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A SHORT NOTE ON N. T. WRIGHT
AND HIS REFORMED CRITICS

Rich Lusk

Copyright © 2002

This short paper is not an attempt to provide a comprehensive analysis and defense of N. T. Wright, much less the so-called “New Perspective on Paul” as a whole. Indeed, Wright’s theological project has some failings and the New Perspective as a movement must be considered a mixed bag of thinkers with widely varying degrees of orthodoxy. Rather, my much more modest goal is to offer a plea for Reformed theologians and pastors to give Wright a sustained and sympathetic reading. Several Reformed theologians have recently gone on record critiquing Wright (e.g., Richard Gaffin, Charles Hill, Bob Cara) [1], particularly on the issue of justification. My hope is to clear the ground, and show why I think these critics have, in several key ways, misread and mischaracterized Wright’s theology. In fact, if we ignore Wright or fail to do the careful study needed to understand his work, we will be missing out on tremendous blessing.

I first stumbled across Wright in the mid-90s when I was doing research on NT eschatology and the historical Jesus. But it was not long before I discovered Wright had a profound grasp of Pauline theology as well. Because Reformed theology has been dominated by Paul, it is not surprising that Wright’s fresh reading of the apostle has attracted a great deal of attention from Reformed thinkers. Thus far, no one from within the Reformed world has stepped up to provide an overarching defense of Wright, and certainly this paper is far too brief to fill that void. But in the meantime, I feel the need to say something to the Reformed community on Wright’s behalf. I will not take the time to summarize the now-standard criticisms of Wright, which are available elsewhere. Besides, many, even if true, are of no great significance. Rather, I will focus primarily on the overall shape of his doctrine of justification, showing it basically harmonizes with, complements, and yes, even improves, more traditional Reformed formulations. Wright’s teaching on justification has six basic features.

First, Wright uses the standard Reformed lawcourt metaphor for justification [2]. Clearly Wright believes, with the Reformers and against Rome, that justification has a forensic dimension and is not simply a matter of moral transformation. In fact, he explicitly rejects the Roman Catholic view and insists justification is the eschatological verdict of God brought into the present time. He finds the basis of this verdict in the representative death and resurrection of Christ. Christ took the curse of the law upon himself in order to bring the promised covenant blessing to us. While Wright shies away from the term “imputation,” virtually synonymous terms such as “reckon” are used [3]. Moreover, in his lecture comments [4] on Romans 3:25 he made it very plain he believes the cross did indeed propitiate God’s wrath. He criticized the NIV (which has ‘sacrifice of atonement’ instead of ‘propitiation’) and clearly distinguished propitiation from expiation. Wright cannot be accused of soft-pedaling God’s wrath or the cross’s quenching of that wrath.

Second, Wright’s doctrine of justification is inseparable from his corporate Christology. This is where many of his Reformed detractors have failed to deal with the real Wright. Instead of looking at justification in its proper place in his system, they decontextualize it, abstracting it from his corporate Christology [5]. Essentially, however, there is nothing unreformed about the structure of Wright’s theology here. He simply uses union with Christ to do in his theology what imputation does for traditional Reformed systematics. Of course, the net result is the same: sinners are right with God because of what Christ did in their stead. Wright makes union with Christ more foundational than imputation/reckoning, but this move was already anticipated in Calvin and has been reiterated even more strongly by Gaffin [6]. Because we are in Christ, all that Christ has is now ours — including his righteous standing before the Father as the New Adam. The forensic, imputational aspect of salvation is included as one dimension of our union with the risen and vindicated Christ. As Gaffin says, justification has no discrete structure of its own; it is a function of our oneness with Christ.

But, third, Wright’s view of justification is further misunderstood because his corporate Christology feeds into a narrative reading of Scripture that many Reformed theologians, steeped in systematics but unfamiliar with typology, struggle to comprehend. Here, a careful study of several of Wright’s works is needed [7]. Wright situates justification within the broader framework of the biblical story, or metanarrative. In other words, he reads the Pauline doctrine of justification in terms of redemptive history. Thus, Christ is understood to be the New Adam and New Israel, living out the life of faithfulness which they failed to offer to God. Justification and the forgiveness of sins, therefore, are coordinated with the removal of the curse and the return from exile, which are clearly redemptive historical events. While Wright’s exile/exodus theology should be nuanced a bit more (to take into account the fact that Israel did, in some sense, return from exile in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah), there is no question he is on the right track here. The prophets themselves repeatedly link the return from exile with forgiveness (e.g., Isa. 40ff), and the NT clearly interprets Christ’s death and resurrection in exile/exodus categories (e.g., Luke 9:31). In other words, justification has at least as much to do with the history of salvation as it does with some sort of individualistic ordo salutis. Of course, given Wright’s corporate Christology, if you have the historia salutis, the ordo salutis is thrown in as well.

This brings us to the fourth feature of Wright’s doctrine, its corporate nature. Luther and Calvin were deeply concerned with matters of individual standing before God. Think of Luther’s driving question, “How can I, a sinner, find favor with God?” No doubt, this question must be asked and answered, and on that score the Reformers were right. But such concerns are not always at the forefront of Paul’s mind and reading them into Paul can be disastrous for exegesis. It is now becoming clear (and here is another place Reformed theologians must be very patient in working towards a proper understanding of Wright) that our interpretation of Paul has often been governed more by existential sixteenth century questions, than by the questions that led Paul to pen the epistles in the first place. For example, if Galatians gives us Paul’s earliest discussion of justification, it is striking that it comes up not in the context of Luther’s individual soteriological question, but rather a debate over proper table fellowship (2:11ff)! For Paul, justification was not merely a soteriological doctrine, but a sociological and ecclesiological one as well. Indeed, for Paul, soteriology and ecclesiology were inseparable since the church is the body and bride of Christ, the firstfruits of the new creation. Wright has recovered this basic Pauline insight, and for that we should thank him. But note this does not leave him unconcerned with questions of individual salvation and assurance; indeed, Wright, rightly, reminds us that if you have the corporate, you get the individual thrown in as well.

Fifth, Wright stresses the “already” as well as the “not yet” of justification. Here both Rome and the Reformers must be found wanting. For the Reformers, justification was conceived almost entirely in terms of the “already”. What wounded consciences needed to hear was that God had already accepted them in Christ. Rome, of course, held the verdict of justification in suspense until the last day, making assurance impossible. For Wright (and not a few top notch Reformed theologians) justification is present and future. Initial justification is received by faith alone. But “future justification, acquittal at the last great Assize, always takes place on the basis of the totality of the life lived” [8]. Indeed, this point seems obvious, even if it has been largely missed because of our polemic against Rome. Scripture repeatedly points ahead to a final judgment in which works will play a vital role in our acquittal (though not in abstraction from faith, of course) ” [9].

Finally, we must consider Wright’s Hebraic understanding “righteousness.” For Wright, righteousness is not strictly legal but relational. It is not so much distributive justice as promise/covenant keeping. The Reformers, for the most part, ignored the OT background to Paul’s use of “righteousness.” But Ps 143:3, to cite one of many examples, parallels God’s righteousness with his covenant faithfulness. The Psalmist can appeal to God’s righteousness for salvation! On many Lutheran/Reformed grids, appealing to God’s righteousness is suicidal, not salvific. But if righteousness is God’s loyalty to the covenant, then the appeal of the psalmist makes sense. (It also explains why the psalmist could appeal to his own righteousness at times — he wasn’t claiming merit or moral perfection, only covenant faithfulness). In Rom. 1, Paul says the gospel reveals the righteousness of God because the gospel announces that God has kept all his covenant promises — appearances to the contrary — through the death and resurrection of Christ. I think this also explains why at times Wright seems to equate justification with covenant membership. To be a covenant keeper — to be loyal to the terms of the covenant — is to have righteousness, because, after all, righteousness is covenant keeping by definition. This doesn’t do away with the need for reckoning/imputation or representation/substitution, but it does help bring us to a better understanding of the biblical foundations of Wright’s language. It is ironic that sola Scriptura Protestants can so easily dismiss as “dangerous” or “heretical” theologians who do not employ their extra-biblical (!) formulations.

No doubt, much more needs to be said, but hopefully this essay will at least temper some criticism of Wright and encourage many within the Reformed camp to take another look at his valuable work. It is all too easy to dismiss Wright without a hearing when a theologian of Gaffin’s stature is critical of him. But we must not shy away from semper Reformanda, from continually reforming our theology and confessions according to the Scriptures. The sixteenth century reformers made great headway in understanding Paul. But we have several more centuries of preaching, exegesis, and scholarship behind us and should not be afraid to move forward, albeit with due caution. Plus, we should recognize the questions facing us are quite different today and cannot but force us to look at Paul from different angles. I am confident that in the long run, Wright’s work on the NT will come be treasured by the Reformed tradition as the “next step” in our growing understanding of God’s revelation in Christ. Accepting Wright need not mean rejecting the Reformation.

FOR FURTHER READING:
Sounding the Alarm: N. T. Wright & Evangelical Theology
Getting Some Perspective on “the New Perspective”

FOOTNOTES

1. Gaffin’s critique of Wright appeared in the Westminster Theological Journal. Sadly, and inexplicably, he also surveyed Dunn in the same article. Dunn’s orthodoxy is far more questionable than Wright’s so Gaffin has made some measure of guilt by association unavoidable. Hill’s critique is available online at thirdmill.org. I received Cara’s critique via private correspondence with some people who sat in on a seminar he taught.

2.See, e.g., his article on justification in the New Dictionary of Theology.

3. For example, in Climax of the Covenant (39), he speaks of the Torah’s function of “drawing sin” onto Israel, and therefore onto Israel’s representative, the Messiah, so it can be dealt with at the cross. This seems isomorphic with the Reformed doctrine of imputation, albeit in different language. If sin was “drawn onto the Mesiah,” it seems it was “imputed” to him as well. Or, to take another example, on 202, he says the Messiah “represents his people so that what is true of him is reckoned as true of them.” But how is this reckoning different than imputation? I have not seen Wright discuss his misgivings with the term “imputation.”

4. Numerous taped lecture courses by Wright are available from Regent Bookstore.

5. See in particular his book Climax to get a sense of his corporate Christology.

6. This makes Gaffin’s often superficial criticisms of Wright even more frustrating!

7. Especially helpful is his treatment of narrative in relation to worldview in The New Testament and the People of God. His Adam/Israel/Christ typology pervades most everything he has written.

8. P. 144 in Paul and the Mosaic Law, edited by J. D. G. Dunn.

9. Cf. Mt. 25:31ff, Rom. 2, etc. The Westminster divines implicitly acknowledge a future dimension to justification in WSC 38, since they spoke of “acquittal” occurring at the final judgment. Among more contemporary Reformed theologians, Gaffin and Norm Shepherd have spoken freely of the future aspect of justification.

Copyright © 2002



13 Responses to “A Short Note on N. T. Wright & His Reformed Critics”

  1. 1
    Louis Wislocki Says:

    Thank you for your essay on N.T. Wright’s interpretation of Pauline Justification. It helped me not only to understand Wright but to get a grasped of the justification controversy withing the Reformed community. Reformed theologians tend to have knee-jerk reaction to anything that remotely questions 16th and 17th century reformed formulations. I hope your essay enjoys a wide reading.
    -Lou Wislocki

  2. 2
    Andrew Yeoman Says:

    thanks for the article. The ‘in Christ’ theme has certainly been something I have been thinking alot about of late, especially in relation to salvation being our intiation into Him, and His people / body.

    My only question is regarding Wright’s approach to imputed righteousness, as I have read that he doesn’t believe it is God’s or Christ’s righteouness that is imputed, rather a declaration of rightness over the person of faith in Jesus. My response to that would be, surely being ‘in Christ’ in a judicial sense and a Spiritual / mystical sense would then result in God seeing our union with His Son as our means of righteosness and salvation. So then in that sense, imputed righteosness from our ‘faith in’ and ‘union with’ (Romans 3: 22) is an experienced reality and theologically correct statement.

    but all in all I like most of NT Wright’s insights.

  3. 3
    AMR Says:

    Very crisp review of the NPP and Wright’s position.

  4. 4
    Mike Lo Says:

    Thank you for this brief, but very well thought out summary of Wright’s modus operandi. I think Wright would approve of it himself.

  5. 5
    Peter Says:

    Thank you for this sane summary of some of what Wright has to say.

    An egregious error made by many of Wright’s detractors is to identify him with the “New Perspective” – what Wright believes, the “New Perspective” believes; what the “New Perspective” believes, Wright believes. To think thus is nonsense. Wright remains critical of many NP assertions.

    If you want to know what Wright believes, then you need to read Wright – and more than one book; not Sanders, Dunn or anyone else.

  6. 6
    Dan Says:

    Finally! A concise, well-reasoned, simply worded defense of N.T. Wright’s thoughts (and from someone whose actually taken the time to read him)! My friend, I think you could ‘wright’ a book to set the record straight!

    So much of this discussion/debate seems to focus around terms and use of language. If we would only listen to one another more sincerely and more extensively…

  7. 7
    John Holmes Says:

    How right, is Wright? One of the profoundest statements RC Sproul made that I came across, is, “Pelagianism is easy to spot, but the more dangerous heresy is semi-pelagianism, because it is so subtle it is hard to see and detect”. After reading, and listening to NT, Book of Romans, word for word exegesis it seems at times, that he paddles his boat close to this dangerous water. Dr. Michael Horton has concluded that this is were his theology had landed. Bishop Paul Barnett, a potent new testament scholar in his own right, has challenged Wright, point by point too. Dr. Paul Helm a scholarly look this week, has concluded that NT does not understand reformed theology in the arena of imputation, and he is surprised at the historical mistakes he is making. So lets not rush to judgement, NT seems many times to use the Greek and spin it the way he wants the argument to go.
    Phil 3:8 made him squirm, when I listened to that exegesis he was not his usual supper confident self, this verse alone blows a huge hole in Dunn’s and Sanders theory, so most reformers could read the Greek text too, don’t fall into semi-pelgianism. The debate must go on, Piper needs to step aside and let the new testament scholars hammer this out. Many very able reformed theologians are now taking serious look at the Greek and far from convinced that the Bishop has not fallen into semi-peligianism, and his exegesis has serious flaws. Hope NT does a Dunn like 800 page Paul so we can here him out fully and the hide and go seek will end, he re-read Luther and Calvin, etc and get the facts straight. Lay out the imputation, justification, how am I saved, becomes very important to say the least.

  8. 8
    BT Says:

    After looking at NT Wright for a couple of years it appears he has come under close scrutiny by Reformed theologians over the past several years in response to: (1) the growing popularity of his views among both Reformed and Evangelical pastors; (2) the debate about Federal Vision definitions of covenant theology and their use of Wright’s material to support their particular definitions; (3) the interests of Catholics and Evangelicals who would like to find a platform to bridge the gap between Catholics and Protestants and (4) the challenge of Wright to the traditional formulation over the doctrine of Justification, which to many, again confuses certain aspects of justification with sanctification (a point so forcefully argued during the Reformation by Calvin and Luther against Roman Catholicism which lead to a papal anathema against the Reformers).

    In conjunction with the above points I also have a concern with an aspect of Wright’s hermeneutical method. As sometimes falsely accused, no one in Reformed circles, today or in the past, has denied that historical context or current culture and thinking of the Biblical writers is not important in understanding what the Biblical writers meant to say to us. However, in the past, Reformers placed the Biblical supposition that Scripture must interpret Scripture as the primary rule of interpretation (cf. Luke 24:24ff). Otherwise, without careful analysis anyone could cast a false “historical context” upon a text or book and steer it’s message down a totally different path. In Wright’s case, he has “dropped in a different historical context” based on studies of second temple Judaism into discussion around Paul’s writings (eg. Galatians particularly) and used it as the primarily rule for understanding the rest of Scripture. But historical discovery or understanding of any period is hardly infallible! To quote my first seminary history professor- “historians can do one thing God cannot – change history”! It is a much safer enterprise to compare the body of Biblical and Systematic theology as we compare the teaching of Scripture with Scripture – allowing it to “bring out the history” of the text through the text of Scripture itself. Certainly the historical background that we gather from extra-biblical research is important and should always be considered, but it should not be allowed to govern the doctrines or texts of Scripture when Scripture gives us a historical setting from it own pages. This might be thought of as one aspect of the sufficiency of Scripture. Otherwise, any text can be made to mean anything if the right pretext of history is “dropped down on it”

    I will give one quick example (Wright likes to use stories and so do I). When in Chicago I was privileged to see the Broadway play “Wicked”. Oddly, it’s the retelling of the popular movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’. But to my surprise and amazement after I left the play in the final act I left the theater with a TOTALLY different understanding of each of the characters I was first introduced to in the ‘original’ movie. You leave wondering “how could I have been so wrong about everybody the first time”. The bad witch it turns out was a good witch. The good witch turns out to be a flake. The scarecrow (spoiler) ends up marrying the bad witch and lives happily ever after (after faking the bad witch’s death scene). And the Wizard to everyone’s surprise was an old unfaithful spouse whose behavior gave birth to a green daughter who would later be labeled as ‘wicked’ due to her oppression in childhood. But the amazing part was that after you left the theater the reinterpretation made perfect sense even in like of what you had learned from the ‘original’ movie. The historical backdrop to the story changed the way that I thought about each character and proved my initial impression entirely wrong. Why? because the play had masterfully ‘overlaid a historical context’ that justified a totally different reinterpretation of each character than what was presented in the ‘original’ movie. And of course this led to a totally different conclusion. Wright’s ’second temple Judaism’ brings that type of format or method into the discussion of Justification. The flaw in this method revolves around the primacy of his new historical context. In the end its’ primacy changes the original story over and against what you first believed. And while this in itself may not be bad it appears to be reinterpreting certain passages in a way that disagrees with other related passages of Scripture across the board. Another issue with extra biblical historical primacy is that we must first agree that Wright does (or can) know in detail exactly what a second temple Jew was thinking during the first century and how their false interpretation would impacted Paul and Jesus discussion. And who are these ‘collective’ second temple Jews? Did they all believe the same thing? Could there have been more than one erroneous belief about old covenant theology or differing factions among the orthodox as we have today? Could Jesus and Paul be addressing one faction, a division of a faction or beliefs of totally different sects (e.g. Pharisees, Sadducees, Samaritans, Gentiles, Jewish political militants, secular governments, etc.,)? Not everything in the NT concerning the gospel or justification is aimed at just one group. And many of the epistles were passed from church to church. It certainly is not that unnatural to think that they had as many factions as we have today on the topic of covenant theology and eschatology! This is why I believe it is going to take a two pronged approached to solve the debate. First, a through exegesis of the immediate contexts within the Biblical story supported by second, systematic formulation of doctrines that are harvested as we go along (allowing the texts to form and reform our understanding as each sheds more light on the other). Extra biblical data is useful but cannot be the controlling force behind all our interpretations.

    Wright’s view of covenant membership in relationship to justification is very radical in comparison to doctrinal debates that have already ‘carved out of stone’ (and carved back into stone) the fundamentals of the gospel greek texts. Stone is reserved for long standing beliefs particularly after much agreement is reached after a mere millennium of debate. If Wright wants to take on a historical shift in thinking then he should expect nothing less than extreme examination (he writes at times as if he’s shocked that Evangelical or Reformed scholars question him). But this is exactly why his work deserves careful attention and scrutiny and why so many highly recognized evangelical and Reformed theologians are now critiquing him with ‘raised eyebrows’. If he’s right, then a lot of Christian hero’s have missed the boat and have led millions into an area of erroneous beliefs. And for some, these new systems of thought (in their mind) go so far as to corrupt the gospel.

    I close with one final question. I often wonder in all this complex debate that if I found a Bible on a remote beach, or was just an average Joe (uneducated person without access to ancient Jewish history or a TH.M. in systematics), would I be able to rightly understand who Jesus really was or what justification really is? Are the Scriptures alone sufficient and clear enough to lead me to the real Christ or into membership in the real church? Or convince me that faith alone in Christ alone is the only way to vindicate my salvation and no works of merit can ever ‘get me in or keep me there’? St. Augustine said he heard the simple voice, -tolle lege’- “take up and read, take up and read”. Didn’t he find the grace of God which is “nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness” on which to stand? Is it really that simple?

  9. 9
    B Toty Says:

    Final comments on Lusk’s article above:

    Lusks certainly must know that many or Wrights critics do not disagree with Wright on every point but agree with much of what he says since it really has already been said before. Reformers have already vindicated much of what Wright is saying, but it’s the major points around ‘righteousness’ (Wright denies the active obedience of Christ in justification) and the future aspect or acquittal that have a multitude of scholars stirred.

    For example, Lusk quotes Wright “But “future justification, acquittal at the last great Assize, always takes place on the basis of the totality of the life lived”. Indeed, this point seems obvious, even if it has been largely missed because of our polemic against Rome. Scripture repeatedly points ahead to a final judgment in which works will play a vital role in our acquittal (though not in abstraction from faith, of course) ” [9].

    This mixture of sanctification with justification is a major cause for all the heartburn and fear of corrupting the gospel. This point is NOT so obvious to the Reformers of the past or today for the very same reasons they challenged Rome hundreds of years ago. And Rome understood the differences as well… that’s why they later anathematized the Reformers works on justification.

    I challenge the reader to consider a brief and excellent critique of Wright’s exegesis on key passages in Romans in the following link (by Professor Charles Hill) and decide for themselves on the excellency of Wright’s exegesis in key places.

    http://www.thirdmill.org/files/english/html/nt/NT.h.Hill.Wright.html

  10. 10
    John Says:

    Wrights exegesis is great for finding the headings of paragraphs. As long as we dont dive to deeply into scripture all is well. I dont find Wrights teachings to be quite so glorious as some of you seem to think. Wright attempts to fix the leaky boat by pulling slats from the hull. This new perspective is far from an answer to what Paul taught. This is Wright’s way of making the bible make sense to him while he jettisons reformed teaching along the way. Its clever and its inventive.
    How do you arrive at the same ‘seeming’ justification that Paul taught? Well according to Wright, pull down individual election, pull down or weaken individual imputation and look at Paul as a ‘club builder’. Paul just wanted those Christians to just get along. Dont fight over being a jew or gentile, just accept one another cause Christ is your Lord now. Well ok. But those issues have been addressed in ‘christian life’ teachings by the reformed for centuries now and there is no need for Wright’s new exegesis to get that across.

    Methinks Wright hasnt helped anything, but in effect added another seed-bed for heresies to begin their birth. What heresies? The ones that come out of semi-pelagianism, the ones that come from intermixing works and imputed righteousness. In the end, the new convert gets to hear more drivel from ‘big shot’ theologians who ditch the bible in favor of creating their own theories.

    I dont buy it and as complicated as it might seem its not. Wright has an agenda and that agenda is
    removal of “grace alone” for a cleverly injected semi-pelagian mindset.

  11. 11
    Arthur Sippo MD, MPH Says:

    This was concise and well thought out piece and is to be commended for saying many things that needed to be said.

    Sadly, the author continues to perpetuate the Protestant caricature of the Catholic teaching on justification. The primary metaphor for justification taken form the Patristic era, expounded by St. Thomas Aquinas and reaffirmed at the Council of Trent is “the adoption of sons” which is clearly expounded by St. Paul in Gal 4:5.

    As St. Thomas put it: “[J]ustice is so-called inasmuch as it implies a certain rectitude of order in the interior disposition of a man, in so far as what is highest in man is subject to God, and the inferior powers of the soul are subject to the superior, i.e. to the reason; and this disposition the Philosopher calls “justice metaphorically speaking” (Ethic. v, 11). …[T]his justice may be brought about in man by a movement from one contrary to the other, and thus justification implies a transmutation from the state of injustice to the aforesaid state of justice.” (PI, Q113, A1).

    This is clearly what St. Paul taught in Romans 6:

    Rom 6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?
    Rom 6:2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
    Rom 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
    Rom 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
    Rom 6:5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
    Rom 6:6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.
    Rom 6:7 For he who has died is freed from sin.
    Rom 6:8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.
    Rom 6:9 For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
    Rom 6:10 The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
    Rom 6:11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
    Rom 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.
    Rom 6:13 Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness.
    Rom 6:14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
    Rom 6:15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!
    Rom 6:16 Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?
    Rom 6:17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
    Rom 6:18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
    Rom 6:19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification.
    Rom 6:20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
    Rom 6:21 But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death.
    Rom 6:22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.
    Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    For St. Paul, justification is NOT a forensic exchange, but a renewal of the inner person in conformity to the risen Christ through baptism. This makes him or her a new creation in Christ no longer in bondage to sin and enabled to serve God freely. This service sanctifies the person and the ultimate end of this sanctification is eternal life.

    Anyone who espouses ‘sola scriptura’ needs to read Romans 6 and submit to it lest he be deemed a hypocrite.

    In the understanding of historical Catholic Christianity, justification is a transition from one state to another in which one is disposed and empowered to live as a child of God. In that new life one grows in holiness. It is not the case that we are instantly made righteous in an ultimate sense but rather that we anticipate in the here and now what we hope to be our final end.

    Quite frankly, I find nothing in Dr. Wright’s views that is incompatible with TRUE Catholicism. We accept vicarious atonement and consider the completed life and work of christ as the formal cause of justification. If only Protestants would make the effort to understand what the Catholic Church really teaches, they will realize how far their man-made systems of theology have strayed from the teachings of both Scripture and Tradition which we Catholics have preserved.

  12. 12
    Elowel Says:

    Are you saying that faith in Christ (trusting in what He has done on the cross by bearing our sins) and sanctification (our own works, deeds) are both necessary for salvation?

  13. 13
    Ryan Says:

    In response to John above, comment number 10…

    John, please don’t ever use the “word” methinks as it is so tacky and it is usually attached to a sneering-type of comment.

    Seriously though, I want to take issue with your statement that “the new convert gets to hear more drivel from ‘big shot’ theologians who ditch the bible in favor of creating their own theories.”

    My problem with that statement is not that it is wrong (although I do think you are wrong), but that it is rude and uncharitable. Wright is a member of Jesus’ family, after all. Drivel? Big shot? Is that how you speak to a brother in Christ?

    Wright talks about the world, especially the blogosphere needing a new conversational ethic, and you just proved his point. Please be polite and respect the views of other orthodox Christians. I think a good way to judge any theology is by the fruit it engenders, and if you’re theology engenders such rudeness and sarcasm…

    I’m no angel, and am writing this for myself as well as others.

    But let’s trust in one anothers faith and good intentions more, especially online where you can’t look your dialectic partners in the eye and be reminded you are speaking to a sister or brother in Christ.

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