Thursday, January 31, 2008

Marshall on "The Kingdom of God"

Jesus' establishment of the Kingdom of God involved in the creation of a new group of people.

"We must next ask what Jesus envisaged as the result of the establishment of the Kingdom of God (KG). The traditional hope was, as we have seen, for the setting up of a new kingdom in the presence of God at the end of the age in a cosmic setting; it would be composed of people who loved and served God and who lived together in righteousness and peace under the rule of God and his agent the Messiah. The Jews believed that they themselves would compose this people. The KG is thus a corporate entity and consists of people. Hence the mission of Jesus involved the creation of a people who would be the objects of God's rule and who would receive benefits of his rule. Since Jesus warned the people of Israel that as a nation they were in danger of being rejected by God, he must have envisaged the creation of a new people, incorporating elements of the old people but also open more widely and constituted by a new allegiance to himself as disciples and taught them that they must obey his words. The conclusion is irresistible that response to the message of the KG was identical with acceptance of Jesus as Master.

The new Israel is constituted by its allegiance to the Messiah." Kingdom of God expands through God's agents (the church)

"For we have seen that God acted in Jesus to establish his rule and that the concepts of the Messiah/Son of man and the KG are indivisibly joined together. But in the Messiah or Son of man is the leader of a group who are not only subject to God as King but also act in unison to spread the KG. The idea that the KG expands of its own accord independently of the action of God's agents is thoroughly false. Jesus called the Twelve and Seventy(-two) to share in his work, and he told them to preach that the KG had drawn near and to perform the signs of its presence. The KG extends as it is proclaimed and as the signs of its presence are performed. If Jesus came to bring the KG, we must be conclude that his followers were commissioned by him to carry out the same task. It must be questioned, therefore whether Taylor is right in saying that 'laboring for the coming of the Kingdom' is not the teaching of Jesus himself. On the contrary, this is precisely what he called his followers to do. To proclaim the Kingship of God is to preach the KG, for it opens up to people the possibility of responding to the message by acknowledging God as their king".

The Church should be concerned with evangelism and discipleship

"The Church consists of people who acknowledge God as king and who are committed to proclaiming his kingship and witnessing to his realty in their own lives as individuals and as a community. Put in other words, this means that a primary task of the Church is evangelism carried out in the power of the Spirit. But such proclamation is not simply aimed at conversion of individuals. The Church must also spell out the nature of obedience to God both spiritually and morally, just as Jesus did. The proclamation of the KG will include the declaration of God's condemnation of what is evil and hypocritical in the lives of people both as individuals and as members of communal bodies in business and government. To say this obviously raises questions about the extent to which protest in the name of God should be carried out I action as well as in words, but there is no room here to take up the point. We must be guide by the example of Jesus, who forbade his followers to use violence, but who did things, like associating with tax collectors and sinners, that outraged his opponents and made them even plot to kill him".

- The Hope of a New Age: The Kingdom of God in the New Testament by I.Howard Marshall

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Dan and I watched Juno this past week. We're smitten- Watch it, and you will be too!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Jesus the Resurrected Messiah

In N.T. Wright’s book, The Resurrection of the Son of God, he notes that the Messiah was generally supposed to do three things [1]:

  1. Win the decisive victory over the pagans
  2. Rebuild or cleanse the Temple
  3. In some way or other to bring true, god-given justice and peace to the whole world

Why did the early Christians believe that Jesus was the Messiah when he seemed to have failed his mission?

Wright notes that the early Christians believed Jesus was the Messiah because he rose from the dead.

“To this question, of course, the early Christians reply with one voice: we believe that Jesus was and is the Messiah because he was raised bodily from the dead. Nothing else will do. And to this the historian has to say: yes, this belief would produce this result. If the early Christians believed that Israel’s god had raised Jesus from the dead, they would believe that he had been vindicated as Messiah despite his shameful death. “ [2]

But what about the Messiah’s mission of accomplishing the 3 things mentioned above? Did the early Christians abandon the Jewish model of the Messiah? Wright notes that the early Christians didn’t dump the existing Jewish model but allowed this belief to be transformed in four ways [3]

  1. It lost its ethnic specificity: the Messiah did not belong only to the Jews
  2. The ‘messianic battle’ changed its character: the Messiah would not fight a military campaign, but would confront evil itself
  3. The rebuilt Temple would not be a bricks-and-mortar construction in Jerusalem, but the community of Jesus’ followers.
  4. The justice, peace, and salvation which the Messiah would bring to the world would not be a Jewish version of the imperial dream of Rome, but would be God’s dikaiosune, God’s eirene, God’s soteria, poured out upon the world through the renewal of the whole creation.

[1] pg 557

[2] pg 563

[3] pg 562-563

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Final Thoughts on Piper, Wright, and Justification Part 4

In conclusion:

1. Piper’s book, “The Future of Justification”, is a great example how to engage in theological debates.

2. Piper’s and Wright’s views of justification differs mainly in that Piper believes in imputation and Wright doesn’t

3. Piper believes Wright's view of justification won't give 1) Christ sufficient glory and 2)provide Christians adequate assurance for salvation (I disagree) .

4. I wished Piper's new book would have engaged more with the thoughts of Don Garlington in order to establish his idea of imputation- the idea that we need more than forgiveness from the cross to satisfy God’s holiness and perfection.

5. Piper is concerned with Wright's view of the final justification because goods works are directly connected to it and not because works are earning our salvation.

6. Wright's view of works and the final justification appears to be close to Simon Gathercole's views although he believes in imputation

7. The exegetical basis for the doctrine of Christ's imputation is very complex (See Simon Gathercole's quote)

With that, I glad to say I am done with this topic. In the end, I think both Piper with his "Christian Hedonism" and Wright with his "creation/Israel/Christ" story approach, are tremendous blessings to the church. So go read and enjoy both of them!!!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Final Thoughts on Piper, Wright, and Justification Part 3

Before the book, I thought Piper was critical of Wright's view of the final justification because he thought Wright was advocating a view of “merit-based” salvation by which our good works earns God's final verdict. But this isn't the case for Piper clearly states that this is not his problem with Wright’s view. Piper, reciting Wright's understanding of the final judgment, states:

"In other words, Paul believes that all men will face a final judgment (law-court) in which people will "be vindicated, resurrected, shown to be the covenant people"- this is, justified by works. When he says "by works," he does not mean by legalism or by merit or by earning, but by the obedience of our lives that is produced by the Holy Spirit through" (pg.104)

So, what is Piper's problem with Wright's view of the final judgment? I believe Piper doesn't want good works to have a direct connection (basis) with our final vindication, which he believes will prevent the" double tragedy" of not glorifying Christ properly and hindering assurance of salvation (pg.186 -187) [1]. For Piper sees good works as having an indirect connection with our final vindication, that is he sees "the necessity of obedience not as any part of the basis of our justification, but strictly as the evidence and confirmation of our faith in Christ whose blood and righteousness is the sole basis of our justification" (pg. 110). A diagram of Piper's view would look like this:

WORKS --->(evidences of being in Christ) --->CHRIST--->(basis of final justification)--->FINAL JUSTIFICATION

And Piper believes that Wright seems to be advocating a view of good works that have a direct connection (basis) for our final vindication (pg. 125-128). A diagram of Wright's view would look like this:


(I know this linear diagram above is too simplistic, and it doesn't take into account other elements of Wright's thought so to do some justice to him, it's important to note 3 things that relate to his view of the final justification: 1) Christians are connected to Christ's death and resurrection which provide forgiveness of sins and new life. 2) Christians are given the Holy Spirit to change their hearts so that we can have faith and good works 3) A Christian's future justification is based on the pattern of one's life is certain because of present justification by faith (Assurance of Salvation)) [2].

Again, it's important to note that Piper problem with Wright isn't that obedience is "earning" our final vindication (pg.104), but his direct connection between good works and the final justification- in Piper's view good works are only evidence that we are in Christ, who God looks at for our final justification.

My personally thoughts on this matter is that both these options are acceptable. For no one is saying that our works are meriting or earning our salvation and both seem to believe in 1) unconditional election 2) substitutional atonement and 3) perseverance of the saints.

But what about the direct connection with good works and the final justification? This issue must ultimately be addressed exegetically, but for now I take some comfort, knowing that conservatives like Simon Gathercole, who believes in imputation, appears to see a direct connection between goods works and the final vindication. And it also seems that Piper's indirect view of works just pushes forward the process of God's examining our good works, which in his case, is to see if we are in Christ which then allows us to be justified on the basis of him rather than Wright's view of works directly effecting our final justification (Again, the issue involved isn't related to merit).

Finally, what about imputation? This is a difficult issue and once again I receive more comfort from Gathercole, who states:

"A statement by Robert Gundry on the (non) imputation of Christ's righteousness in particular has sparked a response by John Piper, and Gundry and Don Carson have also entered the same debate from different stances. It is not my purpose here to enter this debate. But it should be said that there is clearly a great deal of diversity of opinion on the matter. This is, of course, not sufficient in itself to let discretion take the better part of valor. But in case, the diversity seems to arise out of the complexity of the New Testament evidence, not because one side is particularly hidebound to tradition and the other wallowing in the desire for novelty or for doctrine that is more amendable to culture. I would not myself deny this traditional understanding of imputation. Still, because of the complexity of the issue, I would propose that the requirement that is is specifically Christ's righteousness that is imputed to believers should not feature on evangelical statement of faith. To make such a finely balanced point an article of faith seems a dangerous strategy. Nonetheless, it is very clear that justification is still Christological through and through. Both the cross and the present action of Christ are the vital grounds of justification."

[1] See my pervious post on my thoughts on Piper's "double tragedy"
[2] See Wright's "The Shape of Justification" and "Justification, "The Bibical Basis and it's Relevance for Contemporay Evangelicalism".
[3] pg 223 of "Justification in Perspective: Historical Development and Contemporary Challenges", edited by Bruce McCormack

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Final Thoughts on Piper, Wright, and Justification Part 2

With this being said, I still don't think Wright's view of future justification is as dangerous as Piper thinks. Piper articulates his two main concerns (" the double tragedy") at the end of his book (pg.186 -187):

1. The lack of imputation of Christ’s active obedience will lead to good works "nullify the very beauty of Christ and his designed to display (pg. 187)" because it might try to add to "the perfection and beauty and all sufficiency of Christ's obedience in securing the reality that God is for us" (pg 187) Basically, Piper is saying that Christ will not be glorified if we deny imputation. I won't comment too much on this, but I find Piper's statement to be” out of bounds” for this type of conversation because both Piper and Wright want to glorify Christ in their thinking but differ on their interpretation on how God seeks to glorify Christ. One could (wrongly) say that Piper is dishonoring Christ by attributing him with something he didn't do like give us his perfect obedience. I don't find these kinds of statements very helpful in these type of theological discussions.

2. The lack of imputation of Christ’s active obedience will lead to the works of love to be "severed from their root in the Christ-secured assurance that God is totally for us" (pg.187), that is Piper believes it will lead to the lack of Christian assurance of salvation. Two things in response to Piper's statement, first, Wright articulates a view of how to obtain assurance that is practically similar to Piper, that is, they both say people should look to Christ not their good works for confidence in their salvation. Second, Wright's view of justification seems to be inadequate for assurance only because Piper believes that God demands for perfect obedience must be satisfied by two things: 1) Christ's death, bring forgiveness and 2) Christ's perfect obedience imputing righteousness to believers. But I don't think Piper has decisively established the latter point- the need for more than forgiveness to satisfy God’s holiness and perfection, even though his current book wasn’t aimed to rehash all of the arguments he made in his previous book, “Counted Righteous in Christ” which seeks to establish the doctrine of imputation. I would have like to see Piper more engaged in Don Garlington’s criticisms [1]. I thought it was interesting that Garlington is not cited once in Piper’s new book.

[1] See Garlington’s articles entitled: 1) Imputation or Union with Christ? A Response to John Piper 2) Imputation or Union with Christ? A Rejoinder to John Piper

[2] See Piper’s brief response to Garlington’s first article here.

Final Thoughts on Piper, Wright, and Justification Part 1

I was going to write a long review on Piper's new book, The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright, so that I could lay my previous thoughts on these issues to rest:

1. "The Doer of the Law Who Will be Justified": Romans 2:13

2. Piper and Wright on “Future Grace”

3. FAKE Interview with John Piper and N.T. Wright Part 1

4. FAKE Interview with John Piper and N.T. Wright Part 2

5. Piper, Wright, and Justification Part 1

But I didn't write anything because I figured Wright would probably respond in his own words.

Recently, a commenter asked me if I felt that "Piper's depiction of Wright's view was correct in Chapter 8, which is entitled ""Does Wright say with Different Words What the Reformed Tradition means by "Imputed Righteousness"? So I figured I would share a little bit more of my thoughts on Piper's book, particularly as it relates to the question above. My short answer is "yes", Piper correctly shows that Wright doesn't believe in the traditional idea of imputation.

Piper summarizes the traditional Reformed of imputation on pages 124:

"In historic Reformed exegesis, (1) a person is union with Christ by faith alone. In this union, (2) the believer is identified with Christ in his (a) wrath-absorbing death, (b) his perfect obedience to the Father, and (c) his vindication- securing resurrection. All of these are reckoned-that is, imputed- to the believer in Christ. On this basis, (3) the "dead," "righteous,'" raised” believer is accepted and assured of final vindication and eternal fellowship with God.

Then Piper correctly a point out that (2b) is missing from Wright's theology, the belief that Christ's perfect obedience is imputed to believers (pg 125). From this, Piper believes that Wright seems to be closer to the idea of impartation (inner transformation) rather than (Christ's) imputation as the basis for our final vindication (pg. 125-128)

I believe all this is correct. In my reading of Wright, he doesn't appear to believe the idea of Christ's perfect obedience to the law being imputed to believer, this is plainly seen in Piper citation of Wright's lecture "Paul in Different Perspectives: Lecture 1" on pages 121- 123.

I guess I Know My Bible

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Friday, January 04, 2008

The Essence of Christian Forgiveness

"For herein lies the essence of Christian forgiveness: On the account of his divinity, Christ could and did shoulder the consequences of human sin: so the penalty for wrongdoing can be detached from wrongdoers. And since on account of his humanity Christ could and did die on behalf of sinners, they, in effect, died when he died; so guilt can be detached from wrongdoers. When we forgive those who have wronged us, we make our own God's miracle of forgiveness. Echoing God's unfathomable graciousness, we decouple the deed from the doer, the offense from the offender. We blot out the offense so it no longer mars the offender. That is why the non-remembrance of wrongs suffered appropriately crowns forgiveness" - pg 208 from Volf's book "The End of Memory".

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Hamilton's God's Indwelling Presence

Dr. James Hamilton’s book, God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments, seeks to prove that OT believers were not indwelt with the Holy Spirit unlike NT believers after Christ’s resurrection.

It’s important to note that Dr. Hamilton draws a distinction between regeneration, which he believes the Spirit actively participates in giving life to the hearts of both OT and NT believers and indwelling of the Spirit, which he concludes only occurs in NT believers after the resurrection. Hamilton defines regeneration as “God’s work of granting to humans the ability to hear, understand, believe, obey, and enter the kingdom” (pg. 2) and indwelling as “God’s abiding, positive, covenant presence in believers through the Spirit” (pg.3) which helps maintain faith.

Hamilton’s proposition begs the question of “how OT saints remained faithful to God if they were not indwelt by the Holy Spirit”. Hamilton answers this question by stating that God’s presence in the tabernacle and the temple provides the “sanctifying effect upon them” (pg. 163)

I believe the upshot of this book is that it stresses the dramatic shift in salvation history caused by the death and resurrection of Christ. Where once God's presence and salvation was located in Jerusalem (Temple) but now it's located in God's people by faith in Christ. Hamilton rightly notes this implication in his last chapter entitled "Results and Relevance for Today" (pg. 161-169)

Dr. Hamilton’s book is grounded in convincing exegesis and I found most of my questions against his thesis answered. So if you want to learn more about the Holy Spirit, you should definitely get this book.