Thursday, January 19, 2012

Faith in Jesus/Faith of Jesus

Dave Larsen asked me on Twitter where I stood on the "faith in Jesus"/"faith of Jesus" debate but realized 140 characters might not do it. Frankly, there's no silver bullet so several books wouldn't do it.  Here's the skinny on my thoughts.

1. First, most probably don't even know what we're talking about. In a number of key places in Paul, the literal expression Paul uses is "faith of Jesus Christ," even though most translations thus far have translated it "faith in Jesus Christ."  Rom. 3:22; Gal. 2:16, 20 are a couple for starters.

2. I believe that in most of Paul's discussion in Rom. 4 and Gal. 3, as well as verses like Rom. 3:28, Paul has human faith in view. These are not places where he uses the expression "faith of Jesus" but speaks of faith in general as the mechanism of justification. However, such faith is primarily directed toward God, not Jesus (e.g., Rom. 4:17).

I disagree with Wright that faith is a "badge" of membership in God's people for Paul. I wrestled with this for a good long while. What is Wright saying? He's so smart and deep.  As has happened with many such things I have struggled with, I finally decided the problem was not that I was stupid but that Wright (in this case) is just wrong. He's a Reformed Anglican and Paul isn't. Faith is a mechanism of justification for Paul, despite later debates about monergism, synergism, etc.

I might add, however, that I agree with Wright on many other things.

3. Romans 5:19 and Luke Timothy Johnson gnawed at me for a good long while. The language is almost exactly parallel to Romans 3:22.  Obedience of one man is similar to what the faith of Jesus would mean.  Many will be made righteous is pretty much the same as to be justified (same exact word). Strangely, 2 Corinthians 4:13 pushed me over the edge and I have an article in CBQ about it. The train of thought makes most sense if Paul there speaks of our faith imitating the faith of Jesus.

4. So my hunch is that the "faithfulness of Jesus" was a tradition of the earliest church coming out of Jerusalem. Paul seems to use the phrase, "through the faith of Jesus Christ" in a formulaic way, as if he is presenting tradition. And my sense of the development of early Christian soteriology, the topic I started writing on during my sabbatical, sees this phrase as corresponding directly to the earliest understandings of Jesus' death--the death of a righteous person that satisfies God's wrath toward Israel and thus catalyzes Israel's redemption from enslavement.  As Philippians 2 puts it, "obedience to the death," the "faithfulness of Jesus Christ" that is an atoning sacrifice. On that half I agree with Hays.

5. But I agree with Dunn that Paul quickly moves to our faith... in God though more than in Christ. Paul does have a place for faith in Christ in his theology (e.g., Rom. 9:33) but it is subsidiary to faith in God. I've argued that he may exploit the ambiguity of the phrase "faith of Christ" to move from what traditionally referred to Jesus' faithfulness to his emphasis on the necessity of our faith.

As I put it in the article, Paul moves "from Hays to Dunn," "from faith to faith." This is a very complex argument and unprovable, but it makes sense of all the data in an elegant way, in my opinion.


John Mark said...

This may be tangental, and I apologize if so, but I seem to recall that some in the Keswick movement leaned pretty heavily on Galatians 2: 20-with the understanding that the faith of Jesus is what ultimately sanctifies. When I read this some years ago in a book that was admittedly devotional, it made sense to me. Of course this is a side note to the larger point you are making.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

John Mark,
I don't see your point as tangetal, if a Pietist believes that "greater works" shall the believer do. It is the point for these. It is the perfection of faith in God, not the Christ of the Church. It is montheism and humanism.

A humanist can do any kind of work within the world, within the parameters of humman flourishing and be "in the faith".

Rick said...

Please provide more detail on Romans 5 and Luke Timothy Johnson.

Ken Schenck said...

JM, didn't know that!

Rick, here's the article: Johnson, Luke Timothy. “Rom 3:21–26 and the Faith of Jesus.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly. 44:1 (1982): 77-90.

Angie Van De Merwe said...

What does "I have been crucified with Christ" mean to you, Ken?

Sorry, I didn't read the text, before I responded to John Mark, intially. I was only responding to the part "the faith of Jesus is what ulitmately sanctifies". The Pietists believing that what one does in the body is what matters, not what one believes (Paul writes to the Corinthians about this).

Isn't "the life that I now live in the flesh" a gnostic way of viewing life in this world? Isn't it "supernaturalistic", because it denies the mind or rational choice, such a stance believes that anything that a human might want "in the flesh" is sinful? or is not the best "spiritually" for the person? Isn't it a paternalistic way of viewing one's faith? This is what makes Pietism so dangerous, because such suppose that what one does should always be done directly for "God" and "His Kingdom", even to the point of physical death! And such thinking superintends this particular goal upon everyone's life without giving room to diverse ways of being in the world. Such a view is absolute, as it doesn't allow for human situatedness, nor for choice, as to value.

Christian gnostics are those that have such "inside knowledge" about what "God"s will or purposes are about and it is the "Written Word of God". Other kinds of knowledge or human desire is thrawted or denied (crucified) so that "Christ's life might live in me"....they "become" "little christs". It is sainthood.

Christian "moralists" would also affirm such thinking because of the value of "doing works of service". These are the Catholics amongst "the faith".

In my thinking whether it is "Christian" behavior, or Christian theology both have to be defined, but once it is defined within a focus on experience and behavior, then it limits a broader view. A broader view understands that our culture is dependent on our tradition, which happens to be "Christian", and is more narrowly defined within our specific denominations...

The broader view of how our culture got defined is not about Scripture, but about the history of law, liberty and human happiness. It is a liberal government, that allows for diverse views and opinions. There are no "heretics" anymore, because we live in a free society that allows for free association!

Angie Van De Merwe said...

But, possibly the scientific community would also be interested in seeng a life lived, rather than a belief system defended. That way empirical evidence could illustrate what is important for them politically.