18 September 2011

On Divine Embassies

The Father sends the Son to reclaim human nature by uniting our nature to His Divine Person, and suffering, dying, and rising in it to forgive sin and destroy death.

The Father sends the Spirit to reclaim human persons by uniting them to His Son through living faith.

I think that's an insight from Lossky, but I'm not sure anymore.  What I AM sure of, is that it is accurate.


Drew said...

Yes, Lossky. I think that's right.

On a pretty unrelated note, I thought this article would interest you:

Justification by Faith: A Patristic Doctrine

I'd like your thoughts on it — if you're willing and able — particularly on his critical view that the gospel must be articulated in terms of the imputation of an alien or external righteousness to the sinner.

Drew said...

That wasn't worded very well. What I meant to say is 'his criticism of the view that the gospel . . .'

I love your blog and am a regular reader, Pastor William. Keep it up.

William Weedon said...


No time to engage this properly. Let me say that "alien" righteousness clearly means a righteousness which does not originate in me, in my actions or doings. This is what St. Paul taught in Philippians 3: "that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, *not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith." I'm sure you are familiar with how St. John Chrysostom explicated this, but it might bear repeating: “And he well said, 'a righteousness of mine own,' not that which I gained by labor and toil, but that which I found from grace. If then he who was so excellent is saved by grace, much more are you. For since it was likely they would say that the righteousness which comes from toil is the greater, he shows that it is dung in comparison with the other. For otherwise I, who was so excellent in it, would not have cast it away, and run to the other. But what is that other? That which is from the faith of God, i.e. it too is given by God. This is the righteousness of God; this is altogether a gift. And the gifts of God far exceed those worthless good deeds, which are due to our own diligence.”

Note here that St. John does not interpret "of the law" in any other way than "worthless good deeds, which are due to our own diligence." Hence, as he says, it is all gift, and gift received by faith.

Does the doctrine of imputation of alien righteousness then reduce the matter to a legal fiction - that is always the concern. If it is a legal fiction or a platonic reality (i.e., not really real!) that would be diabolical. The Lutheran Symbols are very clear that this results in an actual change - an actual putting to death and an actual making alive. Where such does not occur, we must be very clear: justification by faith has not happened. The imputation of this righteousness literally results in the old man's demise and the raising up of a new man.

So, when you hear "alien" do not hear it as that which never becomes yours. Hear it as that which comes to you from the outside - a gift that faith receives and which begins literally transforming you inside out. So Luther could describe it in the SA under repentance: "In Christians this repentance continues until death. For through one's entire life, repentance contends with the sin remaining in the flesh. Paul testifies that he wars with the law in his members not by his own powers, but by the gift of the Holy Spirit that follows the forgiveness of sins. This gift (the Spirit!) *daily cleanses and sweeps out the remaining sins and works to make a person truly pure and holy.*" Yet, the Spirit does this cleansing literally under the pardon of God that has declared us holy, without blemish, and beloved in Christ. That gift is what faith holds to by the Spirit's power; and faith, holding to that gift, is active in the non-stop warfare upon the sin that remains in our flesh until the day we die.

Hope that was somewhat helpful. No time for much more at the moment.

William Weedon said...

Said another way: we are exactly as He declares us to be; it's just that we live in the overlap time in which that has not been fully realized IN US in the way it is realized BEFORE HIM. The result is that we have a joyous struggle to become who we already are; and we cooperate with the Spirit in that struggle and find that to be healing itself.