Wednesday, March 16, 2005

So bizarre it has to be true

Excerpts from on an internet message board, as the conversation tangentially veered towards the dreaded "New Perspective":

Person 1: Please don't tell me you've been sucked in by that!

Person 2: To be open and (cautiously) listening to what good brothers in Christ who are also excellent scholars in their own right are saying is not to be "sucked in." There is way too much straw man, emotionalistic rhetoric flying around about Wright and NPP that is clouding the honest debate that is still ongoing.

Person 1: I don't think there's straw man with Wright ... I was almost sucked in by him until I was saved from that by the Lord. I nearly believed him in his book when he claimed that "no serious scholar believes imputation is about justification" as he claimed (those aren't exact words, but definitely what he meant) in What St. Paul Really Said.

Person 2: My reading of Wright has convinced me that his position on imputation and justification is [mis]understood by people looking for sound bites from his writing. He neither denies imputed righteousness nor justification by faith, he simply has proposed a reorientation of how those are enacted in the believer. I'm not saying he's correct, but those who are accusing him (and other NPP/Federal Visionists) of heresy are way over the mark.

Person 1: Excuse me, but I think denying the doctrine of justification would absolutely be believing another gospel. I was saved from that. Perhaps you take personal offense that I would think such a gospel that denies the reformed (Not as opposed to Arminian, but opposed to Roman) doctrine of Justification is distinctive of true Christian faith, and any other is anathema, but I do not apologize for feeling rescued by God from that deadly trap.

Person 2: As I've already pointed out, everything you say there assumes positions that are simply not true about those you opposed. To say that N. T. Wright denies the doctrine of justification by faith is the height of "straw man." I've read him; I've heard him speak...and you are painting an unjust picture of his teachings.

Person 1: He denies the reformed understanding of it. As I've said he SPECIFICALLY denies in that book that justification is about how you are saved, but only about who is included in the covenant (which he naturally extends to the Roman church). He SPECIFICALLY denies that justification is about imputation.

That fundamentally undermines the reformed understanding of justification, and in my opinion, of the doctrine altogether. That's not strawman. have you read that book????

Person 3: He denies that that is what Paul was talking about. In is paradigm, Paul wasn't talking about how to get saved, but rather who is saved. He argues that Paul was dealing with Jew/Gentile relations with the 'justification by faith alone' language.

But the concept? No, I don't think He denies that at all. We are saved in Christ, period. He doesn't use the language of imputation because it has been abused, caused some to reify righteousness into something that can be passed around, and because it leads to the conclusion that Jesus was a means to an end, and not the End. What is Christ's is ours because we are in Christ. That is 100% consistent with Wright's teaching, and it is the concept of what you are trying to communicate with the imputation language, without the distortions that have come with it. Whether you agree that we should ditch the imputation language or not is another discussion. But the guts of the doctrine is all there in Wright.

Person 4: There are many NPP folks who are in attack mode. Wright is not one of them. There is no doubt that there is much to talk about in this whole debate. But Wright is hardly pandering heresy.

Person 1: I don't know if Wright is pandering heresy or not ... But I know that he's walking a fine line, and denying our confessions by what he's saying. Quite frankly, I don't know exactly what he believes, because he contradicts himself. I've read those quotes that you've put up there, but they are contradicted by his books. That's the problem. He is tricky, and that raises red flags. The NPPers do a lot of that -- finnessing and nuancing words and phrases, so that only the sharpest of theologians can see around what they are doing.

Person 4: If you get a chance... could you show where he contradicts himself?

What may seem like a contradiction may not be. You may be missing the forest for the trees. This is a whole different paradigm for how to read Paul. If you don't understand the whole thing ... I think it is easy to read one part of it and miss the actual meaning within the context of the whole paradigm.

Person 1: Have you read What St. Paul Really Says? That's where he does it. I don't have the book anymore (I threw it away actually), but those two concepts struck me very hard because they were so contrary to what I'd been taught, and for a while i believed his lie, that what I believed no serious scholar still believed.

And that's when the Lord intervened.


I think the phrase "The New Paranoia on Paul" might actually be a good one ...

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