Horton Reviews N. T. Wright's After You Believe

In Christianity Today. Is Wright correct when he asserts  “Basically, the whole idea of virtue has been radically out of fashion in much of Western Christianity ever since the sixteenth-century Reformation”? Could anyone read any of the Reformed literature from the 1530s and following and reach that conclusion? Does Wright really think that the Reformation agreed with Paul’s critics, that since we justified and saved by grace alone that sanctity and virtue is irrelevant?

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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48 comments

  1. NT Wright is “all in” at this point. He can’t substantiate this claim with any evidence from any of the confessions or anything written by Calvin, (and he knows it), so his only option is to try to yell louder and hopefully drown out his critics or simply look cooler than his critics so that the Emergent hipsters will ignore them and listen to him.


  2. Wright—ever the master of metaphor and turns of phrase—is especially effective in communicating the richness of the Bible’s eschatological horizon to a wide audience

    Isn’t this true because Wright understands the redemptive historical structure of Galations and Romans better than the Reformers and Puritans? The Calvinism’s focus on individual soteriology, as if that is the theme of Romans and Galations, leaves people too exhausted to look forward to the New Heavens and the New Earth.

    Because Wright understands Romans 2 and Romans 7, Romans 8 is allowed it’s full glory, and individual salvation takes its place as a subset of the resurrection of the whole world.

    – Just Saying

    • Better?

      Have you read Cocceius?

      Have you read De Substantia foederis…inter Deum et Electos?

      Have you read Ridderbos?

      Vos?

      Tom Wright is a good mediator of what is fairly standard in Reformed biblical theology. Where he departs from the tradition is where he is less useful and worse, corrupting of the good news.

      • Scott:

        I’ve noticed one place where N T Wright followers stumble is the place in Romans 2 where Paul indicates that the last day judgment will be “according to works.” For some reason they miss the crucial point that there is a huge difference between a judgment “according to works”, and a judgment on the ground of works. Clearly Jesus Christ lays that ground as described in Romans 3.

        I’ll bet Ridderbos and Vos don’t miss that. Maybe when I retire I’ll read them!

        Also, do any of these theologians have a messianic interpretation of Romans Habbakuk 2:4?

        –Bruce

          • Brandon:

            As I see it the ground of faithfulness to God’s covenant requirements is laid in Romans 3:21-31. Jesus endures the curse of the broken covenant, and secures its blessings for Jews and Gentiles.

            The believer renders a faint echo of this covenant faithfulness in Romans 8:1-4. He does so by the power of the Holy Spirit: he fulfills the righteous requirements of the Law

            Romans 2:6-10 indicate that we will be judged, not on moral perfection but on covenant sincerity.

            Romans 2:13 indeed says: “Those who do the Law will be declared righteous.”

            Believers “do the Law” by rendering the obedience of faith.

            That is a very big difference.

            Bruce

            • Bruce, I understand your position. I was objecting to your attempt to claim it is biblical by creating an unbiblical distinction between “according to works” and “on the ground of works”

              Please see the link.

          • brandon:

            It is not an innovation to say that men are judged according to their works (Ps 62:12; Matthew 25:31-46; John 5:24-30.)

            It seems like you want to maintain a Lutheran faith/works antithesis. I think you should consider that Paul is actually presenting an antithesis between Mosaic works-of-the-Law and the faithfulness of Christ in Romans 3.

            In fact, Romans 3:28, is poorly translated from the Greek in our translations, it should read: For we consider that a man apart from the works of the Torah is declared righteous from faithfulness.…faithfulness being a metonymy for the work of Christ in his life, death, burial and resurrection.

            This rendering fits the following verses very well: “Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles too? Yes, of the Gentiles too!”

            Might you be imposing an extrabiblical concept of “law” to the text?

            Bruce

            • Bruce,

              The “Lutheran” antithesis you dismiss is the universal teaching of the Reformed churches in their confessions.

              What are you arguing about? What’s your point?

      • Do you distinguish between that in scripture which is law (i.e., “do this and live”) and that which is good news?

        Scott: the Good News is that the Righteous One will live by his faithfulness. I take Habakkus 2:4 has a messianic text. Romans 1:17 is proclaiming the faithfulness of Christ as the One who lives because of His righteousness. We live too when we are united to him by faith.

        From faithfulness to faithfulness refers to God’s old and new covenant faithfulness. Paul indicates that the Torah is our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ. People who persist in Old Covenant externals after Christ fulfilled the Torah have not learned the right lesson. That’s why Galations was written, and Romans fills out the details on how God can be righteous and open up salvation to the both Jews and Gentiles.

        — Bruce

        • Hi Bruce,

          1. You really answer my question.

          2. Jesus did MUCH more than free us from OT externals. The good news is that he has freed his people, all those united to him by grace alone, through faith alone, from the righteous wrath of God. In Scripture “righteous” and “righteousness” means more than your post suggests. Salvation includes deliverance from the wrath of God. Paul is quite in Rom 1-2 that this is the fundamental problem.

          2. I think I detect in your posts Tom Wight’s basic themes of I’ve been round that track over the last decade. I’m unpersuaded. I’m disappointed by the poor historical theology employed by the movement, which, frankly, your posts have reflected. As much as I appreciate the renewed emphasis the cosmic and eschatological aspects of Paul’s theology (and biblical theology) my attitude is: welcome to the party. I’m not an evangelical individualist who just discovered basic Reformed biblical theology and the corporate aspects of covenant theology. Confessional Reformed folk have been dealing with these themes for centuries. Yes there is an important corporate aspect to salvation but there is no good biblical or theological (or biblical-theological) reason to set the corporate and redemptive-historical aspects over against the soteric/forensic aspects of biblical theology. Vos showed that in his essay “The Alleged Legalism in Paul’s Doctrine of Justification.” See also his volume, Pauline Eschatology. The eschatological, the corporate, the forensic are complementary of each other. Unfortunately the contemporary fascination with the reconstruction of 2nd temple judaism (and the lens it provides) has overshadowed those other aspects.

          3. See Chuck Hill’s critique of NTW’s definition of justification. It’s still unanswered: http://www.thirdmill.org/files/english/html/nt/NT.h.Hill.Wright.html

          See the other relevant critiques here: https://heidelblog.net/2018/08/resources-on-the-federal-vision-theology/

          4. See these resources: # Guy Waters, /Justification and the New Perspectives on Paul /. # Michael Horton, /Covenant and Salvation / # R. Scott Clark, ed. /Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry/ . # Don Carson et al, ed. /Justification and Variegated Nomism/ (2 vols) # Stephen Westerholm, /Perspectives Old and New on Paul / # Seyoon Kim, /Paul and the New Perspective: Second Thoughts on the Origin of Paul’s Gospel /. # Peter Stulmacher and Donald Hagner, /Revisiting Paul’s Doctrine of Justification: A Challenge to the New Perspective /

          • Scott:

            Thanks for the informative post.

            I totally agree Christ delivers us from the wrath of God when we look to him and live.

            As a Baptist I should be more suspicious of Systematic Theology that leads to infant baptism.

            But I’m also Calvinistic with the full five points.

            Would you say I’ve really gone off the reservation with the following (I’m trying to refine my ideas)….

            I don’t think the Reformed Confessions formulate justification accurately because they proceed from a concept of ordo salutis that is foreign to Paul.

            Justification is an already-not yet reality. The cross represents the final judgment for the elect coming forward in time. When a believer looks to Jesus in faith and lives God justifies him based on Christ’s covenant faithfulness on the cross. God is righteous to justify the ungodly for Jesus sake. To be justified is to be forgiven by God for primarily for covenant breaking and for all sins that flow from covenant breaking.

            This initial justification is repeated for the believer each time he repents, turns to God, and renews the New Covenant. Romans Chapter 4 shows this pattern of justification: notice that Abraham and David are justified as they turn to God in the midst of their believing life. The believer will repeat these episodes of justification or forgiveness/covenant renewal unto death. At the final judgment the history of turning to God will be recognized as that believer is judged according to his works. He will be vindicated.

            The Lutheran faith/works antithesis is an error that casts suspicion on good works and the sacraments.

            For Paul works-of-the-law is a term of art describing Jewish persistence in Old Covenant externals after Christ fulfilled them. Upon Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Covenant observation of them becomes a rejection of Christ. However, before Calvary, those works were commanded, necessary and good. Likewise, Baptism and Communion are good works that are necessary for the New Covenant believer. There is no danger in ascribing false merit to their observance because they are essential to covenant obedience.

            Observing Old Covenant sacrifices never generated some kind of meritorious perfection, neither does observing the New Covenant. But they are necessary for covenant perfection.

            Bruce

            • Bruce,

              Your reply raises a question:

              You claim to agree with the 5 points, but go on to repudiate the Reformed articulation of justification by asserting that it flows from an understanding of the ordo that is foreign t Paul. How do you at once say you hold to a Reformed view of justification, and then go on to say you disagree with it?

            • Jed:

              With respect to your post…

              Your reply raises a question:

              You claim to agree with the 5 points, but go on to repudiate the Reformed articulation of justification by asserting that it flows from an understanding of the ordo that is foreign t Paul. How do you at once say you hold to a Reformed view of justification, and then go on to say you disagree with it?

              I’m convinced that popular Calvinism misunderstands Perseverance of the Saints because of its unhealthy focus on the philosophical concept of predestination.

              The Biblical doctrine of Tulip does not depend on any particular Reformed formulation of Justification. It’s the other way around.

              An accurate understanding of perseverance will yield an accurate understanding of Justification.


              8:28 And we know that all things work together32 for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, 8:29 because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son33 would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.34 8:30 And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.

              Justification occurs in 3 stages.

              (1) At the Cross, validated by the resurrection, where the Final Judgment for the elect arrives early, inflicting its punishment on the Son of God.

              (2) Throughout the Believer’s life, as he turns to God in faith and repentence.

              (3) In the final decree of Justification at the last day where the believer is judged according to his works. His sins will not be counted against him. His repeated episodes of repentance and good works will be counted for him.

              It’s not that the saint loses his initial justification and needs to repeat it, rather, it needs to be renewed, sometimes with great exertion, to remain on the path that leads to the eternal inheritance.

              True initial justification is never extinguished, precisely because the saint takes God’s promises and warnings seriously. The saint is led by the Holy Spirit, not by the juvenile and confining regulations of the Torah.

              Bruce

  3. Reading through this at the minute. It’s pretty good.

    I noticed the Reformation bashing also. I’m not sure the Reformers and their heirs put virtue in quite the same way as Wright does but to assert they rejected the notion of virtue seems a bit like crazy talk.

    Also, in the UK the book is published as Virtue Reborn, I wonder if there is any significance in the name change for the American market. It is the British title that has been changed and not the other way around, right?

  4. NT Wright’s soteriology diminishes the passive/active obedience of the Lord Jesus Christ and diminishes the Justice of God. The Christ he worships is not the Christ of the Bible who has SOLELY and FULLY delivered us from death!

    This faith plus works (apart from the works of Christ) toward our justification is a “form of godliness but denying the power thereof” … and as such we ought to follow the apostle Paul’s instruction to have nothing to do with it! It’s false piety because it’s not grounded in the True Gospel!

  5. Dear me (in reference to NT Wright) … dear me … same ol’ confusion, eh, Bishop of Durham? You and your American peers share the same error. You confuse Law and Gospel and with that, the distinction between faith and works, divine and human righteousness, what we already are before God (coram Deo) and what we ought to do before men (coram hominibus). Shall we repeat again? Yes, I think we should: God does not need our good works; our neighbour does. Justified by the effective legal Word of the Gospel which kills by the Law and makes alive, we are turned back into this world to do good works. As Jade says, faith plus works in the sight of God is false piety. True piety requires us to recognise that man is always a beggar, the recipient of God’s goodness. The 10 Commandments then is not for us to go on a quest of personal holiness but for the sake of the neighbour. And just so the 10 Commandments is fulfilled by faith alone.

    • Jason:

      Where is a saint depicted as a beggar? He is a son, an adopted brother of Christ. The Law/Gospel antithesis creates a problem. Where in scripture does it say we are simultaneously sinner and saint? We are not simultaneously traitor and loyal son. You’ve been reading the Puritans too much.

      Look carefully at the Adamic and Mosaic covenant violations. They were guilty of treason, that’s why they were banished from the garden and from the land. Jesus takes that suffered and died for our treason.

      Today, you commit treason if you fail to repent of your sins and renew your covenant.

      I’m really glad that you care about these matters. They are life and death.

      Bruce

  6. Bruce,

    I am not sure what contemporary Calvinist tradition you are referring to here. Those of us in Reformed congregations have a pretty clear understanding of what is involved in perseverance. Fundamentally it is under girded by God’s sovereign will and the mediatorial work of Christ (cf. WCF 17. 2). Practically this is played out as we attend to the means of grace where we confess our sins, hear the gospel proclaimed, and partake of the Lord’s supper. Through these means God has ordained, we gain assurance of our election and are sustained, and strengthened to persevere as a community of believers and as individuals in our pilgrimage homeward.

    The problem with your argument is that the Canons of Dort (TULIP) are in fact Reformed doctrines articulated by Reformed churchmen who as a council carefully exegeted scripture to derive these doctrines. It seems that by individual fiat, you have created a false dichotomy between a “biblical” TULIP, and a “Reformed” TULIP. The truth is that the Canons of Dordt are biblical and Reformed, and you can’t just rip the terminology out of its historical and theological context and rework it into your own TULIP because that’s what you think the Bible says.

    I am not an expert in Reformed Theology by any means, simply a lay student, but nowhere in my reading does your articulation of justification square with the Reformed confessions (See WCF ch. 11), or any notable Reformed theologian.

    • Jed:

      My dad had an “individual fiat” once. It rusted out in two years. 😉

      I believe the Canons of Dort are a wonderful document of believing scholarship.

      However, Arminius, Roman Catholics and Dort era Calvinists shared a medieval conception of merit which leads them to conclude that the individual faith/works antithesis is the key to Christian sanctification. Instead it leads the people of God to both false humility and lack of confidence. And I believe contributes to massive professional counseling referrals at the Reformed megachurches.

      It sounds like you go to a great church. If I ever visit I’ll keep my mouth shut about justification. But I study the Bible a lot. And I need a forum to bounce my views. I must follow my conscience. Hopefully considerate brethren will give my a hearing and correct me from scripture, not confessions.

      –Bruce

  7. Bruce,

    Where in scripture does it say we are simultaneously sinner and saint?…Hopefully considerate brethren will give my a hearing and correct me from scripture, not confessions.

    First, you seem to assume that confessional formulations do not base themselves from Scripture. Have you ever read the Reformed formulations and noticed all the scriptural footnotes? Wouldn’t that suggest that confessionalists don’t really pit the Word against formulations, but rather see that the formulations flow from the Word?

    Second, as to your question about our dual state of affairs, and assuming the point about pitting texts versus organic unity above landed:

    HB Question 62. But why cannot our good works be the whole, or part of our righteousness before God?

    Answer: Because, that the righteousness, which can be approved of before the tribunal of God, must be absolutely perfect, (a) and in all respects conformable to the divine law; and also, that our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin. (b)

    (a) Gal.3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. Deut.27:26 Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen. (b) Isa.64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

    HB Question 114. But can those who are converted to God perfectly keep these commandments?

    Answer: No: but even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience; (a) yet so, that with a sincere resolution they begin to live, not only according to some, but all the commandments of God. (b)

    (a) 1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. Rom.7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. Rom.7:15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. Eccl.7:20 For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not. 1 Cor.13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. (b) Rom.7:22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: Ps.1:2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

    WCF X111/II: This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man;[7] yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part;[8] whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.[9]

    1JO 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. ROM 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. PHI 3:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

    It seems the Scripture, and the formulations following after them, teach that we are simul justus et peccator, no?

    • Zrim:

      Three things:

      (1) Yes saints sin and need constant cleansing from sin which is freely provided in the covenant.

      (2) There is a difference between sinning in covenant and sinning out of covenant. 1st Peter 4:18 and 1 John 2:28-29 expresses this.

      4:18 And if the righteous are barely saved, what will become of the ungodly and sinners?

      2:28 And now, little children, remain in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink away from him in shame when he comes back. 2:29 If you know that he is righteous, you also know that everyone who practices righteousness has been fathered by him.

      (3) An individualized interpretation of Romans 7 unnecessarily creates an antinomy with Romans 6 and 8. Throughout Romans the thesis is how can God righteously offer salvation to gentiles without making them Jews first. Romans 7 describes the experience of Israel reenacting Adam’s sin. This is given as a contrast to New Covenant believers who have died to sin and are led by the Holy Spirit.

      6:17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed 16 from the heart that pattern 17 of teaching you were entrusted to, 6:18 and having been freed from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness.

      The whole narrative of Romans 8:1-17 describes a condition of soul that is antithetical to Romans 7. Why introduce such an obvious internal contradiction to Scripture when the obvious solution is to interpret Paul’s references to the Law and the Spirit as being different authorized historical jurisdictions?

      Bruce

  8. “Where is a saint depicted as a beggar?”

    “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable (read: UNWORTHY/UNDESERVING) servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” Luke 17:10.

    • Jason:

      That’s a great text. I agree we are unprofitable servants, especially we deserve no praise for doing our duty. Yet somehow we are rewarded with eternal life because we believe that God exists and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. It is the reward of Grace: the meek shall inherit the earth, humility now, exaltation later. It is undeserved, it is an enormous blessing, we don’t log merit. It involves continuous purification from sin.

      A son can and should be a servant of his father, but not a beggar.

      I’m really enjoying these texts you are supplying. I don’t want to miss any aspect of scripture in my thinking. I want to harmonize with all of it.

      Bruce

  9. “He is a son, an adopted brother of Christ. The Law/Gospel antithesis creates a problem. Where in scripture does it say we are simultaneously sinner and saint? We are not simultaneously traitor and loyal son.”

    Yes, we are. Read Romans. Let me share Romans 7 with you:

    “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

    “You’ve been reading the Puritans too much.”

    What makes you think so? I’m not a Puritan. Having said this, one of the deficiencies of NT Wright’s theology is precisely his superficial familiarity with Reformation theology, and I am referring particularly to Luther.

  10. “Look carefully at the Adamic and Mosaic covenant violations. They were guilty of treason, that’s why they were banished from the garden and from the land. Jesus takes that suffered and died for our treason.”

    But that’s the problem, Bruce. You are unable to look carefully at the Adamic and Mosaic covenants. I am telling you to take a long hard look at these until it;s sunk deeply into your understanding. You see, Jesus did not only die for traitors. He became one Himself. And is doing, the traitors die with Jesus. The death/resurrection paradigm is so important which unfortunately and grievously, NT Wright’s theology misses.

    • James:

      I hope I’m not getting this one wrong.

      But eating the fruit was an alignment with Satan and treason against God. We are Adams children.

      The Israelites occupied the land of promise because they were faithful. They were banished because they were faithless.

      We are either making faithful progress to the New Creation or we’re not. We discover that little sins hinder us because they become big sins. Not repenting is the biggest sin of all because that would bring hardness of heart, and wrath — if we fail to heed the warning and repent.

      Bruce

  11. “Today, you commit treason if you fail to repent of your sins and renew your covenant.”

    Surely that is an UNDER-statement, Bruce. I commit treason every moment of my existence here and now. You see, as Luther puts it, grace is not a repair job. It’s the resurrection of the New Man/New Adam … is a total, complete, radical, re-creation by the effective legal Word of the Gospel.

    “I’m really glad that you care about these matters. They are life and death.”

    Life and death? You have it mixed up, Bruce. It’s death and life. You have got to die first, Bruce before you can inherit the kingdom of God. As Jesus says, you have to be born again. And that means the old self with its divine ambition, its projects of self-realisation and what not must go …

  12. “However, Arminius, Roman Catholics and Dort era Calvinists shared a medieval conception of merit which leads them to conclude that the individual faith/works antithesis is the key to Christian sanctification.”

    Never you mind, Bruce. NT Wright’s theology belong to the same conception of climbing the ladder too. Justification according to works implies progress, no? Progress means climbing the ladder, no? Luther’s conception shatters such a scheme. ‘Good works’ are solely for this world, here and now only. No confusion, no grievious confusion involved. Confusing faith and obedience, faith and good works does not help matters. In only makes the matters worse.

    Faith is the new man created by God. He is then turned around to work his faith through love towards his fellow man.

  13. On Romans 8, that’s the thing though … only Luther’s interpretation makes sense. There is nothing in Romans 7 to suggest that Paul’s experience was his alone or that it was somehow isolated or unique. Romans 8 makes the sharpest contrast between the old and new man. *This*, i.e. the antithesis between life under the Law and life in the Spirit can only be properly understood in the context of the totus, totus formula of simul iustus et pecattor. Totally sinful and totally just as the same time. Nor partially sinful whilst the other ‘half’ is filled with the Spirit …

  14. Of course the absolute distinction between Law and Gospel was not Luther’s invention, but Paul’s – Romans 1, 2,3,4 …

    • Jason:

      I think I see what our difference is here. You locate the difference between faith and works in the human soul. I locate it in history.

      Question, how do you define flesh and spirit in Paul?

      Bruce

  15. “Yet somehow we are rewarded with eternal life because we believe that God exists and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. It is the reward of Grace: the meek shall inherit the earth, humility now, exaltation later. It is undeserved, it is an enormous blessing, we don’t log merit. It involves continuous purification from sin. A son can and should be a servant of his father, but not a beggar.”

    Eternal life is not a reward. It’s a gift. Ephesians 2:8. Those who seek God ARE already justified, saved, etc. That is they HAVE eternal life already. Their names are already written in the Book of Life. On Christians as beggars, yes, even children of God are beggars because they are still sinners.

    Luke 18:

    13And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

    Words of Jesus, words of Jesus again …

  16. “We are either making faithful progress to the New Creation or we’re not. We discover that little sins hinder us because they become big sins. Not repenting is the biggest sin of all because that would bring hardness of heart, and wrath — if we fail to heed the warning and repent.”

    This is why the distinction between Law and Gospel is so vital, so crucial … without it the laxed become comforted, the distressed become depressed … preaching the Law hardens the reprobate, preaching the Gospel hardens the reprobate. Preaching the Law crushes, kills the elect so that he/she may be raised up again in newness of life by the preaching of the Gospel.

    This is why the death/resurrection paradigm of the Christian life is the essence of the Christian life. Daily repentance and faith, not a progress towards the kingdom of heaven from the perspective of the kingdom of heaven, but the kingdom of heaven’s progress towards the Christian.

    This is why the distinction between the here and now and the life thereafter is crucial.

    The life I receive here and now is based on the life thereafter; NOT this: That the life thereafter is based on the life lived now even if as NT Wright is wont say a life lived under the Spirit …

  17. Please, tell me you realize this is hyperbole…

    I commit treason every moment of my existence here and now.

    Because if I can’t trust you with God, I can’t trust you, period.

    For once, you have it exactly right. The Old Man cannot be reconciled with the New Man. You just cannot hang on to the Old Man. He either must be killed daily or continue forever.

    God bless you with the truth which saves, my brother. And I mean it.

  18. NT Wright reverses the sequence like the Romanist, Byzantine, Arminian, Revivalist, etc. etc.

    Jesus is first and foremost, Sacramentum (Donum) and then only Exemplum. That is, we receive Jesus first as Gift and then only seek to imitate him, that is receive Him as Example. The Gift is ours, not based at all on anything in us even life lived in the Spirit. Our ‘faint echo’ as you put is a life lived for the sake of our neighbour, that is we reflecting the love of Jesus towards us and the children of Adam. We are not here to chase after the Gift. It is the Gift Who chase after us. And having captured us, empower us to display the Gift’s love and enable us to live like true humans. Being a true human, being human means freedom from care, care of whether am I performing well enough to please God.

    That Luther says is SELF-defence, self-defence AGAINST God, not TRUSTING in His promise. The essence of being human is FAITH …

  19. ”Basically, the whole idea of virtue has been radically out of fashion in much of Western Christianity ever since the sixteenth-century Reformation”?

    For Luther, the movement of salvation or justification if one wants to speak of a movement at all is movement from virtue to grace, NOT vice to virtue. A totally depraved person, a sinner does not need make-up; he needs to be destroyed so that like the phoenix rising out of the ashes, the sinner can be made anew. The concept of justification then simply means creation ex nihilo – bringing into existence that which did not exist. Justification is creation; creation is justification. In addition to soteriology, cosmology, history, even justification is applicable to to creative destruction in the sphere of the economy (Joseph Schumpeter), the alternative is of course ‘boom and bust’ of revivalism. No Word, no creation; no Word, no new creation. This is why Paul does not speak of justification in three stages. Justification is the whole in terms of eschatology but in terms of ontology, the part represents the whole that is the ultimate reality is hidden under the present reality. To put it simply, justification is not bound to time and space although takes place with in and through time and space. Justification transcends time and space, so that by faith, in faith and through faith as a present event we are incorporated into the Cross as a historical event.

    All this is to say that the Justification is the whole of the Christian life. God is always in the business of justifying SINNERS, from beginning to end. He does this in proclamation of the Gospel orally and sacramentally, including in the absolution. Who shall ANYTHING to the charge of God’s elect? For it is God who justifies. God justify the sinner tnere and then and God will not go back on his promise. And just so by faith alone we are justified …

    • Let me say I commend you for caring and thinking so deeply and writing so clearly about this topic.

  20. “You locate the difference between faith and works in the human soul. I locate it in history.”

    The difference between ordo salutis and historia salutis … actually both parallel each other. I don’t see the difference between the two in as much that the history of salvation is actually *my* personal history. In other words, the individual sinner is incorporated into the narrative of salvation history there and then by the proclamation of the Gospel orally and sacramentally. The death and resurrection of Jesus is ‘replicated’ in the individual Christian’s life … struggle and battle against the Evil One in, with and through his demons (the Christus victor motif); Pentecost is ‘replicated’ in the life of the individual Christian’s life through his or her incorporation into the story of Acts 1 and 2 and each time when the Christian remembers his/her Baptism, etc.

    “‘Question, how do you define flesh and spirit in Paul?”

    I follow Luther in distinguishing between the ”outer” and ”inner” Man to refer to flesh and spirit, respectively. Both the outer (Old) and inner (New) Man have their identity in the one human person – two Is (Egos) which is really the one I existing in two nature or according to two natures.

    • “‘Question, how do you define flesh and spirit in Paul?”

      I follow Luther in distinguishing between the ”outer” and ”inner” Man to refer to flesh and spirit, respectively. Both the outer (Old) and inner (New) Man have their identity in the one human person – two Is (Egos) which is really the one I existing in two nature or according to two natures.

      Hey, here’s what happens when the outer man takes the controls…

      http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=6&ved=0CC0QtwIwBQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DdkP3KAgyqMw&ei=SVEJTMnpMoSKlwfm_-SgDg&usg=AFQjCNEr_dBGLpd7HoSr2asJAmOZEv6Pjw

      I have you considered that for Paul, flesh he means the unbelieving world, including Jews who don’t acknowledge Jesus. It basically means all that have uncircumcised hearts regardless of Jew or Gentile. Paul especially uses the term flesh as a taunt to Jews who are obsessed with circumcision. Spirit means the jurisdiction of the Spirit to which believers are assigned. I think it’s dangerous for people to consider themselves has having two natures in the light of 2 Corinthians 5:17…

      Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

      If the old man is crucified in Christ he is dead.

  21. “‘I think it’s dangerous for people to consider themselves has having two natures in the light of 2 Corinthians 5:17…

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

    If the old man is crucified in Christ he is dead.”

    Yes, it can be dangerous. I don’t baulk at that contention. Unconditional forgiveness is dangerous. But I strongly believe it works two ways – either legalism or antinomianism. History and experience bears this out. But God held nothing back and gave Himself to the unrighteous, etc. Self-giving is in the ‘nature’ of God.

    And yes, the Old Adam is dead. But to point out the obvious, his flesh still clings on to him. We are not perfectionists. We acknowledge that as Christians we still sin. If we still sin, it means the Old Adam is still alive. If the Old Adam is still alive, then we need to drown him/Old Eve again and again through repentance and faith and returning to our Baptism. The killing of the Old Adam is a regular feature of the Christian life.

    *Totally* new; *totally* old …

  22. Jason, send me an email and tell me about yourself
    Bjr1958 -at- gmail dot com

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