Saturday, 5 September 2009

Poorly Constructed Kitchens

I have just returned from helping a friend fit a new cooker to his kitchen. Unfortunately it was impossible to make the cooker perfectly flush with the worktops on either side. The reason being the worktops at each side were a different height. To make the cooker fit flushly would have meant leaving it at a dangerous angle for cooking. This was not the only piece of shoddy workmanship I may add.

My friend has just bought the house. A few years previously, the house belonged to a now famous preacher. The preacher fitted the kitchen. I thought, since he was/is a preacher a few applications may not go wrong.

  1. When we fail to follow the guidelines we go astray. Perhaps the preacher-kitchen-builder decided to ignore the instructions or perhaps he thought a few logical deductions of his own were safe to follow. Build your kitchen (for kitchen read theology for the allegorically bewildered) on ignoring the revealed instructions or adding your own deductions (imputed righteousness!) and you can go seriously astray.
  2. The faults in the kitchen didn't show up immediately. However, one small error led to another and another. The putting in of the cooker eventually revealed the mistakes and the workman is exposed and left ashamed. The story of faulty theology is surely the same.
  3. Kitchens need to be built carefully. The building is not for the amateur or carelessly inclined. It requires skill, knowledge and integrity. Theology requires the same respect as does preaching the theological Word.

I trust the famous preacher is better at building God's temple than he is at building kitchens (I know he is).


Donald Ferguson said...

Methinks you are constructing a kitchen sink drama. Any chance we could stop flogging a dead horse? Or is it only the French that have dead horses in their kitchens?

Anonymous said...

Are you saying the idea of imputed righteousness is a human construct?

JohnGreenview said...

I am saying that the idea that the life of Christ is imputed to us for our justification is not found in the bible. It may be right, I am not sure it is, but it is a logical deduction rather than something the bible clearly and expressly teaches.

The bible teaches we are justified by Christ's death (blood) and resurrection but never teaches we are justified by his life.

There is a lot of dispute about this issue at the moment. My tentative view is not accepted by many reformed people - though there are those who do believe as I do.

Anonymous said...

The word "impute" is found quite clearly in the Bible. It is the word logizomai. We see it translated as impute in various ways, such as 'count', 'credited.' It is a biblical word and not merely a human construct. The theology of imputation in the Psalms is explicitly taken up in Romans as the means of our salvation. Psalm 130:3, Romans 4:8 (which is quoting the Psalms), Rom. 5:19, etc.

Romans 5:19 makes it pretty clear that we are justified on the account of Christ's obedience to the law unlike the first Adam. We are made righteous by His obedience and cleansed from sin by His blood. Christ was sent specifically so that the righteousness of God might be fulfilled in us.

All the numerous places in the Psalms were it speaks of God's right hand saving His people, and the Lord OUR Righteousness speak to this imputation.

Rom. 4:2-11 speaks of faith being counted to Abraham as righteousness (the word can be equitably translated as impute). In Rom. 5:17-18 justifying righteousness is spoken of as a gift.

I Cor. 1:30 makes it clear that Christ IS our righteousness which many believe to be referring to specifically our Justification. II Corinthians speaks of becoming the Righteousness of God. Philippians 3:9 speaks of not having a righteousness of our own but one that is of faith, a Righteousness that COMES from God. He gives it to the one who has faith in Christ.

Besides this, words have no meaning if the New Covenant being fulfilled and spoken of in Jeremiah 31 and in Ezekiel 26 do not speak in reference to the Mosaic law and God taking up the obedience He requires and having all the promises of God to be yes and amen in Christ.

I would love to hear how you get around such explicit verses.

JohnGreenview said...

The word 'impute' (reckon, consider, count etc) is found in the Bible, however, the view that Christ's active righteousness is imputed to us is not. Whether it is reasonable to assume this or not is a point of raging controversy in reformed circles as I suspect you must know.

Roms 4 our faith is imputed/reckoned/counted by grace as righteousness not the life of Christ.

Romans 5:19 is not nearly so clear as you aver.
Romans 5:19 says,
'For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.'

The final 'one man's obedience' ought to read 'one man's act of obedience'. This is I think universally agreed. Paul is contrasting 'one act' of sin by Adam that (though intended to give a better life) brought death with the 'one act' of death by Christ that brought life. Some argue that the 'one act' is Christ's whole life. This is an interpretation; it is possible but is not demanded by the text. Indeed it is improbable for the parallel contrast is two individual acts, not one act of disobedience by adam and a whole life of obedience by Christ. More, the NT never sources justification in Christ's life but in his death and resurrection.

Roms 8VV3,4 read, 'For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
Rom 8:4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.'

Paul's point is twofold a) God condemned/finished sin in the 'flesh of Christ', that is in his death 2) the righteous requirement of the Law or if you like the life the Law called for is lived out by believers in the realm of the Spirit. In short, the death of Christ was the condemnation/judgement/end of our 'flesh' and the Spirit is the realm of our new life which although free from law, is where all that the law ever required is produced. The text says nothing about the life of Christ on earth imputed to us.

1 Cor 1:30 Christ is made unto us 'righteousness, wisdom and redemption'. Some do argue this is justification. Even if right, and this is debatable since he may be speaking of imparted righteousness, it is no prove that Christ becomes our righteousness through his righteous life on earth being given to us/imputed. Christ is indeed our righteousness through our union with him. God has gifted that we share in his death and resurrection. His resurrection was his vindication as righteous and in that we share.

I could go on but you get the gist.

Having looked at your website surely you must be aware of this debate and the issues that surround it.

Donald Ferguson said...

John, it might be helpful if you would be gracious enough to avoid categorically stating that imputed righteousness is not found in the bible. You do not see it there - but others do [myself included]. I don't wish to engage in a debate over exegesis right now but I find it insulting to be told so emphatically that what I and many others do see [and value] in Scripture is but a figment of our imagination or at best a logical deduction.

It is the meaning of the biblical texts that is in dispute not their existence.

Is it right to disassociate the death and resurrection of Christ from his life? Does not his death entail his life? Is not the cross the culmination of a life offered? Does not his blood speak of his spotless life? If I have Christ [which the bible teaches] is it merely implied I also have his righteousness or is that what it means [in part]. What does it mean to be 'in' Christ? How far does the bible take the comparison of the two Adams? What does the Bible teach about the righteousness that is required to stand before a Holy God? Is this righteousness more than forgiveness - in fact do you impute forgiveness? When the devil whispers in your ear what do you say?

Zechariah 3
Clean Garments for the High Priest
1 Then he showed me Joshua [a] the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan [b] standing at his right side to accuse him. 2 The LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?"
3 Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. 4 The angel said to those who were standing before him, "Take off his filthy clothes."
Then he said to Joshua, "See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you."

God demands a life lived totally for his glory. Nothing less will do if it is to count as righteousness. My salvation needs more than forgiveness it requires the imputation of a life lived entirely for the glory of God - the life of Christ. I believe the bible teaches that this is what I need and what I have. What is the nature of the righteousness you stand before God with? When the devil accuses you of the sin and ungodliness in your life and dares you to present yourself to a Holly God, what is your reply? I can stand before God in 'rich garments' that are a gift of His grace. I can say exactly what these garments are; why they satisfy God; and why they silence Satan. Can you?

This, I believe, is what the bible teaches and [somehow I don't see this as a drawback] it makes theological, psychological and pastoral sense. So much so that I would consider the imputed righteousness of Chris an important if not fundamental aspect of the gospel.

On this we disagree. I find it difficult to understand how anyone can fail to see this doctrine - but I know that some good and godly men would not agree with me. I do not believe they see the scriptures but refuse to believe them and so will do them the courtesy of acknowledging that our disagreement is over the interpretation [even if I think their interpretation mistaken] of scripture and not due to willful disobedience. I believe the bible teaches 'imputed righteousness'. I do not believe we can ever go beyond what scripture teaches. Perhaps I have not made myself clear in the past. To use our reason to work out and develop the meaning of scripture [within parameters set by Scripture] is not to go beyond scripture but to elucidate scripture, relate doctrines to one another and explore the meaning of scripture. All theology is grounded in scripture. Pedobaptists believe that the bible teaches infant baptism. It might make you [and possibly me] feel good to tell them it isn't in the bible but don't expect any fruitful conversation - just as you might not expect any fruitful conversation with a Reformed Baptist if you compared the imputed righteousness of Christ to pedobaptism.

Have a good holiday!

Neil McAllister said...

Would that be the 'world famous preacher' that has just taken up a job in a central Edinburgh church?