Justification at Stake in Three ‘Storms’

I’m posting a bit early this time because I’m going to be heading down South for the weekend to the mountains. I’ll be back on Sunday, so I’ll be missing my blogpost on Saturday.

Continuing a look at Piper’s book “Counted in Righteous in Christ,” he notes that the doctrine of justification is being fought over in more than one conflict, of which he is dealing specifically with the conflict over the necessity and truth of the doctrine of imputation.

Piper lists three other conflicts currently going on in Christianity concerning the doctrine of justification on page 42, footnote 3:

1. Ecumenical dialogues on Evangelical and Catholic doctrine
Is the Reformation over? Piper says “no” in the conclusion of this book. The conflict between Catholic and Evangelical interpretation of justification are multiple, of which one is if the Bible teaches imputation or impartation of Christ’s righteousness. Do we believe that the Reformation that Luther started was because of real foundational failings in Catholic doctrine?

2. New Perspective on Paul
I do not feel immersed enough in this topic to speak on it in-depth, but from what I have read, the main points of the “New Perspective” are that when Paul speaks of justification by faith without works of the law, he is speaking of “works of the law” in the sense of Jewish dietary law, circumcision and Sabbath-day keeping. This interpretation comes from examining Second-Temple Judaism and the belief that the Jews at that time, mainly that the sin Paul denounces is not legalism (the Jews in fact believed in grace), but ethnocentrism to the exclusion of the Gentiles. Instead, the new badge of being part of the covenant was no longer these Jewish ‘customs’ but faith in Christ. And following from this, when God declares someone justified, it is not at that point that one becomes part of the covenant, but justification is simply acknowledging someone is already part of the covenant. Furthermore, this declaring justified is not in fact effective, but a foreshadowing of the future effective justification on the Day of Judgment, whereby all men will be judged according to their whole lives (including those of the covenant, whose good works will be judged, but those good works are grace-wrought). I hope I did the position justice, and if not, feel free to correct me.

3. Relationship of faith and obedience, “specifically conflation of faith and works of faith as the instrument of justification.”
I am not sure what Piper means by this exactly, but I am assuming it means a confusion whereby the grace-wrought works of faith are what justifies believers, not faith alone through grace. To me, this sounds Catholic as well as the underlying principle of New Perspective soteriology.

These new paradigms are not extra-Biblical concepts but are rooted in specific hermeneutics. Are we knowledgeable about these controversies? Are we prepared to answer those who would bring these new interpretations against Scriptural orthodoxy?

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