Hafemann on 2 Peter 2

Hafemann on 2 Peter 2 November 19, 2003

Scot Hafemann did a paper on 2 Peter 2, focusing especially on Peter’s treatment of Noah and the flood narratives. He began by noting the odd direction of the argument in 2 Peter 2:1: Instead of saying that things happen in the present because they were determined or foreshadowed by the past, he does the opposite, arguing that there will be false teachers and as a result there were false prophets in Israel. From this he drew the conclusion that God’s purposes in the future determine what He did in the past. This of course means that we can read the OT as foreshadowings of the future, but the direction of God’s intentions works from end to beginning. (Hafemann later confessed to being a “seven-point Calvinist” and a “supralapsarian.”)

The most interesting part of Hafemann’s presentation arose from his comments about Noah’s righteousness as presented in Genesis. Noah found favor in the eyes of God, and the text immediately says that he was a righteous man in his generations. What is the relationship between these things? Hafemann said that “justification by grace” and “judgment according to works” are saying the same thing in two different ways.

In his presentation, Hafemann basically left it at that, but in the subsequent discussion a number of questions were asked. He argued for TOTAL continuity in the structure of the covenants. There is no works/grace distinction, nor any distinction between promissory and legal covenants. And he argued that justification in time is a prior enjoyment of a future justification in a very revealing sense: The fact that God positions us as righteous NOW is an anticipation of the fact that we will be vindicated and declared just on the basis of works in the future. How is it that we can be confident that our position NOW will actually be our position later? Because God declaring us righteous now is simultaneously His commitment to work in us to produce the fruits of righteousness that will be vindicated at the judgment. This beautifully combines righteousness as a status given (traditional Protestant view) with righteousness as power (a la Kasemann) with righteousness as God’s faithfulness to His promises (a la most everybody recently) and to His purpose to fulfill His creation (a la Seifrid), all set within an eschatological and biblical-historical framework.

Hafemann also argued that the whole issue of imputation arises from the (in his view mistaken) belief that the only righteousness that will pass muster at the judgment is perfect obedience to the law. For Reformed theologians, obedience is essential but imperfect; and thus Christ’s active obedience has to be imputed to us if we are going to stand in judgment. For Lutherans, obedience is simply not essential; Christ brought an end to the law and therefore there is no need for Christ’s active obedience to be imputed. If, however, sinless perfection was never the standard of covenant faithfulness, then there is no need for imputation.

I have some questions about this: If this is the case, then what is the purpose of the NT’s insistance that Christ was sinlessly perfect? Why would it matter? Is it simply a matter of His being a perfect sacrifice? And how on Hafemann’s view is Christ our righteousness? It seems that this is the case mainly because, through the power of the Spirit and union with Christ, Christ works righteousness out in us, and conforms us to Christ’s righteousness. Is that all he means?

In any case, a very helpful and stimulating session.

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