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Saturday, October 29, 2005

N.T. Wright: Justification by Faith

Almost one year ago, Bishop N.T. Wright gave the following lecture at a PCA congregation in the US (a group deeply divided over +Tom's writings) and simply did a brilliant job in handling those who have accused him of being dangerous. One of the interesting comments that I've read from some of +Tom's strongest opponents in that US denomination is that he takes sin lightly and pushes it a bit to the side. This is from a man who writes below that
Justification by faith, the verdict issued in the present time over gospel faith which anticipates the verdict issued in the future over the entire life, thus produces the solid assurance of membership, now and in the future, in the single family promised to Abraham, which as I have already stressed is the family whose sins have been forgiven, since the purpose of the covenant in the first place was always to deal with sin."
Since the PURPOSE of the Covenant in the FIRST PLACE was ALWAYS to deal with SIN. Is there a response or is this acknowledged? Not in the last year that I am aware of. I have yet to see any written critique of these talks and I would be especially interested to see some from those who have screamed the loudest about +Tom's lack of orthodoxy. This balanced view of Paul that encapsulates the whole Christian life is often missing from those who are most verbal in their critiques of +Tom Wright. Here is a portion of the lecture:
Justification by faith, the verdict issued in the present time over gospel faith which anticipates the verdict issued in the future over the entire life, thus produces the solid assurance of membership, now and in the future, in the single family promised to Abraham, which as I have already stressed is the family whose sins have been forgiven, since the purpose of the covenant in the first place was always to deal with sin. Justification in the present tells every believer that she or he is a beloved, forgiven child of God, a fact which must at once be put into practice in terms of full membership in God’s people, full dining rights at the family table. Justification by faith in the present is therefore equally about (a) the sigh of relief that I don’t have to earn my status in God’s people, simply to receive it, and (b) the definition of the Christian community in terms of nothing more nor less than faith itself. And this brings us back where we began: because, since the covenant community was promised to Abraham and his family, and since the Jewish people had been the embattled guardians of that promise for two millennia, nothing was more natural, but nothing would have been more fatal to God’s ultimate purposes, than for the bearers of the promise to try to confine it to Abraham’s family according to the flesh. They had been entrusted with the promise, but they had proved untrustworthy, and had not brought about the worldwide glorification of Israel’s God that had been intended. (That is what is going on in Romans 3.1–8, and it would be good to see the supposed defenders of reformed orthodoxy offering an exegesis of that passage.) But now the Messiah has been faithful, as the representative Israelite, so that God’s own covenant faithfulness would be unveiled in action in his ‘obedience unto death, even the death of the cross’. And since the covenant purpose, to deal with sin and to launch new creation, has thus been spectacularly accomplished in his work, justification in the present must be by faith alone, not by works of the Jewish Law, partly because all human beings have fallen short of God’s glory, and partly because if it were by the Law only Jews would qualify. And we know, because Paul insists on it, with that little single-syllable, single-letter word we spoke of an hour ago, that God is not the God of Jews only, but of Gentiles also, since God is one.
You can find the rest here.

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    O God, most glorious, most bountiful, accept, we humbly beseech thee, our praises and thanksgivings for thy holy Catholic Church, the mother of us all who bear the name of Christ; for the faith which it hath conveyed in safety to our time, and the mercies by which it hath enlarged and comforted the souls of men; for the virtues which it hath established upon earth, and the holy lives by which it glorifieth both the world and thee; to whom, O blessed Trinity (+), be ascribed all honour, might, majesty and dominion, now and for ever. Amen.
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