Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Saving RIghteousness of God 2

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 look at the first half of chapter 2.

In the second chatper Bird enters into the ring of debates that surround the word 'righteousness'. He helpfully points out that we should speak of the doctrine of 'righteousness' rather than 'justification'.

In discussing the long-standing debate between Protestants and Catholics between imputed righteousness and imparted righteousness he says that both groups fall under criticism. When Catholics point to imputed righteousness as a 'legal fiction' they misunderstand that the ground of justification are very much real, namely, the death and resurrection of Jesus. Protestants on the other hand (and I imagine Bird saying this with a smirk on his face) need to keep in mind that the only time that the New Testament uses the phrase 'faith alone' is in James (the book that Luther didn't think belonged in the NT I might add) where he is discussing that faith without works is dead. He also wonders aloud (or in writ) whether or not it really matters whether we refer to imputed righteousness or imparted righteousness if we are speaking in forensic terms.

As I have said before, I am am no scholar. So at this point I got a little lost in the discussion of whether or not righteousness is relational or the adherence to a norm. After a short discussion that went right over my head Bird concludes that one does not have to choose between these two options. God relates to his people through the covenant and that provides the norm to which one must adhere to (I think that's what he says). Nice!

Bird then discusses whether righteousness is forensic or transformative. When it comes to 'the righteousness of God' he sees it as almost synonymous to his saving power. Thus, he goes for the 'subjective genitive'. He notes that in some places 'righteousness' does not refer to the action of God itself but the basis of that action. For Bird righteousness is the basis for all of God's saving acts, not just justification. When it comes to the word which means "to justify" Bird sees it as forensic. However, this doesn't mean that one can be justified and live an 'un-transformed' life. God gives the justified his Spirit so that they can live consistent lives of righteousness.

Next Bird discusses the concept of 'covenant' and how it relates to righteousness but I think I'm going to go watch TV with my bride. Until tomorrow.

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