Craig’s Atonement and Death of Christ– Part Nine

Craig’s Atonement and Death of Christ– Part Nine March 29, 2021

Q. As you say Paul’s use of dikaiosune and its cognates is various in his letters. Sometimes with the modifier ‘of God’ it refers to God’s character. Sometimes it refers to something God gives human beings. The point I would want to make here, is that God is not interested in just reckoning human beings as righteous, he’s interested in making them actually righteous in character, belief, and behavior. In other words, it’s a mistake to think that all Paul is talking about is what we call ‘justification’, but that is certainly included. I prefer the language ‘set right’ to ‘justified’ so that all the Paul usages of this spectrum of dikaios terms has the word right in it. And when Paul says in 2 Cor. we become the righteousness of God, or are made righteous, he is not merely talking about right standing with God. Does this comport with your case?

A. I’m sure you’d agree with me, Ben, that there’s just no reason to see these as mutually exclusive. As I state on p. 5, the Reformers had much to say about sanctification and infused righteousness, but these notions do not belong to the category of justification, which is a legal notion. I think clarity is aided by making clear distinctions rather than blurring them. So for example, in II Cor 5.21 Paul must be talking strictly about legal imputation, lest we say that Christ was actually made into an evil person, which is blasphemous and impossible, and that we are actually as holy as God in our moral character and virtue, which is unrealistic.

Q. On pp. 54-55 you have a helpful discussion on the problem with equating the righteousness of God with ‘the covenant faithfulness of God’. As you show, this dog simply won’t hunt.  But I wondered if you realized there is a similar problem in the OT with the word hesed, quite rightly translated in the LXX as mercy, again and again.  I once asked Walter Brueggemann what he thought hesed meant and he said ‘covenant faithfulness’. The problem with this is enormous. For example Rahab! in the OT is said to show hesed towards the spies, where it means something like loving kindness…. the oldest of the English translations of the word. Or again Ruth the Moabitess is said to show hesed, but she owed no covenant faithfulness to Naomi or Boaz or any Jew. It turns out that though there are passages where both the notion of God’s faithfulness to his people and hesed show up in the same context, the two ideas should not be equated with one another. God is not reckoning covenant faithfulness to those he sets right. This is not what dikaiosune means applied to either God or his people. I think the comments above about hesed support your case. Would you agree?

A. Thank you for that! I did not realize that a parallel situation exists with the Hebrew word hesed as with the word sedek. Your examples of Rahab and Ruth seem fatal for the reduction of hesed to covenant faithfulness.

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