Tuesday, May 08, 2007

VanLandingham on Paul's Soteriol

I'm now turning my attention fully to Chris VanLandingham's book Judgment and Justification in Early Judaism and Paul for an article length review. In his conclusion, VanLandingham writes:

The Last Judgment is not a judgment over the work of Christ or even over what the Holy Spirit has done in the believer; it is a judgment over the individual and what he or she has done. The work of Christ has made it possible to receive approbation iin a judgment according to deeds, but not because God is merdiful toward the Christian based on Christ’s merit, nor because in God’s perception Christ’s death has made it as though the Christian has never sinned. Rather, the process of salvation is worked out as follows: At the time of faith, a person who has been “made righteous” is forgiven of past sins (which become a dead issue), cleansed from guilt and impurity of sin, freed from the human propensity to sin, and then given the ability to obey. The Last Judgment will then determine whether a person, as an act of the will, has followed through with these benefits of Christ’s death. If so, eternal life will be the reward; if not, damnation.

VanL sees Paul's language of righteousness as referring principally to cleansing and purification from sin, freedom from sin's power, and forgiveness of sin as an "initiating-event"; but it has nothing to do with a forensic declaration, it is not relational, and does not refer to acquittal at the final judgment. While I agree with several of the points he raises (e.g. Paul's dikai language is more about enacting or executing justice than with just making declarations about something [see Luke 18.1-8 and Mark Seifrid on this point]), I nonethless think that many of his arguments are contestable. More anon.


Nick said...

Michael on a related theme, I've been reading "Christ, Our Righteousness" by Seifrid and I'm finding it quite hard to digest. I understand you're well aquainted with Seifrid's work.

On the level of imputation, I understand him saying that Christ himself is our righteousness as opposed to a past legal record of his obedience. So far so good.

But I have some questions. How would you neatly summarise Seifrid's position on justification as a whole?

He says that traditional protestant understandings of justification are too restricted and mentions Paul speaking of being justified by the Spirit. In what sense are we justified by the Spirit?

In what sense does the traditional model of imputation bruise the nerve between justification and sanctification (p175)? How does his proposal of justification remedy this?

Sorry for the barrage of questions! I'm just fascinated by the book and was looking for some clarification!

Michael F. Bird said...


1. Best bet is to email Mark himself and ask. He's a very gracious and cordial fellow and I'm sure he'd be glad to answer.

2. For Seifrid, his perspective is that justification actually enacts God's verdicts of condemnation (in Jesus' death) and vindication (in Jesus' resurrection); and justification is not merely a declaration of justice to be meted out at a later date, but about actually executes justice in Christ. What is more, Seifrid is far more christocentric than many of those in the Reformed camp are.

3. With the desire to keep justification and sanctification cordoned off from one another, there has always been a propensity to bruise the nerve that connects obedience with faith. Here Seifrid is again right! While one cannot smuggle sanctification under the aegis of justification, both concepts are linked by virtue of Christ: Christ is the locus of justification and holiness (e.g. 1 Cor. 1.30) and many commentators forget that.

Nick said...

Thanks for taking the time to answer. Think I'll drop Seifrid an email. God bless.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michael,

I'm sure you might cover this in your review, but could you briefly describe you "reconcile" justification by faith and judgment according to works? I've been looking into this quite a bit lately. Could you also recommend any resources? Thanks!