Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Gathercole and Justification Part 3

Simon Gathercole has an interesting view on God's final judgment. First, Gathercole believes that Paul’s Jewish contemporaries anticipated in a final judgment based on works.

“[T]he function of works, then, is, for Paul’s Jewish contemporaries, not primarily to mark them out as distinct from Gentiles but to secure vindication at the eschatological judgment. This is what is most immediately in view in Romans 3:19-10: Paul is opposing the idea that his Jewish contemporaries will be vindicated by God at the final judgment on the basis of a wholehearted obedience to the law. [pg. 239]

Secondly, Gathercole thinks Paul's principal disagreement with his Jewish contemporaries is the idea that sinful man (the flesh) can’t receive “God’s transforming grace” not that the final judgment is based on works.

“Paul particular complaint is that this impossible for the flesh, for the sinful person who has not received God’s transforming grace in Christ. Paul is not opposed in principle to the idea of final vindication on the basis of obedience; in this respect he agrees with his Jewish interlocutor (Rom. 2:7-10) What he disputes is the ability of the flesh to obey sufficiently to attain this justification (Rom. 8:3,7) [pg.239]

“In the light of this, then, Paul can be seen to be opposing the confidence of Jews in final vindication on the basis of obedience to the law. Again, this is not because he disagrees with the eschatological framework of his Jewish contemporaries or because he thinks obedience is unimportant but, rather, because he views obedience to Torah as impossible without the transforming power of Christ and the Spirit. [pg.240]

Lastly, Gathercole has some interesting thoughts on the relationship between “initial justification” and “the final judgment”, with the link being perseverance.

“Can this diversity, even within Paul himself, be accounted for? If can as long as we do not have a monolithic conception of justification whereby it only ever refers in the New Testament to the justification of the ungodly. A particularly important clue comes in the Jesus tradition from Matthew 12. The New Testament does not offer two ways of salvation, one by faith and one by works. Rather, the category of those who are justified by faith is coextensive with those will be justified on the final day after a whole life of perseverance. The two groups are identical; there are none who begin in faith but, as a result of not obeying, are not vindicated. Similarly, for Paul, it does not make sense to speak those who have somehow managed to obey outside faith. Obedience is the “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5, etc.). [pg.235]

[1] These quotes are taken from the book "Justification in Perspectives: Historical Developments and Contemporary Challenges" edited by Bruce McCormack

Monday, July 30, 2007

Gathercole and Justification Part 2

In my opinion, Gathercole has a unique view of how God justifies the ungodly. Normally, I think of justification as occurring after regeneration and faith, but Gathercole seems to have justification as creating the latter two.

Gathercole, speaking on the “potential dangerous” of Protestant view, writes:

“The principal trouble is if one supposes that God can declare something to be the case (namely, that the sinner is righteous) but that in reality the opposite state of affairs persists: in God’s eyes, that believer is justus (“righteous”), but his or her real being is fundamentally as peccator (“sinner”). We should more properly consider that God’s “speech-acts” are what determine reality; they do not merely create an alternative, Platonic reality. If God declares a sinner to be righteous, then he or she really is righteous. Reality at the forensic level (justus) is no less real then the reality made up of human actions (peccator).” [pg. 226]

Later Gathercole writes:

“In the light of the explanation of justification as a declaration with creative power, it is proper to see it as constituting a true definition of the being of the believer. The believer has not had an infusion of moral righteousness but is determined by God- in the cross- to be righteous. The righteousness here should not be understood either as an infused moral power or as covenant membership (as we will see in discussion with Wright below). According to Paul, when we are reckoned righteous, it is not that we have done what God requires, such that he is recognizing the status quo. Rather, even as we are ungodly, he declares us righteous. By God’s creative word, then, we stand as embodying everything that God requires. In our identity and being we have been determined righteous by God”. [pg 227].

Towards the end of the Gathercole’s essay, he states that “God’s creative word” gives faith in order to allow Christians to meet God’s entire requirement:

“Paul says “yes” to the alternative “instrumental cause” of faith, which he understands as trusting God’s promise. By divine decision, this reckoned as righteousness. That is to say, the believer is reckoned as having accomplished all that God requires. Justification then is not merely a reckoning as being in covenant membership. It is something bigger- God’s creative act whereby, through divine determination, the believer has done everything that God requires. [pg 240]

Thank Mike

All of FPC is indebted to Mike Chiu's humble service at the church. If it wasn't for him, FPC wouldn't have experienced the great successes and joys over the years or be where it is at today. About 10 years ago, Mike was left as the only godly shepherd at FPC EM after the departure of most (and later all) of the adult leaders. From there, Mike could have easily left FPC for green pastures but instead decided to stay to help the remnant of youth still at the church, thus laying the foundation for its future successes and blessings.

Without Mike, there would have been no John Potter, Powerball, study on Romans, graduation banquet at Pepper Tree, Mexico and New Orleans mission trips, basketball goal, lock-in, corny jokes, bowling, stupid Jedi/Ninja videos, Darko, Marie nicknames, City Fest, Wii, help on school projects, worship team, expository preaching, membership class, good bbq at that one retreat, Chi Chi's summer group, Wilson turning CRAZY at the sight of a wasp, no "Silly, Billy, or Killy", Circle of Death, Chicken butt, and retreat shirts with a chicken on it.

Maybe the statement above is overstated and that we in some measure would have experienced all these things at FPC even without Mike, but I know for a fact it wouldn't have been the same enjoyable, life changing, and God-exalting experience without him. So as Mike leaves for San Diego, we should all remember to "thank Mike".

Monday, July 16, 2007

Seifrid and Alien Righteousness

"Faith spans the gap between the present and the day of judgment. It is the true worship, which sets the believer in constant movement forwards, and which counts as righteousness before God (Phil. 3 verses 3, 9). Paul has it as his aim 'that I might be found in him not having my own righteousness which is from the law, but the righteousness which through "the faith of Christ", the righteousness from God on the basis of faith' (verse 9). Here he has in view the day when God will examine him, and hopes to meet that judgment with the 'righteousness of faith'. The righteousness Paul desires come from God, 'on the basis of faith'. Faith, not the righteousness from the law, constitutes piety before God. Yet this righteousness accorded to faith is an 'alien righteousness', which does not belong to Paul as his righteousness from the law once did. Faith and its righteousness from the law once did. Faith and its righteousness are present only "in Christ'. The 'faith of Christ' is faith which has its source in him, in his death and resurrection (verse 9). Paul's thought here is very close to his discussion of Abraham's faith in Romans 4. The 'righteousness from God on the basis faith' is at once absolute gift and recompense of obedience. "

- from Mark Seifrid's book "Christ, our Righteousness" pg. 90

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Gathercole and Justification Part 1

In Simon Gathercole’s essay “The Doctrine of Justification in Paul and Beyond” [1], he describes a view of the righteous that is “found in Christ”and how it relates to justification that is different to what I am accustomed to. Normally, I am use to hearing Christ’s fulfilling all of the law in order to earn salvation (Christ’s active obedience) [2].

In Gathercole’s “Forgiveness and Justification” selection, his view of how righteous relates to justification becomes clearer through his equating the term “righteous” with “forgiveness”. He writes while commenting on Romans 4:1-5:

“Despite numerous attempts by a wide variety of very different interpreters to avoid the face, Paul seems here to be defining the reckoning of righteousness as forgiveness of wrongs, covering sins, and not reckoning sin.” [pg 224].

From there, Gathercole explains why defining “righteousness” as “forgiveness” is tough for some people to do.

“The reason for the difficulty that interpreters have with this idea stems, it seems, from understanding forgiveness in too minimalistic terms. It is sometimes regarded merely as wiping the slate clean, which leaves us at zero-where we have no record of sin against us but no positive righteousness either. Paul, however, combines forgiveness with blessed and justification (Rom. 4:6-8) and also with reconciliation and justification (2 Cor. 5:18-21). Forgiveness appears, then not merely as a clearing of the account; it has (and there is a thoroughly Pauline mixing of metaphors) relational contours as well. Justification is not forgiveness in the sense of forgiveness of a debt in abstraction from a relationship (e.g. a waiver of a debt to a bank). Rather, it is forgiveness of a personal wrong (disobedience and offense against God’s glory), such that forgiveness of the personal wrong means restoration of the relationship. And restoration of the relationship is tantamount to talking of divine acceptance, since the initiative needs to come from the divine side. There has perhaps been too much separation of images such as justification, forgiveness, and reconciliation when such a separation does not really seem to work with Paul: for him, one image often suggests another (Rom.3:24-26;5:8-9; 2 Cor.5:17-21)” [pg 225]

[1] This essay is found in the book "Justification in Perspectives: Historical Developments and Contemporary Challenges" edited by Bruce McCormack

[2] Gathercole in discussing the current debates surrounding imputation states plainly that he holds to traditional view of imputation of Christ’s righteousness. See pg 223