Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What place is there in Justification for the obedience of Jesus?

The Infinite Merit of Christ: The Glory of Christ's Obedience in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards by Craig Biehl

A little while ago in an effort to come to grips with the debate about Justification I asked a set of questions to try and identify what was at the heart of the debate. Seeking clarification I read these two posts at Justin Taylor's blog and then stumbled across the book I'm about to review. This question of Christ's obedience seems to be an important distinction between Wright and Piper. Reviewing this book will be useful for my MDiv project and in further understanding justification. It'll also be interesting to read and process and my thoughts in public, let's see how we go.

Background

The obedience of Christ is the idea that "by the one man's [Jesus'] obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Rom 5:19) Piper says "he [Wright] does not believe that the New Testament teaches that Christ's perfect obedience is imputed to us." (The Future of Justification, Piper, 125) So what does Wright say?
  • "We note in particular that the 'obedience' of Christ is not designed to amass a treasury of merit which can then be 'reckoned' to believer, as in some Reformed schemes of thought, but is rather a way of saying what Paul says more fully in Philippians 2:8, that the Messiah was 'obedient all the way to death, even the death on the cross.' Jesus Christ has been 'obedient' to the saving plan which was marked out for Israel. he had been the faithful Israelite through whom God's single-plan-through-Israel-for-the-world is now fulfilled." (Justification, Wright, 201)
It's not that Wright doesn't believe some sort of obedience is imputed, it's the nature of what is imputed that is disputed. It's taken me a little while to figure this all out, but it's a very important difference. Wright is thinking in terms of Jesus being the only faithful-obedient one since Abraham, Piper is thinking of obedience since Adam. Piper points out that only perfect obedience to the law is acceptable and only Jesus satisfy the law's requirements. (The Future of Justification, Piper, 128) Jesus is the obedient new Adam not just the faithful Messiah expected by all since Abraham. (Counted Righteous in Christ, Piper, 92) Furthermore the New Testament doesn't separate the obedience of Jesus on the Cross with the obedience of Jesus say eleven days before the Cross. It will be interesting to see what Biehl finds in Jonathan Edwards about the nature of this obedience and to see if it's connected first and foremost with Adam or Abraham.

3 comments:

Randle Bond said...

I'm enjoying reading your analysis of the Justification debate :)

Luke said...

Thanks Randle!

I've found it a difficult issue to understand and enjoy thinking about "socially" via this blog etc. I also think the debate about Justification contains a number of sleeper issues that will take some time to work out and become very significant.

Laura said...

I'm just going to drop in and say that the idea of Christ's obedience being imputed to the believer is, to me, one of the most precious truths of salvation and one that constantly amazes me.

And now I'll scurry off and let brighter minds carry the meat of the conversation. ;)