Stehndahl on Justification by Faith

Krister Stehndahl writes:

The following chapters will demonstrate how such a doctrine of justification by faith was hammered out by Paul for the very specific and limited purpose of defending the rights of Gentile converts to be full and genuine heirs of the promises of God to Israel. Their rights were based solely on faith in Jesus Christ. This was Paul’s very special stance, and he defended it zealously against any compromise that required circumcision or the keeping of kosher food laws by Gentile Christians.

How or why then do I claim that in our traditional understanding we have lost touch with the image of Paul among Jews and Gentiles? For one simple reason; while Paul addresses himself to the relation of Jews to Gentiles, we tend to read him as if his question was: On what grounds, on what terms, are we to be saved? We think that Paul spoke about justification by faith, using the Jewish-Gentile situation as an instance, as an example. But Paul was chiefly concerned about the relation between Jews and Gentiles—and in the development of this concern he used as one of his arguments the idea of justification by faith.

Such a shift in focus and perception blocks our access both to the original thought and the original intention of Paul. It leads to distortions of our historical description of Paul’s ministry and to misunderstandings of Paul as a person. It leads to a misconstruction of the problem Paul intended to solve by his observations on faith and law and salvation. The fact of the matter is that if we read Paul’s answer to the question of how Gentiles become heirs to God’s promises to Israel as if he were responding to Luther’s pangs of conscience, it becomes obvious that we are taking the Pauline answer out of its original context.

OLD COMMENTS
Post 1:
This seems like such a radical premise. If it’s true, it literally alters everything I’ve thought about Christianity since becoming a believer 8 years ago. Being Reformed, I had come to believe that the only thing the Scriptures taught was justification by grace through faith. The writer you quote concedes it is a Pauline doctrine, but his argument is interesting because the doctrine itself was developed in order to defend and protect a bigger, more important one – namely the rights of all believers in Christ.

One thing that strikes me as strange, and this may very well be because I have no historical, philosophical or theological training, is the argument that Paul developed this doctrine of justification in order to accomplish something else. Believing in the infallibility of the Scriptures and their inspiration by God, I have always seen these doctrines as divinely instituted – not created by humans. Even the smallest doctrines, whatever they may be, in my understanding, originated in the mind of Christ, and were not the product of any one, or any collective number, of people responding to a situation. That may be a flaw in my own thinking, but how does a writer like this, Joel, reconcile the Reformed view of the Scriptures as divinely inspired and this approach to Pauline theology? The answer to how those two are reconciled would probably have an effect on my own theologizing in the future.
by: scott cunningham (URL) on 2002-12-20 12:29:40
Post 2:
I don’t know that I can speak for him. To me, there is no difficulty, what the author says, God says, and vice versa. What is in the canon is what God intended to be there and no matter who came up with it, it does ultimately originate in the Divine counsel. It’s not as if Paul could have wrote heresy and it would have made it into the canon. Am I making any sense?
by: joel w (URL) on 2002-12-20 22:40:30
Post 3:
But, there seems to be some tension it seems like between the divine authorship and the human authorship. I mean, on the one hand, you and I both affirm God is writing these epistles and gospels through human agents via inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Yet, at the same time, it’s interesting to think about being Paul and Peter and the evangelists writing the gospels. Did they feel compelled to write certain words? Could they have expressed these ideas differently? I think every jot and tittle of the epistles, for instance, are inspired and originated in the mind of Christ prior to Paul writing them. Yet, I also believe that Paul voluntarily chose to express himself freely and without coercion. It’s the mysterious ballet of man walking with God, yet God leading man, and not only leading him, but actually requiring certain steps be taken. Yet, at the same time, God treats us as free, and the appearance seems to be – and maybe even the reality, too – that man can affect how the dance is played out.

Scripture, then, is interesting, because it seems like you can approach it as a hyper-calvinist and so focus on the divine, that Paul and others appear like puppets guided by puppet strings. Yet, I think that you can see Paul’s unique personality, and the accumulation of his own learning and experiences, in those letters. Paul’s letters read differently than Peter’s and even differently from James’s. Part of the reason scholars doubt Pauline scholarship of Hebrews is because the writing style is so different.

So, the point I’m making is it’s interesting that these original writers ended up powerfully affecting future generations of believers all because of these letters written to specific people that concerned very specific problems. Paul ends up developing this idea of the church as being like a marriage, but also like a human body, all because of problems seen within the church in Ephesus. What if he had chosen, instead of those humane metaphors, another metaphor to communicate the organic, interconnectedness of the church. What if he had been a proto-Adam Smith, and instead of the body, chosen the economy as his metaphor. I mean, they seem similar enough in some respects (except that the body one is far superior to the economic one). How would the church developed differently?

I’m just thinking about how it’s kind of interesting to consider, for a moment, that the writers were writing as regular people – as pastor/theologian/prophets – and how their casual language ends up having dramatic effects all the way down through history. Being as how the tension between God’s sovereigntiy and man’s freedom is an enduring paradox, one can see Paul as literally creating doctrine on the spot, and yet still affirm a believe in divine authorship. Does that make any sense? This kind of stuff just blows my mind.
by: scott cunningham (URL) on 2002-12-23 12:24:04
Post 4:
I think it makes sense!
I don’t know that any one theory of inspiration fits perfectly. I certainly don’t believe it was “automatic writing.” The Bible seems to leave it vauge as to how the will was moved along by the Spirit. I am content to say what the author says, God says.
by: joel w (URL) on 2002-12-26 22:02:30
Name:

Schaeffer on Ethics

I have been reading “Back to Freedom and Dignity” by Francis Schaeffer. This booklet has been in my house as long as I can remember, I think my brothers must have had it or something, and it has always been laying around. Well, I finally read it after all these years. Schaeffer addresses what was going on in the late 60’s and early 70’s in relation to biological issues such as test-tube babies, genetic manipulation of embryos, etc. The amazing thing to me is how a mere thirty years after he wrote this, these issues have become commonplace and not thought of much. He wrote in a pre Roe v. Wade world where the genie was not quite out of the bottle yet. The ability to genetically manipulate humanity is now far greater than it was then, and the danger is far greater. We are now *in* the dangerous world that was dawning then. These issues will continue to dominate the next century I’m sure. I don’t know if we will roll over and accept them and they will just become part of life or what. Schaeffer writes:

“Christians have two boundary conditions: (1) what men can do and (2) what men should do. Modern man does not have that latter boundary. Only technology limits him. Modern man does what he can do.”

The patenting of human genes may drive profits for companies like Monsanto in this century, a thought that by itself is frightening. The world has moved on since Schaeffer wrote, into even more dangerous waters.
OLD COMMENTS

Post 1:
Greetings, Joel

Here’s a thought on the two boundaries, what men _can_ do, and what men _should_ do. I think there is a danger in this distinction, as if (1) only Christians think of what men should do, or (2) that talk with “should” in it is what defines Christians over against the rest of men. Neither of these is true.

If we back off from moral dilemmas, real and pressing as they are, to remind ourselves _first_ what makes us Christians, don’t we get a different answer? something to do with suffering, enemies, and grace?

Then, if we take a look at ourselves, do we really find such a difference between ourselves and others? Haven’t we Christians made some pretty egregious missteps? Is it really helpful to pick issues in which we feel confident of being in the right (abortion, gentic manipulation if you like), and treat these as cutting-edge criteria for distinguishing ourselves from others?

Obviously, I doubt it. I think it is more realistic to accept that the world always has been, and probably always will be a dangerous place. (I doubt we have tools to judge whether it is more or less so at one time or one place than another; dangers attack individuals, after all, and individuals have all kinds of suceptibilities.) Once we do that, I think we begin to see each other and ourselves as needing succor more than we need paragons. Then if we are Christians, we will give and receive succor, not advice; and we will see ourselves as among the needy, not different.

This was one of the points the Owl was trying to make.

(The first page or two of Bonhoeffer’s _Ethics_ lie behind this thinking.)

Best,

Tom
by: Thomas Drew (URL) on 2002-12-16 22:27:57
Post 2:
One of the scariest things I’ve seen in a while is the two page photo illustration in WIRED this month that features the little girl with blonde hair, bright green eyes, and the tatoo that says “Made in China” on it. It is for an article about the cloning science being done in China and all the advances they are making because they basically have no notion of treating the fetus as deserving any particular moral status.
by: barlow (URL) on 2002-12-17 00:19:16
Post 3:
Tom:
I don’t think it’s an either or. I agree with giving succor, but I think the Church has a plain responsibility to speak and to act on these issues, much like Bonhoffer and Neimuller in Nazi Germany. I think the church in Germany was responsible to stand up, so is the church in our day. The redemptive love of Christ should extend to the defacing of His creation if I could be allowed an application here.
Jonathan:
I agree. China always pops into my mind as the most eager to perhaps produce the super-race for military purposes. My fear could be unfounded, but your reasoning there seems right on the money.
by: joel w (URL) on 2002-12-17 10:23:07
Post 4:
The limits upon what man “should” do have changed before, though. There are always those who will find reason to condemn scientific progress. The medieval church banned the practice of dissection of corpses, but there are few Christians today who will reject the entire edifice of medical science that has developed upon the knowledge of human anatomy. The knowledge of the human genome may well develop in the same way, such that today’s fears will be proven unjustified.

There may be vast benefits available to humanity through these new scientific fields. This is not to say, however, that there is no role for legal, ethical, and spiritual guidelines in the study and use of genetic knowledge. The development of such guidelines, while avoiding amoral lawlessness on the one hand and futile rejectionism on the other, will be the challenges of coming generations.
by: Tom (URL) on 2002-12-17 21:26:08
Post 5:
Good points Tom. I’m sure great benefits will derive from much of what is going on. I guess the issue of choosing characteristics of future children is frightening, as is the creation of life simply to destroy it (stem cell research). I wish that ethical guidelines will be followed in all future research, but have my doubts (China–like Barlow said).
by: joel w (URL) on 2002-12-17 23:35:15
Post 6:
By the way, I didn’t even have to reason about the ethics of the fetus in China – it was literally a pull quote from the scientist!!! Might be worth getting a copy of for your files so you can creep out your students some day.
by: barlow (URL) on 2002-12-18 00:14:41
Post 7:
Do you have it?
by: joel w (URL) on 2002-12-18 10:43:33
Post 8:
Touchstone also has an excellent article on the ethics of cloning in one of its two most recent issues (I just got both in the mail at the same time, so I can’t remember whether it’s the more recent one or not).
by: scott cunningham (URL) on 2002-12-23 12:31:05

 

Wilson a Theonomist?

Recently over at Mark’s blog a conversation started that at some point asked if Doug Wilson and Moscow consider themselves theonomists. I just received the new Credenda/Agenda and in an editorial about this whole heresy thing, Wilson writes of points of agreement between himself and the RPCUS, “Both sides of this dispute hold to some variation of postmillenial, Calvinistic, presbyterian, VanTilian,theonomic, and reformed thought…”
Just a minor point I guess, but I definitely think Moscow is theonomic.


OLD COMMENTS
Post 1:
I suppose it depends a bit what “some variation” means. If you believe the whole Bible is relevant for ethics today, you could be said to believe in “some variation of theonomy,” I suppose.
As I pointed out on Mark’s blog, Steve Schlissel has said that he isn’t a theonomist — at least, not one of the Bahnsenian variety.
And for the record, I’m not a theonomist (though I do believe the whole Bible has relevance for life today).
by: John (URL) on 2002-09-15 11:00:08
Post 2:
Wilkins takes Jordan’s theocratic view…which isn’t the same as Bahnsenian theonomy.
by: Rick (URL) on 2002-09-16 12:01:33
Post 3:
I wasn’t talking about everyone, just Wilson. I think saying theonomy equates to the whole Bible being relavent for life today would make much of Christianity theonomist, and would water the term down. I’m sure that’s not what Wilson has in mind. I’d read his recent story “Red Barn” in Credenda and all the past writing in there to come to a conclusion.
by: Joel W (URL) on 2002-09-17 11:43:21
Post 4:
You may be right. Wilson may be a theonomist of the more Bahnsenian type, though he certainly doesn’t seem to make much of it if he is. (Nor does that mean the whole congregation in Moscow is.)
by: John (URL) on 2002-09-17 12:39:55

The Prophets

The Prophets (Hebrew, nebi’ im) are the second section or “book” in the three sections of the Old Testament canon. Though we may be unfamiliar with the shape of the OT canon, a quick look at the NT will show us that this division was well known to the later authors of the NT. The three-fold division of the OT can be clearly seen in Luke 24:44:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.

The Law of Moses or Book of Moses is the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, the Prophets were the middle section of the canon, and the Psalms, or writings were the third division of the canon.
The books in the Hebrew canon are in a different order than what we currently have in our Old Testaments. This may not seem important, but actually I would argue that the intentional placing of the books in the order they were in taught a theological message, one that is harder to see in the now disjointed form of our current OT canonical order. The Prophets were reckoned as eight books in the following order:

1. Joshua
2. Judges
3. I & II Samuel
4. I & II Kings
5. Isaiah
6. Jeremiah
7. Ezekiel
8. The Twelve (the minor prophets taken as one book)

The hand of a later editor or editors at work in the shaping of the Prophets and the canon as a whole is wonderful to behold. Stephen Dempster has admirably demonstrated the thematic unity is this section of the canon , he writes:
Joshua 1:1–9 functions as an introduction to the book of Joshua but also to this section of the canon. The two-fold reference to the death of Moses (1:1, 2) not only continues Deuteronomy but also signifies the end of an era. The expression ‘Moses, my servant’ occurs twice in this text (1:2, 7). The only other time this expression is used in the entire TaNaK is at the end of this section of the canon (Mal. 4:4).
In other words, at the very beginning of this “book” of the Prophets in Joshua and at the very end in Malachi are references to “Moses, my servant” included with a call to observe the Torah he had given. The success or failure of Israel would be only judged by its following the Torah of Moses. And just as the land of Canaan was put under “the ban” in Joshua’s day (Joshua 6:18) so the Lord threatens to come to Israel and smite the land with a “ban of destruction” (Malachi 4:6).
Malachi in ending the Prophets and transitioning to the Writings (which begin with the book of Psalms) asks about distinguishing between “the righteous and the wicked” (Heb. rashaim and zedekim) in Malachi 3:18. This question is immediately picked up in the next section of the canon, Psalm 1, which distinguishes the righteous from the wicked once more in terms of meditation on the Torah. Thematic unity overarches the entire canon, what a glorious book we have in our possession!
OLD COMMENTS

Post 1:
I see no reason to posit an editor.

1. either its the work of the Holy Spirit

or

2. Malachi could have written with some undertsanding of matching up with Joshua
by: Officer p-duggie (URL) on 2002–12–10 17:02:07
Post 2:
I think the hand of the editor is all over the OT canon teaching in the ‘seams’ a distinct message. I think the consensus is pretty large on the end of Malachi being an add on. The way Malachi and Joshua answer each other in their final canonical shape are amazing, as is the lead in to the Psalms and on and on. The material was put into its’ current shape at some point certainly. Read Dempster, Stephen (1998). An ‘Extraordinary Fact’: Torah and Temple And the Contours of the Hebrew Canon, Part 1. Tyndale Bulletin, Vol. 48, no. 2.
Excellent summary.
by: joel w (URL) on 2002–12–10 17:20:44
Post 3:
I guess I’d never be able to demonstrate or provide evidence for some aspect of the coherence of the bible as evidence of its divine origin or inspiration.
by: pduggie (URL) on 2002–12–11 00:49:17
Post 4:
I absolutely agree with divine inspiration. What the author says/God says, no difference. You don’t see editorial activity as opposed to inspiration do you?
by: joel w (URL) on 2002–12–11 01:28:15
Post 5:
Have you ever looked at Beckwith’s The OT Canon of the NT Church? It does some interesting stuff with the formation of the OT canon.

by: garver (URL) on 2002–12–13 09:48:00
Post 6:
I haven’t read Beckwith’s book yet, but I’ve heard of it and plan on reading it. Thanks for the reminder. Lots of good stuff out there, I’m reading some Brevard Childs stuff now.
by: joel w (URL) on 2002–12–13 21:52:08

The Prophets

The Prophets (Hebrew, nebi’ im) are the second section or “book” in the three sections of the Old Testament canon. Though we may be unfamiliar with the shape of the OT canon, a quick look at the NT will show us that this division was well known to the later authors of the NT. The three-fold division of the OT can be clearly seen in Luke 24:44:

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.

The Law of Moses or Book of Moses is the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, the Prophets were the middle section of the canon, and the Psalms, or writings were the third division of the canon.
The books in the Hebrew canon are in a different order than what we currently have in our Old Testaments. This may not seem important, but actually I would argue that the intentional placing of the books in the order they were in taught a theological message, one that is harder to see in the now disjointed form of our current OT canonical order. The Prophets were reckoned as eight books in the following order:

1. Joshua
2. Judges
3. I & II Samuel
4. I & II Kings
5. Isaiah
6. Jeremiah
7. Ezekiel
8. The Twelve (the minor prophets taken as one book)

The hand of a later editor or editors at work in the shaping of the Prophets and the canon as a whole is wonderful to behold. Stephen Dempster has admirably demonstrated the thematic unity is this section of the canon , he writes:
Joshua 1:1-9 functions as an introduction to the book of Joshua but also to this section of the canon. The two-fold reference to the death of Moses (1:1, 2) not only continues Deuteronomy but also signifies the end of an era. The expression ‘Moses, my servant’ occurs twice in this text (1:2, 7). The only other time this expression is used in the entire TaNaK is at the end of this section of the canon (Mal. 4:4).
In other words, at the very beginning of this “book” of the Prophets in Joshua and at the very end in Malachi are references to “Moses, my servant” included with a call to observe the Torah he had given. The success or failure of Israel would be only judged by its following the Torah of Moses. And just as the land of Canaan was put under “the ban” in Joshua’s day (Joshua 6:18) so the Lord threatens to come to Israel and smite the land with a “ban of destruction” (Malachi 4:6).
Malachi in ending the Prophets and transitioning to the Writings (which begin with the book of Psalms) asks about distinguishing between “the righteous and the wicked” (Heb. rashaim and zedekim) in Malachi 3:18. This question is immediately picked up in the next section of the canon, Psalm 1, which distinguishes the righteous from the wicked once more in terms of meditation on the Torah. Thematic unity overarches the entire canon, what a glorious book we have in our possession!
OLD COMMENTS

Post 1:
I see no reason to posit an editor.

1. either its the work of the Holy Spirit

or

2. Malachi could have written with some undertsanding of matching up with Joshua
by: Officer p-duggie (URL) on 2002-12-10 17:02:07
Post 2:
I think the hand of the editor is all over the OT canon teaching in the ‘seams’ a distinct message. I think the consensus is pretty large on the end of Malachi being an add on. The way Malachi and Joshua answer each other in their final canonical shape are amazing, as is the lead in to the Psalms and on and on. The material was put into its’ current shape at some point certainly. Read Dempster, Stephen (1998). An ‘Extraordinary Fact’: Torah and Temple And the Contours of the Hebrew Canon, Part 1. Tyndale Bulletin, Vol. 48, no. 2.
Excellent summary.
by: joel w (URL) on 2002-12-10 17:20:44
Post 3:
I guess I’d never be able to demonstrate or provide evidence for some aspect of the coherence of the bible as evidence of its divine origin or inspiration.
by: pduggie (URL) on 2002-12-11 00:49:17
Post 4:
I absolutely agree with divine inspiration. What the author says/God says, no difference. You don’t see editorial activity as opposed to inspiration do you?
by: joel w (URL) on 2002-12-11 01:28:15
Post 5:
Have you ever looked at Beckwith’s The OT Canon of the NT Church? It does some interesting stuff with the formation of the OT canon.

by: garver (URL) on 2002-12-13 09:48:00
Post 6:
I haven’t read Beckwith’s book yet, but I’ve heard of it and plan on reading it. Thanks for the reminder. Lots of good stuff out there, I’m reading some Brevard Childs stuff now.
by: joel w (URL) on 2002-12-13 21:52:08

Accupuncture

Some guys at work were discussing going to get acupuncture that claims to be able to eliminate your food allergies. I have always opposed acupuncture as a sort of opening to the demonic, but I don’t have any solid text to go to. I searched the web a bit, but haven’t found any real good articles, I just find things decrying relying on the spirit world in general, which make sense. I’ve always held the same opinions regarding yoga, TM, etc. It does amaze me how accepted these eastern spiritual practices are now on a practical level.

Sanders Book

I got two great books at the local university library last night, one being Judaism Practice and Belief by E.P. Sanders where I read something interesting: in the first century, the Pharisees, Saducees, and Essenes together had only several thousand adherents total. Most of the Jews were simply people, living within their religion. I always had the impression that everyone belonged to one group or the other.

Sanders Book

I got two great books at the local university library last night, one being Judaism Practice and Belief by E.P. Sanders where I read something interesting: in the first century, the Pharisees, Saducees, and Essenes together had only several thousand adherents total. Most of the Jews were simply people, living within their religion. I always had the impression that everyone belonged to one group or the other.

I Preached

I preached for the first time ever this past Sunday. Leading up to the actual day I was at times terrified and feeling very stupid and inadequate, but I was ok when the time came. My biggest problem was that it was short, I thought it would be longer, so I need more material next time. The whole process made me much more dependent on the Spirit of God for insight and strength, and gave me a newfound respect for those who do this week in and week out. It’s very easy to cast stones at preachers and be a conniseur of sermons, but it is quite a load to bear in one sense.
I preached on Ps. 73, envying the wicked vs. realizing the presence of God with us and in us *is* our reward in this life and the next.

I Preached

I preached for the first time ever this past Sunday. Leading up to the actual day I was at times terrified and feeling very stupid and inadequate, but I was ok when the time came. My biggest problem was that it was short, I thought it would be longer, so I need more material next time. The whole process made me much more dependent on the Spirit of God for insight and strength, and gave me a newfound respect for those who do this week in and week out. It’s very easy to cast stones at preachers and be a conniseur of sermons, but it is quite a load to bear in one sense.
I preached on Ps. 73, envying the wicked vs. realizing the presence of God with us and in us *is* our reward in this life and the next.