Wednesday, May 9, 2012
The Trinity has been an essential doctrine of the Christian worldview. The Trinity is what distinguishes Christianity from all other religious worldviews like Islam and Judaism. One could maintain then that with caeteris paribus that if there are good reasons for thinking that the Trinity is true then there are also good reasons for thinking that Christianity is true. In addition, arguments which attempt to demonstrate that the Trinity is logically incoherent will also show by implication that the Christian worldview is logically incoherent because the Trinity is an essential feature of Christianity. Thus, questions about the coherence and the warrant of the Trinity have a direct relationship to coherence and warrant of the Christian worldview. This is why it is important to give a philosophical justification for the doctrine of the Trinity and to defend it against any charges of incoherence. This is why it is the purpose of this paper to provide an argument for thinking that the Trinity is true and to defend it against any charges of irrationality and incoherence. I do this by first defining the doctrine of the Trinity. Secondly, I give an argument for the Trinity from perfect being theology and the highest conception of Love. Thirdly, I give a defeater for an argument which attempts to show that the Trinity is logically incoherent. Lastly, I provide a modified immaterial constitution model of the Trinity which attempts to be both theologically and philosophically attractive.
Defining the Trinity
Classical Trinitarian theism is committed to the following propositions:
1) There is one God
2) The person of the Father is God
3) The person of the Son is God
4) The person of the Spirit is God
5) All three of the Divine persons are distinct from one another.
6) All of the persons are fully God
All six of these propositions are from traditional and biblical Trinitarianism. 1 is designed to secure the monotheistic unity to all three of the persons. 1 is also used to deny tri-theism and to affirm that there is only one Divine substance. 2-4 is used to ensure that each of the members of the Trinity is Divine and that there is no ontological subordinationism. 5 is used to guard against modalism which would deny the real distinctions between each of the persons of the Trinity. Finally, 6 is used to ensure that each member of the Trinity is not diminished in His Divinity. We want to be able to say that in some sense each member of the Trinity is fully God because there are passages of scripture that seem to commit us to this. Colossians 2:9 seems to suggest that Jesus had fully Divinity and if there is no ontological subordinationism in the Trinity then it would follow that each of the other two members have fully Divinity as well. Now that I have briefly outlined the propositions that one must be committed to in order to hold to the Trinity, I provide an argument for the Trinity.
An Argument for the Trinity
In this section I provide an argument for thinking that Trinitarian theism is true. The sort of argument I give finds its origins in the work of Richard St. Victor and has been restated in a slightly different form by Richard Swinburne
Richard Swinbourne, The Christian God (Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA, 1994); Ruben Angelici, Richard of Saint Victor On the Trinity: English Translation and Commentary (Eugene, Or.: Cascade Books, 2011).
. I present the structure of the argument and then I defend only the contentious premises. What is contentious will vary from context to context, but since this is a paper defending trinitarianism I will assume that the skeptic I am dealing with assumes the existence of a Unitarian God and this skeptic thinks that this Unitarian God is the greatest possible being. The argument structure is as follows:
1) The highest degree of love entails two persons, P1 and P2 having self-giving love for each other and this self-giving love is such that they have coperative self-giving love for another third person, P3 (let us call this sort of love GL for “greatest love”).
2) There is one God.
3) God is the greatest possible being.
4) The greatest possible being has every moral perfection to the highest degree
5) Love is a moral perfection
6) God has love to the highest degree (GL)
7) God either has GL entirely contained in the Divine substance or it is not entirely contained in the Divine substance.
8) It is false that GL is not entirely contained in the Divine substance
9) God has GL entirely contained within the Divine substance
10) God is three persons
In premise 1 GL entails two important aspects for supporting the entire argument. The first aspect is that GL involves one person having self-giving love for another person. In terms of the argument above what I need to establish is that this self-giving love between two persons is a better sort of love than giving love only to one’s self. The sort of love where one person just entirely loves himself is typically seen as more of a vice than a virtue. This sort of love only for oneself we would call selfish and surely selfless love for another is a greater degree of love than selfish love. Therefore, GL will at least entail self-giving love between two persons. The second aspect that GL will entail is cooperative self-giving love between at least two persons for another third person. Surely two persons who love each other in such a way that they function together for the purpose of having a cooperative self-giving love for another person has a higher quality of love than just two persons who love each in a self-giving manner. And because two persons having self-giving love for another third person is higher degree of love than just two persons having self-giving love then the GL will entail two persons having cooperative self-giving love for another person.
I will spend the most space on Premises 7-8 for they are the most contentious premises for one who ascribes to Unitarian views of God. The Unitarian might argue that GL can be grounded in created beings in 7. This is to say that GL is such that it can necessarily be grounded in human beings or beings that are very much like human beings. And although created beings begin to exist they might argue that God had this sort of love prior to their existence on the basis of his foreknowledge.
This response lacks plausibility for a variety of reasons. One reason is that God has libertarian free will so that he has the choice to create beings or to not create beings. The Unitarian might ask why think that God has libertarian free will? Here is a reason: God is the greatest possible being so he will have libertarian free will because it is better to have libertarian free will rather than not. In order, to have this sort of freedom he has to be a Trinitarian God because if he were Unitarian God he would have to create in order to exemplify GL and thereby not be libertarianly free. Another reason why this response lacks plausibility is that it seems like love between infinite persons is a higher degree of love rather than love just between an infinite person and a finite person. Love between divine persons is better to have than mere divine love for a created person and because God has GL he will have love between divine persons. It would also seem like love between three divine persons (as opposed to bringing in a created persons for P1, P2, or P3) is also the highest quality of love which God would necessarily have as the greatest possible being. A final worry about this Unitarian move is that it makes God’s attributes of love dependent upon the creation and surely a God who is dependent on the lesser creation for his divine attributes is not great as a God who is only dependent upon his own greatness for His divine attribute of love. So given that God is the greatest possible being he will only be dependent on himself for his divine attributes and Trinitarianism would follow from this. For these reasons then the Unitarian response is rebutted.
The premises follow to the conclusion that there are three persons in God, but there is still a worry that one might try to argue for more persons than three in the Godhead from principles stemming from this argument. In response to this worry: It is hard for me see and to come up with entailments from the highest degree of love which suggests that there are more than three persons. Furthermore, if one just adds more persons the conditions for self-giving love and cooperative love would be satisfied by premise 1 in the same way whether you have three persons or nine persons. The reason why the argument would only prove three persons as opposed to nine is that three persons are simpler and given Ockham’s razor we ought to prefer the simpler theories. Thus, there is no reason to think that we are in need of a fourth person in the Godhead given the principle of love found in premise 1 and we only have reason for thinking that there are three persons in God.
Defeating an Incoherence Argument Against the Trinity
In this section of the paper I answer an objection which intends to demonstrate that the Trinity is logically incoherent. I will present the argument from the anti-Trinitarian objector and then I will show that the argument that the Trinity is incoherent is unsound.
The arguments against Trinitarianism proceeds on propositions which the Trinitarian is committed to and then the anti-Trinitarian objector tries to derive a contradiction from the propositions to which Trinitarianism is committed to. I will outline the two ways in which the anti-Trinitarian objector attempts to draw out a contradiction from Trinitarian propositions. The incoherency argument is as follows:
1) There is one God
2) The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct
3) The Father is fully God
4) The Son is fully God
5) The Holy Spirit is fully God
6) The Father is the Son and The Spirit
6*) There are three Gods
6 and 6* are two ways in which the anti-Trinitarian objector can draw out a contradiction from 1-5. 6 would be deriving modalism from 1-5 which is inconsistent with Trinitarianism because Trinitarianism holds to the real personal distinctions in the God which is affirmed in 2. As for 6* this is deriving Tri-theism from 1-5 and this is inconsistent with Trinitarianism because the Trinitarian holds that there only exists one God as 1 indicates. In the next paragraph I will provide an argument against a crucial assumption that this anti-Trinitarian argument relies on and we will see later on that this assumption is false.
This anti-Trinitarian argument above assumes a principle which we will call principle P. Many philosophers hold to P for material objects and P is as follows: x and y are to be counted as one material object if and only if x and y are identical. P seems especially plausible with respect to material objects when x entirely fills the region R of a material object M and y fills the entire region R of a material object M. This is the assumption behind 6 and 6* which generates a contradiction with 1-5, but of course this is applied to immaterial objects in the case of the Trinity. But we will see that given a counter-example to P in the next paragraph that P is false.
The Aristotelian view of accidental sameness in material objects provides a counter-example to the anti-Trinitarian argument. Those holding to the Aristotelian view of matter which instantiates many hylomorphic compounds can give examples in which there is an object where there is numerical sameness without identity. Here is such an example: Let us suppose that there is a bronze statue of Zeus which is also a pillar for a building. The one holding to numerical sameness without identity will attempt to show that the pillar, the statue, and the bronze are not identical. Yet they all entirely fill a region R and we would count the pillar, the statue, and the bronze as one material object. The way one would show that the statue, the pillar, and the bronze are not identical is by pointing out that each of these kinds have different modal properties. There are things that are true of the statue that are not true of the pillar, namely, that the statue can endure even if it is no longer used to support any part of a building. But of course this is not true of the pillar because if it was not offering support of anything then it would no longer be a pillar. Also there is something true of the bronze that is not true of the statue, namely, that the bronze can be melted into an orb. But surely this is not true of the statue for if the bronze were melted down to an orb like form then it would no longer be a statue. So we have a counter-example to principle P where there exists one material object with three kinds all entirely filling a region of space R.
We can now see that the Aristotelian view of material constitution provides a counter-example to principle P employed in the anti-Trinitarian argument. The fact that there can be an x and y that entirely fills a region R that are not identical is a fact that can be dialectally effective in responding to the anti-Trinitarian objector. For instance, one could say that in created material things we see that in some sense there can be three kinds that can be fully in one material object and so given this assume it is reasonable to say that it is possible that there are three kinds of persons who are in some sense fully in one spiritual non-physical object. Given this dialectal strategy the burden of proof is on the anti-Trinitarian objector to demonstrate that it is incoherent to say that three kinds cannot be in some sense fully in a spiritual thing and that there is only one of these spiritual things. This is a very difficult burden to bear because it is hard to see how one can come up a knock down argument that demonstrates that it is incoherent to have numerical sameness without identity with spiritual objects while maintaining that it is possible to have numerical sameness without identity with material objects. Thus, for this reason the anti-Trinitarian argument from incoherence is unsound.
A Modified Immaterial Constitution view of the Trinity
In this section I provide a modified immaterial constitution model of the Trinity which is not identical to Michael Rea’s and Jeffrey E. Brower’s model, but it is very similar to it. I first will provide a general overview of my model of the Trinity. I will point out three desirable and positive aspects of my theory. Lastly, I will present three worries about my theory and I will respond to them.
My model of the Trinity is analogous to the matter and hylomorphic compounds in the Aristotelian view of how there can be numerical sameness without identity in a material object, but my model applies it to the one Divine spiritual object. The Divine nature would play the role of the matter in that it would fully constitute each of the members of the Trinity without the members of the Trinity being identical to one another. There would be only one Divine nature which would be the immaterial stuff which has the properties of metaphysical necessity and the property of essentially constituting three Divine persons. For x to be God on my model is that x has to fully consist of the Divine immatter (this is the word that I use to describe the none-physical stuff that plays the role of the matter in the Aristotelian view). Each of the persons of the Trinity is like a hylomorphic compound. Furthermore, each of the members of the Trinity fully consists of the Divine immatter. So it follows on my view that each of the persons of the Trinity is God and the Trinity as a whole is God. Yet, each of the persons is not identical to one another nor is any of the persons identical to the Divine nature. Given this view of immatter and hylomorphic compounds we can see that this model allows for a robust notion of the mutual indwelling of the persons of the Trinity by virtue of the fact that they all share the same immatter of the Divine. On my model I hold that there is only one Divine individual and so my theory is compatible with thinking that there is an individuator in the Divine substance like a bare particular. But of course on my model one is free not to posit a bare particular if they thought it was incoherent or threatened the plurality of the persons.
A point of difference in my model to Rae and Brower’s model is that I wish to go in more detail about what sort of properties each of the persons have. I would hold that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each have one center of consciousness, cognitive faculties, and a divine will. Furthermore, I would say that each member of the Trinity has their own property of omniscience, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, aseity and all the other essential Divine properties that we would think a Divine person has. So for instance, the Father has his own property of omniscience and the Son has his own property of omniscience. The members of the Trinity would be essentially distinguished by virtue of the unique essential necessary properties of eternal Fatherhood, Sonship, and Spiration. On my immaterial constitution view the Father alone would be eternally constituted of the divine immatter without any causation logically prior to eternally bringing about his personal constitution. The Son on the other hand would be constituted by the Divine immatter and this constitution is eternally caused by the Father from all eternity. The Spirit’s constitution would be eternally caused by the Father and the Son from all eternity. These are the common and unique properties that each of the personal hylomorphic compounds have in the Divine immatter.
I list the three benefits and virtues of this model of the Trinity. After I list each benefit I will expound in more detail why this is a benefit of my Trinitarian model.
1) It secures the oneness in essence and the plurality of the persons.
The benefit of a strong sense of oneness and the plurality of the persons is that it guards against the heresies of tri-theism and modalism. The most attractive feature of the immaterial constitution model is that it secures that there is one divine immatter and this feature entirely prevents any tri-theistic notions of three individuals or three substances. Furthermore, given how I have articulated my modified immaterial constitution view it would seem hard to charge my model as modalistic because each of the persons have their own distinctive center of consciousness, cognitive faculties, and a divine will. My model is superior to Rea’s and Brower’s in that I have defined each of the members of the Trinity to entirely prevent any sort of modalism which has been a worry about their view. In short, my model has all of the positive aspects of Latin and Social trinitarianism without any of the major worries of modalism or tri-theism.
2) Each of the persons has a robust sense of Deity
The way in which I define Deity is such that it allows each of the persons to be fully God. I would say x is God if and only if x fully consists of divine immatter. When I say that x fully consists of divine immatter I mean to say that 1) x comes into the relation of numerical sameness without identity with the divine immatter, 2) that x derives all its immaterial existence from the divine immatter and properties from the divine immatter. Each of the persons fully consists of divine immatter and so therefore each of the persons is fully God. On my view then each of the persons cannot be parts of God. The worry with saying that each of the persons are parts of God is that it seems to have not as a robust view of deity because the parts of God together add up together to equal the fully deity. In addition, the biblical data does seem to commit us to the notion that each of the persons is fully God. A good example of this is when Colossians 2:9 teaches of Jesus that he had the “whole fullness of deity”. Given these considerations then we ought to adopt the theory that makes us have each of the persons of the Trinity have the most robust sense of being divine. It seems to me that my theory satisfies that constraint and so this increases the attractiveness of my theory.
3) There is only one way to be Divine
One of the most attractive features of my model is that it allows one to say that there is only one way to be divine with respect to the Trinity and to each of the Divine persons. This feature is unique to Latin models of the Trinity or material constitution models of the Trinity. The benefits of saying that there is only one way to be divine is that one can affirm that both the Trinity jointly is Divine and that the each of the member are Divine in same sense while affirming monotheism. Furthermore, there does not seem to be much scriptural warrant for thinking that we can ascribe two sorts of Divinity to God. This is possible on my model because each of the persons fully consists of the divine immatter and yet the Trinity as whole fully consists of the Divine immatter. This is possible much like it is possible with material objects when you have the one bronze lump fully constituting the pillar and the statue of Zeus. In this example one would want to say that the one bronze lump fully constitutes Zeus and yet the bronze fully constitutes both Zeus and the pillar. So too in the Trinity one want to say on my model that the Divine immatter fully constitutes the Son and yet the Divine immatter fully constitutes the Trinity as whole. Therefore, my model provides a consistent and orthodox approach to having one way for a thing to be Divine.
I move to discuss three problems and worries with my model. In this section I will generally take two strategies by way of response: I will show that the objection does not have significant cost to abandon the model or that the objection has no cost at all.
1) Each of the persons of the Trinity is not identical to God
One could certainly critique my model by saying that my view entails the position that Jesus is not identical to God or that each of the Trinitarian members are not identical to God. Instead my view holds that Jesus is God by virtue of the fact that he fully consists of Divine immatter. This distinguishes my model from Rea’s and Brower’s model
Rea and Brower, 278.. Rea and Brower argue that each member is identical to the one spiritual object God and so in this way we can assert things like Jesus is identical to God. But I tend to think that such assertion is metaphysically impossible given classical Trinitarian commitments. For there is something true of the one spiritual object that is not true of Jesus, namely, that the Spiritual object has immatter and has three personal hylomorphic compounds. But the hylomorphic compound of Jesus does not have three personal hylomorphic compounds which it has or constitutes rather it is only the immatter which can be said to have or constitute three hylomorphic compounds. Given these consideration I do not see how one can hold that Jesus is identical God and yet hold to the Trinity and logical consistency. Since I do not think it is logically possible for one to hold consistently that Jesus is identical to God and the doctrine of the Trinity then I regard the costs of denying that Jesus is identical to God of no cost at all for my Trinitarian model.
2) The term “stuff” cannot be properly said of immaterial objects like God
A common objection to my model is that it does not make much sense to ascribe the terms like immaterial stuff, immatter, Divine spiritual stuff to non-physical things like God. The thought here is that these are terms that are only applied to material objects and so have no application to immaterial objects like God. After all terms like “fully” and “stuff” are terms of space and location which cannot properly be applied to God who is not extended in space. In response to these worries one can take the route of saying that these terms have analogical application to immaterial objects. And that this is hardly a worry because one could say that most if not all of predication of the divine is analogical. But if this is the worst case scenario then I do not think this cost out weights the general benefit of my model. However, I do not think one is necessarily reduced to this worst case scenario if one holds to my model. For one, it is not entirely clear to me that phrases like “stuff” and “fullness” cannot be applied to immaterial things. I can conceive of an immaterial thing apart from space that have this sort of primitive stuff aspect that is more than just properties which gives full form to immaterial kinds and in addition gives those kinds unity in one object. There does not seem to be anything clearly incoherent and logically contradictory with this notion of other things consisting of immatter and that immatter being the sort of thing that makes all those kinds it consists of numerically one object. Furthermore, I do not even see how this language presupposes shape and size either. But it must be honestly conceded that this notion of immatter and it fully constituting hylomorphic compounds is an irreducible and primitive with respect to non-physical objects such that it cannot be given further analysis. This is indeed a concession because any theory that adds primitives raises the theoretical price of that theory (one would like to have as little primitives as possible and explain as much as possible). But it seems like this cost is worth it because of the fact that my immaterial constitution theory allows one to hold to a robust notion of Divinity among the Divine persons and it has the advantage of there being one sense of Divinity while securing monotheism.
3) The use of “Divine Stuff” is untraditional
William Lane Craig argues that the material constitution view is untraditional in taking the one essence in the Trinity to be a sort of Divine immaterial stuff which constitutes all three of the persons. Craig argues that what the council of Nicea meant by homoousios that not that the Father and the Son were made out of the same spiritual stuff but rather that they “shared the same generic nature or being”. Even if were Craig were right about this and this model does seems inconsistent with the Nicean creed then this is still a price I will gladly pay. I think we should trump tradition when it is inconsistent with reason and scripture. But fortunately for those fans of tradition I do think that Craig is mistaken about this. I would say that the constitution view is consistent with the Father and the Son sharing the same being as this what Craig asserts what the council intended. For surely if the Father and the Son are constituted by the same necessary Divine immatter it would follow from this that they share the same being. So there is no inconsistency with the constitution view and the council of Nicea. What Craig needs is to show evidence that the majority of those formulating the document held that homoousios was incompatible with the constitutional view. And Craig has simply not done this. So this objection has no cost at all, but even if I were wrong in my assessment it still seems that the cost is very small given the three major benefits of the theory that I have outlined above.
In this paper I have argued that there are good reasons for thinking that the Trinity is true and that all of the charges of irrationality and incoherence are unfounded. I have done this by arguing for the Trinity on the basis of the highest conception of love and from God being the greatest possible being. Furthermore, I have argued that the anti-Trinitarian arguments from incoherence are dubious. And lastly I have provided and defended a rational model of the Trinity. For these reasons the Christian can boldly believe that there is one God who is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Angelici, Ruben. Richard of Saint Victor On the Trinity: English Translation and Commentary. Eugene, Or.: Cascade Books, 2011.
Brower, Jeffrey, Rea, Michael C. “Material Constitution and the Trinity,” Faith and Philosophy, 22 (2005): 487-505.
Craig, William Lane. 2005. “Does the Problem of Material Constitution Illuminate the Doctrine
of the Trinity?” Faith and Philosophy 22: 77 - 86.
Flint, Thomas P., and Michael Rea, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA, 2009.
Howard-Snyder, Daniel. 2003. “Trinity Monotheism” Philosophia Christi 5: 375 – 403.
Leftow, B., 1999, “Anti Social Trinitarianism”, in The Trinity : An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity, S. T. Davis, D. Kendall and G. O'Collins (eds.), New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 203–49.
Pruss, Alexander, McCall, Thomas, and Michael Rea, eds. Philosophical and Theological Essays On the Trinity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA, 2010.
Swinbourne, Richard. The Christian God. Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA, 1994.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Thesis: The weekly Sabbath, as a ritual type, is fulfilled in the reality of Christ’s inauguration of eschatological Sabbath rest, and no longer requires prefigurement in the prescribed rites of the original ordinance; yet the Lord’s Day, as a celebration of Christ’s inauguration of eschatological Sabbath rest, entails specific obligations of worship for God’s New Covenant people.
In order to explain and defend this thesis I will first present the biblical hermeneutical principles by which we must proceed in interpreting and applying the Mosaic Law in the New Covenant era. Second, I will examine some of the most important biblical texts dealing with the theology of the Sabbath and the Sabbath commandment and show the manner in which the Sabbath receives eschatological fulfillment in Christ in terms of its theological significance and ethical obligation. Finally, I will briefly indicate the key New Testament material outlining the significance of the Lord’s Day and the obligations the Lord’s Day entails for New Covenant believers.
1) The fulfillment of the Mosaic Law in Christ and correspondent hermeneutical principles.
Craig Blomberg is right in identifying the fulfillment motif as paradigmatic in Christ’s and His apostles’ self-conscious understanding of the relation of the New Covenant which they heralded to God’s Old Covenant administration. Jesus’ own words in Matthew 5:17 in His Sermon on the Mount are properly taken to articulate the quintessential principle operative in the NT appropriation of the full-orbed OT revelation. Here our Lord denies that His aim in coming is “to tear down” (καταλῦσαι) the Law and the Prophets and asserts that it is contrarily “to fulfill” (πληρῶσαι) them. The phrase, “the Law and the Prophets” may be understood to compass the whole of the Hebrew Bible in terms of the Mosaic Law and the subsequent prophetic witness which enabled the Law to be correctly apprehended. The Greek verb πληρόω, that Jesus selects to describe the activity toward which His incarnation and ministry are directed with regard to the Hebrew Bible, is best translated “to give the true meaning to,” (L&N) or “to show (something) forth in its true meaning” (BDAG) in this context. Jesus carries out just this activity in His Sermon in the capacity of a teacher, giving a heightened sense to some of the centrally important moral commandments of the Mosaic Law, and enjoining moral obedience in respect to other Mosaic stipulations transcending that which the original laws could have required. Furthermore, through certain elements in the Sermon such as the repeated “ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν…” formula conveying self-referential authority (Matt. 5:22,28,32, etc.), and the promise of blessing for endurance in persecution on account of allegiance to Himself (Matt. 5:12), Jesus unmistakably indicates that it is not merely His teachings but His very person which gives the true meaning to the Law and the Prophets. Thus, while insisting that the Law maintains abiding significance and binding obligation (Matt. 5:18), Jesus shows Himself to be the One in whom this abiding significance receives its full expression and the One to whom this binding obligation is ultimately due.
The rest of the NT bears out the manifold notion of Christ as the fulfillment of the Hebrew Bible and specifically the obligations of the Mosaic Law, primarily in setting Him forth as the culmination of the Law’s salvific function (Rom. 10:4). Yet although believers in Christ as adopted sons and daughters of God are absolutely free of the tutelage of the Mosaic Law as it sets forth the means of meriting eternal life and the measure of judgment and curse for disobedience, the whole of the Law as fulfilled in Christ remains eminently relevant to New Covenant life (Rom. 3:31). Inductive study of Jesus’ and His apostles’ expository on the Law reveals that different aspects of the Mosaic Law receiving different manners of fulfillment in Christ have different New Covenant applications. Moral obligations of the Law are seen as fulfilled in Christ in terms of their heightening and intensification in His life and teaching. These fulfilled moral norms are repeatedly enjoined upon New Covenant believers and comprehended under the “law of love” for God and neighbor set forth as a perpetual rule and guide for the sanctification and ethical life of God’s people (Matt. 22:37-40, Rom. 13:10, Gal. 5:14, Jas. 2:8). Ceremonial and other typological obligations of the Law are viewed as fulfilled in Christ in terms of the reification in His person, word, and work of those things which their observance had foreshadowed. While the history of the Old Covenant typological rites remains illustrative as to the nature of the Spiritual realities these rites prefigured, New Covenant believers are loosed from continued observance of the rites that they might through faith participate in the realities of eternal salvation in Christ (cf. Acts 10-11:18, Eph. 2:11-22, Heb. 10:1-14).
Thus, before moving on to consideration of Sabbath and Lord’s Day ordinances, we may formulate two biblical hermeneutical principles key to correct interpretation of cross-covenantal development and application of Mosaic Law ordinances in general. 1) Every element of the Mosaic Law, whether or not explicitly mentioned in the New Testament, must be understood and applied in the New Covenant in light of its particular fulfillment in Christ (no portion may be discounted as irrelevant since Jesus Himself has assured us of the whole Law’s abiding significance and permanently binding obligation). 2) Different aspects of the Law receiving different manners of fulfillment in Christ have different New Covenant applications, and so careful attention must be paid to the particular manner of each element’s fulfillment in Christ’s person, word, and work in order that we may make correct life application.
2) Sabbath fulfilled in Christ
Resuming admonishment of the saints at Colossae against the liability of being “taken captive” by proponents of philosophico-religious alternatives to Christian faith, the apostle Paul exhorts, “[L]et no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ (Col 2:16-17 ESV).” As this text has prima facie potential to offer pivotal NT comment on both the theological significance of, and the New Covenant obligation associated with the Sabbath, it is no surprise that the meaning of the term σάββατον as here employed is a topic of controversy. The controversy is not insoluble, however, and the exegesis of Col. 2:16-17 thus proves rewarding and auspicious as a starting point for this study.
Blomberg cites this text as a plain reference to the weekly OT Sabbath celebration and accuses those who would take measures to impute a different meaning to σάββατον in this context of exegetical sleight of hand. Since the three terms “festival” (ἑορτῆς), “new moon” (νεομηνίας), and “Sabbath” (σαββάτων) are listed together in a number of OT texts clearly referencing celebratory ordinances of the Jewish calendar, it is clear that Paul’s use of this triad has such mandated Jewish holy days in view (Cf. Ezek. 45:17, Hos. 2:11, 1 Chron. 23:31; 2 Chron. 2:4; 31:3, Neh. 10:33, Isa. 1:13–14). Blomberg suggests that it is natural to read Paul as making exhaustive reference to holy days prescribed in the Jewish Law by enumerating in succession those which occur yearly (festivals), monthly (new moons), and weekly (Sabbath observance). Given that the OT loci which Paul’s locution most closely resembles appear to have precisely this same referential effect, Blomberg’s suggestion seems highly plausible.
Seventh-Day Adventist and Sabbatarian exegesis of Col. 2:16-17 often attempts to show that Paul uses σάββατον in v.16 to indicate special Sabbath celebrations associated with the Mosaic system of appointed feasts and not weekly Sabbath observance. Ronald du Preez advances the hypothesis that the immediate lexical context of σάββατον (or שַׁבָּת) in the OT and NT consistently indicates whether the weekly Sabbath ordinance or festal observance is to be understood. According to du Preez’s study, one or more members of a certain set of Hebrew and Greek lexemes (including those translated to English as “keep,” “the Sabbath,” “day,” “holy,” and “my”) consistently occur in the syntactic context of σάββατον (שַׁבָּת) when the weekly Sabbath is manifestly intended, while one or more members of a disjoint set of lexemes (including those translated as “your” or “her”) consistently occur with σάββατον (שַׁבָּת) when the festal Sabbaths are contemplated. Since none of the usual lexical signals of the weekly Sabbath are present in Col. 2:16, and since one of the specified lexical signals of the special festal Sabbaths is present in Hosea 2:11, the LXX text with which Paul’s triad in Col. 2:16 evidences the strongest structural affinity, du Preez concludes that Paul must have meant to exhort and instruct the Colossians in matters of festal, and not weekly, Sabbath observance.
Blomberg handily shows this conclusion to be wanting for corroboration by pointing out that, even granting the validity of du Preez’s hypothesis concerning contextual lexical indicators of the meaning of σάββατον, du Preez’s exegesis of Col. 2:16 does not follow since none of the lexemes signaling either meaning of σάββατον are present in Col. 2:16. Furthermore, the hypothesis itself comes to appear dubious upon close evaluation of the OT texts. In Hosea 2 the prophet likens idolatrous Israel to an adulterous wife and pronounces imminent judgment against her which will entail the termination of a variety of the people’s holy day celebrations as enunciated in verse 11. The immediately apparent reason for the third feminine singular suffix appended to שַׁבָּת in verse 11 is the sustained metaphorical portraiture of Israel as an unfaithful wife rather than the intentional lexical marking of the term for special festal denotation. Since, as Blomberg notes, the judgment foretold in this verse entails the halt of all holy day celebrations (general nouns modified byכֹּל bracket the trio of festival, new moon, and Sabbath) it makes sense that the weekly Sabbath would be mentioned in addition to yearly and monthly celebrations. Ezek. 45:17 is another probable candidate as the background of Col 2:16 which du Preez utilizes in support of both his hypothesis and his exegesis of the Colossians passage. In the proximate context the prophet elaborates upon the different kinds of holy days this verse lists in succession. Ezek. 46:1-3 expounds details concerning the rites to be associated with Sabbath observance in the restored temple and makes clear that the weekly Sabbath is in view (even employing du Preez’s lexical indicators of weekly Sabbath). To suggest an equivocation on שַׁבָּת in this near context requires impressive exegetical sleight of hand indeed. If du Preez’s hypothesis is discounted, these OT texts, along with many of the others which enumerate the triad of festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths, may be seen to support and strengthen the view that Paul’s statement in Col. 216 makes exhaustive reference to holy days prescribed in the Jewish Law.
It seems most reasonable, therefore, to conclude that in Col. 2:16-17 Paul is urging believers not to let themselves be judged in regard to weekly Sabbath keeping since the weekly Sabbath, like the food laws, the new moon and festival days, was a shadow (σκιὰ ) of the coming things (τῶν μελλόντων) , but the reality (σῶμα ) is Christ. In urging them thus, Paul effectively looses the Colossian Christians from continued observance of the rites associated with weekly Sabbath keeping and directs them to Christ that they might through faith participate in the realities these rites had foreshadowed. This evinces a conception of the Mosaic Sabbath as a typological ordinance which is fulfilled in Christ. Paul’s teaching that the weekly Sabbath ordinance is fulfilled in Christ should not surprise anyone. Yet Paul’s teaching concerning the typological manner in which the weekly Sabbath ordinance is fulfilled in Christ seems at odds with the view of the Sabbath as morally binding in its New Covenant obligation.
The view of the Sabbath command as a moral aspect of the Mosaic Law is commonly motivated in large part by the hermeneutical presupposition of the Decalogue’s primary functionality as a legal code propounding the moral core of the Mosaic Law as “timeless expression of God’s moral will.” Appeal is made to the distinguished character of the Decalogue within the rest of the Torah, and to several NT texts forthrightly reaffirming parts of the Decalogue and applying them together as perpetually binding moral imperative in order to ground this presupposition (Matt 5:21-29, Matt. 19:17-19, Rom. 9-10). Yet while the unique nature of the Decalogue and its majestic moral revelation should be appreciated and reverenced, the notion that the purport of the Decalogue is limited to the exposition of legal code delineating the “moral essence” of the Mosaic Law does not stand up to exegetical scrutiny. Meredith Kline laments the fact that a customary tendency to take the “ten words” written by the finger of God on two stone tablets and given to Moses as a legal code has obstructed the apprehension of their true nature as a suzerainty treaty, epitomizing the covenant granted by YHWH to his elect and redeemed servant, Israel. Kline insightfully compares the form of the “ten words” and the manner of their bestowal with parallel ANE treaty form and protocol to demonstrate that the two tablets given to Moses and deposited inside the ark were duplicate copies of content that was intended to represent and bear witness to the whole of the Sinai covenant, not merely two tables of a brief ethical catechism. Viewing the Decalogue as representative of and witness to the whole of the Sinai covenant, we may expect to find typological as well as moral aspects of that covenant summarily comprehended therein. Thus Paul’s conception of the Fourth Commandment as a typological ordinance fulfilled in Christ should not strike us as surprising or disconcerting.
If asserting that an element of the Sinaitic Decalogue is typological in character appears daring, proposing that the creation ordinance that it republishes is so might seem cavalier. Yet the consistent testimony of Scripture confirms rather than cautions us in viewing the creational mandate of the weekly Sabbath as a calling for God’s covenantal image-bearers to imitate His eschatological seventh day rest as a way of typologically prefiguring their future participation in the Lord’s eternal eschatological rest and enthronement. In order to appreciate the Sabbath ordinance in its typological function we must first apprehend its antitype telos and then trace the lines of its tributary flow toward fulfillment in that telos.
The Gen. 1-2 creation account clearly indicates the movement of God’s fiat-creational activity toward consummation in the seventh day. After the account describes God’s work in days one through three of constructing the diverse cosmic realms and in days four through six of constituting beings to “rule” or “have dominion” over the respective realms, it announces the plenary completion of God’s handiwork in Gen. 2:1, and in 2:2 relates that God rested (שׁבת ) from all His work on the seventh day. The pattern of the narrative’s hierarchical ascent from focus on realms to focus on rulers of the respective realms guides us to an understanding of God’s rest upon the finishing of all the heavens and earth and all their hosts as a rest of absolute dominion over all. There is no mention of “morning,” and “evening,” in association with the seventh day (these are the rhythmically reiterated terminal markers of every other day-frame), which meaningful omission reserves for the divine rest of that day an unbounded transcendent duration wherein God’s perpetual Kingship over all things is unshakably established.
Fuller, more direct exposition uniting consummatory and regal aspects of God’s rest in Gen. 2:2 is given in the NT book of Hebrews. In Heb. 3:11 the author, through his quotation of Ps. 95:11, invokes the historical type of the Israelites’ entry into and occupation of the land of Canaan (or their failure of enter and occupy) in the homiletic application of urging believers to persevere that they might enter the eschatological rest which God has set before them. In 4:3-4 the antitypal promised rest (κατάπαυσις) which the unbelieving Israelites failed to enter (3:19), and which even Joshua who led the successful conquest of Canaan could not give (4:8) is associated with God’s rest on the unbounded seventh day of creation. It becomes clear in 4:9-11 that the eschatological Sabbath rest (σαββατισμός) which the author exhorts the believers to strive to enter is a precisely a participation in the same seventh day rest which God has enjoyed from the foundation of the world (cf. especially 4:10).
Genesis 2:3 sets forth the original Sabbath ordinance. This verse records God’s acts of blessing the seventh day and making it holy. As Kline notes, God’s previous acts of blessing in the creation account were aimed specifically at beatifying the creatures’ spheres of existence (Gen. 1:22, 1:28). Throughout the Torah the designation of persons, places, and objects asקֹדֶשׁ marks their commitment to employ in the sacramental typological rites of Old Covenant worship. We may thus recognize in Genesis 2:3 a similar designation of an element of the creaturely realm of existence marking it for commitment to use in typological covenantal worship ritual. The consummative enthronement of YHWH over the heavens and the earth and all their hosts heralded in 2:1-2 immediately issues in a mirroring anticipatory religious mandate for His covenant creaturely vice-regents. In Exod. 20:11 the Fourth Commandment cites Genesis 2:3 as rationale for abiding by its stipulation of a weekly Sabbath noting that because God rested on the seventh day, therefore He blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. Kline plausibly suggests that this variation in terminology bespeaks a conscious distinction and correlation between archetype (God’s transcendent eschatological regal repose) and ectype (God’s consecration of a day of the week for human celebration of the former) consonant with the distinction and correlation evident in Genesis 2:1-3.
Hebrews 4:1-11 thus confirms what we might have inferred about the hope and expectation which would have been the spirit of this ordinance’s observance from the very beginning. Eschatological Sabbath rest (σαββατισμός) – participation in the in the seventh day rest which God has enjoyed from the foundation of the world - is the antitype and telos of weekly Sabbath keeping for man. Thus before the Fall, man would have yearned after this telos, as he was reminded in the pattern of his weeks’ movement toward Sabbath celebration, of the pattern of all things’ movement toward the great seventh day of the Lord’s consummate enthronement which would reward his own obedience with eschatological blessing. Since the Fall, God has graciously opened to sinners the promise of entering His rest, and as the promise has stood open, yet pending, believers have yearned for this telos. At one time they were reminded through weekly Sabbath keeping of the movement of history toward the seventh day of the Lord and the eschatological blessing it would somehow bring for them despite their disobedience. But these were a shadow of the things to come, the reality is Christ’s.
Though our full inheritance of σαββατισμός is still outstanding, Jesus Christ’s is not. Jesus was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Holy Spirit by His resurrection from the dead (Rom 1:4), and by way of this conquest, the Lord of the Sabbath entered into the eschatological rest and enthronement of God’s seventh day. Believers in Christ are given His Holy Spirit (who is also featured in the protology/eschatology of the creation narrative) and so are granted a foretaste and earnest of the participation in God’s consummation rest which Christ now fully enjoys (Rom. 8:23). The eschatological σαββατισμός which Christ has thus inaugurated in His resurrection for all His own is the fulfillment of the ritual type of the weekly Sabbath. This reality may now be tasted and expectantly awaited simply through faith in Christ, and thus faith in Christ and rest in Him are the binding New Covenant obligations associated with the fulfilled Mosaic Sabbath ordinance.
3) The Lord’s Day
All the gospel writers take pains to highlight the fact that Christ’s resurrection conquest occurred on the first day of the week. In Revelation, John purposively notes the date of His visions of the eschatologically enthroned Lamb who rules and conquers on behalf of His saints to have been the Lord’s Day, the day of the Lord’s resurrection, so as to promote the use of the apocalypse in church’s liturgy. Luke evidences intentionality in recording two occasions of the believers’ gathering to celebrate the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. The consistent and intentional apostolic witness is sufficient evidence to guide our inference that association of the corporate worship which the Lord requires of us with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection on the first day of the week is obligatory. Such specific obligations of worship as the convoked gathering to hear the preached Word, and the celebration of the sacrament are required on the Lord’s Day per the NT. Devotion of the whole of the day to public and private worship of the Lord, Christian fellowship, and acts of mercy are beneficial in lands and societies which allow or promote such activities among Christians on the first day of the week. Yet, general cessation of work on the Lord’s Day is nowhere Scripturally required. Simply in view of the specificity of the Lord’s Day as a particular day out of the seven day week some relation to the fulfilled Sabbath ordinance is naturally suspected. From the synthesis of the biblical notions we will not falter in viewing our Lord’s Day worship as a celebration of Christ’s inauguration of eschatological Sabbath rest and an anticipation of our entry into that rest at His consummatory return.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
In my estimation the best theological argument in favor of new covenant sabbath observance on Sunday is Mark 2:23-28 in conjunction with a whole host of passages where Christians are meeting on the first day of the week which John calls the Lord's day in Revelation 1:10. In Mark 2:23-28 it is important to notice that Jesus does not abolish the sabbath as he does with other Mosaic covenant laws in Mark 7:19, rather Jesus corrects the Pharisee's application of the Sabbath. If Jesus wanted to abolish the Sabbath then this would be place to expect such an abolition, but instead we have Christ using the Mosaic Law to justify his understanding of the Sabbath in verses 25-26. When Jesus says that the Sabbath is made for man, but that man was not made for the sabbath this suggests that the sabbath was made for the benefit of man and that man was not made for benefit of the sabbath. In other words, Jesus is saying that when the sabbath was made at creation it was made for the benefit of man. Jesus then is teaching that an essential attribute of mankind is that they benefit from a sabbath rest. Because Jesus is teaching that a sabbath rest is essentially beneficial for mankind then he positively establishes a type of sabbath observance for the new covenant. In verse 28 Jesus says that he is Lord of the Sabbath and the present tense has a gnomic usage here. The fact that it is a timeless truth that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath moral obligation then it is reasonable to think that Sabbath observance is a timeless moral truth. Therefore, Jesus is teaching in the New Testament that there still is a sabbath rest. On the basis of Colossians 2:16 we know that the Mosaic observance on Saturday has been abolished. So then the question before us then is which days is the most plausible day for a sabbath rest on the basis of the New Testament evidence? The best candidate for a sabbath rest then is the first day of the week (Sunday) because this was the day when Chris resurrected and when the new covenant church gathered for the preaching of the word, collecting of offering, and administering the sacraments (John 20:1; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10). For these reasons then I think we have good reason for thinking that there is some type of Sabbath observance on the Lord's Day (Sunday).
Sunday, February 13, 2011
The debate is downloaded in two parts so if you want to listen to the entire thing make sure to download both parts. Listen and decide for yourselves which is the correct view.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Tradition Still Requires Interpretation
Monday, February 7, 2011
Here are the details about the debate:
What is Hoagies & Stogies?
Hoagies & Stogies is a men’s fellowship for reformed, theological debate; it was created by one of my elders before he was an elder. When he was ordained, he got too busy, and he gave the reins of the ministry to me. The men gather for a simple meal of hoagies, with home-brewed beer, or soft drinks. After a while, we all refill our glasses, and those who are so inclined light up their best stogies and kick back and enjoy a theological debate. But if you are not a smoker (like me), or not a drinker (or not both!), you are still welcome. (You can consider it your mission to ensure that Christian liberty is exercised with due charity!)
What/when/where is the next Hoagies & Stogies?
* What: Rom 11 and the future of Israel
* When: Feb 12, 5pm–
* Where: Patton Compound: 3768 Miles Ct, Spring Valley.
* Who: We’ve got two WSCAL students. On the ”Future for Israel” side, Nate Taylor. On the ”No National Conversion side”, Ben Rochester.
If anyone wants to come please RSVP in the message box on this site: http://ruberad.wordpress.com/hoagies-stogies/ so they know how many people to expect. So far we are expecting to have about 50 men coming.
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
An Argument for the Imputation of The Active Obedience of Jesus Christ
There are many Christians who are perfectly comfortable saying that Jesus Christ died for the forgiveness of our sins. But the Historic Reformed Protestant Christians have wanted to say more than this. Reformed Christians have wanted to say that Jesus Christ not only paid the legal debt for our sins on the cross, but that Jesus also followed the demands of the law perfectly in our place1. In other words, Jesus' suffering the debt for our sins and his perfect obedience to God’s law is legally imputed to us in our justification. Jesus' suffering for the legal debt of our sin is referred to as the passive obedience of Christ, whereas Jesus following the law perfectly in our place for our justification is referred to as the active obedience of Christ. Evangelical Protestants who hold to justification by faith alone typically hold that justification involves the forgiveness of sins on account of Christ's death on the cross. However, there are many who hold to both passive obedience and justification by faith alone, but reject Christ’s active obedience, arguing that there is no clear scriptural evidence for this doctrine. This position is endorsed by evangelicals like Robert Gundry and Norman Shepherd, and also many federal visionist proponents2. The question of whether or not Christ's active obedience is imputed to us is very pressing because it concerns our justification: how we are made right before a Holy God. Moreover, many have cast much doubt on this crucial doctrine, which makes it all the more important to investigate. Therefore, it is my intent to argue that the active obedience of Jesus Christ is taught in scripture by a good and necessary inference from the doctrine of justification by faith alone. I do this by first giving a biblical and theological justification for the use of a good and necessary inference from scripture to support doctrinal positions. Secondly, I argue that justification requires perfect obedience to the law, which cannot be replaced by sacrifice. Thirdly, I argue briefly for the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Fourthly, I use the previous three points to establish that Christ is the ground of our active obedience, which is legally imputed to us. Lastly, I answer an objection to my thesis.
A Good and Necessary Inference
Many individuals object to the active obedience of Christ on the basis that there is no specific text that says "Christ's perfect obedience to the law is imputed to you". This is why it is essential to my argument that I demonstrate that, from scripture, a good and necessary inference is legitimate for establishing points of doctrine. To be clear, a good and necessary inference is an inference that is compatible with other biblical truths, and is reasonable to the degree that to doubt it would be unreasonable3. I will now give a theological justification of a good and necessary inference for establishing doctrine.
The two main reasons it is warranted to make a good and necessary inference are that we presuppose it in the doctrine of the two wills of Christ, and we see that Jesus makes use of a good and necessary inference when he reasons from the Old Testament during his earthly ministry. There is no text in the Bible that says that Jesus has two wills- a human will and a divine will. However, this is a legitimate inference when we read texts that tell us that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, because a fully divine nature will have a divine will, and a fully human nature will have a human will. So if the inference is legitimate with respect to the two wills of Christ, then it ought to be legitimate when formulating other doctrine. The second reason we should hold that a good and necessary inference is warranted when establishing doctrine is because the Bible, itself, teaches this method for establishing doctrine. This is what Jesus does in Matthew 22:31-32 when he argues for an afterlife by appealing to the Old Testament against the Sadducees, who rejected an afterlife. Jesus makes the inference that because God is God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, they will have an afterlife. He is implying that if God is your God, you will not be dead, but living. The text that Jesus appeals to does not explicitly say anything about them having an afterlife at all. Rather, Jesus infers from the text that the great patriarchs of the Old Testament will have an afterlife, based on the nature of God and his relationship to the patriarchs. Hence, because it was legitimate for Jesus to make a good and necessary inference from scripture to establish points of doctrine, it is also legitimate for us to make a good and necessary inference from scripture to establish points of doctrine.
Perfect Obedience For Justification
With this understanding of scripture and doctrine in place, I can move on to the second step in the argument, which is that God demands in his law perfect perpetual obedience for justification, which cannot be replaced by sacrifice.
One of the strongest biblical arguments in favor of God demanding perfect perpetual obedience for justification is Luke 10:25-28. In verse 25 we see that the Lawyer asks Jesus this question: "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" The Lawyer is asking a question that has to do with how someone can have the right to inherit eternal life. Jesus answers in verse 26 by asking the Lawyer his understanding from the law, of what one needs to do to have the right to inherit eternal life. The Lawyer answers in verse 27 by saying that one needs to love God with all that he is and that one should also love his neighbor as himself. Jesus confirms his understanding in verse 28 by saying "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” To firmly establish that Jesus is teaching that in order to have the right to inherit eternal life one needs to be perfectly perpetually obedient, two points from this text should be considered. The first point is that when Jesus says "do this, and you will live" he is not speaking of earthly life, but of eternal life. Given that the context indicates that the nature of the lawyer’s question in verse 25 has to do with eternal life, this is the most plausible reading of the text. The second point is that the conditions for eternal life in the passage are that "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind," and this entails perfect perpetual obedience to God’s law. The reason for thinking that this entails perfect perpetual obedience to God's law is that if a person does not follow just one commandment, then he could not be loving God with all that he is. If the person were loving God with all that he is, then he would follow all of the commandments perfectly. To delineate this more precisely, suppose we have two persons, Jones and Smith. Jones follows all of the commandments except one, whereas Smith follows all of the commandments perfectly. It seems we would say that Smith is loving God with all that he is and Jones is not loving God with all that he is. Therefore, it follows that if one were to love God with all that he is, then he would have to follow the law with perfect perpetual obedience; this, according to Jesus, is what it takes for one to have the right to inherit eternal life.
The general testimony of the scriptures affirm that in order to be justified one needs to follow the law with perfect perpetual obedience. For instance in Romans 2:13 Paul writes "For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. " Paul writes this verse in the context of a larger argument that shows that both Jew and Gentile are guilty before God on the basis of their works (Rom. 3:19-20). Therefore, the sense in which dikaio,w is being used in this passage is not demonstrative, but it is in the sense that those who do and follow God’s law will be declared righteous4. According to James 2:10, if one fails to do and follow the law at just one point, he or she is guilty for all of it. So, in order to do the law at all one has to do all of it perfectly, because if one were to fail at any point, he or she would be held accountable for all of it. This is further clarified in Galatians 3:10 were Paul argues that all who want to be justified by keeping the law are under a curse because a person has to do "all" of the things in the law or else be under a curse. Clearly, Paul says that all are under this curse because everyone has failed to do all of the things in the law. This curse is contrasted by the blessing of justification by faith alone, and Paul’s implication is that one who is under this curse cannot be justified. In addition, when Jesus is communicating the true meaning of the Mosaic Law at the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5, he reveals to us God's standard in his law. Verse 48 states "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." When this phrase in verse 48 is used, it occurs within the context of Jesus quoting and commenting on a commandment contained in the Mosaic Law, so it is evident that this phrase has to do with God’s obligation to us in the Mosaic Law. Therefore, the scriptures clearly teach that in order to be justified one needs to "do" with perfect perpetual obedience.
Another reason for thinking that justification requires perfect obedience is Anselmian Perfect Being Theology5. Perfect Being Theology starts with the premise that God is the most perfect being, and from that premise infers certain characteristics about the nature of God6. The reasoning for the law requiring perfect obedience for justification is as follows: God is the most perfect being, and because he is the most perfect being, he will have every property that is better for him to have rather than lack. It is better for God to have the property of requiring perfection in his law for justification, rather than not requiring perfection in his law for justification. A perfect being would obligate perfection for justification rather than be satisfied with imperfection for justification. Therefore, it follows that God, a perfect being, obligates perfection for justification. It also seems likely that it would be better for the most perfect being to have the highest quality of righteousness, rather than lack this property. The highest quality of righteousness would require perfection for righteousness. God has the highest degree of righteousness, and therefore requires perfection for righteousness.
The requirement for perfect perpetual obedience for our justification cannot be replaced by any sacrifice or a payment of the debt we owe as sinners, but rather obedience in addition to sacrifice is required. It is not that sacrifice or payment of debt can replace obedience, but rather obedience must be in addition to a payment of debt or a sacrifice. The example given by Dr. David VanDrunen suffices to demonstrate this point: Suppose there was a father who told his son that if he completed all of his homework he would receive dessert as a reward, and if he failed to complete this task he would be punished7. The boy, in fact, fails to complete the task and is punished. It would then be counter-intuitive to think that because the boy was punished he is rightfully entitled to the reward of dessert that he was initially promised, if he then completes his homework8. This is analogous to the position that Adam was in when he was asked by God to follow a command to receive eschatological life, as symbolized by the tree of life. As demonstrated in previous paragraphs, God requires perfect perpetual obedience to his law for justification, thereby meriting the attainment of eschatological life. Therefore, in order for a person to be justified he or she would need to pay the debt of the sins committed, and to obey the commandments given by God. It would be irrational to think that this could be replaced by any mere sacrifice or payment of debt.
The fact that sacrifice and payment of debt cannot replace perfect perpetual obedience to God’s law is not just a truth of reason, but a truth of scripture, which is specifically taught in Mark 12:28-34. In Mark 12:30, Jesus teaches that the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our ability. In verse 33, the scribes say this about the nature of the relationship between obedience and sacrifice: "And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." Affirming the scribes in verse 34, Jesus teaches that perfect perpetual obedience to God's law cannot be replaced by sacrifices to pay the debt for our sins, because perfect perpetual obedience is the most important element in keeping God's law9. If obedience is better than sacrifice from God’s perspective, then it is implausible to suggest that Christ’s sacrifice could replace God's demand for our perfect perpetual obedience. Therefore, perfect perpetual obedience remains a necessary condition for anyone to be justified, and this demand cannot be replaced by any sacrifice.
Justification by Faith Alone
The doctrine of justification by faith alone is very relevant to the question of active obedience because if justification is truly by faith alone, then there are no works or upholding of the law that can contribute to one's justification. Therefore, when a person is justified by faith alone, the keeping of the law cannot be on the basis of the sinner’s work, but on the basis of a sinless person’s work. It is the purpose of this section to establish the forensic doctrine of justification by faith alone, so that in the next section I can make a good and necessary inference that Christ is the ground of our active obedience.
The scriptures explicitly teach the forensic doctrine of justification by faith alone. Romans 3:28 says "For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law." Those who disagree with justification by faith alone try to object to this passage on the basis that "works of law", or e;rgwn no,mou, refers only to a specific type of works, therefore not excluding all types of works from justification. The problem with this response becomes apparent as Paul continues his argument about the nature of justification in Romans 4 as indicated by verses 1-2 and 5. Paul reaches a crucial point in verse 5 when he says that a person is ungodly when justified. The Greek word for justified is dikaio,w, and this word means to be declared righteous, to acquit, or to treat as righteous. But what dikaio,w can never mean is to be inwardly transformed to be righteous, and then declared righteous. So when Paul says in Romans 4:5 evpi. to.n dikaiou/nta to.n avsebh/ logi,zetai h` pi,stij auvtou/ eivj dikaiosu,nhn\, he does not mean to suggest that God transforms the ungodly sinner to be righteous and then the individual is declared righteous. Rather, what the text is suggesting is that the ungodly are legally declared righteous by God. This legal context is all the more apparent when one realizes that terms such as count or logi,zomai in Romans 4:5 can carry a legal meaning as well10. In addition, logi,zomai is also used in verse 4 with ovfei,lhma, which is a legal term for debt11. If the ungodly are justified by faith in Romans 4:5, then it would it follow that there are no type of works that have contributed to one's justification. If any work could count toward one’s justification, then it would be the same as the godly being justified, which clearly contradicts Romans 4:5. Therefore, when Paul speaks of e;rgwn no,mou in Romans 3:28, he is excluding all types of works since Romans 4:5 teaches that one is ungodly when justified by faith.
Another argument in favor of justification by faith alone is that works are incompatible with the gracious nature of justification. Romans 3:24 describes justification as ultimately gracious when it says that we have been "justified by his grace". If we then discover that grace excludes all types of works, I will have good reason for thinking that one is justified by faith alone when Paul speaks of being "justified by his grace" in Romans 3:24. According to Romans 11:5-6, if something is on the basis of one's works then it is no longer grace, because grace by definition excludes works as its basis. One may object to my understanding of Romans 11:5-6 by saying that e;rgon is being used to indicate a specific type of work, rather than good and bad works in general. However, the problem with this objection is that in Romans 9:11 e;rgon is being used synonymously with good and bad actions. Moreover, in Romans 4:16 we see Paul teaching that a promise is by faith in order that it can have a gracious character. Grace, in Paul's thought, is such that it excludes works as its basis, yet it is compatible with the nature of faith that he describes in Romans 3 and 4. Therefore, when Paul speaks of justification by grace in Romans 3:24, he is speaking of a justification that excludes all types of works, yet includes faith; this is the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
Justification in Christ Alone
Now that I have established that necessary inference from scripture is legitimate, the requirement of perfect perpetual obedience to the law for justification, and justification by faith alone, we can infer from these three truths that Jesus's active obedience is legally imputed to us in justification. In order for us to be justified, God requires perfect perpetual obedience that cannot be replaced by sacrifice. When one is justified by faith alone, it cannot be because of one's own perfect perpetual obedience. There are two reasons for this assertion. The first is that every person has failed to meet God's demands for perfect perpetual obedience because all persons other than Jesus are sinners (Rom. 3:23; Heb. 4:15). The second reason why it cannot be one's own perfect perpetual obedience after he or she has been justified, is because the doctrine of justification by faith alone requires that no work contributes to justification. Since it cannot be our own perfect perpetual obedience that justifies, it follows that it is another person’s perfect perpetual obedience legally imputed to us in justification. There was only ever one person who was perfectly obedient to God's standards, and the scriptures teach that this is the God-man Jesus Christ (Heb. 4:15; 1 Jo 2:1). Therefore, it follows that Jesus Christ’s prefect perpetual obedience to the law is imputed to us in our justification.
Answering an Objection
In this section I answer an objection to the doctrine of the active obedience of Christ. There are many common objections to this doctrine that are either implicitly answered in this paper, or are not compelling12. In this section I answer a unique objection to the active obedience of Christ that may seem to be compelling.
One of the most compelling objections against the active obedience of Christ is that the doctrine relies on an unbiblical notion of merit13. This argument has been leveled by many who are in involved in the so-called "Federal Vision" movement14. The argument made by federal visionist proponents is that active obedience presupposes merit, and merit is unbiblical, therefore, active obedience is unbiblical. Those who object to this notion of merit often just simply claim that it is not taught in the Bible, thus it is unbiblical15. However, James Jordan goes a step further and argues that Luke 17:7-10 teaches against the idea of meriting or earning a reward16. In this parable Jesus teaches that when a servant obeys his master’s commands, he does not expect a thank you because he is only doing what he ought to do. Likewise, when Christians do what God requires they should think themselves unworthy servants, because they have just done what they ought to do. Jordan then appeals to Philippians 2:7 to warrant the idea that Jesus was a servant, and because he was a servant of God he could not merit anything, because he would only be doing what was commanded of him by the Father17. Jordan then claims the reason we get redemption through Christ is on the basis of the Father's promise to Christ, and not on the basis of the Father rewarding Christ for what he earned.18
The fundamental problem with Jordan's argument from the parable is that this parable is in the context of sin, and it is illegitimately applied to Christ. The first clear indication that this parable is to be seen in the context of sin and fallen humanity is that Jesus is addressing this parable to his disciples, who are sinners (Luke 17:1). The second indication that this is being applied to sinners is that in verse 10 the servants are deemed to be avcrei/oj, which means worthless or unprofitable19. This parable is perfectly compatible with the idea of one meriting salvation as defended in this paper, and it is also compatible with the Reformed Protestant tradition, because only persons who are sinless are in a position to merit an eschatological reward. Furthermore, Jordan's contention that this applies to Jesus on the basis of the Philippians 2:7 language of Jesus being a "servant" is not plausible, because Jesus is indeed a servant, but it does not say that he is a worthless servant. In addition, it hardly seems appropriate to call the second person of the trinity assuming human flesh to be a servant who is worthless or unprofitable, as the Greek word avcrei/oj suggests. Jordan's view of this parable is without any support, and it seems that there are good reasons for doubting his interpretation of this parable. Therefore, this parable cannot serve as an argument to refute the idea that Jesus Christ merited justification for us.
Contrary to the claims made by Jordan and other federal visionists, the idea of merit is directly taught in the scriptures. Romans 4:4-5 contrasts two alternative means of justification: one of works meriting an eschatological reward and the other trusting in God for justification. In verse 4, the first means of justification is by working, and the person who works receives a reward. Paul makes it clear that this reward is not a gift, but it is rather something ovfei,lhma, or owed to the individual who has done these works. The idea that God owes us something for our works is inherent in the concept of meriting, or earning. Furthermore, verse 4 is clearly about justification because this is the context that Paul sets up in 4:1-2. Finally, Paul uses the Greek word de. to contrast verse 4, which speaks of earning a reward by doing works, and verse 5, which speaks of justification by trusting. This suggests that Paul is contrasting two alternative ways to salvation: one meriting justification by works and the other trusting in God for justification20. Therefore, the scriptures clearly teach the category of merit, contrary to the claims made by Jordan and the other federal visionists.
Another reason for thinking that a perfect person can merit justification is as follows: if one rejects the idea of merit, then he or she has ultimately undermined the idea that God is the most perfect being21. For God to be the most perfect being entails that he will have the highest degree of justice. It would be entirely unjust of God not to reward a creature who were to follow all of his demands perfectly. If God did not reward the perfectly good creature with a good reward, then God would not be a perfect being. God is a perfect being, however, so out of the necessity of his nature, he has to reward the perfectly good creature with a good reward. Clearly, when one rejects the idea of a creature meriting by perfect perpetual obedience an eschatological reward from God, then one has ultimately undermined the perfection of God.
In this paper I have demonstrated that the active obedience of Jesus Christ is taught in scripture by a good and necessary inference from the doctrine of justification by faith alone. I established this by giving a biblical and theological justification for the use of a good and necessary inference from scripture to support doctrinal positions. Secondly, I established that justification requires perfect perpetual obedience to the law that cannot be replaced by sacrifice. Thirdly, I established the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Fourthly, I argued that these three truths lead to the conclusion that Christ is the ground of our active obedience, which is legally imputed to us. Lastly, I responded to an objection to this thesis. Throughout this paper we have seen that a rejection of the active obedience of Christ is not only unbiblical, but it either undermines the doctrine of God, or it undermines the doctrine of justification.
Clark, R. Scott. Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry: Essays by the Faculty of Westminster Seminary California. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Pub, 2007.
Husbands, Mark, and Daniel J. Treier. Justification: What's at Stake in the Current Debates. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2004.
Johnson, Gary L. W., and Guy Prentiss Waters. By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2006.
Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans. The new international commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1996.
Morris, Thomas V. Anselmian Explorations: Essays in Philosophical Theology. Notre Dame, Ind: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987.
Sandlin, Andrew. Backbone of the Bible: Covenant in Contemporary Perspective. Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 2004.
Sandlin, Andrew, John H. Armstrong, Don B. Garlington, Mark Horne, Peter J. Leithart, Rich Lusk, and Norman Shepherd. A Faith That Is Never Alone: A Response to Westminster Seminary California. La Grange, Calif: Kerygma Press, 2007.
Spear, Wayne R., and Anthony T. Selvaggio. The Faith Once Delivered: Essays in Honor of Dr. Wayne R. Spear. Westminster Assembly and the Reformed Faith. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub, 2007.
The Westminster Confession of Faith
White, James R. The God Who Justifies. Minneapolis, Minn: Bethany House Publishers, 2001.
Wilkins, J. Steven, and Duane Garner. The Federal Vision. Monroe, La: Athanasius Press, 2004.
1 The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XI Of Justification, Paragraph 1.
2 Husbands, Mark, and Daniel J. Treier. Justification: What's at Stake in the Current Debates. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2004,pg.17-45; Wilkins, J. Steven, and Duane Garner. The Federal Vision. Monroe, La: Athanasius Press, 2004, pg. 192-195; Sandlin, Andrew, John H. Armstrong, Don B. Garlington, Mark Horne, Peter J. Leithart, Rich Lusk, and Norman Shepherd. A Faith That Is Never Alone: A Response to Westminster Seminary California. La Grange, Calif: Kerygma Press, 2007, pg. 249-278.
3 Spear, Wayne R., and Anthony T. Selvaggio. The Faith Once Delivered: Essays in Honor of Dr. Wayne R. Spear. Westminster Assembly and the Reformed Faith. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub, 2007, pg. 171-190.
4 Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans. The new international commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1996, pg. 147-148.
5 Morris, Thomas V. Anselmian Explorations: Essays in Philosophical Theology. Notre Dame, Ind: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987, pg. 10-25.
6Morris, Anselm, 10-25.
7 Johnson, Gary L. W., and Guy Prentiss Waters. By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2006, pg. 136.
8 Johnston, By Faith Alone, 136.
9 Johnston, By Faith Alone, 137.
10 White, James R. The God Who Justifies. Minneapolis, Minn: Bethany House Publishers, 2001, pg. 209.
11White, Justifies, 209.
12 Clark, R. Scott. Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry: Essays by the Faculty of Westminster Seminary California. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Pub, 2007, pg. 252-265.
13Sandlin, Andrew. Backbone of the Bible: Covenant in Contemporary Perspective. Nacogdoches, TX: Covenant Media Press, 2004, pg. 85-101.
14Wilkins, Federal Vision, 192-195
15 Sandlin, Never Alone, 276-278.
16 Wilkins, Federal Vision, 192-193.
17 Wilkins, Federal Vision, 192-193.
18 Wilkins, Federal Vision, 192-193.
20David VanDrunen, Class Lectures on Justification, Fall 2010.
21Morris, Anselm, 10-25.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Dr. Horton's essay is available for free here.
This is for the paper I am writing for Active Obedience in my Holy Spirit Class @ WSCAL, so any feed back would be most appreciated. (Just so everyone knows this is a indirect argument for justification in Christ alone by faith alone because only Christ was perfect to earn justification in our place which is received by us through faith).