This blog is devoted to discussing the pursuit of eternal life.
Discussion and participation by readers is desired,
but contributions should correlate to the book,
The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology
of Perseverance & Assurance

Thomas R. Schreiner
& Ardel B. Caneday

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Brief Tribute to Some Who taught Me but did not know They taught Me

As maturity has begun to sneak up on me, I find myself engaging in more protracted reflection. With reflection comes insights and wisdom that would have served me so well when I was younger and in need of such sagacity that we rarely acquire apart from experiencing life's exigencies. Not that any of you readers should think that I have anything of great profundity to impart, but I do want to open a window upon my own learning, at least a crack, to help others reflect upon how grateful we ought to be for others who have gone before us for imparted knowledge and understanding, beliefs that have become deeply integrated convictions in our own hearts to such an extent that we easily forget how the seeds of these convictions first got planted into our hearts.

Because we live incrementally, we learn incrementally. Because we learn incrementally, often, we are not self-consciously aware how much insight, wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and belief we acquire from those who bequeath to us their time, devotion, depth of understanding, breadth of wisdom, keenness of insight, and strength of belief whether from conversations, from the lectern, from the pulpit, from books, or from passing remarks. Such has been the case with repeated frequency for me within recent years. An exchange of comments here has triggered another episode of reflections and of gratitude for me. I post this principally for Andrew, but open it for all my readers.

Routinely, people who have not come to know me very well falsely assume that my beliefs concerning biblical soteriology, particularly concerning justification, derive from the so-called New Pauline Perspective. Because I articulate convictions that at times intersect with things that N. T. Wright expresses in lectures, sermons, talks, and books, many folks are inclined to suppose that Wright is the source of my theological expressions. This is not so, though indeed there are several points at which our beliefs do intersect.

It is time for me to declare myself plainly and forthrightly. I do so in part in a comment that I posted to Andrew when I made the following statement:

Here, again, it is not Wright that shaped my understanding but Geerhardus Vos and Richard Gaffin have both influenced me considerably. Thus, when I wrote my dissertation concerning Gal 3, several years ago now, I recognized the vast interplay between justification and life in Paul's argument in Gal 3. In other words, this perspective is hardly a "new perspective on Paul" as some might suppose. I have held this understanding since I read The Centrality of the Resurrection: A study in Paul's soteriology when it was published in 1978, 31 years ago.

I owe much of my learning and understanding to others. I am grateful for what I have been able to glean from N. T. Wright and other contemporaries. However, the formative years for me predated the era of the New Pauline Perspective. Richard Gaffin, Herman Ridderbos, George Ladd, Geerhardus Vos, and Anthony Hoekema all have played and continue to play major roles in (1) posing the necessary questions, (2) inciting the crucial deep thinking, (3) nagging my mind and heart with biblical evidence, (4) forming my own critical faculty, (5) convicting me of misguided notions, and (6) requiring my own heart to come to rest on bedrock biblical propositions of abiding and enduring conviction.

In this tribute to my major mentors I cannot currently take time to provide evidences of how each one has influenced me. So, I offer the following from one of only two of the above named men whom I have met in the flesh, Richard Gaffin. Consider the following and see how these theological articulations bleed through my expressions.

All soteric experience derives from solidarity in Christ's resurrection and involves existence in the new creation age, inaugurated by his resurrection. As Romans 8:30 reflects, the present as well as the future of the believer is conceived of eschatologically. This understanding of present Christian existence as an (eschatological) tension between resurrection realized and yet to be realized is totally foreign to the traditional ordo salutis. in the latter, justification, adoption, sanctification (and regeneration) are deprived of any eschatological significance and any really integral connection with the future. Eschatology enters the ordo salutis only as glorification, standing at a more or less isolated distance in the future, is discussed within the locus on "last things."

Nothing distinguishes the traditional ordo salutis more than its insistence that the justification, adoption, and sanctification which occur at the inception of the application of redemption are separate acts. If our interpretation is correct, Paul views them not as distinct acts but as distinct aspects of a single act. The significant difference here is not simply that Paul does not have the problem that faces the traditional ordo salutis in having, by its very structure, to establish the pattern of priorities (temporal? logical? causal?) which obtains among these acts. Even more basic and crucial is the fact that the latter is confronted with the insoluble difficulty of trying to explain how these acts are related to the act of being joined existentially to Christ. If at the point of inception this union is prior (and therefore involves the possession in the inner man of all that Christ is as resurrected), what need is there for the others acts? Conversely, if the other acts are in some sense prior, is not union improperly subordinated and its biblical significance severely attenuated, to say the least? The structure and problematics of the traditional ordo salutis prohibits making an unequivocal statement concerning that on which Paul stakes everything in the application of redemption, namely union with the resurrected Christ. The first and, in the final analysis, the only question for the Pauline ordo concerns the point at which and the conditions under which incorporation with the life-giving Spirit takes place. . . .

Unlike the traditional ordo salutis Paul explicates the inception of the application of redemption without recourse to the terminology of regeneration or new birth understood as "a communication of a new principle of life." As I have tried to show, above, the passage in Ephesians 2:1ff., usual appealed to in support of this conception, has in view rather an experience with which faith is associated instrumentally. . . .

[W]ithin the resurrection soteriology developed by Paul, as Romans 1:4 and especially I Corinthians 15:45ff. make clear, the present experience of the believer is not only eschatologically conceived but cosmically qualified. It is existence in the new creation, the age-to-come (The Centrality of the Resurrection, 138-140).

Gaffin's book was reprinted under the title, Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul's Soteriology. Recently Richard Gaffin has given his latest expression concerning these matters in another form under the title, By Faith Not By Sight. I believe that this was first presented as a series of lectures at Oak Hill College, London.

1 comment:

Bruce J. Russell, Sr. said...

Ardel: I'm curious about the history of N.T. Wright's proposal about the structure of Romans where he sees Romans 6 as Exodus, Romans 7 as Sinai and Romans 8 as the Promised Land.

It seems that typical Reformed and Evangelical views of the structure of Romans are more propositional and focused primarily on the individual, while this view has the power of literary narrative, promotes the unity of the bible, and places individual salvation in its historical and cosmic context.

Were Richard Gaffin, Herman Ridderbos, George Ladd, Geerhardus Vos, and Anthony Hoekema seeing Romans like this? (I don't have time to read for myself!)