1/19/2008

N. T. Wright is Wrong

Keith Mathison in this month’s TableTalk magazine weighs in on the controversy surrounding N. T. Wright’s interpretation of the atonement:

“…Wright argues that the church has misunderstood the doctrine of justification for centuries. Justification, he argues, does not deal with how one becomes a Christian. instead it is a declaration that one is already a Christian. Also, according to Wright, justification does not involve the imputation of Christ’s righteousness because such an idea is nonsensical. Furthermore, our future justification is based on our whole life, or as Wright says, on the basis of our “works.” This future verdict, based on works, is received in the present by faith. The reason for the controversy should be evident.” [“When Wright Is Wrong,” Keith A. Mathison, in Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries, January 2008, p. 74-75.]

He goes on to recommend a book by John Piper called The Future of Justification. I am working my way through it now, and I find it helpful. It applies Piper’s argument from Counted Righteous in Christ to the situation.

I am angered by the controversy. It’s a personal issue for me. If my inclusion in Christ’s family depends in any way on my works, I am in very deep, dark, trouble. It’s “Christ Alone,” being saved entirely by what Christ did for me as opposed to what I do for myself, or it is nothing. I am credited with Christ’s righteousness or I have no credit on account. Like the old hymn says, “Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to thy cross I cling.”

[Added 2/27/08: please see John Piper's comments here.)

24 comments:

Steve Newell said...

So how much different is this view of justification when compared to Rome? American "evangelicalism" is becoming more like Rome and less like Wittenberg (or from some Geneva).

The view that our justification has anything to do with our actions is then more like Trent.

Ryan Jones said...

Have you read N.T. Wright's "New Perspectives from Paul" from 2003? He does not reject the doctrine that has traditionally been taught as justification by faith. He affirms that (a)we are saved by faith, not by works; but thinks that (b)Paul has different vocabulary for talking about it; and (c)Paul's language about justification has more to do with ecclesiology than soteriology. After reading his essay you may not agree with his historical judgments, but I think you'll see he's not a heretic.

You say, "if my inclusion in Christ's family depends in any way on my works, I am in very deep dark trouble." I understand the theological sentiment behind this, but I hope you are not therefore disparaging works. The Bible has a lot to say about the works a Christian ought to be doing, Paul not least of which.

Peace.

J. K. Jones said...

Steve,

Great to have you comment again.

Are you referring to my view, Keith’s view, or Wright’s view.

I assume you are talking about Wright’s view, and I can see no practical difference with Rome’s view if I am understanding Wright correctly.

J. K.

J. K. Jones said...

Ryan,

Good to hear from you.

I for purposes of discussion, I don’t feel I have to brand Wright a heretic. I also don’t feel I have to show he has departed from a penal substitution view (PSV) of the atonement. All I need to show is that the PSV is obscured by his presentation. I feel it is, and the last thing we need in America is more confusion on the issue.

I would like someone with more familiarity with Wright to answer this one question: if Wright were to talk to a Muslim about how to become a Christian, what exactly would he say? Another way to ask this is: how would Wright share the gospel? What would be his main points? Is there a place where he has done something like this in print?

On the subject of faith and works, I do not intend to disparage the role works play in the Christian’s life. My point is that works are not meritorious, that is, they do not earn my right-standing before God. I would also go on to say that works, although not meritorious, are absolutely (!) necessary.

A Christian is born again by the Spirit of God. His life is changed. He begins to mirror Christ in his thoughts, words, and deeds. He never does this perfectly, but he does it nonetheless. He repents of his sin and begins to struggle with his sin nature. He does not look to his works to put him in right standing before God, but he looks to his works to evidence his standing to other people.

That’s the short version. I am working up a series of posts on this for this year to further discuss. I’d love to hear your take on faith and works.

You too Steven, for that matter. Also, LP if he is checking in.

In Him,

J. K.

Ryan Jones said...

I used to be on the Wrightsaid email discussion list, and periodically they would submit a list of questions to Bishop Wright to answer. Someone asked almost this same question, how would he would share the gospel. If I recall, he said he would have the person read through the gospels and talk about it with them periodically until the person was ready to make a decision to follow Jesus. So I don't think Wright is too excited about using the Romans Road or the Four Spiritual Laws or something. For Wright, the gospel is good news about Jesus, not good news about how you can be saved. Our salvation follows from the gospel, but is not the gospel itself.

The question ought not to be whether his views obscure PSV but rather whether his interpretations are correct. He is going back to the scriptures and saying, "I think the church has been misreading this." It is not enough to say that we reject it because it doesn't conform to our theology. Otherwise you're not really holding to Sola Scriptura any longer but have developed your own Tradition to which the scriptures must conform.

And I essentially agree with your statment about works.

J. K. Jones said...

Ryan,
I’m glad you came back to comment again. For the sake of clarity, I’ll put some of your comments in quotes and respond to them.
“… he said he would have the person read through the gospels and talk about it with them periodically until the person was ready to make a decision to follow Jesus…”
This is not a direct answer to the question. What would he want to discuss in the gospels? What does it mean to “follow Jesus?”
“…[not] too excited about using the Romans Road or the Four Spiritual Laws or something..”
For the record, neither am I. They leave out so much, and they don’t offer much chance for dialoge.
“…the gospel is good news about Jesus, not good news about how you can be saved. Our salvation follows from the gospel, but is not the gospel itself.”

So what exactly is the gospel? We can study Christ for the rest of our lives, and we still would not exhaust the depths of who He is or what He has done. Where do we reach the point where we are “ready to make a decision to follow Jesus?”

“The question ought not to be whether his views obscure PSV but rather whether his interpretations are correct.”

Here it is straight up: no aspect of the atonement of Christ makes any sense whatsoever without the framework of PSV. Not Christus Victor, not the ransom paid, not the moral example, not anything.

“It is not enough to say that we reject it because it doesn't conform to our theology. Otherwise you're not really holding to Sola Scriptura any longer but have developed your own Tradition to which the scriptures must conform.”

There is a place for the authority of tradition. Please see my detailed comments here:

http://jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com/2007/03/on-scripture-and-authority-or-j-k-goes.html

or here:

http://jkjonesthinks.blogspot.com/2007/03/im-still-reading-velvet-elvis-by-rob.html

Again, it truly is great to hear from you, and I am not trying to be argumentative for the sake of being argumentative.

Following Jesus As Well As I Know How,

J. K.

J. K. Jones said...

Ryan,

Please see the links here:

http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/New-Perspective-on-Paul/NT-Wright/

and here:

http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/New-Perspective-on-Paul/General-Essays-Critiquing-NPP/



J. K.

J. K. Jones said...

RT,

If you are still out there, I bought a couple of Wright's books this weekend after hearing Craig L. Blomberg talk vavorably of him.

I'll read and get back to you.

JK

Tony Faber said...

Hi guys-
I think there is some general misunderstanding, from the first post on this thread, on the idea of justification, as NT Wright understands it. Allow me to cut and paste from an NT Wright excerpt, found in "The Great Acquittal: Justification by Faith and Current Christian Thought".

"To start with, a bare definition: justification is the declaration that somebody is in the right. It is a term borrowed from
the lawcourt—that is what people mean when they say it is 'forensic'.2 In the lawcourt, justification is the judge's verdict
in favour of one party or the other (cases in Jewish law were simply between accuser and accused, there being no
Director of Public Prosecutions). The basic meaning of the term is therefore not 'forgiveness': a favourable verdict
implies that justice, not (at this stage) mercy, is being carried out. Nor is 'acquittal' quite strong enough: justification has
a positive sense, indicating not merely absence of guilt but a positive standing in the right. This status is termed
'righteousness', which in this context does not refer primarily to the character or morals of the person concerned, but
simply to his status in the court on the basis of the judge's declaration. Justification is the judge's verdict that someone is
in the right. Righteousness is the status before the court which results from that declaration.
In theology, therefore, justification is not the means whereby it becomes possible to declare someone in the right. It is
simply that declaration itself. It is not how someone becomes a Christian, but simply the declaration that someone is a
Christian. It is not the exercise of mercy, but the just declaration concerning one who has already received mercy. This
is a crucial distinction, without which it is impossible to understand the biblical material. Not to make it is as if the
jeweller were to talk about the watchspring when he meant the winding mechanism.
In the Bible, of course, the judge is God himself, and the verdict is to be issued on the day of judgement.3 But with the
Gospel of Jesus Christ a dramatic new turn has been taken. God's verdict has been brought forward into the present.
Even now God declares that certain people are in the right. Even though this declaration concerns sinners, it is itself
righteous, because of two things: grace and faith. We can therefore expand our definition as follows: justification is not
only God's declaration on the last day that certain people are in the right: it is also his declaration in the present that,
because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the person who believes the Gospel is in the right."

NT Wright further writes, "The positive result of justification is that we live for God because Christ has died for us. Good works, as the Reformers
never tired of saying, are done not to earn salvation but out of gratitude for it: not out of fear lest we should be lost after
all but out of joy that we are saved after all."

While I think I understand some of the issues between Piper (or let's say, traditional Reformists) and Wright, it is important to understand that the language in the Westminster Confession and Wright's writings (i.e. in this pasted excerpt), is at least overlapping, if not doctrinally identical.

But here is my question for the blog. I see the difference b/w the two in fiducia, or what it means to trust in Jesus, and what part of belief is trust. Of course, Piper would argue Biblical faith, as best defined in Romans 3, is the belief in God justified us based on His mercy. Thus, Piper would argue that any Christian (and here I think we are unfair to Roman Catholics - I know RCs who trust God with this trust, and Protestants who do not), who does not have this trust is not born again , not a Christian, not justified. Would Wright argue this? The answer is unequivocally no. Thoughts? thanks. Tony in Boston

J. K. Jones said...

Tony,

Great to hear from you.

I am still reading the quote you posted. Thanks for it.

Wright's position has been sharpened by controversy, and that is always a good thing.

I'll comment further later.

J. K. Jones said...

Tony,

After further reflection:

I think Piper has defined faith as treasuring / loving God above everything and everyone else. We can debate whether this is exactly what the Bible means, but I’d rather do that separately.

I am going to let Piper speak for himself; he is, after all, a big boy. I am not a church historian, so I will not speak for the reformers either. I am going to argue for my layman’s understanding of the Bible.


Faith moves beyond mere intellectual assent; it moves into the area of trust. This trust is that Christ’s life (earning a positive righteousness), death (atoning for sin), and resurrection (triumphing over death and Hades) saves us. Not us in the abstract, but us in particular.

Christ accomplished for us payment for our past sins and earned a positive righteousness that can be credited to our account. He won a victory over every principle and power that could hold us captive to sin and death by canceling the written code that stands against us. There are other aspects to what Jesus did, but this is a large part of it.



Back to Wright (his comments in quotes):

“…justification is not only God's declaration on the last day that certain people are in the right: it is also his declaration in the present that, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the person who believes the Gospel is in the right."

This statement is very promising, but I am still confused.



“…justification is not the means whereby it becomes possible to declare someone in the right. It is simply that declaration itself. It is not how someone becomes a Christian, but simply the declaration that someone is a Christian.”

Here’s the confusion: how does someone get credit for what Christ did for them? What is the basis for the declaration that a person is in the right? Does he mean “Christ’s work, credited to the person, makes the person just?” That is true, and what the Bible clearly teaches (Romans 3: 21-31, 4:1-8; 2 Cor. 5:21; Galatians 2:15-16, 3:13-14; Hebrews 10:10, 14; and others if you are interested).

Or does he mean that a person is just before he is credited with Christ’s righteousness? How could that be exactly? Has the person done something that makes him righteous? Is a person actually just before and independent of the declaration? This is a dangerous idea, and I hope that is not what Wright means.

The Bible’s position is that the declaration makes it so (Romans 4:1-8). The legal declaration is what gives a person actual credit for what Christ has done. The Judge says it is so, and the Judge is just, so the verdict is just. God says so, so nothing anyone else says matters (Romans 8:1 and following).

Are there Roman Catholics who believe this? Yes. Undoubtedly.

Does the Roman Catholic church officially teach this? No. (The new Pope is saying some very interesting things, however.)

The gospel must be communicated clearly and directly. Faith goes beyond mere knowledge of facts, but it includes knowledge of those facts. Wright is not helping me communicate.



"The positive result of justification is that we live for God because Christ has died for us. Good works, as the Reformers never tired of saying, are done not to earn salvation but out of gratitude for it: not out of fear lest we should be lost after all but out of joy that we are saved after all."

Wright is spot on there.

Tony Faber said...

J.K.- I really don't take a year to reflect and reply... I hope you're still checking this thread though because your comments are interesting, and your concerns about Wright are similar to mine... and after reading "Justification", I really am concerned.

The most confusing aspect of anything Wright says, for me, is the idea that the Gospel is in fact about being declared part of God's family, and not about personal
redemption. If that is what the Gospel is really about, then I am reading a different Bible.

I think we and they (Wright and Piper) would both agree that God is clear that there is a difference between intellectual understanding of whom Jesus was, etc., and believing on Jesus. Of course, the question I think we are discussing is, reworded, "Can we believe in Jesus Christ AND not trust in Jesus Christ alone for our justification"?

I have come to adapt a viewpoint on this which I'm still not comfortable with, but it seems to be prevailing in my inner turmoil. It is this. Believing the Gospel is in fact just believing that Jesus is both Christ and Lord -for me, John 5, 6 and 20 and John's first letter are the clinchers. But here is a critical point that Piper would trounce on. The good news cannot be Jesus is Christ and Lord if one has not repented and believed in Jesus.

But what about believing if you trust in self plus Jesus? This may sound a bit unique, but I really don't even think Paul knew the answer to this, though clearly Galatians is all about discouraging this.

So while I certainly agree with the Westminster Confession, I would personally say that those whom believe that Jesus is Lord and Christ (and this belief is "from the heart" as evidenced by works (even in some cases if we as people cannot detect any such works)) and are relying on themselves in some part to make themselves right with God, are born again, as much as Paul and the apostles would disagree with works-righteous.

J. K. Jones said...

Tony,

Glad to have you come back. There is no time limit.

I’ll be direct. I apologize in advance if I have repeated myself from a comment above.

Wright said that justification (being declared right with God) is at the end of life based “on the total life lived.” If that is the case, I am in trouble. There’s nothing to my life that would commend it if the standard you apply is perfection (Matthew 5:48).

Thankfully, the Bible has a gospel I can hope in. Christ died for my sins (1 Cor. 15:3). Somehow in that death, Christ became sin for me that I could become the righteousness of God in Him (1 Cor. 5:21). Christ became a curse for me (Galatians 3:13). Those are things I can depend on.



“The most confusing aspect of anything Wright says, for me, is the idea that the Gospel is in fact about being declared part of God's family, and not about personal redemption. If that is what the Gospel is really about, then I am reading a different Bible.”

I often wonder where Wright gets what he says when I look at the view of the entire Bible. I am no Greek scholar (not one at all, in fact), but I have read the Bible through several times. Wright’s interpretations do not reflect what I read when I read the Bible as a whole.

“… the question I think we are discussing is, reworded, "Can we believe in Jesus Christ AND not trust in Jesus Christ alone for our justification"?”

No.

“The good news cannot be Jesus is Christ and Lord if one has not repented and believed in Jesus.”

You got that right.

“But what about believing if you trust in self plus Jesus?... those whom believe that Jesus is Lord and Christ (and this belief is "from the heart" as evidenced by works (even in some cases if we as people cannot detect any such works)) and are relying on themselves in some part to make themselves right with God, are born again, as much as Paul and the apostles would disagree with works-righteous.”

It’s a little like having one foot in two boats and standing across them. If the boat under your left foot has holes in it, it is going to sink, you are going to fall in, and you are going to get wet. If the other boat had no holes, you should have put both feet in it to start with.

My “self” is like the boat with holes, and Jesus is like the boat without the holes. I must get out of my “self” and get into Jesus and Him alone. I do this through faith alone.

That’s what Paul said (Galatians 3:1-6, 10-14). That’s what John said (John 6:47). That’s what Jesus said (Luke 18:9-14). That’s what God told Abraham when He went through the halves (Genesis 15).

“ This may sound a bit unique, but I really don't even think Paul knew the answer to this, though clearly Galatians is all about discouraging this.”

His answers seem pretty clear to me. I think he knew exactly what he was saying.

I think that, ultimately, Wright just confuses the issue beyond recognition. I am afraid you are confused.

JK

Tony Faber said...

JK- thanks for the thoughtful response. I do certainly agree with most of your thought-process, but let me play devil's advocate a bit more because I appreciate your responses on the topic.

Two points.

In terms of saying Wright would say we are judged based on our works, from extrapolating a bit from what he has said post Piper's refutation, this is the objection raised that really bothers Wright. To the point, in fact, where his essential response to the Piper text was that Piper misunderstood him.

But as much as I agree with you and Piper, in fairness, Wright is not saying we are justified by works - he is saying we are justified by faith, but, like Abraham whom trusted God to the point of bringing his son for sacrifice, we inevitably all have works that follow our re-birth. If Abraham pulled a Jonah after God promised him a son, his works would be missing because his trust was missing. Do I think we will be judged on our works that are proof of our faith? I don't. But is there a distinction between what Wright is saying and what works-righteousness theology like Rome teaches? I think so, and I don't think this difference is subtle or confusing at all. Wesley - "While it's faith alone that saves, the faith that is alone never saves." This is the first half of what Wright is saying, but of course I don't think he has a strong Scriptural argument for the second half of what he was saying e.g. that God tells Abraham he is justified because he did all those things after believing God, and not because of his belief. Wright and Rome may be wrong and wrong, but I think Wright is a lot closer to Reformed/Scriptural views and a lot farther from Roman views than we are giving him credit for.

Secondly, while the only way I know to come to Christ is by, how you eloquently put it, having both feet in the same boat, my idea of what saving faith is secondary to all the faiths that God will consider genuine.

I was born-again when I fully trusted Christ - and I don't think I was ever saved (though here I point out I was actually always saved) when I was a Roman Catholic and believed that Jesus was the Christ and Lord, because I didn't really understood what that meant. In every way, I agree that saving faith is faith alone in Christ alone, when one comes to him with a repentient heart - but there is a large middle ground from where I was as a RC and where I am now in my beliefs.

So let me throw out a fictional but extremely relevant and practical scenario out there, for obvious reasons.

John Deeks (a fake ID I had when I was 16) comes to you and says, "I believe that Jesus is the Christ - I believe he was raised from the dead and was crucified for my sins. He is Lord." "And I believe that if I live a life in which I am bearing fruit I will go to heaven because Jesus has given me this chance with his life, death and ressurection." "After all, Paul says anyone who confesses with their.... and he lays out the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 and I believe that... and Jesus himself says, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Clearly Jesus here is using believed in its most simplest sense - Thomas didn't believe Jesus was God and capable of rising from the dead, but anyone who does believe this will be "blessed." And if this is how Jesus clearly uses "believed". And he tells Martha, she will live forever because Martha believed "you are the Christ."

Back to Tony... I think John D. makes a strong, strong argument here. God isn't the author of confusion, and He of course never lies. How are folks whom believe like Thomas did after poking, and Martha, not born again? And, of course, this is what Wright would say.

How would you refute this argument?
thanks, I know this was a bit long-winded

J. K. Jones said...

Tony,

Please provide a Scripture reference on the exchange between Jesus and Martha.

JK

Tony Faber said...

J.K.-

Thanks for the comment on the blog. Again, to be clear, I agree 100% with what you define and believe as our saving faith. The question though that I think we are trying to get at the heart of is, if somebody believes in Jesus as the Christ and as their Lord yet erroneously believes he/she has something to do with their ultimate salvation that Jesus has "enabled", are they born-again?

I was referencing John 11, I believe verses 24-26... Tony

J. K. Jones said...

Tony,

N. T. Wright Quotes:

“Finally, for Piper justification through Christ alone is the same in the future (on the last day) as in the present, whereas for Paul, whom I am following very closely at this point, the future justification is given on the basis of the Spirit-generated life that the justified-by-faith-in-the-present person then lives. In fact, the omission of the Spirit from many contemporary Reformed statements of justification is one of their major weaknesses…What’s missing is the key work of the Holy Spirit in enabling the already-justified believers to live with moral energy and will so that they really do ‘please God’ as Paul says again and again (but as Reformed theology is shy of lest it smack of smuggling in works-righteousness again).” (http://trevinwax.com/2009/01/13/interview-with-nt-wright-responding-to-piper-on-justification/)


“[We will be justified] on the basis of the whole life lived.”

“But I think it’s very easy to correlate it with justification by faith, because the whole point of justification by faith in Romans 3 is that that is something that happens in the present time and then in order to explain how it is that the present verdict issued over faith alone can be sure to correspond to the future verdict that will issue over the whole of life, Paul writes Romans 5-8 which ends up, “There is therefore now no condemnation” because of the Spirit, because, etc… with warnings attached. “If you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.””

(http://trevinwax.com/2007/11/19/trevin-wax-interview-with-nt-wright-full-transcript/)

“[Justification]in the first century was not about how someone might establish a relationship with God. It was about God’s eschatological definition, both future and present, of who was, in fact, a member of his people. In Sanders’ terms, it was not so much about ‘getting in,’ or indeed about ‘staying in,’ as about ‘how you could tell who was in.’ In standard Christian theological language, it wasn’t so much about soteriology as about ecclesiology; not so much about salvation as about the church.” (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/new-perspective-paul-calvin-and-nt-wright/)


“If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatsoever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys, or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom.” (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/whats-wrong-wright-examining-new-perspective-paul/)


“Within this context, ‘justification,’ as seen in [Romans]3:24-26, means that those who believe in Jesus Christ are declared to be members of the true covenant family which of course means that their sins are forgiven, since that was the purpose of the covenant.” (http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/nt-wright-justification/)

J. K. Jones said...

J. K.s Comments:

I have let Wright speak for himself.

It is possible that what you said is correct:
“Wright is not saying we are justified by works - he is saying we are justified by faith, but, like Abraham whom trusted God to the point of bringing his son for sacrifice, we inevitably all have works that follow our re-birth.” – Tony

If that is all Wright is saying, I agree with him. Works necessarily (!) follow justification. That has been taught by the Reformed camp since there came to be a Reformed camp (Luther, Calvin, Owen, Packer, Sproul, Gerstner, Piper, etc.).

Works are necessary, but not meritorious. The works don’t earn us anything. I am not sure Wright would affirm this based on quotes 1-3 above. I may be wrong, but the fact that I am even confused on Wright’s opinion leads me to believe he needs to do a better job of explaining himself to simple minds like mine. I think I represent laymen not professionally trained in theology in that regard.

You had mentioned that Martha and Thomas as examples of people who were promised the kingdom of heaven based merely on their profession that Jesus is Lord. There is no doubt in my mind that those two did not have a complete understanding of what was done for them on the cross at the times those comments were made. But I do think that if you set down with them and talked over the issues you would find they understood what justification by faith alone meant and could articulate it fairly well. You don’t have to understand perfectly, but what you do understand you have to understand accurately.

As for me, I’ll go with Westminster:

“Justification is an act of God’s free grace in which he pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in his sight for the sake of the righteousness of Christ alone, which is credited to us and received by faith alone” (Shorter Catechism, 33).

“Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.” (Shorter Catechism 86)

If someone came to me and said:

"I believe that Jesus is the Christ - I believe he was raised from the dead and was crucified for my sins. He is Lord. And I believe that if I live a life in which I am bearing fruit I will go to heaven because Jesus has given me this chance with his life, death and resurrection."

Then I would say to them:

“What do you mean by ‘if I live a life?’ Do mean that your life earns for you a place in heaven?”

The answer to that question would then determine my next step. I might try to convince them that they must trust Christ instead of themselves and their life. I might affirm his faith. But I would be compelled to ask.

But why should I expect a seminary trained expert, beyond that a first-rate scholar even, to be so imprecise as to have to be asked a question like that? I expect more from Wright. He’s a smart guy with allot to contribute to the picture.

JK

Tony Faber said...

Hi J.K-
Sure, what Wright is trying to say is not what the Reformers, or we, are trying to say. Certainly he rejects imputation, and once he does that, the whole trajectory of justification has to be unique. Let's agree that Wright's idea of what justification is is not what Scripture is saying. I concede all that.

Let me just follow up on the Martha/Thomas issue. For me, there are two things that don't make sense (and to bring up Wesley again, he says something very similar to you i.e. the faith of the NT people is something different from the saving faith of NT people after the resurrection).

However, John writes his gospel with the purpose statement of the readers (John 20) that they may know Jesus is the Christ, and by believing that may have eternal life. Again, in his letter to the early Christian Churches, his purpose, 1 John 5:13, is that they may KNOW that those whom believe have eternal life. In my mind, John's view is quite consistent with Paul's view; all those whom believe from the heart that Jesus is the Christ are born-again. While there theology may be quite muddled (any addition of anything to Christ's finished work on the Cross) they are still in the New Covenant. And this is my point. This is the part I think Wright has correct; those that deny these folks are part of the Christian family, in my mind, are incorrect. In other words, all those people whom went to their grave believing in Jesus as Lord and Christ yet part of them thought their thoughts/actions/non-actions somehow affected their ultimate salvation, I would say, unequivocally, are Christians. And no matter how wrong he was on other stuff, here, Wright would agree, where many (contemporary folks like Macarthur and Sproul included) would disagree - and i think it is these folks that have it wrong.

J. K. Jones said...

What part of the two narratives that you shared points out that Martha or Thomas relied on their works?

What part of what I have said would lead you to think that we do not look to works as evidence of our salvation?

By the way, Sproul and Macarthur would be appart on this issue due to John Mc.'s dispensationalism.

Tony Faber said...

Hi J.K.-

None and none, of course.

I'm arguing a different point all together - that one can believe in Jesus and still erroneously think they have something to do with their salvation. I know you (and most reformed)differ in opinion. I just don't see any biblical proof there, and on the contrary, see an abundant number of Scripture (overwhelmingly from Jesus' words themselves) that would argue John D. is saved.

J. K. Jones said...

Tony,

Please provide me with one example of a person who told Jesus she was relying on her works for salvation that Jesus approved.

I just cannot seem to find one.

JK

Tony Faber said...

J.K.-
thanks for the reply.

Of course, the answer to your question is nobody.

Let me try to re-word this a bit. If we are saved by grace alone, than that really means that we are saved by grace alone, and not by knowing it is by grace alone. If we are to maintain that we are saved by grace alone by faith alone, then it is incompatible to deny that those whom erroneously believe that they are saved in part by works are not in fact saved. Contrarily, this would actually be arguing against grace alone by faith alone. This is all my point.

So when you say that those whom are not fully trusting Christ are then not saved, it is here I disagree.

And to bring it back to Wright, when we says all those whom believe in Jesus Christ are saved even if they don't know that they are saved (e.g. those in the works-righteousness camp) I would emphatically say at this point, though not many of his others, he is indeed right.

J. K. Jones said...

Tony,

AQre you still monitoring this tread?

JK

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