s glorified residence, and of God’s visible throne." He also notes that "Over the true man, the being who feels, and hopes and fears, it [death] has no dominion. The body alone falls under its stroke; but when it does so, it is unconscious of that stroke."

Charles Hodge writing on this subject notes, "The Protestant doctrine is that the souls of believers are at death made perfect in holiness." There is much more on the subject, particularly in Hodge. The doctrine reflects that "We shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is."


What does “perfect in holiness” mean in Hodges’ thinking? I can hardly believe that he means it in the sense of theosis.

But I don't think it is impossible at all. Look at the descriptions Isaiah makes:

- "His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance." (Is. 52:14)
- "He was despised and rejected by men." (Is. 53:3)
- "They made His grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in His death." (Is. 53:9)
- "the righteous one, my servant" (Is. 53:11)
- "He poured out His soul to death." (Is. 53:12)
- "He was numbered with the transgressors." (Is. 53:12)

This is not coincidental.


I’m not saying it’s coincidental for this could conceivably be applied, either actually or theoretically in the author’s mind, to one of any of the prophets of Israel who had been murdered by rebellious Israel.

Let's see just what they quoted (not including allusions):
- Is. 52:15 cited in Romans 15:21
- Is. 53:1 cited in John 12:38 and Romans 10:16
- Is. 53:5-6 cited in 1 Peter 2:24-25
- Is. 53:7-8 cited in Acts 8:32-33
- Is. 53:9 cited in 1 Peter 2:22

So out of fifteen verses (starting in Isaiah 52:13) seven are cited. Also, the citations by Peter are in the context of saying that Jesus bore our sins in His body (imputation).


Okay, what does the fact that seven verses are cited have anything to do with this? Moreover, by asserting that Peter’s selection of the verse about Jesus bearing our sins in his body teaches “imputation” is, again, importing a certain conception of “sin” and “atonement” into the text. That Jesus “bore our sins in His body” does not exclusively imply imputation at all, but could rather be dispatched to convey a multiplicity of meanings, not least depending upon the way in which one defines “sin.”

No, I state it was the assumptions behind the sentence with which I disagreed. Specifically that the cross has no relation to God.

I never said that the cross has no relation to God. It has every relation to God, as it is God in Christ who is there murdered at the hands of sinful humanity!!!

Yes, we need to be changed. We cannot believe without being changed. But the cross is also the satisfaction of God's justice that He might adopt us.

“That He [sic] might adopt us”—how does this not represent a “necessary” change in God? If there is no “necessary” change in God needed on the cross, it would follow that God could freely adopt us. However, as you indicate, God does (whether externally compelled or because God does not actually desire such), in fact, NEED the cross in order to do that which God wills to do in the cross. Curious, to say the least, especially in light of your claim that there is no necessity for God in the cross.

But Paul is not dealing with Judiazers in Romans. That "Jew" in Romans is not a reference to Judiazers is seen in Romans 1:16, where Paul sets forth the priority of the gospel message - first to Jews (not Judiazers, but ethnic Israel and, perhaps, converts) then to those outside (the Greeks). This priority is seen in Paul's practice, where, even as the Apostle to the Gentiles, he would first go to the synagogue and only after being rejected there go to the general gentile population.

??? The entire thrust of Paul’s argument from 1-12 is opening the way for the inclusion of the Gentiles in the promise of the Gospel. Why did he need to say this? Because the Jews believed that they had the exclusive claim over salvation because of their identification with the law! Therefore, if you divorce the Judaizers from the context of Romans, you have completely lost the reason for Paul to write anything at all about justification, given the fact that he locates Christian justification is diametric opposition to the beliefs and claims of Jewish exclusivity.

The key is the part I've highlighted above. The question is what does this mean. I can say this, but I mean the cross reveals God's righteousness because on the cross God punished sin.

NO! Sin cannot be punished, for sin does not have an existence apart from sinners! If anyone is going to be “punished,” it has to be sinners, not sin! However, the cross reveals that God is not into punishing sinners, but is rather intent upon freely forgiving and justifying. The fact that Paul brings up the issue of God’s longsuffering is to show that God desires reconciliation, not punishment. The cross, in extinguishing the power of human sinfulness, provides the means by which reconciliation can occur and humans can respond to free gift of forgiveness and salvation in Christ.

When you say the "cross reveals that God has been justified throughout history to be patient and forgive" what do you mean? I assume you don't mean what I mean? So how is it that the cross does this in your theology?

You are right–I don’t mean what you mean, as if God waited to punish until God could “maximize” wrath in Christ on the Cross.

Reread Romans 4. Nowhere is Abraham's "obedience" (in the sense of outward action) mentioned. Paul is very careful to only mention Abraham's faith and belief. The only thing close to "obedience" is receiving the sign of circumcision, but this is mentioned only so Paul can show Abraham's faith was already "credited to him as righteousness" before that act. In fact, in Romans 4 Paul repeats no less than four times that righteousness is credited (imputed) to Abraham on the basis of his faith.

But you are assuming that by “faith,” Paul doesn’t mean “obedience!” Again, if you go back to the story of Abraham, Abraham’s faith is qualified by action, not by “attitude.” It is Abraham’s obedience to leave his homeland, to take Isaac to the mountain, etc. that defines Abraham’s faith, not his “attitude” in relation to God. Is attitude there? Of course. But it is not able to bifurcated from the act. To believe is to act, and to act is to believe.

As I stated above, I think the key question here is how is that the "cross reveals that God has been justified throughout history to be patient and forgive" in your theology?

God is justified for God’s patience and forgiveness in the cross because in the cross, the powers of sinfulness and evil (those things which could conceivably warrant “punishment”) are overcome and destroyed. However, and ironically, they are not destroyed by an act of power nor by an act of violence and punishment. Rather, paradoxically, they are overcome by an act of weakness. In submitting to the judgment of human sinfulness and evil, Christ refuses to respond in kind to these powers’ tactics (violence, rebellion). However, in his resurrection, Christ is vindicated by God for his faithfulness to the will of God, thus revealing that the judgment of human sinfulness and evil is actually illegitimate, thus shattering their power and claim over Christ.

Taliesin said...

exist~dissolve

Given the cultural, linguistic and religious gap between us and Paul, it is quite abrupt to assume that one’s own conception of “representation” would fully correlate to Paul’s intended meaning, what that might have been.

But you assume you can know what Jesus meant by righteousness. If the gap is so great we might as well put the Bible on the shelf and contemplate our navel.

I believe God is free to do whatever God has determined to do. I would suggest, contrary to your assertion, that the onus is, in fact, upon you to show why the God of infinite freedom must do “X” in order to be able to do “Y” .To say that God has bound Godself to do “X” is not an acceptable answer, either, for such a conception brings up the sticky issue of God acting in complete contradiction to Godself in fulfilling the requisites which God has placed upon Godself to act as God has dictated God should act...

What I have argued is that God is free to do whatever He determines to do, as long as it is consonant with His nature. If God is true, and His promises unfailing, then He will not break that promise. "If we are faithless, He remains faithful - for He cannot deny Himself." The Bible presents God as a Holy Judge who will not pardon iniquity. Where then is there escape, for those who are hidden in God as Moses was hidden in the cleft of the rock. God is a storm, a blazing fire of judgment, and only within Himself is there a stronghold. But if God does not pardon iniquity, how can we hide in God? Because Jesus has born the penalty for our sins.

Which reveals to world that thinks God will not judge, because He passed over former sins, that He is righteous and will judge sin.

Quid pro quo, “this for that,” is exactly the Protestant doctrine of imputation. Per Luther’s bride/bridegroom metaphor, Christ gets all our sinfulness while we get all his righteousness. In the end, the Judaizers and the “imputors” are teaching exactly the same thing.

No. Quid pro quo is a reciprocal exchange. My sin for Christ's righteousness is not a reciprocal exchange. An exchange, yes, but a reciprocal exchange, not in the slightest. The Judiazers, however, were looking for a reciprocal exhange - God's blessing for their keeping the law. It is the pattern of cursing and blessing established in the Law.

To live in faithfulness to God’s will IS faith, and to have faith is to be a faithful participant in God’s will.

No, faith is not faithfulness. It is trust, being convinced that what God has promised He will do. Faithfulness results from this trust.

To create a bifurcation is to engage in the fallacy of the Judaizers, the very ones against whom Paul directed his teaching about justification by faith.

So the Judiazers said, if I'm faithful to the command, then I'm righteous, and this is the same as I require Christ's rigtheousness because I'm not righteous. No, the Judiazers sound more like "to have faith is to be a faithful participant in God’s will" and God's will is that you be circumcised. Now, you may drop the last, but your position is actually much closer to the Judiazers than the Reformed position.

Give me a break. “Until chapter 6?” So the chronology of Romans represents the logical chronology of justification, regeneration, etc? This is ridiculous and suggests that you are prooftexting, not taking the whole to provide comprehensibility for the parts.

It is almost comical that every argument you disagree with is prooftexting. I've got to come up with something like that for each of your arguments.

Paul from the latter half of Romans 1 through most of Romans 3 is showing that everyone is a guilty sinner, regardless of ethnic disctinction. From the latter part of Romans 3 until the end of chapter 5 Paul is showing how a holy, just God can passover sin and justify we guilty sinners. It is in Romans 6 that Paul begins to address how this justification impacts us. Justification is complete. The question is how do we live now that we have been justified.

But what was Abraham’s (and all the other’s) faith? Was it them having a certain attitude towards God? Sure. But it was much more. The call came to Abraham. Abraham had “faith” by leaving everything and following God–this is “faith,” faithfulness to do the will of God.

But this is not Paul's argument in Chapter 4 at all. Show me where he discusses the "faithfulness" of Abraham. Paul's repeated emphasis in Romans 4 is that faith is "credited to Abraham as righteousness." This does not fit your "faith is faithfulness" at all. Paul says nothing about leaving Ur of the Chaldees. He says nothing about the "sacrifice" of Isaac. Abraham is saved based on a credited righteousness, not an infused righteousness.

If Matthew 25 is taken as authoritative, to call Christ “Lord” – to have true belief, is to feed the poor, care for the sick, visit the imprisoned.

I have dealt with Matthew 25 in a much earlier post, roughly 1/3 of the way down the page, so I will not repeat it here. However, I will note it looks to me like you're prooftexting. :)

But again, you are importing your conceptions of “belief” into the interpretation of Jesus’ meaning of belief. If the rest of Jesus’ teaching and work are brought to bear upon the subject of “belief” (again Matthew 25), it is clear that Jesus does not mean “belief” in the attitudinal sense, but rather as an call to action, to participate within the Kingdom of God by doing the will of God.

It is not my concept of belief that is being imported into the passage. In the text, Jesus says that it is those who look on the Son and believe in Him that have life. In John's Gospel, this connects back to John 3:14-15, where Jesus tells Nicodemus that He (Jesus) must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. Like the serpent in the wilderness, it is those who look upon the cross who will be saved. No act was required but trusting that God will deliver you if you look.

NO! Sin cannot be punished, for sin does not have an existence apart from sinners!

If this were the case, then the statements that Jesus bore our sins in His body (1 Peter 2:24) make no sense.

The remainder of your argument is mainly about the flow of Romans and Abraham, which I have addressed above.

Exist~Dissolve said...

Taliesin--

But you assume you can know what Jesus meant by righteousness. If the gap is so great we might as well put the Bible on the shelf and contemplate our navel.

No, I have not advocated that one can “know” (in the sense that you would assert) what Jesus meant by righteousness. I am simply giving you my interpretation of the text. Nonetheless, I do not believe that interpretation is worthless–the gap is not so great that the text can’t have formative meaning for us. However, we must also remember that the gap exists and will forever preclude us from authoritatively exhausting the meaning of the texts.

What I have argued is that God is free to do whatever He determines to do, as long as it is consonant with His nature. If God is true, and His promises unfailing, then He will not break that promise. "If we are faithless, He remains faithful - for He cannot deny Himself." The Bible presents God as a Holy Judge who will not pardon iniquity. Where then is there escape, for those who are hidden in God as Moses was hidden in the cleft of the rock. God is a storm, a blazing fire of judgment, and only within Himself is there a stronghold. But if God does not pardon iniquity, how can we hide in God? Because Jesus has born the penalty for our sins.

But this does not change the fact that you are, in fact, binding God to operate according to your psychological constructs of what God can and cannot do. To say that God can do anything “as long as it is consonant with God’s nature” is an irrelevant tautology, for act is inseparable from being. Therefore, that which God does is God’s nature, regardless of how contradictory such actions may appear to be in light of our finite and limited attributions of “nature” to God. The Bible may very well present God as a Holy Judge who “will not pardon iniquity.” However, the Bible also seems to present a picture of a God who does, in fact, pardon iniquity. So how is the contradiction reconciled? By leaving aside our assumptions about those things which are proper and not proper for God to do.

No. Quid pro quo is a reciprocal exchange. My sin for Christ's righteousness is not a reciprocal exchange. An exchange, yes, but a reciprocal exchange, not in the slightest. The Judiazers, however, were looking for a reciprocal exhange - God's blessing for their keeping the law. It is the pattern of cursing and blessing established in the Law.

I don’t see how you can deny the reciprocal nature of the exchange countenanced in imputation theology. It is the very premise of the ideological system!

No, faith is not faithfulness. It is trust, being convinced that what God has promised He will do. Faithfulness results from this trust.

Where is the dividing line, then? When does “trust” become “faithfulness?” You are presenting a dichotomous view of faith that divides the human person act of faith into mental/physical categories, a dichotomy that is not supported, in the least, by Scripture.
So the Judiazers said, if I'm faithful to the command, then I'm righteous, and this is the same as I require Christ's rigtheousness because I'm not righteous. No, the Judiazers sound more like "to have faith is to be a faithful participant in God’s will" and God's will is that you be circumcised. Now, you may drop the last, but your position is actually much closer to the Judiazers than the Reformed position.

Not at all. The Judaizers did not have the will of God in mind when they thought of “faithfulness.” To them, “faithfulness” was to be identified, culturally and physically, with the cultus of the Hebrew Law. They believed that by being positively aligned with the Law that the righteousness of the Law would be imputed to them. However, even the OT prophets denounced such easy “faith,” for while they engaged the “letter” of the Law, they denied the heart of it (the will of God) by neglecting the orphans, oppressing the poor, refusing to give justice—they things that God had revealed was true fulfillment of the Law.

It is almost comical that every argument you disagree with is prooftexting. I've got to come up with something like that for each of your arguments.

Good enough.

Paul from the latter half of Romans 1 through most of Romans 3 is showing that everyone is a guilty sinner, regardless of ethnic disctinction. From the latter part of Romans 3 until the end of chapter 5 Paul is showing how a holy, just God can passover sin and justify we guilty sinners. It is in Romans 6 that Paul begins to address how this justification impacts us. Justification is complete. The question is how do we live now that we have been justified.

But what is the point of Paul’s development through chapter 6? He was not writing to Protestants!!!! He was writing to people who believed that they were justified because they were associated with a particular legal/religious cultus. The point of showing that all are sinners is to show that all need justification–even those who are associated with the Law! Therefore, as all are sinners, so all are justified apart from the exclusivity of keeping the Jewish cultus. As to passing over “past sins,” Paul is showing that because justification is found apart from the Hebrew cultus of Law, God is just in forgiving even those who died apart from this cultus of Law because justification has become a reality for all humans, past, present and future, in Christ apart from the Jewish law.

But this is not Paul's argument in Chapter 4 at all. Show me where he discusses the "faithfulness" of Abraham. Paul's repeated emphasis in Romans 4 is that faith is "credited to Abraham as righteousness." This does not fit your "faith is faithfulness" at all. Paul says nothing about leaving Ur of the Chaldees. He says nothing about the "sacrifice" of Isaac. Abraham is saved based on a credited righteousness, not an infused righteousness.

First of all, I never said anything about an “infused righteousness,” so lay off of that strawman. As to chapter 4, my contention is very much in Paul’s mind, for what is the story of Abraham? As the Israelites sat around their tents recalling their history, what did they say of Abraham? Did they say that he was psychologically convinced that God was for him? No! They recalled the stories of how Abraham did that which God commanded him to do, from leaving his homeland to treking through the desert with Isaac, his only son, to the mountain to kill him there. The entire representing of Abraham’s story was what Abraham did–his legacy was his faithfulness to God’s will. So while Paul does not rehash the stories of Abraham which his readers would have clearly been thinking about, it is obvious that this context lies behind Paul’s conjuring of the “example” of Abraham. If Paul was intending to only speak of an esoteric conception of faith, to use the example of Abraham (the man of action to the Israelites) would have been counterproductive and Paul could have got a lot farther with his intention by using more philosophical language.

It is not my concept of belief that is being imported into the passage.

Keep on telling yourself that. It is impossible that you are not, in fact, doing this.

In the text, Jesus says that it is those who look on the Son and believe in Him that have life. In John's Gospel, this connects back to John 3:14-15, where Jesus tells Nicodemus that He (Jesus) must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. Like the serpent in the wilderness, it is those who look upon the cross who will be saved. No act was required but trusting that God will deliver you if you look.

Yes, no action but “looking”. According to your definition of faith, the stricken Israelites would have merely needed to adjust their attitudes to believe that a snake being lifted up would cure them. However, according to Moses, they had to make the journey to look upon the snake, one that may have taken several days if the speculated size of the company was as big as some commentators suggest.

You see, your own example deconstructs your point, for “action” and “attitude” are shown to be indelibly linked. One cannot believe without acting, any more than one can act without believing.

If this were the case, then the statements that Jesus bore our sins in His body (1 Peter 2:24) make no sense.

Have you ever heard of “metaphor?”

Taliesin said...

Nonetheless, I do not believe that interpretation is worthless–the gap is not so great that the text can’t have formative meaning for us. However, we must also remember that the gap exists and will forever preclude us from authoritatively exhausting the meaning of the texts.

Hmmm... So the gap is too great for me to interpret Paul correctly on representation, but not for you? Your argument doesn't hold. You reject my argument for a reason, but claim that reason doesn't apply to your arguments.

Therefore, that which God does is God’s nature, regardless of how contradictory such actions may appear to be in light of our finite and limited attributions of “nature” to God. The Bible may very well present God as a Holy Judge who “will not pardon iniquity.” However, the Bible also seems to present a picture of a God who does, in fact, pardon iniquity. So how is the contradiction reconciled? By leaving aside our assumptions about those things which are proper and not proper for God to do.

Either the Bible does or does not reveal truthfully to us who God is. If it does not, again, our discussion is over. If it does, then what it says about who God is is dependable. I am not binding God or asking Him to conform to my understanding (I personally would like to be a universalist, but that's not what the Bible teaches). I am trying to be consistent with what God has revealed about Himself. For example, that the God who will not pardon iniquity did not do so, for He judged it on the cross.

I don’t see how you can deny the reciprocal nature of the exchange countenanced in imputation theology. It is the very premise of the ideological system!

Let's try this then. I'll give you a broken arm in exchange for you giving me a million dollars. Any takers? No, because that exchange is not reciprocal. But that is something of the vein of imputation. Jesus is given death and sin in exchange for giving me life and righteousness.

On the other hand, what is a reciprocal exhange is getting righteousness for obedience, e.g. the Old Covenants' blessing for obedience, cursing for disobedience.

The Judaizers did not have the will of God in mind when they thought of “faithfulness.” To them, “faithfulness” was to be identified, culturally and physically, with the cultus of the Hebrew Law. They believed that by being positively aligned with the Law that the righteousness of the Law would be imputed to them.

Baloney. That they misunderstood the will of God, yes, but that they did not have it in mind? Why was being aligned with the Law righteousness? Because to them the Law represented the will of God.

But what is the point of Paul’s development through chapter 6? He was not writing to Protestants!!!! He was writing to people who believed that they were justified because they were associated with a particular legal/religious cultus.

I never said he was writing to Protestants. Even if the church were heavily Jewish in nature it does not negate the flow of his argument. But more likely we have a largely Gentile church, as Paul identifies them with Gentiles in Romans 1:5-6, 13; 11:13; and 15:15-16.

Therefore, as all are sinners, so all are justified apart from the exclusivity of keeping the Jewish cultus. As to passing over “past sins,” Paul is showing that because justification is found apart from the Hebrew cultus of Law, God is just in forgiving even those who died apart from this cultus of Law because justification has become a reality for all humans, past, present and future, in Christ apart from the Jewish law.

In which case it would be showing not the righteousness of God, as Paul says, but the mercy or forgiveness of God.

First of all, I never said anything about an “infused righteousness,” so lay off of that strawman.

Okay, a non-imputed righteousness. Humperdink, Humperdink, Humperdink

As to chapter 4, my contention is very much in Paul’s mind, for what is the story of Abraham?

Sorry, didn't realize you were a mind reader of dead people.

As the Israelites sat around their tents recalling their history, what did they say of Abraham? Did they say that he was psychologically convinced that God was for him? No! They recalled the stories of how Abraham did that which God commanded him to do, from leaving his homeland to treking through the desert with Isaac, his only son, to the mountain to kill him there. The entire representing of Abraham’s story was what Abraham did–his legacy was his faithfulness to God’s will.

Haven't you been arguing that they had it wrong and needed to be corrected?

So while Paul does not rehash the stories of Abraham which his readers would have clearly been thinking about, it is obvious that this context lies behind Paul’s conjuring of the “example” of Abraham. If Paul was intending to only speak of an esoteric conception of faith, to use the example of Abraham (the man of action to the Israelites) would have been counterproductive and Paul could have got a lot farther with his intention by using more philosophical language.

Not if Paul wanted to prove his point was consistent with the teaching of the Old Testament, which is what he does. If your interpretation is correct, his repeated emphasis on the fact that Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness is what would be counter productive and confusing. Paul's argument in Romans 4 is clear (again, he repeats it at least four times for emphasis): Abraham believed and it was credited (accounted, reckoned, imputed) to him as righteousness.

I had written: It is not my concept of belief that is being imported into the passage.

Your response: Keep on telling yourself that. It is impossible that you are not, in fact, doing this.

Then, again, it is impossible that you are not doing it (importing your ideas) and we might as well go back to contemplating our navels and whether or not Adam had one.

Unless you are disagreeing with my interpetation, in which case you need more than "you're wrong."

You see, your own example deconstructs your point, for “action” and “attitude” are shown to be indelibly linked. One cannot believe without acting, any more than one can act without believing.

Have you never heard of metaphor? :)

When Jesus is talking to Nicodemus the whole discussion is "spiritualized" - e.g. being born a second time is not about a second physical birth. Looking to Jesus is about making a journey from death to life. The journey is that of belief, in context.

As for "one cannot believe without acting, any more than one can act without believing." Amen. But the question between is whether justification is based on believing and acting (your view) or on believing, with the acting being a necessary consequence of belief. Belief changes you and results in a different person, but your justification is not based on you being a different person. It is based on your belief.

Have you ever heard of “metaphor?”

Metaphors have meaning. When we speak of spiritual matters pretty much everything is metaphor. But if sin has to stay with the sinner, this metaphor (bearing our sins in His body) is meaningless.