Can anyone unpack this sentence by Tom Wright for me, which he posted as a ‘clarification’ in a blog discussion (adding that he doesn’t usually read or respond to blog posts)?
The point … is that by the Spirit those who are already justified by faith have their lives transformed, and the final verdict will be in accordance with that transformation, imperfect though it remains.
As it stands, Wright says that justification is, quite simply, “by faith”, that those who are so justified have their lives transformed by the Spirit, and that this transformation will be the basis of a “final verdict” on their lives.
Now I know that Wright wants to distinguish salvation (how we are saved) from justification (that we are saved). Nevertheless, he does not add a ‘plus’ to his statement about ‘justification by faith’, and I therefore take it he means justification is ‘by faith alone, through grace alone’. I may be wrong, but that is a legitimate inference from the sentence as it stands.
Allowing for the nuances between ‘salvation’ and ‘justification’, I cannot see how this differs from the classical Reformed position, even though Wright says this is based on a misunderstanding of Paul.
As to the ‘final verdict’, if one is justified (ie, in Wright’s terms, a member of the people of God), the content of this verdict can presumably only be with respect to how well, or badly, one has done in regard to living out one’s ‘calling’ into God’s people.
As Jesus taught in the parable of the sower, some will bear fruit thirty fold, some sixty fold and some a hundred fold. Or as Paul remarks in 1 Corinthians,
If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Cor 3:12-15)
According to this, then, the final verdict is on the quality of one’s Spirit-transformed life as a ‘justified’ member of the household of God.
Once again, however, I cannot see any tension between this and the classical Reformed position.
Is it just, then, that Wright and Luther reach the same position by (what Wright thinks ought to be) a different route?
I have a feeling I am missing something, but if Wright’s statement above is a summary of his actual position, I cannot work out what it is!
John RichardsonAnonymous users wishing to paste in the comments box need first to select 'preview', then close the preview box. When posting your comments please give a full name and location. Comments without this information may be deleted.
25 November 2010
25 November 2010