December 17, 2017

Andrew Perriman on “Becoming the Righteousness of God”

storm Note from CM: One blog I enjoy and learn from regularly is P.OST, Andrew Perriman’s site about “Evangelical theology for the age to come.” Andrew has combined theological studies and writing with pastoral and missional work in a wide range of contexts around the world. I find his writing extraordinarily stimulating.

One good place to start to start reading him is his post, “The narrative premise of a post-Christendom theology.” Perriman represents the voice of an even newer “new perspective,” one which builds upon the historical insights of people like N.T. Wright about what Jesus came to do in the context of the story of Israel. He then seeks to understand how the community of faith formed in Jesus’ name imagined their future as the people of God that leads to the final judgment and making all things new.

Andrew has written books as well, including: The Future of the People of God: Reading Romans Before and After Western Christendom, The Coming of the Son of Man: New Testament Eschatology for an Emerging Church, and Hell and Heaven in Narrative Perspective.

Thanks to Andrew for allowing us to post today’s piece. It is part of a series he is doing on the meaning and significance of “the righteousness of God” in the NT. Its focus is on 2Corinthians 5:21. Here is that text in its context (NASB translation):

Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain— for He says,

“At the acceptable time I listened to you,
And on the day of salvation I helped you.”

Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”

* * *

Driving back from visiting my mother yesterday I listened to a Premier Radio podcast of Tom Wright and James White debating the meaning of “justification” in Paul. It’s a difficult and rather disjointed conversation—Justin Brierley was clearly struggling to keep his head above water—but it’s worth listening to.

Wright has been enormously helpful in bringing into focus the Jewish-biblical—rather than Latin-medieval—background to Paul’s argument about justification and righteousness. But it seems to me that, in his reconstruction, the end of Israel’s exile is effectively the end of narrative—the end of theology as an engagement with the narrative of God’s people.

My view, developed in The Future of the People of God: Reading Romans Before and After Western Christendom, is that we cannot understand Paul’s argument in Romans about the justification either of righteous Gentiles or of believers apart from the anticipated historical — that is, eschatological — framework. The story does not stop with Jesus or Pentecost. It moves relentlessly on.

Justification and righteousness are not theological abstractions in Paul. They are consistently narrative categories. They address historical circumstances. They presuppose the impending “wrath” of God, either against Israel or against the Greek-Roman world, which I think has to be understood in historical terms.

So the basic question can be put almost this bluntly: Whom will history prove to be in the right? When God eventually judges the Greek-Roman oikoumenē, who will be justified? Two groups of people will be found to be in the right: first, and somewhat incidentally, Gentiles who instinctively do what the Law requires, who will put the Jews of the diaspora to shame (Rom. 2:14, 27); secondly, and more importantly, those who put their trust in the proclamation that Jesus died for the sins of Israel and was raised by the living God to judge and rule over the nations (Rom. 3:21-26). The first has to do with the justification of human behaviour. The second has to do with the justification of a people loyal to YHWH.

2012011929st._paul_tentmakingThe last section of the discussion centres on the interpretation of the statement “we might become the righteousness of God” in 2 Corinthians 5:21, which is what I want to look at in this post:

The one who did not know sin for our sake he made sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in him. (My translation.)

White takes the traditional Reformed line: Jesus was sinless, he took upon himself the sin of the world; therefore, righteousness is imputed to us. He says that when Paul talks about being ambassadors of Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us, this is “deeply soteriological language”. This, in White’s view, has been pretty much the “universal interpretation of this text”, and woe betide anyone who dares to question that consensus.

Wright agrees that God gives us the status of being righteous in Christ but insists that this is not what the phrase “righteousness of God” means in 2 Corinthians 5:21. Righteousness from God (cf. Phil. 3:9) is not the same as the righteousness of God. What we have here, ironically, is a “John Piper-like concern for the utter glory of God”. Paul is talking about the faithfulness of God to his covenant.

So White understands the passage in traditional theological terms. Wright regards it as an appeal to the narrative of Israel’s relationship with God in history. This is the fundamental hermeneutical dilemma that we are having to deal with as we press towards an “evangelical theology for the age to come”. In my view, the narrative-historical approach does justice to Paul’s argument in the letter. The Reformed reading does not. Here’s why….

It is not all Christians but we the apostles who have become the “righteousness of God”.The first thing to note—probably the most important thing—is that this passage is not about the salvation of the people addressed. It has to do with the relationship of Paul and his fellow apostles to the “saints” in Corinth (2 Cor. 1:1).

That relationship has broken down, and Paul, who believes that he speaks for God, appeals to them to be reconciled to God through the mending of their relationship with the apostles. The Corinthians are addressed in the second person; the apostles are referred to in the first person: “We implore you… we appeal to you” (2 Cor. 5:20; 6:1). Verse 21 sits in the middle of this as part of Paul’s defence of the apostles. It is not all Christians but we the apostles who have become the “righteousness of God”.

Secondly, as Wright points out, we need to take into consideration the quotation from Isaiah in the continuation of the argument at the beginning of chapter 6:

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Cor. 6:1–2)

This is not a random dictum. Isaiah’s “servant” has been formed to restore Israel, to “set up the tribes of Jacob and turn back the dispersion of Israel”. God has listened to him in an acceptable time; he has helped him on a day of salvation; he has given him as a “covenant to nations, to establish the land, and to inherit a wilderness heritage” (Is. 49:5-6, 8 LXX). Kings and rulers will honour this servant because “the Holy One of Israel is faithful” (49:7 LXX). So it is through the work of the servant that the righteousness of God is established (cf. Is. 46:13), that he proves himself faithful to his covenant with Abraham.

Paul’s argument in 2 Corinthians 5:21 is that the apostles are the “servants of God” (cf. 6:4) through whom God is seeking to reconcile these Corinthian believers to himself—just as in Isaiah 49 God used his servant to reconcile Jacob to himself. They are ambassadors, through whom God makes his appeal to the Corinthians; they implore the Corinthians to be reconciled to God (5:20).

The apostles are in a position to perform this task because they are in Christ, through whom “God was reconciling the world to himself” (5:19). Jesus became sin—he was crucified as an enemy of Israel and of YHWH, a blasphemer, a false claimant to the throne of Israel. But that led, paradoxically, to real enemies of God such as Paul becoming the “righteousness of God”, the means by which YHWH is justified. As Wright says in the podcast, the apostles embody the covenant faithfulness of God in their ministry.

In effect, what Paul is claiming is that the apostles are right, they embody the rightness of God, they are justified in making this appeal, because they are in Christ, as is clearly evidenced by their suffering (6:4-10)—they carry in their bodies the dying of Jesus (4:10).

This is not an abstract argument about the imputation of righteousness through faith. It is a practical argument: the apostles make their appeal on the ground that they are acting out the role of Christ-like servants, who commend themselves by accepting, as Jesus accepted, hardships, persecution, distrust, abuse, and punishment.

Comments

  1. Michael Bird touches on this thought as well:

    “I’ve contended that the “righteousness of God” is a rich and layered phrase denoting more than one aspect of God’s activity. It incorporates God’s redemptive actions in both creation (establishing justice throughout all the earth), in the covenant (being faithful to Israel), and in the future (the apocalyptic revelation in the gospel).”

    And (touching on 1 Cor 5), “My own approach has been to speak of “incorporated righteousness” whereby we are united to Christ by faith, and in that union God’s verdict against us is executed in the cross of Christ, and yet that verdict against us is transposed into God’s verdict for us in Christ’s resurrection. Jesus is justified by God in his resurrection and because we are in him, we too are justified. So for me, union with Christ is absolutely central, and we need to relate justification to incorporation and participation in Christ.”

  2. I understand the desire to read all of Paul’s letters FIRST as written within a certain context and having certain grammatical features, etc. My question to Andrew Perriman and often other “new perspective” type Biblical scholars is so what? What does your understanding contribute to the church’s and Christians’ lives of faith? Understanding this reading of the righteousness of God in 2 Corinthians doesn’t really contribute to anything beyond a “scholarly conversation.”

    • It helps clarify a key text that contributes to our understanding of the gospel. I’d say that is more than a mere scholarly discussion.

      • I agree, but I’m still having a hard time connecting the dots. NPP is nothing but confusing for me every time somebody tries to explain it. There’s gotta be a good executive summary out there…

        • Having read Wright for years (starting with ‘What St. Paul Really Said’ in seminary, and later ‘NT and the People of God’ and ‘Jesus and the Victory of God’ – probably the most important ‘Jesus’ book of the 20th century), I think the best, most direct summary (from Wright’s perspective) is ‘Justification: God’s Plan and Paul’s Vision’. It is a response to John Piper’s ‘response’ to Wright’s views (‘The Future of Justification’). Unfortunately for him, Piper brought a knife to a gunfight! Wright is a far better exegete than Piper (in fact, after reading ‘The Future of Justification’ I came away wondering if Piper understands Paul at all [and I’m convinced he doesn’t understand 2 Cor 5]). The NPP is ‘bigger’ and broader than Wright, but he it’s most articulate spokesman, and sees the implications better than most.

        • Robert F says:

          The problems with NPP is that there are numerous such perspectives, propounded by individual scholars, and they disagree with each other; they are sophisticated and subtle to a fault, the territory of scholarly experts and very hard to unpack for the people in the pews who are not scholars (I also question the ability of many clergy to adequately grasp the interpretative approach taken by NPP), and so it’s hard to see how they would inform the faith of the average Christian; and they have not stood the test of time, so they may in fact be a scholarly fad, each contributing its two cents only to be submerged in twenty years and replaced by some new and novel interpretation that itself will have only a short half-life.

    • What does correctly understanding Paul contribute to the life of faith? That should be obvious – knowing what God, through Paul, really intended is essential for a life of faith.

      For example, a correct understanding of Galatians moves the emphasis from the ‘grace/Law’ issue (which is NOT what Galatians is about) to issues of fellowship and ecclesiology, which are very important for the life of faith (since we continue to wrangle over those very issues in our churches – on what basis may one be part of this fellowship? What are the essentials of the faith? What are the boundaries of our fellowship? And how can we get along in light of disagreements over non-essentials?).

      A correct understanding of Romans, where Paul is not arguing for a ‘righteousness’ that comes ‘from’ God verses a righteousness that comes from keeping the Law, the latter being insufficient for salvation, but rather that God himself has in fact been ‘righteous’ – just and faithful – in his promises to Israel, despite their unfaithfulness (Rom. 3:3, correctly translated) and all humanity through the cross (the ‘faithfulness of Jesus’ if you will) has huge implications for how we ‘do evangelism’ and addresses some issues of theodicy, which are very relevant today – why is there so much sin and death in the world? Since Paul is not arguing against works-based righteousness (and its modern evangelistic application – ‘do you think you’re good enough to go to heaven’ – of course not!) and for a ‘faith/grace based evangelism’ we can quit fighting the wars of the Reformation and think about how to present the gospel to post-modern people (I can’t remember the last time I talked to someone who actually thought they were earning or worthy of salvation – today everyone just assumes God is going to let everyone in, with a few exceptions). Paul’s argument in Romans (correcty understood) is very pertinent to that – the basis of our ‘sin problem’ is failing to acknowledge the true God as God (Rom 1:18-21), not the failure to keep commandments that God gave exclusively to Israel. (I could go on but Romans is a long, complex book.)

      A correct understanding 2 Cor. 5 brings out Paul’s vision of God’s work for him (and the church). His emphasis in 5:16-21 (with ethical implications in chapter 6) is that this ‘new creation’ (v. 17) has people of all ethnicities and cultures (5:16) – Jew and Gentile no longer divided (with obvious implications in our day). God is reconciling all the world to himself (regardless of ethnicity or culture) through Christ and Paul and his companions (and we by extension) are incorported in that ‘ministry’.

      The ‘new perspective’ and other developments from that have rightly shifted the emphasis from the post-Medieval battles of the Reformation (which are still being fought only on Reformed websites!) to the hill Paul was really willing to die on – that God has created a ‘new people of God’ and in that new community of faith there are no longer Jew/Gentile, slave/free, even male/female divisions (and one might also add that Paul addresses issues of class and patron/client relations as well, particularly in 1 Corinthians and Philippians). That is very relevant for our day since those are issues our society (and church) is concerned about that Paul does in fact address (as opposed to questions about grace verses Law, which aren’t the hot issues of our day, nor were they in Paul’s day).

      • Robert F says:

        Btw, the idea that the hill worth dying on is that God has created a new people of God among whom previous divisions no longer exist is central to Anabaptist theology; Mennonite theologian John Yoder was doing theology with this as a central aspect several decades ago.

        • Robert F says:

          Isn’t there a danger of a new and unwarranted legalism in all of this? Just asking…..

      • Robert F says:

        Some questions: 1) Who are the post-modern people you are referring to? Where are they? Should the gospel be presented to them in a different way than it is presented to people who may occupy a pre-post-modern, or even partly pre-modern, social location (and if the answer is yes, then doesn’t this introduce and new kind of division between different types of believers? 2) “…today everyone just assumes God is going to let everyone in”(to heaven)”, with a few exceptions.” One of the fears I have about NPP is that, given its gutting of satisfaction atonement theology, it will exacerbate the tendency people already have to disavow the serious nature of their own sin and their capacity for evil, and it will encourage the idea that, except for a few heinous sinners (Hitler and Charlie Manson are a couple that are frequently mentioned here), we all deserve to go to heaven, and no good God would ever prevent that, so don’t sweat it. If history teaches us anything, it should have shown us by now that evil is not the special responsibility of a few, but is pervasive in human affairs, and that it is in fact the banal evil of the mass of humanity that enables and supports the notorious enormities of the historic monsters like Hitler and Pol Pot. The little lies, the ethical shortcuts, the unfair advantages taken, the looking-the-other-way tendencies, etc., these are the evil soil from which the rambling thickets of perfidy take their nourishment; this is the disorder of all humankind, not just a few psychopaths.

        • Dana Ames says:

          Robert, Greg can speak for himself. In the meantime…

          I don’t know that much about Yoder, but I do know that at least one of the main issues, if not the central one, for the NPP is that to approach interpreting Paul we have to take him in context as a 1st century Jew in Greco-Roman culture. That affects how “the people of God without division” is constituted. I agree that having so many interpretations developing from those basic things is problematic – it’s also very Protestant.

          I don’t know about legalism. I do know it is a different interpretation. All text, even holy scripture, is simply ink on paper until it is interpreted. I’m not sure how saying, “This interpretation makes more sense to me” could in itself be legalistic. A person’s treatment of others, sure- but not simply an opinion.

          I would say that at least some of those whom we now call “Nones” would number among the post-moderns. Some of us older folks are there, too. Postmodernism is actually more concerned with, and in tune to, interpretation than with relativism per se.

          The satisfaction atonement theory is basically only as old as Anselm, riffing off Augustine in an era that was near the apex of European Feudalism (talk about social location)… Athanasius, Basil of Caesarea and John Chrysostom, along with other Christians who wrote in the first 400 years or so of Christianity, before Augustine, had plenty to say about sin with Christus Victor as their primary focus of “atonement theology.” None of them, or any of the Greek fathers writing later, took sin for granted. They explain it a different way, in a way that actually shows it to be more serious and devastating than moral failure due to “total depravity.” It’s a different interpretation of the problem than in the west, but it certainly does not ignore sin.

          What is “the Gospel?” I’m not trying to be obtuse or argumentative. I sincerely want to know how you would describe it. That’s the question that started me on my journey nearly 15 years ago, after 25 years as an Evangelical (and before that, 20 as a Catholic). I realize you’ve been on a journey, too.

          Dana

          • Hello, Dana, my friend. Thank you for the quite persuasive response to my question below concerning Romans. I will have to chew on that for a while.

            The good news that is revealed to me in the New Testament is this: Jesus, who is I AM, despite his death on the cross continues to be present and alive as the power of God in this world, and despite the fact that evil thoughts and deeds come out of the inexplicably evil proclivity of my heart, he is willing to absorb my iniquity in his love and to forgive me and renew me again and again and to bring me into a new existence free of my own sin and death.

            The word that he has spoken, and that I have heard him say to me, is “Peace.” That is the good news, as I have experienced it.

          • Robert F says:

            Interpretations themselves are texts, too; if all texts require interpretation, then this applies to the interpretative texts themselves, and we are caught in an infinite regress. Somewhere must be the thing itself.

          • Dana Ames says:

            Robert F – for friend 🙂

            Thank you – that is very good news. It is deeper indeed than most of what in the Evangelical world is expressed as “the gospel.”

            Well, *written* interpretations are texts… I would say that, written or not, interpretations have to be evaluated. We evaluate them as to their congruence with our deepest-held understandings/beliefs/worldviews about “how things work.” Evaluation slows and stops any “infinite regress” there may be; we either accept or reject an interpretation. “The thing itself” is what we’re all looking for, and certainly the quest to find it is a large part of what drives “the myth of certainty.”

            I believe that, because of Who Jesus Christ reveals God to be, there is good news not only for each human being, but also for the entire kosmos, as some Jews were actually expecting…

            Have a blessed day.
            Dana

          • Robert F says:

            From the perspective of deconstructive analysis, even unwritten interpretations would be texts, and my post-modern side was using the nomenclature of that approach.

          • Robert F says:

            Dana,
            There is no way to avoid risk. Even with the best intentions, our interpretations and evaluations may be wrong. For me, what makes the Scripture central to my faith in a way that extra-canonical tradition is not is that, in the give and take of interpretative dialogue between the Scripture and everything else, Scripture far more often interprets the rest of the world and my experience than it needs to be interpreted by any external referent or reality. What makes Scripture authoritative is that it primarily interprets the world rather than being interpreted; if I thought Scripture incapable of that, I would stop bothering with it and probably become a Quaker.

            Btw, I am not now nor have I ever been an evangelical; I’m a catholic Christian who worships in the Anglican and Lutheran traditions, and most identify theologically with Radical Orthodoxy as developed by John Milbank and his colleagues.

          • Dana Ames says:

            Robert,
            not assuming you are Evangelical; only that most of the people who readily use the term “The Gospel” (expecting listeners to understand exactly what they mean by it) generally are.

            Glad that you have been so thoughtful about it. Not a lot of folks are. Of course there is risk, primarily because we humans are not omniscient and we have to decide who/what to trust. But you’re a better Postmodern than I…

            I used to read James K.A. Smith’s blog- thought he had some good ideas. But even with him and other thoughtful people, I was encountering the end of the theological railroad line as a Protestant. If Milbank relies on Augustine a lot, I can’t go there (though what little I have read of Zizek is very interesting) – maybe it was that “scent” of Augustine that kept me from getting to involved with RO… A’s devotional writings are wonderful, but I don’t find his theological writing portraying God as “good and the lover of mankind.” von Balthasar would be much closer to where I am.

            Anyhow, if it makes sense for you, it’s good. God be with you.

            Dana

    • Dana Ames says:

      Wesley, what the New Perspective does is take Paul’s Jewishness seriously, which means that, as Wright has said and written, the questions Paul is trying to deal with are not the same questions that arose in late medieval Catholicism, against which the Reformation was a reaction. We look at Paul as a *1st century Jew* not a 16th century Reformer, and understand what he wrote in that context. That’s really the first principle of hermeneutics anyway – understanding how Paul’s 1st century hearers would have heard and understood Paul. “New Perspective” scholars run in different directions with that; I’ve only read Wright, but I have read him deeply.

      The thing about it which is not simply a scholarly conversation is that, in the light of understanding 1st century Judaism better, we have better Good News to announce and live by. The news doesn’t begin with “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life… oh, by the way, all your moral sensibilities and actions are meaningless if you’ve done at least one wrong thing, so God is also obliged to punish you forever because his Holiness/Righteousness cannot stand the presence of sin.” (or, only a teensy bit more gently, “You will be denied God’s presence forever if you so choose.”) This is ultimately about human action – our repentance – changing God’s stance toward us.

      The Good News actually begins with “The Creator God who loves mankind is supremely faithful in bringing people to himself, and here’s how he does it… He ends up going down, down, down in humility and deals with that which enslaves us to everything that makes us hold on to our individualistic survival above all else, including caring for others (sin) – the fear of death (Heb 2.14-15) – by destroying death in his Incarnation, Cross and Resurrection.” And it continues, in Paul’s point of view with some Jewish eschatologic expectations: Now the day of Romans 8, the New Creation, has been launched with the Cross and Resurrection, the Deliverance of all creation just as Passover was the deliverance of the Jews… And by the way, since Jesus Christ is the new Human Being, the things that marked the Jews out from the rest of the world (Sabbath-keeping, Temple worship, food laws, etc. – the “works of the Law”) are not needed anymore, because they have done their job – to preserve a people out of whom the Deliverer/Healer/Savior has arisen, as foretold – and now all people are invited to enter into Christ and participate in being God’s People (and in the Healing of the World).

      For me, that is Much Better News, in contrast to the other view, the news that God has done everything to effect our redemption/healing, and his stance toward us remains the same no matter what we do – that of love and forgiveness which are not somehow bound by some other aspect of his divinity. That has increased my gratitude to God exponentially, and has actually given me News I want to share, and am able to share – without having to apologize for God.

      Yes, that’s a very different way to interpret Paul’s writings. For me, Wright’s view made all the difficulties about interpreting Paul disappear. The Epistles, Paul’s and the rest of them, cohere. It’s not the “Traditional” Reformed view of the solution to a forensic problem, which only goes back 600 – 700 years. It looks a whole lot like what has been handed down in Eastern Orthodoxy for the past 2000 years, which is: how God has dealt with our ontologic problem (the fact of human death), which is much more of a problem than bare morality. I tell people that reading Wright led me to the doors of the Orthodox Church. So be careful 🙂 To steal from Cardinal Newman, reading history just might lead one to the Bosporus. To be clear, Wright is a committed Evangelical (which seems in Britain to be not as narrow as in the US).

      One thing that has always bothered me about simply translating Paul into English is that for just the one Greek word with the root dik- we have used 2 English words and their variants, righteous- and just-. What has helped me has been to read those dik- words as variants of the English word “Faithful.” (also reading the pist- words, “faith-” as “trusting loyalty,” which is actually closer to the Greek sense anyway…). Try it. See if it doesn’t give you a picture of a Bigger God accomplishing Bigger Things than in the “traditional view.”

      I know I’m in the minority – don’t mean to offend anyone. Sharing what was the way out of the wilderness for me.

      Hi Andrew, if you’re checking in!

      Dana

      • Your experience kind of mirrors mine. In fact, when I read Wright, I have a hard time understanding how people see anything he says as all that controversial. It just seems to make so much more sense to me. It does take willing to look at things in a different light, but in my experience, it was doing that made many passages in the NT make much more sense to me.

    • Looks like I opened a large can of worms… I didn’t mean to suggest that all “New perspective on Paul” scholarship is a waste of time, just that I wish exegetes would focus more of their time contributing to building up the church rather than building up scholarly commentary (of the writing of books there is no end…). N.T. Wright has certainly put his faithful money where his scholarly mouth is and I appreciate very much a lot of his writings. What I more meant to say is that the thinking in this post stops far short of applying any knowledge gained through reading the Scriptures. As Paul says, “knowledge puffs up but love builds up.” Of course, he might have meant that knowledge would only puff up first-century Jewish Christians living in Corinth. 😉

  3. Thank you so much for a very good read! It’s always a wonderful feeling to read God’s words. Learning more about Jesus Christ through the scriptures that are left behind by His disciples is a way to understand God’s immeasurable love for us. It is God’s words to us and therefore we should read, study, and understand it in order to serve Him better. All the things that we need to know to live a life of faith is written here.

  4. Robert F says:

    If Wright is correct in his interpretation of Romans4:5 that “justification of the ungodly” is the same as “bringing the nations into Abraham’s family,” then why, in Romans 5:6, does Paul say that “at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly,” which is contrasted in verse 7 with “righteous” and “good,” which are moral categories, not status categories? And why does Paul include himself among those who were justified along with the others if he was already in, while they were not, with regard to status as a Jew?

    • Dana Ames says:

      Paul includes himself because everyone is included in the true people of God on the basis of their trusting loyalty to Christ (and continued faithfulness after their baptism into his death), not simply because they have status as a Jew. (“God is able to raise up children of Abraham from these stones…”).

      If “righteous” and “good” are simply moral categories, then why is Joseph the spouse of Mary described as “just” (dikaios, Matt 1.19), as well as Elizabeth and Zechariah, the parents of John the Baptizer? (“And they were both righteous -dikaioi – before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” Luke 1.6) How about Herod’s assessment of John as dikaion in Mark 6.20? Simeon in Luke 2.25 – dikaios? Cornelius in Acts 10.22 – dikaios? Overseers in Titus 1.8 – dikaion? Lot in 2Pet2.7 – dikaion? Surely the point of these passages is not to infer that these people are sinless or have attained moral perfection, but rather that they were faithful as Jews, and in Cornelius’ case a “righteous gentile,” and responded as appropriate to the revelation of God in Christ?

      But if the dik- words are read with the definition of “faithfulness,” then “Christ dying for the ungodly” – those outside Israel – can in fact be seen as bringing the nations – the goyim, those outside Israel – into the true family of God, consisting of both Jews and Gentiles who are counted faithful because of their trusting loyalty to Christ – initiated by their baptism into his death (baptism which actually *does* something) and their continued faithfulness after baptism (baptism not magic, after all, even though it does do something), which God sees from the end back, and declares to be “valid” on the basis of the evidence which he sees. The Judge does not give us his own “righteousness” – he enables us to be faithful as Christ was faithful – from the inside out, not because of the imposition of either identity markers or laws from the outide, as we continue in trusting loyalty and His Spirit works within us.

      It’s really not so difficult 🙂 Wright’s interpretation works because it is relatively simple, and elegant, and everything “fits” because it takes into account 1st century Judaism out of which Christianity arose. And it portrays God as truly good and the Philanthropos – the lover of mankind.

      Dana

  5. I listened to that debate also. Twice, because I couldn’t keep up either. But in the end, what Wright was saying began to become clear to me.

    His perspective makes a lot of sense, in that it doesn’t require a theology of double imputation to be deveioped by the church in order to interpret 2 Corinthians 5:21. Scot McKnight has pointed out that there are no verses in the NT that unambiguously teach double imputation, at least not in the way the Reformers taught it.

    It’s also fascinating to hear White’s reaction to Wright’s assertion that the faithful will be justified according to “the life lived” or something like that (I’m not sure where Wright said this- he didn’t say it in the podcast). This begins to shed light on the core disagreement for those of us who cannot read Greek fluently or parse extremely fine details of theology. It appears that the Reformed anxiety around Wright’s theology is that if Paul is not teaching imputation, then all of a sudden we have to worry about Christians trying to fashion a righteousness out of their own works to prove to God they deserve salvation.

    As I understand it, Wright’s perspective is that justification, which takes place in a final way at Christ’s return, delivered as good news now (1st century) by the apostles according to what happened in Christ’s life, death and resurrection, produces a “justifiable” life that allows a just God to say “this has been one of mine” in the end, according to what he sees in their behavior.

    So where the Reformed want to understand faith as separate but in a causal relationship to works, Wright is equating them quite a bit more then what they’re comfortable with.

    Yet I don’t hear Wright churning out the tyranny of the urgent “you better be sanctified or else…” type rhetoric. Which is probably because he has a healthy belief in the centrality of Resurrection to justification and the life of the Church. If Jesus defeated death and judged the tyrants and inaugurated an unassailable New Creation that promises to be the final dwelling place of the People of God, then the small and the weak, beset by these enemies, have nothing to fear and can live that way. That’s quite a wider basis for a life (and a soteriology) than only telling people they’re forgiven of their personal transgressions, so now they should want to serve the forgiver. That’s certainly good news, but it’s not the whole good news.

    I could very well be getting the nuances wrong here. But if that’s what he’s saying, it makes a lot more sense to me. Wright has helped me enormously over the last two years. I’m interested in reading Perriman’s work now.

  6. Panele ogrodzeniowe s? cudownie prostym rozwi?zaniem gdy chodzi o wykorzystanie systemu grodze?, jest skuteczny zarówno na terenie publicznych
    dzia?ek, ale równie? przy zwyk?ym ogrodzeniu sadów oraz terenów strze?onych.
    Zstosowaniesiatki le?nej daje opiek? przez zwierz?tami le?nymi, które zbli?aj? si? do naszych domostw i
    pól uprawnych. G?ówn? cech? chzakterystyczn?
    jest du?a funkcjonalno??. Du?ym plusem takiego rozwi?znia, jest te? jego skuteczno?? oraz prosty
    montarz. Polecam.

  7. Its really not that at all. The people saying this are writing books subtitled “Why Christian Character Matters,” not finding excuses to sin more. It’s really about decentraiizing the individual, and allowing the text to speak of redemption and salvation broadly as God-centered and “whole creational,” not just a “me and God” thing. Which, sanctification emphasis or not, is a recipe for me-centrism and therefore, you guessed it, rationalizing and excusing sin.