Tag Archives | justification

Titus 2:11 in Calvin

A few days ago I discussed Titus 2:11 in Context in light of my personal Bible reading and my stumbling across this rather bothersome statement by Donald Bloesch:

The Calvinist position, especially as transmitted through Reformed orthodoxy, stands in palpable conflict with the New Testament witness.1 Titus 2:11 assures us that “the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men.” The Pauline writer of 1 Timothy contends that Jesus Christ sacrificed himself “to win freedom for all mankind” (2:6 NEB).2

In case you skipped over the footnote, Bloesch said, “In this discussion we need to bear in mind that Calvin’s position and that of later Calvinism are not identical.”

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Footnotes

  1. In this discussion we need to bear in mind that Calvin’s position and that of later Calvinism are not identical. See Clifford, Atonement and Justification, pp. 69–110.
  2. Donald G. Bloesch, Jesus Christ: Savior & Lord (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997), 168.

Titus 2:11 in Context

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people (Ἐπεφάνη γὰρ ἡ χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ σωτήριος πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις)” (Tit 2:11). This text is a favorite of Arminians and pseudo-Reformed men like Donald G. Bloesch, who asserts, “The Calvinist position, especially as transmitted through Reformed orthodoxy, stands in palpable conflict with the New Testament witness.1 Titus 2:11 assures us that ‘the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men.’”2

I don’t think a contextually sensitive reading of this passage will support such a naïve statement. While the context may not decisively rule out the interpretation Bloesch takes, several factors point in the direction of the following interpretation and demonstrate the gross misrepresentation of Bloesch’s statement.

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Footnotes

  1. In this discussion we need to bear in mind that Calvin’s position and that of later Calvinism are not identical. See Clifford, Atonement and Justification, pp. 69–110.
  2. Donald G. Bloesch, Jesus Christ: Savior & Lord (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997), 168.

A Faith That Is Never Alone

A Faith That Is Never Alone: A Response to the Faculty of Westminster Seminary California, edited by P. Andrew Sandlin and published by Kerygma Press, is due out sometime this fall. It is a response to Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry: Essays by the Faculty of Westminster Seminary California, edited by R. Scott Clark and published by P&R.

Here are the planned chapters and contributors:

CHAPTER 1—John H. Armstrong: “Preaching the Faith That Is Never Alone”

CHAPTER 2—Norman Shepherd: “Faith and Faithfulness”

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Daily Justification?

In anticipation of part two of “When Was Abraham Justified?” and particularly the explication of what exactly Genesis 15:6 means if it does not designate the point at which Abraham was converted and justified, I’d like to bring up the related issue of the frequency of forensic justification before God. Most evangelicals today speak of justification as a one-time act that takes place at the moment when saving faith is first exercised. This declaration is unique, unalterable, and unrepeatable.1

I was surprised a year or two ago to find out that Luther and Calvin didn’t see it quite that way, or at least didn’t always express it that way. Rather, they acknowledged the necessity of thinking of justification as an ongoing and continual experience and perhaps a repeated occurrence. This is to be carefully distinguished from a process whereby the justified individual becomes progressively more justified than he was before, increasing in his righteous status. Luther and Calvin both affirm that the believing sinner is just as forensically righteous when he first believes as he ever will be. The real issue is whether justification should be considered a one-time, unrepeatable act whereby God imputes Christ’s righteousness once and for all to the believer’s account or whether it should be connected to faith as often as it is exercised so that the believer may be said to be justified repeatedly.2

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Footnotes

  1. Surely justification by works, about which James speaks, and future justification should also be brought into the discussion at this point, but I must resist heading in that direction—at least for now.
  2. At the heart of this question are the meanings of and relationship between justification and imputation, which take shape in these two main issues: (1) whether justification is a declaration of righteousness to be distinguished from imputation or whether imputation is a subset of justification (or perhaps whether they are identical), and (2) whether imputation is best viewed as an accounting term of crediting (which would suggest one-time and unrepeatable) or whether it carries the idea of reckoning or considering (which would lend itself to repeated occurrences.

When Was Abraham Justified? | Part 1

AbrahamWhen was Abraham justified? This might seem like a rather elementary question with an obvious answer: Abraham was justified when he believed the Lord and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness, which is recorded in Genesis 15:6. Certainly Paul’s use of this text in defense of justification by faith apart from works in Romans 4 and Galatians 3 confirms that Genesis 15:6 was the precise point of Abraham’s justification, doesn’t it? This is probably what most people assume. This is what I thought—prior to giving it some careful consideration.

I’m now convinced that Abraham was already justified prior to the events recorded at the beginning of Genesis 15. In this post I’d like to give some arguments in favor of this position, and in the next post I will answer objections and respond to potential problems.

As I see it, the main issue hinges on one central point:

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Wright on Imputation

I found this selection from Wright (see the whole lecture) to be helpful in clarifying his view on imputation:

The covenant plan of God has what may loosely be called a ‘participationist’ aspect, and this, too, is part of the glorification of God, as I have already shown from Romans 15. Abraham’s true family, the single ‘seed’ which God promised him, is summed up in the Messiah, whose role precisely as Messiah is not least to draw together the identity of the whole of God’s people so that what is true of him is true of them and vice versa. Here we arrive at one of the great truths of the gospel, which is that the accomplishment of Jesus Christ is reckoned to all those who are ‘in him’. This is the truth which has been expressed within the Reformed tradition in terms of ‘imputed righteousness’, often stated in terms of Jesus Christ having fulfilled the moral law and thus having accumulated a ‘righteous’ status which can be shared with all his people. Continue Reading →

“New Perspectives on Paul”

Justification in PerspectiveI just finished reading what is probably the best summary and most mature exposition of the contours of N. T. Wright’s theology of justification that I have read so far: “New Perspectives on Paul” by N. T. Wright, the final essay in the new volume Justification in Perspective: Historical Developments and Contemporary Challenges (2006), edited by Bruce L. McCormack. Wright responds to the numerous critiques that have been leveled against him over the past several years. The result is a more carefully nuanced and cogently expressed discussion of the central issues.

One thing I found very interesting was Wright’s assertion that the essence of his views on Paul was pre-Sanders. In other words, Wright didn’t rely on Sanders for his ideas. Rather, Wright came to his convictions independently—many of Sanders’s central points merely confirming what Wright had already been thinking (245–46).

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By Faith, Not By Sight

by-faith-not-by-sight.jpgRichard B. Gaffin Jr., By Faith, Not by Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation. Paternoster, 2006. 114 pp.

[rate 4.5]

I’ve been reading portions of Richard Gaffin’s new book, By Faith, Not By Sight: Paul and the Order of Salvation (WTSBooks), and have found it helpful. Particularly insightful are his comments on (1) justification and the center of Paul’s theology and (2) the concept of eschatological justification.

The Center of Paul’s Theology

This selection summarizes his position well:

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Paradigm Shift—Paul’s Use of Σάρξ

Over the past couple of years, and particularly the past several months, I’ve been in the process of a fairly significant paradigm shift in the way I read the NT—particularly Paul. Though I have already made a major shift, I’m still somewhat in transition; I’m still testing my conclusions to see if they fit naturally or if they must be forced to work. The shift involves a significant challenge to the way interpretors for hundreds of years have understood Paul’s use of σάρξ.

Several factors have influenced this transition.

(1) I chose Herman Ridderbos for my Adv. NTT theologian project, whose emphasis on Heilsgeschichte has opened my eyes to the objective, historical elements of Paul’s thought that are too often read in a more existential, ahistorical (and acontextual!) way. One example: when Paul says that now is the day of salvation, he doesn’t mean this text to be used (primarily) as a appeal to teenage campers to make a decision for Christ before it’s too late; rather, he is arguing that the fulfillment of the promise of the New Covenant has dawned with the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are living in the era of salvation foretold by the OT prophets.

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