Monday, February 26, 2007

Justification by grace alone through faith alone, pt. 2

Justification by grace alone through faith alone can be held in one's imagination in a number of ways. Let me suggest two -- one correct and one incorrect.

The incorrect way of holding this doctrine in one's imagination is to imagine justification/righteousness as a stand alone substance that that is given to one. God puts righteousness in my hand and so I am declared righteous. So I have this stuff called righteousness. As long as I have faith and have this stuff I am right with God. Sometimes, the Lutheran approach tends to prod one's imagination in that direction.

The correct way is to imagine that by faith and baptism one is in mystical union with Christ or one participates in Christ. St. Paul puts it even more succinctly -- one is simply in Christ. (One thinks of Galatians 3:27 -- As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.) Because one is in Christ, one graciously shares in what is Christ's. Part of what is Christ's is righteousness. Christ has kept the covenant and the Father has vindicated him. Jesus has been declared righteous. In him, we share in that righteousness. This is the approach of Calvin and the Anglican reformers (and also Richard Hooker).

But this righteousness, though distinguishable, is inseparable from regeneration and sanctification -- the actual life of Christ interfaced with our life that we might be transformed, i.e., made holy.

It is also inseparable from the eschatological transformation that will happen at the resurrection of the dead. Here is where the doctrine of justification comes full circle. Another dimension of the correct way of imagining justification is to see it as God declaring now what we will be in that day. Christ is already fully transformed. We share in him. We will be like him. God "looks back" from the eschaton and calls us righteous -- vindicated and welcomed into the Kingdom of God.

That's good news if I say so myself!


ben said...

I like what NT Wright has to say, that the justification for the Christian is a present promise of a future status. That means we are living into the justification that is been given. Good post.

Christ said...

Hey Pete!

or Father Pete!

How's it going? I have heard things through the grapevine about you and the rumours are all true! I am up here in Akron OH and thought I would touch base. Hit me back and let's reconnect. and say hi to Trudy!

Christ Otto