Re: Adam and Eve (fwd)...Justification

From: Joel Cannon (
Date: Thu May 02 2002 - 09:56:51 EDT

  • Next message: JW Burgeson: "Boff"

    George wrote in response to Burgy:

    > I have no problem with the idea that the "rewards" of those who
    > "build upon the foundation" (cf. I Cor.3:10-15) will be different.
    > But justification is a crucial issue that demands absolute clarity.

    This will be hit and run since I don't have time to carry on an
    extended discussion, my thinking is still evolving (or more
    accurately being further informed), and I am too fuzzy-headed to do
    anything but rile the waters. However, since I think it is a critical
    issue, I will still make my comment, which also moves well outside
    science and Christianity.

    A crucial question here is whether Paul in Romans and elsewhere means
    the same thing when he talks about justification as what George means
    (presuming that I know what George means!). I am becoming
    increasingly skeptical concerning this premise. Two contemporary
    scholars who would say, either implicitly or explicitly, that it does
    not are N.T. Wright ("What did St. Paul Really Say?") and Alistair
    McGrath in his book on the history of the doctrine of justification (I
    am relying on a quote from Wright here---it appeared to me that
    McGrath was trying to squirt around the issue). Another important
    historical essay which made a big impression on me many years ago was
    Krister Stendahl's, "The Apostle Paul and the Introspective Conscience
    of the West." (may have the last of the title incorrect---reprinted in
    a short book whose title escapes me) which argued that the guilty
    conscience that controlled Martin Luther is completely absent in Paul
    (Romans 7 included). Another useful book, although I do not recall it
    touching explicitly on justification is, Richard Hays, "Echoes of
    Scripture in the Letters of Paul."

    One issue on which this question hinges is whether John Calvin and
    Martin Luther correctly understood first century Judaism when they
    interpret it to be a religion of works-righteousness
    (Proto-Pelagianism) or whether they have projected the mindset of
    medieval Catholicism onto Judaism when they are reading the text
    (equivalently, have they abstracted the text out of its 1rst century
    context). Wright makes a convincing case, relying in part on
    E.P. Sanders, "Paul and Palestinian Judaism" ("The Sanders
    revolution") that what we call "works-righteousness" was not part of
    first century Judaism, and did not exist anywhere until several
    centuries later. It is therefore inappropriate to read Romans or any
    other New Testament text this way.

    To George's statement that the reformation was made necessary because
    of statements like Burgy's

    >"The eternal destiny of human beings
    > >will be measured by how much or how little solidarity
    > >we have displayed with the hungry, the thirsty,
    > >the naked, and the oppressed.
    > >In the end, we will be judged in terms of love."

    we might counter that it was made necessary by medieval Catholicism's
    works-righteousness, which is quite different than Burgy's
    statement. We should say clearly that if anyone anywhere thinks that
    they can earn their way into good favor with God they are mistaken.
    However, that is different than saying we should be able to identify
    God's people by the good works they do.

    With some trepidation, I submit this response to our Lutheran
    physicist/theologian George Murphy and the numerous Calvinists on the
    list, hoping that I have the resolve to let him/them have the last word.


    Joel W. Cannon | (724)223-6146
    Physics Department |
    Washington and Jefferson College |
    Washington, PA 15301 |

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