N. T. Wright Contra The Imputation Of Christ’s Active Obedience: Not A God One Wants To Worship

Among New Testament scholars, Mark Seifrid, influenced by Clifford’s interpretation of Protestant orthodoxy, says that it “added the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the forgiveness of sins.” The distinction between active and passive righteousness is “unnecessary and misleading” and arose from a “failure to grasp that Christ’s work represents the prolepsis of the final judgment and an entrance of the age to come.” N. T. Wright rejects the imputation of active obedience obedience on the ground that it “gives the impression of a legal transaction, a cold piece of business, almost a trick of thought performed by a God who is logical and correct but hardly one we would want to worship.”

R. Scott Clark, “‘Do This And Live:’ Christ’s Active Obedience As the Ground of Justification” in R. Scott Clark, ed. Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2007), 241.

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. What a cold piece of business it was of God to pass alone through the pieces of slaughtered animals to show Abraham and his children, who have the faith of Abraham, that God alone would perform all that the covenant of works requires and then suffer the consequences of their covenant breaking, and in time He sent His Son to do exactly as He promised, so that Abraham and his children in the faith would have full acceptance with God through the perfect obedience of the Son imputed to them, in the new, covenant of grace. What a cold piece of business, indeed! Who could love such a God? This is a gross irony of unimaginable proportions.

  2. Why would the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the elect be “a legal transaction, a cold piece of business”, but the imputation of their sin to Christ not be?

    And who would want to worship a God who is illogical and incorrect?

    Given the fact of the Covenant of Redemption and Christ’s fulfilling the agreed requirements of that covenant in His incarnation, life and sacrificial death, the imputation of both sin and righteousness is very much legal, but hardly cold trickery (Mark 15:34).

  3. Thanks Scott,

    This sounds very similar to the argument that the Romish faction used against
    the Reformers doctrine of Justification, saying that it was legal, but their view
    supposed that God as a loving Father welcomed his children with sloppy kisses
    and warm embraces, all lovey-dovey, none of this harsh and stern legal stuff.

Comments are closed.