Redemption of Life – The Price of Admission in Exodus, Job, and 2 Maccabees

JUDAEA, First Jewish War. 66-70 CE. AR Shekel ...

Your life ain’t worth 2 shekels (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I found this interesting. I am currently researching substitution (hint, I don’t think Jesus was classically substituted in Galatians) for my dissertation. These passages all connect for me.

The translations are from the REB.

The Lord said to Moses: When you take a census of the Israelites, each man is to give a ransom for his life to the Lord,* to avert plague among them during the registration. As each man crosses over to those already counted he must give half a shekel by the sacred standard at the rate of twenty gerahs to the shekel, as a contribution levied for the Lord. Everyone aged twenty or more who has crossed over to those already counted will give a contribution for the Lord. The rich man will give no more than the half-shekel, and the poor man no less, when you give the contribution for the Lord to make expiation for your lives. The money received from the Israelites for expiation you are to apply to the service of the Tent of Meeting. The expiation for your lives is to be a reminder of the Israelites before the Lord. – Exodus 30.11-16.

Yet if an angel, one of a thousand, stands by him,
a mediator between him and God,
to expound God’s righteousness to man
and to secure mortal man his due;*
if he speaks on behalf of him and says,
‘Reprieve* him from going down to the pit;
I have the price of his release’:
then his body will grow sturdier* than it was in his youth;
he will return to the days of his prime. – Job 33.23-25

He levied a contribution from each man, and sent to Jerusalem the total of two thousand silver drachmas to provide a sin-offering*—a fit and proper act in which he took due account of the resurrection. Had he not been expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and senseless to pray for the dead; but since he had in view the splendid reward reserved for those who die a godly death, his purpose was holy and devout. That was why he offered the atoning sacrifice, to free the dead from their sin. – 2 Macc 12.43-45.

This does not mean I believe we can buy our way into heaven; but at the very least we can two things.

  • a “biblical” model for pre-Reformation indulgences.
  • the hope of redemption by acts, even after death.

William Law on Infidelity and Self-Torment

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the...

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am currently reading William Law‘s works for a review of Anglican Gold on Logos. I found this gem:

 I will grant you all that you can suppose, of the Goodness of God, and that no Creature will be finally lost, but what Infinite Love cannot save.

But still, here is no Shadow of Security for Infidelity; and your refusing to be saved through the Son of God, whilst the Soul is in the redeemable State of this Life, may at the Separation of the Body, for aught you know, leave it in such a Hell, as the infinite Love of God cannot deliver it from. For, first, you have no Kind, or Degree of Proof, that your Soul is not that dark, self-tormenting, anguishing and imperishable Fire, above-mentioned, which has lost its own proper Light, and is only comforted by the Light of the Sun, till its Redemption be effected. Secondly You have no Kind, or Degree of Proof, that God himself can redeem, or save, or enlighten this dark Fire-Soul, any other Way than, as the Gospel proposes, by the Birth of the Son of God in it. Therefore your own Hearts must tell you, that for aught you know, Infidelity, or the refusing of this Birth of the Son of God, may, at the End of Life, leave you in such a State of Self-torment, as the infinite Love of God can no way deliver you from.1

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  1. William Law, The Works of the Reverend William Law (vol. 5, 9 vols.; London: J. Richardson, 1762), 158.

Do you even Council of Trent, bro?

From time to time, Protestants will stick their foot in their mouth about Catholic theology. From “worshipping Mary” to “works righteousness,” the more Evangelical/Reformed you are, the worse off you are going to be in describing basic Catholic teachings.

For instance, Tim Challies has recently decided to garner some attention by declaring Pope Francis a false teacher, placing him next to the likes of Arius (and early Baptist) and Ellen G. White (a major mover and shaker in 7th Day Adventism). No, I wish I was kidding, but this type of unfounded vitriol is actually taking place.

Sounding just like the guy who wrote Two Babylons or any of the Jack Chick tracts, Challies proceeds to not only lambast the Pope but resurrects Protestant hysteria about Rome. In attempts to use flash-pan rhetoric to underscore his point, but his John Birch-style language will only reach the ears of those who have already decided Rome is the devil incarnate, the whore of Babylon.

However, there are two nice rejoinders. The first is by Francis Beckwith. This one is intentional and directed against Challies, but nicely. The second is found in the essay by Michael Barber in the book to your right (published last year). Not only do both of these resources seek to counter Challies’ anti-Catholic bigotry, but they explain in nice detail the Catholic view on justification and works. Needless to say, I lean to this side. Perhaps it is because I am currently a Wesleyan, or perhaps because I recognize what real biblical theology looks like. Regardless, I do know what theological ignorance looks like.

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Reading Justification: The Roman Catholic View (Joel) @ivpacademic

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There were no essays in this volume which I approached with any amount of trepidation, except for this one by the Roman Catholic theologians, O’Collins and Rafferty. Perhaps it was because that I have known for sometime my predilection to the Roman Catholic position on Justification. History is never as one-sided as the sectarians would have us believe, and this essay, giving the history of the still-Roman Catholic debate which led to Luther and from Luther to Trent, shows that the usual Protestant banter around this particular topic is often devoid of an objective view of history. Further, the entire essay by these two authors shows that the movement of Scripture is still alive and well in the Roman Catholic Church.

The essay is split in twain, with Rafferty giving the general lead up to Trent, as well as the actual discussion of Trent (although it is light on this subject) and O’Collins adding a theological reflection as well as a personal journey regarding the present topic. If we Protestants continue to see Rome through Trent, we will continue to allow Rome to out pace us in ecumenical moves and theological discussions. Other than the spirituality expressed in this essay, there is not much here to tell. These scholars of theological history show that Trent is often misunderstood, which allows the responders to, rightly, call into question the fact that even with all the change Vatican II put into place, the 16th century council was never revisited. Further, they stress as those before, during, and after Trent, that justification is a many splendored image. If it is misinterpreted, and rarely used rightly, allowing O’Collins to issue his own personal theories, then it should be reexamined and in some way changed. Further, given that both the West and the East have recognized that justification is a theme, an image, that fits into the Scriptural view of salvation, then Trent should be reexamined in such a way as to allow for some of the anathemas to be rescinded, which is a major sticking point for Protestants, and rightly so. But Rome has a great deal to show us in the way it tackles theological questions, often without alienating the factions, but finding a way to strengthen the entire Church.

Full review to follow soon enough

Blogging Through “Justification: Five Views” Roman Catholic View @ivpacademic

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Here we are—the last entry in our survey of IVP Academic’s Justification: Five Views. In a way, this final essay on Roman Catholicism brings us back full circle to where we started. The Traditional Reformed View was, after all, a reaction to medieval Roman Catholicism. I guess it’s fitting, then, that the authors, Gerald O’Collins and Oliver Rafferty, spend much of their time talking about the 1547 Council of Trent.

Trent, according to the authors, is probably the “clearest exposition of the Catholic position on justification” ever penned, and was done so with the specific purpose of drawing a line in the sand between Roman Catholic and Protestant teaching on the issue. After spending a lot of time tracing the Roman Catholic position on justification from Augustine down through the late Middle Ages, the authors describe the decree as a clear explanation of the Catholic position “that justification involved not only the remission of sins but also the sanctification of the individual.”

Although the authors suggest that the Council at Trent was “determined to avoid contentious adjudication on issues of divine grace and human freedom of the will,” the authors themselves have no such compunction and express themselves quite ably on this topic:

At an intellectual level, the Catholic tradition has, of course, profoundly accepted and maintained that no one can stand in the sight of God without blame. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).We cannot make ourselves sinless. It is God alone who justifies the sinner through the merits of Jesus Christ. At the same time, the tradition, in general, affords the conviction that all was not lost by the sin of Adam and Eve. There was not an utter corruption of the human person, and although the image of God was severely occluded, it was not obliterated and was certainly not replaced by the “image of the devil,” as Luther, in a perhaps unguarded outburst, maintained. Most importantly of all, human beings retained, despite concupiscence, an essential freedom of the will, which, under the right conditions and stimulus, could move toward God.

Later in their article, the authors do eventually broaden their analysis beyond the history of the Council of Trent and begin to highlight other issues as well. Among them is the claim that justification should not be the primary metaphor for the “Christ event,” a view which has become almost a consensus opinion among the scholars represented here. In what is by far the longest list of alternative metaphors so far, the authors suggest that  “salvation, reconciliation, expiation, redemption, liberation, sanctification, transformation, new creation, and glorification” can all stand alongside justification in Paul’s metaphoric hall of fame.

Another welcome perspective—and one that has popped up frequently in other books and blogs lately—is the observation that theologians have too often neglected the resurrection in their discussions about justification. In one of the authors’ rare scriptural citations, they refer to Romans 4:25 “He was handed over for our sins and raised for our justification,” and suggest that “innumerable theologians, not to mention rank and file believers, have long neglected the resurrection in their versions of redemption in general and of justification in particular.” I say a hearty Amen to that!

The responses to O’Collins and Rafferty’s essay were, I think, among the clearest and most articulate of the entire book. Michael Horton, especially, provided what is probably one of the clearest summaries of Luther’s view of the “near-dissolution of the imago Dei” I’ve ever read. He also frames what I think is one of the central questions of the debate when he writes “Why does justification have to be subsumed under sanctification in order for us to affirm both?”

Similarly, Michael Bird wonders why everyone can’t agree that justification is both forensic and transformative. Bird admits that that there are substantive differences between the Catholic and Protestant view of justification (referring specifically to the authors’ claim that believers are able to fulfill the moral imperatives of the law and “thus cooperate with their own justification”), but he does make me wonder whether some of the differences between Catholics and Protestants aren’t primarily in the words we use rather than in the substance of what we believe.

My primary criticism of O’Collins and Rafferty’s essay is echoed by James Dunn, who describes their survey of the patristic and medieval sources as an example of “the interpretations of the biblical text becoming more influential than the biblical text itself.” In fact, I have this same criticism with several of the essays. Horton, O’Collins & Rafferty, and (to a slightly lesser extent) Karkkainen, all appeal primarily to the interpretations of scripture by the founding fathers of their traditions rather than an analysis of the scriptures themselves. And while this may be a valid way of presenting their position, it doesn’t instill me with the same confidence as, for example, Michael Bird’s and James Dunn’s essays do.  I think all these scholars would agree that scripture itself should be more persuasive than what Augustine or Luther said about it.

Finally, I think it’s worth mentioning that in his personal account of his exploration of justification, O’Collins rejects the concept of penal substitution, which he describes as “burdened with the guilt of human sin, Jesus was treated like a sinner on the cross and through his suffering and death propitiated the anger of God.” While O’Collins winsomely describes “reflecting for a lifetime” on whether Paul’s theology supports the concept of penal substitution, he fails to provide the details of the exegesis that lead him to reject it. Later, in his response to O’Collins’ essay, Michael Bird challenges the Roman Catholic position, saying “This doctrine can get caricatured and misrepresented, but as long as Jesus suffers the penalty of our sins in our place, then a doctrine of substitution is clearly biblical.”

I have to agree with Bird here. Although the theory of penal substitution has suffered from a serious public relations problem for the last few years, it is still a valid aspect of the atonement that is supported by scripture. I’m glad to see that someone agrees.

 

Justification – Five Views, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen (Joel) @ivpacademic #convinced?

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And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. (2 Peter 1.4)

Upon reading this chapter, I am struck with the shame of the paltry human existence afforded to us measured in years. The Mannermaa school has separated Luther from Lutheranism and began the track back to an ecumenical standing by allowing Luther to still be Catholic and not Lutheran through the words of Melanchton which leads me to wonder, ‘What if Luther had lived another fifty years?’ Might we see better theology if our theologians lived longer and where able, well into the next generation, correct their spiritual descendents? The same which is said of Luther is said of Wesley as well and so, I find some compatibility with the Mannermaa school’s separation anxiety. The separation and repair of the Theology from the Theologian is not the only points of union between Mannermaa and myself. What could be called sanctification or perfection, these new Luther-ans are calling effective justification and giving a proper acknowledgement to both the Spirit and the role which works should play in the life of the believer. There is the active participation of Christ in the life of the saint and indeed, the saint in Christ.

I am more nearly convinced with Kärkkäinen’s views than I have been before. It, for me, carries the necessary elements of sound theology. First, it is biblically based and allows for a broad interpretation so that the various tensions through images are upheld as equal. Second, it is based in history with both Luther and Athanasius contributing their respective intellects to the development of the overall view. Third, it contains the elements of the Spirit, what I believe would be a sacramental theology (this is somewhat validated with both Horton’s and Bird’s responses), and the call to good works. Finally, it is of an ecumenical, albeit a somewhat cautiously realistic one, nature in that the author begins with the Joint Declaration signed by the Vatican and the World Lutheran Federation in 1999 and moves into broader Protestantism (mentioning the Anabaptists and even Methodists along the way) while seeking to encounter the East as a living and necessary stream to Christianity, something that should not be surprising from Finland. As a postscript, let me add that this theology seems to be rooted as well in recent biblical scholarship, specifically, from the New Perspective on Paul. It meets the progression of theology with open arms. What I found lacking (and this is echoed in Bird’s response) is that theosis is simply not defined.

Horton’s response is absolutely beautiful and is quite different in tone than his previous ones, including his own essay. He defends the Reformed view, not by speaking against others, but speaking for his own stance in such a way that his passion is not just seen, but read. It is the passion of a man in love with Christ. Yet, I do not think that he sees the stark difference between the idea of Christ in and Christ upon (247). While for the first time I see something resembling the usual Trinitarian notion of the work of the Spirit with Horton, it barely scratches the surface compared to Kärkkäinen. For me, this is the main issue with any doctrine – what role does the covenanting act of the Spirit play? For Horton, it still seems that we are but individual parts of the body of Christ, mystical or not, while for the present author, there is real unity. Bird’s response is powerful, and answers (perhaps too much so) to the dangers of an extreme theosis. Dunn begins by noting the rather loose connection between the fully developed Eastern notion(s) of theosis and the New Testament, something which as a scholar in that field, restricts him from pressing on. To be honest, I do not know what make of Dunn’s stilted attitude towards the Orthodox. He suggests that they are still too defined by anti-Jewish polemics from the past with no movement to disown certain fathers or their tractates. It seems, then, that he has taken a rather easy way out and instead of speaking to theosis, speaks to history. Oliver Rafferty issues the Roman Catholic response in which he takes the present author to task for several things, including the taming of Luther, the non-discussion of Free Will and his hopeful ecumenical stances.

All in all, as I have said before, there is hope in Kärkkäinen’s view that a more broad view this theological point can be issued. One of the things lacking thus far, and especially in regards to theosis is the idea of panentheism. Further, especially in this section, I would have liked to have seen the author response succinctly to his critics (in much the same way that N.T. Wright in Jesus, Paul and the People of God). I am still drawn to Bird’s view, and the more so when he tempers Kärkkäinen

Blogging Through “Justification: Five Views” The Deification View @ivpacademic

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I have to admit up front that I found this chapter absolutely fascinating. I was brought up in a traditional “saving-people-from-hell-is-the-important-thing” evangelical church. As long as a person had “come forward” at some point and didn’t drink or smoke, the question of whether that person had only been “declared” righteous or had actually “become” righteous was completely irrelevant. And until recently, the closest I ever got to Orthodox theology was seeing an Eastern Orthodox Bishop in full regalia when I visited Romania a few years ago. Suffice to say that all this talk about “deification” or “theosis” (the author uses both words interchangeably) was new territory for me.

For anyone unfamiliar with the term, theosis  (according to the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology) encompasses in one concept what in the Western Church are two separate steps in the salvation process: justification and sanctification. In the West, justification is the act by which the believer is declared righteous at the moment of faith. Sanctification comes later. The Orthodox view, on the other hand, asserts that the believer is both declared righteous and, in the moment of his union with Christ, actually becomes righteous. Conventional wisdom states that one of the main theological differences between the Eastern Orthodox Church and Lutherans (as well as those denominations heavily influenced by Luther) has been Luther’s understanding of justification as strictly positional.

In a nutshell, Veli-Matti Karkkainen’s thesis is that a “New Interprepration of Luther”  (oh, the irony) offered up by the scholars at the University of Helsinki suggests that Luther, rather than holding to a strictly positional understanding of justification, also allowed for a kind of “effective” justification through a believer’s participation in Christ. What gets Karkkainen really excited, though, is that this new understanding of Luther as embracing a kind of theosis could possibly lead to theological group hugs spontaneously happening among Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox everywhere.

Karkkainen actually makes a pretty good case for the presence of deification in Luther’s thought, and then goes on to highlight  what he calls“several recent convergences” between Protestant and Orthodox scholarship. According to the author, when Western scholars acknowledge the fact that justification is just one metaphor among several—or when they agree that Paul uses participatory language like “union with Christ” more often than he uses legal metaphors—they are building a bridge between a solely forensic view of justification and the concept of deification.

My primary issue with Karkkainen’s essay is not that he doesn’t make a strong case for theosis in Luther’s thought; it’s that his entire thesis is focused almost exclusively on whether this new understanding of Luther might have positive ramifications for the relationship between Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant Christians. Nowhere, other than a passing reference to 2 Peter 1:4 does the author address whether theosis is supported by scripture. Happily, this glaring omission is rectified by Michael Bird, who actually does provide strong scriptural support for what he describes as “something like theosis.” While Bird’s disagreement with Karkkainen is not about whether  Luther believed something akin to theosis, he does have issues with the use of the word itself. Although he agrees that the idea of the believer’s union with Christ is clearly described in Scripture, Bird suggests that “participation” or “transformation” might be better words to use.

Unsurprisingly, Michael Horton disagrees with Karkkainen most vehemently. While he admits that there is more in Luther concerning communion with Christ than is usually acknowledged, he objects to the suggestion that Luther actually included theosis in his understanding of justification. The Roman Catholic contributors, interestingly enough, agree with Horton on this. “While it is true,” they write “that justification is only one of the metaphors for salvation that the Scriptures employ, it is nevertheless for Luther the central metaphor.”

The response I found most interesting, however, was James Dunn’s.  Dunn is less open to the idea of theosis than Michael Bird and, in fact, disagrees that there is much scriptural support other than 2 Peter 1:4. He also admits that his discomfort with the idea of theosis may be rooted in his Western prejudice against anything that seems to blur the distinction between the creator and  His creation.

I happen to share Dunn’s hesitancy on this. There are places in Karkkainen’s essay in which his description of deification/theosis does begin to sound as if believers share in the nature of Christ so much that they actually become—in some essential way—divine. And while the idea of union with Christ is certainly one of the primary ways in which Paul describes the nature of those who are saved, it seems less problematic to talk of being “sanctified” rather than being “deified.” Yes, this may be just a question of using different words for similar concepts, but words matter. I have learned a lot from this essay on the Deification View, but more than anything I’ve been reminded that the words a person uses to describe something shape how he views it.

 

Wednesdays with Wesley – Sanctification by Faith

It is thus that we wait for entire sanctification; for a full salvation from all our sins, from pride, self-will, anger, unbelief; or, as the Apostle expresses it, “go on unto perfection.” But what is perfection? The word has various senses: Here it means perfect love. It is love excluding sin; love filling the heart, taking up the whole capacity of the soul. It is love “rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, in every thing giving thanks.” [Sermon 43--The Scripture Way of Salvation]

“Well, but what more than this can be implied in entire sanctification?” It does not imply any new kind of holiness: Let no man imagine this. From the moment we are justified, till we give up our spirits to God, love is the fulfilling of the law; of the whole evangelical law, which took place of the Adamic law, when the first promise of “the seed of the woman” was made. Love is the sum of Christian sanctification; it is the one kind of holiness, which is found, only in various degrees, in the believers who are distinguished by St. John into “little children, young men, and fathers.” The difference between one and the other properly lies in the degree of love. And herein there is as great a difference in the spiritual, as in the natural sense, between fathers, young men, and babes. [Sermon 83--On Patience]

Entire sanctification, or Christian perfection, is neither more nor less than pure love; love expelling sin, and governing both the heart and life of a child of God. The Refiner’s fire purges out all that is contrary to love, and that many times by a pleasing smart. Leave all this to Him that does all things well, and that loves you better than you do yourself. [Letters to Mr. Walter Churchey, of Brecon]

Justification by the Spirit – from the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church

This is from a conversation last week…

I. JUSTIFICATION

1987 The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” and through Baptism:

But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

1988 Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ’s Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself:

[God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature. . . . For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized.

1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.

1990 Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin. Justification follows upon God’s merciful initiative of offering forgiveness. It reconciles man with God. It frees from the enslavement to sin, and it heals.

1991 Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or “justice”) here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us.

1992 Justification has been merited for us by the Passion of Christ who offered himself on the cross as a living victim, holy and pleasing to God, and whose blood has become the instrument of atonement for the sins of all men. Justification is conferred in Baptism, the sacrament of faith. It conforms us to the righteousness of God, who makes us inwardly just by the power of his mercy. Its purpose is the glory of God and of Christ, and the gift of eternal life:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation 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; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.

1993 Justification establishes cooperation between God’s grace and man’s freedom. On man’s part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent:

When God touches man’s heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God’s grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God’s sight.

1994 Justification is the most excellent work of God’s love made manifest in Christ Jesus and granted by the Holy Spirit. It is the opinion of St. Augustine that “the justification of the wicked is a greater work than the creation of heaven and earth,” because “heaven and earth will pass away but the salvation and justification of the elect . . . will not pass away.” He holds also that the justification of sinners surpasses the creation of the angels in justice, in that it bears witness to a greater mercy.

1995 The Holy Spirit is the master of the interior life. By giving birth to the “inner man,”44 justification entails the sanctification of his whole being:

Just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification. . . . But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.

via Catechism of the Catholic Church – Grace and justification.

How I’m Almost Persuaded by Michael Bird on Progressive Reformed Justification

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I had meant to include this in my reflection yesterday, but I forgot it. Anyway, this past semester, for a paper I was able to write on Romans, I noticed the eschatological place the Spirit plays in Paul’s thought, especially in using the out-pouring of the Spirit as a sign of the Age. So, when reading Bird’s response to Dunn, this statement really stood out to me:

“Something that Dunn missed out and what might be the vital ingredient here is the role of the Holy Spirit and the power of the new creation for enabling believers to fulfill the law in their deeds and way of life.  (211)”

Agreed. Completely. The Spirit is a symbol that the Age has come, and Paul, seeing this, would have agreed, I think.

The Spirit is missed in must of the arguments on Justification so far, in my opinion, but it was this statement which has really drawn me in.

Justification: Five Views – The New Perspective (Joel) @ivpacademic

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I’m going to be honest. My predilection lies with the New Perspective, but I was hoping for something more than what Dunn presented. Perhaps, this only solidifies the assertion that not all NPP theologians arrive at the same conclusions and helps me to understand why I prefer Tom Wright’s results, shaded differently, than others in the NPP (and why it seems that Horton spoke forcefully against Wright, who is not included in the book, but remains an ever present shadow). One of the most palatable things about Dunn’s essay is his admission that while there are indeed sticking points, the NPP remains open to revision. It’s not forever settled, but picks up where the Reformation left off – reformed, and ever reforming. He notes this on page 200 in discussing some of Paul’s “warts.” Further, Dunn allows for tensions within Paul and the New Testament, something that appeals to me in that Paul was himself continuing to explore and to be led by the Spirit in articulating the new life in Christ Jesus. Further, he calls for acceptance of these warts, tensions, and difficult parts in a way befitting a theologian and a scholar.

His view is simple, really, that Paul tensely showed that works must be manifested for the life in Christ. Further, he dismisses the notion that Paul was completely set against the Judaism of his day, but allows that Paul saw the Law as something to be done away with. His pays attention to Paul’s historical context, which surprisingly, was not post-Middle Ages Europe with a real forensic justice philosophy developing not just in theology, but in the political realm as well. The focus is still on faith, heating the argument over whether or not it is faith in or the faith of. I tend to stick with the latter. Frankly, I do not know how the Reformed get around the idea of total participation if they continue to rely on the faith in translation, but that is neither here nor there.

Oddly enough, Horton (first responder to Dunn) is barely 200 words in before he brings up Wright and then talks about avoiding caricature. Horton’s response is more of the same, “It’s not Reformed Reformed!” He moves from there to speak more to Sanders than Dunn, but this time, engages scholarship from Weinfeld to Levenson. With this, however, I must say that as of yet, this is the best from Horton in this volume. He expresses his agreements and disagreements, but not too polemical. He engages scholarship and Second Temple Judaism more than he does Calvin and Luther. In reading Bird’s response to Dunn, I am becoming more convinced of his point of view, which does in fact worry me. He takes on Dunn, not in opposition, but building agreement upon agreement and then allowing that Dunn hasn’t pressed far enough. His essay is concise and to the point, offering more support for the Progressive Reformed position than I had previously considered. Karkkainen’s response is rather short and almost apologetic for Dunn’s position. O’Collins provides a positive essay which helps me from going to far into Bird’s camp. We’ll see.

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