Sunday, 8 March 2009

Justification: Understanding the Reformed Doctrine - Part 2 Metaphors

In Chapter 2, Fesko wishes to establish some presuppositions before entering into his treatment of justification. Three questions asked in this chapter are: 1. Is justification merely one metaphor among many other equal metaphors which shed light on our redemption? 2. Is justification Paul's and the NT's central dogma? 3. How does justification relate to the ordo salutis (the order of salvation)? Does it have priority in logical ordering or not?

On the question of metaphors, if you can read this chapter and still describe justification as one among many, you really are a dufus. Fesko, in my not so humble opinion, absolutely and brilliantly annihilates this way of thinking. If a metaphor is: "a figure of speech in which an expression is used to refer to something that it does not literally denote in order to suggest a similarity", then to describe justification as a metaphor of our redemption is to say that justification "does not literally denote" our redemption. For example, if you were to describe me as a fat pig, you would be assigning me pig like qualities like obesity, piggy nose, poor hygiene, etc. It doesn't mean I actually have 8 nipples and role in the mud. I am not a literal pig.

Metaphor is a cool/liberal/emergent hermeneutic with an ecumenical pulse. Fesko notes, "If, for example, the forensic language of justification is but one way to image our redemption, then it is not the only way to do so....we may choose to emphasize other metaphors." (p65) If this is the case, then who gives a rip about which metaphor is best? They're all equally valid. The Reformed talk of forensic justification while the Eastern Orthodox talk of theosis. They're simply noncompeting pictures of what God has done in Christ. Therefore we can forget the reformation, just be friends and share a wafer.

Au contraire argues Fesko. He makes the point that if justification is a metaphor then it's corollary, condemnation, is a metaphor too! That would make sin a metaphor, judgement a metaphor, etc. "If atonement and justification are merely metaphors...propitiation is God's metaphorical way of dealing with a metaphorical problem." (p66) What nonsense. Take this thinking back to the OT era. Do you think the Isrealis saw the Babylonian invasion as a metaphor? As Chaldean troops laid waste to the town, ripped open pregnant women, raped and pillaged I can't imagine a disemboweled Isrealite's last words going something like, 'this is a painful metaphor, if only we'd been metaphorically righteous, aaaaahhh.'

I won't give any more of Fesko's tasty stuff on metaphors away. You'll have to buy it yourself. Next, Fesko on the central dogma.

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