Re: justification

From: Robert Schneider (
Date: Thu May 02 2002 - 17:21:05 EDT

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    I think there are two camps of people we have to deal with, George and =
    I. One is the group that treat any notion that a Christian should be =
    doing good works as "works-righteousness" and they claim that anyone who =
    does them is trying to earn their own salvation. The notion that a =
    Christian may wish to do good works out of love in response to the =
    unmerited gift of grace (faith working through love, as Paul put it) is =
    one they seem not to entertain. The other are the ones George refers =
    to; I've encountered them too: Believe that Jesus is God, follow the =
    rules, and you will get to heaven. The first group fail to understand =
    the link between faith and works, and I think they often don't =
    understand because it is never pointed out to them, despite the best =
    efforts of people who do understand it. The second in part seem to not =
    understand the nature of either grace or faith as trust, but think of =
    faith in terms of beliefs and rules. If any of the second would insist =
    on following the Ten Commandments, as George put it, I would insist that =
    if they are going to follow rules as followers of Jesus, they try the =
    Sermon on the Mount instead.

       ----- Original Message -----=20
       From: george murphy=20
       To: Robert Schneider=20
       Sent: Thursday, May 02, 2002 3:27 PM
       Subject: Re: justification

       Robert Schneider wrote:=20
         My further comment follows George's response below.=20
            Bob's comment:=20

            Perhaps the statement I was trying to reproduce from memory came =
    in =3D=20
         one of the accompanying documents to the final Joint =

            To repeat Paragraph 37 of the Joint Declaration:=20

            37.We confess together that good works - a Christian life lived =
    in =3D=20
         faith, hope and love - follow justification and are its fruits. When =
    the =3D=20
         justified live in Christ and act in the grace they receive, they =
    bring =3D=20
         forth, in biblical terms, good fruit. Since Christians struggle =
    against =3D=20
         sin their entire lives, this consequence of justification is also =
    for =3D=20
         them an obligation they must fulfill. Thus both Jesus and the =
    apostolic =3D=20
         Scriptures admonish Christians to bring forth the works of =

                 I wonder if George and I are in part talking past each =
    other. I =3D=20
         have been emphasizing the notion in this statement that "this =3D=20
         consequence of justification is also for them an obligation they =
    must =3D=20
         fulfill" but I seem to be misunderstood as saying that I think works =
    can =3D=20
         justify, period. I don't believe that. Nor am I trying to =
    interpret =3D=20
         Eph. 2:10 apart from 2:8-9, just the opposte: I am criticising =
    those =3D=20
         who interpret 2:8-9 apart from 2:10. I think that walking the way =
    of =3D=20
         good works is the heart of the Christian life and that it is simply =
         wrong to downplay them. So much of the polemic regarding =
    justification =3D=20
         by faith, in my view, has resulted, perhaps as an unintended =3D=20
         consequence, in that very consequence. That is the point I am =

               I understand that you are not arguing for justification by =
    works. But as I said in an earlier post, this is an issue that requires =
    absolute clarity. As much as possible it's necessary not only to speak =
    correctly but to speak in such a way that it cannot be interpreted =
    _in_correctly - because people's natural tendency _is_ to think in terms =
    of works righteousness. It is the natural religion of humanity.=20
                As for interpreting Matt. 25:31ff in the light of Romans and =
         Galatians and not the other way around, I reject as a hermeneutical =
         principle that the gospels should be interpreted as a matter of =
    course =3D=20
         in the light of Paul's gospel. Sorry, the NT is multivalent, in my =
         view, and I don't think we should reduce its theology to Paul on any =
         question, including justification and salvation. While it is too =
         sweeping an assertion, I think there is some justice to John =
    Dominick =3D=20
         Crossan's remark that "If you come to Jesus through Paul, you will =
         understand Jesus incorrectly; if you come to Paul through Jesus, you =
         will understand Paul differently."
               There are 2 problems with this. First, it is not a matter of =
    Paul or Jesus but of Paul's and Matthew's understanding of Jesus. E.g., =
    Gundry in his Matthew commentary introduces the parable=20
       by saying flatly, "Matthew himself is responsible for the description =
    of the judgment of the sheep and the goats." This does not mean that =
    the significance of the parable is lessened, a la red letter Bible or =
    Jesus Seminar approach, but OTOH it does not trump Paul.=20
               & second, one ought to try to interpret relatively obscure =
    passages in light of relatively clear ones. The Matthean parable, as I =
    noted, can be interpreted in different ways. Romans & Galatians=20
       really can't. So while, as I said, one has to be careful with such =
    theological harmonization, this is the direction in which to go if one =
    wants an answer to the basic question at all. If someone asks "What =
    must I do to be saved?" it won't do to say, "Would you prefer a =
    Mattheanor a Pauline answer?"=20
         I find the remark fits so many of my =3D=20
         former students who always read Jesus through the lens of Paul, and =
    so =3D=20
         often do understand Jesus incorrectly. Perhaps, George, what is =
    going =3D=20
         on here, is that I am writing in terms of those experiences, and you =
    are =3D=20
         writing in terms of your strong convictions about the Lutheran =3D=20
         interpretation of Paul. Do forgive me if I am misreading you. I =
         respect your convictions and don't mind a little polemic.
               Yes, that's pretty much right. But I'd also add that my =
    emphasis is sharpened by the kinds of experiences I've mentioned in =
    which, no matter what one says about grace, free acceptance &c, people =
    think that being salvation is a matter of trying to obey the Ten =
                If there is a misreading of my thinking, it is in your =
    thinking =3D=20
         that I am treating faith as "assensus." I would rather say that it =
         seems at times that many Protestants treat "justification by faith" =
    as =3D=20
         "assensus": all you have to do is believe that, and no works, =
    please. =3D=20
         In fact, the notion of faith as "assensus" is a point of view that I =
         often challenge, because, while it is not absent from the notion of =
         "faith" in its broader sense, the primary and guiding meaning of =
    "faith" =3D=20
         ("pistis") is trust.
               I don't think that you are understanding faith as assensus. =
    But the what seems to be in view in a challenge like 'Are we to say, =
    "Lord, Lord" and "well, I'm saved and that's all that matters"?' is a =
    doctrine of "justification by assensus".=20
         The question I think needs to be asked, and I =3D=20
         think it is a valid one is that if good works are absent, and =
    granted =3D=20
         that they are the fruit of faith, then where is the faith? or what =
    kind =3D=20
         of "faith" is it? If a Christian believer has no sense of =
    obligation to =3D=20
         do good works, where does the problem lie? In a lack of faith =
    (trust)? =3D=20
         In a lack of responding to the kind of exhortation to the Christian =
    life =3D=20
         that Eph. 2:10 gives? In a notion of faith as "assensus" to the =3D =

         doctrine of justification by faith, as stated above?
               I suspect that it lies to some extent with all three. & while =
    "Imitation of Christ" and "WWJD" have their limitations, I think that =
    preaching Christ both as "as a sacrifice for sin and a model of the =
    godly life" is likely to produce better results than nagging them with =
    the law.=20

       George L. Murphy=20
       "The Science-Theology Interface"=20

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