Wednesday, 30 December 2009

arguments for the iao from philippians

Over the festive period I listened again to John Piper's talk on Justification and the Diminishing Work of Christ. In it, he argues for the doctrine of the imputation of Christ's active obedience (IAO) from Philippians. Some interesting points he makes (with some of my own mumblings):
  • The "found" language. Is it any coincidence that Christ was "found" in human form obedient (Phil. 2:8) and that Paul's aim is to be "found" in Christ righteous (Phil. 3:9)?
  • The inadequate language of innocence. Many today equate righteousness with a "not guilty" verdict and believe that if anything at all is imputed to the believer, it is merely the cross work of Christ. After all, if righteousness just means innocence, then Christ's cross is all that is needed. This is something I have wrestled with as I've found the evidence from many passages to be compelling. For example, we read in many Scriptures of being made righteous by Christ's blood (e.g. Rom. 5:9). Nevertheless, such a definition of righteousness does not do justice to Paul's use of it in Philippians 3:9. Imagine submitting "not guilty" for "righteousness" in that passage; it just doesn't make sense, i.e. and be found in him, not having a "not guilty" verdict of my own which comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the "not guilty" verdict which comes from God and rests upon faith. A "not guilty" verdict of my own? Eh?
  • The pesky subjective genitive. Piper doesn't hold to the subjective rendering of pistis Christou i.e. the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. But he acknowledges that if this rendering is correct, then it strengthens the case for the IAO and ties back to chapter 2:5-11 in the most remarkable way. Imagine, 3:9 paraphrased: that I may be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through the faithfulness of the Christ who was obedient even to the point of death, the righteousness that comes from God and rests upon faith. Wow! That is powerful. It also strikes a blow for righteousness as 'covenant faithfulness' albeit within a covenantal setting of moral and God honouring responsibility. Perhaps Wrightian insights needn't be demonized but can be made to serve the truths of Reformational Christianity.
All in all, Piper makes a powerful case for the IAO. Give it a listen.


John Thomson said...

You're just trying to provoke me to engage - and I refuse, for the moment at least.

Nick Mackison said...

You're such a narcissist Thomson. Not every posting is about you. Annoying you is merely an added bonus.

John Thomson said...

Your theology is as suspect as your spelling.

Nick Mackison said...

I didn't even notice it was in the title! I thought I'd got narcissist wrong.

Nick said...

If I may add my comments, Piper's "analysis" falls abysmally short, especially on two major points:

1) The text says "became obedient unto death," which is at most Christ's Passive Obedience, not His "active obedience." Active obedience cannot be exegeted from the text.

2) The worst part of Piper's analysis - and I've seen this in two other online sermons of his when he discusses Phil 3:9 - is that Piper avoids discussing Phil 3:10-11! That alone is sufficient to question his interpretation, and I believe he avoids it precise because it strongly refutes his thesis. Paul explains 3:9 precisely in 3:10f, where he shows justification to be an inner transformation - the exact opposite of what Piper needed it to be (imputed alien active obedience). Piper is a fine Christian man, but I cringe when I hear him (and other famous Protestant speakers) talk on Phil 3:9 to the utter exclusion of Phil 3:10-11.