Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Saving Righteousness of God 1

Michael Bird has quickly become one of my favorite theologians. When you read him it is obvious that he loves truth and desires unity within the church. I am currently reading his book The Saving Righteousness of God: Studies on Paul, Justification, and the New Perspective (Wipf and Stock, 2007). Today I will be taking a brief look at the introduction.


Wrestling with Paul

Bird begins the book by giving an overview of his journey with Paul. His goal in this project is the unity of the church. Bird comes from a reformed background (and he has not abandoned his past) and has thoroughly examined the so-called "new perspective on Paul". His conviction is that the two are not mutually exclusive but actually belong together. Both sides can learn from one another.

One thing that is very exciting about Bird's writings is that he has spent so much time studying the relationship between the resurrection of Jesus and our justification. Many people have seen these as virtually unrelated. Resurrection is just a sign that the cross work of Jesus was effective; the resurrection, for them, has no real saving significance of its own.

Bird has also spent a considerable amount of time mulling over the New Perspective on Paul (just see his extensive bibliography). He appreciates many aspects of the NPP but he doesn't remain uncritical of it. As he says he hasn't caught the "NPP bug" in any considerable way.

Of particular interest to some of the reformed fold will be his discussions on 'imputation'. Bird suggests a different term, namely, 'incorporated righteousness'. It is great to see, also, that he appreciates the 'social' dimensions of justification that proponents of the NPP point out but he shuns the attempt to squeeze all 'justification' language into social categories. For Bird, in other words, justification is both vertical and horizontal (though, predominantly vertical). "Justification is the act whereby God creates a new people, with a new status, in a new covenant, as a foretaste of the new age" (p. 4). Well put.

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