The Manner in which God Accepts Us

Christ is risen!

Here’s a wonderful quote for Bright Week:

Justification is not about how individual sinners can find salvation; it begins as a statement of the way in which God accepts all who believe the gospel.

From N.T. Wright, discussing the context (Gal. 2) in which Paul first mentions justification by faith, in a wonderful conversation at Durham Univ. between James Dunn and N.T. Wright about Jesus and Paul. (This taken from the second half of the third seminar down on the page.)

In other words, the doctrine reveals far more about God than it does about man.


2 thoughts on “The Manner in which God Accepts Us

  1. He is risen indeed!
    And I hope you enjoy your feasting this week.

    First, Wright is certainly on the fringe when it comes to the doctrine of justification.

    Second, while I (and any Reformed scholar) would generally agree with the second half of the question (although it implies things about limited atonement that may give hard core Calvinists some heart burn), that perfectly reasonable second half is a non-sequiter when attached to the very dubious first half of the statement.

    Justification is certainly a statement of the way in which God accepts all who believe. But it is also about how individual sinners can find salvation. What else can justification be about?

  2. Wright on the fringe? (?!?!) I know he gives a lot of American Evangelicals “heart burn” — and not only the Calvinists. But he’s hardly fringe. I suspect that your response to my comment, including the idea that NT Wright is a fringe thinker, is rooted in which branch of Reformed theology our presuppositions come out of.

    What is the “leading metaphor” for salvation in Paul? It’s not justification by faith, it’s being “in Christ.” So, how do individuals find salvation? They find it by being “in Christ” which results in being justified. Rom. 3:24 explains this brilliantly: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (v. 23) and “they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

    Justification describes God’s attitude toward us. Sinners find redemption by being “in Christ.”

    Reformed theology insists that the covenant comes first (ie, Abraham) and the law follows as a schoolteacher (ie, Moses). We — both Jew and Gentile — are children of Abraham. Paul extends this argument in Galatians. Jews were schooled by the Law and Gentiles were schooled by (technically they were “enslaved by”) the principles in the world “who by nature are not gods” (Gal. 4:8). In this order of things, how are we saved, not by responding to the Law or to the elemental principles of the world, but by responding to the grace of God, by entering that fellowship, by being “in Christ.”

    NT Wright, following Barth, and a host of other Reformed theologians, observes that calling the doctrine of “justification by faith and not by works of the law” as the basic model of salvation puts law prior to grace. In other words, it’s a Lutheran model and quite un-Reformed.

    Proper Reformed theology, on the other hand, begins with grace (ie, the Covenant) and ends with gratitude (our response to grace), and that movement from grace to gratitude — the salvific movement we see in the Abraham theme — is all about the doctrine of “in Christ” and not “justification by faith.”

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