[H.T. The Classic Liberal]
Southern History, American Freedom, Christian Liberty
[H.T. The Classic Liberal]
If there’s one thing about situations such as this TSA feel-up/porno-scanner situation that ends up being good, it’s that it clearly exposes the false dilemma that is presented to us ad nauseum in the media. We are constantly entertained by this notion that Republicans are conservatives and Democrats are liberals. But, my how that changes when a united populace revolts against a state action.
As a “liberal” Democrat, you would think that Hillary Clinton would object to anything that infringes on our civil liberties. But, no. She’s all for having the state strip you naked and grope you. That is… as long as she herself doesn’t have to endure it. And, she doesn’t. In that way, she’s just like all the neocon Bushites out there being interviewed that are defending the practice.
To say that N.T. Wright’s “new perspective on Paul” has caused an uproar in New Testament theological circles would be an understatement. We heard him present his paper on Justification this past Friday morning. I don’t feel qualified to critique it, so I’m re-posting here an excellent critique I just found. One thing to point out is that Wright answered one of the main objections his critics have raised against him, namely his view on the role of works in justification. He clearly stated that justification is by faith alone and that it would be “in accordance with” works, not “on the basis of” works.
Here is the full post from Marc Cortez’s site:
NT Wright at ETS (part 2)
November 20, 2010 by Marc Cortez
N.T. Wright presented the third plenary paper at the Evangelical Theological Society titled, “Justification Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.” And, he started things off by commenting on the title of the paper. He noted that some might assume this was a reference to the fact that the debate seems to be going on and on. But, the real purpose of the title was to say two things about justification. First, as an allusion to Hebrews 13:8, it points to the fact that justification is rooted in Jesus Christ, who is himself the same yesterday, today, and forever. Everything that we can say about God’s people, we say in virtue of who we are in relationship to him. And, second, the title refers to the “triple tense” of justification: we have been justified, we are currently being assured of our justification, and we will be justified in the eschaton. Wright argued that although we often speak of the three tenses of salvation, we rarely apply that same thinking to justification where it is equally important.
Wright moved from there into what he called his “preliminary remarks.” But, for preliminary remarks, they were pretty substantive.
1. We badly need a new ethic of blogging. Wright expressed dismay over the state of Christian blogging and the lack of charity commonly exhibited in the blogosphere. (I think we can all attest to that unfortunate truth.) And, he called on people to blog on what he actually says and not on what they’ve decided in advance that he must actually think. Seems fair.
2. Wright thinks some of his Protestant critics sound rather Catholic in their appeal to tradition. He expressed surprise that some people from Southern Seminary and Tyndale College have accused him of “biblicism” for his rejection of various traditional theological formulations. (Indeed, he commented that he’s not even sure what the term could possibly mean coming as a criticism from such quarters.) And, he pointed out that many of his critics sound like the Catholic theologians of Luther’s day—criticizing him for rejecting long-held teachings of the Church and questioning his appeal to the Bible as having authority over all traditions.
3. Wright argued that the doctrine of Scripture is grounded in the unrepeatable nature of the revelatory events. The life, death, and resurrection of Christ are not simply illustrations of universal truths, but are unrepeatable historical events. Thus, the text has to be understood in that unrepeatable context. We can’t simply take our own questions and situations as normative, forcing the text to speak to them on our terms. Unless we are willing to understand the historical, cultural, and linguistic context of these writings, we will inevitably “demythologize” them.
4. Finally, he responded to accusations that he focuses too much on minute word studies or on big-picture narratives. He commented that it’s rather ironic, then, that he’s critiqued both for focusing too much on details and too much on the big picture. But, he argued that both are clearly needed. We can’t neglect the details of the text if we are to take the text seriously. And, we all bring a big-picture narrative to the text. It’s not a question of whether you do so, but whether your narrative matches the one given in the text itself. (As a side note, he made it very clear in this section that he sees his position as related to but decidedly different from that of E.P. Sanders and is obviously tired of being lumped in one pot with him.)
With these “preliminaries” out of the way, Wright launched into the issue of justification.
1. The relationship of justification and soteriology. I’m going to try and say this more clearly than I think Wright did. In a number of places, Wright suggests that justification is not about soteriology. That is actually an overstatement of his own position. As he made clear in the course of his presentation and subsequent discussion, justification does occur within a broader soteriological framework. So, justification does have to do with salvation. But, Wright’s concern is to emphasize that justification has nothing to do with entering into salvation. And, he wants to make clear that, according to him, when Paul is talking about justification, salvific issues are background rather than foreground issues.
2. The nature of justification. With this in mind, Wright goes on to state clearly his own position that justification is about declaring who is and who isn’t a member of God’s covenant people. Wright spent considerable time on the law court background of justification language, arguing again that this metaphor is central to Paul’s theology of justification and refers to a forensic declaration that a person has a given status (i.e. member of the covenant community). And, he points specifically to Philippians 3 as a clear example where Paul rejects works of the Law as markers of covenantal identity, affirming instead the sufficiency of faith and grace for determining who is one of God’s people.
3. The Reformed background of NPP. Wright reiterated the claim that his view of justification and the Law stands in direct continuity with that of Calvin. I forget where he first made this claim, but he again stated that if Calvin’s view of the had become dominant in Protestantism rather than the Lutheran view, a new perspective on Paul would not have been necessary.
4. The importance of not “demythologizing” the text. Wright referred to this idea several times. By this he means that the traditional Protestant reading of certain texts tends to downplay the historical particulars of the situation, focusing instead on their transcendent, universally applicable, and often abstract truths. Wright certainly favors considering how these texts apply to us. But he wants to make sure that we’ve taken the historical realities of the text seriously first. So, he rejects any attempt to turn Abraham in Romans 4 or Galatians 3 into a mere example of faith. Instead, he contends that we need to see Abraham himself as central to Paul’s argument. Similarly, he thinks that we too quickly move past the sociological implications of Galatians 2 to what we think are the universal soteriological principles. Such moves are what Wright calls “demythologization” – ignoring the historical particularities in favor of abstract universalizations.
5. The main point of justification. Wright concluded this section with a brief comment on the idea that justification language is always bound up with Israel and Messiah. There simply is no way to understand what Paul means by justification without this context.
Wright’s second main section dealt with the language of justification. Or, more specifically, with the question of what “reckoned as righteous” meant for Paul.
1. The covenantal background of the reckoning. Probably the most interesting move in this section was Wright’s argument that “reckoned as righteous” refers to the gift of covenant community. Wright argued that both Psalm 106:31 and Genesis 15:6 connect the reckoning to reward of covenant community. Thus, Paul’s reference to Abraham being reckoned righteous apart from works does not refer to an imputation of Christ’s righteousness (more on this later), but to the fact that Abraham was blessed with covenant community because of his faith-response to God’s covenantal faithfulness (i.e. God’s “righteousness”).
2. The definition of “righteousness”. Wright also made clear that he understands “righteousnesss” to refer to “covenantalness.” That is, whenever righteousness is used, it refers to the covenantal relations in some way. When used of God, it refers to his covenantal faithfulness; when used of humans it refers to status within the covenant.
3. The law court analogy. Wright returned to the law court analogy here to explain that the ancient law courts always involve one person against another person (as opposed to modern law courts which are often state vs. person) in front of a judge who makes the final declaration. So, when God declares a person “righteous,” he is simply declaring a verdict in their favor. There is no “transfer” of righteousness (i.e. imputation) as though righteousness were a thing that could be passed from one person to another. So, the idea is that all humans are in the dock before God, but God has made covenantal promises to his people. So, the question is, how is God to work this out without abandoning his covenantal promises or declaring an unjust verdict? And, of course, the answer is given in the Messiah as the one who fulfills the purpose of humanity and renews the covenant people.
Wright then moved to an exegesis of particular passages. Unfortunately, by this point in the paper, he was running pretty short on time. So, he could only offer a few cursory comments.
1. The exegetical basis of the argument. Wright started by arguing strongly that the debate should be driven by exegesis rather than tradition. And, he suggested that his critics need to spend more time on exegetical arguments, explaining how they read key passages and why his own readings are inadequate.
2. 2. Romans 4:4-8. Wright started to get into this passage, but ended up cutting himself off short. Basically he argued that the “reward” needs to be understood in the context of Genesis 15:1, where the reward is covenant family. And, the “ungodly” (as in Galatians 3) are the people who have not yet been included in the covenantal family. So, Romans 4 is essentially the same as Genesis 15—God promises that he will create a covenantal family that will encompass all the nations of the earth through grace and faith.
Finally, Wright moved to a section on theological synthesis.
1. Final justification. In one of the more helpful parts of the paper, Wright made it clear that he does not think final justification comes “on the basis of” works, but “in accordance with” works. This is the first time that I’ve heard Wright clearly articulate that final justification is not grounded in works. He does think that the final declaration of “justified” will be given with reference to works (cf. Rom. 2; 2 Cor 5; Rom. 14), but clearly states that Christ alone is the ground of final justification and that we will not earn or merit it.
2. Assurance of justification. Wright was also very clear that his position should not cause anxiety about current justification. Justification is grounded in the work of Christ and applied through the work of the Spirit. So, I trust in both Jesus and the Spirit for the assurance of my own justification. As Wright states, you only get to Romans 8:39 by working through 8:1-30. God’s people have assurance now through the Spirit. Thus, future justification does not endanger present justification by faith in any way. According to Wright, “The verdict of the present is firm and secure….The pardon is free and firm and trustworthy. You can bet your life on it….Following that final verdict we will be more happy but not more secure.”
3. Incorporation in Christ. I wish he had discussed this more, but he concluded this section by saying that he was fully in agreement with Kevin Vanhoozer that incorporation into Christ and adoption into God’s family are critical motifs with the potential for drawing together the various proposals. (The paper that he’s referring to is the one that Vanhoozer presented at the Wheaton conference. You can listen to it here.)
Wright concluded the paper with a powerful proclamation of the Gospel. He is obviously frustrated that people think that his approach undermines the Gospel. To the contrary, he contends that his approach fully affirms the Gospel of Jesus and the necessity of forgiveness, reconciliation, and redemption for salvation.
This post is already way too long as it is. So, I’ll wait until after I’ve summarized the responses before offering some evaluative comments of my own.
There might not be a more clear example of the difference between government and free market than these two story lines going on in the media this week: the Amazon pedophile book issue and the TSA naked body scanner/groping thing. In each case you have public outrage and takedown demands from the masses. How did each respond?
With Amazon it took less than 24 hours to concede to it’s customers and pull the offending book off it’s virtual shelves.
The market exists to satisfy it’s customers. The state exists to extort and control it’s “customers.” For all of you big government neo-liberals out there that love to rail about the evils of Walmart, remember this: when you complain about Walmart’s policies, they don’t imprison, taze or kill you. And for all of you big military loving neo-conservatives out there that think the state must “keep us safe,” this is what you get. The state doesn’t deal in common sense or moderation. It deals in brutality and force. And it’s the existence of a huge military that gives the state the balls to do things like this to it’s own people.
I’ve already decided that I’ll never fly again until this stuff stops, if ever. There’s no way in hell I’m letting some government thug molest my kid right in front of me or put them through some child porn scanner. These are scary times folks.
The whole TSA naked body scanner groping thing is such a perfect analogy for voting. When you go to the airport, you get two options: get your picture taken naked, or get your genitals groped. Now, the country is outraged. But, if they were to put those two options on a ballot and let you choose which one you wanted on November 2nd, we’d call it democracy.
“The TSA chose Meg McLain for special screening. They wanted her to go through the new porno-scanners. When she opted out, TSA agents raised an enormous ruckus. When she asked some question about what they planned to do to her, they flipped out. TSA agents yelled at her, handcuffed her to a chair, ripped up her ticket, called in 12 local Miami cops and finally escorted her out of the airport. Listen to her story as she told it on radio show Free Talk Live last night. Things are truly getting scary.”
If you haven’t heard by now, the Fed is getting ready to pump another $600 billion dollars into the money supply. Here’s the writeup:
The Federal Reserve launched a controversial new policy on Wednesday, committing to buy $600 billion more in government bonds by the middle of next year in an attempt to breathe new life into a struggling U.S. economy.
The decision, which takes the Fed into largely uncharted waters, is aimed at further lowering borrowing costs for consumers and businesses still suffering in the aftermath of the worst recession since the Great Depression.
The U.S. central bank said it would buy about $75 billion in longer-term Treasury bonds per month. It said it would regularly review the pace and size of the program and adjust it as needed depending on the path of the recovery.
And, the Fed shows that they don’t understand, or are unwilling to acknowledge that this is inflation. They continue to talk in terms of “measuring” inflation:
In its post-meeting statement, the Fed … said measures of inflation were “somewhat low.”
But, inflation isn’t just something that happens after you increase the money supply. Inflation IS the increase of the money supply. Let’s look at an example. Say that you have a tiny economy with only 2 people. Person A has $100 and Person B has $100. Every product in the market of this tiny economy is valued in terms of a total money supply of $200. So, let’s say that in this scenario a pack of gum costs .02 cents. Now, out of the blue Person’s A and B wake up one morning and find that a miracle has happened and they both have $200. The money supply has exactly doubled, and they both know this. You can expect that pack of gum is going to cost .04 cents now. Nothing has changed with supply and demand or product quality or anything else. The only thing that has changed is the amount of available money in the system. The price increase of the pack of gum is the result of inflation. It’s not the inflation itself. The inflation was the increase in the money supply.
The illustration becomes a little clearer if you stop thinking about money, and think of it in terms of real goods. For instance, think about trading baseball cards with your buddy. If you and your buddy both have a Mark McGuire rookie card, it might take 10 other cards to get him to trade you that one card. But, if you both have two McGuire rookies, it might only require 5 or so regular cards to get him to trade it. In other words, the McGuire card is being devalued in some proportion to it’s supply. The more of that card you have, the less valuable it is, in terms of it’s relation to other cards. That means that a McGuire rookie “buys” fewer cards than it did when there were fewer of them. In economic terms this is called marginal utility(we’ve talked about this before). And it applies to money just like everything else. Money isn’t some special thing that doesn’t have to obey the fundamental economic laws. The marginal utility of money goes down in proportion to how much is available.
Obviously, a real economy is infinitely more complex than our little examples here, but the fundamentals are exactly the same. The only difference in a real economy is all the different mechanisms that, in effect, “hide” the money supply from the market. It takes longer to see the results of inflation. But, no matter how much you hear about inflation being low, look at the money supply. As long as it continues to go up, inflation is happening.
Chris Matthews: “We were all taught in graduate school [that] you have to run a big deficit during a grand recession.”
Well, that explains a lot. I guess by “we” he means his fellow elitists. And yes, those would be the same elitists he chastises Obama for being a member of in the very same video.
Alright, it’s election day, so let’s take a gander at a sample ballot from my great state of Alabama. I have no intention of voting, but let’s just take a quick look at what our options are:
Governor: Ron Sparks(D) or Robert Bentley(R)
Lt. Governor(whatever that is): Jim Folsom, Jr.(D) or Kay Ivey(R)
U.S. Senator: William Barnes(D) or Richard Shelby(R)
U.S. Representative: Spencer Bachus(R) (the only one listed)
State Senator: Wallace Wyatt, Jr.(D) or Del Marsh(R)
…[a bunch of other people]…
When you look at a ballot like this, think about what you are actually participating in. Someone you don’t know has given you a list of a half dozen names. And you are expected to decide from amongst these names who is going to rule over you and decide the course of your life. From whom or from where do these people derive that right? Who are these people anyway? I don’t like anybody on this list. I never voted for any of them in the primary, so why do I have to do whatever they decide?
I’m supposed to decide between a man that wants to take a lot of my money and freedom away, and another guy who wants to take even more of my money and freedom away?
I choose not to participate in this phony charade we call voting. Don’t blame me. I didn’t vote.