Saturday, March 28, 2009

Tom Wright: Justification The End

And with this post we finally at long last finish our review of N. T. Wright's, Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision, Wright's response to John Piper's book, The Future of Justification. I can truly understand I understand where he's coming from much better now.

The previous posts were:

Chapter 1: What's it all about and why does it matter
Chapter 2: Rules of engagement
Chapter 3: First Century Judaism
Chapter 4: Justification: Definitions and Puzzles
Chapter 5: Exegesis of Galatians
Chapter 6: Interlude: Philippians, Corinthians, Ephesians
Chapter 7.1 Romans 1:16-17
Chapter 7.2 Romans 1:18-2:16
Chapter 7.3 Romans 2:17-3:20
Chapter 7.4 Romans 3:21-26 7.5
Chapter 7:5-6 Romans 3:27-31 and chapter 4

And now, the rest.

Chapter 7.7: Romans 5-8
What is the connection between justification by faith at the beginning and justification at the end with works taken into account? "the people who are already justified by faith are the people who will live the sort of life I described earlier on, those who will have the present verdict confirmed in the future" (198). In short, "Chapters 5-8 is, in fact, a single great argument for assurrance, the Christian doctrine that 'those whom God justified, them he also glorified' (8.30). In other words, that the verdict already announced is indeed a true anticipation of the verdict yet to be announced"

I personally don't think the connection is quite so neat, but this is a brilliant escape from the potential conundrum of the tension between (initial) justification by faith and (final) judgment/justification by works.

We also find this: "the notion of 'being in Christ' which Paul develops in these chapters is rooted in, and fully dovetails with, the doctrine of justification. It is not the case, in other words, that one has to choose between 'justification by faith' and 'being in Christ' as the 'centre' of Paul's thought" (201).

I'm pretty dubious about propositional centers anyway. Tell me what part of Paul's theology we're talking about and who he's talking to and I'll tell you what I think the focus is.

This was an interesting quote to me, all in italics in the book: "It is therefore a straightforward category mistake, however venerable within some Reformed traditions including part of my own, to suppose that Jesus 'obeyed the law' and so obtained 'righteousness' which could be reckoned to those who believe in him" (205). I suspect Wright is right.

Throughout this section Wright rightly emphasizes the importance of the Holy Spirit in making what is done legally in justification by faith actual righteousness in works through the power. I've omitted some of the more idiosyncratic Wright stuff with which we are all now very well acquainted.

Chapter 7.8: Romans 9-11
He focuses first on 9:30-10:13. "The subject of this passage is God's righteousness, the righteousness of God's people, their salvation and how it might be attained, and above all the covenant" (212).

"I have no hesitation in saying that dikaiosyne in 9.30 and 9.31 must be understood in terms of membership within the covenant" (214). The problem is that I don't see the word covenant here. Yes, it clearly has implications for who God's people end up being. Maybe I'm dense. I just don't see it.

"Israel's mistake, here as elsewhere, was to imagine that the purpose of God was not the single-purpose-through-Israel-for-the-world but a single-purpose-for-Israel-apart-from-the-world" (215). "[T]he plan always was the single plan through Israel in the person of the Messiah alone, for the world" (216). "When people believe the gospel of Jesus and his resurrection, and confess him as Lord, they are in fact doing what the Torah wanted all along, and are therefore displaying the necessary marks of covenant renewal" (217).

I don't know what to say. I guess I still come closest to Sanders within the triad.

"What shall we say to these things? If Paul is for us, who can be against us?" (221). :-)

"Any attempt to give an account of a doctrine which screens out the call of Israel, the gift of the spirit, and/or the redemption of all creation is doomed to be less than fully biblical" (222).

quod faciendum eram feci. finis

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