Friday, February 13, 2009

Doug Wilson on Wright's New Book - Follow Up

Wilson insightfully engages a major issue here:

Wright formally rejects as exegetically unfounded a concept which he demonstrates (in the same chapter, no less) as exegetically grounded on bedrock. Wright says:

"This faithful obedience of the Messiah, culminating in his death 'for sins, in accordance with the scriptures' as in one of Paul's summaries of the gospel (1 Corinthians 15.3), is regularly understood in terms of the Messiah, precisely because he represents his people, now appropriately standing in for them, taking upon himself the death which they deserved, so that they might not suffer themselves" (p. 84, emphasis his).

Wright is gloriously right here, but there is a catch. If I were speaking to Wright in Greek, and I were to undertake the task of repeating his thought back to him in my own words, one of the words I would use with abandon would be logidzomai. I would do the same thing in summarizing Paul. The reason I would do so is that these few sentences are saturated in imputation realities, and I don't know any way of making sense of them apart from talking about imputation. What is meant by represent? How does that work? How can one person stand in for others? Why is that allowed? On what basis? How can the death that one deserves be assigned to another without gross injustice? There is no way to answer these questions in Greek without using that great Pauline covenantal word for reckon, consider, impute.

My Comments:

1. I think Wilson is correct, Wright holds conceptually to something pretty much akin to imputation (via Jesus' representative function and union with Christ), but it is the exegetical validity of the entire formulation that is disputed. The problem is with those who want to find the whole package in each and every key text, but it just ain't there.

2. Wilson does commit one fallacy in that he assumes that logizomai has one basic and consistent meaning in Paul - it doesn't - check out Rom. 2.26 [is uncircumcision imputed as circumcision?] and Rom. 4. 5 [faith is imputed?]. This complicates (but does not nullify) a Pauline view of imputation.

3. The question is where does imputation fit into the story? Whereas some want to make justification the centre and imputation the centre of justification; I would make imputation a corollary explains the forensic nature of justification, the representative functions of Adam and Christ, the gift of righteousness, etc.


smijer said...

Please excuse my ignorance... but precisely what is the concept that Wright shows to be grounded on "exegetical bedrock", but which he declares exegetically unsound?

Do I need to read someone's book before I try to follow the conversation here?

Erick White said...

Thank you for this post.

With regard to the language of imputation in the NT, as I said before I do not see the traditional way of explaining active/passive obedience

Much of the conclusions of our exegesis hinge on how far we construct the analogy or typology between Adam and Christ and all that they are endowed to do in representation of all.

For me, succintly put,
Both Adam and Christ have been endowed to act before God, in representation of all man (Christ over church), an act of disobedience of obedience, from which elicits a judgement from God that determines the legal stance (that of condemnation of justification) and the future destiny (that of life or death) of all subjects being represented.

More could be gone into, such as the the image of God, glory, etc...

As the summary I've given above shows, I am not clearly seeing the actions of Jesus, from his infanthood-adulthood life being the substance which composes the free gift of righteousness which is imputed to the represented church.

Rather, the free gift of righteousness is bestowed upon us by imputation, but being effected by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

When Adam acted before God, namely that he sinned, God's responded with the judgement of condemnation and death, of which falls upon us as well because we are in Adam, or represented by Adam.

In the same way, Christ acted before God, namely that he was delivered up because of our offenses, from which God's responded to him with the judgement of condemnation and the sentence of death, of which falls upon us as well (through imputation). The judgement from God upon sin that fell upon the dying flesh of Jesus is imputed to us in such a way that we can proclaim going through the same experience with Christ, even in the context of justification (Gal 2:15-21).
With a view to our sins being already punished in the corpose of CHrist, His resurrection marks the completion of his suffering, and He stands now to reward us with the effect of His death for our sins, namely, the free gift of righteousness.

Therefore, I still question if the righteousness lived out in the life of Jesus, either as 2nd Adam or the true servant Israel, is what composes the substance of righteousness. Rather, I see the free gift of righteousness, not in the first place belonging to Jesus, and then belonging to us, but rather the judgement which falls upon us due to the effect of Jesus's death for our sins and His resurrection from the dead.