09 February 2010

An Invitation to Evaluate

I came across this catechetical commentary on Romans 3:21-25 today:

What then is the justice of Christ? Above all, it is the justice that comes from grace, where it is not man who makes amends, heals himself and others. The fact that “expiation” flows from the “blood” of Christ signifies that it is not man’s sacrifices that free him from the weight of his faults, but the loving act of God who opens Himself in the extreme, even to the point of bearing in Himself the “curse” due to man so as to give in return the “blessing” due to God (cf. Gal 3, 13-14). But this raises an immediate objection: what kind of justice is this where the just man dies for the guilty and the guilty receives in return the blessing due to the just one? Would this not mean that each one receives the contrary of his “due”? In reality, here we discover divine justice, which is so profoundly different from its human counterpart. God has paid for us the price of the exchange in His Son, a price that is truly exorbitant. Before the justice of the Cross, man may rebel for this reveals how man is not a self-sufficient being, but in need of Another in order to realize himself fully. Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one’s own need – the need of others and God, the need of His forgiveness and His friendship. So we understand how faith is altogether different from a natural, good-feeling, obvious fact: humility is required to accept that I need Another to free me from “what is mine,” to give me gratuitously “what is His.”

Now, no fair googling and seeing who wrote it. The question is: what do you think of this person's analysis? Does this person do justice to the text?

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

You should not have told me not to google it. Don't you know the law increases sin?

Tom Fast

Becky said...

Okay, after I answered, I Googled. So as not to spoil the fun for other non-googlers, I'll just say this:

:)

Becky said...

Oh no! Cyber glitch. My answer didn't post! I'll just tell you how I had responded when I see you next time.

Ryan said...

My first thought was that the writer, when he/she asks the question:

"But this raises an immediate objection: what kind of justice is this where the just man dies for the guilty and the guilty receives in return the blessing due to the just one? Would this not mean that each one receives the contrary of his “due”?"

Is completely ignoring/unaware of the concept of imputation. That is that our sin was imputed to Christ so that he was no longer sinless and in fact "deserved" the punishment received. As well as the fact that Christ's righteousness is imputed to us so that we, as Christians deserve the "blessing due to the just one."

Past Elder said...

I recuse myself.

To answer the question "Does this person do justice to the text" with more than a Yes or No would spoil the fun.

So, without further commentary, my answer is, No.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Yes, justice has been done.

Dixie said...

Depends on what you mean by justice... :P

Seriously...I liked the perspective on divine justice. I think it was St. Issac the Syrian who said never call God just (and I first heard that reference in a sermon by a Lutheran pastor :). Surely by our standards of justice He is not...He is more than just.

Pastor Peters said...

It is not fair for me because I knew who the author was (is) but at the same time it raised a good question in my mind... are we colored by who says something so much that we do not listen to what is said...

This is a good catechetical commentary -- it is sermonic, instructional, devotional, and true... no one would suggest it mines every aspect of the text but what it teaches is not only true, it is elegant and eloquent...

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

It's ambiguous, as usual. Lots of people can read lots of stuff into this.

Rev Rydecki said...

I knew who wrote this, so I did google the rest of the document to read it in context. Of course it matters who said something, because words can have different meanings. Knowing where a person is coming from is important.

If by "justice," the author had meant "a righteous standing before God," or "an innocent verdict in God's courtroom," then what he said would be pretty good.

But that's not what the context reveals. The author includes what we normally call "sanctification" in the term "justice." According to his view, our justification includes our works of love for the poor and our striving to create a just society, all of which has been "graciously" enabled by the sacrifice of Christ. Grace has been "freely" given us in order to make us capable of doing the works that make us "just" before God.

No, this is not good. But it does sound familiar...

William Weedon said...

My take:

it gets the sweet swap down beautifully
it addresses well that God's justice (righteousness) differs from handing over what's due

I honestly don't know what "realize himself fully" means. I also think that it misses the boat when it says "it is not man who make amends" in that it is precisely AS MAN that our Lord offers His sacrifice.

But overall, the clear confession of sweet swap was, well, rather sweet!

William Weedon said...

P.S. It also (at least in this section) does not mention the place and role of faith in regards to this swap taking place: "to be received by faith" and "so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

Bryce P Wandrey said...

William,
This exercise has reminded me of what Piotr published on LT: An Online Journal last year sometime: Spot the Heretic!.

I wonder, with Pastor Peters, how often we allow our knowledge of who the author is dictate what we hear (if it is in the text or not) when we read or listen. Probably more than we know or sometimes, as much as we want.

stb said...

What does the word "means" mean? "Faith means"? Is that like "faith results in" or "faith could be defined as"....? Certainly, faith results in self-awareness. As Gerhardt says in one of his meditations as faith increases contrition increases (or something like that). But faith has more to do with trust in the truly Other whose Otherness is pro me. It has to do with waiting for and clinging to God's objective self-revelation and trusting that God cannot deny himself.

I agree with what other posters have stated, namely context matters. Does this author consistently psychologize justification? Doing that always tends toward some sort of gnosticism as if the Gospel were "the secret."

-Shawn Barnett

Past Elder said...

The philosophical language used to express the Gospel meaning is drawn from existentialism and phenomenology.

It is fine to use more current terms to help express the Gospel. There is a difficulty though in that while Platonic and Aristotelian thought allows for an objective order beyond Man, existentialism and phenomenology do not.

So, does this person do justice to the text? I modify my answer: Hell no.

Bryce P Wandrey said...

Let's pretend I don't know if the author typically... Why? Because the exercise was to judge the thought apart from the thinker.

This is possible, at least to an extent. This may even be desirable...

Take for instance Kierkegaard's use of indirect communication. He maintained that at times self-concealment is far more desirable than the self-revelation of oneself in authorship. Agree or disagree with his philosophy/theology, he has a point.

William Weedon said...

I'm in huge sympathy here with Bryce and Fr. Peters. Big surprise, I know. :)

For those who haven't googled, it's Benedict XVI's catechesis on Romans 3. I'd argue that the context makes it even more remarkable. I think that when a man reads as much Luther as he has, some of it just sticks. Sweet swap is pure Luther (though also in the Epistle to Diognetus), and so is pulling in that Gal. passage to illuminate Romans 3.

No, boys and girls, it does not mean that the pope has become a Lutheran (fat chance!). It does mean, though, that sometimes the text is just so powerful that the Holy Spirit's good news bursts through and that's that.

Scott said...

Reading this blog and the wonderful comments has been a very beneficial exercise. Thanks to all!

Past Elder said...

The Holy Spirit would burst through better without all the churchy version of existentialism and phenomenology, which is an improvement over the overlay of scholasticism only in that it is more recent and therefore more familiar.

stb said...

Bryce,

The exercise must be broken with to engage in worth-while criticism. Concerning your point about indirect communication, I have never known Ratzinger to write pseudonymously. In fact, in another work "Jesus of Nazereth, he writes "This book is...my personal search 'for the face of the Lord'"(the quote is on back sleeve of the edition that I have.) Furthermore, when Kierkegaard used indirect discourse his pseudonyms had nomina, very revealing ones at that. The work of each psuedononym was extensive beyond that of a sound-bite size quote. Moreover, each work should be considered within the whole of Kierkegaard's corpus. He's driving at something over time.

Arguably, Kierkegaard was strongly influenced by J.G. Hamann. (I cannot how he wasn't). And Hamann (who also wrote pseudonomously) makes alot of knowing a person and that passions in the art of hermeneutics. Here is a quote from his "Socratic Memorablia": "The general public in Greece abandoned the thoughts of Aristotle concerning the natural history of the beasts, but Alexander understood it. Where a common reader might see only mildew, the affect of your friendship, my sirs, will perhaps uncover in this pamphlet a microscopic forest."

It's a great read. Check it out: http://books.google.com/books?id=k5U_AAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=inauthor:Johann+inauthor:Hamann&lr=&as_drrb_is=q&as_minm_is=0&as_miny_is=&as_maxm_is=0&as_maxy_is=&as_brr=1&cd=7#v=onepage&q=&f=false

page 67ff.