Saturday, October 15, 2011

Justification is Not by Faith Alone (Romans 4 + James 2) and is Ongoing, as Seen in Abraham's Multiple Justifications


[the following is a large portion of the longer paper, Dialogue with Lutheran Nathan Rinne, Regarding My Critiques of Lutheran Theologian Martin Chemnitz (1522-1586), Part Three: Soteriology and Miscellany; just a little bit of additional material has been added. All Bible passages are from RSV]


Catholics believe in Jesus Christ and His all-sufficient saving work on the cross (ours to receive by Grace Alone), just as Protestants do. We only deny an extreme Faith Alone position (which does not deny Grace Alone, since they are distinct).

St. Paul opposes grace and/or faith to works in Scripture, only in a particular sense: the "works" of Jewish ritualism by which the Jews gained their unique identity (e.g., circumcision). This is the crux of the new perspective on Paul, by Protestant scholars like James D. G. Dunn, E. P. Sanders, and N. T. Wright.  The Wikipedia article on the movement gives a description of the central motif:


Paul's letters contain a substantial amount of criticism of "works of the law". The radical difference in these two interpretations of what Paul meant by "works of the law" is the most consistent distinguishing feature between the two perspectives. The old perspective interprets this phrase as referring to human effort to do good works in order to meet God's standards (Works Righteousness). In this view, Paul is arguing against the idea that humans can merit salvation from God by their good works (note the New Perspective agrees that we cannot merit salvation- the issue is what exactly Paul is addressing).

By contrast, new perspective scholars see Paul as talking about "badges of covenant membership" or criticizing Gentile believers who had begun to rely on the Torah to reckon Jewish kinship.

The Apostle Paul doesn't oppose grace, faith, and works, and in fact, constantly puts them together, in harmony, as I have shown, with 50 of his passages and color-coding, to make it easy to spot each conceptual category. A few examples:

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me.

2 Corinthians 6:1 Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain.

Grace and works are for Paul, quite hand-in-hand, just as faith and works are. The new perspective on Paul "gets" this. I'm glad to see it. We Catholics have maintained something like this for 2000 years, and have refused to dichotomize grace, works, and faith. We only pit grace against works insofar as we deny (with Protestants) Pelagianism: man cannot save himself. Trent is very clear on that. We don't teach works-salvation (we vigorously deny it), despite what the Lutheran confessions, Calvin, etc. wrongly (and frequently) assert about us.

Scripture doesn't teach faith alone at all; thus the fathers do not, either. In fact, the only time the phrase appears in the Bible, it is expressly denied:


James 2:24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Paul states:

Romans 3:28 For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. (cf. 3:20; 3:24: "justified by his grace as a gift")

But saying "justified by faith" is different from saying  "justified by faith alone". The "works of the law" he refers to here are not all works, but things like circumcision. In other words, we are saved apart from Jewish rituals required under Mosaic Law. Paul makes clear that this is what he has in mind, in referencing circumcision in 3:1, asking rhetorically, "Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all" (3:9), multiple references to "the law" (3:19-21, 28, 31), and the following statement:

Romans 3:29-30 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, [30] since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith.

Paul is not against all "works" per se; he tied them directly to salvation, after all, in the previous chapter:

Romans 2:6-8 For he will render to every man according to his works: [7] to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; [8] but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.(cf. 2:13: "the doers of the law who will be justified")

* * *

Romans 4:5 And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.

The Catholic interpretation is similar in many ways to the Lutheran; different in some other ways. Here is what the Navarre Commentary states about this passage:

The act of faith is the first step towards obtaining justification (= salvation). The Magisterium of the Church teaches that, usually, those who are making their way towards faith predispose themselves in this sense: moved and helped by divine grace they freely direct themselves towards God because they believe in the truth of Revelation and, above all, believe that God, in his grace, justifies the sinner “through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24). This first act of faith moves the person to recognize and repent of his sins; to put his trust in God’s mercy and to love him above all things; and to desire the sacraments and resolve to live a holy life (cf. Council of Trent, De iustificatione, chap. 6). God reckons this faith “as righteousness,” that is to say, as something which deserves to be rewarded. It is not, therefore, good works that lead to justification; rather, justification renders works good and meritorious of eternal life. Faith opens up for us new perspectives. [bolding my own]

Paul uses the example of Abraham in Romans 4, in emphasizing faith, over against the Jewish works of circumcision as a supposed means of faith and justification (hence, he mentions circumcision in 4:9-12, and salvation to the Gentiles as well as Jews in 4:13-18).

Regular contributor to my blog, "Adomnan" offered some very helpful commentary on Romans 4:5:

. . . "the one who does not work but believes -- I would translate "believes" rather than "trusts" here -- him who justifies the ungodly" is not a generalization about all who believe, but refers specifically to Abraham. Paul sees Abraham at this point as typical of all Gentiles who believe, or perhaps as their exemplar or "father." However, Abraham is the sole person being spoken of.
[Dave's note: "trusts" in RSV for Romans 4:5 is pisteuo (Strong's word #4100),  which is translated in the KJV "believe" or "believer" (1) or "believing" (1) 238 times out of  246 total appearances, or 97% of the time ("trust" also a few times) ]
When Paul says that Abraham "does not work," he isn't saying that Abraham has not done good works. In fact, Abraham had been justified since he responded to God's self-revelation in Ur and had done many good works worthy of being reckoned as righteous. Romans 4:5 is describing but one instance of a good work (an act of faith) that was reckoned as righteous.

In context, "does not work" means "is not doing the works of the Law:" that is, Abraham has not yet been circumcised and is still a Gentile. He does not do works of Jewish Law, works of Torah.

In Greek the phrase "the one who does not work" could be translated -- clumsily -- as "the non-working one," non-working not in the sense of not doing good works but in the sense of not doing works of Torah. Paul's use of the definite pronoun suggests he has a definite person in mind (Abraham).

In the second part, "believes on him who justifies the ungodly," the word "ungodly," in context, does not mean wicked. Abraham was not wicked at this stage in his life. He was already justified. It means "Gentile." "Ungodly" in Greek is asebes, a word that refers to the sphere of religious observance, and not to evil in a wider moral sense. Essentially, it means "non-observant" of the Jewish Law, or "impious" from the point of view of the Jewish Law (which would be the point of view of the Judaizers). We have no adequate word to render this concept in modern English, but "Gentile" comes closest.

Paul is saying that someone -- Abraham in this case -- could be "impious" from the point of view of the Jewish Law (i.e., a Gentile), but righteous from the point of view of God. "Justifies the ungodly" thus amounts to "regards the Gentile Abraham as righteous."

In sum, Paul is saying that God reckoned righteousness to Abraham (not for the first time!) while he was still a Gentile. And this is the same point that Paul makes throughout Romans 3 and 4; i.e., Gentiles don't have to become Jews to be judged righteous by God. They only have to respond to God's revelation with faith, as Abraham did while still as Gentile.

Or, to paraphrase all of Romans 4:5: "And to Abraham before he had done any works of Torah but still believed in Him who regards the Gentile as righteous, his belief was credited as an act of righteousness."

Abraham's justification is also discussed in James 2, and there it is explicitly tied in with works, thus providing a perfect complementary (very "Catholic") balance with Romans 4:

James 2:20-26 Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? [21] Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? [22] You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, [23] and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"; and he was called the friend of God. [24] You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. [25] And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? [26] For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.

This is a wonderful cross-reference to Romans 4 in another respect: both cite the same Old Testament passage (Gen 15:6: seen in Rom 4:3 and James 2:23; also Gal 3:6). James, however, gives an explicit interpretation of the Old Testament passage, by stating, "and the scripture was fulfilled which says, . . ." (2:23). The previous three verses were all about justification, faith, and works, all tied in together, and this is what James says "fulfilled" Genesis 15:6. The next verse then condemns distinctive Protestant and Lutheran soteriology by disagreeing the notion of "faith alone" in the clearest way imaginable.

Scripture has to be interpreted as a harmonious whole. We Catholics can easily do that with these two passages: Roman 4 shows that the specific works of the Law that Jews lived by were not absolutely necessary for salvation, and that Abraham's faith was the key, while James 2 is discussing the organic connection between faith and works (in a general sense, using the willingness to sacrifice Issac as an example), thus showing how "faith alone" is a meaningless and unscriptural concept: faith can never be totally separated from works, except in initial justification, since (in Catholic teaching as well as Protestant) no work we do can bring us initially to justification: that is all God's grace.

James 2 is usually applied by Protestants to sanctification, but that is not what the passage says. It mentions "justified" (dikaioo: Strong's word #1344) three times (2:21, 24-25): the same Greek word used in Romans 4:2, as well as 2:13; 3:20, 24, 28; 5:1, 9; 8:30; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Galatians 2:16-17; 3:11, 24; 5:4; and Titus 3:7. If James actually meant sanctification, on the other hand, he could have used one of two Greek words ( hagiazo / hagiasmos: Strong's #37-38) that appear (together) 38 times in the New Testament (the majority of times by Paul himself).

Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin offers some great commentary about Abraham, and the multiple instances of his justification, as seen in these passages and others in Genesis:

But however attractive the single, once-for-all view of justification may be to some, there are serious exegetical considerations weighing against it. This may be seen by looking at how the New Testament handles the story of Abraham.
One of the classic Old Testament texts on justification is Genesis 15:6. This verse, which figures prominently in Paul's discussion of justification in Romans and Galatians, states that when God gave the promise to Abraham that his descendants would be as the stars of the sky (Gen. 15:5, cf. Rom. 4:18-22) Abraham "believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness" (Rom. 4:3). This passage clearly teaches us that Abraham was justified at the time he believed the promise concerning the number of his descendants.

Now, if justification is a once-for-all event, rather than a process, then that means that Abraham could not receive justification either before or after Genesis 15:6. However, Scripture indicates that he did both. First, the book of Hebrews tells us that "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance, not knowing where he was going." (Hebrews 11:8) Every Protestant will passionately agree that the subject of Hebrews 11 is saving faith—the kind that pleases God and wins his approval (Heb. 11:2, 6)—so we know that Abraham had saving faith according to Hebrews 11.

But when did he have this faith? The passage tells us: Abraham had it "when he was called to go out to the place he would afterward receive." The problem for the once-for-all view of justification is that the call of Abraham to leave Haran is recorded in Genesis 12:1-4—three chapters before he is justified in 15:6. We therefore know that Abraham was justified well before (in fact, years before) he was justified in Gen. 15:6.

But if Abraham had saving faith back in Genesis 12, then he was justified back in Genesis 12. Yet Paul clearly tells us that he was also justified in Genesis 15. So justification must be more than just a once-for-all event.
But just as Abraham received justification before Genesis 15:6, he also received it afterwards, for the book of James tells us, "Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,' and he was called the friend of God." (James 2:21-23)

James thus tells us "[w]as not our ancestor Abraham justified ... when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?" In this instance, the faith which he had displayed in the initial promise of descendants was fulfilled in his actions (see also Heb. 11:17-19), thus bringing to fruition the statement of Genesis 15:6 that he believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Abraham therefore received justification—that is, a fuller fruition of justification—when he offered Isaac. The problem for the once-for-all view is that the offering of Isaac is recorded in Gen. 22:1-18—seven chapters after Gen. 15:6. Therefore, just as Abraham was justified before 15:6 when he left Haran for the promised land, so he was also justified again when he offered Isaac after 15:6.

Therefore, we see that Abraham was justified on at least three different occasions: he was justified in Genesis 12, when he first left Haran and went to the promised land; he was justified in Genesis 15, when he believed the promise concerning his descendants; and he was justified in Genesis 22, when he offered his first promised descendant on the altar.

As a result, justification must be seen, not as a once-for-all event, but as a process which continues throughout the believer's life.

[Footnote: Protestants often object to this understanding of James 2, claiming that in that passage Abraham was said to be justified before men rather than before God. There are abundant exegetical reasons why this is not the case. Abraham was justified before God by offering Isaac, as will be shown in our chapter on progressive justification. But once the Protestant recognizes that the Bible teaches in Hebrews 11:8 that Abraham was already justified before he was justified in Genesis 15:6, there is not nearly so much motive to try to twist James 2:21-23 into meaning something else. Hebrews 11:8 already showed that justification is a process, and James 2:21-23 merely confirms that fact.]

(Salvation Past, Present, and Future; a somewhat expanded printed version of this argument occurs in his book, The Salvation Controversy [San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2001], 19-21)

As for Romans 7 (another common Protestant prooftext for their view of justification): the human difficulties with sin described there find their solution in the redemption through Jesus that Paul describes in Romans 8: one of the most fabulous chapters in the Bible. And at the climax of that chapter Paul makes reference to necessary works:

Romans 8:16-17 it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, [17] and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. 

We have to be willing to undergo voluntary suffering in order to receive this justification and salvation, which is a work. It's not doing nothing whatsoever besides accepting the free gift; otherwise all the words after "provided" wouldn't be there, because they make no sense: talking about doing something when it is a completely free gift. Other passages in the chapter imply works as well: "walk not according to the flesh" (8:4), "those who live according to the Spirit" (8:5), and "if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live" (8:13). Being an heir of Christ and glorification is conditional upon the suffering ("provided we suffer . . ."); therefore it is not faith alone; it is tied directly to a work (of sorts) and sanctification.

This is all in accord with judgment passages. I found 50. All of them without exception discuss works as the criterion for eternal life and salvation, while faith alone is never mentioned. Faith occurs a few times, but always in conjunction with works.


Justification is described in the Bible as having a past (Rom 5:1-2, 1 Cor 6:11), present (Rom 5:9; Phil 2:12), and future orientation (Rom 2:13; 3:20; Gal 5:5). Protestants generally contend that it is "a one-time event". We say it is not a one-time event because it is multiple and perpetual. If Scripture refers to it in three tenses, then multiple occurrence is the most plausible interpretation.


***

229 comments:

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Nathan Rinne said...

David,

You can seek to avoid the suffering God gives you. You can actively fight against it and not be passive.

Just stopping in real quick. I need to say this now: I am eager for round 2 (already) and my preference would be to go through all of your posts line by line.... I will try to make time for this, yet it does seem rather daunting to me.

I hope that if I chose to not reply in that way that you won't be too disappointed. I can only dream of having time to do even part-time apologetics. : )

In Christ!
Nathan

Nathan Rinne said...

Quick question: I wonder where Adomnan gets his interp of Romans 4:5. I have never heard that before. Doesn't this seem to not fit with what Paul says in Romans 4:4 and 7-9 though? I'd acknowledge N.T. Wright makes some good points about Jew-Gentile dynamics in Romans, but... : )

+ Nathan

Dave Armstrong said...

Well, Adomnan will probably answer for himself.

Sure you can try to avoid the suffering, but that is beside the present point. What is interesting and key about Romans 8:17 is that it makes being an heir of Christ and glorification conditional upon the suffering ("provided we suffer . . ."; therefore it is not faith alone; it is tied directly to a work (of sorts) and sanctification.

Nathan Rinne said...

Dave,

I simply see this as being related to faith, in both its passive and active aspects - i.e. *if* *we continue* in faith. We are connected with Christ in baptism. Everything that is Christ's becomes ours - His good gifts and even those things that in this fallen world hardly seem like gifts, namely, His sufferings. Where He is, we also will be. All of this means faith. In baptism we have everything in embryonic form - this means that we receive all these things passively first of all by faith, and actively by faith, as we are confronted with other models and philosophies that would vie for our true identity - and must decide if we truly want to remain with Him, for where we find ourselves as those who follow Him, it is often hard.

Need to run.

+ Nathan

Dave Armstrong said...

That's not a bad take! :-)

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Quick question: I wonder where Adomnan gets his interp of Romans 4:5. I have never heard that before.

Adomnan: I worked it out on my own, after reading commentaries from the New Perspective, Fr. Joseph Fitzmyer and others. Knowing the original Greek also helped.

This interpretation is the only one that fits the context of what Paul is saying about how non-Jews (like Abraham before his circumcision) can still be righteous, which is Paul's message in Romans. He is not saying that good works or human effort have nothing to do with (Christian) justification, but that Jewish rites, which is what he means by the works of the Law, are not necessary.

Paul has no problem with human moral effort and never criticizes it in any fashion. Contempt for -- or skepticism about -- human moral effort is a Protestant, not a Pauline, preoccupation.

While I came to this conclusion on my own, I also found it expressed in an on-line theological essay. The author is Michael Cranford, and the essay is entitled "Abraham in Romans 4: The Father of All Who Believe." I don't have a journal reference, but you should be able to find the article on line with this information.

Mr. Cranford writes about Romans 4:5: "Nothing about v. 5 forces us to understand 'work' as mere human effort, and therefore antithetical to faith; the work in view is Abraham's circumcision (vv. 9-12), and it was this work that was unrelated to righteousness, not his obedience in general. Verse 5 highlights the fact that works were lacking in the case of Abraham's justification -- not to show that salvation is unrelated to obedience, but to show that faith and works of law mark out different boundaries. Since works of law were not present when righteousness was reckoned to Abraham, they can have no ability to identify God's people today either."

In other words, we Christians don't have to be Jewish -- observe Torah works/rites -- to be justified.

Mr. Cranford also explains how "asebes" (ungodly/impious) in Romans 4:5 actually means "Gentile":

"That this is Paul's focus is clear by the term 'asebes,' which must be seen as denoting those who are excluded from the covenant, a form of address which would typically be applied to Gentiles. Abraham was justified at a point when he was as yet uncircumcised, and therefore one of the ungodly."

Abraham was "ungodly" only from the point of view of the Judaizers and the Jewish Law. However, Paul's point is that he was not ungodly in the eyes of God who "justifies the ungodly (i.e., Gentile)."

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Doesn't this seem to not fit with what Paul says in Romans 4:4 and 7-9 though? I'd acknowledge N.T. Wright makes some good points about Jew-Gentile dynamics in Romans, but... : )

Adomnan: Romans 4:4: "Now when a person works, wages are not credited to him as a favor (or according to grace), but as what is due."

The "person who works" may be Abraham again, in view of the fact that he will later be circumcised and so "do the works of the Lord." However, I think it is equally, or perhaps more, likely that Paul is making the general statement that a worker deserves his wages.

Given that Paul posits this premise ("a worker deserves his wages"), Paul could hardly mean that God denies the premise. Thus, the usual assumption that this verse proves that God doesn't pay wages "as due" is unwarranted.

Rather, the implication of this verse, coupled with v. 5, is that God can give something as a favor, or grace, even if it isn't due as a wage. The point is that Abraham has not yet entered into a contract with God (the covenant of the Law) and thus is not yet in a position to receive wages (which are only given on a contractual -- that is, covenantal -- basis).

The deeper point, I think, is that the justification that results from grace and is granted to believing Gentiles is something way beyond any wages that are paid as a result of the Covenant of the Law; that is, God's gift is way beyond merely "what is due." Grace through Christ trumps the Jewish Law.

In any case, the work in view in v. 4, as in v. 5, is "works of the Law;" that is, Jewish rites -- and not "good works."

Adomnan said...

Nathan also mentioned Romans 7:9 as possibly inconsistent with my interpretation of Romans 4:5.

Romans 7:9: "Indeed, I once lived in the absence of law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life."

Adomnan: In Romans 7, Paul is not speaking of his own experience, of the experince of Jews, or of the experience of Gentiles who have never heard of the law. He is speaking of the experience of a Gentile who is confronted by the demands of the revealed law, the Jewish Torah, with no knowledge of Christ. This law, once he became aware of its existence, would only serve to condemn him if remained a Gentile. Now, however, with the revelation of Christ, the Law can no longer condemn the Gentile, because he can find justification through Christ without adhering to the Torah.

The reason that the Torah brings death and not life is that it manifests what God prohibits or commands, but does not give the ability to avoid what God prohibits or to do what he commands, as Fr. Joseph Fitzgerald put it.

The Jewish Law is not a power of salvation, but Jesus Christ is. That is why adhering to the Law through circumcision (the chief "work of the Law") does not bring justification of life.

While the question of the Jewish Law, which is the only law about which Paul is speaking here, was pressing in Paul's day, because of the Judaizing faction, we Christians have long left the Torah behind, and so this passage has only historical relevance to us. It is a mistake to think that Paul is here describing the experience of every individual. Rather, he is describing the historical role of the Torah in salvation history. Or to put it another way, we as Christians, now "live in the absence of the law." The commandment of the Torah does not "come" to us. Yes, there is a "law of Christ," as Paul says in Galatians, but this is not the Jewish Law of which Paul speaks in Romans 7 and does not kill or cause "sin to spring to life."

Nathan Rinne said...

Adomnan,

Thanks for the reply. Will read later.

7-9 were meant to refer to Romans 4:7-9, not Romans 7:9... sorry about that.

Thanks again - hopefully more from me later.

+ Nathan

Nathan Rinne said...

Hello -

Thanks again Adomanan. Will mull over your stuff more.

I desire not to be skeptical of good works. As Christ is holy, may I be... On to blamelessness!

Just thought I'd quickly comment on the Lutheran view. I think people often do not realize what they are rejecting (even New Perspective folks, who I find consistently do not seem to understand the Lutheran posistion).

Our view would simply be that people have always been justified by faith in the Promise, never by works or doings. Even before Christ becomes incarnate (see Hebrews 11). These are the ones who show themselves by their doings/works (i.e. not only good deeds, but also their good confession before men) that they are circumcised in their hearts (end Romans 2), and hence, while saved by their faith in Christ, God will judge them (i.e. declare them to be righteous) according to their works before their neighbors (Matthew 25). The judgement reveals before men all that God already knows (i.e. that the person truly does fear and trust God).

We would maintain that N.T. Wright's view that "works of the law" (with its synonyms "works of law", "works", etc) are simply the ceremonial laws (which, by the way Thomas Aquinas disagrees with, I believe) is untenable when one takes into consideration the whole of Galatians and Romans especially (also Ephesians and Titus to a lesser extent). One can try to read both of these books with the glasses I have provided above, or the glasses folks like N.T. Wright provide - and then try to determine who seems to account for all of the Biblical data and the flow of those books the best. I have done this myself several times, and find all kinds of unanswered questions and difficulties with the N.T. Wright glasses (for example, if only ceremonial laws are at issue, what was Paul talking about in Romans 3:1-20? And why does he bring up David, in 4:7-9? And why does Paul pit faith vs "doing" in Galatians 3?) Using the Lutheran glasses, I have very view difficulties at all (plus I can appreciate some of Wright's better insights as well) - for example, Romans 4:4 seems crystal clear to us. My question for you would be where else in the Bible you ever find God telling his people that he would pay them or reward them for the ceremonial laws. I don't think we find this, do we? We do, on the other hand, find him talking about "just desserts" for loyalty or disobedience to His other commands though. This is the point of the prophets.

Nathan Rinne said...

One more thing:

Saved BY faith
Judged ACCORDING TO works

It might seem like splitting hairs, but Paul is very clear we are saved by faith, not by works.

Judged "according to" would be the index of evidence that will be referred to and cited before the world that God has done right.... here, everything outward (one's confession of faith, one's deeds) is in view.

More detail (stuff I've said elsewhere):

"-As God can see the heart, He knows His people by faith – the world will know them by their deeds. This judgment – complete with the evidence of the good works of the faithful that proves them to be His children – is really for their eyes, not His. Check out the story of the sinful woman in Luke 7, where Jesus points to her love as being evidence for her having *faith* in Him! This is very similar.

-Notice that the sheep, the believers, receive the kingdom *not as wages* earned or for a job well done (see the beginnings of Romans 4 here) but as an inheritance. An inheritance is something that you get when someone dies, not something that you earn. Therefore, first the separation occurs: only after they are sorted and separated is there any talk of works (the evidence justifies before the world the prior separation of the believers, the sheep, and the unbelievers, the goats)

-The sheep ask “When did we...?” I think that this is a key. Jesus is showing us that they did these things not to get a reward or recognition from the King, but because they saw people who needed help and helped them – they were neighbors, doing what Christians naturally do. On the other hand, the goats say “When did we…?” and here I think they are saying “of course we would have welcomed you, if only we’d known it was you…”. But this shows that they are living by the Law, and not grace – they only do it when it counts… They justify themselves: they are good people, though they know not what real love - God's love - looks like.

Its easy to get our focus off here – that why we need to keep looking at the cross through this: to the naked, hungry, thirsty, imprisoned Stranger who is our Shepherd, King and Savior.

He is the One who desires that none would be cast into that eternal fire – it wasn’t crated for people after all, but for the devil and his angels (which this text also explicitly says!)."

Maroun said...

Nathan said:(the evidence justifies before the world the prior separation of the believers, the sheep, and the unbelievers, the goats)
Sorry , but you dont make any sens . The gospel in Matthew 25 is very very and i insist very clear , the goats are not unbelievers,but the goats had no works but only had faith alone . Where and how did you understand that they were unbelievers?i mean the whole chapter is talking precisely about doing (deeds) and not just words,not just Lord Lord .
I mean where did you even read in the entire chapter that the sheep were the believers and the goats were the unbelievers?I mean come on , the goats were persons which did not have any works of charity , did not have good works . So it`s much much easier to understand from the chapter that the goats were faith alone persons and the sheep were faith plus works.

Nathan Rinne said...

"but the goats had no works but only had faith alone."

Maroun,

This brings us to James, also discussed in this post. The "faith alone" James is talking about the devils have. This is not Pauline faith, which involves personal trust (not merely belief in something's existence, as James says). It seems clear that Paul and James are dealing with two different kinds of faith. As are we, it seems. I dispute your idea that this is about people who have faith alone, insofar that you contend that this is the same kind of living faith that connects us to Christ that the rest of the NT insists saves us. The text does not say that these folks had "faith alone".

Best regards,
Nathan

Adomnan said...

Nathan: 7-9 were meant to refer to Romans 4:7-9, not Romans 7:9... sorry about that.

Adomnan: Actually, I'm relieved. I didn't relish the idea of wandering off into the exegetical thicket of Romans 7!

I'll provide an interpretation of Roman 4:7-9 that is consistent with my exegesis of Romans 4:4-5 shortly.

However, I must say that I am disappointed by this statement of yours, Nathan:

"Romans 4:4 seems crystal clear to us. My question for you would be where else in the Bible you ever find God telling his people that he would pay them or reward them for the ceremonial laws. I don't think we find this, do we?"

Adomnan: When I read this, I have the impresssion that you didn't consider the interpretation I offered carefully. You simply dismissed it and reasserted your own understanding.

My point, which I think was clear, is not that God rewards people for obeying ceremonial laws, although of course He does (as He rewards them for all obedience). My point was that Abraham, before he began to obey the Jewish Law by being circumcised, was not in the covenant of the Law; that is, he was not "under contract" to God. It was because he was not under contract that he did not receive wages. Wages due are always contracted.

Secondly, you did not attend to a second thing I pointed out, which was that Paul did not make the sweeping assertion that God does not pay wages (which the Lutheran interpretation presupposes); Paul's intention rather is to proclaim that God's gift through Christ EXCEEDS "what is due" to any wage that would be paid to obedience to the Torah. The superabundant righteousness that comes through Christ is greater than Torah righteousnes.

Finally, and this is a more subtle point, Paul could not imply that God owes us nothing and so never pays "wages" by asserting that workmen are owed the wages "due" them, as he does in Romans 4:4. That would be incoherent.

Cranford explains this: "Verse 4 suggests a works analogy well enough, but we would expect v. 5 to balance the analogy by stating something like, 'but to the one who does not work and yet receives a payment, his reward is according to grace and not because of his own effort.' This parallelism never occurs, however, though traditional commentators assume it as if it was clearly expressed. As Gale points out, the picture presented in v. 4 does not, in and of itself, suggest such a development. 'At least under normal circumstances the picture of a workman and his pay is not usually associated with the picture of one who receives a payment without working.' The workman metaphor in v. 4 only becomes evidence for the Lutheran position when the faith/works antithesis is already presupposed."

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Judged ACCORDING TO works

Adomnan: If there is a difference between "judged according to works" and "justified by works," then it eludes me. Justification, when final, is nothing other than a verdict that one is righteous.

Paul writes in Romans 2:13: "For it is not the hearers of the Law who are righteous before God; rather, the doers of the Law will be justified before Him."

jimpaton2011 said...

@Nathan

The "faith alone" James is talking about the devils have"

James states this:"So it is for faith without deeds: it is totally dead."

Let me ask you: Are you arguing that faith without deeds is NOT totally dead?

Now I would ask you that if you're going to reply to little ol me that you refrain from wandering of into Paulinism, and stick with good ol Jamesey boy for this one.

Adomnan said...

Okay, now for Romans 4:6-9:

"So too David utters a beatitude over the human being to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "Blessed are those whose inquitities (lawless deeds) are forgiven, whose sins have been covered up; blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not credit.' Is this beatitude uttered, then, only over the circumcised, or over the uncircumcised too?"

The word for "lawless deeds" ("anomiai") is a reference to deeds outside the Jewish Law (nomos), thus implying that those who commit them are not under the Law, either because they never were or because they have excluded themselves from the covenant by their lawless deeds.

The key to understanding this passage is v. 9, in which Paul explains that David's blessing applies to Gentiles as well as Jews. Paul is using a second example, after that of Abraham, to prove that Gentiles can be justified without becoming Jews.

Cranford explains: "This understanding of v. 5 is supported by vv. 5-8, where Paul draws on Ps. 32:1-2 to illustrate his point. Paul indicates that the man to whom righteousness is reckoned apart from works is blessed, in the words of David, and it is clear from such terminology as 'hai anomiai' and 'hai hamartiai' -- terminology typically associated with Gentiles -- that those whose 'lawless deeds were forgiven' and whose 'sins were covered' must particularly include non-Jews. This terminology in turn informs 'apart from works' and must refer to those who are outside ethnic Israel."

David is thus positing a righteousness that goes beyond the covenant of Israel and so is not dependent on works (rites) of the Jewish Law.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: We would maintain that N.T. Wright's view that "works of the law" (with its synonyms "works of law", "works", etc) are simply the ceremonial laws (which, by the way Thomas Aquinas disagrees with, I believe) is untenable when one takes into consideration the whole of Galatians and Romans especially (also Ephesians and Titus to a lesser extent).

Adomnan: I disagree. The only interpretation of works/works of the Law that consistently fits Paul's usage of the word/phrase is one that understands "works of the Law" as "works particular to the Jewish Law," like circumcision. A way of translating "works" that would, in my view, be closer to Paul's meaning is "rites." Thus, "rites of the Law." I have noticed in my reading of ancient Greek, by the way, that "erga" (works) is the usual equivalent of our word "rites."

A few notes:

1) In Paul the word "works" is always short for "works of the Law." You appear to agree with that.

2) The only example of a work of the Law that Paul gives is circumcision, which is evidently a rite.

3) Paul indicates that only Jews can do works of the Law, as Dave pointed out in discusssing Romans 3:28-29: "For we maintain that a human being is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. Is God the God of Jews only? Is He not also the God of Gentiles? Yes, even of Gentiles!" The clear implication here is that "works of the Law" are something peculiar to Judaism. Thus, any "works" that non-Jews are obliged to do, such as "good works" cannot be "works of the Law."

4) If "works of the Law" meant "everything the Law commands" rather than "rites peculiar to the Law," then Paul would contradict himself when he writes in Romans 2:13 that "doers of the Law will be justified before Him" and in Romans 3:20 that "no human being will justified before Him by works of the Law." It follows that, for Paul, one can be a doer of the Law without being a doer of works of the Law. This would only make sense if "works of the Law" did not include what Paul calls the righteous requirements of the Law, but referred solely to rites that could be dispensed. Thus, being justified by "doing the Law" means being justified by doing the righteous requirements (or "precepts") of the Law (the moral commands, good works), apart from the works (rites) of the Law. See Romans 2: 25-29, passim.

Adomnan said...

Correction:

In my last post I wrote:

"referred solely to rites that could be dispensed."

It should have been:

"referred solely to rites that could be dispensed WITH."

Adomnan said...

Nathan: The sheep ask “When did we...?” I think that this is a key. Jesus is showing us that they did these things not to get a reward or recognition from the King, but because they saw people who needed help and helped them – they were neighbors, doing what Christians naturally do. On the other hand, the goats say “When did we…?” and here I think they are saying “of course we would have welcomed you, if only we’d known it was you…”. But this shows that they are living by the Law, and not grace – they only do it when it counts…

Adomnan: This is rather like saying that people who don't expect a reward will get one, while people who are expecting to be rewarded won't be, because they're doing it for the reward.

But if that's the case, didn't Jesus just spill the beans? I mean, he said that those who do good will get a reward, so how can they not expect a reward?

Well, I suppose you could say that they know there's a reward for what they do, but they don't do it "to get a reward." But again, if that's supposed to be the correct attitude, then why does Jesus tell us that there are rewards at all? What's the point of telling us, in effect, "You'll get a reward if you don't look for one"?

Nathan Rinne said...

Adomnan,

Thank you for your kind reply. Your remarks are informed and careful and deserve reflection. I will try to do so, but I do not know how much time I will have.

I am totally confused by your Romans 4:4 explanation, but as someone wearing Lutheran glasses, maybe I should not be surprised. I will try to think about this more.

I do not find your treatment of Romans 4:7-9 very convincing though. If David was talking about Gentile lawless deeds, why is Psalm 32 all about him? I, I, I.... so, I think this is a real problem. David, as the most faithful King Israel ever had, was certainly involved in the works of the law, right?

Further, you ask: "What's the point of telling us, in effect, "You'll get a reward if you don't look for one"?" And I reply: true righteousness.

Do you have kids?

Seriously, love is love when we do what is good and right with no hope of reward or fear of punishment. Even the secular world knows this.

The “divine-human reciprocity” that is the Christian life is not “a sacrificial transaction initiated and controlled by a self-possessed and self-justified self” (as a friend of mine has said), i.e. by one seeking to merit and secure grace for oneself by one’s own action which God, for whatever reason, is obliged or bound to reciprocate.

I would argue that "what truly differentiates a gift from straightforward, contractual exchange is delay of return and non-identical repetition.” (John Milbank, “Can a Gift Be Given? Prolegomena to a Future Trinitarian Metaphysic,” Modern Theology, vol. 11:1 (January 1995): 124, 144). My friend Peter Malysz also notes that “for Luther, the fortunate exchange [the blessed exchange that occurs in the Eucharist] retains its gift character precisely because the return is indirect, that is, because it is both variously mediated and delayed.” For “only when the Mass is nothing but the fount of dynamic, inter-subjective gift-exchange will self-renunciation truly be a rejection of self-preservation instead of a mere modality of the self’s autonomy”. Finally he says: “The advantage of Luther’s vision consists in the fact that, rather than undermine the Eucharist, he offers a systematic description of its gift-character in terms of socially and vocationally construed delay and non-identical repetition. The presence of Christ, for Luther, necessarily radiates beyond the Eucharistic celebration – the Eucharist is a way of life” (p. 18).

“Exchange and Ecstasy: Luther’s Eucharistic Theology in Light of Radical Orthodoxy’s Critique of Gift and Sacrifice”, since published in Scottish Journal of Theology. (2007, 60: 294-308 Cambridge University Press)

Again, our position is that Christians are saved for good works, not saved by good works. The Christian makes the works - the works don't make the Christian. The Christians is good because He is God's, not to be God's. The Christian reflects, not effects, their salvation. The Christian inherits, not merits, eternal life.

We would say that it is in this context that we are rewarded by His grace.

Clarification question on Romans 3:20: You would argue that "no human being will justified before Him by works of the Law" means that no non-Gentile could be (or was meant to be, probably) because of the clear list of sins (that all are subject to) that Paul mentions right before this, correct?

...

Nathan Rinne said...

...Titus 3:

3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

"righteous things" = works of law?

or

"righteous things" all things God has commanded, in which case God does not save us by the "righteous things" we do when we begin our Christian life, but he does afterwards?

Would that be the case? (in which case I wonder about this: http://jackkilcrease.blogspot.com/2011/09/grace-or-free-will-trents-logical.html - note, in the comments, the author says he does not think salvation is a process. I know what he is saying, but would also point out that salvation has wide and narrow meanings)

Ephesians 2:

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Jew and Gentile Reconciled Through Christ
11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)...

I see circumcision is close by this passage to... Is works here "rites"? (but "good works" are not "good rites", right?). Or - are works here really more general - regarding righteous things we do like Titus above? In which case, we are saying that initially we are not saved because of these things, but afterwards we are?

Lots of questions I know, but this will help me to know how to respond more (if I can make the time).

+Nathan

Nathan Rinne said...

Adomnan,

Just checked the Greek on Romans 4:5 - ungodly, wicked, non-Jew?

Is this not the same word used in Romans 5:6?:

http://bible.cc/romans/5-6.htm

Actually, it appears this same word is used all over by Paul to really mean ungodly, i.e. in the eyes of God.

+Nathan

Spoils23m said...

Nathan!

I wanted to let you know that I really enjoy reading your posts! Unfortunately I have not been blessed with the as many opportunities to read the words of Protestant apologists who are as willing to charitably converse about these things as I would like.

I want to ponder more of what have said in your responses to Adomnan, and, will let him speak for himself as he is a very capable exegete, but... there are a couple of things that I wanted to ask you about while I am thinking about it.

You wrote:
"Just checked the Greek on Romans 4:5 - ungodly, wicked, non-Jew?"

I am assuming that this relates to your understanding of "asebés." Is that assumption correct?

You wrote:
" ...it appears this same word is used all over by Paul to really mean ungodly, i.e. in the eyes of God."

Are you saying that, in the case of St. Paul's use of "asebés," you view the Greek being used is trying to convey "wicked" in "the eyes of God?" Or do you leave room for an understanding of "ungodly" that might refer to ones status as a non-Jew (covenantally, ceremonially, etc)?

One other thing... is there a sense in which one is, in some way, justified, while still being justified, and awaiting final justification? Or, do you, like the bloke you mentioned above, see justification as a one time forensic declaration as opposed to a more of a Divine process?

Just curious.

I will continue to ponder your words and the words of those you've cited.

IC XC

Adomnan said...

Nathan: I am totally confused by your Romans 4:4 explanation, but as someone wearing Lutheran glasses, maybe I should not be surprised. I will try to think about this more.

Adomnan: It's really not that complicated. Let me try again.

Paul is saying, "If Abraham were a workman, then he would have gotten wages due to him under the covenant. In fact, Abraham was not under the covenant because he had not yet been circumcised (had not 'worked' the work of the Law). Nevertheless, God credited him with righteousness because of his faith. God did not have to do this, but what God granted as a favor was greater than any wage Abraham could have received under the Law. It was not according to what was due, but according to grace."

Look above for details. I hope that is clear enough.

Nathan: I do not find your treatment of Romans 4:7-9 very convincing though. If David was talking about Gentile lawless deeds, why is Psalm 32 all about him? I, I, I.... so, I think this is a real problem. David, as the most faithful King Israel ever had, was certainly involved in the works of the law, right?

Adomnan: By committing lawless deeds, David excluded himself from the covenant of the Law. And works of the Law were not involved in his forgiveness.

However, Paul doesn't cite the psalm to make a comment on David. Notice that Paul writes, "David utters a blessing over the human being..." In other words, David is not just talking about himself, but about any "lawless" person who is forgiven.

The words that David used could be applied to anyone outside of the Law. As Cranford pointed out, it was standard Jewish practice to refer to Gentiles as "lawless" and "sinners." Paul uses the expression "Gentile sinners" in Galatians 2:15, for example.

Both the example of Abraham and of this psalm are given by Paul to illustrate his point that people not subject to the Law can nevertheless be considered righteous by God. He says as much in v. 9: "Is this beatitude uttered, then, only over the circumcised, or over the uncircumcised too?"

If Paul were just trying to make some general point about God forgiving sinners, why would he stress the application of the psalm's language to Gentiles? He did this because his aim was to assert that Gentiles could be justified apart from the Jewish Law, the thesis he is defending throughout the first part of the Epistle to the Romans.

If you keep Paul's thesis in mind (refuting the notion that Christians had to be circumcised and become Jewish to be righteous), then everything will fall into place. Again, "the law" in Paul is always the Torah, and "works of the law" are not everything the law commands, but only the "rites of the law." Works/works of the Law, in Paul, exclude good works and moral precepts. The Law includes moral precepts, but "works of the Law" do not.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Further, you ask: "What's the point of telling us, in effect, "You'll get a reward if you don't look for one"?" And I reply: true righteousness.

Adomnan: If so, Moses lacked true righteousness. Hebrews 11:24-26: "By faith Moses, when he had come to years, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter and chose to be ill-treated in company with God's people rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. He considered that the humiliations offered to the Anointed were something more precious than all the treasures of Egypt; because he had his eyes fixed on the reward."

I agree with Maroun that your use of reverse psychology to analyze that passage about judgment in Matthew is unconvincing. The Bible speaks of rewards. New Testament figures find consolation and compensation in contemplating these rewards in times of tribulation, and I would leave it at that.

After all, the "commonplace," if you will, of postmortem judgment presupposes rewards and punishments. To ban consideration of them is to ban consideration of divine judgment, which is hardly a scriptural approach.

At any rate, I don't want to get involved in a detailed discussion about this, because I regard your view as more of a pious opinion about proper sentiments than a serious exegesis of the scripture.

Concerning Catholic teaching on this matter, I draw your attention to the Council of Trent's Decree on Justification:

CANON XXXI.-If any one says that the justified sins when he performs good works with a view to an eternal reward; let him be anathema.

Adomnan said...

I have to smile, Nathan, because after confessing "total confusion" about my rather straightforward exegeis of Romans 4:4, you present me with those, um, challenging thoughts about gift exchange from Milbank and Malysz.

Nathan: We would say that it is in this context that we are rewarded by His grace.

Adomnan: The concept of reward necessarily entails merit. A merit is simply something that is, or ought to be, rewarded. Since eternal life is a reward, it follows that it is merited.

To deny that eternal life is merited is to deny that it is a reward. It's just the way that language works.

Eternal life is often described as a reward in scripture. For example, Paul writes in Galatians 6:8-9: "Don't delude yourself; God is not to be fooled; whatever someone sows, that is what he will reap. If his sowing is in the field of self-indulgence, then his harvest will be corruption; if his sowing is in the Spirit, then his harvest from the Spirit will be eternal life. And let us never slacken in doing good; for if we do not give up, we shall have our harvest in due time. So then, as long as we have the opportunity, let all our actions be for the good of all men, and especially of those who belong to the household of the faith."

Note that Paul offers the reward of eternal life as a motive for doing good ("for if we do not give up, we shall have our harvest in due time"), which is what you have suggested should not be done.

And note, too, that Paul says here that Christians are not only saved for good works, but are saved by good works: "If his sowing is in the Spirit, then his harvest from the Spirit will be eternal life." The harvest is a result of the sowing.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Clarification question on Romans 3:20: You would argue that "no human being will justified before Him by works of the Law" means that no non-Gentile could be (or was meant to be, probably) because of the clear list of sins (that all are subject to) that Paul mentions right before this, correct?

Adomnan: Paul means that adherence to the Torah, through the rites of Judaism (circumcision, first of all), does not bring righteousness with it, does not justify. If it did, then the Jews would be righteous, but they weren't and never had been (as a people; Paul is not speaking of every individual) as the preceding catalogue of sins made clear. As Paul wrote in 3:19: "Now we are well aware that whatever the Law says is said for those who are subject to the Law (i.e, the Jews), so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world (i.e., not only Gentiles but Jews as well) brought under the judgment of God."

Paul had indicted the Gentiles in chapter 2, but that wasn't really a matter of dispute with the Judaizers. Everyone agreed the Gentiles were sinners. The purpose of the catalogue of sins in chapter 3 was to demonstrate that the Jews were also sinners. Thus, the Law didn't make them just; or, to put it another way, the works of the Law (Jewish rites) didn't make them just.

By contrast, the "works/rites of Christ" such as baptism, do make one just. Circumcision doesn't justify before God; baptism does. As a Lutheran, you would probably concur, Nathan.

Adomnan said...

Titus 3: I would translate the key words as "not from the works that we had done in righteousness." These works are the "works of the Law," Jewish rites, just as elsewhere in Paul. The righteousness to which Paul (if he is the author of Titus) refers to here is the righteousness of the Law that he described in Philippians 3. Thus, "the works that we had done in righteousness" should be understood as "the rites that we had done under the Law." Note that Paul in this passage contrasts these "works done in righteousness" with Christian baptism.

In effect, he is contrasting circumcision with baptism, or Jewish with Christian rites. God saved us not by circumcision ("the works we had done in -- Torah -- righteousness"), but by "the cleansing water of rebirth and renewal in the Holy Spirit."

If Paul speaks of righteousness before Christ's resurrection, he always means "righteousness under the Law." What else could he mean? What other non-Christian "righteousness" would Paul recognize?

This exegesis is based on the assumption that Paul actually wrote Titus. If he didn't, then we can't use it to shed light on Paul's terminology in his authentic letters. Proponents of the New Perspective ignore Titus, because they regard it as pseudonymous or "Deuteropauline." I would say that, if "the works that we have done in righteousness" means something broader than "rites of the Jewish Law," then it is pseudonymous.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: I see circumcision is close by this passage too... Is works here "rites"? (but "good works" are not "good rites", right?). Or - are works here really more general - regarding righteous things we do like Titus above? In which case, we are saying that initially we are not saved because of these things, but afterwards we are?

Adomnan: Yes, "works" in Ephesians 2 is short for "works of the Law" and so refers to "rites." In this passage, Paul, or the author of Eph, is commenting on the relationship between Jews and Gentiles and how they are reconciled in Christ. When he writes about not being saved "through works, lest anyone should boast," Paul is referring to the Jews. It's characteristic for Paul to fault Jews for "boasting," not Gentiles. And what they boast of is not their self-achieved righteousness, but their status as Jews who have the Law.

Similarly, when Paul writes, regarding salvation: "and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God," Paul is addressing the Gentiles in his audience. He is saying that salvation is not "from you Gentiles," because it is from the Jews. In Ephesians, "you" always means "you Gentiles." "We" can mean "we Jews" or be more inclusive ("we Jews and you Gentiles together"), but "you" always refers solely to Gentiles. Thus, "not from youselves" must mean "not from you Gentiles."

In sum, we have a nice balance, which points out that salvation is a gift from God. It has not come from the Gentiles, but neither was it a result of Jewish works of the Law (although, it is "from the Jews" in the sense that Israel produced the Messiah).

The meanings of "works" and "good works" in Eph 2 have no relationship to each other, except perhaps as a contrast. The writer may want to contrast the useless "works" referrred to earlier by the "good works" that result from union with Christ.

If Paul had wanted to say that salvation was not from "good works," then he would have used the phrase "good works" in Eph 2:9; i.e., "saved by grace through faith, not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not from good works lest any man should boast."

By the way, I believe the use of the phrase "good works" in 2:10 is evidence that Paul did not actually pen Ephesians, although he no doubt approved the letter; and it bears his authority and is canonical and inspired. The language is somewhat un-Pauline, however. In his own letters, Paul never uses the plural "works" (erga) in this sense. He does refer to "good work" (ergon) in the singular, to mean "good action/behavior."

In any event, the somewhat ambiguous reference to "works" in Ephesians cannot be a crux for determining the meaning of works/works of the Law in the rest of the Pauline corpus. The meaning of the expression(s) can be established quite clearly from Romans and Galatians, where they are used repeatedly and in a variety of contexts. Galatians, by the way, only speaks of "works of the Law." It does not use the shorthand "works."

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Just checked the Greek on Romans 4:5 - ungodly, wicked, non-Jew?

Is this not the same word used in Romans 5:6?

Adomnan: "died for the ungodly (asebeis)"

Paul probably does mean "everyone" here. However, you must keep in mind that Paul was "the Apostle to the Gentiles," and so he no doubt had the Gentiles foremost in mind when he wrote in 5:6 that God "died for the ungodly."

In any event, since Paul had just denounced the Jews for failing to live up to the Law in Romans 3, he also regarded them -- by and large -- as ungodly as well, like Gentiles. They were "lawless," too, not in the sense that they were never under the Law (like Abraham in 4:5), but in the sense that they did not obey the Law.

Finally, my argument is not that Paul means "Gentile" every time he writes "asebes," but that it means "Gentile" specifically in Romans 4:5 where it is a reference to Abraham before his circumcision when he was "ungodly" -- yes, but only from the perspective of the Law (and the Judaizers), not from God's perspective.

After all, Paul is capable of irony, don't you think?

And you should answer Spoils' question: Do you agree that "asebes" can legitimately be used by a Jew like Paul to refer to any Gentile?

What other definition of "impious" would a Jew have, if not a definition that referred to what he regarded as failure to observe the true religion? Remember, "asebes" only refers to the sphere of religious piety. It literally means "lacking in religious piety."

infanttheology said...

spoils23m,

You said:

You wrote:
" ...it appears this same word is used all over by Paul to really mean ungodly, i.e. in the eyes of God."

Are you saying that, in the case of St. Paul's use of "asebés," you view the Greek being used is trying to convey "wicked" in "the eyes of God?" Or do you leave room for an understanding of "ungodly" that might refer to ones status as a non-Jew (covenantally, ceremonially, etc)?

Me: well, I am not totally opposed to the idea that he might be talking about a non-Jew, but to me it seems highly unlikely, especially since Paul uses the same word a chapter later.

You: One other thing... is there a sense in which one is, in some way, justified, while still being justified, and awaiting final justification? Or, do you, like the bloke you mentioned above, see justification as a one time forensic declaration as opposed to a more of a Divine process?

Me: Neither really. Justification is a one-time event in that there is a indeed a moment where a previously unjustified person is declared righteous and is hence *transformed* from to a new creature, leaving darkness and entering the light. It is not a one-time event in that one needs to perpetually experience the justifying act throughout the whole of their life. We must continually receive the Word of absolution which covers our sins - bringing forgiveness, life and salvation - until we die. If not, our flesh, the world and the devil will bring us down and we will not overcome sin, death, the devil, the world, our impure conscience, etc. Forgiveness, and hence perpetual justification, is an ongoing feature of the Christian life. There is forgiveness for the failing Christian (Rom. 7), and this teaching brings comfort (I Cor 1) and peace with God (Rom 5:1)

+ Nathan

infanttheology said...

Adomnan,

Thank you again in your kindness in addressing me. I will bookmark this post and read it often. Your explanations are very thorough and helpful.

I am starting to understand you. Thanks for your patience!

Still, all of this is confirming me in my Lutheranism. Even Protestants like N.T. Wright will do whatever they can (not intentionally of course) to undermine the Gospel. : )

I said:

I am totally confused by your Romans 4:4 explanation, but as someone wearing Lutheran glasses, maybe I should not be surprised. I will try to think about this more.


You said:

It's really not that complicated. Let me try again.


Paul is saying, "If Abraham were a workman, then he would have gotten wages due to him under the covenant. In fact, Abraham was not under the covenant because he had not yet been circumcised (had not 'worked' the work of the Law). Nevertheless, God credited him with righteousness because of his faith. God did not have to do this, but what God granted as a favor was greater than any wage Abraham could have received under the Law. It was not according to what was due, but according to grace."


Look above for details. I hope that is clear enough.

Me: right from the get go, we disagree. You see, from my perspective (which I submit is the true rule of faith), it has always been by grace through faith (Hebrews 11). God has never intended man to be justified by works, but by receiving his grace through faith. Are there warnings for disobedience? Can someone leave the covenant? Of course. People do all kinds of things contrary to God’s laws that lead them to deny and suffocate the repentance and faith (and yes, works to) they have been given as a gift – and God will cut off such as these. God crowns, or rewards, his own gifts to and in us, which of course, he does not have to do (but he always does). Rewards (which of course we find consolation in), not wages. Wages are tit-for-tat: the other person is obligated to pay what they agree to pay. The merit, yes merit, that is rewarded is all Christ’s righteousness (only He is worthy), none of which I would ever think to claim for my own. I am only righteous in, with, and through Him. So, the rewards that I have in communion with Him can in no way be called wages – ever, ever. I thought you guys believed in grace alone to. : ) The only wages for our behavior, due to unbelief, are those for sin. The wages of sin is death.
...

infanttheology said...

We read on in Romans 4: We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 11 And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised.

So it seems that Paul is saying that it has *always* been about faith as well.

You: “If Paul were just trying to make some general point about God forgiving sinners, why would he stress the application of the psalm's language to Gentiles?” (this regarding 4:7-9)

Evidently because some needed to hear it this way. Its not an either-or, but a both-and. Paul is killing two birds with one stone.

You on Titus 3:1: Thus, "the works that we had done in righteousness" should be understood as "the rites that we had done under the Law."…. I would say that, if "the works that we have done in righteousness" means something broader than "rites of the Jewish Law," then it is pseudonymous.

Wow. You know, Thomas Aquinas would have your head. Of course many early church fathers would completely disagree with this as well. And regarding the New Perspective folks not taking Titus as seriously as I think they should, this is just another good reason to not take them too seriously.

You: “If Paul speaks of righteousness before Christ's resurrection, he always means "righteousness under the Law." What else could he mean? What other non-Christian "righteousness" would Paul recognize?”
Me: Hebrews 11? Abraham’s faith? It was always by grace through faith, wasn’t it?

You: “The meanings of "works" and "good works" in Eph 2 have no relationship to each other, except perhaps as a contrast. The writer may want to contrast the useless "works" referrred to earlier by the "good works" that result from union with Christ.

If Paul had wanted to say that salvation was not from "good works," then he would have used the phrase "good works" in Eph 2:9; i.e., "saved by grace through faith, not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not from good works lest any man should boast.”

Me: Well, this is an interesting theory, but it seems like a huge stretch to me. Everywhere else in the Bible, these same Greek words simply mean deeds or works. If Paul was so concerned to make all of this clear, I think he would have been more careful: he would have known that his corpus was going to be compared to what the other Apostles said. Still, I appreciate your laying out the case so clearly. Useless works would be those that were done with the intention of securing one’s relationship with God - in particular the ceremonial laws (as we see in Hebrews), but not limited to them.
...

infanttheology said...

I had said: Is this not [this word used in 4:4] the same word used in Romans 5:6?


You replied: "died for the ungodly (asebeis)"


Paul probably does mean "everyone" here. However, you must keep in mind that Paul was "the Apostle to the Gentiles," and so he no doubt had the Gentiles foremost in mind when he wrote in 5:6 that God "died for the ungodly."

Me: Probably? And I disagree with your last sentence.

You: After all, Paul is capable of irony, don't you think?

Me: Oh yes.

You: What other definition of "impious" would a Jew have, if not a definition that referred to what he regarded as failure to observe the true religion? Remember, "asebes" only refers to the sphere of religious piety. It literally means "lacking in religious piety."

Me: Well, a faithful Jew, who practiced true religious piety, like Anna, Simeon, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, or Nathaniel, would say that “impious” meant unbelieving. Because you see, it has always been by faith, from first to last, as Paul says at the beginning of Romans. Which is kind of the point of the whole book.

Adomnan, have you read the Variagated Nomism book edited by Carson? : http://www.amazon.com/Justification-Variegated-Nomism-Vol-Set/dp/0801027926 Have you heard of the Lutheran scholar Andrew Das (his focus is NT context, like Wrights)? Both take on the New Perspective view quite effectively. You can listen to Das responding to an interview with N.T. Wright here: http://issuesetc.org/guest/andrew-das/ It is worth its weight in gold. You can also listen to the unedited Wright interview there as well, which is wonderful (the host asks some very good questions).

All this said, I’m not adverse to talking with you Adomnan – you have been most gracious. That said, if you want to continue the conversation, mark the option to have comments sent to your email, because I may not be able to come back for a while.

+ Nathan

infanttheology said...

I produced a study guide on Galatians which I think some may find useful:

Note: we know that *whatever* the laws says it says to those who are under it. Now look at Romans 7:7: What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” Tell me this does not make perfect sense - unless one accepts the New Perspective view (which Aquinas rejects). Paul is definitely talking about all the commands in the law, ceremonial and non-ceremonial.


1) What is the Gospel Paul preaches (see 1:3-5, see also Romans 3:21-26; 1:16-17)? The different Gospel? (3:3,10; 5:2-4; Romans 16:17; see also 2 Cor. 11:3-4)
2) Note the extremely strong words in 1:8 (see also 2 Cor. 11:14). Not only has Paul skipped the customary introductory remarks, now he already brings hell into the conversation!
3) One difficulty with reading a letter like this is we only get one side of the conversation. We don’t know exactly what the “Judaizing” Galatians had said to Paul. What in chapter 1 suggests that the “Judaizers” may have been claiming that Paul had, in order to make Christianity more appealing to Gentiles, removed from the Gospel necessary and binding legal requirements? (for a humorous parody of what the Galatians might have said in return if they were a modern church, see here: http://cyberbrethren.com/2011/03/25/archeologists-discover-letter-written-to-st-paul/)
4) Look at Galatians 2:11-14. Peter, by his actions, is saying, “we sin by eating with unclean Gentiles”. Why is Paul so upset? (see Gal. 3:28,29)
5) Who will be justified (i.e. be righteous in God’s sight) by “observing the law”? (see 2:16,21; also 3:22-25)? Why is this the case? (see 3:10-13)
6) “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God” (2:19) What was the purpose of the law? (see 3:19, 22-25, see also Romans 3:19,20; 10:4 [end=goal]; 7:7; also note Romans 1:18-20) What does this mean for the ceremonies that were a part of the law, or the “ceremonial law”? (see Ephesians 2:11-12,15; Colossians 2:16-20, Hebrews 7:18-19; 8:13, and 10:1) Are the moral commands that were included in the law still important at all? (see Gal. 5:17,19-21; Romans 7:7,8; 13-16)

infanttheology said...

... 7) Note Galatians 2:20, which seems to be an underlying “theme verse” throughout this letter. How does one get to be “crucified with Christ”? (see Romans 6:3-7 ; Gal. 3:26,27). What does justification by faith produce in the believer? (see Romans 5:1)
8) Who is the promised seed? (3:16) How did Christ redeem us from the curse of the law? (see 3:13, see also 3:1, see also the “typology” in Romans 5:18-20) In Gal. 4:4-7 what does Paul tell us about the believer’s new relationship to God because of Christ? (see also I John 3:1)
9) What has the Christian been freed from? (see 5:1, 2:4, 1:4, 4:3, 4:8, Romans 7:24, 8:38,39; I John 3:8) What has the Christian been freed for? (see 5:13, 14; see also Ephesians 4:32-5:1 and Romans 12:3-21; Luther: faith towards God and love towards neighbor – but note Galatians 6:10). Whose faith do we share? (see 3:7, 14; see also Romans 4:16-17)
10) How does one receive the Spirit? (see 3:2,3) Note: “sow to please the Spirit, from the Spirit” (6:8, see also Romans 6:6-9) – who produces the faith that “sows to please the Spirit”? How? (see 3:2,3; Romans 10:17) What does the Spirit produce in believers? (4:6, see also Romans 8:15). Who does God justify?! (see Romans 4:1-8, esp. v. 5, see also Ephesians 2:3). What, according to Ephesians 2:8-10 is the proper role of good works? Are they done to be saved or because one has been and is being saved?
11) What, according to Paul in Ephesians 1:17-19 and 3:14-19 is Paul’s desire for these believers? How can the Christian “put on the new self” and “be strong in the Lord”? (see Ephesians 3:23 and Romans 12:1,2, Ephesians 6:1-18) While the believer does this what is the condition of the creation as a whole? (see Romans 8:20-23)
12) What can be said of the person who calls one’s self a Christian but claims to be without sin? (I John 1:8-10, but see also I John 3:9). How do we know what love is? (I John 3:16; 4:10,19)

Let me know if you want my notes on Romans. : )

infanttheology said...

I said:

"If not, our flesh, the world and the devil will bring us down and we will not overcome sin, death, the devil, the world, our impure conscience, etc."

I forgot to mention hell too. I correct myself in case someone suspects I don't believe in it (because yes, I think everything else I am saying here is "too good to be true" - kind of like some other guy said...)

Spoils23m said...

Nathan,

Thanks for responding to my post... I am not sure I completely understand your take on whether or not justification is a one-time forensic declaration or a process or something in between. I would like to ask you further questions on this point, but... it seems as though you're headed out for awhile.

Your reading here has only confirmed you in your Lutheranism? Ok. May I ask you a couple of questions? Even if you don't come back... I think that they are work asking...

1. Why should a Catholic become a Lutheran?

2. Why was chapter two of the epistle of St. James never discussed, as it was the other Scripture mentioned in the title of the post we're commenting on?

3. You you think that your interpretation of St. James 2:14-26 would only confirm us in our Catholicism?

My idea of how faith and works are related is a bit different than your's is... I can see that clearly... I believe that one is (finally) saved by grace alone, through a faith that works in love. I don't see any reason to believe that one is saved by grace alone, via faith alone that is evidenced by works before men. God is no respecter of persons... that never made sense to me.

One that is finally saved is saved by a faith that is perfected by works... anything less cannot save... that's the point of the faith and works discourse, so far as I can tell.

I hope that you are well.

IC XC

Nathan Rinne said...

Spoils23m,

I was just stopping by again really quick because I have been listening to the interview I mentioned above with NT Wright. It is really good (Das' response is just as good). In it, he takes on both the Reformers and the Roman Catholics. He is no RC ally in this sense.

I'll try to quickly answer you (in caps - not yelling) - and then I really need to not come back for a while. : )

Thanks for responding to my post... I am not sure I completely understand your take on whether or not justification is a one-time forensic declaration or a process or something in between.

AGAIN IT IS NEITHER. RE-READ THE POST. I'M SORRY - I DON'T THINK I CAN BE MUCH MORE CLEAR THAN THAT.

I would like to ask you further questions on this point, but... it seems as though you're headed out for awhile.

AM HERE. : )

Your reading here has only confirmed you in your Lutheranism? Ok. May I ask you a couple of questions? Even if you don't come back... I think that they are work asking...

SHOOT.

1. Why should a Catholic become a Lutheran?

BECAUSE CONFESSIONAL LUTHERANS ARE A TRUE VISIBLE CHURCH ON EARTH - AND ARE MORE FAITHFUL TO THE AUTHENTIC CHRISTIAN FAITH THAN THE CHURCH OF ROME (OR EO, FOR THAT MATTER).

2. Why was chapter two of the epistle of St. James never discussed, as it was the other Scripture mentioned in the title of the post we're commenting on?

I DID DISCUSS IT. YOU NEED TO RE-READ. PAUL AND JAMES CLEARLY HAVE DIFFERENT DEFINITIONS OF FAITH. I DON'T SEE HOW THAT CAN BE DOUBTED. IF PAUL AND JAMES HAD BEEN ABLE TO GET TOGETHER FOR A BEER BEFORE THEY WROTE THEIR LETTERS, THEY'D LOOK DIFFERENT. AS IT STANDS NOW, THEY COMPLEMENT ONE ANOTHER NICELY. LUTHER DID NOT REALLY LIKE JAMES. I DO.
...

Nathan Rinne said...

3. You you think that your interpretation of St. James 2:14-26 would only confirm us in our Catholicism?

I'M NOT SURE WHAT YOU ARE GETTING AT. JAMES IS A LUTHERAN BOOK. : )

My idea of how faith and works are related is a bit different than your's is... I can see that clearly... I believe that one is (finally) saved by grace alone, through a faith that works in love.

OF COURSE FAITH WORKS IN LOVE. BUT IT IS NOT GOOD PASTORAL PRACTICE TO INCLUDE LOVE IN JUSTIFICATION. WHEN PRONOUNCING ABSOLUTION, SOMETIMES PEOPLE JUST NEED TO KNOW THAT GOD JUSTIFIES THE WICKED. THE PERSON WHO FEARS GOD BUT DOES NOT LOVE HIM MAY INDEED BE SAVED - BY DESPERATE, GROPING TRUST. TRUST GROWS INTO LOVE NATURALLY, BUT IT IS NOT HELPFUL FOR IT TO ENTER THE EQUATION WHEN WE ARE TALKING ABOUT HOW TO HELP CHRISTIANS GROW. THIS IS VERY CLEAR TO ME READING THE EPISTLES. WHEN YOU INJECT LOVE INTO THE EQUATION, YOU LOSE PEACE WITH GOD. LOVE COMES AFTER THE CONFIDENCE-CREATING WORD DOES ITS WORK....

Nathan Rinne said...

I don't see any reason to believe that one is saved by grace alone, via faith alone that is evidenced by works before men. God is no respecter of persons... that never made sense to me.

SORRY, I DON'T UNDERSTAND THE POINT YOU ARE GETTING AT HERE. IF IT IS BIBLICAL, THAN YOU SHOULD BELIEVE IT. RC THEOLOGY CAN SUCK THE COMFORT OUT OF ANY DOCTRINE MEANT TO GIVE PEACE AND ASSURE ONE OF THE STABILITY OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD - AND AS BEST I CAN TELL, IT DOES THIS CONSISTENTLY. "ONLY SAY THE WORLD LORD AND I SHALL BE HEALED" GETS COVERED UP WITH LOTS OF OTHER STUFF THAT MITIGATES...

One that is finally saved is saved by a faith that is perfected by works...

YES, FAITH WORKS THROUGH LOVE. BUT THE WORKS FAITH PRODUCES IN LOVE DO NOT JUSTIFY US BEFORE GOD. THE MAIN PURPOSE OF THE LAW THAT PAUL WANTS TO SHARE IS THAT IT SHOWS US OUR SIN (ROM 3:19-20, 7:7)

SO THAT WE MAY GRASP CHRIST - AGAIN, AND AGAIN, AS WE ARE PERPETUALLY JUSTIFIED...

anything less cannot save... that's the point of the faith and works discourse, so far as I can tell.

NO.

I hope that you are well.

THANK YOU. YOU TO. SEMPER PAX.

IC XC

Spoils23m said...

Nathan,

Thanks for answering!

I am sorry I missed your mention of the "faith and works" discourse. I was following your discussion with Adomnan, and missed your response to Maroun. I apologize.

You wrote (concerning St. James 2):
"The text does not say that these folks had 'faith alone.'"

You're correct. The text does not say that. It says: "You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone."

As you well know... this is the only place in all of Scripture where the words "faith alone" are found. Most exegetes defending Sola Fide seem to indicate that St. James is using "justify" differently. You say he uses "faith" differently... what does St. James mean by: "Was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works..." Perhaps he is using justified differently there?? Or using works differently? Does he move back and forth? I am not sure how to see your view now... Was St. James using "faith" differently than St. Paul? Was he using "saved" differently? Or "works?" All three in different ways and at different times?

I am not sure that you've shown that your understanding of St. Paul should have me at a Missouri Synod parish next Sunday. ;) I am glad to read you anyway...

IC XC

Adomnan said...

Chances are that this will be my last series of posts on this thread, although that's not a promise!

Nathan: Still, all of this is confirming me in my Lutheranism.

Adomnan: Fine. I'm not trying to convert you to anything.

All I am interested in is an accurate interpretation of Paul's meaning, a "scientific" exegesis if you will.

Nathan: Even Protestants like N.T. Wright will do whatever they can (not intentionally of course) to undermine the Gospel. : )

Adomnan: Despite your typed smile, this is a very unfair thing to say about Bishop Wright. You are dismissing his careful scholarship by implying with a jocular wink and a nod that he is an infidel, hostile to the "gospel," which you supposedly possess. In other words, your presupposition of what the gospel is trumps everything, including a sedulous analysis of what Paul actually wrote and intended.

Nathan: right from the get go, we disagree....God has never intended man to be justified by works, but by receiving his grace through faith.

Adomnan: When you say that "right from the get go, we disagree," you are saying that the assumptions you bring to the text make any discussion futile. You are content to assume what you haven't shown, namely that in Romans and Galatians, "works" means human efforts or good works.

You know, Nathan, an act of faith, like Abraham's in Genesis 15 is a "work," too. Abraham did something, and Paul even describes Abraham's faith in God's promise as requiring effort.

But any discussion of a broader meaning of "work" than what Paul intended is already beside the point. To repeat, Paul does not use "works/works of the Law" to refer to human efforts or good works or moral living. It is clear "works of the Law" are, in the first analysis, what distinguish Jews from Gentiles (including Christian Gentiles). Moral living and good works are not what distinguish Jews from Christian Gentiles.

Nathan: Wages are tit-for-tat: the other person is obligated to pay what they agree to pay.

Adomnan: Precisely the point I made with respect to Romans 4:4-5. What God granted as a gift was far greater than a wage Abraham could receive from the contract (covenant) of the Law. Therefore, it was not tit-for-tat.

However, that does not mean that God can not be depicted as a payer of wages under some circumstances. Jesus does so, for example, in the parable about the farmworkers who complain they get the same contracted wage although some worked longer than others. Clearly, the landowner represents God.

In any event, Paul's statement about a worker deserving his wage cannot be generalized into a dictum that God never pays wages, because Romans 4:4 does not say that. It just doesn't. Read it.

Nathan: I am only righteous in, with, and through Him. So, the rewards that I have in communion with Him can in no way be called wages – ever, ever.

Adomnan: Okay, fine. Don't call them wages, as long as you call them rewards. And since these rewards are our rewards, thanks to the righteousness we have in Christ, they are a result of our merits, which we have through our communion with Christ.

Paul and the other New Testament writers unequivocally state that God rewards our good works and virtues. That passage from Galatians that I cited, which you ignored, is simply one of many such passage.

And please don't advance some sophistical argument that Paul wrote that we sow to the Spirit and reap a reward, but he "really" meant that only Christ sowed to the and reaped a reward for us. No more Protestant word games, please!

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Well, this is an interesting theory, but it seems like a huge stretch to me.
Everywhere else in the Bible, these same Greek words simply mean deeds or works.

Adomnan: I don't know that works ("erga") is used all that often in the Bible. James uses the word, and Paul; and no doubt it's used in some other places. But it's a really important word for Paul and James, in particular.

Besides, I'm not denying that "works" is a perfectly acceptable translation for "erga." In fact, the Greek and English words even have the same etymological origin (Greek "ergon," singular, from earlier "wergon," related through the Indoeuropean parent language to the proto-Germanic source of English "work," which in its modern German form "Werk" is of the same neuter gender as the Greek word.)

However, "ergon" and closely related words also frequently have the meaning of "rite." For example, the "-urgy" in "liturgy" is simply a compound form of "ergon" and means "the rite of the people." Paul would have avoided other Greek words for "rite" (like telete and orgia) because of their pagan connotations. Thus, "rites of the Law" is an entirely reasonable interpretation of "works of the Law."

Of course, I don't mean to imply that "erga" means "rites" every time that it is used in the New Testament, but only in the Pauline expression "works of the Law."

Keep in mind that Paul gives only one example of a work of the Law: circumcision, and circumcision is a rite. Thus, the one example of a work of Torah is, in fact, a rite.

Adomnan said...

Nathan (regarding the word "asebes"): Well, a faithful Jew, who practiced true religious piety, like Anna, Simeon, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, or Nathaniel, would say that “impious” meant unbelieving.

Adomnan: No, they wouldn't. They had another word for unbelieving. In Greek, that would be "apistos." Asebes means "lacking in proper religious piety" and was thus a word that was pretty much equivalent to "Gentile." I'm sure that, if they spoke Greek, those people you mentioned would know the difference between apistos and asebes, and they would maintain the semantic distinction.

Are you suggesting Abraham was "unbelieving" before Gen. 15:6? After all, he's the one called "asebes" in Romans 4:5.

The act of faith recorded in Genesis was not the first time Abraham demonstrated faith. So he was no unbeliever. And yet he was called "asebes" by Paul. Well, then, asebes cannot mean "unbeliever" in v. 5, and so it must mean "Gentile."

Surely you can see that Paul's point in Romans 4 was that Abraham was righteous in God's eyes even though he was still a Gentile? Surely you can see that Paul's purpose was to counter the insistence of the Judaizers that Gentiles had to become Jews to be righteous? How can you possibly miss this?

Paul was not condemning moral effort in this passage as an impossible and proud attempt at self-justification. That was not what Abraham was about. In fact, the issue of "Pelagianism" or self-justification through one's own efforts doesn't even arise in Paul's works. He was rejecting the idea that Christians had to become Jews, and that's it.

Adomnan said...

In my first posting in this latest round, I wrote in the second to the last sentence: "but he 'really' meant that only Christ sowed to the and reaped a reward for us."

That should read, "but he 'really' meant that only Christ sowed to the SPIRIT and reaped a reward for us."

Maroun said...

Hi Nathan.
Look,i am going to explain as simply as i can the relation between faith and works .
As saint Augustine said,our Lord promissed us fantastic things,but He also threatened us with terrible things .He(God) which is the truth and never lies is telling the truth when He promises and also when He threatens .
Now , many many times in the new testament (this way you cannot tell me that was in the old testament) God tells us do this or dont do that . Now faith is to believe everything God is telling us .
Can you immagine for example when God tells us , do not commit adultery and i,a faithful would say yes,amen , i believe you Lord but still i go and commit adultery.At that point my faith without works is dead .
The same is valid also for the positive commandments . For example,God tell us love God and love your neighbour and love your enemies , and i , again a faithful,would say yes Lord , amen , but i dont love God nor my neighbour nor my enemies . Here again faith without works is dead .
So again,i still dont understand why is it so hard for you to understand this simple clear biblical thing about faith and work?Why do you still insist that faith alone saves,when faith alone was mentioned once in the whole scriptures , and it was mentioned to tell us that we are not saved by faith alone,and that faith alone does not save .
But again,in order to convince yourself that you are correct , you go and claim from i dont know where , that Paul and James are talking about two different kinds of faith...
Sorry , but not just me but i guess that no one truly believe what you believe.In fact , Martin Luther had your same problem,because he taught about sola fide , and in order to convince himself and his followers that he is correct , he wanted to remove James and hebrews from the new testament (did you know that by the way)?
So as saint Augustine said,we cannot keep God`s commandments without God`s grace,and with God`s grace we can and must keep God`s commandments .
So please,do not just insist that faith alone saves and that works do not save nor justify , because do you truly believe that a christian who commits adultery and does not repent will inherit God`s kingdom anyway just because he or she says Lord,Lord?And do you truly believe , that a believer , a person which has faith but does not love , will also inherit God`s kingdom just because he has faith?
If you say yes,then you are not a christian but an antiChrist,because antichrist means against Christ,and at that point you would truly be believing things contrary to Christ`s teachings .
Sorry,please dont take it personaly,but i was just making a point and GBU

Nathan Rinne said...

Hello all,

Hey - I'd like to answer the last few rounds of questions soon (like in the next few days - maybe Monday at the latest), but I thought maybe I should make sure at least one of you is still following this... : )

+Nathan

Dave Armstrong said...

This is a big combox: 50 and running! Again, I don't have time to join in a very complex discussion. I've been trying to start a new book for a couple weeks now.

Adomnan will probably keep interacting on the issue, I think, and he does very well, IMHO.

Nathan Rinne said...

Dave,

Thanks for the note. Maybe I will comment again anyway. We'll see what time I can muster.

+Nathan

Adomnan said...

Nathan, I'm still following the issue and can respond to your comments.

There is a possibility that I may be traveling for four days or so starting Tuesday, however. If so, I may not be able to reply immediately.

Nathan Rinne said...

Adomnan,

Wonderful. I will try to reply after the holiday - and would be honored if you would still engage me.

Thank you for so patiently trying to explain your view to me. In some ways, it seems your case is pretty strong - but let me did into it a bit more... : )

Spoils23m,

James was clearly using the word "faith" differently from Paul. I do not see how this can be disputed. I also maintain that he was using justify differently as well. Paul is interested in justification before God by faith and James seems most interested in proving before the eyes of men that faith is real.

maroun,

I assure you that those who do the things you say will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Faith lives only in repentance, and not outside of it. Martin Luther's first theses (of the 95) was that our Lord Jesus Christ told us that our whole life was to be one of repentance.

+Nathan

ps - in the meantime, I did start round 3 with Dave (here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/round-3-with-rc-apologist-dave-armstrong-a-few-good-pharisees/ ), but he has opted to not continue our debate (see comments section) - with no hard feelings though! Also, there has been a lot of interesting comments after my round 2 post and lots of important topics are covered there...

Nathan Rinne said...

Adomnan,

Hopefully something tomorrow or Wednesday.

+Nathan

Adomnan said...

I'm looking forward to reading your further thoughts on this subject, Nathan.

Maroun said...

Hi Nathan :
You said : maroun,

I assure you that those who do the things you say will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Faith lives only in repentance, and not outside of it. Martin Luther's first theses (of the 95) was that our Lord Jesus Christ told us that our whole life was to be one of repentance.

Again,not enough , why you may ask? well , because as saint Augustine said : in Psalm 34:14 , by repenting , then you are only doing the first part of the verse : Depart from evil and did not do the second part which is : And do good .
Our Lord Jesus did not only save us from something but also for something . He did not just saved us from sin but also made us adopted sons of God , so He expects fruits from us , we must do good works .
Have you noticed how you did not mention good works?Because that`s the problem with protestantism many times,they stop half way.Well half the truth is not the truth .
So again Nathan,as i said before , i will say again , faith without works is dead .
GBU

Nathan Rinne said...

m: "Our Lord Jesus did not only save us from something but also for something . He did not just saved us from sin but also made us adopted sons of God , so He expects fruits from us , we must do good works ."

Of course. No argument from me.

"So again Nathan,as i said before , i will say again , faith without works is dead."

Of course. Faith without works has ceased to be living faith. I know you RCs call it true faith, and that you think James and Paul have the same idea of faith, but thinking it does not make it so. Sorry - its pretty black and white.

"Go and sin no more" - Amen. Not disagreeing with you on this at least.

Adomnan - it will be tomorrow.

Nathan Rinne said...

Spoils23m:

Regarding James 2:2, you said I said:

"The text does not say that these folks had 'faith alone.'"


You need to read more carefully.

When I said “The text does not say that these folks had "faith alone", this was in response to maroun’s comments re: Matthew 25, where he said the goats had no works but faith alone, implying that real faith in God was not enough.

+Nathan

Nathan Rinne said...

All,

As Yoda says, "that [this] is why you fail":

http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/forgiveness-free-and-true-the-crux-of-the-reformation-the-essence-of-the-christian-life/

"I don't believe it" indeed.

+Nathan

Nathan Rinne said...

All,

By the way, I am enjoying listening to the lecture linked to here, and thought you guys might like it as well:

http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2011/11/lawrence-feingold-on-predestinatio/

(not just on predestination).

I think this guy popularizes the really complex RC teaching better than most that I've heard.

Nathan Rinne said...

Adomnan,

I apologize for the length of what follows. If you choose not to read it because of that, I understand (in which case please know that this was a good challenge for myself – to articulate things more clearly (obviously, I am not Martin Chemnitz, whose works it seems are not long because he can’t effectively summarize [like me] but because they contain so much rich content) – but in that case, someone will eventually find this useful (either for their edification or to have something substantial to help them more effectively refute it).

First of all, I want to note once again the irony of me debating a RC exegete regarding New Perspective view that would make Aquinas turn over in his grave. You are following Wright and I am following Augustine and Aquinas (not saying my views are wholly synonymous with them! – just that they did not see “works of the law” in the limited sense that you do).

Question: why would you not be eager to turn me from the truth (“I’m not trying to convert you to anything”)? I most definitely do hope that God uses me to convert you.

It seems to me that you are mistaken because you (and the New Perspective folks in general) do not really understand what Paul is saying in Galatians 4 where he talks about how the inheritance is through the Promise by faith (from first to last [Romans 1], I might add), period – this is quite clear (see also Romans 4:13-17, which shows this with great force). In Galatians 4, Paul talks about how this covenant was an unconditional promise to Abraham – sooner or later, in some fashion or another, these blessings were going to happen (obviously, Abraham was going to need to continue to have faith, and would have to step out in great faith, which God evidently would ensure) to and through this man. This initial covenant with Abraham is by pure grace, and by no means should be called a “contract”, a word which is probably more appropriate to Sinai (if this can even be thought to be appropriate: I still think using the word “contract” cheapens the value of the Biblical word covenant, which unlike modern contracts, includes notions of loyalty, fidelity, and even love), whose promises were not unconditional (here, one can more reasonably take the “worker deserves his wages” view) . As Paul says in Romans 4:11,12, circumcision was really a sign and symbol given to remind Abraham and those he led of the covenant of pure grace that God had blessed them with 430 years before. Of course in Paul’s day it could be seen to exemplify the Law given at Sinai (since it was re-asserted strongly there, along with the rest of the commandments that God gave to obey) - although circumcision was first of all simply meant to be a sign of the free promise (not like Christian baptism, which is both a sign and the reality of the Promise itself – i.e. when Christ comes, the shadow of circumcision has served its purpose) and not a precursor of Sinai - it nevertheless came to be associated with Sinai, i.e. things that must be done, as opposed to the hearing of faith (see Galatians 3:2,5 ; 3:10-12 [based on Lev. 18:5 and Deut. 27:26 ; see also Deut. 4:2], early Romans 10)....

Nathan Rinne said...

So when you say, regarding Paul’s discussion of wages in Romans 4:4,5 that “Paul's intention rather is to proclaim that God's gift through Christ EXCEEDS ‘what is due’ to any wage that would be paid to obedience to the Torah”, I need to point out that you are talking about Sinai and the old Jerusalem (the slave woman), not the free woman and the new Jerusalem (the unconditional Promise of the Offspring, received by faith). Again, God’s people have always lived by the Promise (Rom. 4:13-14; also note Galatians 3:22: *everything* was imprisoned under sin by the Law, because the Law – not just the rites but the precepts also [also see Romans 7:7,8] – could not give righteousness, and hence life because strictly speaking, the righteousness that avails before God comes by faithful hearing of the Promise/Gospel, not doing ), and even though faith came to the Gentiles in its fullness through Christ, the Gentiles who were saved were saved by faith, because the “Law brings wrath” (that’s *why* it depends on faith) to *whoever* (not just Gentiles confronted by the revealed law, which I believe is the way you explain Romans 7 at least) hears it (Romans 4:15). So, obviously “Torah”, discussed most widely, can include both the Promise to Abraham, and what occurred 430 years later at Sinai, which was different.

How would you frame this differently? I honestly would like to know how you handle all this biblical data in a satisfactory way.

Near the end of your latest response to me (the last post in the response), you said: “Surely you can see that Paul's point in Romans 4 was that Abraham was righteous in God's eyes even though he was still a Gentile? Surely you can see that Paul's purpose was to counter the insistence of the Judaizers that Gentiles had to become Jews to be righteous? How can you possibly miss this?”

I am by no means denying that Paul was doing this. This is similar to Dave’s argument about what leaven means….. it is about hypocrisy, and teaching to – but *only* teaching as regards behavior, not content. Wrong. It is both/and. May I humbly suggest that you, my Roman Catholic friends, in order to stay Catholic (I don’t blame you – its great to be a part of an institution that is very visible, big, beautiful, and impressive), are flattening out the whole of the biblical evidence. In my view, you are clearly ignoring all kinds of critical data (and here, I must say, I am absolutely flummoxed how you cannot see this – I find it shocking really)...

Nathan Rinne said...

So, I think that this is indeed *a part* of what Paul is saying. I am simply asserting that it is you who are missing the whole picture, the bigger picture in fact. You say that you are interested in an accurate view of Pauls’ meaning, a “scientific” exegesis if you will. I too, am interested in accuracy, but I’m not sure if I can follow you as regards your confidence in your “scientific” methodology. We live in an age where people wrongly are becoming less and less nuanced: all becomes reduced to rules and principles and we even think that really knowing a p/Person can be reduced to these. It goes like this: First, everything in the world must run by strict laws of nature. Then, these observations of regularities in nature become scientific “laws”: hence, they get reified and ossified. Then these “laws” are applied not just to the hard sciences but to the social science (taken up in part by the higher critical movement as well). Its easy for us to put our trust in this kind of science that discovers these laws (here, of course, Michael Polanyi is the best alternative), and then to, by analogy, get limited by the own laws that we make, whether it be the computer programmer who can only think in the “laws” of the language that he knows or the New Testament exegete (like N.T. Wright) who can only think in terms of the Jew-Gentile dichotomy he creates by which to read the Scripture (and as a result, not know what to do with Paul’s argumentation in Galatians 4 [Sinai/old Jerusalem vs New Jerusalem], for example). This kind of thinking is bound to get us nowhere. And now, following all of our precious methods that seem to work so well we are all being boiled slowly in the pot that tells us things like “if it is not on the internet it does not exist”, and stuff like this (I’m sure you will concur).

So, anyway, as my response is that it is not an either-or, but a both/and… Paul is indeed concerned to assert that one need not become a Jew – i.e. be circumcised – in order to become a Christian. But this is because he is most concerned to tell *all people* that they are blessed through the original unconditional covenant with Abraham. Eternal life does not come through Sinai, or the Old Jerusalem (i.e. the Law that was added because of transgressions, to imprison everything under sin and serve as our schoolmaster), but through the Promise of the Seed, by whom “faith comes”, the faith that Abraham had as a foretaste (Galatians) – and that God desired each Israelite to have as well (and the Gentiles of course to, but this really picks up steam post-ascension).
...

Nathan Rinne said...

You say I am unfair to Bishop Wright and that I dismiss his careful scholarship. There are many men who are also scholars of like caliber to Wright (but don’t have his gift of popularization or charisma) who simply think that Wright’s framework does not have room for all kinds of critical evidence (hence my mentioning Das and the Carson book). N.T. Wright thinks that he is saving Christianity from the Protestants (although he upholds the importance of Luther’s “faith alone”), but I can say with confidence that his representations of Lutheran doctrine at least leave a lot to be desired. He is a scholar of the ancient world, not the Reformation, or more specifically, Lutheran theology, and as such, the things he rejects about the Reformation are often mere caricatures. Some of the things I have heard him say are almost as bad as some of the things overzealous RC apologists say about Lutheran doctrine (i.e. that we don’t believe in transformation: i.e. it is like snow covering a dunghill ; or that we don’t think that good works are necessary ; or that we don’t think that the Gospel really has to do with God’s being Present with us, etc., etc. ). So you say that my presupposition of what the Gospel is trumps everything, “including a sedulous analysis of what Paul actually wrote and intended” as if I have no real scholarship on my side or have my head in the sand, but this is not the case. No, Wright means well, but he is undermining the Gospel – and he is not aware of this. I will stick to my guns here.

By the way, here is a good description of what Lutherans say the doctrine of justification is really all about:

“God does not confer and convey grace in this life just once, so that it is at once complete and perfect, so that as long as we are in this life God would will and convey nothing more, and that a person would need to receive nothing more from God; but God is always giving and man is always receiving, in order that we may be joined more and more fully and perfectly to Christ, and may hold the forgiveness of sins or reconciliation more firmly, so that the benefits of redemption, which have been begun in us, may be preserved and strengthened and may grow and increase.” - Examen II: 76,77.

A: “When you say that "right from the get go, we disagree," you are saying that the assumptions you bring to the text make any discussion futile. You are content to assume what you haven't shown, namely that in Romans and Galatians, "works" means human efforts or good works.”

Again, you are assuming that I can’t defend my position or that I am not seriously considering yours. Over the course of the response, I hope you will come to see that this is far from the case. The assumptions I have have been confirmed over and over again through hundreds of readings (literally) of the relevant Scriptural texts, in the context of the entire Biblical corpus. I may not be able to show definitively that “works” mean human efforts or good works, but I think I can show that it is highly probable. More importantly, all of the critical facts that surround and support this view can be clearly demonstrated from the Scriptures (which makes the “probable” into something far more certain), whereas that is not the case with your view...

Nathan Rinne said...

A: “You know, Nathan, an act of faith, like Abraham's in Genesis 15 is a "work," too. Abraham did something, and Paul even describes Abraham's faith in God's promise as requiring effort.”

In the case that believing is an action that occurs in the believer, you have a point. This however, is a philosophical point and not a point Paul is making. Paul is contrasting human “doing” or “active action” (see Galatians 3:12) vs. passive receiving (i.e. passive faith – see Romans 10 and Gal. 3). I think he does indeed does set up an antithesis – the “law is not of faith”. Aquinas is with me (see his commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians) as is Augustine (who just believed works of the law were externally good works done by pagans without the Holy Spirit – his disagreement with Pelagius obviously impacted his view here). If one does embrace the NP view on “works of the law”/”works” (the “law” to [Gal. 3:12]? ; the “law of works” in Romans 3 to?), they must convincingly deal with problems like this. Twice in the book of Galatians, Paul talks about people who do not *do* *everything* written in the book of the Law are cursed (see 3:10 and 5:3). It sounds like the Law, which is clearly good and which God clearly wants us to do, also brings wrath, holds the whole world accountable for sin, makes us conscious of sin (see Rom 3:20 and 7:7,8) and plays a part in God’s binding all men over to disobedience (Rom. 11:32) (John 16:8-11 seems like it goes along with this as well). No one is justified before God by the Law, Paul says, and he means the covenant of Sinai, as he goes on to show in Galatians 4.

A: “But any discussion of a broader meaning of "work" than what Paul intended is already beside the point. To repeat, Paul does not use "works/works of the Law" to refer to human efforts or good works or moral living. It is clear "works of the Law" are, in the first analysis, what distinguish Jews from Gentiles (including Christian Gentiles). Moral living and good works are not what distinguish Jews from Christian Gentiles.”...

Nathan Rinne said...

Well, again, I don’t think it is any small matter that the Greek word that Paul uses here is used all throughout the New Testament (and the Septuagint as well I believe) to simply describe human doing, deeds, behavior, works (also throughout his letters!). So when you say, “I don't know that works ("erga") is used all that often in the Bible. James uses the word, and Paul; and no doubt it's used in some other places”, you should do a bit more research. It is all over. Also, it may be true in your reading of ancient literature it almost always seems to mean ritual acts (along with telete and orgia, I suppose, which you note Paul would have avoided because of their pagan connotations), but to say that it is not significant that it is otherwise in the New Testament seems like a huge stretch to me. Why would Paul have not been more careful to define and explain his terms so as not to be misunderstood? There is at least one verse (probably a couple more) in the New Testament where it is clear that one of the related “ergon” words is used to describe something more rite-like and it seems to me Paul could have made it more clear that this is what he was trying to do by putting “ergon” words in a more obvious ritual-like context. You say that Paul uses “works of the Law” as that which distinguish Jews from Gentiles, “including Christian Gentiles”. Of course this is just what you are trying to prove – this is what I need to be convinced of – I think that he is focusing on circumcision because in the imagination of the Judaizers it is the “tip of the iceberg” of the entirety of the law (while you want to point out that it is the only concrete example of something we have that is a “work of the law” and it is, notably, a rite, or boundary marker as Wright would say), which they are confident they follow (they do not see its true purpose, which was to show us our sin and point to Christ, until “faith”, i.e. Christ, came). Therefore, He argues from the part to the whole: circumcision is actually one of the less weighty matters of the Law, but all of it is important and good. Why should I not presume, given Romans 7:8 and Galatians 3:10 (and Romans 3, which both of us think goes very well with our respective interpretations!) that Paul does not mean the whole of the Law that God (minus the shadows) requires we do and fulfill (see parable of Good Samaritan as well, which echoes the “do this and you will live” of Galatians 3:10-12)? That seems to be what he is clearly getting at (see the beginnings of Romans 10 as well, and 10:17).


Earlier, you said:

“Again, "the law" in Paul is always the Torah, and "works of the law" are not everything the law commands, but only the "rites of the law." Works/works of the Law, in Paul, exclude good works and moral precepts. The Law includes moral precepts, but "works of the Law" do not.”

Again, I would point out here that the Law also means the covenant God made at Sinai, 430 years later…. Again, if the Law includes moral precepts what do you do with Galatians 3:10-12, for example? (what do you do with Galatians 3:22 and 23?). Here I think it is the “law of works” (Romans 3), which is what happens with the Judaizers (i.e. Hagar and Sinai), vs the “law of faith” in Romans 3 (where the purpose of the Law is seen rightly: (Galatians 3: held captive under sin, and Romans 3: to show us our sin). Again, (don’t mind the caps – not yelling) THERE IS *THE COVENANT* GOD ESTABLISHED WITH ABRAHAM (UNCONDITIONAL), BY WHICH THE INHERITANCE IS BY THE PROMISE, AND THEN THERE IS THE ONE OF SINAI, WHICH WAS “ADDED” BECAUSE OF TRANSGRESSIONS – TO ACT AS A SCHOOLMASTER (TO “IMPRISON EVERYTHING UNDER SIN”) – UNTIL “FAITH” (I.E. CHRIST) CAME. THE “SCRIPTURE” (“TORAH”) DID THIS IMPRISONING, BUT IT ALSO TOLD OF THE PROMISE...

Nathan Rinne said...

You also said:

“By the way, I believe the use of the phrase "good works" in 2:10 is evidence that Paul did not actually pen Ephesians, although he no doubt approved the letter; and it bears his authority and is canonical and inspired. The language is somewhat un-Pauline, however. In his own letters, Paul never uses the plural "works" (erga) in this sense. He does refer to "good work" (ergon) in the singular, to mean "good action/behavior."”

Romans 4:2? Which sets the tone for all of Romans 4 (where Paul is justified by faith not only because of initial justification, but because of the whole of his life discussed there).


I had said: Wages are tit-for-tat: the other person is obligated to pay what they agree to pay.


You said: Precisely the point I made with respect to Romans 4:4-5. What God granted as a gift was far greater than a wage Abraham could receive from the contract (covenant) of the Law. Therefore, it was not tit-for-tat.

I now say: the difference is that in your system there is some room for tit-for-tat (contract). I don’t think there is any room for anything like this, as we have already discussed, even if Romans 4:4 cannot be used to make this point. To think that this kind of thinking is justified by the “eleventh hour” parable is to miss the whole point of the parable, which is grace (not that the workers who came in at the end of the day did *some* work, which I know is the RC interp). This is why when you say, “And since these rewards are our rewards, thanks to the righteousness we have in Christ, they are a result of our merits, which we have through our communion with Christ”, I want to make clear that I will not say this insofar as it deals with the inheritance (i.e. heaven and eternal life). Just because I have not lost the inheritance (which is by the Promise though faith), does not mean I have earned it or deserved it. It is all of grace, for I have deserved no such thing. I am only an unworthy servant and my righteousness is as sheer rubbish, as Paul says – I’ll cling to His. Note that when Paul talks about the confidence he would have been justified in having as regards the flesh (Philippians 3), he does not only mention circumcision and other rites, but also that he took action in persecuting the Christians and had a “blameless” “righteousness under the law”. It seems clear that the righteousness that he counts as rubbish was not limited to the New Perspectives’s “boundary markers”.

A: “Paul and the other New Testament writers unequivocally state that God rewards our good works and virtues. That passage from Galatians that I cited, which you ignored, is simply one of many such passage.


And please don't advance some sophistical argument that Paul wrote that we sow to the Spirit and reap a reward, but he "really" meant that only Christ sowed to the and reaped a reward for us. No more Protestant word games, please!”...

Nathan Rinne said...

What “word games” have I been playing with you? I am more than willing to carefully define my terms, explain my positions, and demonstrate how they correlate with the Scriptures. In Galatians 6, we sow and reap either according to our faith (received passively, but also viewed actively, as it is here), or according to the desires of our flesh, or old man. Having been put into Christ in baptism (passive faith), we in turn, in faith, “put on our new man” (that is, actively embrace our identity in Christ, as we run to Him, cling to Him, “catch up to ourselves in Him”), which is Christ, so that we might reap eternal life. Strictly speaking, it is our faith that reaps eternal life, but nevertheless, Paul urges us to continue doing good here as well, because really, if we don’t do good, our faith cannot survive. We will not only not produce the fruit of the Spirit, which is valuable to our neighbor, but our own faith will not be sustained, for faith lives in repentance, and repentance only lives in the contours of the straight paths. To stray from the shepherd’s side is to enter into the realm of doubt-inducing and faith-destroying sin. When we taste of sin and enjoy, we may be tempted to believe that there are things God calls sin that we do not need forgiveness for. Again, in this case, faith cannot survive.

I said: (regarding the word "asebes"): Well, a faithful Jew, who practiced true religious piety, like Anna, Simeon, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, or Nathaniel, would say that “impious” meant unbelieving.


You said: No, they wouldn't. They had another word for unbelieving. In Greek, that would be "apistos." Asebes means "lacking in proper religious piety" and was thus a word that was pretty much equivalent to "Gentile." I'm sure that, if they spoke Greek, those people you mentioned would know the difference between apistos and asebes, and they would maintain the semantic distinction.


Are you suggesting Abraham was "unbelieving" before Gen. 15:6? After all, he's the one called "asebes" in Romans 4:5.”...

Nathan Rinne said...

It could very well be the case that before God called Abraham in Genesis that he was “asebes” in the narrow sense (i.e. unbelieving, see below), that is, one who lacked proper religious piety altogether as a pagan (see Joshua 24). Adomnan, while you are right that “apistos” is the proper Greek word for unbelieving, I am not sure that makes a difference here. We have already established that Paul uses this same word a chapter later to describe all persons – otherwise, what does it mean that Christ died for us while we were still sinners and even enemies of God? We all were ungodly, and in fact still are even after we become Christians (even Abraham – “asebes” does not mean “Gentile” in chapter 5, and I don’t think we can reasonably say that it does here either, based on all the other evidence that I have presented before you), as sin still continues to haunt us and cause us to not do the things that we want to do, though we struggle (Romans 7). From my perspective, Romans 4:7,8 is evidence that believers continue to be “asebes” (since this is David talking). Paul himself does not say that he was the chief of sinners, but is. There is Psalm 143:2 and 130:2 to deal with. I would say that the strength of our belief directly correlates with our actions and though we believe, we still need help in our unbelief (apistia, as you note). In one sense then, all of us lack proper religious piety, even after we have faith (this would be “asebes” in the wide sense). In another sense, based on the evidence from the New Testament as regards this word, we can properly speak of those who lack all proper religious piety (that is, due to unbelief, they have no fear and love of God, and will not serve and honor Him in their lives, of course including a failure to confess the Name of the true God), and hence are those who will be among the goats at the final judgment. So when I said: “Well, a faithful Jew, who practiced true religious piety, like Anna, Simeon, Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, or Nathaniel, would say that “impious” meant unbelieving” that may indeed have been off the mark a bit – but not by that much. It is true that at the final judgment, man’s desire to see man justified by his works (James), or “proper religious piety” will be vindicated. But at the same time, faith is what justifies us before God (note Romans 4:2 and Gal 3:11 here), and where there is real faith there are real works, just as there is smoke where there is fire. Its just that now, much of this is hid in Christ, and will only be fully unveiled on the last day (a precursor of this is when Jesus reveals that the love of the sinful woman is the evidence that she was one of true faith – for as he told her, “your *faith* has saved you”).



“Paul was not condemning moral effort in this passage as an impossible and proud attempt at self-justification. That was not what Abraham was about. In fact, the issue of "Pelagianism" or self-justification through one's own efforts doesn't even arise in Paul's works. He was rejecting the idea that Christians had to become Jews, and that's it.”...

Nathan Rinne said...

Paul does not condemn proper moral effort, I agree. However, the desire to justify one’s self vs. God is a perennial human problem, even if it has not always been explicitly articulated as such. “Would you condemn that you may be justified?” (Job 40:8). When confronted by the idea of Divine judgment, human beings respond as if God is in their courtoom (and debt), but they are mistaken. I don’t think most people think much about this, since people generally don’t fear God or think much of him (as the Scriptures accuse us of), but again, when confronted with the concept of Divine Judgment, they tend to suggest that they are good people, that good happens to them because they are and do good, etc. At the very least, they *deserve* God’s mercy because their good outweighs their bad, or because the their good combined with their “sincere repentance” outweighs their bad. Pelagianism did not arise without good reason (obviously this is not just a medieval issue). And this, quite frankly, is declaring war on the Promise/Gospel and the glory of God and His Christ. It is not like the faith of a trusting child, at their mother’s breast. They need chapters like Malachi 3:2,3 and Romans 1-3 and Galatians 3 (see 3:19, 22-25) to realize that no one can stand according to God’s Law (see Gal. 3:10-12), which leaves them all under wrath (woe unto me…” or “Go away from me Lord, I am a sinful man…”: as you say, “The reason that the Torah brings death and not life is that it manifests what God prohibits or commands, but does not give the ability to avoid what God prohibits or to do what he commands, as Fr. Joseph Fitzgerald put it”), so that they may be made ready (come to their senses) for Christ. Who will be justified (i.e. be righteous in God’s sight) by the “works of the law” God shows we are not doing here? (see 2:16,21; also 3:22-25)? Even Christians need to hear again and again passages like Isaiah 64:6 (our works are filthy rags), Luke 17:11 (we are only unworthy servants), Daniel 9:18 (We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy), Psalm 130:3 (if you numbered sins who could stand?), and Psalm 143:2 (no one living is righteous before you). Finally, Romans 2 ends not by showing how those without faith in Christ will be justified by their love or works before God (as they are before men), but by their faith (i.e. true circumcision – that of the heart). This is the other “non-Christian ‘righteousness’” (though these unbaptized, actually are trusting God and Christ in faith, and show this by their works, as Melchizedek did before them) Paul recognizes prior to the resurrection.

Loose ends:

You: Paul would contradict himself when he writes in Romans 2:13 that "doers of the Law will be justified before Him" and in Romans 3:20 that "no human being will justified before Him by works of the Law."….

WE SAY BOTH ARE TRUE. WE ARE NOT JUSTIFIED *BEFORE HIM* *BY* *WORKS OF THE LAW* (OF WHICH CIRCUMCISION IS JUST THE TIP OF THE ICE BERG….)

You: This would only make sense if "works of the Law" did not include what Paul calls the righteous requirements of the Law, but referred solely to rites that could be dispensed. Thus, being justified by "doing the Law" means being justified by doing the righteous requirements (or "precepts")…

AGAIN, ROMANS 2:13 DOES NOT SAY THEY ARE JUSTIFIED *BY* THE LAW….

You on Romans 4:4,5: Given that Paul posits this premise ("a worker deserves his wages"), Paul could hardly mean that God denies the premise. Thus, the usual assumption that this verse proves that God doesn't pay wages "as due" is unwarranted.

GOD ONLY OWES US WHAT ARE DUE, AND HERE WE JUST SAY THAT THE WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH! HE IS POINTING OUT THAT IF IT WERE STRICTLY BY WAGES WHEN IT CAME TO ETERNAL LIFE, NONE OF US WOULD MAKE IT. RATHER, WE *INHERIT* ETERNAL LIFE. REWARDS, NOT WAGES, ARE FOR THE WORKS WE DO AFTER WE BECOME WORKERS IN HIS KINGDOM.

(end)

Adomnan said...

Nathan, thank you for your thoughtful comments about my views on "works of the Law" in Paul. Your response was long, but well worth reading. I'll reply to as much as I can, even though I might not be able to cover everything.

To start, I'll like to reiterate that my endeavor has been to show that "works/works of the Law" has a very restricted meaning in Paul; and that the Lutheran interpretation that the phrase means "good works" or human efforts is mistaken. My task in what follows will be to establish this fact. Other issues are ancillary.

Nathan: First of all, I want to note once again the irony of me debating a RC exegete regarding New Perspective view that would make Aquinas turn over in his grave. You are following Wright and I am following Augustine and Aquinas (not saying my views are wholly synonymous with them! – just that they did not see “works of the law” in the limited sense that you do).

Adomnan: Yes, I agree. I'm not as familiar with Aquinas's view on this matter as with Augustine's, but I imagine he followed Augustine fairly closely. And Augustine, in his effort to find scriptural ammunition to use against the Pelagians, tended to equate Paul's "works of the Law" erroneously with what he called "the precepts of the good life." I agree with Augustine's basic critique of Pelagianism, but not with all the details of his scriptural case against it.

On the other hand, there were contemporaries of Augustine who did understand correctly what Paul meant by "works of the Law," such as "Ambrosiaster," who wrote a commentary on Paul's epistles.

I'm not a fan of Augustine's biblical exegesis in general. I think he looks at the text too idiosyncratically and unobjectively. He tends to project his own thoughts and presuppositions into it. Ambrosiaster and Jerome were better Biblical scholars, in my opinion, if less talented preachers.

Naturally, I am not suggesting that Augustine's (or Aquinas's) mistaken exegesis on this point led them into any heresy. They understood, as I do, that initial justification must be an unmerited gift of God because it is a sharing in the divine nature, as 2 Peter puts it, and so is above human nature and anything that human nature can obtain or merit. Even human perfection would not equal the divine life that God gives us through Christ, which is human and more than human.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Question: why would you not be eager to turn me from the truth (“I’m not trying to convert you to anything”)?

Adomnan: I view this discussion as an exchange of ideas. The truth speaks for itself. If I were attempting to convert you, then I would necessarily have a condescending attitude, which I eschew. IOW, while I'm certain I'm right, I try not to be too forward about it. Besides, you no doubt have many reasons for your spiritual allegiances, and my convincing you on this one point would not necessarily lead to your conversion.

Nathan: I most definitely do hope that God uses me to convert you.

Adomnan: I'm continually being converted to the truth. You, too, have the obligation to remain open to the truth. Avoid complacency (and condescension, which I sense in this last remark of yours). As for the issue under discussion, God has shown me the truth, and that's that.

The observations you next make regarding the promise as an inheritance of faith are not something I dispute. However, they have no bearing on the issue of what "works of the Law" entail, nor do they imply that one is "justified by faith alone" in the Lutheran sense.

In this regard, you write: "This initial covenant with Abraham is by pure grace, and by no means should be called a 'contract', a word which is probably more appropriate to Sinai (if this can even be thought to be appropriate: I still think using the word 'contract' cheapens the value of the Biblical word covenant."

Adomnan: Fine, then, don't use the word "contract." although the dictionary uses "contract" as a definition of "covenant."

I understand that your point is that "contract" is too "tit-for-tat," but I readily concede that the covenant of faith is not tit-for-tat. As I have said before, the return on faith is greater than any wage that the covenant of the Law could pay. So there's no dispute between us here.

Nathan: although circumcision was first of all simply meant to be a sign of the free promise (not like Christian baptism, which is both a sign and the reality of the Promise itself – i.e. when Christ comes, the shadow of circumcision has served its purpose) and not a precursor of Sinai - it nevertheless came to be associated with Sinai.

Adomnan: This, coupled with your subsequent observation that Paul "does indeed does set up an antithesis – the 'law is not of faith'" poses an interesting question, and I'm glad you brought it up. Paul certainly regards circumcision as a "work of the Law" -- in fact, it's the only example he supplies of one -- and he does indeed, as you point out, assert in Romans 4:11 that "(Abraham) accepted the sign of circumcision as the seal of righteousness of faith while in uncircumcision," thus establishing that, for Abraham and presumably any believing Jew, circumcision, a work of the Law, was also, "of faith." And yet in Galatians 3:12, Paul writes "the Law is not of faith!" So he would seem to be saying that circumcision -- and indeed the Law itself -- was both of faith and not of faith.

The only solution I can see to this apparent contradiction is that, for Paul, works of the Law and the Law itself are "of faith" for believing Jews like Abraham, but the Law is not "of faith" for the Gentile Galatians, whom he is addressing in Galatians 3:12. These passages thus reinforces my position that the works of the Law and the Law itself (as a way of life) are for believing Jews, but not for believing Gentiles. Thus, once again, works of the Law cannot be good works or human efforts in general, because they are meant only for Jews, a point Paul makes also in Romans 3:27-31.

One way of understanding the Law in Paul is that it is what we would now call "Judaism" or "the Jewish religion," and the "works of the Law" are what corresponded in ancient Judaism to the Christian sacraments.

Adomnan said...

That's enough for tonight. I'll respond to more of your comments tomorrow, Nathan.

I do have to get this out of the way, though: You write, "In my view, you are clearly ignoring all kinds of critical data (and here, I must say, I am absolutely flummoxed how you cannot see this – I find it shocking really)..."

Adomnan: This is exactly how I feel about your approach, minus the shock. You have admitted that Paul's rejection of the Judaizers' insistence that Gentiles become Jews is a "part" of what Paul is writing about in Romans and Galatians. I'm just pointing out that this "part" is in fact Paul's whole thesis, and I deny that there is any critique of "self-justification through good works" in Paul. The other "parts" of what you think Paul is saying just aren't there. I honestly can't see how you can persist in reading into Paul things that are simply not there.

Moreover, before, you were adamant that God cannot be called a payer of contracted wages under any circumstances. This was absolutely anathema. I then point out how Jesus compares God to a contractual wage-payer in at least one of His parables. You concede that, but... There's always a "but." Keep in mind that my point was solely that this fact alone overturns the Protestant notion that Romans 4:4-5 demonstrate that God never "pays wages" under contract. Why do you want to continue to argue the point?

Well, I'm wandering a bit. Til tomorrow.

Adomnan said...

I don't know how many people are still reading this, Nathan. But here goes:

Nathan: So when you say, regarding Paul’s discussion of wages in Romans 4:4,5 that “Paul's intention rather is to proclaim that God's gift through Christ EXCEEDS ‘what is due’ to any wage that would be paid to obedience to the Torah”, I need to point out that you are talking about Sinai and the old Jerusalem (the slave woman), not the free woman and the new Jerusalem (the unconditional Promise of the Offspring, received by faith). Again, God’s people have always lived by the Promise (Rom. 4:13-14; also note Galatians 3:22: *everything* was imprisoned under sin by the Law, because the Law – not just the rites but the precepts also [also see Romans 7:7,8] – could not give righteousness, and hence life because strictly speaking, the righteousness that avails before God comes by faithful hearing of the Promise/Gospel, not doing ), and even though faith came to the Gentiles in its fullness through Christ, the Gentiles who were saved were saved by faith, because the “Law brings wrath” (that’s *why* it depends on faith) to *whoever* (not just Gentiles confronted by the revealed law, which I believe is the way you explain Romans 7 at least) hears it (Romans 4:15). So, obviously “Torah”, discussed most widely, can include both the Promise to Abraham, and what occurred 430 years later at Sinai, which was different.

How would you frame this differently? I honestly would like to know how you handle all this biblical data in a satisfactory way.

Adomnan: Well, I would agree with almost everything you've written here, with three dissents and one caveat.

First dissent: You wrote, "the righteousness that avails before God comes by faithful hearing of the Promise/Gospel, not doing"

I would say that the faith that justifies is what Paul calls in Galatians "the faith that works by love," thus it is doing, as well as assenting to the promise, that "avails before God."

Second dissent: You wrote, "'Torah', discussed most widely, can include both the Promise to Abraham, and what occurred 430 years later at Sinai, which was different.

I say, The Torah does not include the promise, but the promise may be said to include the Torah (if you're Jewish).

Third dissent: You write, "the 'Law brings wrath' to 'whoever' (not just Gentiles confronted by the revealed law),

I counter, The Law does not bring wrath to non-Jews, except those Gentiles who seek to become Jews (like some Galatians), because Paul says that only those who are under the Law can be transgressors of the Law. Other people can be sinners and face God's wrath, but it is not the Law that brings wrath to them. The Law has no application to us Christians and never did because we are not under it. Christians can take guidance from the Law and apply its moral precepts, but they are not and never have been under the Law (i.e., Jews).

Paul's polemic against adhering to the Law was a historical dispute in a Jewish milieu, which no longer has any direct bearing on us Christians.

Caveat: You write, "the Law – not just the rites but the precepts – could not give righteousness"

I counter, the Law includes precepts as well as rites, but the precepts are not "works of the Law," only rites are. Precepts are commands, not works. Precepts in themselves, being merely commands, cannot "give
righteousness." Obeying them gives righteousness, however. "It is the doer of the Law -- that is, the precepts, not rites, of the Law -- who will be justified before God."

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Note that when Paul talks about the confidence he would have been justified in having as regards the flesh (Philippians 3), he does not only mention circumcision and other rites, but also that he took action in persecuting the Christians and had a “blameless” “righteousness under the law”. It seems clear that the righteousness that he counts as rubbish was not limited to the New Perspectives’s “boundary markers”.

Adomnan: The righteousness that Paul regarded as rubbish was his specifically Jewish righteousness, as he shows by his reference to rites in Philippians. He did not include an effort to love God and his neighbor among the rubbish he is discarding, although this love was commanded in the Law, according to Jesus.

By "blameless" under the Law, Paul meant that he was adhering to all the rites and taboos, not that he was outstanding in love and virtue. Otherwise, he would be claiming that he was "blameless" in that he genuinely loved God and neighbor before encountering Christ.

He cites his persecution of Christians as proof of his devotion to the Jewish Law, not as a "work of the Law." Of course, he came to consider his persecution of Christians to have been "rubbish," but he also no longer considered it a good work.

You know, Nathan, arguments like this about Philippians are what I characterize as "Protestant word games."

Adomnan said...

On the "asebes" issue: You say "asebes" means unbeliever. However, "asebes" in Romans 4:5 refers to Abraham and to his status when God imputed righteousness to him. Since this imputation took place in Genesis 15, long after Abraham had become a believer and begun following YHWH, he was hardly an unbeliever. Therefore, your contention that "asebes" means "unbeliever" in Romans 4:5 is untenable. You have conceded that "Gentile" is a reasonable connotation for "asebes" in some circumstances. Romans 4:5 is one of those circumstances. Abraham was not an unbeliever in Genesis 15/Romans 4:5, but he was a Gentile. Asebes refers to Abraham, and so asebes means Gentile here. Case closed. It may have a broader meaning somewhere else.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: people generally don’t fear God or think much of him (as the Scriptures accuse us of), but again, when confronted with the concept of Divine Judgment, they tend to suggest that they are good people, that good happens to them because they are and do good, etc. At the very least, they *deserve* God’s mercy because their good outweighs their bad, or because the their good combined with their “sincere repentance” outweighs their bad. Pelagianism did not arise without good reason (obviously this is not just a medieval issue.

Adomnan: None of this has anything to do with Paul's theology. He did was not concerned about people who believed they deserved mercy because their good outweighed their bad. In fact, he approved of such people because he thought the same way: "He will pay everyone as their deeds deserve. For those who aimed for glory and honor and immortality by persevering in doing good, there will be eternal life." (Romans 2:7-8)

Fretting about self-justification was Luther's dilemma, not Paul's. Paul's fervent desire was to get people to "aim for glory and honor and immortality by persevering in doing good," which he believed they could do through union with Christ. He wanted his Christians to cease being sinners, not just to escape the punishment of sin. All his rejection of "works of the Law" was only a rejection of Gentiles becoming Jewish, thinking they needed to practice Jewish rites to be regarded as righteous by God. None of your observations about the promise change that. The promise God made was to bring people to glory and honor and immortality through the seed of Abraham, and that's the promise He fulfilled through Christ and the grace we receive through the sacraments, the "works of Christ" and not the "works of the Law."

With this, I think I'll conclude my comments on this thread. I'm starting to flag a bit, and I believe I've made my point adequately. Good night.

Nathan Rinne said...

"I don't know how many people are still reading this, Nathan. But here goes"

Probably no one.... but I'm glad you still want to talk and so do I. I look forward to reading your comments in full. I'll try to answer soon, but it may be longer than soon...

+Nathan

Nathan Rinne said...

"I think I'll conclude my comments on this thread."

OK - I didn't see this! : )

That said, I guess that means I'll get the last word... whether or not anyone else reads it : ) (when one is seeking truth, sometimes this doesn't matter, right? : ) )

Blessings,
Nathan

Dave Armstrong said...

I have made a link to this in-depth discussion, and posted it on both my Lutheranism and Salvation and Justification web pages. Kudos to both of you for substantive discourse.

Nathan Rinne said...

Adomnan,

First of all, just because I say that I hope God uses me to convert you does not mean that I think I could do this through the sheer power of my intellect and argumentation. Second, I know I have an obligation to be open to the truth and to avoid complacency (I believe that you to do this yourself, even as you say “God has shown me the truth, and that’s that”). No, if either one of us changes to embrace the other’s views, it will be because the Holy Spirit has germinated the seeds that He is planting even now, through our discussion . This may take a while.

A: “I'll like to reiterate that my endeavor has been to show that "works/works of the Law" has a very restricted meaning in Paul; and that the Lutheran interpretation that the phrase means "good works" or human efforts is mistaken. My task in what follows will be to establish this fact. Other issues are ancillary.”

I admire your focus. I think that you make a very convincing case for your position. That is, until another makes his case (Proverbs) – I find the “system” that I have set up to explain all the Biblical data here (this is the classical Lutheran system) far more compelling than the one you have presented. It seems to me that one can’t prove what you are trying to prove without dealing with some of the other things that are connected with and related to “works” and “works of the law” in the Scriptures.

“I agree with Augustine's basic critique of Pelagianism, but not with all the details of his scriptural case against it.”

And my point would really be that you should also agree with Luther’s basic critique of RC theology (the penitential system and denial of certainty of salvation [see here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/forgiveness-free-and-true-the-crux-of-the-reformation-the-essence-of-the-christian-life/, here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/the-roman-penitential-system-and-the-emergence-of-reformation-doctrine-part-i-of-ii/, and here: https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/01/03/the-roman-penitential-system-and-the-emergence-of-reformation-doctrine-part-ii-of-ii/) “but not [necessarily] with all the details of his scriptural case against it.” It’s a similar kind of situation.

Nathan Rinne said...

“The observations you next make regarding the promise as an inheritance of faith are not something I dispute. However, they have no bearing on the issue of what "works of the Law" entail, nor do they imply that one is "justified by faith alone" in the Lutheran sense.”

I’ll be interested to see how you do this! If the inheritance is by faith it seems we are justified by faith… and here in the sense that Paul, not philosophers, understands faith. Again, it seems clear to me that “doing” in general (i.e. the Law given at Sinai, including both rites and precepts) is set vs. the “hearing of faith”. I think Galatians 3:10-14 in particular, which takes place in the midst of this hearing/doing dichotomy Paul sets up and contains words that apply to humanity in general (“all”, “everyone”, “no one”, “the one who does them shall live by them”) is absolutely fatal to your argument.

I think the following, related to this, bears repeating (said this in my last response to you):

“Again, I would point out here that the Law also means the covenant God made at Sinai, 430 years later…. Again, if the Law includes moral precepts what do you do with Galatians 3:10-12, for example? (what do you do with Galatians 3:22 and 23?). Here I think it is the “law of works” (Romans 3), which is what happens with the Judaizers (i.e. Hagar and Sinai), vs the “law of faith” in Romans 3 (where the purpose of the Law is seen rightly: [Galatians 3: held captive under sin, and Romans 3: to show us our sin]). Again, (don’t mind the caps – not yelling) THERE IS *THE COVENANT* GOD ESTABLISHED WITH ABRAHAM (UNCONDITIONAL), BY WHICH THE INHERITANCE IS BY THE PROMISE, AND THEN THERE IS THE ONE OF SINAI, WHICH WAS “ADDED” BECAUSE OF TRANSGRESSIONS – TO ACT AS A SCHOOLMASTER (TO “IMPRISON EVERYTHING UNDER SIN”) – UNTIL “FAITH” (I.E. CHRIST) CAME. THE “SCRIPTURE” (“TORAH”) DID THIS IMPRISONING, BUT IT ALSO TOLD OF THE PROMISE. “

Again, I gave you several passages where Paul seems to correlate the “doing” with “everything” in the Law (i.e. Sinai), which brings wrath and death to us. Paul says that those who do not continue to do everything in the Law are under a curse, period. James says that if we break the Law at one point we break the whole thing. Faith on the other hand, like repentance, is something that first and foremost happens to us, as God grants it. Faith “gets active” to be sure, but first of all it has a passive aspect – hence the “hearing” emphasis (granted, one must be willing to at least listen).

Nathan Rinne said...

“I readily concede that the covenant of faith is not tit-for-tat. As I have said before, the return on faith is greater than any wage that the covenant of the Law could pay. So there's no dispute between us here. “

Well, there is, I think. You are saying that there is a [positive] wage that is being paid due to the covenant of the Law (Sinai), and that God gives even more than that wage. I’m saying no such thing, but only that the “wages of sin” is death. I contrast the hearing of faith with the doing of Sinai, as does Paul. There are no “wages” here at all, tit-for-tat, or not.

“Adomnan: This, coupled with your subsequent observation that Paul "does indeed does set up an antithesis – the 'law is not of faith'" poses an interesting question, and I'm glad you brought it up. Paul certainly regards circumcision as a "work of the Law" -- in fact, it's the only example he supplies of one -- and he does indeed, as you point out, assert in Romans 4:11 that "(Abraham) accepted the sign of circumcision as the seal of righteousness of faith while in uncircumcision," thus establishing that, for Abraham and presumably any believing Jew, circumcision, a work of the Law, was also, "of faith." And yet in Galatians 3:12, Paul writes "the Law is not of faith!" So he would seem to be saying that circumcision -- and indeed the Law itself -- was both of faith and not of faith.


The only solution I can see to this apparent contradiction is that, for Paul, works of the Law and the Law itself are "of faith" for believing Jews like Abraham, but the Law is not "of faith" for the Gentile Galatians, whom he is addressing in Galatians 3:12. These passages thus reinforces my position that the works of the Law and the Law itself (as a way of life) are for believing Jews, but not for believing Gentiles. Thus, once again, works of the Law cannot be good works or human efforts in general, because they are meant only for Jews, a point Paul makes also in Romans 3:27-31.”

Adomnan, once again, I am thankful for this discussion, as in it I have learned much. Now I have the “secret key” of the New Perspective that I did not have or understand before. I am wondering: is this the common view of those who are typically associated with the broad “New Perspective” category? Some comments: first of all, you ignore Paul’s doing/hearing dichotomy; second, you saw that my view does not consider circumcision, strictly speaking, to be “of faith”. In other words, to say that it is a “seal of righteousness of faith” does not necessarily mean that is “of faith” in the sense that Paul means this in Galatians 3:12. So where you see a contradiction, I would simply point out that this is not necessarily so. Your contention that not only the works of the Law but the Law itself are “of faith” for believing Jews like Abraham (which I dispute: again, you all but ignore the significance of the doing/hearing dichotomy that Paul is all about here), but not for the Gentile Galatians seems to me quite the stretch indeed. I am not saying that this is impossible, but it seems to me that if Paul were not making statements he considered to be universal (i.e. the law is not “of faith” in general, in some sense) he would have made this clear. Again, from my perspective, you are assuming what you are trying to prove (I’m sure you say the same about my position – people will have to judge which one they think is stronger and more in line with the Scriptures).

Nathan Rinne said...

A: “You have admitted that Paul's rejection of the Judaizers' insistence that Gentiles become Jews is a "part" of what Paul is writing about in Romans and Galatians. I'm just pointing out that this "part" is in fact Paul's whole thesis, and I deny that there is any critique of "self-justification through good works" in Paul. The other "parts" of what you think Paul is saying just aren't there.”

I don’t think you are “just” pointing out anything, as if that is an obvious fact. This is what you, contrary to traditional exegesis (I’ll need to look at Ambroisiaster here) had seemingly come to some consensus on, are attempting to prove. Well, Acts 15 shows us clearly that the whole “you-need-not-become-Jews-first” thing is there. Yes, I say that this is part of it, while you say it is the whole. That said, I don’t think you really go on to frame my argument as carefully as I would like. I am not saying that there is any “self-justification through good works” in Paul, I am saying that we cannot be justified by the Law, period, not just works of the Law. The “Law is not of faith” because the purpose of the Law is to reveal sin and imprison us under sin, so as to lead us to Christ, who fulfilled the Law perfectly, and who is obtained by the hearing of faith. Hearing of faith is clearly set up vs doing in a pretty universal fashion (given everything else Paul says about the purpose of the Law) – I’d say this is clear. So when you say “I honestly can't see how you can persist in reading into Paul things that are simply not there” try looking at my position through these thought-categories first, before you go to “good works” (which, I’m sure you know, Augustine said that Christians never do perfectly, but that even these are covered by Christ).

Here is another way of looking at it: why is the Law upheld (the end of Romans 3)? You say it’s because Paul does not mean for the whole Law to be that which is opposed to faith (it is only this for the Gentile Galatians). I say it is because the life of the Spirit, which upholds the moral law, is only produced with the help of the Law, whose first and continuing purpose is to imprison everything under sin, reveal our sin, and hold the whole world accountable before God (that is why no one is justified by “works of the law”, *whether you interpret it your way or mine*). “Continuing purpose” - insofar as we remain influenced by the power of sin (Romans 7) the Law still is needed to kill our “Old Adam”.

Nathan Rinne said...

A: “Moreover, before, you were adamant that God cannot be called a payer of contracted wages under any circumstances. This was absolutely anathema. I then point out how Jesus compares God to a contractual wage-payer in at least one of His parables. You concede that, but... There's always a "but." Keep in mind that my point was solely that this fact alone overturns the Protestant notion that Romans 4:4-5 demonstrate that God never "pays wages" under contract. Why do you want to continue to argue the point?”

I want to continue to argue the point here because I think you are wrong, and I don’t think it is hard to show why. One of the key principles of parable interpretation is that we don’t try to find the meaning of each and every character, event, thing that happens in it, etc. – make it “stand on all fours”. Generally, it seems that one central point is being made in each parable. In the eleventh hour parable you bring up, the point is not that God, contrary to what some radical Lutheran polemicists contend (like me : ) ), is the payer of wages – the point is that we should not question the way that God is good and kind to those who in our eyes simply don’t deserve it (because of their lack of work). In other words, the main point of the parable actually has a lot more to say as regards issues that have tended to plague Rome. In like fashion, the main point of the parable of the “prodigal son” is that God’s mercy is unfathomable and bordering on parody (that he would be this excited about a son after His honor had been treated this way), and it would have little to say to persons who might, for example, use Luke 15 in this day to argue that we should tolerate any and every behavior within the Church (i.e. as long as the we continue to hold to our principles we are ok…see I Cor. 5 and try and make this argument!). In either case you would miss the main point of the parable.

Nathan Rinne said...

I had said:

“So when you say, regarding Paul’s discussion of wages in Romans 4:4,5 that “Paul's intention rather is to proclaim that God's gift through Christ EXCEEDS ‘what is due’ to any wage that would be paid to obedience to the Torah”, I need to point out that you are talking about Sinai and the old Jerusalem (the slave woman), not the free woman and the new Jerusalem (the unconditional Promise of the Offspring, received by faith). Again, God’s people have always lived by the Promise (Rom. 4:13-14; also note Galatians 3:22: *everything* was imprisoned under sin by the Law, because the Law – not just the rites but the precepts also [also see Romans 7:7,8] – could not give righteousness, and hence life because strictly speaking, the righteousness that avails before God comes by faithful hearing of the Promise/Gospel, not doing ), and even though faith came to the Gentiles in its fullness through Christ, the Gentiles who were saved were saved by faith, because the “Law brings wrath” (that’s *why* it depends on faith) to *whoever* (not just Gentiles confronted by the revealed law, which I believe is the way you explain Romans 7 at least) hears it (Romans 4:15). So, obviously “Torah”, discussed most widely, can include both the Promise to Abraham, and what occurred 430 years later at Sinai, which was different.


How would you frame this differently? I honestly would like to know how you handle all this biblical data in a satisfactory way.”

You replied: “Well, I would agree with almost everything you've written here, with three dissents and one caveat. “


First dissent: You wrote, "the righteousness that avails before God comes by faithful hearing of the Promise/Gospel, not doing"


A: I would say that the faith that justifies is what Paul calls in Galatians "the faith that works by love," thus it is doing, as well as assenting to the promise, that "avails before God."


N: faith indeed “works in love”, but when it comes to justification, Paul never includes love in the doctrine of justification but always talks about it with faith. There is no doubt that everyone who is saved will have the beginnings of God’s love in their heart, but this is not Paul’s point, which is that God justifies the ungodly (as it is used in Romans 4 and 5). Again, “It is true that at the final judgment, man’s desire to see man justified by his works (James), or “proper religious piety” will be vindicated. But at the same time, faith is what justifies us before God (note Romans 4:2 and Gal 3:11 here), and where there is real faith there are real works, just as there is smoke where there is fire. Its just that now, much of this is hid in Christ, and will only be fully unveiled on the last day (a precursor of this is when Jesus reveals that the love of the sinful woman is the evidence that she was one of true faith – for as he told her, “your *faith* has saved you”).”

Nathan Rinne said...

Second dissent: You wrote, "'Torah', discussed most widely, can include both the Promise to Abraham, and what occurred 430 years later at Sinai, which was different.


A: I say, The Torah does not include the promise, but the promise may be said to include the Torah (if you're Jewish).

N: Insofar as “Torah” means the whole of the Old Testament scriptures, it also certainly contains the Promise. A good interpretation of Torah is simply “teaching”, or instruction, which involves the whole counsel of God, the law and the promises. In the sense that Paul uses Law though, I see what you mean. Likewise, although it may be true that Promise may be said to include the Torah (“if you’re Jewish” – I assume you mean then and maybe even now), this is not the sense in which Paul uses the word. Paul is clearly focused on developing an antithesis between the promise to Abraham and Sinai (“Torah”).


Third dissent: You write, "the 'Law brings wrath' to 'whoever' (not just Gentiles confronted by the revealed law),


A: I counter, The Law does not bring wrath to non-Jews, except those Gentiles who seek to become Jews (like some Galatians), because Paul says that only those who are under the Law can be transgressors of the Law. Other people can be sinners and face God's wrath, but it is not the Law that brings wrath to them. The Law has no application to us Christians and never did because we are not under it. Christians can take guidance from the Law and apply its moral precepts, but they are not and never have been under the Law (i.e., Jews).

Nathan Rinne said...

A continued:

Paul's polemic against adhering to the Law was a historical dispute in a Jewish milieu, which no longer has any direct bearing on us Christians. “


Me: This assumes a radical discontinuity between the Old Testament church and the New Testament church that, as best I can tell, was never meant to be. The Jewish Church and the Christian Church were meant to be one in the same, but it was only the Jewish Church’s rejection of Jesus that caused this not to be. Who was the Promise of the New Covenant made to? In God’s economy, to want to be Jewish is to want to be Christian, period. I agree that in Christ we are no longer under the law (even as we uphold it), but grace, but insofar as men in general – or even Christians – are sinners, we still need the Law to works its first purpose on us, i.e. we may call this “guidance”, but the fact of the matter is that each and every person on this earth is responsible for loving God with our whole heart, soul, strength and mind and honoring his name (especially by faithful hearing of his word), and loving our neighbor as ourself: honoring our parents, not killing, committing adultery, stealing, bearing false witness, or coveting…. Insofar as we have an Old Man/Adam who resists the total transformation in Christ that will dawn on the last day, we still need to be put “under the law”.

Indeed, as regards to your statement “The Law has no application to us Christians and never did because we are not under it. Christians can take guidance from the Law and apply its moral precepts, but they are not and never have been under the Law”… I understand what you are saying, but think that you are oversimplifying the matter. As Paul says, the purpose of the Law and its works was never to save, but to condemn. The Law itself is good, but when held up to us – and it is meant to be held up to all people – (which Paul does in Romans 2 and 3…in 2, he talks about how those who do not have the Law, insofar as they acknowledge it in their lives and are a law unto themselves, still have it in their hearts and consciences) it is as a mirror that reveals our death and decay – and condemns us to death, spiritually and physically. But now that the fullness of time has come, we are no longer under the law *****as regards its curse***** (Gal. 3: 12-13), but are “under grace”. Faith has now come in its fullness, and genuine faith in God and His Word is clearly revealed as the controlling factor, or power. Let me explain. Now, as we are baptized into Christ and brought from darkness into light, being made new, our “inner being” delights in God’s Law (and we are *****still “slaves to it”***** - though in a good sense now – even as we are “dead” to it [Rom. 7:4]! – as we are also dead to sin in Christ [7:6], who bore the curse of the Law for us), but of course, in another sense, there is still sin living in us that causes us to do what we do not want to do. Who will rescue us from this body of death? “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:25). Though not entirely free from sin in this life, we, ultimately, are not controlled by sin, as we cling to Christ, and therefore, we no longer bear fruit for death (7:5, 25b), for the curse of the Law has no hold on us and we are no longer under it. Because of this joyous reality, we can say that the “perfect Law that brings freedom” is now something that we, as new creations, can embrace and need not fear, for Christ saves us from the guilt and power of sin, insofar as we *continue* to look to Him in genuine repentance and faith (which we always remember first comes to us as gifts from God which act on us.) We read on in Romans 8:1-4 and rejoice that now, “the righteous requirements of the law (i.e. the things it commands – its works) might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:4).

Nathan Rinne said...

Caveat: You write, "the Law – not just the rites but the precepts – could not give righteousness"


I counter, the Law includes precepts as well as rites, but the precepts are not "works of the Law," only rites are. Precepts are commands, not works. Precepts in themselves, being merely commands, cannot "giverighteousness." Obeying them gives righteousness, however. "It is the doer of the Law -- that is, the precepts, not rites, of the Law -- who will be justified before God."

Adomnan, both precepts and the rites were commanded, so I am not sure how you can make this distinction. As to the stuff about the doer of the Law being justified, as you know I have already addressed this many times above.

Adomnan:

“The righteousness that Paul regarded as rubbish was his specifically Jewish righteousness, as he shows by his reference to rites in Philippians. He did not include an effort to love God and his neighbor among the rubbish he is discarding, although this love was commanded in the Law, according to Jesus.

By "blameless" under the Law, Paul meant that he was adhering to all the rites and taboos, not that he was outstanding in love and virtue. Otherwise, he would be claiming that he was "blameless" in that he genuinely loved God and neighbor before encountering Christ.

He cites his persecution of Christians as proof of his devotion to the Jewish Law, not as a "work of the Law." Of course, he came to consider his persecution of Christians to have been "rubbish," but he also no longer considered it a good work.

You know, Nathan, arguments like this about Philippians are what I characterize as "Protestant word games."

Adomnan, I regret that you see things this way. Doesn’t Paul write as he does precisely because those Jews who did not receive Christ and fought against him believed that by fighting they were being righteous – in that that they were genuinely loving God and neighbor? Paul talks here about how he had a “righteousness under the law” and I really do believe that Paul thought that he was “blameless” (this does not necessarily mean “perfect”) in part because he was doing his zealous best to love God and his neighbor by persecuting the Christians and that he was indeed “outstanding in love and virtue”. This was a righteousness under the law that had as its failing (which Paul now realizes) the fact that it had missed the whole point of the Scriptures which was Christ. I think it is abundantly clear that those “faithful” Jews who did not succumb to Christ would have seen Paul’s pre-Christian behavior as fulfilling the law not merely because of his devotion to rites, but because of his devotion to the precepts which commanded the faithful to do the good work of stopping false prophets and teachers. “Blameless” has a much wider meaning than you claim, as Andrew Das shows forcefully in this article:

http://basketoffigs.org/NewPerspectives/das.pdf (see 248-250 in particular)

Nathan Rinne said...

A: “On the "asebes" issue: You say "asebes" means unbeliever. However, "asebes" in Romans 4:5 refers to Abraham and to his status when God imputed righteousness to him. Since this imputation took place in Genesis 15, long after Abraham had become a believer and begun following YHWH, he was hardly an unbeliever. Therefore, your contention that "asebes" means "unbeliever" in Romans 4:5 is untenable. You have conceded that "Gentile" is a reasonable connotation for "asebes" in some circumstances. Romans 4:5 is one of those circumstances. Abraham was not an unbeliever in Genesis 15/Romans 4:5, but he was a Gentile. Asebes refers to Abraham, and so asebes means Gentile here. Case closed. It may have a broader meaning somewhere else. “

Adomnan, Romans 4:5 obviously is to go hand in hand with Romans 4:17 (elsewhere the Scriptures talk about how God grants both repentance and faith) – my point about the fact that Abraham likely coming from a family of unbelievers still has some relevance I think. Again, in Romans 5 asebes clearly does not mean “Gentile” so I do not see why you are so certain it must mean that here – again, this is what you are trying to prove, over and against traditional exegesis (particularly Augustine and Aquinas, which as a RC, one would think would be somewhat problematic for you). I conceded that asebes could possibly mean Gentile in some circumstances – particularly this one – but I think that, given the Scriptural data as a whole (here, I refer to the paragraph in which I discuss “asebes” in my last response, and of course, the entirety of that last response), this is highly, highly unlikely.

A: “[Paul] was not concerned about people who believed they deserved mercy because their good outweighed their bad….”

Maybe so – but it seems strange for you to insist that this was not part of Paul’s concerns given what Luke, his apprentice, writes in Luke 18, for example (the words that preface the story about the Pharisee and the publican). Also, consider the works-oriented opinions of certain teachers in Israel at that time. Many believed God had chosen Abraham and the Jews in part because of their moral fiber. There was also the belief that if all Jews would keep the Sabbath perfectly for one day the Messiah would come. Here, Andrew Das’ writings are very interesting and valuable.

Nathan Rinne said...

A: “… In fact, he approved of such people because he thought the same way: "He will pay everyone as their deeds deserve. For those who aimed for glory and honor and immortality by persevering in doing good, there will be eternal life." (Romans 2:7-8)

Indeed he will. But where do you find the “scales of justice” talked about in this way in the Bible? (glad to see that you are back at RC theology though: see here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/01/02/the-roman-penitential-system-and-the-emergence-of-reformation-doctrine-part-i-of-ii/ and here: https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/01/03/the-roman-penitential-system-and-the-emergence-of-reformation-doctrine-part-ii-of-ii/ again). Really, where does it say that this judgment has to do with good deeds outweighing the bad? If one goes by what the Law says, strictly speaking, no one will be justified by it, because the person who desires to be justified by the law is obligated to keep the whole of it. And yes, I realize I just conflated “works of the law” and “law”, and you assume up front that these are separate. I assume the opposite. Both of us have examined our assumptions and believe that we are in the right, having a “system” which better explains all of the Scriptural data better than the other.

A: “Fretting about self-justification was Luther's dilemma, not Paul's. Paul's fervent desire was to get people to "aim for glory and honor and immortality by persevering in doing good," which he believed they could do through union with Christ. He wanted his Christians to cease being sinners, not just to escape the punishment of sin.”

Luther wanted actual sinning to decrease in the life of the Christian, as they fought against their old Adam in faith and love.

A: “All his rejection of "works of the Law" was only a rejection of Gentiles becoming Jewish, thinking they needed to practice Jewish rites to be regarded as righteous by God. None of your observations about the promise change that. The promise God made was to bring people to glory and honor and immortality through the seed of Abraham, and that's the promise He fulfilled through Christ and the grace we receive through the sacraments, the "works of Christ" and not the "works of the Law."

Adomnan, you refer to the sacraments as the “works of Christ”, and I like putting the focus here – on what God does and what we passively receive vs our “doing”. But your emphasis on the “doing” is there as well: for you, we are given peace with God not only because of the passive receiving (which goes with the “hearing” of faith), but because of he “works of Christ” He does within us. We see these “works of Christ” as valuable and important, and as being synonymous with the “works of the Law”, minus the circumcision and other shadows that “fell away” once the Reality had come. Again, we maintain that for the Judaizers, circumcision was just the “tip of the iceberg” and shorthand for saying that following all of the Law – rites, precepts, commands, etc (“doing”!) – was necessary to attain and retain the grace of God. This is why Paul focused here. Later on, Augustine would have to focus elsewhere. And finally, Luther gets to the absolute crux like no one else before Him.

Blessings,

Nathan

Dave Armstrong said...

Hey Nathan,

How are ya, buddy? Man, it took you two months to respond here but you sure did now! I hope Adomnan will see it. Presumably he'll get a notice in his e-mail.

Nathan Rinne said...

Dave,

Yeah, life's a bit crazy lately. Still, I really thought that I owed it to Adomnan (who I note, said he was done... but we'll see : ) ).

I am well. I hope you are to. I bet you are pretty happy about Santorum. Its nice to see him getting momentum and attention. A good man.

+Nathan

Dave Armstrong said...

If Adomnan sees it, he won't be done; I guarantee that! :-)

I am very happy about Santorum. I liked 5 of the 8 GOP candidates from the beginning. Now I like two of the four best (Gingrich the other), though I don't think Romney is "bad": just not as good, and way too much negative campaigning: that turns me off big-time.

Nathan Rinne said...

Clarification:

"Now, as we are baptized into Christ and brought from darkness into light, being made new, our “inner being” delights in God’s Law (and we are *****still “slaves to it”***** - though in a good sense now – even as we are “dead” to it [Rom. 7:4]! – as we are also dead to sin in Christ..."

I should have referred to Romans 7:21-25 here - 7:25 in particular....

For more on this, see here:

http://www.amazon.com/Friends-Law-Luthers-Christian-Life/dp/0758631383

Dave, you might find the book really interesting...

A clip:

"Charges of forgery, heresy, legalism, and immorality turn on the question of whether Martin Luther taught a third use of the Law for the Christian life. For the past sixty years, well-meaning scholars believed they settled the question with dire consequences.

Friends of the Law sets forth a completely new body of evidence that shows how little Luther s teaching was understood. This new book looks at the doctrine of the Law and invites a new consensus that could change the way Christians view the Reformation and even their daily walk with God."

This is stuff that good, faithful Lutheran pastors have always known. Its only the last 60 years that there was a concentrated effort to eliminate the "third use of the law" by some Lutherans....

Dave Armstrong said...

Sounds good to me, as far as it goes.

Adomnan said...

Hi Nathan,

I don't mean this as a criticism of you personally, but it strikes me that Protestantism is an extremely talky religion. I guess that's to be expected of an approach to spirituality that relies so heavily on endless disputations about the meaning of texts.

Don't get me wrong. I like textual criticism, but I don't think that Biblical texts, like Paul's letters, are so opaque that they require this much rehashing. It's not that hard to understand his basic message, which is not at all obscure, and his use of specific terms (like works/works of the Law).

Anyway, here goes:

Nathan: First of all, just because I say that I hope God uses me to convert you does not mean that I think I could do this through the sheer power of my intellect and argumentation.

Adomnan: Actually, though, if you succeeded in convincing me of your views, it would be because of the power of your argumentation. Otherwise, I would be assenting to something that I regarded as contrary to reason, which would be wrong. That's what fanatics do. Regardless of any role the Holy Spirit might play, everything depends on the power of your arguments from my point of view.

Nathan: Second, I know I have an obligation to be open to the truth and to avoid complacency (I believe that you to do this yourself, even as you say “God has shown me the truth, and that’s that”).

Adomnan: I think openness to the truth is a matter of being willing to bracket one's presuppositions. That doesn't mean that you abandon them, but that you are able to set them aside provisionally in considering an argument. I know I am right about the matter under discussion precisely because I am objective about it.

Nathan: No, if either one of us changes to embrace the other’s views, it will be because the Holy Spirit has germinated the seeds that He is planting even now, through our discussion . This may take a while.

Adomnan: It is probably the case that the Holy Spirit is involved in any perception of the truth. On the other hand, He may have His reasons for neglecting to enlighten someone in a given circumstance, benevolent reasons. He may not want to tear down the spiritual house in which someone dwells, as long as that house is providing shelter.

Nathan: I admire your focus. I think that you make a very convincing case for your position.

Adomnan: Thanks. I try to stay focused. Otherwise, what started out as a discussion of what works of the Law are in Paul's letters can turn into a discussion of, I dunno, the medieval penitential system, say.

Nathan: That is, until another makes his case (Proverbs) – I find the “system” that I have set up to explain all the Biblical data here (this is the classical Lutheran system) far more compelling than the one you have presented.

Adomnan: And I see your system as a Procrustean bed of presuppositions that prevents you from reading Paul objectively. As for me, I'm not really putting forth a "system" -- unless you consider my observation that Paul didn't want his Gentile converts to practice Judaism to be a system.

Nathan: It seems to me that one can’t prove what you are trying to prove without dealing with some of the other things that are connected with and related to “works” and “works of the law” in the Scriptures.

Adomnan: Isn't that what we've been doing all along?

Adomnan said...

Enough of the preliminaries. Let's get to the meat of the matter.

Nathan: It seems clear to me that “doing” in general (i.e. the Law given at Sinai, including both rites and precepts) is set vs. the “hearing of faith”. I think Galatians 3:10-14 in particular, which takes place in the midst of this hearing/doing dichotomy Paul sets up and contains words that apply to humanity in general (“all”, “everyone”, “no one”, “the one who does them shall live by them”) is absolutely fatal to your argument.
"
Adomnan: Your argument is that Paul's "contrast" of works of the Law (doing, active) and hearing of faith (passive) implies that works of the Law refer to all doing, and not merely to Jewish rites, as I maintain.

This argument does not hold water. Paul is not contrasting works of the Law with hearing of faith as doing versus being passive. Hearing of faith is active for Paul. The Greek expression (akoe pisteos) is very close to the expression "obedience of faith" (hypakoe pisteos) that Paul uses in Romans. James Dunn, a leading proponent of the New Perspective, explains the expression on page 635 of his "The Theology of Paul the Apostle": "Paul introduces himself in Romans 1:5 by describing the purpose of his apostleship as 'for the obedience of faith.' The term 'obedience' (hypokoe) was a little-known word at Paul's time. But its establishment in Christian terminology may be yet another case of a term which Paul in particular brought into active service through his theology. Its derivation from the verb 'hear' (akouo) means that it retains the richer meaning of the Hebrew shama' 'hear (responsively)' -- 'obedience' as responsive hearing. 'The obedience of faith,' then, characterizes faith as not merely receptive but also responsive. If the briefer form, akoe pisteos, signifies 'hearing with faith,' the fuller form, hypakoe pisteos, signifies the response which such hearing inevitably produces. By implication, that response is given not only in the immediate act of commitment, but in the obedience which follows. Paul would not have cherished the image of believer as 'slave' if he had not also embraced its corollary: the slave obeys."

Thus, hearing of faith (or hearing with faith) is hardly as passive as you suggest and is not set against doing. Rather it refers to an active, responsive obedience.

In any case, even if "hearing with faith" were passive, it would not follow that "works of the Law" included all "doing" or were anything other than what I have shown them to be: Jewish rites like circumcision.

You fail to explain why you think that Gal 3:10-14 demonstrates a wider meaning for "works of the Law" other than by noting that this passage contains "words that apply to humanity in general ('all, 'everyone', 'no one', 'the one who does them shall live by them')".

In fact, however, these words do not apply to humanity in general. You leave out the qualifying phrases that follow them; i.e. "all who are of the works of the Law," "everyone that continues not in all things written," etc. -- all of which phrases clearly refer to only subsets of humanity and not humanity as a whole. And while it is true that "no man is justified by the Law," it is also true that only circumcised Jews are under the Law, and the vast majority of mankind is utterly outside of the Law. None of the verses in Gal 3:10-14 apply to people who are outside the Law, none of whom is subject to the curse of the Law (not being under it) and none of whom is attempting to be justified by the Law.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Paul says that those who do not continue to do everything in the Law are under a curse, period.

Adomnan: Don't you have to be under the Law in the first place in order to continue in it?

Paul was writing to Gentile Galatians who were considering putting themselves under the Law, at the urging of the Judaizers. He is warning them that, if they do adhere to the Jewish Law, they will have to "continue" in it to avoid a curse. Circumcision alone won't be enough; they would have to accept the whole "yoke" of the Law, a yoke that Paul says elsewhere the Jews themselves could hardly tolerate.

Nathan: James says that if we break the Law at one point we break the whole thing.

Adomnan: James is speaking about the moral precepts of the Law, which Paul also tells Gentile Christians they must follow, not the "works of the Law." And he does not have minor moral transgressions in mind, but rather serious ones. James gives murder as an example of breaking the Law in one point: James 2:11: "For He that said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not kill. Yet if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the Law."

Neither James nor Paul claims that the Jewish Law, or God, demands moral perfection or sinlessness. If, under the Law, a venial sin entailed damnation, then why would the Law itself prescribe repentance and/or sacrifice as a remedy for sin? Paul knew that, and so did the Judaizers. Paul would never advance the absurd argument that sinning under the Law necessarily involves a curse, when the Law itself provides for sin. Rather, what invites this curse is not sinning, but failing to continue in the rites and (taboo) prohibitions of the Law, or what Paul calls "all things which are written in the Law to do them." The Jews did not "do" negative commandments (not killing, etc.); only works (e.g., rites) are done. And these are precisely the things Paul didn't want the Galatians doing.

And, yes, I know that the Jewish also contained positive moral commands, such as helping widows and orphans and loving your neighbor. However, Paul would certainly not be telling the Galatians that they should beware if the Law because it would require to them to continue to love their neighbors to avoid a curse! No, the "all things" they'd have to "continue in" and that Paul finds problematic are Jewish rites and taboos, not positive moral commands.

Adomnan said...

I posted that last comment prematurely and it contains some typos. For example, in the last paragraph "beware if the Law" should be "be wary of the Law."

Adomnan said...

Nathan: You are saying that there is a [positive] wage that is being paid due to the covenant of the Law (Sinai), and that God gives even more than that wage.

Adomnan: Yes. Covenant is just an old-fashioned word for "contract." By signing up to the contract, the Jews are due a "wage" under the Covenant of the Law. Each side has contractual obligations. The People of Israel agree to obey God, and God agrees to reward them for their obedience (the wage). They get what they deserve.

The New Covenant is less "debt-like," however, because the reward for our obedience is much greater than what we deserve in strict justice. Thus, it is more than a wage given "according to what is owed" (Romans 4;4). Rather, the reward is "reckoned of grace" (also Rom 4:4) i.e., is more than what is owed.

After all, a grace is not necessarily something that is totally unmerited. A reward that exceeds what is strictly owed is also a grace.

Nathan: I’m saying no such thing, but only that the “wages of sin” is death.

Adomnan: In Paul's terminology, the "wages of sin" are paid by sin, not by God. That's why they are called "wages of sin." This does not mean "wages that sin owes (to God)," but rather "wages that sin pays (to the sinner)." Thus, God is not involved in this particular wage metaphor at all.

Nathan: I contrast the hearing of faith with the doing of Sinai, as does Paul. There are no “wages” here at all, tit-for-tat, or not.

Adomnan: So you admit there are wages for the "doing of Sinai?" If so, you have undermined your own argument that God never pays wages.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Adomnan, once again, I am thankful for this discussion, as in it I have learned much. Now I have the “secret key” of the New Perspective that I did not have or understand before.

Adomnan: Are you referring to my general take on these issues or more specifically to what I said about the Law being "of faith" and "not of faith?" Some of these views are my own entirely, and some of them derive from the New Perspective. To the extent that I am echoing the NP, you are getting the "secret key," I suppose.

Nathan: I am wondering: is this the common view of those who are typically associated with the broad “New Perspective” category?

Adomnan: The idea that the Law is not of faith for Galatians, but "of faith" for Jews, is my own. I didn't get it from any NP writer.

For a New Perspective take on Paul's statement in Galatians that "the Law is not of faith", we can turn to James Dunn, who writes in his "The Theology of Paul the Apostle" that it is not "a criticism of the Law to assert that 'the Law is not from faith,' simply an assertion that they have different functions within the divine dispensation of grace. The two have been brought into confrontation, but the implication of Lev. 18:5 ('You shall keep my statutes and my judgments, which, if a man do, he shall live in them. I am the Lord.') rightly understood is that their roles should properly be regarded as complementary." Dunn also writes in this regard: "If the Law was given primarily to regulate life within the people of God, then indeed its role is properly speaking secondary."

So Dunn's view appears to be that Paul states the Law is not from faith to establish that it is not on the same level as faith (is not the same sort of thing as faith), but secondary -- and so, I might add, dispensable. If the Law is not from faith and the Galatians have faith, then they do not need the Law. The Law does not necessarily "follow" on having faith -- for Gentiles.

This fact is underscored -- and here we're back to my exegesis, not Dunn's -- by the context. In Gal 3:11, Paul quotes the OT verse, "The just shall live from faith." The same "from faith" (ek pisteos) is repeated in verse 12 when Paul writes, "The Law is not from faith." Thus, he is saying, in effect, "the just will not live because of the Law, but rather from faith." In other words, Paul is telling the Galatians Gentiles that they do not have to follow the Jewish Law to "live."

This clear echoing of verse 11 in verse 12 is not caught in many translations. For example, the King James Version translated the same Greek phrase (ek pisteos, meaning "from faith) as "by faith" in verse 11 and "of faith" in verse 12. Knowing the same expression "from faith" is used in both verses clears up any confusion about what Paul is saying, I think.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Second, you saw that my view does not consider circumcision, strictly speaking, to be “of faith”. In other words, to say that it is a “seal of righteousness of faith” does not necessarily mean that is “of faith” in the sense that Paul means this in Galatians 3:12. So where you see a contradiction, I would simply point out that this is not necessarily so.

Adomnan: This is very frustrating. I offer an explanation of how Paul's seeming contraction (circumcision is the "seal of the righteousness of faith" in Romans and the Law -- and so circumcision -- is not "from faith" in Galatians), and you simply say you see no contradiction. Okay. Fine. Then you don't need my resolution of what is only an apparent contradiction in my eyes, and so we can move on.

Perhaps other readers, who do experience a certain perplexity when they see a work of the Law described as a seal of righteousness of faith alongside a statement that the Law is not from faith, benefited from my exegesis. In any event, whatever Paul may have meant by stating that "the Law is not from faith," it has little bearing on what "works of the Law" are.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: I really do believe that Paul thought that he was “blameless” (this does not necessarily mean “perfect”) in part because he was doing his zealous best to love God and his neighbor by persecuting the Christians..

Adomnan: Wrong. Paul explicitly writes that he was blameless "touching the righteousness that was in the Law," i.e., carefully observing the rites and taboos. His persecution of Christians he ascribes to his "zeal," not to his blamelessness in respect to the Law.

Nathan: ...and that he was indeed “outstanding in love and virtue”.

Adomnan: From his perspective as a Christian, he did not view his persecuting former self as outstanding in love and virtue. And Paul is writing from his current perspective. He most definitely would not say that he had been fulfilling the moral precepts of the Law in fact or that he had truly loved God and his neighbor as a persecutor of Christians. Thus, Paul does not include love in his notion of "blameness as touching the righteousness of the Law." To suggest that he regarded his uncoverted self as truly loving, albeit lacking in faith, is absurd. In fact, it's a "Protestant word game."

When Paul said he was "zealous," he meant that he was zealous. When he said that he was "blameless as touching the righteousness of Law," he meant that he was blameless "as touching the righteousness of the Law." He did not mean that he loved God and neighbor. If he had meant that he had loved God and neighbor under the Law, he would have written that he was "loving," not that he was "zealous" or that he was "blameless as touching the righteousness of the Law."

And don't tell me that Paul would not have written he was "blameless" under the Law unless he was loving under the Law. Paul's point and Jesus's criticism of some of the Pharisees was that one could follow the Law punctiliously (blamelessly) and yet not be loving.

Adomnan said...

Skipping ahead to the the "asebes" issue:

Nathan, speaking of Abraham being called "asebes" (non-observant, irreligous)in Rom 4:5: I conceded that asebes could possibly mean Gentile in some circumstances – particularly this one – but I think that, given the Scriptural data as a whole (here, I refer to the paragraph in which I discuss “asebes” in my last response, and of course, the entirety of that last response), this is highly, highly unlikely.

Adomnan: "Highly, highly unlikely," eh? Therefore, you view as "likely" your contention that Paul was labeling Abraham an "unbeliever" years after the patriarch first believed in God and started following Him and at the same moment Paul was praising him for his belief, indeed saying his belief was credited to him as righteousness?

No, really, what is likely? That Paul is calling Abraham an unbeliever here when he dubs him "asebes" or that he is describing him rather as someone who is uncircumcised and thus non-observant of the Law, namely, a Gentile? This is not a hard one, Nathan.

I might also note, once again, that Paul is being ironic. He is tweaking the Judaizers with the fact that, by the standards they wish to apply to his Gentile converts, the very founder of Judaism was "asebes" before his circumcision. It is also a strictly true statement seen from a certain angle: Abraham was indeed "asebes" at this point in his life as regards the Jewish Law. However, he was not "asebes" in respect of faith and in God's estimation. That's how irony works.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: I am not saying that there is any “self-justification through good works” in Paul,

Adomnan: You're not? If not, you're the first conservative Protestant in my experience who doesn't claim that Paul was obsessed about what Protestants call "works righteousness." However, little of what you write supports this puzzling assertion of yours.

Nathan: I am saying that we cannot be justified by the Law, period, not just works of the Law.

Adomnan: Since the Law, for Paul, is what we'd call "Judaism," I can agree with this statement.

Nathan: The “Law is not of faith” because the purpose of the Law is to reveal sin and imprison us under sin,

Adomnan: That may be its purpose for Jews, who are "under the Law." But for us Gentiles, the Law -- i.e., Judaism -- has no "purpose" for justification. It does, however, have the purpose of guiding Christians in morality, as renewed and reinterpreted by Christ, and the historical purpose of informing us of the soil in which Christianity sprouted.

Nathan: so as to lead us to Christ, who fulfilled the Law perfectly, and who is obtained by the hearing of faith.

Adomnan: No. The Law is not meant to lead "us" to Christ. It was meant to lead the Jews to Christ. Remember, for Paul, the Law is just his way of referring to Judaism, the Jewish religion. We Gentile Christians do not come to Christ through the Jewish religion. That's why we do not need to participate in its sacraments, the "works of the Law." We have our own sacraments.

Moreover, we are not justified because "Christ fulfilled the Law perfectly." If we were, then we would be justified through the Law (i.e., by Christ's fulfillment of it), which both you and I agree is not the case. The Law, understood as the Jewish religion, plays no part in our justification whatsoever, not through Christ's "perfect fulfillment of it," not in any way.

Nathan: Hearing of faith is clearly set up vs doing in a pretty universal fashion (given everything else Paul says about the purpose of the Law) – I’d say this is clear.

Adomnan: I refuted this above.

Nathan: Here is another way of looking at it: why is the Law upheld (the end of Romans 3)?

Adomnan: When Paul writes in Rom 3:31, "Do we make void the Law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the Law," he doesn't immediately explain how he is "establishing" the Law. One looks in vain in chapter 4 for such an explanation, for example, unless perhaps he is using the term "Law" here, as he sometimes does, to refer to the OT scriptures (as we now say "the Torah"). Chapter 4 has a lot of scripure, and Paul may just be asserting in Rom 3:31 that he intends to uphold his doctrine through the scriptures, and thus uphold the scriptures.

On the other hand, if "the Law" is understood as "the Jewish religion," then Paul "establishes" it in chapter 13 when he writes "love is the fulfillment of the Law." This would mean that love was the fulfillment of everything that Judaism was aiming at.

The end of Romans 2 also shows how the Law can be "established." It's the moral precepts of the Law, what Paul calls the "righteous requirements" (dikaiomata), that are "established," not the Law understood as the Jewish religion. And Paul rejects outright the rites of this religion, which he calls the "works of the Law." In short, Paul readily admits the value of Jewish moral ideals, while regarding the Jewish religion itself as dispensable.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: You say it’s because Paul does not mean for the whole Law to be that which is opposed to faith (it is only this for the Gentile Galatians).

Adomnan: I say that the "whole Law" is "opposed to faith" -- for Gentiles -- if the "whole Law" is understood as the Jewish religion. That's why Paul said that those Gentiles who were circumcised -- who joined the Jewish religion -- cut themselves off from Christ. On the other hand, Paul did not have a problem with ethnic Jews continuing to adhere to the Law (as long as it didn't conflict with their Christian convictions).

Nathan: I say it is because the life of the Spirit, which upholds the moral law, is only produced with the help of the Law,

Adomnan: So you're saying that we can only receive the Spirit by adhering to Judaism? That would make you a Judaizer and would come as a surprise to Paul, who asked the Galatians: Did you receive the Spirit from the works of the Law (e.g., circumcision) or through hearing with faith?

On the other hand, we can look to the moral precepts of the Law for guidance, reinterpreted in the light of Christ (what Paul calls in Galatians "the law of Christ"). But this isn't the Jewish religion ("the Law") that Paul says Gentiles must not adopt. We can learn from Judaism, but we cannot adhere to it.

Nathan: whose first and continuing purpose is to imprison everything under sin, reveal our sin, and hold the whole world accountable before God.

Adomnan: No. According to Paul, the Law holds Jews accountable before God, not Gentiles. In fact, Paul writes in Rom 2:12: "For as many as have sinned outside the Law shall also perish outside the Law, and as many as have sinned in the Law shall be judged by the Law." And in Rom 4:15: "Where there is no law, there is no transgression." Therefore, it is evident that for Paul the purpose of the Jewish Law is not to "hold the whole world accountable before God." According to him, Gentiles are not transgressors of the Jewish Law, not having the Law, and are not judged by it.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: In the eleventh hour parable you bring up, the point is not that God, contrary to what some radical Lutheran polemicists contend (like me : ) ), is the payer of wages

Adomnan: I agree that the "point" of the parable is not that "God is the payer of wages." Nevertheless, God is depicted as a payer of wages by Jesus Christ Himself in this parable, and thus one cannot say that "God can never be a payer of wages." It's an incidental detail, but is there nonetheless. What God gives is compared to a wage.

I should add that Paul does not deny that God pays wages in Rom 4:4-5 or that God can be a debtor in some sense. I explained this some months ago (see above) and do not need to repeat the demonstration.

Unfortunately, Protestants often jump to the conclusion that Rom 4:4-5 implies that God never pays wages and then use that mistaken assumption to draw inferences about "works," "merit" and the like, none of which is supported by the passage in Rom 4.

Nathan: – the point is that we should not question the way that God is good and kind to those who in our eyes simply don’t deserve it (because of their lack of work).

Adomnan: Well, they all do some work. Your Lutheran interpretation would be better supported if the landowner paid wages to men who hadn't done any work at all, since that's what you claim God does.

The Catholic New Jerusalem Bible provides a truer interpretation of the the parable, I think, in a footnote: "The owner of the vineyard goes on into the evening hiring workers and yet gives all a full day's pay. He is generous to some without being unjust to others. So God acts. Into his kingdom he brings late-comers -- sinners and gentiles. Those who were called first (the Jewish people who, from Abraham's time, had been privileged with the covenant) have no right to be offended."

Nathan: In other words, the main point of the parable actually has a lot more to say as regards issues that have tended to plague Rome.

Adomnan: Not only does this parable not address the issues you suppose, it reinforces my observations about what Rom 4:4-5 is asserting: 1) that God is free to be generous (i.e., graciously pay more than one is owed in strict justice) and 2) that, contra the Judaizers, God does not promise a greater reward to Jews. In fact, God as described in Rom 4:4-5 is so like the wage-paying landowner of this parable that one might reasonably conjecture that Paul had the story in mind when he penned Romans 4.

Nathan Rinne said...

Adomnan,

Thrilled to see you back. You get back to me quickly, but alas, you will be waiting to hear from me again.

Will read, digest, and I hope, respond sometime sooner than last.

Blessings in Christ,
Nathan

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Adomnan,
Thrilled to see you back. You get back to me quickly, but alas, you will be waiting to hear from me again.

Adomnan: Good to see you, too.

Nathan: Will read, digest, and I hope, respond sometime sooner than last.

Adomnan: I'm not quite finished responding myself to your most recent remarks, but I probably will be before you comment again. I take up the thread from time to time when the spirit (small "s") moves me.

I was pretty much out of touch during that whole two month period when you were quiet. So it's convenient for me that you waited, as it turns out.

Adomnan said...

When I first responded to your recent comments, Nathan, I was going more or less from the earliest to the latest. But to make it easier for me to keep track of where I am in what you must admit is a lengthy series of remarks, from here on I'll move from your latest comments back to those preceeding, until I've covered everything I'm going to cover.

Nathan: Adomnan, you refer to the sacraments as the “works of Christ”, and I like putting the focus here – on what God does and what we passively receive vs our “doing”.

Adomnan: By the works of Christ I mean the sacraments. I use this phrase as a way of underscoring what the works of the Law are: Jewish sacraments.

Nathan: But your emphasis on the “doing” is there as well: for you, we are given peace with God not only because of the passive receiving (which goes with the “hearing” of faith), but because of he “works of Christ” He does within us.

Adomnan: You are setting up a dichotomy that is foreign to Paul's thought. I have pointed out that "hearing of faith" is less passive than you suggest, because it's a way of saying what Paul also calls the "obedience of faith." The "works of the Law" that are set againt this hearing/obedience are Jewish rites, circumcision first and foremost -- not "doing" in general or even "doing the Law" in particular. After all, Paul says in Rom 2 that "doers of the Law" will in fact be justified: one of the few -- the only? -- places where doing (poiein) and the Law are joined.

Thus, for Paul:

1) "doing works/works of the Law" = doing Jewish rites, particularly circumcision.

2) "doing the Law" = doing the dikaiomata/righteous requirements of the Law."

This is why Paul says one can be justified by doing the Law, but not by doing the works of the Law.

I'm not saying that Paul pushed doing over receiving. I am saying that this tension between activity and passivity that you see in Paul is not there at all. It never enters Paul's mind. "You don't need to practice Judaism" is not the same thing as "You don't need to do anything."

Nathan: We see these “works of Christ” as valuable and important, and as being synonymous with the “works of the Law”, minus the circumcision and other shadows that “fell away” once the Reality had come.

Adomnan: Well, "works of Christ" is a phrase I came up with. So I wouldn't put much weight on it. I don't think Paul uses it.

Nathan: Again, we maintain that for the Judaizers, circumcision was just the “tip of the iceberg” and shorthand for saying that following all of the Law – rites, precepts, commands, etc (“doing”!) – was necessary to attain and retain the grace of God. This is why Paul focused here.

Adomnan: The Judaizers believed that adhering to the Jewish religion was necessary to attain and retain the grace of God. The works of the Law were the rites, especially circumcision, that made one Jewish, circumcision being the initiatory sacrament of Judaism, as baptism is for Christians. Paul did not think Gentiles needed to become Jews, which is why he focused on the Law (Jewish religion) and the works of the Law (Jewish sacraments) as something to be avoided. On the other hand, he saw value in what he called the dikaiomata or righteous requirements of the Law, interpreted by Christ, as positive ideals embodying love (the "law of Christ"). That's why Paul could write that love fulfilled the Law.

Thus, Paul had an ambiguous attitude to the Law (the Jewish religion). He admired its ideals, which he saw fulfilled in Christianity, but he rejected it as a way of life, at least for Gentiles. Essentially, it was part of the old world, now superseded by the new age that the Resurrection ushered in.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Later on, Augustine would have to focus elsewhere. And finally, Luther gets to the absolute crux like no one else before Him.

Adomnan: Both Augustine and Luther were attempting to interpret Paul. Augustine was correct (contra the Pelagians) in teaching that, for Paul, Christian righteousness is a gift, because it is a new and higher life, a sharing in the nature of God. He was wrong about using Paul's polemic against the Law and works of the Law as an argument agains the Pelagians. Luther's take is basically a misinterpretation/exaggeration of Augustine with certain important innovations, too far removed from the real Paul in context to have anything to do with the Apostle's authentic teachings. Luther was possible only because of Augustine. His thought never would have grown directly out of Paul. That's why nothing resembling Lutheranism ever grew in Eastern Orthodox soil, which has Paul but no Augustine. (His name is known, but his teachings largely ignored.)

Adomnan said...

Nathan: But where do you find the “scales of justice” talked about in this way in the Bible?

Adomnan: I picked up the scales of justice analogy from you when you wrote: "They (think they) *deserve* God’s mercy because their good outweighs their bad, or because their good combined with their 'sincere repentance' outweighs their bad."

My point was that Paul says as forcibly as one could wish that perseverance in doing good leads to eternal life and that "doers of the Law" are justified. This is not hypothetical. This is Paul's fundamental conviction and what he sees as the real situation. Thus, he would agree wholeheartedly with people who believed their repentance and good deeds gained them eternal life: He said as much himself. And nothing he writes about setting aside Judaism as a religion with its rites derogates in the least from this rock-solid principle: "He will pay everyone as their deeds deserve. For those who aimed for glory and honor and immortality by persevering in doing good, there will be eternal life." (Romans 2:7-8)

For Paul, it is "faith working in love" that justifies.

It's true that the image of the scales of justice is not frequent in the Bible. However, neither is it utterly absent as a metaphor for judging righteousness: "Let me be weighed in an even balance that God may know my integrity.' (Job 31:6)

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Faith indeed “works in love”, but when it comes to justification, Paul never includes love in the doctrine of justification but always talks about it with faith.

Adomnan: The fact that Paul writes of being justified by faith rather than being justified by love is simply because the text (Genesis 15:6) that he is using as the basis of his argument against the Judaizers says that Abraham "believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness." If it had said, "Abraham loved God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness," then we'd be talking about "justification by love." In other words, it wasn't Paul who chose to focus on the word faith, rather than love. He was constrained by the language of the text he was expounding to make a larger point.

But as it turns out, Paul DOES mention love along with faith in the context of justification: "We are led by the Spirit to wait for the hope of righteousness by faith (i.e., justification by faith), since in Christ Jesus it is not being circumcised or being uncircumcised (i.e., works of the Law)that can affect anything -- only faith working through love." (Gal 5:5-6)

Thus, he asserts that the faith that justifies ("the righteousness of faith") is "faith working through love."

Similarly, there is the well-known passage in I Cor 13:2 where Paul declares, "Though I have all faith so that I could move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." One can hardly conclude from this that Paul depicts faith as the only quality that secures a verdict of righteousness while God as judge ignores love.

Nathan: There is no doubt that everyone who is saved will have the beginnings of God’s love in their heart, but this is not Paul’s point, which is that God justifies the ungodly (as it is used in Romans 4 and 5).

Adomnan: This is rather akin to doubletalk. If they have "the beginnings of love in their hearts," then these "ungodly" are hardly unloving. Thus, whatever "ungodly" means to you, it doesn't mean unloving. So why do you use the term in this context? How does it prove your point? Besides, I've already shown that "ungodly" -- in the justification discussion in Rom 4 -- means "Gentile." In Rom 5, Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, also has the Gentiles primarily in mind when he refers to the "ungodly," but here it can also include Jews who do not uphold the Law.

Nathan: Again, “It is true that at the final judgment, man’s desire to see man justified by his works (James), or “proper religious piety” will be vindicated.

Adomnan: I don't see how this sentence makes sense from your perspective, frankly. If men are not in fact justified by works, as you maintain they aren't, then why should God vindicate man's mistaken and impious desire to see men justified in this way?

The whole point of the "no justification before God by works" business is that men's works are worthless to God and mean little or nothing. They're always "tainted by sin" or "filthy rags" or something. In other words, they are not truly just or righteous. Otherwise, they would merit a verdict of righteousness. And, of course, if men think these works are righteous, then they are simply mistaken. It's not as if something can be righteous for us men if God doesn't consider it righteous. Evidently, God's view of the matter is the true one. Thus, once again, why should the mistaken opinion of men be "vindicated?"

Adomnan said...

My original posting: Paul's polemic against adhering to the Law was a historical dispute in a Jewish milieu, which no longer has any direct bearing on us Christians.

Nathan's response: This assumes a radical discontinuity between the Old Testament church and the New Testament church that, as best I can tell, was never meant to be.

Adomnan: On the contrary, Paul does describe a radical discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments. For him, everything changed with the Resurrection. A new world and a new age were ushered in -- indeed, what he calls "a new creation." And all the elements of the old world, including the Law, were, well, "relativized" might be the best word, or "demoted."

So Paul writes (2 Cor 5:17): "For everyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation: The old order is gone and everything is new." The Jewish Law, naturally is included in the "old order." Similarly, in Rom 8:20-22, Paul declares, "It was not for its own purposes that creation had frustration imposed upon it, but for the purposes of Him who imposed it with the intention that the whole creation itself might be freed from its slavery to corruption and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We are well aware that the whole creation, until this time, has been groaning in labor pains."

And the slavery Paul refers to, which is is abolished in the new creation, includes the Law: "It is not being circumcised or uncircumcised that matters, but what matters is a new creation." (Gal 6:15) Also, "How can you (Gentile Galatians) now turn back to those powerless and bankrupt elements whose slaves you now want to be all over again (i.e., by adhering to the Law)? You are keeping special days, and months, and seasons and years." (Gal 4:9-10)

For, "we are released from the Law, having died to what was binding us, and as we are in a new service, that of the spirit, and not in the old service of a written code." (Rom 7:6)

In proclaiming a radical break from the Old Testament and the Law, Paul was only following in the steps of the prophets: "Look, the days are coming, Yahweh declares, when I shall make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah, but not like the covenant I made with their ancestors the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, even though I was their Master, Yahweh declares.

"No, this the covenant I shall make with the House of Israel when those days have come, Yahweh declares. Within them I shll plant my Law, writing it on their hearts." (Jeremiah 31:31-33)

Nathan: The Jewish Church and the Christian Church were meant to be one in the same, but it was only the Jewish Church’s rejection of Jesus that caused this not to be.

Adoman: I am somehat surprised that you, a Lutheran, would put forward this idea of an identical "church" spanning Old and New Testaments. This is more typical of Calvinism, which tends to minimize the newness of the New Covanant. The church did not exist before it was founded by Christ. Don't you see any advantage in being baptized into Christ? I though that Lutherans took baptism seriously, as a dying and rising with Christ, and did not regard this sacrament as merely the New Testament equivalent of the circumcision that initiated one into the Law! No one was "born again of the Spirit" until they were born from the water of Christian baptism. Jesus Christ brought a new creation into the world.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Insofar as we have an Old Man/Adam who resists the total transformation in Christ that will dawn on the last day, we still need to be put “under the law”.

Adomnan: This is not Biblical or Pauline language. Gentiles are not "under the Law" for Paul, period. For Paul, "the Law" is the Jewish religion. It has worthy ideals (the moral precepts), as these are reinterpreted by the lawgiver Christ (a new Moses), but no one is "under the Law" merely because he pays heeds to these precepts.

Paul writes,"Those who have sinned without the Law will perish without the Law, and those under the Law who have sinned will be judged by the Law." How can he write this if, as you maintain, everyone, Jew and Gentile, is "under the Law?"

Or how about this?: "God's righteousness was witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, but now it has been revealed altogether apart from law: God's righteousness given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." You say that Christians are "under the Law," while Paul says they have a "righteousness revealed altogether apart from law."

Or this, "A person is justified by faith and not by works of the Law. Do you think God is the God of the Jews, and not of Gentiles too?" Why would Paul treat the Judaizers' insistence that Gentiles must do works of the Law to be justified as implying God is God of Jews only if he believed that everybody, Jew and Gentile, was in fact under the Law and was expected by God to do "works of the Law," with God punishing those who failed to do them, Jew or Gentile?

Show me a passage where Paul says or implies that Gentiles, Christian or otherwise, are "under the Law."

Adomnan said...

Nathan: As Paul says, the purpose of the Law and its works was never to save, but to condemn.

Adomnan: No. Paul doesn't say this. It is true that the purpose of the Law is not to save. However, Paul does not say that its purpose is to condemn. In fact, he writes, "By the works of the Law (i.e., adhering to the Law through circumcision and other rites) shall no flesh be justified in his sight, for by the Law is the full knowledge of sin." (Rom 3:20) In other words, the Law does not "condemn," it merely gives those who are aware of it "full knowledge" of what sin is. Informing someone of what sin is is not condemning him.

The reason the Law doesn't save is that, as a mere written code of do's and don'ts, it can only inform; it has no power. Paul expresses the same thought in Galatians 3:21: "If the Law that was given had been capable of giving life, then certainly righteousness would have come from the Law." But righteousness cannot come from the "dead letter" (a written code), but must come from the Spirit.

Paul writes in Rom 3:19, "Now we know that whatever things the Law says, it says to them who are under the Law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." The first "Law" in this sentence means the Old Testament scripture, the Torah. (Although "the Law" for Paul usually denotes "the Jewish religion," he occasionally uses the word to refer more specifically to the Jewish scriptures, because the whole Jewish religion is found in the scriptures.)

Those who are "under the Law" -- and here "Law" means the Jewish religion -- are the Jews. Paul has cited a number of OT scriptures accusing the Jews of failure to live up to the Law (as a community). Non-Jews are not in view here, because they are not "under the Law." Paul had described Gentile sin (utterly apart from the Law) earlier, and this was not a point of dispute with the Judaizers. Here, Paul is insisting that Jews are sinful as well, despite their having the Law. The Law did not succeed in making them just.

The implied argument to the Judaizers is this: If the Law couldn't make Jews just, then why impose it on Gentiles? He also relegates the Law to the old order, now overturned by Christ's resurrection, a point he makes explicit later in Romans.

Nathan: The Law itself is good, but when held up to us – and it is meant to be held up to all people – (which Paul does in Romans 2 and 3

Adomnan: No, he doesn't. He only describes how the Law has not made the Jews, who are under it, righteous. Paul says that those who sin apart from the Law are not judged or condemned by it. They may be sinners, but they are not transgressors, because you can only transgress a revealed law, and Gentiles have no revealed law.

Nathan: …in 2, he talks about how those who do not have the Law, insofar as they acknowledge it in their lives and are a law unto themselves, still have it in their hearts and consciences)

Adomnan: Here, Paul is not talking about all people, but only Gentile Christians. They are the ones who do not have the Law and "yet are a law unto themselves. They can demonstrate the effect of the Law engraved on their hearts." (Rom 2:14-15)

Paul has little or no concept of a natural law or a generic law of the conscience or universal law of right and wrong. At least, that's not what he means when he talks about "the Law." For him, it is only the "Law that was given," revealed law, the Mosaic Law. Gentiles do not have this, although Christians -- and they only -- have an unwritten law, one "engraved on their hearts."

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Maybe so – but it seems strange for you to insist that this was not part of Paul’s concerns given what Luke, his apprentice, writes in Luke 18, for example (the words that preface the story about the Pharisee and the publican).

Adomnan: Luke writes at the beginning of the parable about the Pharisee and the tax collector, "He spoke this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised the rest."

This may be the only place in the New Testament where self-righteousness is criticized, as well it should be. However, the Pharisee in this parable is not comparable to the Judaizers whom Paul was debating. First, both the Pharisee and the tax collector were Jews, and so the Pharisee is despising other Jews and congratulating himself on his exemplary Judaism. The Judaizers, on the other hand, were not criticizing other Jews; they were saying that becoming Jewish was necessary for Gentiles to be righteous at all. Thus, their "boast" was not they outdid other Jews in righteousness, but simply that they WERE Jewish.

Luke's parable fits in better with Jesus's criticism of some Pharisees as hypocrites. Paul doesn't accuse the Judaizers of being hypocrites so much as being purveyors of another gospel. His problem with them is not that they are self-righteous but that they have a mistaken allegiance to the "righteousness of the Law." Theirs is a theological problem, a heresy, not a moral problem.

So, yes, the parable in Luke shows that pride and arrogance are vices, but this is not the issue that Paul was dealing with.

Nathan: Also, consider the works-oriented opinions of certain teachers in Israel at that time. Many believed God had chosen Abraham and the Jews in part because of their moral fiber.

Adomnan: I don't see this as a problem, particularly as regards Abraham. Certainly, in Acts the people who end up converting to Christianity are by and large people with "moral fiber," like Cornelius. The notion that God takes no note of moral fiber and that He is just as likely to "choose" a Jeffrey Dahmer, Pol Pot or Osama bin Laden as He is to choose a morally upright or at least conscientious person is a notion that's dear to Protestant revivalism, but is hardly Biblical. Really bad people don't care that they're bad.

Nathan: There was also the belief that if all Jews would keep the Sabbath perfectly for one day the Messiah would come.

Adomnan: Well, I suppose that made more sense to them than thinking the advent of the Messiah would be a shot in the dark. How is it different from people who believe that God will bless America if Americans clean up their act?

With those remarks, it seems to me I've responded to all your major points, Nathan, and so I bring this series of comments to an end.

Adomnan said...

In my last posting, the following was perhaps an overstatement: "This may be the only place in the New Testament where self-righteousness is criticized, as well it should be." Jesus frequently criticizes the self-congratulory attitude and arrogance of the scribes and Pharisees. However, His point is generally that they are hypocrites, that is, that they boast of a righteousness that they lack in fact: They are "whited sepulchers."

In the parable at hand, it's self-righteousness itself that is skewered, not hypocrisy (although Jesus may also be implying that the Pharisee's boast is in fact a lie).

Adomnan said...

When I wrote my first post responding to Nathan's latest series of comments, I stated that I like "textual criticism." Actually, I should have said that I like exegesis or critical interpretation of texts (Biblical or other). "Textual criticism" refers to the study of the identification and removal of transcription errors in manuscript texts. That I leave to the specialists.

Adomnan said...

Having given it some thought, I have a further observation about Nathan's suggestion that Luke's awareness of the problem of self-righteousness (Luke 18: the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector) could imply that Paul shared a similar concern about the Judaizers.

Fortunately, we don't need to speculate about this. Luke described Paul's controversy with the Judaizers in Acts. If Paul believed his opponents were fostering self-justification, then Luke would have mentioned it.

However, Luke mentions only the question of whether Gentile converts to Christ needed to become Jews, the same question his mentor Paul deals with in Galatians and Romans. Luke records of the Council of Jerusalem: "Some from the party of the Pharisees, however, who had become believers, stood up and demanded, 'One must circumcise them (i.e., Gentile converts) and order them to observe the law of Moses.'"

Nor are charges of self-righteousness made against the Judaizers elsewhere in Acts.

Therefore, Acts shows that self-justification did not enter into Paul's dispute with the Judaizers. Luke 18 corroborates this. Luke's preface to the parable demonstrates his concern about self-righteousness in general; and yet Luke did not see it playing any role in the controversy. That can only be because it didn't, it seems to me.

Nathan Rinne said...

Adomnan,

Just so you know, I plan on getting to all of this, but it may be a couple months... : )

You are tenacious, and let me say that I appreciate your efforts to help me see what you see (at least, I assume you are doing this - I have not had time to read all your posts yet -not even a tenth of them really...).

Thanks again for the conversation. It has been challenging and I hope will benefit you, me, and others....

+Nathan

Dave Armstrong said...

Don't read too closely, Nathan; you may end up papist. :-) Can't be too careful what you read! Teasing . . .

Nathan Rinne said...

David,

Don't you mean a conservative Anglican? Just kidding Adomnan....

+Nathan

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Just so you know, I plan on getting to all of this, but it may be a couple months... : )

Adomnan: Take your time, Nathan. If you plan it right I might be out of town for a while when you reply, and you may get the last word. (Don't count on it, though!)

Nathan: I appreciate your efforts to help me see what you see.

Adomnan: That's all I'm trying to do. I appreciate your raising every possible objection to my perspective.

Nathan: Don't you mean a conservative Anglican? Just kidding Adomnan....

Adomnan: Either I sign you up right away or you join an Anglican parish that crosses the Tiber. One way or another, I get a toaster.

Nathan Rinne said...

Just want you to know I'm thinking about how I need to get to this sometime (and want to, but alas...)

+Nathan

Nathan Rinne said...

Adomnan,

I am getting close to a reply - it might be another week or so.

In the meantime, I put together something I'd like to post on my blog, but I thought I'd get your "OK" first.

Let me know if you are cool with it.

Here it is:

I like debating with people who have very different views than mine. For several months now, I have been debating with a “New Perspective” Roman Catholic going by the name Adomnan at Dave Armstrong’s blog here.

We seem to be at opposite poles. Here is one of the things he said to me during our debate:

Both Augustine and Luther were attempting to interpret Paul. Augustine was correct (contra the Pelagians) in teaching that, for Paul, Christian righteousness is a gift, because it is a new and higher life, a sharing in the nature of God. He was wrong about using Paul's polemic against the Law and works of the Law as an argument against the Pelagians. Luther's take is basically a misinterpretation/exaggeration of Augustine with certain important innovations, too far removed from the real Paul in context to have anything to do with the Apostle's authentic teachings. Luther was possible only because of Augustine. His thought never would have grown directly out of Paul. That's why nothing resembling Lutheranism ever grew in Eastern Orthodox soil, which has Paul but no Augustine. (His name is known, but his teachings largely ignored.)

Here, I think, is our debate in a nutshell:

Adomnan says that the “Judaizers believed that adhering to the Jewish religion was necessary to attain and retain the grace of God. The works of the Law were the rites, especially circumcision, that made one Jewish, circumcision being the initiatory sacrament of Judaism, as baptism is for Christians. Paul did not think Gentiles needed to become Jews, which is why he focused on the Law (Jewish religion) and the works of the Law (Jewish sacraments) as something to be avoided. On the other hand, he saw value in what he called the dikaiomata or righteous requirements of the Law, interpreted by Christ, as positive ideals embodying love (the "law of Christ"). That's why Paul could write that love fulfilled the Law.


Thus, Paul had an ambiguous attitude to the Law (the Jewish religion). He admired its ideals, which he saw fulfilled in Christianity, but he rejected it as a way of life, at least for Gentiles. Essentially, it was part of the old world, now superseded by the new age that the Resurrection ushered in….”

My position is the following: The Judaizers missed that circumcision, which pointed to Christ and faith, was a shadow that had fallen away now that the reality had come. Why did they miss this? Because circumcision to them was not something that God had given them to point to Christ, but was a work that they did in order to attain and retain the grace of God. In other words, the Judaizers, probably inadvertently, were trying to be justified not by God’s grace in Christ but by the actions/doings they performed, and therefore, Paul tells them that if they want to be justified that way they must keep the whole law Law – all rites, precepts, commands, etc. (particularly Sinai – see Exodus 19-24 and Hebrews 12:18-24)” – “doing”!

Here is how Adomnan responds to my position:

...

Nathan Rinne said...

...


You are setting up a dichotomy that is foreign to Paul's thought. I have pointed out that "hearing of faith" is less passive than you suggest, because it's a way of saying what Paul also calls the "obedience of faith." The "works of the Law" that are set against this hearing/obedience are Jewish rites, circumcision first and foremost -- not "doing" in general or even "doing the Law" in particular. After all, Paul says in Rom 2 that "doers of the Law" will in fact be justified: one of the few -- the only? -- places where doing (poiein) and the Law are joined.

Thus, for Paul:


1) "doing works/works of the Law" = doing Jewish rites, particularly circumcision.


2) "doing the Law" = doing the dikaiomata/righteous requirements of the Law."


This is why Paul says one can be justified by doing the Law, but not by doing the works of the Law.


I'm not saying that Paul pushed doing over receiving. I am saying that this tension between activity and passivity that you see in Paul is not there at all. It never enters Paul's mind. "You don't need to practice Judaism" is not the same thing as "You don't need to do anything." (end of Adomnan’s quote)

I had said of the unbeliever: "They (think they) *deserve* God’s mercy because their good outweighs their bad, or because their good combined with their 'sincere repentance' outweighs their bad."


And he responded: My point was that Paul says as forcibly as one could wish that perseverance in doing good leads to eternal life and that "doers of the Law" are justified. This is not hypothetical. This is Paul's fundamental conviction and what he sees as the real situation. Thus, he would agree wholeheartedly with people who believed their repentance and good deeds gained them eternal life: He said as much himself. And nothing he writes about setting aside Judaism as a religion with its rites derogates in the least from this rock-solid principle: "He will pay everyone as their deeds deserve. For those who aimed for glory and honor and immortality by persevering in doing good, there will be eternal life." (Romans 2:7-8)


For Paul, it is "faith working in love" that justifies.


It's true that the image of the scales of justice is not frequent in the Bible. However, neither is it utterly absent as a metaphor for judging righteousness: "Let me be weighed in an even balance that God may know my integrity.” (Job 31:6) (end of Adomnan’s quote)

Again, this has been a very interesting discussion. You can see that for Adomnan, we are very much justified by our works. This is not the way the Protestant New Perspective persons would really want to put it, but Adomnan, being Roman Catholic, has no such hesitations.

On the other hand, we talk about how “no one is righteous – no not one”, and how the Righteous One and all He has becomes ours by grace through faith. That is, hearing the Word and believing it as would a child.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: In the meantime, I put together something I'd like to post on my blog, but I thought I'd get your "OK" first.

Let me know if you are cool with it.

Adomnan: I don't mind your copying our dialogue or parts of it onto your blog. However, I will probably only participate in further discussion here on Dave's blog.

I am also cool with your posting on your own blog the few additional remarks you have just posted here, although I disagree with them.

In fact, I'll go ahead and comment on them.

Dave Armstrong said...

The debate continues! It's been one full of "meat" and substance. Great effort on both sides. Of course, I think Adomnan is right in all this, but Nathan has done as good as anyone can in defending an erroneous view.:-)

How's that for an underhanded compliment? LOL

Dave Armstrong said...

Adomnan:

In my research for my quotes book of John Wesley, I noticed that he made a point that I believe you have made in the past: maybe in this very thread:

***

We do not find it expressly affirmed in Scripture, that God imputes the righteousness of Christ to any. Although we do find, that faith is imputed to us for righteousness.

(Methodist Conference, June 25, 1744)

. . . frequent mention is made in Scripture, of "faith counted for righteousness." So Gen. xv. 6: "He (Abraham) believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness:" a text repeated, with but little variation, over and over in the New Testament. Rom. iv. 5: "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him who justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Thus it was that "Noah became heir of the righteousness," the justification, "which is by faith." Heb. xi. 7. Thus also "the Gentiles," when the Jews fell short," attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith." Rom. ix. 30. But that expression, The Righteousness of Christ, does not occur in any of these texts. . . . We are all agreed as to the meaning, but not as to the expression, the imputing the righteousness of Christ, which I still say, I dare not insist upon, neither require any one to use; because I cannot find it in the Bible. If any one can, he has better eyes than I: and I wish he would show me where it is. Now, if by the righteousness of Christ we mean any thing which the Scripture does not mean, it is certain we put darkness for light. If we mean the same which the Scripture means by different expressions, why do we prefer this expression to the scriptural? Is not this correcting the wisdom of the Holy Ghost, and opposing our own to the perfect knowledge of God? I am myself the more sparing in the use of it; because it has been so frequently and so dreadfully abused: and because the Antinomians use it at this day to justify the grossest abominations. And it is great pity those who love, who preach, and follow after holiness, should, under the notion of honouring Christ, give any countenance to those who continually make him the Minister of sin, and so build on his righteousness, as to live in such ungodliness and unrighteousness as is scarcely named even among the heathens.

(Thoughts on the Imputed Righteousness of Christ, 5 April 1762)

Dave Armstrong said...

. . . I continually affirm: to them that believe, faith is imputed for righteousness. And I do not contradict this, in still denying that phrase, the imputed righteousness of Christ, to be in the Bible . . . the doctrine which I believe has done immense hurt, is that of the imputed righteousness of Christ in the Antinomian sense. The doctrine which I have constantly held and preached is, that faith is imputed for righteousness.

(Some Remarks on Mr. Hill’s Farrago Double-Distilled, 14 March 1773)

Adomnan said...

Nathan: My position is the following: The Judaizers missed that circumcision, which pointed to Christ and faith, was a shadow that had fallen away now that the reality had come.

Adomnan: I don't see how circumcision "points to Christ." It is an initiation into the Jewish Law. It is true that Paul sees the Jewish Law as leading to Christ in some sense. He compares it to a pedagogue (someone who accompanies a child to school). Elsewhere, Paul is more dismissive of the Law, regarding it as an aspect of the old order that had been superseded. (Paul can entertain a variety of perspectives without contradicting himself.)

However, while adherence to the Law may lead Jews -- and only Jews, not Gentiles! -- to Christ, Paul does not say that of circumcision itself. Rather, he writes that Christian justification is quite "apart from works of the Law."

Moreover, you write that circumcision is now a shadow that "has fallen away." In fact, though, Paul had no problem with ethnic Jews continuing to practice circumcision as is shown in Acts 16:1-3): "(Paul} arrived at Derbe and at Lystra, where there was a diciple named Timothy, the son of a believing Jewish woman and a Greek father. The brothers in Lystra and Iconium spoke highly of him, and Paul wanted him to come along with him on the journey. So he took him and had him circumcised because of the Jews of those regions, for they all knew that his father was Greek."

In this case, given that Timothy was ethnically Jewish, Paul had no objection to his circumcision -- and even arranged it. Thus, in Paul's view, circumcision and the Jewish Law had not necessarily "fallen away" -- if you were Jewish. And the Law had never applied to Gentiles.

Today there are no orthodox Christians who practice Judaism. Nor should there be. That was not the case in Paul's day.

In your effort to make the data conform to your preconceptions, it seems to me that you ride roughshod over the Biblical facts -- in this case, the fact that Paul did not view circumcision as having fallen away -- for Jews.

Try to develop a perspective that takes account of all the facts.

Nathan: Why did they miss this? Because circumcision to them was not something that God had given them to point to Christ, but was a work that they did in order to attain and retain the grace of God.

Adomnan: No. It was a work they did out of obedience and faith, because they were commanded by God to do it. God had already shown his grace by electing the Jews as His people in the first place. Circumcision was merely a sign of that election, an effective sign or sacrament that initiated them into that "fleshly" covenant. The problem for Paul was that this covenant, the covenant of the Law, was an aspect of the old world, now relativized and put into its place by the Resurrection, which made all things new.

I might add, parenthetically, that circumcision isn't a good example of a self-justifying action in any event. The person circumcised was ordinarily a child eight days old who did nothing, but rather had something done to him. The rite simply doesn't fit into the box you're trying to squeeze it into.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: In other words, the Judaizers, probably inadvertently, were trying to be justified not by God’s grace in Christ but by the actions/doings they performed,

Adomnan: The biggest problem with this theory, Nathan, is that it is completely absent from the New Testament. Paul never says that circumcision doesn't justify because it consists of "actions/doings (that) they performed." He never contrasts doing with being passive. Rather, Paul says the rite doesn't justify in Christ because its purpose is to bring one under the sway of the Jewish Law, while justification is "apart from the works of the (Jewish) Law." The Jewish Law simply has no role to play in justification, at least not for Gentiles.

Nathan: and therefore, Paul tells them that if they want to be justified that way they must keep the whole law Law – all rites, precepts, commands, etc. (particularly Sinai – see Exodus 19-24 and Hebrews 12:18-24)” – “doing”!

Adomnnan: Paul doesn't tell ethnic Jews that they must keep the whole Law. They already know that -- if they are to remain Jewish. He tells the Gentile Galatians that they must keep the whole Law once they are circumcised. In other words, circumcision alone won't be enough. The Law has many other provisions: sacrifices and other rites, food restrictions and hundreds of other taboos. All of these things must be kept.

When he speaks here of keeping the whole Law, Paul has these rites and taboos in mind. He is not referring to the moral precepts of the Law. If he were, Paul would be saying to the Galatians, in effect: "If you become Jewish, then you will have to adhere to moral precepts. However, if you content yourselves with being Christians, then you are free from moral precepts! So be Christians rather than Jews if you want to avoid accountability for your moral failings."

Of course, this line of analysis is absurd. Paul expected his Christians to follow the "righteous requirements" of the Jewish Law, as renewed and interpreted by Christ. When he threatened them with the burden of having to keep the "whole Law," he had only the onerous rites and taboos in mind.

Nor was Paul saying that Christianity is better than Judaism because, under Judaism, God punishes you for your sins, while, under Christ, you enjoy impunity. First, Paul well knew that repentance and forgiveness were possible under Judaism as well as Christianity. Secondly, Paul would never hold up impunity from sin as a Christian value.

The notion that Paul was concerned about his Christians evading the consequences (punishment) of sin rather than about their ceasing to be sinners is one of the oddest inversions of true Christianity that the Reformation came up with. Yes, with repentance, forgiveness is always possible, but only because one turns away from sin. That was true under Judaism and it's true under Christianity. There is no escape from the punishment of sin other than escape from sin itself -- although this is somewhat beside the point in any discussion of Paul. Paul hardly focused on the issue of "punishment" at all.

Adomnan said...

Thanks for pointing out John Wesley's views on this, Dave. Evidently, John Wesley was an excellent exegete, certainly on this point.

It is very strange that so many Protestants insist on employing a concept ("the imputation of Christ's righteousness") that, as John Wesley knew, is not found in the Bible.

What the Bible says is imputed to us as righteousness is our faith, never "Christ's righteousness." That's just the way it is. And it bears repeating -- as I just did!

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Again, this has been a very interesting discussion. You can see that for Adomnan, we are very much justified by our works.

Adomnan: Yes, we are not justified by "works of the Law;" but I do agree with St. James that we are "justified by works, and not by faith alone."

Nathan: This is not the way the Protestant New Perspective persons would really want to put it,

Adomnan: I imagine that depends on what New Perspectives Protestants we are talking about. Most of the ones I've read agree that final justification will be based on works (i.e., how we lead our lives), according to Paul.

Nathan: but Adomnan, being Roman Catholic, has no such hesitations.

Adomnan: I don't have to go through any gyrations to reconcile Paul's authentic teachings with my faith, because the Catholic Church has preserved the apostolic deposit of faith. In fact, this matter of justification is another example of how the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, always gets it right. But that is what Jesus promised, after all.

Nathan: On the other hand, we talk about how “no one is righteous – no not one”,

Adomnan: The words you cite are a rhetorical exaggeration, the intent of which is to say that the Law has not made Jews righteous, as the Law itself testifies.

As Paul writes, "We know that all the Law says is addressed to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be silenced." So, who is under the Law? Gentiles? No. Jews. The Jewish Law did not succeed in eliminating sin among Jews, and that is why it must be superseded by something better. That something better is the power of the resurrection.

Nathan: and how the Righteous One and all He has becomes ours by grace through faith. That is, hearing the Word and believing it as would a child.

Adomnan: I concur!

That is, I concur as long as by writing "the Righteous One and all He has become ours," you are not trying to smuggle in some unbiblical notion like "the imputed righteousness of Christ."

Generally, when discussing Biblical doctrine, I prefer authentic Biblical language to ambiguous expressions of piety

Oh, and I've always found that children have a well-developed sense of justice. Thus, they would reject the notion that God would ever consider a bad guy righteous or impute a good guy's righteoueness to a bad guy.

Ben said...

Sometimes, in trying to follow these fascinating kinds of discussions, I'm reminded of something Daniel Boone once said. ;)

On a more serious note...

Summed up: Biblical Christianity, true and pure:

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. - James 1:27

Nathan Rinne said...

Hey - you're not supposed to comment again yet!

Seriously, it may be a while. I was not going to put the blog post up for a few days to. : )

+Nathan

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Hey - you're not supposed to comment again yet!

Adomnan: Well, then, you shouldn't have made any comments either! I'm too prone to respond to a conversational gambit.

Actually, when and if you do decide to comment more extensively, I may not reply so quickly. In a few weeks I'll be on the move and either disinclined or unable to spend so much time in front of a screen. Nor will my books be available to consult.

Nathan Rinne said...

Adomnan,

You are funny. I'm glad that you won't be able to comment again for a while, because I will need a break after this. : )

+Nathan

Nathan said...

Adomnan

No toaster. : )

Seriously, thank you…. nothing like being challenged quite a bit. It is always good to have one’s views interrogated, and I thank you for doing so, forcing me to look at these matters more closely.

I know I talk a lot (you thought I talked a lot before? : ) ) – sometimes too much. Still, often I feel I must go into the amount of detail I do – or I will be misunderstood/misinterpreted.

This debate continues to help us get closer and closer to the core issues I think. Sadly, I think it does tend to show how fundamentally divided we really are. It is interesting you describe Paul’s letters as opaque - you seem to think you understand his main points quite well. I’d say they are difficult, but can be readily understood through reflection and study – and read in the light of the whole of the Scriptures the Church unanimously received. Good guides or instructors here obviously help.

First, regarding the matter of “conversion”. You said, “Regardless of any role the Holy Spirit might play, everything depends on the power of your arguments from my point of view”. We view things differently here. From my perspective, I am called to simply be faithful and God’s Holy Spirit might work though me to produce the mind-change in those I speak to. I think much of what God brings us to believe is not, strictly speaking, contrary to reason, but from the perspective of the world, it is indeed foolishness. The idea that a crucified criminal – and this crucified One *alone* – holds the key to eternal life is absurd. Further, the idea that salvation is entirely a gift – full stop – goes against the every natural human impulse or thought.

....

Nathan said...

A: “I know I am right about the matter under discussion precisely because I am objective about it.”

Weird. Not sure how this can be the case because I know I am right. : ) Seriously, I don’t believe any of us could, like God, see things that “objectively”. I believe that we can try to understand things from another’s perspective though.

A: “I try to stay focused. Otherwise, what started out as a discussion of what works of the Law are in Paul's letters can turn into a discussion of, I dunno, the medieval penitential system, say.”

Funny jab. But I actually don’t think that’s so far afield, but is intricately tied up with this whole discussion. I won’t bother going into detail explaining why though. There is already enough that I’d like to cover.

I will push back in the form of questions that I think will either clarify your views for me, or that I think (if I understand you correctly) pose a challenge to the viewpoint you have espoused.

Before that however, let me offer some clarifications, the first couple from your most recent messages (I am not going to get into “imputation” now – see “part 2” here if you want a great Lutheran response to this: http://issuesetc.org/tag/nt-wright/ [near the beginning of the program he discusses imputation in some depth]) Though, I will just say, “He is my Righteousness”.

...

Nathan said...

Circumcision (1)

Adomnan, my views about circumcision have changed a bit as a result of this debate. Circumcision may have become an initiation into the Law revealed to the Jews (all the commands to “do” in general, and Sinai in particular), and thereby become associated with it, but this was not its original intention. It was really supposed to be a sign of the righteousness of faith (Romans 4:11) –which trusted in the Promise – this is why it points to Christ (as a shadow pointing to the reality – also, the Law (whole Law) was, as you say, a pedagogue meant to lead to Christ)

I did a bit more research on this topic, and here is what I found from our old and venerable teachers (from this paper: http://www.wlsessays.net/files/KretzmannCircumcision.pdf):

In his Examen Concilii Tridentini, Pars Secunda, De Sacramentis, Sectio II p. 236 ff Chemnitz presents in detail a comparison between the Old and New Testament sacraments. For the sake of brevity, we will quote only the following short excerpts: "The institution and use of the sacraments did not begin in the time of the New Testament; ***but the fathers in Old Testament times, even before the giving of the Law, had certain signs or sacraments of their own, divinely instituted for this use, which were seals of the righteousness of faith.*** (Romans 4.) When the doctrine of the opus operatum was fabricated, they (the scholastics) invented this distinction between the sacraments of each Testament, that through the former (Old Testament sacraments) grace was only signified, but not shown and conferred, even to those who received them in the proper way (rite); while through the latter (New Testament sacraments) grace is truly shown and conferred, even if there be no good interior motive in the recipient. Now this view directly point blank opposes Paul, who in Romans 4 expressly teaches and affirms that Circumcision did not justify Abraham ex opere operato, or through a kind of merit; but that it was a seal or assurance of the righteousness of faith, which has this property that it is the blessedness of that man to whom as to one who believes, not one who works, God according to His grace imputes righteousness without works, Romans 4." Gerhard, in his Loci Theologici, p. 175-208, also goes into this matter very thoroughly, reaching the same general conclusions.”

...

Nathan said...

Elsewhere, the author says this:

“Circumcision…concerned itself outwardly with the propagation of offspring. It was through the production of a seed blessing that the gracious covenant of God for man's salvation, at least in its preparatory form, was to be realized and attain its fulfillment. In this connection the remark of Clandish in the Homiletic Commentary, p. 358, is truly meaningful and significant: "Abraham is circumcised on the eve of his becoming the father of the Messiah - when the Holy Seed is to spring from him; and all the faithful are to be circumcised till the Holy Seed come."

This is one reason why the introductory seal of the covenant is superceded and another sacrament has been ordained in its place...”

I understand that you are saying that circumcision is a “work of the Law", which is like a Jewish sacrament, or means of grace (I don’t remember if you would say all of the ceremonial rites/acts were this). From my position, in the context of his fight against the Judaizers, Paul sets all “doing” or human action that is associated with the Law vs “hearing the message”, with the focus on the *message* that creates faith (the “obedience from faith” logically comes later). For example, before Romans 10:17, which asserts just this, he says, “the righteousness based on faith says… ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim)” after saying “Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.”! (the current sacraments are basically the Word in liquid and edible form, which are directly poured over/into us by the messenger of the Word,). The dichotomy set up here exactly parallels the passages in Galatians 3:10-14 we have been discussing – in any case, whatever circumcision really was, it most certainly *was* a shadow that had fallen away and had been displaced/fulfilled. It was totally contrary to the Gospel to put any reliance on the performance of the act of circumcision now that the Reality had come.

...

Nathan said...

By the way, this focus on the supreme importance of the message changing those who simply listen should not surprise us. This was the whole point of why God gave the Sabbath. We also think of Mary and Martha (more on this in a later clarification). If there is a “good work” that saves the pagan, it would be this: simply putting oneself in the path of the train that is God’s Word that it, living and active, may have its way with us, putting us to death and raising us to life (of course, that will not be the reason an unbeliever gives for wanting to listen to it in the first place – they think they are going to listen, evaluate, and decide for or against…)

The Acts 16:1-3 passage is readily explainable (you should have asked for my view on it!) Adomnan, I humbly submit that it is not I, but you, who have real difficulty addressing the entire breviary of facts found in the Apostolic deposit! The whole point of this passage is that Paul is not out to cause offense – and will do everything he can to avoid it (only the cross should offend). Although the shadow had fallen away, persons could still perform the ritual act so long as they did not insist that it was necessary for salvation. This is the whole point of the Acts council. On the other hand, had the Jews of those regions had the chance to do a pre-emptive strike, saying “there is no salvation apart from circumcision”, you can bet that Paul would have refused to have Timothy circumcised. This is not a new teaching for us – this is exactly what the Lutheran Reformers have been teaching since at least the 1580 Book of Concord, where this is pointed out.

Adomnan, of the Judaizer’s view of circumcision, you say “It was a work they did out of obedience and faith, because they were commanded by God to do it. God had already shown his grace by electing the Jews as His people in the first place. Circumcision was merely a sign of that election, an effective sign or sacrament that initiated them into that ‘fleshly’ covenant.” I pretty much agree with this statement here (though for babies, it was basically all reception). On the other hand, Paul says in Ephesians that the Gentile Christians there are called the “uncircumcision” “by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands”. I think you can see Paul’s denigration of “the circumcision” – so-called, really – as well. Their view and use of circumcision is *not* the one you describe above, but an aberration of the proper use. Their purposes were not the right purposes.

...

Nathan said...

You say: “I might add, parenthetically, that circumcision isn't a good example of a self-justifying action in any event. The person circumcised was ordinarily a child eight days old who did nothing, but rather had something done to him. The rite simply doesn't fit into the box you're trying to squeeze it into.”

Well, you are precisely correct –this simply relates to my main point. The Judaizers are insisting on making this a work which was necessary for salvation for the new Gentile converts – when it is supposed to be the clearest example of something that was a sign of the righteousness of faith in the Promise, received like a child.

All this said, thank you for pointing out that Paul doesn’t tell the Judaizers (you say “the ethnic Jews”) that they must keep the whole Law. He tells that to the Gentiles in the Galatian congregation, (i.e. “if you want to be circumcised, you must keep the whole law”). That said, you say the Judaizers already know they must keep the whole Law to remain Jewish. On the contrary, we insist that to remain in the true family of God, one believes in the Gospel. From God’s perspective, one must not remain Jewish theologically, and whether or not one wants to keep doing the rites (for reasons of comfort, perhaps) without insisting that others must do so to be saved, is neither here nor there.

You then say “When he speaks here of keeping the whole Law, Paul has these rites and taboos in mind”, which brings me to my next clarification.

...

Nathan said...

Antinomianism (2)

Adomnan, you say, that when Paul speaks of keeping the whole Law, “he is not referring to the moral precepts of the Law. If he were, Paul would be saying to the Galatians, in effect: ‘If you become Jewish, then you will have to adhere to moral precepts. However, if you content yourselves with being Christians, then you are free from moral precepts! So be Christians rather than Jews if you want to avoid accountability for your moral failings.’”

Not sure what to say to this! I am so surprised to see you argue this way. You go on to say:


“Of course, this line of analysis is absurd. Paul expected his Christians to follow the ‘righteous requirements’ of the Jewish Law, as renewed and interpreted by Christ. When he threatened them with the burden of having to keep the ‘whole Law,’ he had only the onerous rites and taboos in mind.


Nor was Paul saying that Christianity is better than Judaism because, under Judaism, God punishes you for your sins, while, under Christ, you enjoy impunity. First, Paul well knew that repentance and forgiveness were possible under Judaism as well as Christianity. Secondly, Paul would never hold up impunity from sin as a Christian value.”

First, whoever made the claim that Paul did not think repentance and forgiveness were not possible under [true] Judaism (prior to Christ)? Second, whoever said that Paul held up impunity from sin as a Christian value? It is statements like these that make me wonder if we are even having a conversation here! : )

Then you say: “The notion that Paul was concerned about his Christians evading the consequences (punishment) of sin rather than about their ceasing to be sinners is one of the oddest inversions of true Christianity that the Reformation came up with…..”

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Nathan said...

Adomnan, please understand, from my perspective it is not only persons like Luther, but persons like Paul, who would say things like “why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying” or “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” or “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?”

Why, in fact, Paul said just these things on three separate occasions in the book of Romans! From my perspective, he simply anticipates your most recent flurry of comments – in response to the grace that is truly, truly, amazing (and almost unbelievable!). What in the world is he responding to from your perspective? What do you – as a New Perspective Roman Catholic – think about these statements of Paul?

“Yes, with repentance, forgiveness is always possible, but only because one turns away from sin. That was true under Judaism and it's true under Christianity. There is no escape from the punishment of sin other than escape from sin itself.”

Of course! Who ever said otherwise?

Is it not clear what is happening here? In the words I just quoted above, Paul does not give the impression that grace is as amazing and shocking as it is because God has extended His favor and eagerness to eternally award “our” faith to those Gentile sinners outside the covenant (not having the status the Jews have), but because He, as no respecter of persons, elects sinners (even very fearful ones!) in general through the preacher (Rom. 10:17) apart from the Law – apart from their deeds, doings, actions, according to it (whether revealed or just known in the conscience)! We cannot at once be meriting what we are to be inheriting, otherwise grace would no longer be grace! Again, although I acknowledge that Paul’s focus is not on Jewish self-righteousness (but rather the fact that no one can be justified by Law/works/works of the Law – I suggest he, in Christian love, tries to “cover” or deal sensitively with the general problem of self-righteousness among the mostly ethnic Jews, to the degree that it is a problem that causes them to stumble), what, in all honesty, could be more offensive to these “good” Jews who had worked so much harder than the Gentiles in order to gain their reward? (many who most very likely considered themselves chosen in the first place because of their moral superiority – in fact, again, there are clear echoes of this all throughout their writings of the time, as Andrew Das has shown)

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Nathan said...

God paying wages (3)

Adomnan, I meant that Romans 4:4, where it talks about wages, is never talking about *positive* wages. There are wages for doing all the commandments (Romans 10), particularly doing those of Sinai (with the focus on the big Ten), I suppose, but those would be only the “wages of sin”, paid *by sin* as you say. The tablets of Sinai (Exodus 19-24) are all about what God gave His people to *do* and what they told God they would *do* (Ex. 24:7). They can’t. Spiritual death and physical death are all that can result from man’s efforts to please God by *doing* the Law – for apart from the means that God has provided for His ongoing forgiveness, renewal, and strengthening (i.e. Christ, and before that the sacrificial system that pointed directly to the Christ – which was also bolstered by the “shadows” or rites we have been speaking of) we are completely and totally lost and without life. I appreciate the time you took to better explain to me the Roman Catholic interpretation of the landowner, but still think that you are trying to make the parable say more than it does. I do not believe the point of the parable is that God pays wages, but that God turns our conceptions of what is fair and just upside down (while you would probably say the parable communicates both). I also do not think that God literally turns all the furniture of the world upside down to find us, the lost coins. He knows exactly where we are. Both parables are simply meant to convey God’s great love and mercy for all persons, in spite of their great ungodliness and wickedness. That would be me and you, damnable lot we are (see the beginning of this post)

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Nathan said...

Deserving mercy (4)

I had said of the Judaizers that …"They (think they) *deserve* God’s mercy because their good outweighs their bad, or because their good combined with their 'sincere repentance' outweighs their bad”.

You replied: “My point was that Paul says as forcibly as one could wish that perseverance in doing good leads to eternal life and that "doers of the Law" are justified. This is not hypothetical. This is Paul's fundamental conviction and what he sees as the real situation. Thus, he would agree wholeheartedly with people who believed their repentance and good deeds gained them eternal life: He said as much himself. And nothing he writes about setting aside Judaism as a religion with its rites derogates in the least from this rock-solid principle: "He will pay everyone as their deeds deserve. For those who aimed for glory and honor and immortality by persevering in doing good, there will be eternal life." (Romans 2:7-8)

For Paul, it is "faith working in love" that justifies.


It's true that the image of the scales of justice is not frequent in the Bible. However, neither is it utterly absent as a metaphor for judging righteousness: "Let me be weighed in an even balance that God may know my integrity.' (Job 31:6)” (end your quote)

It is important not to look at this Romans passage in isolation, but to examine Paul’s purpose for this whole chapter. Paul here is talking to persons of Jewish background who believe, or are tempted to believe, that they have the kingdom simply because of they are Jewish (i.e. John’s “by blood”) or a part of the chosen community (whose ancestors were so morally superior than their fellow man, and hence were “elected” and given all the privileges by God, they likely thought). To counter this, Paul here is simply making clear that the true Jew is the one who is not one “outwardly”, but “in the secret” – and this would include even non-Jews who aren’t even proselytes (who, by the way, it seems recognize the same Law the Jew has via their conscience)! These pious pagans – perhaps like Melchizedek (and Cornelius!) for example - are the ones who are truly circumcised, that is, “in the heart”. In other words, these are the ones with true faith – the ones who would readily recognize Christ and all He brings. As such, Paul is simply illustrating the principle that “by your fruits you shall know them”. Again, God knows His people by faith, but we can only begin to get an idea about those who are truly His by what they do – which is why there is a judgment according to our works. Even more – strictly speaking, there is only One who is holy and good and who perfectly does what Paul is talking about here in Romans 2:7-8, and that is Christ, who did everything according to the Father’s will in thought, word, and deed, for the sake of the lost. Ultimate reality is an ontology of harmony for eternity, and Christ has restored that blessing of knowing God to mankind by His perfect work. *Strictly speaking*, before God, no one but Him fulfills Romans 2:7-8, as Paul will go on to make abundantly clear in Romans 3 (not just a bunch of rhetoric for effect, because Rom. 3:19-21 makes Paul’s purpose for the shocking catalog of misdeeds clear) – even if there certainly will be a justification by works before men in God’s presence (see next).

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Nathan said...

Justification by works before men (5)

I had said “It is true that at the final judgment, man’s desire to see man justified by his works (James), or “proper religious piety” will be vindicated.


You replied: “ I don't see how this sentence makes sense from your perspective, frankly. If men are not in fact justified by works, as you maintain they aren't, then why should God vindicate man's mistaken and impious desire to see men justified in this way?”

Part of my answer to this is already above (i.e. the Romans passage), but I’ll say more. It’s not an impious desire. It makes sense that we justify people by their works because the pure love that God pours into our hearts is a good thing and something to be recognized, encouraged and shared. Therefore God gives us an imperfect way of figuring out who are His (so we can encourage these persons to increase in this fruit –there, think about Paul talking about how he is *persuaded* that the faith lives in Timothy). Further, those God loves and those who love Him end up together, and this is as it should be - as even natural reason would suggest - it is good that the father and his children, that the husband and his wife end up together forever (i.e. *this* is something even the darkened and prideful heart can begin to rightly understand, grasp, and appreciate). More: it is good that those who, generally speaking, defend and show mercy towards God’s children over and against their enemies be vindicated. It is good that the secret things – those things “hidden in Christ” – should be revealed on the Last Day. At the same time, human beings, infected by sin, constantly fail to appropriately express, represent, and share this love in all its richness, often, for example, associating earthly blessings with God’s favor, etc., etc. – i.e. the “theology of glory” (when the “theology of glory” gets its hands on the final judgment and starts talking about the details about how things will or should pan out, all kinds of error can only result). Only God can ultimately reveal right judgment, as He does, for example, in Luke 7 with the sinful woman (whose love is the evidence that she had faith in Him, in spite of the false judgment of the Pharisees). Finally, and most importantly, the greatest aspect of His love is His mercy towards all mankind, including those who would trust Him and His goodness not out of love, but out of fear – the only ones who ultimately deserve damnation are those who will not even begin to trust Him out of fear. ***Here, we stumble mightily, stupidly babbling on about our love when we should be speaking of His, and this is why His judgment – and His justification of the ungodly – must trump all.*** After all, mercy triumphs over judgment. Which brings me to clarification #6.

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Nathan said...

Justification of the ungodly (6)

I had said: “There is no doubt that everyone who is saved will have the beginnings of God’s love in their heart, but this is not Paul’s point, which is that God justifies the ungodly (as it is used in Romans 4 and 5).” You replied in part by saying: “This is rather akin to doubletalk. If they have "the beginnings of love in their hearts," then these "ungodly" are hardly unloving. Thus, whatever "ungodly" means to you, it doesn't mean unloving. So why do you use the term in this context? How does it prove your point?”

I reply (caps not because yelling – it is because I am copying and pasting from another document where I did it this way so it stuck out):

THIS IS ABOUT INSISTING THAT GOD REALLY JUSTIFIES THE UNGODLY – THOSE WHO HAVE NO “FAITH WORKING BY LOVE” BUT ONLY FEAR OF GOD. UNGODLY DOES MEAN UNLOVING. THEY ONLY HAVE THE “BEGINNINGS OF LOVE IN THEIR HEARTS” *AFTER* THEY ARE JUSTIFIED BY FAITH – WHICH AGAIN, CAN BE A DESPERATE AND GROPING TRUST BORN NOT OF LOVE, BUT OF FEAR. SALVATION FOR THESE MUST BE SAFEGUARDED. GOD EVEN JUSTIFIES THESE UNLOVABLE LOVELESS ONES.

As Luther said, ““The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it” (Martin Luther, “Heidelberg Disputation” Thesis 28). God would even have the “attrite” have the certainty of faith that He gives them, seeing them as fully righteous clothed in Christ’s own righteousness (which certainly begins to permeate them as well). These attrite need not worry whether God finds something worthy in them – He doesn’t. His love comes to us in spite of ourselves.

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Nathan said...

Correction about the views of the Judaizers (7)

I had said: “Again, we maintain that for the Judaizers, circumcision was just the “tip of the iceberg” and shorthand for saying that following all of the Law – rites, precepts, commands, etc (“doing”!) – was necessary to attain and retain the grace of God. This is why Paul focused here.”

I take this back. This was careless on my part – Lutherans can learn a bit from the New Perspective here, and I have, which is why I revise this as I do… I should have said the following instead (which you already refuted: see my further response/questions below): “They missed that circumcision, which pointed to Christ and faith, was a shadow that had fallen away now that the reality had come. Why did they miss this? Because circumcision to them was not something that God had given them to point to Christ, but was a work that they did in order to attain and retain the grace of God. In other words, the Judaizers, probably inadvertently, were trying to be justified not by God’s grace in Christ but by the actions/doings they performed, and therefore, Paul tells them that if they want to be justified that way they must keep the whole law Law – all rites, precepts, commands, etc (particularly Sinai – see Exodus 19-24 and Hebrews 12:18-24)” – “doing”!

The “Secret Key” of the New Perspective (8)

When I mentioned the “Secret key” of the New Perspective, it had to do with learning that both “works of the law” and the “law” were not “of faith” only for the Gentiles (in Gal. 3: 10-14 we see this), but they were for the Jews (since the Jews were “under the Law”) I see though, that this is something that you say you came up with on your own, so I guess we should be hesitant to label this the “Secret Key”, even if I did think “Aha!” when I read it. In any case though, you and other New Perspective folks argue that the Law, in general, and not just the works of the Law was not meant for anyone other than the Jews. This will be talked about more below.

Clarification on old/new man (9)

When I said “Insofar as we have an Old Man/Adam who resists the total transformation in Christ that will dawn on the last day, we still need to be put “under the law”, I should have offered further clarification. The old Adam only needs to be put “under the Law” in order to “bring Him to His senses” so that he might see the futility of his actions apart from faith in Christ (for forgiveness, life and salvation). One might think this goes along with your statement here: “You say that Christians are ‘under the Law,’ while Paul says they have a ‘righteousness revealed altogether apart from law’”. This is not the case though. Here is the ESV: “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it.” Yes! The first law Paul mentions is basically a reference to what Paul calls “Sinai” (i.e. the do’s and do not’s with their conditions, not the Promise fulfilled in Christ – see Gal. 3 and 4 again), not “the Jewish religion” (as if the true religion was just “Sinai”!) – and the second Law is clearly the books of Moses.

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Nathan said...

Clarification of passive/Infant faith (10)

Adomnan, you say the following: “Paul is not contrasting works of the Law with hearing of faith as doing versus being passive. Hearing of faith is active for Paul. The Greek expression (akoe pisteos) is very close to the expression "obedience of faith" (hypakoe pisteos) that Paul uses in Romans.” You quote Dunn: “'The obedience of faith,' then, characterizes faith as not merely receptive but also responsive. If the briefer form, akoe pisteos, signifies 'hearing with faith,' the fuller form, hypakoe pisteos, signifies the response which such hearing inevitably produces…. Paul would not have cherished the image of believer as 'slave' if he had not also embraced its corollary: the slave obeys.” (end your quote). Regarding the importance of the active aspect of faith, this is all well and good…. But do you then deny the passive aspect of faith? Do you believe that saving faith needs to be active, i.e. that we need to be aware of it and our exercising of it? If so, what about very young babies? Regarding the Galatians passage we are discussing first see here. It seems to me you are quite wrong to conflate this Galatians and Romans passage. There is no doubt that God requires faith and commands it. And yet, both repentance and faith are not something that we create – even something that we create only after being drawn by Him and His grace! Note that the very first command in the whole book of Romans appears in v. 6:11: “reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to the sin”. God gives it, God creates it – and this comes by hearing (Rom. 10:17). His Word will accomplish the purpose for which it is sent. The whole book of John testifies to this – if the Son sets us free we shall be free indeed. Here, it seems to me, you need to catch yourself the way Paul catches himself in this same book of Galatians that we have been discussing: “But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God” (Gal. 4:9). Again, faith is not first and foremost about a commitment or decision that we make in response to God’s grace. Faith is first and foremost something that happens to us – and then, as we mature and go on, it is something that we play more and more of an active part in. Billy Graham conversions may be spectacular and exciting, but C.S. Lewis conversions show the deeper truth of how God is working in the world (…as the yeast spreads….) Psalm 22 tells the story:

“…you are he who took me from the womb;
you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
On you was I cast from my birth,
and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” (see here for much, much more: www.extremetheology.com/2006/06/infant_faith_a_.html)

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Nathan said...

This all goes right along with what Jesus said about becoming like a child. This is the Pauline teaching, and before Martin Luther made it especially explicit, actually naming different categories (passive and active faith), several Church Fathers also speak of faith in this way, notably teachers like Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria (see the John commentary especially). I have found that even people who are immersed in decision-theology backgrounds understand this concept. A charismatic Christian in one of my online classes made a very profound statement (echoing her pastor). Speaking of active faith in more detail, I have spoken of this at length above (here are the quotes: …*if* *we continue* in faith. We are connected with Christ in baptism. Everything that is Christ's becomes ours - His good gifts and even those things that in this fallen world hardly seem like gifts, namely, His sufferings. Where He is, we also will be. All of this means faith. In baptism we have everything in embryonic form - this means that we receive all these things passively first of all by faith, and actively by faith, as we are confronted with other models and philosophies that would vie for our true identity - and must decide if we truly want to remain with Him, for where we find ourselves as those who follow Him, it is often hard…. In Galatians 6, we sow and reap either according to our faith (received passively, but also viewed actively, as it is here), or according to the desires of our flesh, or old man. Having been put into Christ in baptism (passive faith), we in turn, in faith, “put on our new man” (that is, actively embrace our identity in Christ, as we run to Him, cling to Him, “catch up to ourselves in Him”), which is Christ, so that we might reap eternal life. Strictly speaking, it is our faith that reaps eternal life, but nevertheless, Paul urges us to continue doing good here as well, because really, if we don’t do good, our faith cannot survive. We will not only not produce the fruit of the Spirit, which is valuable to our neighbor, but our own faith will not be sustained, for faith lives in repentance, and repentance only lives in the contours of the straight paths. To stray from the shepherd’s side is to enter into the realm of doubt-inducing and faith-destroying sin. When we taste of sin and enjoy, we may be tempted to believe that there are things God calls sin that we do not need forgiveness for. Again, in this case, faith cannot survive…. Faith on the other hand, like repentance, is something that first and foremost happens to us, as God grants it. Faith “gets active” to be sure, but first of all it has a passive aspect – hence the “hearing” emphasis (granted, one must be willing to at least listen). ), but see here as well.

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Nathan said...

Genesis 3:28 (11)

“Is God the God of the Jews only?” How do we see this passage, which I will admit, is probably the passage that makes me wonder the most if the New Perspective view might possibly be true. I believe that behind this statement is Paul’s attempt to counter the idea that Gentiles could be proud of becoming Jews by doing the “committing work” of circumcision (a very big deal to take this step!) and those who convinced them to be circumcised could be proud as well (see Gal. 6, where they want to “boast in your flesh” – though Jews were proud of their heritage and ethnicity, even those who were just “externally Jewish” *always* believed that others could and should become Jewish to!) – especially if they were a “righteous proselyte” and not just a “gate proselyte” (see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proselytes ) Overall, again, we might also say that they could all be proud of becoming one with Abraham, whose “treasury of merits” they than partook of (we know that in some of the Jewish rabbinic literature of Paul’s day, Abraham was said to have accumulated so much merit that later Jews could draw on it for themselves). They could thank God they were not like other men as they had found, been offered and accepted access into God’s true community. In other words, their attitude was that “God is the God of the Jews only” (so become one- they really could become “full members” of the Jewish people! – read “History of the Proselyte in Israel” here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proselytes - see also the section “Rules for proselytes in the Torah”) and the Law is God’s first and last word. The definitive Word. In spite of the clarity of the Promise revealed in Jesus, Sinai reasserts its priority, and all the passages from Isaiah and other Old Testament prophets about God actively going to the Gentiles and seeing the Great Light [that would be Jesus, who did spend a good amount of time with Gentiles] that Paul and the Gospel writers speak of may as well have not existed. Therefore, among the binding laws that the Jewish leadership added to the Law (trying to reach the goals of righteousness/salvation their own way – like Abraham was doing with Hagar…[noted in both Galatians and Romans again]) was the notice that Gentiles were not to be allowed in certain parts of the Temple otherwise open to non-priests. Even though Solomon had prayed specifically that it might be a place for Gentiles and their prayers, Gentiles would be killed if they violated this rule of men. Hence Jesus’ outrage. No, from the perspective of the Judaizers, it matters not that the fulfillment of the Law which means full inclusion of the Gentiles has come in Christ and that you should simply receive this truth ….instead “do this [and this and this and this] and you will live!”

But…. if it is not by some “law of works” or “works of the law” at all, but depends on God who justifies the ungodly by sending a preacher who seeks out the lost and *gives faith* by speaking the Gospel, then none of this thinking makes any sense at all. If it was by works Abraham had something to boast about – but not before God! (how do you explain this – why would Paul say that Abraham, as an uncircumcised person [surely the Jews knew that Abraham *became* a Jew at some point, as they wanted all God-fearers to do], had anything to boast about? How do you explain why Paul says what he says in Romans 4:2? Just setting a trap of sorts? Irony, again?)

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Nathan said...

All this said, let me go on to ask my questions. What I did here was attempt to read Galatians and Romans with the New Perspective glasses on, and to try and understand most every passage, and wrote down the questions that I had as I did this (as for any passage in the New Testament, I can explain it to my satisfaction with the Lutheran glasses I currently wear). I realize the result of this might be a bit tedious and difficult for you, but honestly, as I went through your last posts and the book of Galatians, I never imagined I would come up with so many questions.. Further, I will admit that there were times my zeal got a hold of me, and my questions perhaps became a bit more rhetorical (you might think the whole thing sounds rhetorical!) – or I stopped asking questions and started making statements! (still, I tried to limit this). I will start with issues and verses related to Galatians 3:10-14, and branch out in my questioning from there.

1) You say: “None of the verses in Gal 3:10-14 apply to people who are outside the Law, none of whom is subject to the curse of the Law (not being under it) and none of whom is attempting to be justified by the Law.” If Gal. 3:10-14 should be understood as you say it should, for what reason then did Christ redeem those under the law from its curse by becoming a curse for them – so that the Jews, who alone were under the law, would receive the Promised Spirit, and be freed from their boundary markers so that they would reach the Gentiles? Is Paul here, in spite of the absence of the “we” here (as in 2:15, also note the “we” in 4:3 seems to clearly indicate the Gentile Galatians – see 4:6), really only talking about the Jews? Is *that* how the blessing of Abraham “might come to the Gentiles”? But was Christ not “publicly portrayed as crucified” (see 3:1) for the Gentile Galatian Christians as well, or were they not under the curse of the law, and hence, not in need of Christ crucified – at least not in the same way those under the law were? And how can we insist that the “we” here is only talking about the Jews, when at the beginning of chapter 3, he clearly already talks about how the Galatian Gentile Christians, believing in the message of Christ crucified, received the Holy Spirit? Further, in chapter 4, when Paul says “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” are we to assume that he is only talking to any Judaizers in the congregation, or the Gentile Christians as well? Surely the Gentile Christians as well – but then why does Paul say they were “under the law”? By the way, when, in your view, soteriologically speaking, do the Jews cease being “under the law” – or do they continue to be under it in some way?


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Nathan said...

2) If the words in Gal 3:10-14 do not apply to humanity in general, but only subsets of humanity (i.e. Jews who are “under the law”), who is the “we” who were “held captive under the law” in verse 23 of Gal. 3? If Paul is only talking about Jews here, why does he, right after talking about how the law could not give life (in v. 21), go on to talk about how the Scriptures imprisoned *everything* under sin (v. 22) – before going on to clearly draw a parallel with the law in the next verse as the imprisoner and captive-maker of those under it? It is not clear that the Scriptures which contain the Law imprison everything?

3) Regarding “works of the law” and “the law” in Gal. 3:10-14, if Paul meant what you said he does, why would he not have said that those who rely on works of the law would be cursed if they do not do all the works of the law? As regards the works being discussed here, you say Paul does not eventually start going beyond rites (“boundary markers”), and not even the statement "everyone that continues not in all things written….” (3:10) indicates that he does- because the Jews did not “do” negative commandments. Why should we not start thinking about things like honoring one’s parents, and loving the Lord with all one’s heart, soul, strength and mind, loving one’s neighbor as one’s self and other positive commandments – which seems the natural way to think about this passage? (make sure you see the next set of questions before answering this) How do you (or don’t you) see Gal. 5:3,4 going along with this section of Galatians: “every man who accepts circumcision…is obligated to keep the whole law….you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace”? Would you contend that what Paul says in Gal. 5:5 and 6 (which we have different interpretations of) simply makes specifying “works of the law” unnecessary here? It seems clear that he is talking about all of the commands contained in the law, does it not?

4) You say: “I know that the Jewish [law] also contained positive moral commands, such as helping widows and orphans and loving your neighbor. However, Paul would certainly not be telling the Galatians that they should be wary of the Law because it would require to them to continue to love their neighbors to avoid a curse!” Why not? If the main purpose of the Law is, as Paul says in Romans 3:20, to reveal sin (one also thinks of Paul’s comments in Rom. 11:32 here), why should it be so amazing that one of the main things the Law shows us is that we could never even dream of meriting what we are supposed to be inheriting (Gal. 3:18 again)? (i.e., those who would not inherit all God’s blessings by sheer grace and mercy – by embracing the reconciling Reality behind the Shadows – put themselves under a curse). Even as God clearly expects us to grow in love and good works and to not do so can play into losing our faith in Him?


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Nathan said...

5) You write: “’The just shall live from faith.’ The same ‘from faith’ (ek pisteos) is repeated in verse 12 [of Gal. 3] when Paul writes, ‘The Law is not from faith.’ Thus, he is saying, in effect, ‘the just will not live because of the Law, but rather from faith.’ In other words, Paul is telling the Galatians Gentiles that they do not have to follow the Jewish Law to ‘live.’” I wonder if you think that any Christian needs to follow the law of God as Paul talks about it in Romans 7:25 though (evidently the same one that “promised life” but was “death” to him [in v. 10]!) – not necessarily “to live” in a strict sense, but because it still is holy, righteous and good – in line with the “right paths” our Shepherd would have us traverse. And if so, just how is this law different from the law mentioned in Gal 3:10-14 (where Paul, it seems me, is clearly putting “Book of the Law”, “works of the law” and “law” in the same concept group) and Gal. 5:3 (“the whole law” the pro-circumcision group is obligated to keep)? How could this possibly be only rites? Why could this not be the law Paul is eager to uphold in Rom. 7:25 (which seems to connect with Rom. 7:10), or “the Law of Christ”? By the way, I might even agree with Dunn that the law and the promise (faith) are complementary in a sense (see #6 below), but of course they are indeed being “brought into confrontation” with one another as well, as Dunn says (again – you know what kind of confrontation I see this as: “doing” vs “passive/baby faith”)

6) I said: “I say it is because the life of the Spirit, which upholds the moral law, is only produced with the help of the Law”, and you said, “So you're saying that we can only receive the Spirit by adhering to Judaism?” Well, obviously not (as I go on to say the Law: “imprison[s] everything under sin, reveal[s] our sin, and hold[s] the whole world accountable before God”). Again, I see the Law as something that all persons are under – something that we were all held captive by – the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, because the law could not give life (Gal. 3:21-23 ; see also Romans 3 and 7). Obviously, those not having the rites of Judaism could still be “under the Law” in some sense. In the Old Testament, God seems not to have strictly demanded that all persons become Jews in order to be saved (Melchizedek, book of Jonah), but all persons were accountable to his moral demands (more below).


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Nathan said...

7) You say: “If, under the Law, a venial sin entailed damnation, then why would the Law itself prescribe repentance and/or sacrifice as a remedy for sin? Paul knew that, and so did the Judaizers. Paul would never advance the absurd argument that sinning under the Law necessarily involves a curse, when the Law itself provides for sin.” I agree with this, if Law is defined a certain way. In Romans 10, Paul defines the Law as the commands which are to be done. But, Law can also mean the whole of the Old Testament or the Books of Moses in particular, (like when he says “the Law and Prophets”), which obviously contained more than commands, but promises, for example, as well. Therefore, I would like to draw particular attention to the daily sacrifices that were offered for all, which would not be related to the Law as Paul is defining it in Romans 10. In other words, the daily sacrifices, offered on behalf of all, were not related to the Law, but to the Promise. It is very likely that when the sinner of Luke 18 stands in the court of the temple and will not even lift his eyes before God, that he is saying, “Oh Lord, let these sacrifices be for me”. This sacrifice, involving lambs, was performed daily at the temple in Jerusalem, every morning and evening. This lamb was sacrificed for the sins of the people (see Exodus 29:38-42, for example). But when Jesus comes, no sacrifice for sins is left, as the shadows recede. Would you agree that now that Christ has come, there is no sacrifice for sin left? (in other words, if Christ is not seen as the fulfillment of the Law as well as the Reality behind the Shadows that have now fallen away, then you are left with no provision for forgiveness and only the curse remains)

8) You say “Informing someone of what sin is not condemning him” and here we are speaking of semantics. When I say condemn, I mean God judges rightly: he says I am a sinner. So we could use the word judge instead. The dentist judges that you have a cavity – he is not harboring a desire, which is based on the criteria he has set, to cut you off from him forever. We have mirrors in our house to show us our flaws – and this is what the Law does. You go on to say: “But righteousness cannot come from the "dead letter" (a written code), but must come from the Spirit”. I am uneasy about this concept of the “dead letter” – where do you get it? The letter may have been old (Rom 7:6), and may bring death while the Spirit gives life (II Cor. 3:6), but I can’t say that it is “dead”. In fact, I would say that the Spirit uses the “letter” to prepare us for Christ (see John 16 where it talks about the work of the Spirit, who informs us of the truth about what we should see and do but don’t). If a written code of do’s and don’ts – even if they are from God – can only “inform”, and has no power, then how could any written words have power? In fact, I am now thinking a lot about this post (http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2008/04/dead-letter-of-scripture.html) – if this is indeed accurate, that “God’s breathed-out revelation to his creation is dead, ineffectual, unclear, incompetent, insufficient, incomplete with regards to salvation” - we simply can’t go there. We say the written word does have power like the spoken word, even as God’s church is primarily meant to be a “mouth house” as Luther said.

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Nathan said...

9) You say: "By the works of the Law (i.e., adhering to the Law through circumcision and other rites) shall no flesh be justified in his sight, for by the Law is the full knowledge of sin." (Rom 3:20) In other words, the Law… gives those who are aware of it ‘full knowledge’ of what sin is...“ In your view, does the second “Law” here mean the Scriptures or the Jewish religion? (I’m guessing both?) In my view, of course, it means the commands to do in general and Sinai and particular, and this is to be distinguished from the Promise (i.e. Galatians 3 and 4). You say: “They may be sinners, but they are not transgressors, because you can only transgress a revealed law, and Gentiles have no revealed law…. Paul has little or no concept of a natural law or a generic law of the conscience or universal law of right and wrong.” First, I will concede that Paul is talking about believers in Romans 2, but look at his words: “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by ***nature*** do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts…” Would you translate this as “culture”, and if so, how would you justify this translation? In any case, I’m not sure if that matters - what in the world do you do about Romans 1? How can one “hold down the truth in unrighteousness” if they do not, at some level, know the truth? How can Paul say “Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” if they do not know God’s decree? It sounds to me like all of these are at some level aware that they are “under” God and His decrees. Does it not sound like they are ripe for the condemnations of Paul in Romans 3? Does it not seem like here Paul is making the case that God is binding all men over to disobedience through these declarations about their knowledge of right and wrong and their accountability before God (Rom. 11:32)? If not, why not?

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Nathan said...

10) You say: “According to Paul, the Law holds Jews accountable before God, not Gentiles. In fact, Paul writes in Rom 2:12: "For as many as have sinned outside the Law shall also perish outside the Law, and as many as have sinned in the Law shall be judged by the Law." And in Rom 4:15: "Where there is no law, there is no transgression." Therefore, it is evident that for Paul the purpose of the Jewish Law is not to "hold the whole world accountable before God." According to him, Gentiles are not transgressors of the Jewish Law, not having the Law, and are not judged by it.” (end of your quote). Adomnan, if there really is no transgression unless the law is there (Rom. 4:15), as you claim, how do you explain Gal. 3:19, which explicitly says that the law “was added because of transgressions”? (i.e. it not only reveals our sin [theological and primary use], but also curbs sin on the societal level [societal/governmental use]). The first part of Rom. 4:15 says “The law brings wrath”, and only then does Paul say “but where there is no law there is no transgression”. Paul is saying that because the law simply reveals and even increases our sinful desires (which we may nevertheless control outwardly, see Rom. 5:20) – making sin sinful beyond measure (Rom. 7:13) – no one will be saved by the law, works of the law, the law of works, etc. On the other hand, we cannot live without the law either. There needs to be law, or boundaries in the world, whether we are talking the revealed law (given to the Jews) or the law written on men’s hearts by nature. Otherwise, anything would go without this restraint that takes place in men’s consciences (see Gal. 3:19 again). Really, does it not make more sense to say that we, subjectively, are not aware of transgression until the law – either through Scripture or internally, by nature – reveals it to our consciences (see what Paul says in Rom. 7:7!), bringing wrath? (though we also suppress this knowledge!). Is this not what Paul is talking about in Romans 2 as regards the Gentiles he mentions there, since he knows that even they, in spite of their not having the law (it would have been good if they had received it though – because even in the Old Testament God wanted people to believe in Him and uphold their moral decrees – and in many places persons becoming Jews is certainly encouraged) “show that the work of the law is written on their hearts” (Rom. 2:15 – see also the end of Romans 1)?

11) I wonder – what obligation, if any, do the Gentiles have as regards God? Are they not “under” God’s laws in some way - is that not exactly what Romans 1 basically teaches: that people know there is a God and they know what is right and because they do what they know is wrong, violating the Creator’s laws, God’s wrath is coming? How do you look at this? I know you must think that they are accountable in some way – would you say just not in a way that we can call “the law” (which was explicitly given to the Jews and therefore, you contend, only for them), full stop?


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Nathan said...

12) You say: “Show me a passage where Paul says or implies that Gentiles, Christian or otherwise, are ‘under the Law’”. Gal. 4:4-8 (it seems clear the “we” here means the Gentiles, and this already builds off of what Paul said in Gal. 3:22 and 23, which builds on what was said in Gal. 3:1-14, which we already discussed). In any case, I think it is also implied all over the place. First, again notice Rom 2, where it says of Gentiles that “the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness” – I think this clearly ties directly into Rom. 3:19-21 where he clearly talks about *all the world* being “under the law” - where “every mouth” is stopped. I think I am correct to understand that you, on the other hand, would see the Jews only being condemned “under the law” per se (“when the law speaks, it speaks to those under it” – you’d say Paul means just the Jews here) in Romans 3, but say that Paul did condemn the Gentiles earlier (in Romans 2 and 1 also I presume?) – but just not in an “under the law” way. Either way, for both of us, by the time we get to Rom. 3:19-21, every mouth has been silenced in one way or another. I would argue, given what Paul says in Romans 2, that he stopped everyone’s mouths – Jews and Gentiles – by his condemning litany right before verses 19-21. Clearly, as you say, he is at this point trying to single out the Jews at this point, but he does this by saying that all human beings are lost – i.e. “none is righteous”, “no one seeks God”, etc…. It seems to me that for Paul, “under the Law” simply meant that all were under God’s judgment – whether via violations of God’s revealed commands to “do” or the law by nature in their hearts. No one needed to convince the Jews, as you say, that the Gentiles were sinners, but here not that he is lumping in the Jews with them. Now I know you think that the first “Law” in Romans 3:19 means the Scriptures in general (you say: “Paul means that adherence to the Torah, through the rites of Judaism [circumcision, first of all], does not bring righteousness with it, does not justify”…” the Law didn't make them just; or, to put it another way, the works of the Law (Jewish rites) didn't make them just”… ), but I think Paul chose his words carefully here and so am not convinced of this (see Gal. 3:22,23 where he says something similar, and actually uses the Greek Word for Scriptures – but then note how this is tightly coupled with the law in general).

13) You say: “we are not justified because "Christ fulfilled the Law perfectly." If we were, then we would be justified through the Law (i.e., by Christ's fulfillment of it), which both you and I agree is not the case.” If a person did say we were justified because Christ fulfilled the Law perfectly (i.e. He loved His neighbor as Himself, treated them the way they would want to be treated – showing justice, mercy, and faithfulness [the weightier matters of the law]), why would that necessarily mean that we were justified through the Law and not through the One who perfectly fulfilled the law? (when things are put this way, the “law of Christ” and what you call the “Jewish religion/Law” do not seem as far apart as you make them out to be – I submit they are basically the same, minus the shadows/rites/boundary markers that have now fallen away [and some of the evidently more time-sensitive and context-dependent (but always good) laws that even fallen out of use in the days of the Prophets and Jesus’ day])

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Nathan said...

14) Adomnan, why are you so confident of Paul’s “ironic” meaning of asebes in Rom. 4:5 (I must admit that your writing was quite persuasive here initially – with great rhetorical force – and you did indeed jolt me for a few seconds, before I was able to think more critically about what you had asserted…) when you are only aware of one other modern commentator (or so I perhaps wrongly assume from what you wrote earlier) who has felt right translating this “Gentile/non-Jew”? How is this keeping in line with the tradition you hold to? When Jesus taught that “no one was good but God alone” would you contend that this is Him addressing our creatureliness? But if this is the case, what do you do about the fact that when God originally created man in his image, all was “very good”? Did Jesus not call even his disciples “evil”? Did “righteous” Isaiah realize that even he could not stand in God’s Holy Presence without the covering of God’s forgiveness? Is God not the One who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist? (Rom. 4:17) Did not Paul, prior to Romans 4:5, already establish that *all men* were to be made “liars” (Rom. 3:4), that their unrighteousness served to show the righteousness of God (v. 5), that *all* were under sin (v. 9), that no one understood or sought God (v. 10), that all have become worthless and no one does good (v. 12)… etc, etc. Does not the law speak to those who are *under the law* so that *every mouth* may be stopped and the *whole world* may be held accountable to God? Why do you have a problem going on to call Abraham ungodly (in 4:5) after this, even as he clearly calls *all ungodly* in Rom. 5:6, just as he did in Romans 3?

15) You say, “The New Covenant is less "debt-like," however, because the reward for our obedience is much greater than what we deserve in strict justice. Thus, it is more than a wage given "according to what is owed" (Romans 4;4). Rather, the reward is "reckoned of grace" (also Rom 4:4) i.e., is more than what is owed…. After all, a grace is not necessarily something that is totally unmerited. A reward that exceeds what is strictly owed is also a grace.” (end your quote) Regarding the “Covenant of the Law” that you speak of before this, why would or wouldn’t you associate that with “Sinai” in Galatians 3 and 4, as Paul does? Regarding the idea of a “New Covenant”, how does the passage from Hebrews 9:16 (where the Greek word translated Covenant is translated “will”, because of the context – “last will and testament” was the common meaning of the Greek word in that day) fit into your thinking? Is it likely that the Greek Word should be given this translation in other areas as well?


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Nathan said...

16) Adomnan, regarding my “Protestant word games” (Philippians 3), you write: “Paul's point and Jesus's criticism of some of the Pharisees was that one could follow the Law punctiliously (blamelessly) and yet not be loving”. No doubt, you have a point here – I admit that I should not have some readily conflated Paul’s “blameless” line with his zealousness to persecute. What I am struggling to say here is that if Jesus really was not the fulfiller of the Law and the Messiah – and if there were Jews who were confident of this, which there surely were - Paul’s actions could easily be construed as loving (see the imprecatory Psalms, where the Psalmist, curses the enemies of God out of a love and zeal for His truth and the protection of His people). And Paul genuinely believed that he was loving God by doing what he was doing – he therefore loved God according to his [false] understanding. Further, I get the impression that as regards external righteousness, Paul would have been levels higher than the typical Pharisee, and so many of Jesus’ criticisms of the Pharisees in general (i.e. their hypocrisy, their love of money and glory, their lack of concern for those they tied heavy burdens on) would not have “hit” Paul. In other words, Paul was externally the best kind of Jew you could possibly be – while still being “uncircumcised in heart”, to use his language at the end of Romans 2. Don’t you agree? As the Das article I linked to above forcefully shows, “blamelessness” as regards “righteousness under the law” did not merely mean “observing the rites and taboos” for many of the Jews of Jesus’ day – this is clear from looking at the texts. Why should we assume that is what Paul means here?

17) Adomanan, you say: “[in Luke 18] both the Pharisee and the tax collector were Jews, and so the Pharisee is despising other Jews and congratulating himself on his exemplary Judaism…[in Galatians the Judaizer’s “boast" was not they outdid other Jews in righteousness, but simply that they WERE Jewish.” First of all, it seems to me that if they were boasting that they were Jewish, they were very likely congratulating themselves on their exemplary humanity, or moral fiber (before God), since many in that day believed that this is precisely why God chose the Jews (and you say Cornelius was chosen this way to – not because he had a God-fearing *faith*, but because of his good works, or morality – perhaps something related to this?: “Although the account in Genesis 9 explicitly refers only two things on eating flesh meat in a right way [Genesis 9:4] and prohibition of human murder [Genesis 9:5], according to the Talmud, this covenant included the Seven Laws of Noah. Thus, to the B'nei Noah, all living humans as descendants of Noah are subject to the Noahide laws” - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noahidism ). If this is the case, the reason Luke may not have mentioned this in Acts is to help the Judaizers “save face”. Second, speaking of Jews who rejected Jesus in general, as regards their righteousness, Paul says that “Israel… pursued a law that would lead to righteousness”, but did not succeed because “they did not pursue it by faith, but as it were based on works” (Rom. 9). These are the ones who stumble over the Stone, and “ignorant of the righteousness of God”, seek to “establish their own”, not submitting to God’s righteousness (Rom. 10). Still again, as I made clear earlier, I am not insisting that there is any “self-justification through good works” in Paul (though I do believe there is this in Luke 18, as I said, ***and that this perennial human issue can definitely be effectively addressed – if necessary [as it was with Pelagius and Rome in the 16th century] – by looking at the implications of what Paul wrote***) – I’m just saying that for him, there never has been, nor never will be justification by or through the Law (particularly Sinai) – doing the commands – but that it has always been by faith alone, through the Promise, from first to last, first for the Jew and then from the Gentile.

...

Dave Armstrong said...

When it rains, it pours!

Nathan said...

18) When you say that the Law for Paul is what we’d call “Judaism”, “the Jewish religion”, or the “Torah”, would you acknowledge that since “Judaism” rejects Christ as the fulfillment of the Law – the Reality behind the Shadows – it is not compatible with “Christianity”, and that it is not the really being faithful to the true “Jewish religion”, which, if it were true, would acknowledge Christ (and His fulfilling of the Law) as its fulfillment? You later go on to say “Paul did not have a problem with ethnic Jews continuing to adhere to the Law (as long as it didn't conflict with their Christian convictions)” – would it have been OK for the Jewish Christians to continue to believe that *they* were justified in part through their continuing to practice the rites as long as they did not impose it on the Gentile Galatians? (I say it would not, because since justification has always been by faith from first to last, now that the Reality behind the Shadows has come, even any Shadows that we could have conceivably called “means of grace” [like the sacrificial system – the daily sacrifices especially offered for sins for all] have fallen away, for that to which they pointed to has arrived!). Are the Christian sacraments meant to be for the “Judaism” you talk about or not? (I say they most definitely are). Finally, I think all of these questions become even more pressing when you say the following: “[Paul’s] problem with [the Judaizers] is not that they are self-righteous but that they have a mistaken allegiance to the ‘righteousness of the Law.’ Theirs is a theological problem, a heresy, not a moral problem.” It seems to me that there often is some kind of connection between theological and moral problems – don’t you agree? When Paul expresses outrage at the Judaizers and tells the Galatians he wishes they’d castrate themselves – and in letters like Philippians tells these “we-have-our-own-righteousness” (3:9) types “dogs” – does that not have something to do with the fact that they “want to….alienate you from us” (Gal. 4) – this seems to be a moral problem to me, even if it is not one of “individual morality” (as if this exists!)

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Nathan said...

19) Adomnan – I do not deny that everything has changed with the Resurrection (though I say that the creation is still groaning as well!), as you say, but when I talk about you holding to a radical discontinuity (you: “Paul’s polemic against adhering to the Law was in a Jewish milieu, which no longer has any direct bearing on us Christians”) I had meant that you see this between the Old Testament *church/assembly* and the New Testament *church/assembly*. My point is that those who truly believed in the time of the Old Testament church are those who, in general, truly believe in the time of the New Testament church. This is a normal progression that occurs: true Jews become true Christians, a la Cornelius, Nathaniel, Zechariah, Simeon, Anna, etc. Those children of God in the past trusted Christ implicitly and those after the resurrection do so explicitly. Is your view somewhat different? You ask me: “Don't you see any advantage in being baptized into Christ? I thought that Lutherans took baptism seriously, as a dying and rising with Christ, and did not regard this sacrament as merely the New Testament equivalent of the circumcision that initiated one into the Law! No one was ‘born again of the Spirit’ until they were born from the water of Christian baptism” (end of your quote). There is no doubt that we are now fully indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and that this happens during baptism (especially infant baptism, which perfectly shows the passive faith I have been discussing). The new covenant is also different because God’s people now have the firm Apostolic deposit in the Scriptures. This is how we, who test all things, and do not “need anyone to teach us”, remain in the true faith and are guided into all truth. This is how we hear the Shepherd’s voice. The legitimately ordained pastors of the church, even in the highest levels, can indeed error, as good churchmen have known from the beginning. We respect and obey them, but we also “all speak the oracles of God” now.

20) Adomanan, in chapter 4 Paul illustrates that the greatest hero of the Jewish faith, Abraham, actually was justified by faith as well – even before he was circumcised (again, in some of the Jewish rabbinic literature of Paul’s day, Abraham was said to have accumulated so much merit that later Jews could draw on it for themselves). Paul’s argument basically turns the Jewish reasoning on its head: Abraham, when he was called, was basically a Gentile, and was not justified by his works but by faith. When I point out also that many rabbis believed God had chosen Abraham and the Jews in part because of their moral fiber, and you respond as if this is no big deal (we would say Cornelius, by the way, already had faith in God – he simply needed to hear about faith’s fulfillment), it seems to me that you directly contradict what the Old Testament says. In Deuteronomy 7:7-8, God makes it clear that it was His unilateral love/mercy that resulted in Israel being chosen, and not any successful performance as a people. Further, you respond to the belief that many Jews had that “if all Jews would keep the Sabbath perfectly for one day the Messiah would come” (now this is obviously not Scriptural!) by saying “How is it different from people who believe that God will bless America if Americans clean up their act?” The point here is to show how works-based much of Judaism actually was in Paul’s day. How many American Christians would think that if we could, in the words of the Te Deum live this day without sin, that Jesus would reward these *works* by coming back? Maybe some would, but I think a sizable number (esp. the most theologically educated) would recognize that the relationship with God simply does not operate that way – He is His own man, so to speak, and has not promised to do such things.

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Nathan said...

21) Regarding Paul not being clear about what he means by “establishing/upholding” the law in Rom. 3:31, why not consider that Judaizing opponents are concerned that Paul has antinomian tendencies (see Rom. 3:5-8), and that Paul is eager to show that the new life in Christ does not result in the “righteous requirements” (dikaiomata from Romans 2) being left in the dust? Why not also consider Rom. 8:1-4 (after all the explanation in Rom. 7) for the answer to this question of why Paul says he upholds the Law?


22) Regarding Gal. 5:5 which you quote, it is true that we do have the [confident] hope of justification by faith – and that faith, as it blossoms, can’t not “work through love”. Nevertheless, do you deny that we also have justification – i.e. “peace with God” – already (see Rom. 5:1)? N.T. Wright is with me here – I suspect you won’t go here (but if you do, see here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/joan-of-arc-faith-vs-infant-faith-part-1-of-2/ and here: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/04/23/joan-of-arc-faith-vs-infant-faith-part-2-of-2/ ). Regarding I Cor 13:2, is not Paul’s main point in this section that love, and not faith or hope, will continue into the life to come –hence it’s superiority over faith and hope? In any case, Paul says in Romans 12:3 “think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you”. In other words, although each one of us is to strive that our faith may grow as much as possible (but not by focusing on our faith, but by focusing on faith’s Object), it is entirely reasonable to think that perhaps not all believers will be able to do the kinds of things mentioned in Matthew 17:20 and 21:21, and echoed in I Corinthians 13:2 (I still would like to meet one of these folks! – is Jesus perhaps talking about the kind of *trust* in God that we could have were it not for the infection/curse of sin?). So we can make a distinction here between the saving faith that all have and is the indispensable possession of all Christians (which people who don’t “move mountains” clearly possess), and these “measures of faith” that God desires to give to certain ones according to His good pleasure.

23) You also quote Romans 7:6: "we are released from the Law, having died to what was binding us, and as we are in a new service, that of the spirit, and not in the old service of a written code” As Ephesians tells us, there is a sense in which the “law of commandments expressed in ordinances” has indeed been abolished (and with this, the burdensome cultural barriers between Jew and Gentile being done away with – it was never God’s plan that all the world would eventually become Jewish and share in shadows), but this just means the shadows (rites) have fallen away (having come to an end of their purpose). As Paul goes on to discuss in Romans 7 however, the Law (which teaches us things like: “do not covet”) is holy, righteous and good - and we, not it, are the problem. Again, Paul in Rom. 7:25 talks about how not his old man, but his new man is a still a slave to this Law, which I would contend is simply the Law of Christ (i.e. Christ fully revealed in His Person and reveals by His Spirit the correct interpretation of the Old Law). What problems, if any, do you have with this view? I also note (partially for myself here) that though Paul says that he was made “dead” when the commandment came, sin was “made alive” – and he goes on to talk about how this process continues, and he struggles with it (with the controversial “I” passages).

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Nathan said...

In the end, I will close with some of Luther’s comments in the Smalcald Articles that to me, seem particularly appropriate to this discussion. If all of the work I have done rings true, than what Luther says below follows. Here he uses the Scriptures and does a meta-analysis on the heart of man and overturns all his efforts to ascend to heaven or bring God down.

[Part 3] III. Repentence:


This, then, is the thunderbolt by means of which God with one blow destroys both open sinners and false saints. He allows no one to justify himself. He drives all together into terror and despair. This is the hammer of which Jeremiah speaks, “Is not my word like a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29). This is not activa contritio (artificial remorse), but passiva contritio (true sorrow of the heart, suffering, and pain of death).


This is what the beginning of true repentance is like. Here man must hear such a judgment as this: “You are all of no account. Whether you are manifest sinners or saints, you must all become other than you now are and do otherwise than you now do, no matter who you are and no matter how great, wise, mighty, and holy you may think yourselves. Here no one is godly,” etc.


To this office of the law the New Testament immediately adds the consoling promise of grace in the Gospel. This is to be believed, as Christ says in Mark 1:15, “Repent and believe in the Gospel,” which is to say, “Become different, do otherwise, and believe my promise.” John, who preceded Christ, is called a preacher of repentance — but for the remission of sins. That is, John was to accuse them all and convince them that they were sinners in order that they might know how they stood before God and recognize themselves as lost men. In this way they were to be prepared to receive grace from the Lord and to expect and accept from him the forgiveness of sins. Christ himself says this in Luke 24:47, “Repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.”


But where the law exercises its office alone, without the addition of the Gospel, there is only death and hell, and man must despair like Saul and Judas. As St. Paul says, "the law slays through sin." Moreover, the Gospel offers consolation and forgiveness in more ways than one, for with God there is plenteous redemption (as Ps. 130:7 puts it) from the dreadful captivity to sin, and this comes to us through the Word, the sacraments, and the like...

Your court. I may be out of this debate for several months now – if you desire to continue it. Please know I am not even going to check back here for a couple weeks. : )

God’s richest blessings to you [and you to Dave - and anyone else who might actually be reading this : ) ],

Nathan

Nathan said...

Dave,

: )

You at least managed to see the storm while it was happening.

+Nathan

Nathan said...

...and the cherry on top:

http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/endgame-of-the-new-perspective/

+Nathan

Nathan said...

forgot to actually write out some urls:

this link is referenced in the post that clarifies passive/infant faith.

http://www.deepbiblestudy.net/2007/04/galatians-32-akoe-pisteos/

also this one with the quote from my charismatic student: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2010/11/29/thats-how-easy-it-is-to-receive-salvation/

also this one: http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/do-spill-the-pure-milk-of-the-word/ (my post on active faith)

This is the one I mention in the post that clarifies "God paying wages" (3):

http://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/from-despair-to-joy/

Sorry about that. I think that's it.

+Nathan

Adomnan said...

Nathan,

I have been busy with personal issues, and so I haven't had time to respond until now. Even now, though, I will be brief in my response because it is clear to me that you are either intellectually incapable of understanding Paul's meaning or, more likely, refuse to understand it.

And if you cannot or will not understand Paul's theology, then what is the point of debating with you? You will never get to the truth no matter how much we talk.

If you don't get what Paul was saying, we could go back and forth endlessly about your misinterpretations of the Apostle, because the true reading is single and simple, and error is infinite and protean.

The plain truth is this: Any suggestion that Paul was refuting the idea that human beings justify themselves by their own efforts is false, a misinterpretation imposed on Paul's words that doesn't fit them and distorts them into something utterly foreign to his mind. The Lutheran preoccupation with self-justification versus passive justification, or whatever you want call it, is completely, utterly, absolutely absent from Paul's writings and from his perspective.

The plain truth is also this: Paul was only interested in demonstrating that Christians did not have to adhere to the Jewish Law (or Jewish religion, same thing) to be considered righteous by God. That is all that his insistence that one was justified apart from the works of the Law means. It has nothing to do with active righteousness versus passive righteousness or any other red herring that you choose to interject. Paul means one is justified apart from the Jewish religion. He does not mean that one is justified apart from efforts to be virtuous or apart from doing "good" works.

That is why you have to write so much. To "establish" a false interpretation of Paul, one must write volumes, because delusion and sophistry always require reams of disputation. No amount of "this word or phrase may possibly mean that" and "let's assume Paul might have meant this when he said that" can muddy the Apostle's clear intention.

Adomnan said...

Part of your sophistry is to put words in my mouth, to argue against positions you ascribe to me that I have never taken. Then, I'm supposed to waste my time refuting your caricature of what I have said.

Here's an example. You write: "It is interesting you describe Paul’s letters as opaque - you seem to think you understand his main points quite well. I’d say they are difficult, but can be readily understood through reflection and study – and read in the light of the whole of the Scriptures the Church unanimously received."

I see! So I'm now I'm the bad guy who "describes Paul's letters as opaque," while you are the good, reasonable guy who "understands them through reflection and study" and "reads them in the light of the whole of the Scriptures." So I don't reflect or study or read them in the light of the whole, and you do! Well, that explains a lot, doesn't it?

Or what am I to make of this observation of yours: "This debate continues to help us get closer and closer to the core issues I think."

Right. So up until now, I have never bothered to bring up a "core issue." All of my exegesis of Paul is just superficial stuff, I guess, that is utterly beside the point. Only now, after all these useless words, are we beginning to discuss the "core issues." And who knows how much more typing we'll have to do to before the "core issues" are in any way elucidated!

My vision of Hell: Trying for all eternity to draw near the "core issues" in Paul through a never-ending disputation with Nathan. Sartre wrote a play about a similar vision of Hell: It's called "No Exit" in English.

Since you feel free to put words in my mouth, I'll return the favor: Your allusion to "core issues" is simply a way to distort Paul's meaning and impose your own a priori paradigm on him. You are admitting, in effect: "I can't get Lutheranism out of what Paul actually says. But if we set aside trying to understanding what he meant, we can raise 'core issues' that exist in the mind of us Lutherans and are foreign to Paul and superimpose these issues on the Apostle's words. Then, lo and behold, we're no longer talking about exegeting Paul but we're having a pointless bull session on what I feel comfortable discussing, namely Luther's ideas, under the guise of exegeting Paul."

Adomnan said...

Or, let's look at the following exercise in self-complacent pseudo-piety:

Nathan: First, regarding the matter of “conversion”. You said, “Regardless of any role the Holy Spirit might play, everything depends on the power of your arguments from my point of view”. We view things differently here.

Adomnan: Oh, really? In other words, you are saying that you can make bad arguments; but, given that the Holy Spirit is on your side, it doesn't matter that they are bad because the Holy Spirit might use them to convert people anyway. Therefore, the Holy Spirit converts people through bad arguments. That's news to me.

Nathan: From my perspective, I am called to simply be faithful and God’s Holy Spirit might work though me to produce the mind-change in those I speak to.

Adomnan: What moving humility! You are "simply faithful," which I, by implication, am not. And the Holy Spirit uses your simple faithfulness as His tool, "producing the mind-change in those you speak to."

Well, then, since you are a divine instrument, then we must all ultimately accede to your arguments, good, bad or indifferent -- makes no difference. Glad we've cleared that up. Still, it is strange that the Holy Spirit would use bad arguments to advance His cause, don't you think?

Nathan: I think much of what God brings us to believe is not, strictly speaking, contrary to reason, but from the perspective of the world, it is indeed foolishness.

Adomnan: Ah, yes, I see. I have the "perspective of the world" while you possess the magic glasses of the Holy Spirit.

Nathan: The idea that a crucified criminal – and this crucified One *alone* – holds the key to eternal life is absurd.

Adomnan: It seemed absurd in the culture of Paul's day (although Plato had in fact already advanced the idea that a "crucified criminal" could still be the most righteous man -- and wasn't Socrates a condemned criminal?). Now, however, after 2000 years of Christian worship of a crucified "criminal," it doesn't seem so absurd, does it? But don't let that fact get in the way of a tedious platitude.

Nathan: Further, the idea that salvation is entirely a gift – full stop – goes against the every natural human impulse or thought.

Adomnan: No, it doesn't. The ancients generally thought the gods would be propitious to them if they showed them due honor, regardless of their moral standing. I don't see how this is any different from your Lutheran perspective. Of course, some, like the Jews and the Platonists, disagreed.

It's an extremely common human impulse to expect gifts one doesn't deserve, whether correctly or not -- full stop. After all, our very existence is a gift. Did we deserve it?

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Weird. Not sure how this can be the case because I know I am right. : ) Seriously, I don’t believe any of us could, like God, see things that “objectively”. I believe that we can try to understand things from another’s perspective though.

Adomnan: By the objective meaning in Paul, I have in mind the meaning he meant to convey by his words. If you don't think we can get at that, then why are we even having this discussion? You will interpret Paul from your subjective "perspective," and I will interpret him from mine, and neither of us, according to you, will ever know what he meant "objectively."

But, frankly, I am tired to discussing your idiosyncratic take on Paul. I am only interested in knowing what Paul really intended to say. It's a shame we can't stick to that.

Adomnan said...

On this discussion of circumcision from Chemnitz:

"The institution and use of the sacraments did not begin in the time of the New Testament; ***but the fathers in Old Testament times, even before the giving of the Law, had certain signs or sacraments of their own, divinely instituted for this use, which were seals of the righteousness of faith.*** (Romans 4.)"

Adomnan: Well, I agree with Chemnitz on this. The "works of the Law" were, as I have said repeatedly, the rites or sacraments of the Jewish religion. Because the Jewish religion is now superseded and was never necessary for justification, we are justified apart from the works of the Law, that is, apart from the sacraments of Judaism. So Chemnitz supports my view here.

"When the doctrine of the opus operatum was fabricated, they (the scholastics) invented this distinction between the sacraments of each Testament,"

Adomnan: Notice that Chemnitz concedes that the scholastics, as I do, regarded the old testament rites as "sacraments." However, given that the Jewish religion never had the power of Christianity, naturally the sacraments of the Jewish religion were not as efficacious or transformative. This is clearly Paul's view, who regarded circumcision as inferior to Christian baptism because it initiated into an inferior covenant.

So, here I disagree vehemently with Chemnitz. There certainly was a vast distinction between the sacraments of each Testament.

"that through the former (Old Testament sacraments) grace was only signified, but not shown and conferred, even to those who received them in the proper way (rite); while through the latter (New Testament sacraments) grace is truly shown and conferred, even if there be no good interior motive in the recipient."

Adomnan: This is Chemnitz's characterisation of the scholastic teaching, but I have no way of knowing how accurate it is. I would say, rather, that the sacraments of the Old Testaments, the works of the Law, as Paul calls them, were the sacraments of a lesser covenant, and so were less efficacious -- and leave it at that.

"Now this view directly point blank opposes Paul, who in Romans 4 expressly teaches and affirms that Circumcision did not justify Abraham ex opere operato, or through a kind of merit;"

Now Chemnitz is off on a tangent. "Ex opere operato" has nothing to do with "merit." It simply means that that the sacraments themselves confer grace because they were instituted by Christ, flow from his passion, death and resurrection, and have God as their author. This view actually makes the Christian sacraments less dependent on us and our "merit" than does the Lutheran view. Christ is the minister of the sacraments, which is why they "work" from the work itself, which is the work of Christ. The works of the Law are of little value; the works of Christ (the Christian sacraments) of great value.

Nathan, do you really think, as Chemnitz did, that Paul taught that there was no essential distinction between baptism in the death and resurrection of Christ and circumcision, an initiation into the fleshly covenant of the Law?

Adomnan said...

Nathan: I understand that you are saying that circumcision is a “work of the Law", which is like a Jewish sacrament, or means of grace (I don’t remember if you would say all of the ceremonial rites/acts were this).

Adomnan: Yes, they are all sacraments or sacramentals of the Jewish religion. "Works of the Law" should be understood as "sacraments of Judaism." Of course, rite and sacrament are just two words for the same thing in this context.

Nathan: From my position, in the context of his fight against the Judaizers, Paul sets all “doing” or human action that is associated with the Law vs “hearing the message”, with the focus on the *message* that creates faith (the “obedience from faith” logically comes later).

Adomnan: You are simply repeating what you said before without taking into account my (and James Dunn's) point that "hearing with faith" actually means "obedience of faith," and, since obedience is active, there is no contrast in Paul between active and passive in the discussion of righteousness.

The word used for hearing in Greek is "akoe," and here is one definition of akoe from the Liddell-Scott Greek-English Lexicon: IV. obedience, “ἀ. ὑπὲρ θυσίαν ἀγαθή” LXX 1 Ki.15.22. (ἀ. is an abbreviation for akoe.)

Notice that the example given is biblical. The passage from 1 Samuel (1 Samuel is called 1 Kings in the Septuagint) is translated "obedience (akoe) is better than sacrifice." Thus, in a biblical context, akoe can certainly mean "obedience." That's what it means in Paul. There is nothing "passive" about it.

Moreover, the work of the Law, circumcision, which you regard as "active" because it's a kind of doing, is in fact quite passive; that is, it is something done to one, not something that one does. An eight-day-old boy who is circumcised does not "do" anything (except maybe cry).

Thus, the one phrase in all of Paul that supposedly establishes Lutheran orthodoxy, "not by the works of the Law but by hearing with faith," in fact establishes nothing of the sort: There is no distinction here between active doing and passive hearing, such as you Lutherans require.

Of course, I made this point already, but I'm happy to make it again.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Although the shadow had fallen away, persons could still perform the ritual act (circumcision) so long as they did not insist that it was necessary for salvation.

Adomnan: And how, pray tell, is this different from what I have been maintaining all along; namely, that works of the Law do not justify or save? You really need to keep your eye on the ball, Nathan.

Nathan: That said, you say the Judaizers already know they must keep the whole Law to remain Jewish. On the contrary, we insist that to remain in the true family of God, one believes in the Gospel.

Adomnan: Oh, so then you do maintain that Paul was teaching that Christianity was better than Judaism because, in Judaism, you're on the hook if you sin but in Christianity you can sin with impunity as long as you believe the gospel. Somehow, I don't see Paul ever making this point or anything like it

For example, to put it a bit differently, Paul isn't saying: While you shouldn't sin as a Christian, you won't be punished if you do, unlike the Jews, who will be punished if they sin. Paul doesn't broach these "Lutheran" topics at all, not in any form. It's a dilemma that you are imposing on his writing, but that he doesn't entertain.

For Paul, keeping the whole Law meant keeping all the rites and taboos of the Law, which was onerous and even impossible for Galatians practicing Judaized Christianity. Paul would never advise the Galatians that they did not have to observe the "righteous requirements" (valid moral precepts) of the Law as Christians, or that they could sin while avoiding punishment because they believed.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: First, whoever made the claim that Paul did not think repentance and forgiveness were not possible under [true] Judaism (prior to Christ)? Second, whoever said that Paul held up impunity from sin as a Christian value? It is statements like these that make me wonder if we are even having a conversation here! : )

Adomnan: It's quite simple, Nathan. If you maintain, as you do, that Paul told the Galatians they would be under a curse if they did not do all that the Law required and if you mean by this that they would be under a curse if they sinned (i.e., violated the moral precepts of the Law), then Paul would be telling them Judaism is bad because, in it, God punishes for your sins -- while, by contrast, Christianity is good because God does not punish you even if you don't do everything the Law requires (you sin).

But this is in fact Luther's interpretation of Paul: The gospel is good news because it tells us that God will not punish us for our sin in contrast to Judaism, which is bad because God puts "under a curse" anyone who sins.

Now, my view, the correct one, is that Paul is not talking about sinning or not sinning when he refers to doing everything the Law requires to avoid a curse. He is talking only about following the rites and taboos of the Law.

What you fail to see is that Paul, unlike Luther, who wrote "sin boldly but believe," would never preach impunity from sin. Paul's only endeavor was to make people good. He was not at all interested in making them sinners who were off the hook. A forgiven sinner for Paul was one who had repented and turned from sin, not one who escaped the "curse" of sin (punishment) even while continuing to sin.

Look at it logically. If, in conformity with your interpretation, Paul was telling the Galatians that, by submitting to the Law, they would be under a curse if they sinned, then he was obviously telling them that they would be free of the curse even while sinning if they did not become Jews. Paul would never have suggested such a thing. His warning not to submit to the Law was a warning that the Galatians would have to perform all rites and adhere to all taboos of Judaism, not a warning that they would be held responsible for violating moral precepts.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Adomnan, please understand, from my perspective it is not only persons like Luther, but persons like Paul, who would say things like “why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying” or “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” or “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?”

Why, in fact, Paul said just these things on three separate occasions in the book of Romans!

Adomnan: It is evident why Paul said these things. For the Judaizers, righteousness was a matter of adhering to the Jewish Law, rites, taboos and all. They would think that anyone who refused to observe the Mosaic Law in it fullness was a sinner, pure and simple. They would be like the fundamentalist Muslims of our time who insist that anyone who does not follow shariah is a sinner. Thus, for them, Paul, by telling Gentiles they did not have to become Jews, was in effect telling them to sin. This is the misconception that Paul is rejecting in these passages.

Your interpretation presupposes that Paul was saying that Christians could sin and not be punished, but then goes on to advise them not to sin anyway, out of gratitude to God or something: that is, "why not sin so that grace might abound?" means, in your view, "why not sin given that God will always forgive us?" This view is absurd.

Nathan: From my perspective, he simply anticipates your most recent flurry of comments

Adomnan: If my comments are a flurry, yours are a blizzard.

Nathan: – in response to the grace that is truly, truly, amazing (and almost unbelievable!)

Adomnan: You see. Even you admit your views are almost untenable. Why can't we understand Paul in a way that is believable?

Nathan: What in the world is he responding to from your perspective? What do you – as a New Perspective Roman Catholic – think about these statements of Paul?

Adomnan: I just explained it. He's responding to the Judaizers' view that adherence to the Jewish Law is the only way of righteousness.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Adomnan, please understand, from my perspective it is not only persons like Luther, but persons like Paul, who would say things like “why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying” or “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” or “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace?”

Why, in fact, Paul said just these things on three separate occasions in the book of Romans!

Adomnan: It is evident why Paul said these things. For the Judaizers, righteousness was a matter of adhering to the Jewish Law, rites, taboos and all. They would think that anyone who refused to observe the Mosaic Law in it fullness was a sinner, pure and simple. They would be like the fundamentalist Muslims of our time who insist that anyone who does not follow shariah is a sinner. Thus, for them, Paul, by telling Gentiles they did not have to become Jews, was in effect telling them to sin. This is the misconception that Paul is rejecting in these passages.

Your interpretation presupposes that Paul was saying that Christians could sin and not be punished, but then goes on to advise them not to sin anyway, out of gratitude to God or something: that is, "why not sin so that grace might abound?" means, in your view, "why not sin given that God will always forgive us?" This view is absurd.

Nathan: From my perspective, he simply anticipates your most recent flurry of comments

Adomnan: If my comments are a flurry, yours are a blizzard.

Nathan: – in response to the grace that is truly, truly, amazing (and almost unbelievable!)

Adomnan: You see. Even you admit your views are almost untenable. Why can't we understand Paul in a way that is believable?

Nathan: What in the world is he responding to from your perspective? What do you – as a New Perspective Roman Catholic – think about these statements of Paul?

Adomnan: I just explained it. He's responding to the Judaizers' view that adherence to the Jewish Law is the only way of righteousness.

Adomnan said...

Sorry. Double post.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: From God’s perspective,

Adomnan: which is the correct perspective, of course, and should be our perspective

Nathan: one must not remain Jewish theologically, and whether or not one wants to keep doing the rites (for reasons of comfort, perhaps) without insisting that others must do so to be saved, is neither here nor there.

Adomnan: Incoherent. If one does Jewish rites, then one is Jewish "theologically," just as one is Christian "theologically" if one does Christian rites. It is odd how cavalier you, as a Lutheran, are about rites (sacraments). I always thought Lutherans took sacraments seriously, and not as some mummery that one could practice or not out of "comfort."

Besides, I would prefer you not keep referring to salvation or being saved when we are talking about justification. Yes, they may be comparable expressions in some contexts, but you sound like a garden-variety American Evangelical, for whom "salvation" is fire insurance, with everything being "save" this and "save" that. Better to stick more closely to the Biblical usage of these terms.

Look. "Save" is an inept word to use of what Judaizers thought the effect of circumcision to be. "Save" implies a direct intervention of God as a Savior, while circumcision was a rite meant to initiate one into the Jewish Law and its righteousness and so "justify" one in the sense that this Law could justify. Where Paul differed with the Judaizers, as he explains most clearly in Phil 3, was over the extent and value of this Jewish righteousness. Paul thought it was valid as long as it was an expression of faith (and so circumcision was a seal of faith in his view), but it still had little value compared to the righteousness that came from faith in Christ.

Nathan: We cannot at once be meriting what we are to be inheriting, otherwise grace would no longer be grace!

Adomnan: This is a non-factual assertion. It is not only grace to give what is not deserved, but it is grace to give more than is deserved. The fact that Abraham, say, gets a reward or "wage" (misthos) for his faith shows that faith is a merit. A merit is nothing other than what is rewarded. You cannot have rewards without having merits. One necessarily implies the other.

However, the reward for faith is not according to "what is due," but according to grace, because the reward is MORE than what is due -- not because it is not deserved at all. The fact that Romans 4 says that faith "is credited" as righteousness shows that faith is a merit, because a credit and a merit are the same thing, and both deserve a reward or "wage." So Paul directly contradicts you in Romans 4, the very passage Lutherans tend to cite in support of their views.

Nathan: Again, although I acknowledge that Paul’s focus is not on Jewish self-righteousness (but rather the fact that no one can be justified by Law/works/works of the Law

Adomnan: But "works of the Law" are merely Jewish rites, as I have explained repeatedly and you have never even attempted to refute. They are not good works or human efforts at self-justification or attempts to obey moral precepts or any of those things that Lutherans think they are.

Besides, if you are agree with me that Paul is not talking about self-justification, then haven't you just abandoned the whole Lutheran discourse about "works righteousness" (understood as self-justification)?

Adomnan said...

Nathan: In the words I just quoted above, Paul does not give the impression that grace is as amazing and shocking as it is

Adomnan: Paul does not "give the impression" that grace is "shocking" by writing "why not do evil that good may come -- as some accuse us SLANDEROUSLY of saying." He is rejecting the Judaizers' assumption or assertion that urging Gentiles to eschew the Jewish Law is the same as urging them to do evil. That's why he calls this assertion SLANDER. If the Judaizers' assertion were true, then it would be shocking. But it is false and so it is not shocking but slander. It is the Judaizers who would be shocked by Paul's rejection of the Jewish Law, not we Christians.

Nathan: because God has extended His favor and eagerness to eternally award “our” faith to those Gentile sinners outside the covenant (not having the status the Jews have),

Adomnan: Paul does not think this divine generosity toward Gentiles is amazing or shocking. You're right about that.

Nathan: but because He, as no respecter of persons, elects sinners (even very fearful ones!) in general through the preacher (Rom. 10:17) apart from the Law – apart from their deeds, doings, actions, according to it (whether revealed or just known in the conscience)!

Adomnan: Wrong again! God "elects" Gentiles apart from the Jewish Law. Yes. However, the "Jewish Law" is very specifically the "Jewish religion" with its specific rites. It is not "doings, actions." And the Jewish Law is ONLY revealed, written down. It is not "in the conscience." Here you are confusing the revealed Jewish Law with natural law or the law of right and wrong or something. Paul only thought in terms of the revealed law. He never confuses it with the Greek philosophical concept of natural law or generic notions of "right and wrong."

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Adomnan, I meant that Romans 4:4, where it talks about wages, is never talking about *positive* wages. There are wages for doing all the commandments (Romans 10), particularly doing those of Sinai (with the focus on the big Ten), I suppose, but those would be only the “wages of sin”, paid *by sin* as you say.

Adomnan: What sophistry! You CANNOT truly believe that when Paul writes that a worker deserves his wages, he means "a sinner deserves punishment." That is such an egregious distortion of this verse that it refutes itself. If Paul is the sort of writer who expresses the thought "a sinner deserves punishment" by writing "a worker deserves his wages" then he is a double-talker, a liar, one who who speaks with forked tongue, and someone whose obscure ramblings deserve contempt.

But of course the Apostle is neither a double-talker nor an obscurantist, and so he meant no such thing as you suggest.

Nathan: I do not believe the point of the parable is that God pays wages, but that God turns our conceptions of what is fair and just upside down (while you would probably say the parable communicates both).

Adomnan: For, I think, the third time I must reiterate that I DENIED that "God pays wages" is the POINT of the parable. (Is this a dialogue of the deaf?) To repeat once again: God is DEPICTED as a wagepayer -- it is a metaphor! -- in Jesus's parable just as he is depicted as a metaphorical wagepayer in Romans 4. Got it? Thus, since Jesus described God as a wagepayer, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH US DESCRIBING GOD AS A WAGEPAYER.

Secondly, the parable is definitely NOT about "God turning our conceptions of what is fair and just upside down." Given that the landowner contracts specific wages with each of the laborers, there is no unfairness involved. They have all agreed to the wage. So where is the unfairness?

No, the only meaning the parable can have is that God will give the same reward to Gentiles that he gives to Jews who had served Him for centuries. The most interesting thing about this parable, for me, is that it shows that Jesus saw his message as applying to Gentiles as well as Jews and so foresaw a future spread of "Christianity" beyond the Jewish world, a fact that "liberal" theologians might be inclined to deny.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: It is important not to look at this Romans passage in isolation, but to examine Paul’s purpose for this whole chapter.

Adomnan: Paul's purpose is to reiterate that anyone who conscientiously strives after virtue, Jew or Gentile, will be justified. As he writes, it is the "doers of the Law" -- that is, the doers of the righteous requirements/moral precepts of the Law, NOT the "works of the Law" -- who WILL BE JUSTIFIED.

Nathan: Paul here is talking to persons of Jewish background who believe, or are tempted to believe, that they have the kingdom simply because of they are Jewish (i.e. John’s “by blood”) or a part of the chosen community.

Adomnan: This is true enough, but garbled. For example, I would not say that Paul was talking about anyone "having the kingdom" or not, because he does not mention Jesus's concept of the kingdom of God here. Better to stick to the wording of the text.

Nathan: To counter this, Paul here is simply making clear that the true Jew is the one who is not one “outwardly”, but “in the secret” – and this would include even non-Jews who aren’t even proselytes (who, by the way, it seems recognize the same Law the Jew has via their conscience)!

Adomnan: No. Once again, despite all your writing, you have not paid attention to what I wrote. I don't deny that non-Christian Gentiles can be "saved." However, Paul is only talking about Christian Gentiles, the group he is defending against the Judaizers, as "doers of the Law" in Romans 2. He is not speaking of righteous Gentiles in general, and no more general notion of a Jewish Law, or natural law, "in the conscience" is posited here. For Paul, the Jewish Law is only the Law explicitly revealed at Sinai. Non-Christian Gentiles know nothing of it, are not transgressors of it, and are not judged by it, through their consciences or in any other way.

Nathan: These pious pagans – perhaps like Melchizedek (and Cornelius!) for example - are the ones who are truly circumcised, that is, “in the heart”.

Adomnan: No. Paul is speaking only of baptised Gentiles, not of righteous Gentiles in general. He is defending his Christian Gentile flock against the accusations of the Judaizers.

Nathan: In other words, these are the ones with true faith – the ones who would readily recognize Christ and all He brings.

Adomnan: Since they are in fact Christians, I suppose this is true, although a tautology.

Nathan: As such, Paul is simply illustrating the principle that “by your fruits you shall know them”.

Adomnan: Wrong! Paul is talking about justification, about God's final judgment being determined by how one led one's life. That's why he writes, "the doers of the Law WILL BE JUSTIFIED" because they are doers of the Law. In other words, good works justify.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Again, God knows His people by faith,

Adomnan: He doesn't only know them, but he passes a judgment of acquittal on them, called "justification" because they are "doers of the Law."

Nathan: but we can only begin to get an idea about those who are truly His by what they do – which is why there is a judgment according to our works.

Adomnan: You appear to be saying here that MEN pass this "judgment" according to works rather than God. However, your statement is ambiguous enough to provide you with deniability (i.e., you might claim you meant that "we" get an idea about who is "truly His," but He nevertheless passes the "judgment").

Nathan: Even more – strictly speaking,

Adomnan: "strictly speaking" is a weasel phrase. Paul never asserts -- certainly not in this passage -- that only Jesus is "holy and good, etc." If Paul meant to say that only Jesus Christ is good and did this by saying that "doers (plural) of the Law" will be justified, he would be a deceiver.

Nathan: there is only One who is holy and good and who perfectly does what Paul is talking about here in Romans 2:7-8, and that is Christ.

Adomnan: Yet Paul doesn't mention Christ in this passage. You're importing your notions into the passage and imposing them on Paul.

Nathan: Ultimate reality is an ontology of harmony for eternity,

Adomnan: Huh? What does this rather unintelligible "philosophical" assertion have to do with anything?

Nathan: and Christ has restored that blessing of knowing God to mankind by His perfect work.

Adomnan: None of this verbiage is found in Paul or has anything to do with Romans 2.

Nathan: *Strictly speaking*, before God, no one but Him fulfills Romans 2:7-8,

Adomnan: So Paul wants to say that only Christ is just in Romans 2:7-8, and he does this by not mentioning Christ?

Nathan: as Paul will go on to make abundantly clear in Romans 3 (not just a bunch of rhetoric for effect, because Rom. 3:19-21 makes Paul’s purpose for the shocking catalog of misdeeds clear)

Adomnan: Romans 3 says nothing of the sort. You are making this up and dumping it on Paul's text. Romans 3 states rather that, as a matter of fact, the Jewish Law has not succeeded in making the Jews, as a community, truly righteous. Only faith working in love can do that. Adherence to the Jewish religion is unnecessary.

Nathan: – even if there certainly will be a justification by works before men in God’s presence (see next).

Adomnan: What nonsense! God Himself takes no notice whatsoever of "works" when justifying, but only "faith," according to you Lutherans. And yet, He is going to "pretend" He is justifying men by works "before men." This pretense, though, is okay, I suppose, because it will be "in His presence," even though He knows it's not the real justification, which you insist has nothing to do with works. So God is going to feign that he is justifying people by their works even though He is doing nothing of the sort.

Adomnan said...

My original comment: “ I don't see how this sentence makes sense from your perspective, frankly. If men are not in fact justified by works, as you maintain they aren't, then why should God vindicate man's mistaken and impious desire to see men justified in this way?”

Nathan's reply (with all the tangents removed): Part of my answer to this is already above (i.e. the Romans passage), but I’ll say more. It’s not an impious desire.

Adomnan: So it is impious for me to believe that I am justified by my works, but it's not impious for me to believe that you are justified by your works.

I can't wrap my head around that one.

Nathan: God would even have the “attrite” have the certainty of faith that He gives them, seeing them as fully righteous clothed in Christ’s own righteousness (which certainly begins to permeate them as well).

Nathan also writes stuff about "ungodly" in Romans 4 meaning "unloving."

Adomnan: Clothing permeating its wearer? Like the poisonous shirt of Nessus that Deianeira gave Heracles? That's an interesting image, but hardly biblical. Also, while "attrite" is an extremely rare word in English, it does not mean "feeling attrition," as you appear to think.

More importantly, "ungodly" in Romans 4 refers to Abraham and so cannot mean "unloving" or "faithless," as you continue to insinuate. Abraham was neither unloving nor faithless before his "faith was credited to him as righteousness" in Genesis 15. "Ungodly" (asebes) in this context means "Gentile," one who is unobservant of the Jewish Law and thus "asebes" from the point of view of the Jewish Law, but not from God's point of view.

How many times must I repeat this obvious fact?

Adomnan said...

Nathan: the Judaizers, probably inadvertently, were trying to be justified not by God’s grace in Christ but by the actions/doings they performed, and therefore, Paul tells them that if they want to be justified that way they must keep the whole law Law – all rites, precepts, commands, etc

Adomnan: Once again, you are claiming that Paul was telling the Galatians that if they follow the Judaizers, then they have to obey God, while if they follow him, they don't.

This is absurd. By warning them about the requirement to "keep the whole Law," Paul is not warning the Galatians about the onus of having to observe its righteous requirements, but rather warning them that they'll have to observe its rites and taboos. Paul wants and expects his followers to observe the moral commands of the Law. He does not want them, as Gentiles, to observe the specifically Jewish bits. He would NEVER advise them to embrace the gospel because it allows them to sin without consequences or with diminished consequences. He simply would not say or imply such a thing in any way, even though the Judaizers SLANDEROUSLY, that is to say falsely, accused him of this.

Now, your interpretation is that Paul wants to scare the Galatians off of Judaism by warning them they'll be cursed if they fail to keep its commandments. This can only be understood as warning them that they will be held accountable for disobeying God if they become Jews, but they won't be held accountable for sin if they stick to Pauline Christianity. This is the inevitable conclusion if you maintain, as you do, that "keeping the whole Law" includes obeying God's moral precepts as revealed in the Law. However, if you acknowledge the true interpretation of this statement -- namely that "keeping the whole Law" refers only to keeping dispensable rites and taboos -- then you avoid this absurdity.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Regarding the importance of the active aspect of faith, this is all well and good…. But do you then deny the passive aspect of faith? Do you believe that saving faith needs to be active, i.e. that we need to be aware of it and our exercising of it?

Adomnan: This distinction between active and passive faith that you have come up with, and upon which you lay so much stress, is your distinction, not Paul's. Paul never posits or alludes to any contrast between so-called active and so-called passive faith. Thus, it is a red herring and a waste of time in any discussion of Paul's views, which is what we are supposed to be having. As I see it, it merits a "global delete," which is only fair because you have written far more than anyone would want to comment on.

Nathan: “Is God the God of the Jews only?” How do we see this passage, which I will admit, is probably the passage that makes me wonder the most if the New Perspective view might possibly be true.

Adomnan: Good! Hold on to that intuition and follow it through. Just try to be intelligent and eventually it will all become clear to you.

The rest of what you wrote in the following long paragraph, Nathan, is a riot of tangential observations, some perhaps true, some dubious, but none to the point or advancing any coherent line of argument that I can discern.

Nathan: why would Paul say that Abraham, as an uncircumcised person [surely the Jews knew that Abraham *became* a Jew at some point, as they wanted all God-fearers to do], had anything to boast about?

Adomnan: But that's precisely the point! Since Abraham was not yet circumcised, he was not yet a Jew and thus he had nothing to boast about. In Paul, Jews only boast about being Jews, not about justifying themselves. It's an ethnic boast, like "I'm proud I'm Irish." The only works that entail boasting in Paul's parlance are the works of the Law; i.e., rites that make you Jewish.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: as for any passage in the New Testament, I can explain it to my satisfaction with the Lutheran glasses I currently wear

Adomnan: This is your fundamental problem. You are not willing to look at Paul objectively and come to an understanding of his meaning, which is not all that hard to do once one's presuppositions are set aside. You just want to persuade yourself that you can fit Paul into the Procrustean bed of Lutheran interpretation, and you have decided that you can "to your satisfaction," just as Procrustes was satisfied by shortening or lengthening travelers' legs to fit the bed in his inn.

Yes, I have enough flexibility of mind to occasionally try on Lutheran glasses, but I soon see that I can't read the text in front of me and I get a headache.

And it's not true that I always read with New Perspective "glasses." I look at the text objectively, come to my own conclusions and then read a variety of commentaries to gain background knowledge, to elucidate obscure or ambiguous points and to compare other readings with my own. This is how I came to see the New Perspective as the "true one" overall, although I maintain my objectivity and do not agree with every assertion that every New Perspective commentator makes.

The Lutheran perspective, on the other hand, is entirely off-base and is nothing other than a series of blunders that were conditioned in part by Luther's personal psychology, in part by misinterpretations and exaggerations of earlier partly wrong-headed exegesis (i.e. Augustine's), and in part by the audacity, innovation and overly confident rudimentary readings of the Bible by proud Renaissance humanists like Calvin and Melanchthon, who applied to Paul the same early modern critical approach that they applied to Seneca and Cicero. Just as early modern exegesis of Seneca and Cicero has been superseded with the advance of classical studies, so early modern exegesis of Paul has been superseded-- especially in its own Protestant milieu -- thanks to progress in biblical studies. But you insist on remaining stuck in the old Protestant paradigm.

I should add that the teaching of the Magisterium of the Catholic Church is not affected by these shifts in the scholarly world, although elucidated by them, because the Magisterium's teaching is safeguarded by the Holy Spirit. Essentially, what diligent scholars discover is that the Catholic Church has been right all along.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: I will start with issues and verses related to Galatians 3:10-14, and branch out in my questioning from there.

Adomnan: Here is Gal 3:10-14:

10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Nathan: You say: “None of the verses in Gal 3:10-14 apply to people who are outside the Law, none of whom is subject to the curse of the Law (not being under it) and none of whom is attempting to be justified by the Law.”

Adomnan: Notice that I do not say that the verses in Gal 3:10-14 apply only to Jews. I say they apply to Jews and to those who "attempt to be justified by the Law," whether Jews or Gentiles ethnically.

Nathan: If Gal. 3:10-14 should be understood as you say it should, for what reason then did Christ redeem those under the law from its curse by becoming a curse for them

Adomnan: By inaugurating a new and better covenant, Christ set aside the Law, which is the Jewish religion.

As usual, you distort Paul's language. He does not say in this passage that Christ became a curse "for those under the Law" or that he redeemed only those under the Law. Gal 3:13 states: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law..." This means that none of us, Jew or Gentile, now has to deal with the Law at all.

Nathan: – so that the Jews, who alone were under the law, would receive the Promised Spirit, and be freed from their boundary markers so that they would reach the Gentiles?

Adomnan: I don't get what you're trying to say here. Paul did not care if Jews continued to follow the Jewish Law. So he was not trying to free them from their "boundary markers." He didn't want Gentiles to take up the Law, however.

Nathan: Is Paul here, in spite of the absence of the “we” here (as in 2:15, also note the “we” in 4:3 seems to clearly indicate the Gentile Galatians – see 4:6), really only talking about the Jews?

Adomnan: No. He is also talking about Gentile Galatians who now didn't have to deal with the Law, because Christ freed them from it. They are freed from the curse of the Law by never having to be subject to it. They weren't under the Law, but they were thinking about going under it. With Christ, they didn't have to even consider Judaism. After all, isn't the whole point of Galatians that Paul is admonishing his disciples in Galatia NOT to become Jews?

Adomnan said...

Nathan: Is *that* how the blessing of Abraham “might come to the Gentiles”?

Adomnan: Thanks to Christ, the Gentiles no longer have to bother with the Law. Thus, the curse of the Law is removed for them.

Nathan: But was Christ not “publicly portrayed as crucified” (see 3:1) for the Gentile Galatian Christians as well,

Adomnan: Yes, of course. They are also freed from the curse of the Law in the sense that it is abolished, replaced by the law of Christ.

Nathan: or were they not under the curse of the law, and hence,

Adomnan: Paul means that the Law would have been the only option available to the Gentiles had Christ not redeemed them from its curse. Now they can ignore it, except in so far as the Church chooses to use it for instruction, reinterpreted in the light of Christ. No Jewish rites, though, for Gentiles.

Nathan: not in need of Christ crucified – at least not in the same way those under the law were?

Adomnan: What gives you this idea?

Nathan: And how can we insist that the “we” here is only talking about the Jews,

Adomnan: I don't insist it's only talking abou the Jews. Gentiles were freed from the curse of the Law, too, by never having to submit to it.

Nathan: Further, in chapter 4, when Paul says “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” are we to assume that he is only talking to any Judaizers in the congregation, or the Gentile Christians as well?

Adomnan: He might have been using "under the law" as a designation of an epoch; i.e., the time up to Christ. This is suggested by his statement that Christ was "born under the law." Or he may mean the Jews (and Christ being born under the Law would thus mean He was a Jew), or he may mean the Jews and the Gentiles in Galatia who were "under the law" in the sense that they were aware of it and thinking of adopting it. I won't bother to look up the passage and exegete it in detail, because it's a minor point, and you're giving me too much work. Do some of it yourself.

Nathan: Surely the Gentile Christians as well – but then why does Paul say they were “under the law”?

Adomnan: Maybe because they were under the influence of the Judaizers, and so of the Law.

Nathan: By the way, when, in your view, soteriologically speaking, do the Jews cease being “under the law” – or do they continue to be under it in some way?

Adomnan: Jewish Christians who continued to practice the Law were still under it. "Soteriologically speaking" is beside the point. Paul never consider the Law as "saving."

Adomnan said...

Having reviewed Galatians 4, I can see that "we" who were "under the Law" are in fact only Jews. Paul addresses the Galatian Gentiles here not as "we" but as "you," and says "you served false gods," which does not of course refer to Jews.

There, I did the work for you after all.

Adomnan said...

Gal 4: 21 Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?

This verse in Gal 4 also shows that Paul is consistent in using "under the Law" to refer solely to Jews. It can only mean, "Tell me, you who want to be Jews, do you not listen to what the Jewish religion/scripture says?"

Adomnan said...

Nathan: If the words in Gal 3:10-14 do not apply to humanity in general, but only subsets of humanity (i.e. Jews who are “under the law”), who is the “we” who were “held captive under the law” in verse 23 of Gal. 3?

Adomnan: The Jews. This is shown by Paul's full statement in this verse and in the next two verses:

23. Before the coming of this faith,we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.

Adomnan: Note that Paul apparently sees what is sometimes translated as captivity as a kind of protective custody. Thus, in this verse the Law's function is not to curse or condemn, but to protect. (Paul has a number of perspectives on the purpose of the Jewish Law.)

24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

Adomnan: Note here that the Jewish Law is described as a "guardian" or "pedagogue" in Greek. A pedagogue was a slave or servant whose task it was to accompany a child to school and back home safely.

Evidently, Gentiles, who were not under the Law, did not have the Law as a pedagogue, accompanying them to faith. Only Jews did. Therefore, Paul can only be speaking of Jews in this passage.

Paul's implied argument to the Judaizing Gentile Galatians is: Why should you want to be under the Law, if Law, even for us Jews, was merely a pedagogue to lead us to faith. You have faith. Thus you hardly need the pedagogue when even we Jews no longer need him.

Nathan: If Paul is only talking about Jews here, why does he, right after talking about how the law could not give life (in v. 21), go on to talk about how the Scriptures imprisoned *everything* under sin (v. 22)

Adomnan: Paul explained this more fully in the first chapters of Romans. That the Gentiles were "under sin" before Christ was not in dispute between Paul and the Judaizers. However, the Judaizers claimed that, because of their adherence to the Law, Jews were not "under sin." Paul shows in Romans 3 and 4, from the scriptures, that Jews, too, were "under sin." Therefore, the scripture "included" (just as valid a translation as "imprisoned") everything under sin, because the Jews were under it, according to the scripture, as well as the Gentiles.

More generally, this passage underscores the point I made earlier that, for Paul, the entire era before Christ was "under sin" and that Christ's death and resurrection had abolished all the old structures of that era, including the Jewish Law.

The fact that Jews, like Gentiles, were "under sin" before Christ does not mean that Jews (or Gentiles for that matter) all "went to hell." It merely means that sin was the dominant principal in human society and the world before Christ conquered it.

Nathan: – before going on to clearly draw a parallel with the law in the next verse as the imprisoner and captive-maker of those under it?

Adomnan: Not "imprisoner and captive-maker," but custodian, guardian, pedagogue. You are relying on tendentious translations of some words that should be translated in a less "menacing" way. Paul's use of the benevolent word "pedagogue" to describe the Law proves that.

Nathan: It is not clear that the Scriptures which contain the Law imprison everything?

Adomnan: I explained above how Romans show the sense in which "everything" (i.e., not just people, but the whole world and its powers) was included (not really "imprisoned") "under sin."
It's a question of the new creation in Christ versus the old world order.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: 3) Regarding “works of the law” and “the law” in Gal. 3:10-14, if Paul meant what you said he does, why would he not have said that those who rely on works of the law would be cursed if they do not do all the works of the law?

Adomnan: Simple, Nathan. If I hired someone to do a job consisting of three tasks, A, B and C, I would say that you only get paid if you do all three. If the worker says, I'll do B and C, but not A, then I'd say, "No, you must do the whole job or else you won't get paid."

Similarly, keeping the Law consists of A) doing the rites (works) of the Law, B) observing the morally neutral prohibitions of the Law (food rules, etc.), and C) obeying the moral precepts of the Law. However, for Paul, it is assumed that Christians must adhere to C. Thus, when he says you must keep the whole Law to avoid a curse, he is only referring to A and B, just as when I say you must do the whole job to get paid, I am only referring to A, because B and C are not in dispute.

That's ordinarily what one means when one stipulates that you must do all of something to avoid a penalty. It's not the part you do that incurs the penalty, but the part you don't do.

Therefore, Paul is using a very natural way of speaking and he does not have to designate "works of the Law" specifically. Besides, the morally neutral prohibitions (taboos) are also part of the whole Law and so, if Paul were to be that specific, he would have to mention them, too. It was more concise and effective to express himself the way he did.

Adomnan said...

Nathan: As regards the works being discussed here, you say Paul does not eventually start going beyond rites (“boundary markers”), and not even the statement "everyone that continues not in all things written….” (3:10) indicates that he does- because the Jews did not “do” negative commandments. Why should we not start thinking about things like honoring one’s parents, and loving the Lord with all one’s heart, soul, strength and mind, loving one’s neighbor as one’s self and other positive commandments – which seems the natural way to think about this passage?

Adomnan: No. Paul expected his followers to honor their parents, love God and their neighbor, etc. and would never suggest that they should "get off the hook" for failing to do these things. It's just not the way he thought. Avoiding punishment for sin was Luther's preoccupation, not Paul's. Once again, you are reading Luther's dilemmas into Paul, who did not share them. Paul certainly never expressed anything like a Lutheran preoccupation with avoiding God's anger in any of his work.

Nathan: (make sure you see the next set of questions before answering this)

Adomnan: Oops! Too late.

Nathan: How do you (or don’t you) see Gal. 5:3,4 going along with this section of Galatians: “every man who accepts circumcision…is obligated to keep the whole law….you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace”?

Adomnan: Paul is saying that accepting circumcision won't be enough. Everyone who wants to be Jewish has to follow all the rites and taboos.

Grace, here, means that God accepts Gentiles graciously without requiring them to adhere to the Law. If you adhere to the Law anyway, then evidently you've fallen away from this grace.

Nathan: Would you contend that what Paul says in Gal. 5:5 and 6 (which we have different interpretations of) simply makes specifying “works of the law” unnecessary here?

Adomnan: No, he wouldn't have specified "works of the Law" anyway, as I explained above.

However, the fact that he writes in Gal 5:6 that neither "circumcision nor uncircumcision" count for anything shows that he is talking about the "works of the Law" (e.g., circumcision), doesn't it? I mean, he does mention them specifically -- here.

Here's Gal. 5:5-6:

5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Nathan: It seems clear that he is talking about all of the commands contained in the law, does it not?

Adomnan: But he mentions only his usual example of a work of the Law (circumcision). Therefore, this passage actually undermines your point, doesn't it? Surely you see that?

When Paul warns the Galatians that they'll have to keep the whole Law to avoid a curse, he is speaking solely of the rites and taboos of the Jewish Law, given that he expects them to follow the moral precepts. They are not in question.

To put it another way: It never enters Paul's mind that his Galatian disciples would look to avoid following moral precepts or to escape punishment for failing to do so. And he wouldn't recommend his version of the gospel over that of the Judaizers on the grounds that it allows them to get off the hook for sinning. Again, that was Luther's dilemma, not Paul's.

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