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May 18, 2009


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Ron Henzel

I hate to be a wet blanket here, but I would consider the imputation of Christ's active righteousness to believers one of "the major Reformation perspectives on justification," since it figures prominently in Luther, Calvin, and the Reformed confessions. The same argument that Wright has used to deny it (viz., that in a legal setting a judge will not give his own righteousness to the condemned) also serves as an argument against substitutionary atonement (since neither do judges bear the sins of the condemned). I believe it is Blomberg who has not adequately read Wright, rather than Piper. My own thoughts on Christ's atonement can be found at http://midwestoutreach.org/blogs/the-lamb-that-was-slain.

Michael W. Kruse

"... I would consider the imputation of Christ's active righteousness to believers one of "the major Reformation perspectives on justification," since it figures prominently in Luther, Calvin, and the Reformed confessions."

And the central tenant of the Reformation was that Scripture, not human conventions or creeds, is our primary guide. Luther and Calvin would role over in their graves at the notion that because the came to some conclusions 400-500 years ago that those conclusions should take precedence over the scripture.

Wright does affirm substitutionary atonement:

“Fourth, this faithful obedience of the Messiah, culminating in his death ”for our sins in accordance with the scriptures” as in one of Paul’s summaries of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:3), is regularly understood in terms of the Messiah, precisely because he represents his people, now appropriately standing in for them, taking upon himself the death which they deserved, so that they might not suffer it themselves. This is most clearly expressed, to my mind, in two passages: Romans 8:3, where Paul declares the God “condemned sin in the flesh” (not e, he does not say that God “condemned Jesus,” but that he “condemned sin in the flesh” of Jesus); and 2 Corinthians 5:21a, where he says that God “made him to be sin [for us] who knew no sin.” There are of course many other passages in which Paul draws upon, and draws out, the stunning, majestic , grace-filled, love-expressing, life-giving message and meaning of the Messiah’s cross. But there are basic and clear. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ Jesus … For God … has condemned sin in the flesh [of his son].” Sin was condemned there, in his flesh, so that it shall not now be condemned here, in us, in those who are “in him.” Notice how the sterile old antithesis between “representation” and substitution” is completely overcome. The Messiah is able to be the substitute because he is the representative. Once we grasp the essentially Jewish categories of thought with which Paul is working, many problems in a de-Judaized systematic theology are transcended.” (105-106)

Luther and Calvin inaccurately read Romans, and other passages, as abstract theological discourses on law and grace. Documents discovered during the past century from Second Temple Judaism have opened our eyes to the deeply Jewish connections Paul was making. The issue was not law and grace. The Jews were created through a covenant and then given the law to keep as a stipulation of that covenant. Salvation through works was not on their radar.

The presenting question for Paul’s audience was that God had made a covenant that entailed, as Wright says, “the single-plan-through-Israel-for-the-world.” Was Christ now a departure from that plan? If so, and God did not fulfill his covenant with the Jews, how can we trust the work God has promised in Christ? Romans is largely in answer to that question.

Wright clearly believes in substitutionary atonement but not in the abstract theological mindset of Luther and Calvin. It is all deeply connected with God being faithful to his covenant.

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