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Justification By Faithfulness: Seven Theses

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  • Justification By Faithfulness: Seven Theses

    I'm not sure if this belongs in Contro, but I'm posting it here to get more interaction from different perspectives. I realize this won't go over well with many defenders of the Protestant tradition, but I must qualify on the front end that my motivation is not a fashionable disregard for tradition, but rather an upholding of tradition's methodology – of Martin Luther’s methodology – to never set tradition over Scripture. The Reformation was essentially a protest against a timeless system that carried centuries of misguided baggage into Scripture. A historical reading was the Reformer’s weapon. Today we have much more understanding of history than they did with which to sketch an accurate backdrop for Scripture, so why not go back to the beginning? That's my aim, at least, however successful it may be. The following paragraphs are seven propositions regarding Paul's doctrine of justification by faith, and my basic contention is that we’ve been filtering these words through the wrong set of glasses for too long. A sixteenth century definition simply will not do. We must have a first century definition. I welcome all comments and critiques.

    1) The starting point for Paul’s understanding of justification is that it is eschatological, referring to the declaration that God will make on the last day, and that it is by works, a verdict made according to the whole life lived. As Romans 2:13-16 goes, “For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified… in the day when will God judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.” This passage says Christ will be the one making the judgment, so it can’t be passed off as merely a law-based hypothetical. It’s a fundamental part of Paul’s gospel.

    2) Second Temple Judaism was not the religion of “self-help moralism” or “works-righteousness” that Protestant theology has long believed it to be. The Jews of the period believed that they were counted as members of God’s family more by their ethnicity than by their works per se, if by “works” one means moral achievements. Obedience to the law was seen as necessary, but the fact that God made covenant with Abraham, declaring that the whole world would be blessed through his descendants, meant that those descendants, by virtue of their relation to Abraham, must be in the covenant. This was why things like circumcision and dietary laws were so important; because they defined a Jew as a Jew, separate from the pagans and inalienably a part of “Israel,” God’s chosen people, those who would be saved on the last day. Even amongst the most extreme groups like the Shammaites and the Essenes, keeping the law was understood as responsive and confirming to God’s merciful covenant; it was not a matter of earning one’s own righteousness by climbing a ladder of merit. It is this ethnocentric sense of unconditional election which Paul deconstructs in Romans 2, not a proto-Pelagian belief in salvation by works.

    3) When Paul refers to the “works of the law” in places like Romans 3:20, he is thinking in terms of the ethnic boundary-markers of Torah, practices which had become symbolic badges of membership, like Sabbath, circumcision, and dietary laws, things that defined a Jew as a participant of the covenant over against their pagan neighbors, or even a more observant Jew over a less observant Jew. This is the sense which the phrase also carries in the Qumran text 4QMMT. So when Paul contrasts “faith” and “works”, the negative side of that contrast involves those aspects of Torah which in first century Judaism had ironically become ways of avoiding moral effort (e.g. Rom 2:1-3, 17-24; cf. Matt 23:23-28).

    4) The Greek word pistis, for Paul, does not refer to mere belief in God through either the cognitive acceptance of truths about him and/or a spiritual encounter with him. It actually has ethical content to it. This is especially clear in Romans 3:3: “For what if some were unfaithful (apisteo)? Will their faithlessness (apistia) nullify the faithfulness (pistis) of God?” Paul is here addressing directly the question of God’s righteousness related to Israel’s disobedience. If Israel has been unfaithful to the covenant, as Paul has shown they have (2:1-29), then what does this mean for God? Will he turn his back on them as they have on him, or will his arms remain outstretched to any who might return? Paul is resolute: God will remain steadfast, pistis. It hardly needs saying that Romans 3:3 sets the stage for Romans 3:21. But if Israel’s failure here is called their apistia, and God’s steadfastness is called his pistis, then why should the pistis of those who are justified later on in the chapter be defined as mere belief? God’s pistis is his commitment to his saving purpose, his faithfulness. Therefore human pistis (or lack thereof, as in 3:3) is a responsive commitment to that saving purpose, an answering faithfulness.

    5) In the key passages on “justification by faith” like Romans 3:21-26, Galatians 2:16 and 3:22-25, the phrase most often translated “faith in Christ” should actually be translated “the faithfulness of Christ”. Thus, the sense of Romans 3:22 goes like this: “God’s righteousness, his covenant justice, has been unveiled through the faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah to all who believe”. This translation has three major advantages over the traditional rendering. First, it fixes the redundancy of Paul’s saying “by faith” and then adding again “to all who believe”. Second, it gives the apocalyptic unveiling of God’s righteousness a definitive historic content as a personal action of God, instead of defining it purely in terms of the belief of the saints. And third, it gives the responsive pistis of the saints its appropriate antecedent, the work of the Messiah, instead of letting it dangle without any controlling story in terms of the redemption which God had achieved.

    6) In a verse like Romans 3:28, “justified by faith” is Paul’s shorthand summation for the whole story which he has just outlined: the redemptive justice of God, revealed by the pistis of Jesus, to all who respond in pistis. This is why, both in Romans 3:21-28 and in Galatians 3:22-25, Paul refers to “faith” as an event in history, an event to which the law and the prophets looked forward and which we now look back upon in joyful gratitude; because for Paul, the word refers first and foremost to the apocalyptic event of the Messiah’s death and resurrection.

    7) From all of the above, we can see that the actual contrast between “works” and “faith” in Paul is not between (a) moral effort and (b) mere belief, but rather between (a) Israel’s unfaithfulness and the inability of the law to lift them out of their plight, and (b) the contrasting faithfulness of Israel’s Messiah, which has unveiled the covenant justice of God to any and all who will respond in believing obedience to his call, Jew and Gentile alike. And as Paul goes on to lay out in Romans 5-8, even our responsive faithfulness is the work of grace, by the power of the Spirit as the result of Christ’s own action on our behalf. So it all begins and ends with God. As he concludes in 8:3-4, “For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

    - Hitman


    "Test all things; hold fast what is good." - Advice from the Apostle Paul


  • #2
    Re: Justification By Faithfulness: Seven Theses

    It's hard to be sure exactly what your point is here? Thus making it difficult to engage with your points
    The Rookie

    Twelve is the number of government. Thus, it is quite apropos that I am on my way towards wielding the power of twelve bars - each bar like, say, a tribe.....or a star.....or, maybe an apostle. A blue apostle. Like apostle smurfs. Does anyone remember smurfs? And all the controversy about them being from the devil? It's probably bad that I juxtaposed "apostle" and "smurf" in the same sentence. But then, I probably lost you at "blue apostle". Yes, my friends, this is what "rare jewel of a person" is actually implying. "Rare Jewel of a Person" really means, "Potentially Insane".

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Justification By Faithfulness: Seven Theses

      Looks like his point is that the traditional Protestant view on justification by faith is wrong because it is a 'sixteenth century definition' (i.e. the Protestant Reformers imposed the faith versus works debate of their own time onto Paul's epistles and came away with an inaccurate reading... something I would agree with).
      To This Day

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Justification By Faithfulness: Seven Theses

        There are at least 7 threads worth in the OP...just sayin'.
        Sunset remembers Eden...sunrise prophesies its return.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Justification By Faithfulness: Seven Theses

          Originally posted by markedward View Post
          Looks like his point is that the traditional Protestant view on justification by faith is wrong because it is a 'sixteenth century definition' (i.e. the Protestant Reformers imposed the faith versus works debate of their own time onto Paul's epistles and came away with an inaccurate reading... something I would agree with).
          I, too, would tend to agree, as per the underlined portion. I will try to reply to hitman when I have a little more time.

          Time is something I am very short of since I am now working again. I wish I had more time ...

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Justification By Faithfulness: Seven Theses

            Originally posted by Matthehitmanhart View Post
            I'm not sure if this belongs in Contro, but I'm posting it here to get more interaction from different perspectives. I realize this won't go over well with many defenders of the Protestant tradition, but I must qualify on the front end that my motivation is not a fashionable disregard for tradition, but rather an upholding of tradition's methodology – of Martin Luther’s methodology – to never set tradition over Scripture. The Reformation was essentially a protest against a timeless system that carried centuries of misguided baggage into Scripture. A historical reading was the Reformer’s weapon. Today we have much more understanding of history than they did with which to sketch an accurate backdrop for Scripture, so why not go back to the beginning? That's my aim, at least, however successful it may be. The following paragraphs are seven propositions regarding Paul's doctrine of justification by faith, and my basic contention is that we’ve been filtering these words through the wrong set of glasses for too long. A sixteenth century definition simply will not do. We must have a first century definition. I welcome all comments and critiques.
            Do the works of Norm Shepherd and/or NT Wright have any bearing on your theses?

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Justification By Faithfulness: Seven Theses

              Originally posted by markedward View Post
              Looks like his point is that the traditional Protestant view on justification by faith is wrong because it is a 'sixteenth century definition' (i.e. the Protestant Reformers imposed the faith versus works debate of their own time onto Paul's epistles and came away with an inaccurate reading... something I would agree with).
              That's exactly it.

              - Hitman


              "Test all things; hold fast what is good." - Advice from the Apostle Paul

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Justification By Faithfulness: Seven Theses

                Originally posted by RogerW View Post
                Do the works of Norm Shepherd and/or NT Wright have any bearing on your theses?
                Chiefly N.T. Wright, E.P. Sanders, James Dunn, and Richard B. Hays, with just a dash of Douglas Campbell.

                - Hitman


                "Test all things; hold fast what is good." - Advice from the Apostle Paul

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Justification By Faithfulness: Seven Theses

                  Originally posted by Watchman View Post
                  There are at least 7 threads worth in the OP...just sayin'.
                  That was my point

                  Markedward's response would have made a great OP
                  The Rookie

                  Twelve is the number of government. Thus, it is quite apropos that I am on my way towards wielding the power of twelve bars - each bar like, say, a tribe.....or a star.....or, maybe an apostle. A blue apostle. Like apostle smurfs. Does anyone remember smurfs? And all the controversy about them being from the devil? It's probably bad that I juxtaposed "apostle" and "smurf" in the same sentence. But then, I probably lost you at "blue apostle". Yes, my friends, this is what "rare jewel of a person" is actually implying. "Rare Jewel of a Person" really means, "Potentially Insane".

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Justification By Faithfulness: Seven Theses

                    Originally posted by markedward View Post
                    Looks like his point is that the traditional Protestant view on justification by faith is wrong because it is a 'sixteenth century definition' (i.e. the Protestant Reformers imposed the faith versus works debate of their own time onto Paul's epistles and came away with an inaccurate reading... something I would agree with).
                    One of the things that would help me: (if you want to do this) can you (either of you or any of you - i.e. the "royal you") lay out what you think is wrong as it relates to the traditional view of justification?
                    The Rookie

                    Twelve is the number of government. Thus, it is quite apropos that I am on my way towards wielding the power of twelve bars - each bar like, say, a tribe.....or a star.....or, maybe an apostle. A blue apostle. Like apostle smurfs. Does anyone remember smurfs? And all the controversy about them being from the devil? It's probably bad that I juxtaposed "apostle" and "smurf" in the same sentence. But then, I probably lost you at "blue apostle". Yes, my friends, this is what "rare jewel of a person" is actually implying. "Rare Jewel of a Person" really means, "Potentially Insane".

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Justification By Faithfulness: Seven Theses

                      Originally posted by Matthehitmanhart View Post
                      Chiefly N.T. Wright, E.P. Sanders, James Dunn, and Richard B. Hays, with just a dash of Douglas Campbell.
                      So basically the question you seek to answer is did the Reformers misunderstand Paul's doctrine of justification by faith alone? The assertion being that Christ is not sufficient, but something more is required besides Him. That Christ is but half a Savior. Are the Reformers wrong when they assert that Paul taught the first benefit of Christ, justification by faith (nothing added) is how we enjoy the benefit of being declared righteous before God?

                      The assumption is that salvation is from beginning to end the work of the triune God, since it is only possible for those of us who have "a corruption of the whole [human] nature" [article 15] to receive the benefits of Christ's work, if the Holy Spirit "kindle[s]" in us an "upright" or true faith. This upright faith Paul contrasts with "vain faith." The idea that God creates saving faith in us is most clearly taught by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians 2:8. There Paul tells us our entire salvation, including faith is "the gift of God," since we were "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph 2:1) had no faith and did not deserve salvation. Elsewhere, Paul said, "It has been granted to you...not only [to] believe in him" (Ph 1:29). It is these BIBLICAL passages that are summarized in the creeds and confessions of the Reformed faith.

                      To prove the Refomers misunderstood Paul, one must prove the Bible, through God's inspired writer, Paul, got it wrong.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Justification By Faithfulness: Seven Theses

                        Originally posted by RogerW
                        The assertion being that Christ is not sufficient, but something more is required besides Him. That Christ is but half a Savior.
                        Not even remotely close to what Matt has said.
                        To This Day

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Justification By Faithfulness: Seven Theses

                          Originally posted by markedward View Post
                          Not even remotely close to what Matt has said.
                          But you stated, "(i.e. the Protestant Reformers imposed the faith versus works debate of their own time onto Paul's epistles and came away with an inaccurate reading... something I would agree with)", and Matt agreed with you. But I don't believe the Reformers creeds and confessions impose faith versus works debate at all! In fact exactly the opposite! Faith verses works debate is imposed by some upon Scripture, but the Reformers creeds and confessions clearly put this debate to rest by asserting "faith alone". And isn't that really the crux of the dispute, and in fact hasn't that always been the crux of all disputes?

                          "The following paragraphs are seven propositions regarding Paul's doctrine of justification by faith, and my basic contention is that we’ve been filtering these words through the wrong set of glasses for too long. A sixteenth century definition simply will not do. We must have a first century definition. I welcome all comments and critiques."

                          I assume by "we've been filtering...." refers to the Reformers reading sixteenth century definition upon Paul. IOW we must approach Scripture from a new, modern, so-called better lense. We must discard these old out-dated methods. That seems to be the more modern approach to just about every historic document we hold dear, like the Word of God, and even our own Constitution of the USA. We don't always have to come up with new modern first century definitions, especially when searching the "timeless" Words of God.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Justification By Faithfulness: Seven Theses

                            Originally posted by Matthehitmanhart View Post
                            That's exactly it.
                            Have you ever read anything I have put on this and other forums concerning faith? It is as you have posted in 5 and 6. Faith has nothing to do with what we think or do. Faith is an event, the obedience of faith, both words obedience and faith being nouns, the obedience of faith was Jesus the Christ being obedient unto death even the death of the cross. Jesus laid down his life, poured out his soul unto death. That is the faith spoken of in Gal. 3:23,25 also the article the should precede faith in both verses. As Paul puts it as the very first thing he preached and he preached it as it was given to him by Jesus, how that Christ died for our sins. 1 Cor 15:3 It was the faith that brought the grace of God, the resurrection. Paul also says in verse 17 that if the same Christ that died has not been raised then his death (faith) was vain and you are still in your sins.

                            It also goes further than just justification by faith which also needed the grace of God See Acts 17:1-4 as well as above.

                            That is; Without the resurrection the death of Christ would have been vain, that is his shed blood would not have washed away our sins. Out sins were washed away in his own blood by the resurrection. Whish means Titus 3:5 is speaking of what was done to Jesus not what is being done to us. According to mercy he (God the Father) saved us. Jesus was before placed, propitiation, (place of mercy, the mercy seat) through the faith in the blood of him. God the Father made Jesus his Son the mercy seat because of the faith of Jesus in his blood for our sins. Has nothing to do with what we believe. We until the promise of the Holy Spirit could be given which is received for the before spoken of faith were dead in trespasses and sins, in unbelief. We by being given the Holy Spirit are moved from being in unbelief unto being able to believe.

                            If I go not away the Comforter, Holy Spirit, will not come.

                            Jesus had to die, be raised from the dead by his Father, regeneration, and receive from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, renewing of the Holy Spirit, before the Holy Spirit could be poured on us.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Justification By Faithfulness: Seven Theses

                              Originally posted by RogerW
                              But you stated,
                              At what point did either Matt or I say
                              'that Christ is not sufficient, but something more is required besides Him. That Christ is but half a Savior.'

                              ?

                              IOW we must approach Scripture from a new, modern, so-called better lense. We must discard these old out-dated methods.
                              Are you even reading what he wrote? He explicitly said, in the first paragraph:

                              A historical reading was the Reformer’s weapon. Today we have much more understanding of history than they did with which to sketch an accurate backdrop for Scripture, so why not go back to the beginning? That's my aim, at least, however successful it may be. The following paragraphs are seven propositions regarding Paul's doctrine of justification by faith, and my basic contention is that we’ve been filtering these words through the wrong set of glasses for too long. A sixteenth century definition simply will not do. We must have a first century definition.
                              You either didn't finish the first paragraph, or you read it so haphazardly that the impression you left with was the exact opposite of what he said.
                              To This Day

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