Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God– Part Fifty Nine

On p. 1021, Tom again broaches the subject of theosis, or divination. Though he does not give us a succinct definition of what he means, I take it that he is referring to God dwelling within his people, not just in their midst but actually within them “Christ in you the hope of glory”. Col. 1.27. Another way of putting this would be the Spirit of the Lord dwells in his temple, the temple being both individually and collectively the people of God. What Tom does not say (and I would guess would never say) is that this thereby makes the individuals or group in question divine itself. There is influence and presence, but not a transforming of humans into gods. Interestingly, on p. 1023 he suggests the indwelling presence of God takes the place of the fiery cloud and pillar of the wilderness wandering generation.

On p. 1024 we once more come across the discussion of Romans 8 28-30 and once more the translation of pro-oridzo as ‘marked out’ (in advance(, which is certainly less daunting than ‘predestined’. As I have pointed out before and will reiterate here ‘those who love God’ is those whom God foreknew, and this includes what he knew about them, namely that they would respond in faith and love Him. I have also stressed that the phrase ‘called according to purpose’ (there is no word ‘his’ in the Greek here), can just as well be translated ‘called according to choice’ and one would have to ask whose choice. Tom takes these verses to be another rehearsal of how the Messiah is the true Israelite who assumes the identity of the covenant people. The problem is—- there is no reference here to Jesus the Messiah. There is only a reference to God the Father and his relationship with ‘those who love him and are called according to choice/purpose’. I certainly however agree with Tom’s point on p. 1024 that it is a mistake to dichotomize Rom. 1-4 and 5-8 just as it is a mistake to separate juridical and incorporative language about the believer. A more dubious conclusion is found on p. 1025 where Tom suggests that the pistis Christou of 3.22 is the agape Christou of 8.35. It seems to me the love in question in the latter text is the ongoing love of Christ which we now as Christians cannot be separated from by the factors and forces listed there. Pistis Christou, on Tom’s own showing has to do with the previous death of Jesus, which while certainly an act of love, is not what Paul is talking about at the end of Romans 8. In any case, calling is one thing, responding is another, as the story of Moses itself shows— he tried to practice call forwarding. It didn’t quite work.

There is a very excellent summary statement of Tom’s view of how election has been reworked by Paul on p. 1027, the last paragraph. Read it carefully. I agree with his conclusion on the same page that the term ‘hagioi’ means ‘set apart’ rather than sanctified. Had it meant the latter, Paul would have been chary to use the term in 1 Cor. 1 of those troublesome Corinthians.

I have to say I find p. 1028 a puzzle. Here Tom admits that Paul makes a clear distinction between initial and final justification the latter of which is said to be based on “the totality of the life led” as opposed to initial justification which is declaration or verdict announced on the basis of nothing but faith in the Messiah. This frankly is very different from saying that final justification has been brought backwards into the present in the form of initial justification. Which is it? This conclusion seems to contradict the thrust of his previous argument about justification A and B.
On the same page Tom surprisingly talks about the death and resurrection being imputed to the believer. Wouldn’t it be better to say ‘imparted’ since Paul believes we actually experience the Messianic woes, suffering with Christ for the faith, and Paul certainly believes we will experience a resurrection like Christ’s?

I agree with Tom that we should be looking for a rhetorical flow of argument in Romans, not a chronological accounting of the ordo salutis (p. 1030). I also find his critique of the work of Piper, Campbell and Gorman on p. 1031 to be right on target. Final justification involves works, or an evaluation of the entire life lived vs. Piper’s denials of this. The attempts by Campbell to jettison the justification language altogether doesn’t work either, nor the attempt to fuse initial justification with transformation (vs. Gorman). P. 1039 provides the further critique of Campbell– to wit “Nor can the language of the law court be reduced to the rationalistic parody in which unbelievers are bludgeoned into accepting a strange pseudo-intellectual logic which leads them to some kind of conversion”. The same might be said about various forms of the imputed righteousness (legal fiction) argument.

Again on p. 1040 Tom stresses that the earliest Christians did not get to the notion of Christ’s divinity by way of earlier Jewish reflections about wisdom, exalted angels etc. and in their exuberance attached such ideas to Jesus in the wake of their remarkable experiences of the risen Jesus (a side glance and critique of Hurtado here, I take it). It was rather, in Tom’s view, their belief that in Christ God himself was coming, returning to be their King and set things right, and judge the world. Finally, this leads to a discussion of eschatology, in the last whopper chapter in this opus.

On pp. 1032ff. we have a further discussion about Torah. Christ is seen as both dying under the old law’s curse, and being the goal of that law as well. Tom stresses that the Mosaic law was a good thing, but it had a specific function (not to mention a time limit as part of an interim covenant). I agree with his criticisms of the Lutheran approach to the Law as well as the Calvinist approach on p. 1036. He adds however that we do fulfill Torah’s decrees by faith in the Messiah. What is not discussed here is in what sense the historical Jesus actually kept the law, for instance the sabbath law. He says that the love produced in our hearts by the Spirit is the fulfilling of the Law (p. 1037).

On pp. 1026ff. we have conclusions about Justification by grace through faith in the present time. Tom points to 1 Cor. 7.15-24 where ‘to be called’, he says is Paul’s shorthand for ‘hearing and believing the Gospel and becoming a member of Christ’s people’. I must say that the verb ‘called’ in 1 Cor. 7.15 has nothing to do with the initial call and response to the Gospel. It has to do with the fact that we are called as Christians to live in peace with others.