Wright is Wrong on Justification

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by The Biblicist, May 12, 2016.

  1. The Biblicist

    The Biblicist
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    "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." - W.T. Right

    Wright provides a legal definition of justification but not a Biblical definition. He claims "the basic meaning of the term is therefore not 'forgiveness"...not (at this stage mercy, is being carried out..."

    However, Paul defines his use of the term in Romans 4:5-8 to be inclusive of the non-imputation of sin and forgiveness:

    5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
    6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works,
    7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
    8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

    Paul's view of justification is both positive and negative while Wright's view is "justification has a positive sense" which only indicates "the absense guilt" but Paul's is much more comprehensive as his view is not merely and "indication" and not merely "guilt" but "iniquities are forgiven....will not impute sin." One does not have to infer what Paul's view involves but it is clearly stated. His view is not merely about "guilt" but the forgiveness of sins, the removal of iniquity.

    Paul's view of justification is inclusive of both imputed righteousness AND forgiveness of sins based solely upon the works and person of Jesus Christ WITHOUT any inclusion of works performed in or by our own persons before or after regeneration.

    :When, therefore, Gentiles come to believe in Jesus Christ, they are in fact fulfilling the law, whether or not they have even heard of it, 52 and they are therefore rightly to be regarded as within the covenant, i.e. they are to be justified. Abraham's family has been redefined (9:6-29), with the result that the Spirit is poured out on all flesh (10:13 refers to Joel 2:28-32), and Jew and Gentile who call on the name of the Lord alike will be saved. 53 God is shown to be in the right in his treatment of Israel and the nations. 54 This also explains the difficult phrase 'the law of faith' in 3:27. Nomos is here to be translated not 'principle', but 'law' in its full sense. 55 Faith in Jesus Christ turns out to be the fulfilment of the law, not its abolition. 56 This faith is of course not a 'work' done to earn God's favour, nor is it to be equated with 'righteousness' understood as a moral quality. 57 It is simply the evidence of the work of grace in the heart." - W.T. Wright

    However, faith is not fulfilling the Law by the justified as the Law has been completely fulfilled by the justifier (Jesus Christ). Faith is simply "in" the justifier and his provision of COMPLETE satisfaction of the Law's demands. Wright is Wrong about "nomos" in Rom. 3:27. It should be translated "principle" because it is being contrasted to "the works of the law" and therefore is not "law" but a "principle" that is in opposition to "the works of the Law." Faith is NOT "the evidence of the work of grace in the heart" as Wright claims as that makes it equal to works of righteousness. In fact, it is the very reverse. Works are the evidence of faith in the heart. Faith is defined by Paul in Romans 4:21 to be the absence of personal efforts, as both Abraham and Sarah were "DEAD" in regard to personal efforts. Faith RESTS in Christ's finished works rather than fulfills the works of Christ. Faith fulfills the law only by RESTING in Christ's satisfaction of the Law's demands and his promise to impute the righteousness of the law to the believer by faith. Faith does not fulfill the law by PARTICIPATION in keeping the Law, but by IMPUTATION of a fulfilled Law by Christ.

    Faith does not equal faithfulness just as repentance does not equal the fruit of repentance. Justifying faith RECEIVES and RESTS whereas faithfulness is a REACTION to what has been received by faith.
     
    #1 The Biblicist, May 12, 2016
    Last edited: May 12, 2016
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  2. JamesL

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    I don't think Paul evdn had a "view" of justification

    It was simply an ordinary vocabulary word he used. Can I ask you....

    What's your view of "driving"
    What's your view of "ceiling"
    What's your view of "closing"

    Can you honestly say you have a "view" on common vocabulary words?

    Justified was a common word that had a NON theological definition - but was used in a theological treatise. The definition didn't change, the application was broadened
     
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  3. The Biblicist

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    Hello James! Paul puts a theological definition on justification with regards to Christ. He clearly states what it is not and what it is. That is putting a theological definition on it. He says we are justified "without works" and He says we are justified "by faith" "by grace" and that places a theological definition upon it. Paul has a distinct DOCTRINE of justification and that is a "view."

    Wright equally uses the term justification within some definable boundaries (opposite to Paul).
     
    #3 The Biblicist, May 12, 2016
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  4. The Biblicist

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    What Wright has accomplished is a synergism between sacramentalism and the Reformed view of justification. This is a monumental feat by Wright. He has merged both together and the way he has done it is by tweaking some definitions at pivotal points in the Reformed doctrine. However, in the final analysis, he uses Biblical language with unbiblical definitions. His view is really justification by works, in spite of the Biblical language he uses that sounds Reformed and the proof of the pudding is his stated view on the sacraments. He is teaching "another gospel" concealed in Reformed language.

    The only way you are going to see what he is doing is to very carefully examine his definition of terms and examine his interpretations of critical texts where he redefines the Biblical meaning.
     
    #4 The Biblicist, May 12, 2016
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  5. JonC

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    Before we get too off track and conclude that Wright's view of justification does not include both the positive and negative aspects, don't forget that he states that justification presupposes both sin and grace.
     
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  6. The Biblicist

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    I understand that, but it is his careful definitions that deny his view is Pauline.
     
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  7. JonC

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    I'm not getting what you say here. I agree that definitions are often where views depart, but I don't think careless ones are helpful. But you are right that we can't just jump into the fray without truly understanding what is being presented by the words used.

    Some here have argued that justification is a moral declaration (we are declared moral because of Jesus' Law-keeping). Others view it as God merely declaring what he has done (God forgives us and then he declares us, essentially, forgiven and right with him). I find both of those definitions lacking. So I agree with Wright that there is more to justification than has been often taught. I also think that God has his covenant in mind. I, therefore, appreciate Wright's views because they bring into the forefront some discussion that I think we should be having (not necessarily because I believe his conclusions are absolutely correct...I don't think he even believes that).
     
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  8. Greektim

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    Before I respond to you OP, I want to address something you said in a previous thread. But let me begin by scolding you for not providing citation for quotation. Good dialogue cannot happen without this. I can't expect you to follow my arguments that I provide unless I provide the means for you to follow. Likewise in reverse.

    So here goes:

    My response:

    So I checked, and as I suspected, you misrepresented and misunderstand Wright's statement. You even misquoted him!!! This kind of false representation is in the same vein as Gail Riplinger's attempts to smear in her terrible books. I would encourage you to be more judicious in your quoting and understanding of Wright.

    Now here is the entire quote in context from "Justification: The Biblical Basis and its Relevance for Contemporary Evangelicalism" (accessed:http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Justification_Biblical_Basis.pdf)

    As I thought, this isn't about Romans 4, but it began with Romans 2 and mainly 3.

    Second, he clearly admits "justification by faith". However, his understanding of justification as it pertains to those in the Judaizer camp is that Jews access the promises of Abraham through their physical decent. Thus they boast in their ethnic heritage. Therefore, the works they perform are not a means of attaining their status as the people of God but of demonstrating their status. This is not what Wright believes but explaining what many Jews of Paul's day believed!

    Third, with that context in mind, Wright's statement (quoted correctly with scare quotes and a colon), the "works" performed by the Jews in order to demonstrate their ethnic status in Abraham and thus boast is an attempt to confine grace to Jews only and not Gentiles. Thus this paragraph began with removing ethnic partiality with God providing salvation to all mankind.

    Lastly, the only thing you would probably object to is that Wright claims Paul is not arguing against legalism in Romans. But that hardly makes him a heretic.
     
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  9. agedman

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    First, I am not familiar with all of Wright's writing. What you post in the OP would be correct (imo) in the view that Justification does have a farther reach than merely declaring one acquitted, not merely innocent, but that validating the rightness of the person.

    For example: In the U.S. judicial system one may be acquitted of a crime but still be liable for damages under the civil court system. The view of Paul is that not only is the sin (crime) acquitted, but the iniquity (liability) is also removed.

    Both you and the quote given by you of Wright would seem to be stating similar thought lines, just different terminologies.

    In agreement to your view, regard how Romans 4 cannot be separated from Romans 5 because of the word "THEREFORE."

    Here is the transition of Romans 4 into Romans 5:

    He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.
    Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.​

    The very raising of Christ from the tomb was because OUR justification had taken place.

    Paul didn't just pick a common word with some nebulous meaning, but one in which believers are "declared righteous."

    Christ was raised because of our being "declared righteous," and we were not merely "acquitted" but because the iniquity was expunged (as you pointed out) we have that introducing to God and the hope of His glory. Which is why one cannot separate Romans 4 from the explanation of Romans 5.

    These are legal terms, not generally applied outside of a judicial system. And in the context of use, Paul is also showing that the acquittal process extended beyond what our legal system thinking allows, into a complete expunging of not only the record but a proof of being righteous delivered and future deliverance. Paul was VERY familiar being schooled and a recognized scholar of the Jews prior to his conversion.

    Very good thread, Biblicist.
     
  10. The Biblicist

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    Here is the bottom line. Paul's definition of terms and his doctrine of justification by faith is restricted to what is done by Christ in and through his own body and completely foreign and separated from anything done in or through the physical body of the believer. The only bridge between Christ and the believer is IMPUTATION by faith, and faith is defined as merely RESTING in the good news of Christ's finished work. That means that the Pauline definition of justification by "faith" does not equal "faithfulness."

    Wright's view of justification MERGES what Christ has finished in his own body with what occurs within and/or through the physical body of the believer. The absolute proof of this MERGING doctrine is his views of the sacraments.
     
  11. JonC

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    I'm just going to make a quick comment and then wait and read.

    I think that we run a stronger risk of viewing another's position out of context when we look at one aspect of salvation (e.g., justification). It's difficult because there is always someone who will point out something not mentioned directly and before you know it the element you were speaking of is blended with salvation as a whole. I don't think we can pull each aspect apart and examine it except within the context of the whole. And I don't believe anyone here is denying that justification presupposes sin and grace.

    I also agree with Maurice - "People are more likely to be right in what they affirm than in what they deny." F.D. Maurice

    (Which came from Vanhoozer's comment of people's reaction towards N.T. Wright...I just borrowed it)

     
  12. The Biblicist

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    "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" - W.T. Wright (The Results of Justification) http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Justification_Biblical_Basis.pdf

    Wright is wrong here. He is making a synergism between his view and the Biblical view (which he calls the "Reformers" view). Good works are not the positive result of justification as Wright claims but rather the positive result of regeneration. He consistently attempts to tie "works" performed in or through the body of the justified with his doctrine of justification, when justification has NOTHING to do with "works" performed in or through the body of the justified.
     
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  13. Martin Marprelate

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    But faith is not the fulfilment of the law, is it? Christ Himself is the fulfilment of the law (Matthew 5:17; Galatians 3:13) and Christians are justified by their union with Him through faith.
     
  14. Greektim

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    2 things: Wright claims to only give a "bare definition." And his definition is simply a lexical definition not meant to be what you classify as a "Biblical definition." Point in fact, Paul assumes the lexical definition. Rom. 4:5–8 isn't actually a definition of justification either. So you are incorrect there as well. It would be wrong to subsume all the terms of salvation (like justification and forgiveness). But they are separate ideas that overlap and relate but distinct nonetheless.

    Second, do you intentionally misspell his name as W. T. Right??? Later you have W. T. Wright. But it is N. T. Wright. Either you do not "understand" or you are "intentionally perverting" his name. You accused him of something similar.


    First, I'm not sure you understand what Wright mean by positive. He said that the "absence of guilt" is not strong enough for the positive argument. Instead of it meaning "not guilty" it instead means "innocent" or "in the right". And on a lexical level, forgiveness and justification deal with 2 separate issues. Justification is legal and pertains to justice. Forgiveness relates to mercy. The question is, how can God justly declare sinners "in the right" as well as forgive sin? It pertains to Christ, of course.

    You might find it interesting that many now not in the NPP camp do not connect justification with imputation but rather union with Christ. IOW, we are not declared "in the right" because Jesus' rightness or righteousness was imputed to us. Rather, we are declared right because our faith joins us or places us "in Christ". And Jesus was declared "in the right" at his resurrection. Therefore, what is true of the Messiah is true of the Messiah's people. If you are willing to read articles, I can list some good sources that make this case.
     
  15. The Biblicist

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    Point well taken. I will provide addresses from this point forward

    However, I must leave the house right now and won't be back till tomorrow. I promise that I will respond to your accusations that I have misrepresented him when I return.
     
  16. Greektim

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    This is not synergism, unless you mean synergism in the sense of sanctification. Synergism in the sense that after initial justification, there will be good works to follow. Do you disagree with that?

    And Calvin (I think he qualifies as a reformer) said, "It is not our doctrine that the faith which justifies is alone; we maintain that it is invariably accompanied by good works; only we contend that faith alone is sufficient for justification.” (Calvin's commentary on Gal. 5:6). Speaking of Gal. 5, wouldn't this be Paul's way of linking good works with being justified by grace through faith? V. 4 mentions justification and v. 6 mentions the idea of justification by faith resulting in love.
     
  17. Greektim

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    The sacraments aside, since you've not provided a quotation to prove that (that I have seen).

    What do you do with Romans 2 and the judgment of God based good works? Since justification IS a legal term and Romans 2 IS a courtroom setting (giving us the context for how Paul defines justification), then your ideas above pose a problem.

    "We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in welldoing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are selfseeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality."
     
  18. preachinjesus

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    I'm not a fan on Wright's view of justification, but the OP is misleading as to what his view actually is and that isn't helpful. Wright has, admittedly, a sacramental view of salvation that is based on his view of justification which highly aligns with a more Catholic view but is not synergistic.

    As Baptists we naturally disagree with Wright. We are not sacramentalists and don't hold to the same view of justification as Wright. I do believe Paul has a specific view of salvation in the NT and that it begins with justification by grace through faith.

    GreekTim, as usual, is doing an able job of properly defining Wright's view.
     
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  19. JonC

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    To provide a better context, brother Martin, think of it this way - Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

    But perhaps we need to at least read his view before interacting with them. Here is a good summary if the topic and his view (and it's even written so that a blockhead like me can deal with it)

     
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  20. Aaron

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    I don't see a problem with Wright's comments even as presented in the OP. Justification is more then mere forgiveness, and there is no salvation without it.
     
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