Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Mark A. Seifrid

One author I cannot believe I left out of my favourite Paul books is Mark A. Seifrid, Associate Professor in NT at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His book Christ our Righteousness is excellent and represents a good synthesis of Evangelical and Continental Scholarship. See the review by Simon Gathercole. I hope he’s working on a Galatians commentary, which I would love to read.


TheBlueRaja said...

Hello, Michael! i'd love to hear more details about your high appraisal of this book. I found the judgments expressed therein to be confusing, and the argumentation to be somewhat strained at several points. His brief comments about exile on pg. 23, for example, seem to think that a confident sub-community of Jews awaiting vindication proves that the nation's piety is "decoupled from its outward condition." Huh? How? The existence of a righteous remnant doesn't necessarily eliminate the broader category of "national Israel" from their theological vocabulary.

The sharp distinction that Seifrid makes with "creational" vs. covenantal context seems terribly overwrought to me as well (perhaps even bordering on false dichotomy). The fact that the heavens and earth come to witness the covenant God makes with Israel, and the fact that Israel's election was for the benefit of the entire world makes playing these categories off one another unwise, in my estimation.

Seifrid has also recieved a lot of criticism for resting much of his argument about these matters on the proximity of words like צָדַק with בְּרִית and שָׁפַט. Again, the argumentation just smells funny there -- the Old Testament's emphasis on covenant is a function of much more macro-contextual features than these words appearing in close proximity.

Moreover the book seems to rule out of hand the exilic context of the Gospels, the centrality of Israel in God's story of redemption etc. without dealing with the big picture arguments of Wright et. al. What bothered me most about the book (not that I didn't see anything good about it) was the failure to provide not a broader alternative meta-narrative which accounts for Israel as a continuitious working out of God's purposes in creation and salvation. I think a lot of the criticism of Wright's work tends to leave out what makes it most compelling -- namely a sophisticated global account of worldview and story as it relates to symbol and praxis.

eddie said...

I wonder how many scholars who criticise Wright's positions have actually engaged with the foundation he laid in NTPG?

eddie said...

I wonder if Wright would consider Seifrid's work in this book as an example of "atomistic exegesis"?

Michael F. Bird said...

Whoa! I appear to have struck a nerve.

1. I don't agree with all of Seifrid's critique's of Wright, although he does make a good point in that Wright at least gives the impression of reducing justification to an analytic judgment (as opposed to synthetic) based on regeration.

2. Seifrid is correct that to regard the 'righteousness of God' as covenant thinking creates problems because 'covenant' and 'righteousness' don't appear together; but also because all covenant keeping is righteous but not all righteousness is covenant keeping!

3. That being said the righteousness of God (RG) does have a covenantal dimension evident in Daniel 9; Isaiah 40-55; Psalms and Romans 3! Also there is a link between God's faithfulness and his righteousness in the Psalms and here God's faithfulness must mean something like faithfulness to the covenant.

4. I still think the RG is a far more comprehensive term referring to both creational and covenantsl contexts, indeed, I bring this up against Seifrid in my forthcoming TynBul piece.

5. Keep in mind, Seifrid gets hammered from any quarters (not just Wright fans) but other conservatives like James White who think he compromized Protestant orthodoxy.