Thursday, December 15, 2011

One Question for the NT Wright

I think Tom Wright’s work is incredibly helpful. However, after reading Justification, if given the chance, I would ask him about one comment. On page 252, the second to last page, Wright writes,
“Finally, as is already clear from above, this lawcourt verdict, implementing God’s covenant plan, and all based on Jesus Christ himself, is announced both in the present, with the verdict issued on the basis of faith and faith alone, and also in the future, on the day when God raises from the dead all those who are already indwelt by the Spirit. The present verdict gives the assurance that the future verdict will match it; the Spirit gives the power through which that future verdict, when given, will be seen to be in accordance with the life that the believer has then lived.”
As I made my way through the book it struck me that this is primarily a debate about the rejection of imputed righteousness. Chasing the trajectory of imputed righteousness, Wright examines (among others) Augustine and argues that his appropriation of imputed righteousness shifted the lawcourt metaphor to a medical one … “a kind of remedial spiritual surgery, involving a “righteousness implant” which, like an artificial heart, begins to enable the patient to do things previously impossible.” (p. 91).
This is also why it makes sense for Wright to write a book called After You Believe, which is essentially an overlay of Nichomachean Ethics on Paul while redefining Aristotle’s telos from Aristotelian happiness to something like life in Christ. Participationist soteriology is deeply concerned with conformity to Christ through the habituated practiced of the will. Said differently … discipleship. Since righteousness is not imputed it must be developed through practice.
Here's more.  Wright asserts that, “And at that judgment seat the verdict will be in accordance with one’s ‘works.’” (p. 108) The judgment seat will be a scene the character is squeezed and we get to see who we are. We will have worked to become something. And also why it is meaningful for Wright to point out “ ‘salvation’ and ‘justification’ have been tossed around as mere synonyms, both being thereby denied their proper force.” (p. 170) For Wright they are not the same. But if all that is true the initial statement strikes me as inconsistent.
If justification is about entrance into the community of God (assuming the ecclesiological badge) and not a “medical metaphor” then it would follow that there is plenty of room to fail once inside of the community. Why would that pronouncement necessarily be the same?
Given Wrights theological genius and exegetical ability I assume I’ve misunderstood him on the point raised in the initial quote. Any thoughts would be welcomed.

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