Exegetical Response to Leithart, Part 2

In this post, I will address 1 Samuel 24:1-22. This is the amusing story of how David had Saul in his power, when Saul was “relieving himself,” but did not take advantage of the situation in order to make himself king, but honored the Lord’s anointed. David’s righteousness is surely defined by verse 6: “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” I will argue that this is an application of the fifth commandment and is thus primarily about David’s relationship to the law of God. Leithart’s position is that this use of tsedeq counts as an example of the meaning “count as a friend.” Leithart’s own words: “David did not count him as an enemy, but as a friend, and that witnessed to David’s undiminished loyalty to the king” (p. 210). I don’t doubt that Leithart would acknowledge that the fifth commandment is involved. But I think that he would draw different conclusions from that fact than I would.

The fifth commandment has traditionally been interpreted as including submission to the proper authorities in government (as being ordained by God). This is why verse 6 is so crucial. I am a bit puzzled, frankly, as to why Leithart does not discuss this verse in connection with his claim, since I believe it challenges his claim. Verse 6 clearly connects David’s contemplated action with his relationship with the Lord and with the Lord’s law. The Lord God Himself ordained that Saul should be king. He is the Lord’s anointed, mentioned twice in verse 6. And surely the phrase “the Lord forbid” should clue us into the fact that David believes it is unthinkable for any attack to be made on the Lord’s anointed. In fact, the Lord did forbid any attack upon Saul. He forbade it in the fifth commandment. So, David’s relationship to the law is clearly the substance of verses 17-18, where Saul acknowledges that David upheld the law. The law is never far away from Saul’s speech here in this chapter. Now, surely we can see that interpersonal relations between Saul and David are surely important here. That is evident from verse 17, where the reasoning for Saul’s declaration is that David has upheld the second great commandment by loving Saul, his neighbor, as himself. However, it is the conclusions that Leithart draws from this that I challenge. His argument goes like this: tsedeq is here used in a broader way than a judicial setting (although he clearly acknowledges that this is at least somewhat judicial: his term is “quasi-judicial”); it is used in an interpersonal setting; if justification terms can be used in broader settings than judicial, then justification itself has more dimensions than judicial. There are two things that need to be said here. First of all is the hermeneutical point that I have already made: just because a term is used in broader senses than just one meaning does not mean that the doctrine of justification needs to be broadened. Words are not equal to concepts. Justification can be explained without any reference to tsedeq the term. I could say “Christ’s law-keeping, or merit is imputed to us and our sins are imputed to Christ when God graciously gives us faith.” The word-concept fallacy is a fundamental fallacy that Leithart makes here. It is tightly related to the illegitimate totality transfer explained in previous posts. Secondly, the setting is more than quasi-judicial here. David explicitly calls on God to judge (vs. 12) between Saul and David. How much more judicial does it need to be? Are we assuming that it has to be in a courtroom in order for it to be completely judicial? The Lord doesn’t need a courtroom! Furthermore, it can be argued that many if not most judicial scenes in the OT don’t actually take place in a courtroom. Think, for instance, of the standing stones. They are placed in whatever location it was thought to be needed, and they served as a testimony (see Joshua 22:10-34, for a good example). So, the Samuel passage does not prove what Leithart thinks it does.

(update): I agree with Pastor Shaun. I hope some FV guy takes it up, since these are really, really good questions.



  1. pduggan said,

    June 27, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    Actually, leithart is contrasting the use of tzedeq by Saul with a formal judicial declaration that David is legally innocent.

    Saul is king, but his declaration takes place in an informal quasi-judicial setting, and the form of it is personal and relational (“my father” “my son”, “please don’t kill my kids”, etc)

    Also, note that Leithart isn’t making any claim that we need to broaden our definition of justification before God with reference to how he specifically sees a broader understanding in the two passages.

  2. seth2958 said,

    June 27, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    Your point about building upon doctrines using single words is excellent. It is through this folly from which many errant doctrines spring. We can’t look at words in a vacuum. Context is everything.

    Theological Satire

  3. greenbaggins said,

    June 27, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    Thanks, Seth. Your blog is quite entertaining, Seth. For everyone who wants to laugh at evangelical silliness, take a break from my blog, and go over to Seth’s.

  4. Xon said,

    June 27, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    I can’t resist the irony of your point though, Seth, in light of the way these FV discussions often go. I have been accused of being a liberal, an Arminian, and a sophist when I have insisted that we take words in their proper context when trying to determine what FV writers actually mean by such-and-such controversial point that they make. Alas…

  5. seth2958 said,

    June 27, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    Thanks so much for your kind comments greenbaggins. =)

    Theological Satire

  6. Lee said,

    June 27, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    I am not saying I agree with Leithart’s position here, but I do have a question about this passage that I think should play a role in this debate. David is saying the Saul is the Lord’s anointed, but is not David the Lord’s anointed as well? Is not David the true king of Israel at this point in time? You state that iti is a fifth commandment issue, but David is the king, not Saul. Why is it a fifth commandment issue not to kill Saul, but not a fifth commandment issue to lead a mini-revolt against Saul that includes all of societies down trodden (see I Samuel 22:1-5)?

  7. June 28, 2007 at 8:25 am

    And I thought all along you liked being a liberal Arminian sophist!

  8. Xon said,

    June 28, 2007 at 8:28 am

    Well, it’s nice to get the attention, Gary. No press is bad press, as they say.

  9. June 28, 2007 at 8:40 am

    To show you what good sport I am, sent me your address and I get a copy of the Warfield book that I edited in the mail-there still may be hope for you yet.To you want it autographed?

  10. Matt said,

    June 29, 2007 at 9:31 am

    Is this it? Do you plan a more thorough critic of Leithart? So far I am not really impressed. How many more post can we expect on this topic?

  11. greenbaggins said,

    June 29, 2007 at 9:37 am

    Since it is impossible to impress you, Matt, I don’t feel all that motivated to try. However, I am going to do a post on every passage that Leithart treats in that article, showing why Leithart’s exegesis is off.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    June 29, 2007 at 9:39 am

    Lee, you raise an interesting point, but I think you’ve overstated it a bit. Surely we would agree in saying that David was king by right (de jure). However, Saul was still the king de facto. Otherwise, why would David’s reason in verse 6 make any sense?

  13. Matt said,

    June 29, 2007 at 10:29 am

    (Not the same Matt as #10. I’m the one who wrote the still-unanswered comments on part 1 of this series of posts.)

    We hold to a religion revealed in a sacred text. The Reformers claimed to derive their concept of justification from how words were used in Scripture. Leithart’s aim is also to construct a concept of justification directly from an examination of Scripture. If that’s the “word-concept” fallacy, then we might as well throw in the towel and abandon Sola Scriptura.

  14. June 29, 2007 at 3:28 pm

    I’m confused. Sola scriptura says something about Scripture’s authority. Logical fallacies (the word-concept fallacy being just one) tell us something about how to interpret that authority. Upholding logic as a hermeneutical tool is necessary in order to understand and apply our authority. No undermining of sola scriptura here.

  15. June 29, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    If I can step back for just a minute, I think Lane’s point here is still established even if he is wrong on some of the exegetical minutiae. Remember what the thrust of these posts is – to demonstrate that Leithart’s thesis is false concerning the doctrine of justification. His claim was this:

    My argument in this paper is that by ignoring the “improper uses” of justification and by failing to take into account the larger biblical theology of justification that these uses imply, the Reformation doctrine of justification has illegitimately narrowed and to some extent distorted the biblical doctrine

    Now, anyone can see that pduggan’s post (#1) is flat-out wrong. Leithart is trying to claim that this passage should compel us to widen our doctrine of justification, which we have supposedly “illegitimately narrowed” because we have “ignored improper uses.” So let’s keep our eye on the ball here. This passage simply does not do that. What David was talking about in I Samuel is not the same concept as what Paul was talking about in Romans. We ought not import meaning from one context (and, I would add, a completely different language) into a similar word used in a different context.

  16. Matt said,

    June 29, 2007 at 8:02 pm


    On your view, how are we to settle the issue of whether Leithart is bringing in instances of righteousness-language that are instances of a different concept from those in Romans, or whether Lane has isolated the instances in Romans without any good reason, and is wrongly excluding other passages (like the ones he has dismissed so far), lest they mar his overly-tidy concept?

  17. June 30, 2007 at 10:38 pm

    Well, not to be too simplistic, but context should settle the matter as to what concept is at work at particular points. In Romans 4 Paul is talking about the sinner’s acquittal before the divine law-court. And this comes on the heels of Romans 1-3, where the problem is how sinners can be justly acquitted rather than be condemned. So this is a legal/judicial problem, not a transformational one. Especially since this is a justification of the “ungodly” who “does not work.” So there is a hedge around the concept Paul is talking about here. So it doesn’t do any good to protest “well, why can’t it be X AND Y?” And, needless to say, our confessions make this super clear on this point.

  18. Matt said,

    July 1, 2007 at 6:45 am

    David, I take a different view of the opening chapters of Romans.

    Romans 3:3-5 demonstrate that yes, even the forensic language Romans has its place within a covenantal context of mutuality, in which God’s faithfulness is being compared with human faithfulness (or lack thereof). The situation is very similar to that of David and Saul: “You are more righteous than I.” Our apistia establishes the pistis of God.

    This fact runs totally counter to every legal/judicial model that would make God only the judge in Romans, and not a covenant-partner whose actions are also on trial. The righteousness of a judge cannot be established by the unrighteousness of one of the parties to the suit.

    As for Romans 4, yes, there is law-court justification there. But there is also an argument proving God to have been faithful to the obligations that He took upon Himself in the covenant with Abraham. God is still on trial in that chapter. Leithart’s relational paradigm can account for the uses of “dikaios” and “pistis” throughout that chapter, because his relational concept of justification includes the legal. But a merely legal paradigm cannot account for all the arguments of Romans 4.

    That is to say, Romans is largely about the justification of God: He also is “on trial”, as Paul seeks to prove that He has been faithful to the terms of His covenant with Abraham and with Israel. Indeed, this theme of Romans is larger than, and inclusive of, the justification of the ungodly.

    Romans 4 includes the clincher for Leithart’s paradigm, since it concludes with the phrase that Jesus “was raised for our justification.” Leithart explains that in the Bible, the forensic verdict takes the form of deliverance, and that Christ’s resurrection is the verdict responding to His righteousness. Mere imputation cannot account for this language at all. Indeed, when I read people insisting on the imputation of Christ’s active obedience to us, and the imputation of our sins to Him, as though that mere act of reckoning all by itself were our justification, it makes me wonder if such people are preaching Christianity without the cross.

    Romans is the book above all others that proves Leithart’s contention: justification in the Bible is not something that can happen merely in the lawcourt. The lawcourt is necessary, to be sure, but the covenantal context of “righteousness” language always requires action. God acts to deliver us; and that deliverance is the form that the forensic verdict takes. That is why the resurrection of Jesus Christ is our justification, according to Paul.

    I often hear people insisting that our justification just IS the reckoning performed by God at the moment of our effectual calling. That is not Biblical. Unless we are in Christ, and share in His death and resurrection, then we have no righteous verdict from God. Unless God effects our union with Christ by pouring out the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we cannot share in Christ’s righteousness. Thus the transformational and the legal/judicial can be distinguished, but never separated. There is “no nanosecond” when justification is not accompanied by sanctification, because we receive both by our union with Christ.

  19. July 1, 2007 at 7:55 am

    Your take on Romans is squarely in the camp of NT Wright.It is not within the parameters of the Reformers or the Reformed confessions and your remark about imputation and the implication of a crossless Christianity would have stunned J.Gresham Machen.Have you read Brian Vicker’s recent work ‘Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness: Paul’s Theology of Imputation’ (Crossway,2006)?

  20. Matt said,

    July 1, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    I didn’t put forward my case by saying, “Here’s your homework” and dumping reading recommendations (Vicker) on everyone. No, I wrote an exegetical argument, right here in a blog comment! What was I thinking?

    J. Gresham Machen! Your presbyterian fathers stoned Machen, and you build his tomb. If Machen’s, or anyone else’s theory of justification does not explain how the resurrection of Jesus was “for our justification”, then it is another theory from the one Paul preached — and un-Reformed, to boot.

    As for the Reformed confessions, I believe my view is fully in accord with them. But I will not get into it, because I know that if I play the “more Reformed than thou” game, it will allow you to avoid explaining the Bible. So, account for it, please. In what sense did Christ rise for our justification, if not in the way Leithart explains it (i.e. deliverance as verdict)? That’s the exegetical issue.

  21. markhorne said,

    July 1, 2007 at 4:54 pm

    “This fact runs totally counter to every legal/judicial model that would make God only the judge in Romans, and not a covenant-partner whose actions are also on trial. The righteousness of a judge cannot be established by the unrighteousness of one of the parties to the suit.”

    I’ve never heard it put this way, Matt, but it certainly squares with the prominance given by Paul to a prooftext from Habbakuk.

    “Your take on Romans is squarely in the camp of NT Wright.It is not within the parameters of the Reformers or the Reformed confessions”

    Your claim of mutual exclusivity is not credible, Gary, and the confessions do not set out a detailed exegesis of Romans or any other book fo the Bible.

    And claiming that Matt’s message is “crossless” is itself what is stunning. It is the sort of thing that happens often and it always ends these sorts of attempts at discussion. Perhaps that is their design? Only you can say one way or the other Gary.

  22. Matt said,

    July 1, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    Mark, I think you misunderstand Gary on the last point. He was referring to my remark about theories of justification that talk only about imputation and never about the cross and resurrection. Which I stand by — not as a slam, but as a precise and clear indictment of their departure from the Bible’s explanations of our salvation as something God accomplished through the person of His son on a cross in history, not by naked acts of imputation.

    At any rate, it wasn’t Gary making a slam on me.

  23. markhorne said,

    July 1, 2007 at 7:10 pm

    Oh, I apologize to Gary and to you for not reading more closely… (even after you explained I had to re-read twice before I figure out what you meant).

    But I deny that it would have stunned Machen (not that my denial is worth much since no one wants to play Witch of Endor here).

    Again, I apologize for totally misreading Gary.

  24. July 1, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    G.L.W. Johnson wasn’t calling Matt’s message “crossless”. It was Matt who called a certain theological position crossless, and Johnson said that Matt’s accusation would have stunned Machen:

    Matt wrote, “Indeed, when I read people insisting on the imputation of Christ’s active obedience to us, and the imputation of our sins to Him, as though that mere act of reckoning all by itself were our justification, it makes me wonder if such people are preaching Christianity without the cross.” (#18)

    and Johnson responded, “your remark about imputation and the implication of a crossless Christianity would have stunned J.Gresham Machen.” (#19)

    I suggest that Matt’s concern is groundless. Even if it were the case that the cross were not strictly part of someone’s doctrine of justification, there might be more to Christianity than just the doctrine of justification. And if you’re talking about TR folks, the cross is certainly there. Moreover, according to the doctrine Matt was criticising, the cross is the basis for the divine verdict of double imputation. So the cross is not only essential to Christianity (according to the theology Matt was criticizing), but it is essential to the doctrine of justification (according to that same theology). There is (I think) a genuine disagreement here over exactly how the cross should fit into our doctrine of justification. But it is probably a bad idea to start wondering about people preaching Christianity without the cross merely because they don’t relate the cross to justification in exactly the same way you do.

  25. July 1, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    Sorry for the redundant explanation. #22 & #23 were posted after I started composing my comment (guess I’m a slow writer).

  26. thomasgoodwin said,

    July 1, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    Mark Horne’s near ubiquity on the blogosphere results in a few misinterpretations. At least he’ll admit to them, however. Tell me, Mark, how many hours a day do you spend perusing blogs? Does it get tiring? Is it part of your job description as a Pastor? Honest questions.

    Mark Jones

  27. Matt said,

    July 2, 2007 at 6:43 am


    You write:”Even if it were the case that the cross were not strictly part of someone’s doctrine of justification…”

    Again, if the cross is not strictly part of someone’s doctrine of justification, then that person’s doctrine is not St. Paul’s doctrine. That person’s doctrine should be rejected by those who love God and believe His Word.

    The Bible says that Christ was raised for our justification. The Bible says that God will judge all men with justice, and that the proof of this is the resurrection of Christ. When the Bible wants to explain justification and God’s judgment, it starts talking about the resurrection. Accordingly, when Leithart explains justification, the resurrection of Jesus is front and center. But when folks like Lane and Gary do the explaining, they don’t mention it at all. For them, justification is all imputation, all the time.

    That’s not Biblical. If all that’s necessary for my justification is for Christ’s obedience to be imputed to me, and my disobedience to him, then what need is there for the cross or the resurrection? But naked imputation is not Biblical. According to the Bible, the cross and the resurrection were both verdicts. They were actions of God as judge. The cross was the occasion when He condemned sin in the flesh, and the resurrection was the occasion when gave He vindicated Christ, i.e. gave Him the verdict of “not guilty”. We share in that verdict when we are united to Him by faith and, yes, baptism. All this is clearly spelled out in the Bible — which is why none of you anti-FV guys has yet dared to argue against it exegetically. All you have to offer is the invocation of dead saints (Gary), appeals to your revered systems (Christopher), and snide questions (Mark Jones). I hope the peanut gallery is watching, and sees all this for what it is.

    You write: “the cross is the basis for the divine verdict of double imputation.” No. Double imputation is not a verdict. It is only the arrangement of evidence. The verdict comes in the cross and resurrection. But if you think imputation is a verdict, that might explain why you don’t account for the cross and resurrection in your theory. And you still have not touched the question, which is:

    What does Paul mean when he writes that Christ was “raised for our justification”? I’ve asked three times now. Deafening silence. Do you men love your system more than the Bible? Does it not bother you at all that you do not have an explanation for the place of the resurrection in your theory of justification?

  28. July 2, 2007 at 8:05 am

    With all due respect, but I am always amazed that people who jump on board with NT Wright become border-line maniacal when someone raises the question about how out of line Wright’s formulations are with the Reformers and the Reformed confessions. Note I said Wright’s ‘formulations’. You like to revel in Wright’s particular exegetical insights, some of which do have merit (pun not intented), but make no mistake about, Wright is working out a system every bit as inter-locked as any of the Reformed scholastics put forward. The reason Wright refers to the “vexing question” of imputation is because he cannot get it to fit snugly into his scheme. My professor of theology when I was at T.E.D.S in the early 80’s, the late S.Lewis Johnson Jr. wrote an article that D.A. Carson declared to be one of the finest pieces of exegesis he had ever seen-‘Romans 5:12-An Exercise In Exegesis And Theology’ which appeared in the book edited by Richard Longenecker and Merrill Tenney, entitled ‘New Dimensions In New Testament Study'(Zondervan,1974).He wrote,”This divorce of theology from exegesis is frequently represented as primarily an impovishment of theology, whic, of course it is. But it is sometimes forgotten that contemporary exegesis as well has lost its grip on systematics, with dire results for intertation. We are quite willing to grant that theology cannot really be done well without exegesis, but we are not as willing, it seems to me, to grant that exegesis cannot be done well without systematic theology. Exegesis,armed with the original text and modern critical tools and methodology, too frequently sees itself as autonomously self-suffiecent, pouring out its arid and superficial grammatical ,syntactical ,and critical comments, while the deeper meanig of the texts in the light of the broader problems at issue is lost to it. In the introduction to his commmetary on 1 John, Prinicpal Candish spoke of his desire to ‘bring out the full mind of the apostle’ upon the study of all the biblical literture:’ For I am deeply convinced after years of thought about it that it can be studied aright exegetically, only when it is studied theologically’ “(p.299). Shortly after NT Wright’s commentary came out ,I called Dr. Johnson to ask if he had had a chance to look it over ( he had served as professor of NT for over 25 years before moving into systematic theology and had taken over 30 classes through exegesis of the Greek text of Romans)- yes, he had srcure a copy and turned immediately to Rom. 5:12-21 to see how Wriht handled this pivotal passage. “Profoundly disappointing” was his response. He felt Wright had not addressed the real issues and that he demonstrated no grasp of the theological issues that had occupied Reformed theologians for centuries.I highly recommend Dr. Johnson’s article to all who are pro-Wright. Compare the two and see who really deals with the text .

  29. July 2, 2007 at 8:54 am

    One more thing-what on earth do you mean by lumping me in with that group of Presbyterians that mistreated Machen in the 1920’s? If anything, my sympathies are clearly on the side of Old Princeton-as I think I have demonstated over and over again on this blog and elsewhere (to the consternation of some in the Federal Vision).

  30. July 2, 2007 at 9:05 am

    For a very good analysis of the kind of thing I was referring to in Wright, please see the comments of my friend Paul Helm n’Bishop N.T.Wright’s ordo salutis’ at paulhelmsdeep.blogspot.com.

  31. July 2, 2007 at 11:33 am

    In a different thread on this blog I had occasion to mention the fact that I’m not FV. In that place I was defending the FV against misrepresentations by anti-FVers. Now that I have occasion to defend anti-FVers against misrepresentation, I am called anti-FV. In truth I am neither. I agree with FV on some points, I agree with TR on others. But my #24 was not about my own position at all. I was simply suggesting that what Matt said about “Christianity without the cross” was groundless. I’m not appealing to my “revered” system. I’m just pointing out that the TR system is not what Matt is representing it to be. I made no claims about whether that system was true. I gave no indication of to what extent I agree or disagree with that system.

    “if the cross is not strictly part of someone’s doctrine of justification, then that person’s doctrine is not St. Paul’s doctrine.” Agreed. But that’s not the same as saying they are preaching Christianity without the cross. It just means their understanding of the role of the cross in Christianity is wrong. But the thing is, on the TR scheme, the cross IS strictly part of the doctrine of justification, for according to that scheme the cross is the basis for the divine verdict of double imputation. So it’s wrong to call the TR scheme crossless Christianity.

    The TR scheme, right or wrong, is not crossless Christianity, and it’s not even a crossless doctrine of justification. That’s all I’m saying.

  32. Matt said,

    July 2, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Re: 29, I mean the same sort thing that Jesus did when he said that the Pharisees of his day were the sons of those who murdered the prophets. Think those Pharisees agreed?

    You think you have answered my exegesis acutely because you’ve tarred it as Wright-ish. But I didn’t get this from N.T. Wright. I came up with it myself. I read the Greek and tried to follow the argument, and I say this is what it says. You think you can answer this by raising bogey-men and wrapping yourself in Machen. What is that but “I am of Paul, I am of Cephas” talk? The question is what does the text mean.

    You still haven’t answered the question: What does Paul mean by saying Christ was raised for our justification? If justification happens only by imputation, and if Leithart is wrong about God’s verdict taking the form of deliverance, then how on earth can Christ’s resurrection be “for our justification”? (I ask for the fourth time.)

    If you can’t answer that question, then we would all do well to reject your system as an unbiblical one.

  33. thomasgoodwin said,

    July 2, 2007 at 2:10 pm


    Have you read Murray’s exegesis on Rom. 4:25? I don’t think the Reformed theological tradition has ever put justification so crassly as bare imputation.

    Edwards wrote, for example, on Rom. 4:25, that “… Christ did not rise as a private person, but as the head of the elect church, so that they did, as it were, all rise with him. Christ was justified in his resurrection, i.e. God acquitted and discharged him hereby, as having done and suffered enough for the sins of all the elect, Rom. 4:25, “Who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification.” And God put him in possession of eternal life, as the head of the church, as a sure earnest that they should follow. For when Christ rose from the dead, that was the beginning of eternal life in him. His life before his death was a mortal life, a temporal life. but his life after his resurrection was an eternal life, Rom. 6:9, “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.” Rev. 1:18, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen.” — But he was put in possession of this eternal life, as the head of the body, and took possession of it, not only to enjoy himself, but to bestow on all who believe in him, so that the whole church, as it were, rises in him.”


  34. Matt said,

    July 2, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    Very good, Mark. I’ve got no problem with that Murray quote.

    But I want to know, how is it that we share in Christ’s benefits? That is, how can God give these things to us without being unjust? “By imputation.” Sure. How does that happen? By bare divine fiat, as that persecutor of the brethren R.S. Clark thinks? By legal fiction? Can you specify the historical mechanism by which imputation is accomplished? Or is it all in God’s head?

  35. Matt said,

    July 2, 2007 at 3:30 pm


    How can the cross be the BASIS for imputation? That’s what you say the TR’s believe. I’ll take your word for it, but it makes no sense at all.

    My sins are not imputed to Christ because He was crucified. Nor is His righteousness mine because He was crucified. I can understand the cross and the resurrection as verdicts in Leithart’s sense. But I cannot understand them at all as the “basis” for imputation.

  36. thomasgoodwin said,

    July 2, 2007 at 3:46 pm


    Well, I think it’s extremely helpful to consider justification no apart from union with Christ and sanctification, judgment according to works, the covenant, etc. To be sure, the distinctions are valid and necessary, but not to the point that we divorce justification from our other accepted dogmas.

    How do we share in Christ’s benefits? The doctrine of justification in relation to the covenant is only fully understood as it relates to union with Christ. The primary function of the covenant is to bring sinners into union with Jesus Christ whereby they are then partakers of the blessings of the covenant promises (justification, sanctification, adoption). The union is effected by the Spirit who is given according to the economy of salvation based upon the eternal covenant of redemption. “Union with Christ”, says Owen, “is the principle and measure of all spiritual enjoyments and expectations” (21:146; cf. 3:516). He continues,

    And hence is our justification: for … being united unto Christ, we are interested in that acquitment from the condemning sentence of the law which was granted unto himself when he satisfied it to the utmost …. Our union with him is the ground of the actual imputation of his righteousness unto us; for he covers only the members of his own body … (21:150).

    “How can God give these things to us without being unjust?” How is God both just and the justifier of the wicked? Well, of course, this is principally dealt with in terms of Christology (among other loci), but also in terms of the judgment according to works. You may want to see my series of posts on this subject starting with Goodwin’s view.

    Does this answer your question, or are you getting at something different?


  37. Matt said,

    July 2, 2007 at 4:53 pm


    It’s mostly good — and mostly straight FV theology. But I have seen some people say that imputation is the basis of union, instead of the other way around.

    But let me press further: is the verdict we receive the actual verdict Christ received, so that we share in the same verdict? That is, is the resurrection of Christ the verdict that we share in by virtue of our union with him? Or do we each receive separate verdicts, all based on the imputed obedience of Christ?

    Is the verdict imputed? Or only the obedience on which the verdict is based?

  38. thomasgoodwin said,

    July 2, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    Well, I’m not sure I would call it “straight FV theology”, but I’m getting used to different groups claiming some of my posts on historical theology for themselves! Can you point me to a source that argues imputation is the basis of union?

    Faith, the gift of God, unites us to Christ. I think we are agreed on this. This union amounts to the fact that his death and resurrection is my death and resurrection. Speaking for myself, my union is with the exalted Christ which means that all he now is mine both now and in the future.

    Now, there are two comments worthy of attention. First, notice the personal element spoke of here which makes some NPP very uncomfortable (see Gal. 2:20). Second, this has decisive ramifications for the present-day much-vexed debate on the “judgment according to works”. If what I have said in the preceding is true, how then can we be in any doubt about our justification at the last day? Sure, God will vindicate himself by demonstrating before the godly and the ungodly who his elect are by publicizing our works – so as to demonstrate true, saving faith – but at this eschatological moment we (i.e. believers) will already have been justified.

    I don’t want to minimize the corporate dimensions of soteriology in the above nor do I want to dismiss the force of the passages that speak of a judgment (not justification) according to works. But it seems to me that if we are to hold fast to the doctrine of union with Christ, the scales fall decisively in favor of the classic Protestant understanding of salvation, contra the NPP and some formulations of the FV.


    I’m not sure how we would distinguish the verdict imputed from the obedience on which the verdict is based. Maybe I would need to sit down with you and flesh that out a little?

  39. July 2, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    Matt said “Romans 3:3-5 demonstrate that yes, even the forensic language Romans has its place within a covenantal context of mutuality, in which God’s faithfulness is being compared with human faithfulness (or lack thereof).”

    I’m not sure how this gets you where you need to go. Yes, God’s faithfulness is compared with the faithlessness of human beings. But that faithlessness comes by way transgressing God’s law, incurring God’s just wrath, precipitating the need for acquittal. Sprinkling in the (undefined) phrase “covenantal context” doesn’t make the legal/judicial problem go away, nor does it tell us that “justification” needs to be defined in a more open-ended manner. My feeling when I read the exegesis of those with a NPP slant is the question “how does the presence of X issue in the context force us to DEFINE Y term in this context as including X?” I feel these exegetes are skipping over a few logical steps.

    “This fact runs totally counter to every legal/judicial model that would make God only the judge in Romans, and not a covenant-partner whose actions are also on trial. The righteousness of a judge cannot be established by the unrighteousness of one of the parties to the suit.”

    We would agree that God is not “only the judge” in Romans, but this still does not provide evidence that dikaio must have a wider range of meaning where it is being used. But we would disagree with your second statement – the righteousness of a judge CAN be established by the unrighteousness of one of the parties in the suit – that is, depending on whether the judge renders a verdict and a punishment that is true – based on the unrighteousness of a defendant.

    “Romans 4 includes the clincher for Leithart’s paradigm, since it concludes with the phrase that Jesus “was raised for our justification.” Leithart explains that in the Bible, the forensic verdict takes the form of deliverance, and that Christ’s resurrection is the verdict responding to His righteousness. Mere imputation cannot account for this language at all.”

    This is a fairly underwhelming “clincher.” That phrase, by strict logic, only tells us this: that Jesus’ resurrection in some way caused our justification. It is not necessary to redefine justification as “deliverance” simply because of this connection with the resurrection of Christ. Nor is it obvious how imputation cannot “account for this language” while deliverance does. Indeed, Calvin sees all of this as imputation:

    the efficacy of justification is ascribed to his resurrection, by which death was overcome; not that the sacrifice of the cross, by which we are reconciled to God, contributes nothing towards our justification, but that the completeness of his favor appears more clear by his coming to life again.

    But I cannot assent to those who refer this second clause to newness of life; for of that the Apostle has not begun to speak; and further, it is certain that both clauses refer to the same thing. For if justification means renovation, then that he died for our sins must be taken in the same sense, as signifying that he acquired for us grace to mortify the flesh; which no one admits. Then, as he is said to have died for our sins, because he delivered us from the evil of death by suffering death as a punishment for our sins; so he is now said to have been raised for our justification, because he fully restored life to us by his resurrection: for he was first smitten by the hand of God, that in the person of the sinner he might sustain the misery of sin; and then he was raised to life, that he might freely grant to his people righteousness and life. He therefore still speaks of imputative justification; and this will be confirmed by what immediately follows in the next chapter.

    I’ve learned in my decade as a Reformed Christian to always, always, always check with Calvin when in doubt or before I speak. Not that I can never disagree with him (I do in some places – strongly) but I’d better have a REALLY good darn reason to disagree. FV exegetes so often charge ahead – and if they have taken the time to read Calvin, they don’t show it. They, at least, do not give us a REALLY good darn reason to disagree with him.

    Also of interest is the footnote here by Charles Hodge:

    Either therefore as the evidence of the acceptance of his suffering as our substitute, or as a necessary step toward securing the application of their merit to our benefit, the resurrection of Christ was essential to our justification.

    To sum up, Christ was raised for our justification in that Christ needed to be raised in order to be the Mediator for sinners unto justification. A dead mediator could not have helped us. We needed not only the purchase or redemption, but the application of it through the Mediation of a living Savior.

  40. July 2, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    “Unless we are in Christ, and share in His death and resurrection, then we have no righteous verdict from God. Unless God effects our union with Christ by pouring out the Holy Spirit in our hearts, we cannot share in Christ’s righteousness. Thus the transformational and the legal/judicial can be distinguished, but never separated. There is “no nanosecond” when justification is not accompanied by sanctification, because we receive both by our union with Christ.”

    I think this is just evidence that FV exegetes are really poor at logic and systematics (a criticism that so commonly applies more broadly to all involved in biblical studies). Yes, we posit no temporal gap between union with Christ and justification, but our sanctity (transformation), which comes by way of union, neither effects (causally) our union nor our justification. We are justified despite who we are. This is Reformational teaching.

  41. July 2, 2007 at 9:17 pm

    And, I should elaborate, simply because there is no temporal gap does not justify Leithart’s thesis, that justification is deliverance.

  42. July 2, 2007 at 10:49 pm

    Re #35: I think the following would be pretty standard stuff among the TR.

    Justification is a forensic declaration: that I am not guilty and that I am righteous in Christ (with his active obedience imputed to me), and the reason God can declare me not guilty is that he has imputed my guilt to Christ on the cross. It is my union with Christ specifically in his death that makes possible that Great Transfer: because Christ died and paid the penalty that I deserved, my sins are not imputed to me; they are reckoned as having been punnished in Christ’s death. That couldn’t have happened if Christ had not died. God couldn’t reckon my sins as having been punnished satisfactorily unless someone actually paid the debt sufficient to cover my sins. This Christ did on the cross. Additionally, Christ’s righteousness couldn’t be imputed to me if he hadn’t been righteous. If he hadn’t been perfectly obedient — obedient unto death (even death on a cross), I could not have his perfect obedience imputed to me. By obeying God and laying down his life, he made possible the imputation of his perfect obedience to his people. And by suffering the wrath of God against sin, he provided the just grounds for God to declare of his people that their sin has already been punnished fully, so that no condemnation remains.

    I think that shows how central the cross is to TR understanding of justification, assuming they believe what I represented them as believing. Even if it “makes no sense at all,” this can hardly be called “Christianity without the cross.” (Is that accusation still on the table? I’m angling for an explicit retraction.)

  43. Matt said,

    July 2, 2007 at 11:37 pm


    You have shown me (#42) that imputation is necessary in order for the cross to punish our sin. But I never accused you of not believing that. You still haven’t shown how the cross is “the basis of imputation”.

    You appear confused about how the cross works. At times you speak as though penal substitution were the enabling condition of imputation: “because Christ paid the penalty that I deserved, my sins are reckoned as having been punished in Christ’s death.” But didn’t our sins have to be imputed to Christ BEFORE he was crucified in order for them to be crucified, put to death, and buried with Him? That is, isn’t imputation an automatic function of Christ’s federal headship of humanity? It isn’t as though He only became our representative after He was crucified.

    You make us have a verdict that is not Christ’s resurrection, but something else, thereby displacing the resurrection from its proper place as “for our justification.” (Notice that the resurrection is wholly missing from #42 above.) Everything that matters in your system is accomplished by divine fiat instead of the Holy Spirit’s activity in history. You explain that Christ had to be righteous in order for God to impute righteousness (no FV man denies that!), but you do not explain HOW — i.e. by what means — God imputes sin and righteousness.

    The cross, in your system, is virtually lost in the acts of imputation. It becomes nothing more than an enabling condition, rather than the event in which Christ was justified, and in which we share when united to Him by faith. The Bible does not speak of the cross as something Christ did in order to enable God to impute obedience to us so that we can then receive a verdict of our own. Rather, it says that we have been crucified with Christ, and raised with Him also. We thereby share in everything that is His — including both verdicts. The flesh is condemned with Him on the cross, and the spirit is vindicated with Him in His resurrection. The claim that we do not share in Christ’s resurrection as verdict is a denial of Christ’s Messiahship. That’s where TR-ism tends, and why it is such an abominable system.


    You write: “But we would disagree with your second statement – the righteousness of a judge CAN be established by the unrighteousness of one of the parties in the suit – that is, depending on whether the judge renders a verdict and a punishment that is true – based on the unrighteousness of a defendant.”

    In such a case, the righteousness of the judge would emphatically NOT be a matter of comparison with the unrighteousness of one of the parties, which is what Paul is arguing: God has been faithful to men, and men have been unfaithful to Him. Therefore He is the righteous party. I’ve written before explaining how this is the deep presupposition of Paul’s entire argument in Romans 3-4.

    Consider Romans 3:2-3. Note the wordplay: “first, because to them have been entrusted (episteuthesan) the oracles of God. What then? If some did not believe (hpistesan), will their faithlessness (apistia) nullify the faithfulness (pistis) of God?

    This verse simply cannot be understood unless one clears one’s mind of any separation of faith and faithfulness as distinct concepts. The apistia of unbelieving Israel is contrasted with the pistis of God directly and immediately, without qualification or explanation. Circumcision, the physically-inflicted visible and tangible promise of God, the pledge of his faithfulness to Abraham, has been declared to be wanting in various respects in chapter 2. The question in the minds of Paul’s Jewish readers is now, “How does that deficiency of circumcision not also make God a breaker of his covenant with Abraham?” In answer to this, Paul makes his contrast between God’s pistis and Israel’s apistia. And his first example, in 3:2, may be taken as a model for how the covenant of circumcision can be broken on the side of the unbelieving Jews: God gives, and Israel rejects, squanders or abuses His gifts. Do not let the passive “were entrusted” disguise this fact. It is a reverent circumlocution, saying “the oracles of God were entrusted” rather than “God entrusted His oracles…” But the meaning is the same, and every Jewish reader would have directly contrasted God’s act of entrusting Israel with the Torah with Israel’s action of disobeying the same. They are commensurable because they are pistis and apistia. God’s giving the Torah to Israel is an act of covenant-keeping on His part. Israel’s apostasy from the Torah is an act of covenant-breaking. All this is obscured by the modern categorical separation of “faith” and “faithfulness” as different concepts.

    3:4 Not having Richard Hays Echoes of Scripture to hand, I don’t know whether he says anything about this verse. It strikes me as a perfect example of how the quotations in Paul presuppose familiarity with the OT contexts from which they were lifted. Awareness of those contexts enriches our undestanding of Paul’s own theology. “Every man a liar” (pas anthrwpos pseustes) is lifted from Ps. 116:11 (115:2 in the LXX) — and it may be that it is this phrase to which Paul is referring when he says “as it is written” in 3:4. When we look at the preceding verse of Ps. 116, i.e. verse 10 (115:1 LXX), we find:

    Episteusa, dio elalesa, egw de etapeinwthen sphodra…

    Paul is recalling the Psalmist’s words urging faithfulness even in the face of widespread and predominant faithlessness (apistia). The relevance for his current subject, in which he is indicting the Jews as covenant-breakers is obvious.

    This prevalent unbelief is then taken up and handled with the theology of Ps. 51:4, in which David, with his hopws an construction, says that man’s sin does not destroy God’s faithfulness, but is in order that God may turn out to be in the right:

    Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight,
    so that you may be justified in your words
    and blameless in your judgment.

    While discussing this quotation from Ps. 51, it is worth noting that in quoting the LXX here, Paul has thereby diverged from the Hebrew of Ps. 51, a fact that most English versions unhelpfully gloss over, replacing whatever the Greek says with the translation from the Hebrew. In this case, they replace “and that you may prevail when you are judged” (krinesthai, passive) with the active “… when you judge.” This changes the thought completely. Again, the Vulgate gets it right: “cum iudicaris”, not “cum iudicas.”

    This is a Law Court metaphor, but one that all the Reformed zealots loudly proclaiming the forensic nature of justification generally miss, even while they are pointing to the early chapters of Romans as their locus classicus. The reason they miss it is that it is God who is imagined as being on trial here — a scenario which is only possible if the covenant, rather than some abstract notion of “strict justice”, is the basis for the evaluation of righteousness and unrighteousness. That is why 3:5 says that “our unrighteousness establishes the righteousness of God” — that is, human sin forensically establishes it. Our unrighteousness is evidence, exhibit A for the righteousness of God. It is true that Paul then turns around and talks (3:6) about God doing the judging. But there cannot be any doubt that from 3-5, God is “in the dock.”

    I am not a presbyterian, so I have no interest in whether my interpretation of the Bible fits all your accepted theological molds. So the last word is yours.

  44. thomasgoodwin said,

    July 2, 2007 at 11:44 pm


    I feel hurt, you didn’t interact with my comment :( Though, you did get a good dose of feedback!


  45. July 3, 2007 at 7:15 am

    If you read Helm’s piece that I referenced, I hope that at the very least it give you puase for thought. Imputation is at the heart of the Reformed understanding of justification, and if like Wright, you are throwing it overboard, then please refrain from claiming that you are standing in the mainstream of the Reformed tradition. By the way, do you also have problems with the imputation of Adam’s sin ,especially as it has been understood in the Reformed tradition? Was sin imputed to Christ? If not, then in what sense is he bearing sin on the cross?

  46. July 3, 2007 at 7:48 am

    I jumped over to your blog . Yes, it is very obvious that you approach the text with undiluted objectivity. No presupposions at work in your ‘pure’ exegesis! The only people who operate with theological bias are those mean-spirited TRs and their ‘abominable’ system i.e.Scott Clark.In all seriousness, Matt, you are hopelessly naive if you think for a monent that you and you along aren’t mightly influenced by the ‘system’ of theology that drives the Federal Vision’s exegesis.

  47. Matt said,

    July 3, 2007 at 7:49 am

    Sorry to overlook you, Mark. You ask who grounds union on imputation. I have seen Lane Keister himself do so, along with many other TRs who think that justification happens first, and THEN sanctification begins. Those who believe that justifying faith is only accompanied by “all other saving grace” AFTER the event of justification are making our union with Christ a consequence of imputation — received by dead faith, no less. I suspect you’re better than that; you would, I think, reject their position. But I’ve seen TR men say this — including Lane Keister in his interaction with John Barach on this blog.

    You seem willing to go most of the way toward my position, as far as clearly grounding imputation in union with Christ, and clearly stating that Christ’s death is ours, and His resurrection is ours. In order to elicit a response from me, you needed to explain what object you have to Leithart’s concept of “deliverdict”. That’s where the issue is between us. God’s verdict on Christ is not a private mental act. It took the form of the resurrection. We share that verdict; our resurrection is not a separate thing from His, but is identified with His.

    If you want to interact, you could start by explaining…
    1. Where God judicially vindicated Christ, if not in the resurrection.
    2. How we share in Christ’s verdict of “righteous”, if not by sharing in His resurrection.
    3. Where the Bible teaches these alleged distinctions.

    Since this is ostensibly a thread about Leithart’s article, maybe you could reference Leithart’s argumentation, and state where you think it is mistaken on this point.

  48. Xon said,

    July 3, 2007 at 7:51 am

    Gary, you’re using the same old response about “not claiming you’re Reformed if you believe such-and-such”, but it doesn’t work here in Matt’s case (if it ever works). Matt has explicitly told you that he doesn’t see himself as a presbyterian, and that he frankly does not care if his view lines up with this or that Confession. He has given a biblical/exegetical argument; your response is to simply point him to some article that shows that imputation is ‘at the heart’ of the Reformed understanding? Well:

    A. Matt does not care. If you want to call his position unReformed, then you are free to do so. But is it incorrect? This requires a response other than simply comparing his position to your understanding of what it means to be Reformed.

    B. Matt didn’t deny imputation anyway

    As to your ‘gotcha’ re: whether Matt thinks that Adam’s sin was imputed to Christ, Matt already answered that in earlier comments. You’re not sweeping the rug out from under him as you seem to think.

  49. Xon said,

    July 3, 2007 at 7:56 am

    And, Gary, what on earth is the point of a comment like #46? Where did Matt ever say that he is “unbiased”? He’s a Van Tillian, so I doubt he would make any such claim. Sure, he’s got presuppositions, just like everyone else. But he gave an argument for his position. Will you respond? Or is the ad hominem investigation into his “presuppositions” your idea of a response?

    Sorry to be so blunt, but you and I have built up at least a little bit of history at this point, and so I don’t think you need me to put on the kid gloves.

  50. greenbaggins said,

    July 3, 2007 at 7:58 am

    Okay, Matt, get ready to get blasted. I have *never* said that union with Christ is grounded on imputation. I have *always* said that imputation is grounded on union. Furthermore, I have always said that sanctification and justification are given simultaneously in union with Christ, and that they are distinct, yet inseparable. I hold to Calvin’s duplex gratia here. You who complain about the FV getting misrepresented just did a whopper of a misrepresentation yourself. Point to a single, solitary place where I have said what you think I said.

  51. July 3, 2007 at 8:14 am

    Please spare me your courtroom dramatics. You know very well that Matt is operating within the sphere of the FV theology and as such with the same presuppositions that are manifest in Leithart & co. I grow weary of this absurd claim that keeps pushing itself to the head of the line and insisting that you and your colleagues in the FV are the only ones possessed with objectivity, ‘we are exegeting the text and all you TRs can do is point back to you beloved tradition and the near worship of the WS!’ Hogwash.First you did try to read the FV distinctives into the WS-but that didn’t work, so the next tack is to claim superior exegesis-but your exegesis is driven by your theological presuppostions and these in turn serve a distinct ‘system’ that is build around the concept of the ‘objectivity of the covenant’ which all things must serve.I will give Matt this much-atleast he is willing to run his non-Reformed colors up the flag pole. That is more than I can say about the rest of the followers of the FV.

  52. Xon said,

    July 3, 2007 at 8:45 am

    Again, Gary, you just said that you’re “getting tired” of us FV saying something, but the “something” isn’t anything that I’ve ever heard us say. And, of course, you said nothing about Matt’s exegetical arguments. Again.

  53. July 3, 2007 at 9:03 am

    On the contrary, I have. I directed him to the article by S, Lewis Johnson. I challenged his Wright inspired exegesis by point him to this and I would do the same with you.But this is another common tack with you guys. You come out with what you think is a ‘brilliant’ example of exegesis and challenge anybody to refute it. But, as I have said over and over again, you are guilty of doing exegesis in the dark with only a small flashlight to help you see. If your exegesis cannot be intergrated theologically and in a coherent fashion, it ends up looking like the kind of thing one finds in tracts by Jehovah Witnesses.

  54. Xon said,

    July 3, 2007 at 9:05 am

    But what if Matt or I read the article by Johnson and then say “Well, we’re still not convinced?” Can we just “point” you to an article that makes our point? Are we having a discussion here, or are we just comparing bibliographies?

  55. July 3, 2007 at 9:19 am

    Go read this piece by S. Lewis Johnson. What you will find( I am asuming you can follow his technical exegisis of the Greek text) is that this kind of exegesis cannot be conducted on a blog!What Matt has offered up does come close to being the kind of exegesis that is required in order to address the question of imputation, and if you ever took a class on exegesis at the graduate level with, say a Richard Gaffin or a Moises Silva or a S. Lewis Johnson. then you would know the difference!!!!!!

  56. July 3, 2007 at 9:20 am

    third line down should read “does NOT come close”

  57. Xon said,

    July 3, 2007 at 9:32 am

    Fascinating, Gary. So, Matt doesn’t know how to do Greek exegesis, eh?

  58. Xon said,

    July 3, 2007 at 9:34 am

    I am sick and tired of the credentials parade that some TRs continually want to trot out, of whom you are the worst Gary. My own credentials are in philosophy, particularly as a teacher. I’ve taught logic to middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college students. And you fail. And if you’d only studied logic with Alvin Plantinga or Charles Cross, you’d know that you were failing!

    Is this a good way to argue, Gary?

  59. Matt said,

    July 3, 2007 at 10:22 am


    Where did you say it? OK, here:

    You wrote in your dialogue with John Barach: “I much prefer to speak of bare faith in justification. The accompanying things belong to sanctification, *not* to justification.”

    Bare faith does not unite us to Christ. Bare faith is dead. Thus, whether you admit it or not, your language relegates union with Christ to sanctification only, since you will not speak of living, active, obedient faith in connection with justification. Yet you think that justification happens by imputation. You appear to think that sanctification is logically posterior to justification, even if temporally simultaneous. Yet it is only in connection with sanctification that you are willing to speak of faith accompanied by all other saving graces. What am I to conclude from this, if not that you think justification is not a product of union with Christ?

    To Gary:

    I cheerfully own the label “Reformed”, but it doesn’t bother me if you don’t think I fit it. That is just a distraction from the real issue, which is what the Bible says. You say that Greek exegesis cannot be conducted on a blog. But for my part, I find that Unicode solves the problem, allowing me to produce all the necessary characters and diacritical marks. ;-)

    As for me, I’ll be happy to read the article you suggest. You assume I can follow his technical exegesis of the Greek text? Yeah, you might say that.

    My address is 300 Cox St., Mason, OH 45040. Send it along. I’ll pay for xeroxing and copying costs; give me your address and I’ll send a cheque. If it illuminates the Bible for me, I’ll be convinced. If not, I’ll explain in detail why I object to it. And I’ll do so on my blog.

  60. July 3, 2007 at 10:27 am

    Please return the Warfield book.

  61. thomasgoodwin said,

    July 3, 2007 at 11:03 am


    I’m pleased that we seem to agree, for the most part. It seems Lane does as well and you misunderstood him. I’m only trying to uphold what I believe is historical Reformed soteriology. I must confess, nothing what I say is altogether new; much in the same way Hodge said a “new idea never came out of Princeton” (or something to that effect).

    What concerns me is this drive for a revision of Reformed soteriology. As if somehow the Reformed world (21st century) has gotten the covenant wrong. If they have, myself included, then so did our forefathers and the FV either needs to show how we are all wrong (which they have not) or how FV is the faithful upholding of Reformed covenant theology. For my own part, they haven’t done the latter either and a good friend of mine, Alastair Roberts, has candidly admitted that FV arguments are weaker both historically and confessionally. He still thinks FV exegesis is more convincing, but at least he’s honest enough to concede the historical argument.

    I will think about your questions and get back to you.


  62. July 3, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    No, I am not going to waste the effort-I doubt you could follow it .

  63. Matt said,

    July 3, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    OK, I’ll try to get hold of it some other way.

  64. Barb said,

    July 3, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    G.L. W. Johnson, #62 was rude. Dr. Colvin better equipped than most to “follow it.”

  65. July 3, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    #43. Once again, not my system!

    I’ve been clear, direct, explicit; yea, prolix and pedantic; about the fact that I am not giving my own opinion; I am simply defending the TR scheme against the charge of being “crossless Christianity”.

    I’m not going to get into a quibble over whether the word “basis” accurately describes the role of the cross in the TR scheme as I described it. I think it does. “Legal basis for a forensic declaration” seems to me to capture it. But I’m willing to make a gift of the term. All that matters is whether the cross plays a role in TR doctrine of justification. It doesn’t matter what word we use to describe that role. As long as it plays some role — any role at all — we cannot call it “crossless Christianity”. You have as much as admitted that the cross plays a role in the TR scheme. You write, “It [the cross] becomes nothing more than an enabling condition”. Well, an enabling condition is something. Even if the cross is “nothing more than” that, the cross does at least play that role. And it is an essential role. You write, “You have shown me (#42) that imputation is necessary in order for the cross to punish our sin.” that is, necessary on the TR scheme. Well then, if the cross is necessary in TR theology, then TR theology is not “Christianity without the cross”.

    By the way, I don’t think it’s fair to say that, on the TR scheme, the cross is “nothing more than” an enabling condition. I wasn’t pretending to describe the whole of the TR doctrine of justification. I was only interested in describing enough to show that the cross plays some role in that doctrine. This you have conceded. And yet, in the sentence just prior to the one in which you make that concession, you say “The cross, in your system, is virtually lost in the acts of imputation.” (Did I mention that I’m not claiming that this is my system?). This seems illogical to me. It’s like saying “the chair isn’t in the room because it’s in the back of the room, and it should be in the front of the room”. You said the cross is “virtually” lost. But not actually lost? So, then, can I get a retraction of the “Christianity without the cross” statement? Will you admit at least that it was an overstatement?

    I’m angling for a more thorough retraction, though. It doesn’t make sense to say the cross is even “virtually” lost if the role it plays in the TR scheme is an important one. But it does play an important role there. “[I]mputation is necessary in order for the cross to punish our sin.” That’s important, right? TRs believe that. So the cross isn’t “virtually lost” in their theology.

    I realize that some of what I described as TR is also agreed to by FV. I’m not accusing anyone of disbelieving anything. I’m just talking about what TRs believe (regardless of who else agrees or disagrees with them), and pointing out that the cross is there. The question I’m addressing is not whether the TR’s have the whole story right, when it comes to the role of the cross in justification. If they get the story partly wrong, in an important way, then that’s, well, important. But it still doesn’t mean you can call TR “Christianity without the cross.”

    Your wrote, “But didn’t our sins have to be imputed to Christ BEFORE he was crucified in order for them to be crucified, put to death, and buried with Him.” This concerns the question of whether or not the scheme makes sense. But I’m really more concerned, here, with the question of whether it can fairly be described as “crossless”, regardless of whether or not it makes sense. Remember I’m not claiming the TR scheme is true. I’m not even claiming that it is logically coherent. All I’m saying is that it’s not crossless.

    Finally, I’d like to invite you to take a guess at why I didn’t mention the ressurection in #42. Here’s a hint: It has to do with the fact that my initial comment (#24) was not meant to be a total response to everything you said in #18, but only to one specific concern you had, which I suggested was groundless. Indeed, the whole point of my entire series of comments on this thread has been nothing other than to show that that concern is groundless. A request: if you could give a brief and accurate description of what my basic claim in this series has been, and of my basic argument for that claim (it can be put in a simple syllogism), that would go a long way to convincing me that you are genuinely listening to what I am saying.

  66. July 3, 2007 at 10:05 pm

    […] Hat tip to Matt, to whom I am greatly indebted and grateful that he pointed this out. Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. […]

  67. Matt said,

    July 3, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    I beg your pardon, Christopher. I said “it makes me wonder…” But what I wondered wasn’t very polite or well-founded. So I hereby downgrade the charge from “a crossless Christianity” to “missing what God has really done on the cross, and making up a fictive system of divine fiat to do the same job.” Which is my real concern. My apologies to any who were offended by my earlier remark.

    My concern is that some men preach Christ crucified, but only as a sideshow to the main act, which is a spectacle of imputation of obedience. It’s sort of like a David Copperfield trick. It has a rather thin, mysterious character, and no one will volunteer to explain how it all happens. In such a system, imputation occupies the central place that the Bible gives to the death and resurrection of Jesus.

    hopelessly influenced by FV systematics

  68. thomasgoodwin said,

    July 3, 2007 at 11:59 pm


    I appreciate your concern. But my reading of Reformed theology does not seem fit your criticism. So, my question to you is can you provide me with some references that will substantiate your claim? And I’m not talking about the ramblings of the blogosphere. You implied earlier that some argue imputation -> union, which Lane (vigorously) objected to. I, as someone who has been labeled a Neo-Puritan by certain PCA ministers, made several contentions which you were happy with and even described as “straight FV theology”. So, what precisely is the problem? Or, should I say, who precisely is the problem?


  69. Matt said,

    July 4, 2007 at 7:30 am


    If you’re willing to say that justification is accomplished by our union with Christ in His death and resurrection, i.e. that union is the “mechanism” of imputation, then you’re in the clear on that point. (Lane, are you willing to agree to that? In the past, I have understood you to resist it, since it is the FV view of the matter.)

    R.S. Clark, on the other hand, emphatically denies it:


    But of course, the problem is more widespread than Clark. Within wider evangelicalism, it is fairly common to find articles and books that discuss imputation virtually as a mental act of God, without reference to union with Christ. John Piper does this, in “Counted Righteous in Christ”. So does R.C. Sproul.

    It is rare to find men, like R.S. Clark, who will actually assert that imputation is not a function of vital, Spirit-wrought union with Christ. Another example would be the equally venemous John Robbins:


    But it is more common to find people strenuously resisting any effort to broaden the Biblical picture of justification. Leithart’s article shows that justification is more than a forensic declaration.

  70. thomasgoodwin said,

    July 4, 2007 at 10:18 am


    From what I read of the Heidelblog debate, it seems as though RSC is guarding against the idea that “union with Christ makes imputation redundant”. I, too, think that there are problems with such a view. Barlow asked, at the end, “What is the means by which this forensic, definitive justification is applied to the elect? Asked another way, what is the means that God uses to constitute the elect righteous in Christ?”

    RSC responds, “60. How are you righteous before God? Only by true faith in Jesus Christ; that is, although my conscience accuse me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sin, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.”

    Do you have a problem with RSC’s answer? The issue is Spirit-wrought faith which brings us into Christ (union) whereby we receive the duplex beneficium (justification and sanctification).

    The best treatment I’ve read recently is Gaffin’s book, By Faith, Not By Sight. See pp. 35-45 especially. Brilliant stuff. I’d be interested in your response. Gaffin shares my concern that some FV writers (Lusk?) are positing union with Christ in such a way that justification takes on a different shape or loses its distinctiveness.


  71. greenbaggins said,

    July 4, 2007 at 10:31 am

    Matt, you have equivocated on the word “bare.” When I said “bare” I meant it in the same sense that Paul meant by faith alone. No works are involved. When I said “bare” I did not mean a dead faith, which is what you are assuming me to have meant.

    Justification is this: a declaration by God that a sinner is not guilty and has a right to eternal life, because, by being united to Christ by faith, the sinner’s sin is imputed to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the sinner. No works of any kind are involved, unless one says that they are Christ’s works, which are indeed the ground of our justification.

    Sanctification is this: the infusion of the Holy Spirit into our lives such that we die more and more to sin, and live more and more to righteousness. It is an act of God’s grace that enables us to respond in holiness. Sanctification starts at precisely the same time as justification does, and is inseparable yet distinct from justification. That is my view.

  72. Matt said,

    July 4, 2007 at 11:10 am


    You say that “justification is a declaration.” Declared where? And how? Rich Lusk and Peter Leithart and N.T. Wright and I (who am but dust on the scales next to these worthies) all say “by the resurrection of Jesus.” That’s the verdict that God declared, which we share in. Do you agree?

    R.S. Clark, on the other hand, says that God just “constitutes” us righteous. Jon Barlow asked him numerous times in the comments to explain what that meant, and Clark’s answer was “just like He created the heavens and the earth.” Since this appeared to mean “by fiat” (The creation account in the Vulgate reads, e.g. “fiat lux, et factum est lux”), Barlow asked him again to explain. Clark then quoted Heidelberg 60 — which just uses “imputes” again, without explaining how that imputation happens — and turned off the comments on the post.


    I’ve got the S.L. Johnson article now. I’ll post a reaction to it here, if I can follow it. There’s an awful lot of Greek words, though.

  73. markhorne said,

    July 4, 2007 at 12:48 pm

    #70: “Do you have a problem with RSC’s answer? The issue is Spirit-wrought faith which brings us into Christ (union) whereby we receive the duplex beneficium (justification and sanctification).”

    Your paraphrase is much more robust that RSC’s answer. There is nothing wrong with the Heidelberg answer, but is was addressed to a different question than what Jon Barlow was asking. You answered it fine, RSC did not want to do so because he wants “faith” to somehow be possible in an unsanctified individual. In other words, he is teaching semi-pelagianism at best.

  74. greenbaggins said,

    July 4, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    The judgment of justification is declared in the courtroom of God, God being the Judge. The “how” is answered by the idea of Jesus being our Mediator, our intercessor. That is how God can be Just, and yet the justifer of the ungodly (and that meant Abraham in the passage in Romans!).

  75. greenbaggins said,

    July 4, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    Mark, it is just as silly to say that RSC teaches semi-pelagianism as it is to say that Lig Duncan teaches the opposite of the study committee report. I have talked to him personally about this, and he just laughed at your effort to render him a schizophrenic.

  76. thomasgoodwin said,

    July 4, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    #70 = Mark Jones. Feel free to call me Mark, Mark. Or, perhaps you just wanted to draw attention to the specific post. No harm in formally introducing myself again!!

    Well, I’m not entirely sure where RSC stands on this issue; that is to say, in the details. But I think the principle of distinctio sed non separatio applies to justification and sanctification. Once that distinction is blurred, we have a problem and perhaps (I am only conjecturing here) that is what RSC wants to avoid. It’s too bad the heated rhetoric led to a ‘comments off’.


  77. Matt said,

    July 4, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    Barlow’s rhetoric was quite calm; he was polite throughout. I hardly think that was the reason Clark switched things off. He just didn’t have an answer.

    Lane, where is the courtroom of God where He makes this declaration? I assume that you mean more than just a metaphor for “it’s all in God’s head” — which is not a declaration at all.

  78. Matt said,

    July 4, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    OK, now that I’ve read it…

    S. Lewis Johnson’s article is an argument for the immediate imputation of Adam’s sin, and of Christ’s righteousness. Gary notes that Johnson expressed a negative evaluation of N.T. Wright’s handling of Romans 5, calling it “profoundly disappointing.”

    The irony of this assessment is very rich, inasmuch as a fuller awareness of some of Wright’s other work might have saved Johnson from coming to the wrong answer to his main question: “What type of union between Adam and the race does [Romans 5] suggest?” In general, Johnson’s method is to test various theological proposals against a close word-by-word scrutiny of the text. Rarely does he attempt to situate Paul’s argument in Romans 5 within the larger thought-world of the apostle, in terms that Paul would have recognized.

    S. L. Johnson’s preferred theory, that of the “immediate imputation” of Adam’s sin, attempts to answer the question of whether the sin of Adam is the ground of our guilt before God. To the question of how we share in that sin, or for that matter, how we share in Christ’s righteousness — in other words, how God imputes things — Johnson answers that imputation is “immediate”, which he explains as meaning that Adam’s sin is “imputed to them directly”, or that “all men enter life “constituted sinners.” note that this is the same language, “constituted”, that R.S. Clark used in answer to Barlow’s sharp questions about how imputation happens. Of course, it explains nothing, but only replaces one verb with another. We can just cast the question back again: “How does God constitute men sinners or righteous”?

    Because Johnson’s method is to arrive at his solution (“immediate imputation”) by the elimination of the competing theological theories, his article does little to show how the apostle Paul would have conceived of imputation in his own terms.

    Johnson rejects the theory of “realistic union”, which he describes as the view that all men were in Adam and sinned in him. He writes:

    “The real issue is this: Was Adam a person in whom human nature existed as an entity, a specific and numerically one entity (that is, all the individuals who come from Adam are specifically one [belong to the same species], and at one time in Adam they were numerically one, but not by propagation have become individualized into a multitude of person), or was Adam by divine ordination a representative person who stood the probation for his posterity?”

    But this passes over a further possibility, which is that Adam is still in us. And this is the Biblical view.

    I’d suggest that if we want to understand how it is that we share in Adam, and how it is that we share in Christ, we should look at 1 Cor. 15, which is absent from Johnson’s treatment of the question, despite being one of the few passages in the NT that mentions Christ and Adam in the same breath. 1 Cor. 15:21 is listed in Nestle-Aland 27 as a parallel to Romans 5:12, the verse Johnson spends most of his time trying to explain:

    1 Cor. 15:21: “For since through man death, also through man the resurrection from the dead. For just as in Adam all die, so also in the messiah all shall be made alive (zoopoiethesontai).”

    There are clear similarities of phrasing with Romans 5:12: the opening with hosper gar (“For just as…”); the prepositional phrase di’ anthrwpou (“through a man”); and the coming of death through Adam. That Johnson should have omitted this passage from his exegesis of Romans 5:12 is puzzling. Its omission has robbed him of the chance to explain Paul’s meaning by reference to other Pauline passages, rather than by 16th-century and later theological proposals (“realistic union”, “mediate imputation”, “immediate imputation”).

    Had Johnson caught this parallel passage and followed it for a bit, he would have discovered the answer to the question he tries to answer by matching theological theories up against Romans 5. 1 Cor. 15:44-45 gives the answer: “It is sown a psychikon body, it is raised a pneumatikon body. If there is a psychikon body, there is also a pneumatikon. Thus also it is written, “The (first) man (Adam) became a living psyche” (Gen. 2:7), and the last Adam, life-giving Spirit.”

    Wright has explained, by good old-fashioned philology, that the suffix -ikon on the end of these words “pneumatikon” and “psychikon” indicates that the body is animated by the principle to which the suffix is added. Thus, we are united to Adam by having the psyche that He became as the life-principle that animates us in this life. Adam is thus “in us” as our corrupt animating principle, inevitably tending to death. The resurrected Christ, on the other hand, is in us as a different animating principle, that is no longer susceptible to death.

    Paul thus explains our death and resurrection by appeal to union with Adam and with Christ. There is thus a good answer to one of Johnson’s objections to the view that imputation is accomplished by union. He writes:

    “Realism has difficulty in handling the analogy drawn in the passage between Adam and Christ…[I]t does seem essential to Paul’s point to maintain that the nature of the union between the two principals and their people is parallel. Taking everything into consideration, Bonner’s description of realism as ‘the macabre theory of the participation of unbegotten humanity in the first Adam’s primal sin’ is not unjustified.”

    But it should be immediately apparent that if Wright is correct in his interpretation of 1 Cor. 15, Adam and Christ are both united to their people in the same way: they are in them — one as a living soul, the other as life-giving Spirit. To Johnson’s objection that an “unbegotten humanity” could not have “participated in Adam’s primal sin”, we now have an obvious rejoinder: Paul says that Adam is in us. There is no more problem here than there is in saying that we were crucified with Christ — which is another event that took place before vast masses of “unbegotten humanity” came into the world.

    This gives us an answer to the question raised by Johnson: We are doomed to die because the first Adam, the psyche in us, is “of the earth, made of dust” (ek ges choikos). This is an echo of Genesis 2:7: God made Adam of the dust (chous) of the earth, to which He consigns Him to return as punishment for his sin. By designating man’s psyche as choikos (“made of dust”), Paul underscores that Adam is in us, and as long as he is our animating principle, we are under the curse that fell on him, so that we too must return to the ground.

    Another objection from Johnson is that “realism cannot handle Romans 5:14 and its last clause…In realism all have without exception sinned as Adam did, since they sinned racially in him. All have broken a definite and positive command, the same one Adam broke. Thus realism has no place for a different modus in sinning.” But this objection is without force once we realize that Paul is distinguishing between sin committed by someone who is a federal representative (Adam, Christ), and someone who is not (those “from Adam to Moses”). Sin committed by Cain, for instance, was not imputed to others, because Cain is not in us. He is not a federal head. By contrast, there is nothing to prevent me from having Adam in me, and being liable to death for that reason, and also committing other, further sins.

    Thus, vital union (or in Adam’s case, lethal union) provides the key to understanding how it is that events that happened to a federal head before the birth of some or all of the people united to that head can be predicated of the people.

  79. greenbaggins said,

    July 4, 2007 at 2:42 pm

    Matt, same place where Job 1-2 takes place.

  80. thomasgoodwin said,

    July 4, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Matt, the heated rhetoric didn’t necessarily come from Barlow, but others were clearly not helping – I have one comment in mind that stands out – the situation. No big deal, really. BTW, get Gaffin’s book “By Faith, Not By Sight”; I think you’ll find it helpful.

  81. July 4, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    Actually, on the systematics level, the required reading is surely Mark Garcia’s article in WTJ. FV would do well to read it.


  82. barlow said,

    July 4, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    Horne blogged through the Garcia article earlier:


  83. Matt said,

    July 4, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    Lane, does God say the same sorts of things about us that he says about Job? You know, “Have you considered my servant Peter, that he is a blameless man and upright, fearing God and shunning evil?” Is that the form God’s declaration of our righteousness takes?

  84. thomasgoodwin said,

    July 4, 2007 at 9:50 pm


    Of course he does and he says that about many other biblical characters (Abraham, Simeon [Lk. 2.25], Zechariah [Lk. 1.6], to name a few). And God will declare us to be righteous at the last day, demonstratively. But when he does this we will have already been acquitted and given our resurrected bodies. The verdict is in. But God will still demonstrate his own righteousness.

    According to Goodwin, God will, at the Day of Judgment, judge men and “put a difference between man and man, and that upon this account, that the one were true believers when he justified them; the other were unsound, even in their very acts of faith …” (Works, 7:181). God will therefore make evident, for all to see, the difference between those whom he has truly justified and those who have been left under wrath, even though they may have ‘professed’ faith. One group, the justified, will hear “Come, ye blessed” while the other will hear “Go, ye cursed”.

    Furthermore, “God will say, I am to judge thee so as every one shall be able to judge my sentence righteous together with me: 1 Cor. 4:5 …. the whole world may know that he justified one that had true faith indeed” (Ibid).

    God has declared us perfectly righteous because we are in Christ (i.e. our forensic declaration based upon the IAO of Christ); this, necessarily, leads to the fact that those whom God justifies he also sanctifies (1 Cor. 6:11; Rom. 8:29-30).

    Calvin argued that sanctification is just as important as justification. Both are a result of our union with Christ. In section 17 of Calvin’s First Catechism we read: “Just as Christ by his righteousness intercedes on our behalf with the Father in order that with him as our sponsor we may be reckoned as righteous, so by participation in his Spirit he sanctifies to all purity and innocence”. Christ bestows on us a double grace (duplex beneficium); i.e. justification & sanctification. For Calvin, Christ justifies no one whom he does not at that same time sanctify …. He bestows both of these benefits at the same time, the one never without the other” (Institutes. III.16.1). Good works, then, are never the cause but the fruit of our justification. Calvin concludes section 19 of his First Catechism by arguing that “fellowship with Christ has such great power because on its account we are not only freely reckoned righteous, but our works are also imputed to us as righteousness, and will be recompensed with an everlasting reward.”

    Does union with Christ render imputation redundant? Not for Calvin. So, to answer your question: yes, that is the form God’s declaration of our righteousness takes. But that is not the whole story, as Calvin, Goodwin, Owen, Edwards, Murray, etc. will all attest.


  85. markhorne said,

    July 5, 2007 at 12:47 am

    No one says that union with Christ renders imputation redundant. Someone said it and withdrew the statement. One person. And that is in the past.

    Move on.

  86. Kevin said,

    July 5, 2007 at 1:13 am

    Re: #78

    “To the question of how we share in that sin, or for that matter, how we share in Christ’s righteousness — in other words, how God imputes things . . . ”

    Perhaps, I’ve missed something, but I really fail to see the significance of this esoteric question as you’ve phrased it. I can’t recall anything on this topic in Augustine, or Luther, or Calvin, or anyone I can think of. But, then again, perhaps the church just didn’t understand Paul until Bishop Wright showed us the way.

    “Wright has explained, by good old-fashioned philology, that the suffix -ikon on the end of these words “pneumatikon” and “psychikon” indicates that the body is animated by the principle to which the suffix is added.”

    Hmm. I didn’t know that you can add a suffix to a principle to animate a body. If only Dr. Frankenstein had talked to Bishop Wright, he could have save much needless labor.

  87. Xon said,

    July 5, 2007 at 7:13 am

    Hmm. I didn’t know that you can add a suffix to a principle to animate a body. If only Dr. Frankenstein had talked to Bishop Wright, he could have save much needless labor.

    Is that comment a joke? It’s early Monday morning, so my humor radar is still down.

  88. July 5, 2007 at 7:50 am

    You are clueless. You demonstate absloutely no awareness of the theological issues that S.Lewis Johnson addressed in this article( have you read the likes of Charles Hodge,W.G.T.Shedd, John Murray to mention only three of the ones cited? In my class with Dr. Johnson on Romans we had to read extensively all of the individuals he cited in this article), and as I feared, you did not follow Johnson’s exegetical arguments.

  89. Xon said,

    July 5, 2007 at 8:28 am

    What “theological issues,” specifically, do you think Matt failed to address, Gary? And how, exactly, did Matt “not follow” SLJ’s exegetical arguments? Do you mean that Matt doesn’t understand what SLJ is even trying to say, or do you mean that Matt understands what he’s saying but simply doesn’t give good arguments against him, or do you mean something else?

    Details on these points could help make it clear how we might be going wrong. In the interest of pursuing the truth…

  90. July 5, 2007 at 8:51 am

    Matt’s take on Rom.5:12 is unique to say the least-forget about imputation, be it immediate or mediate-he ends up an influsionist-way out of the orbit of the Reformed tradition. But this should not come as a surprise to anyone who has follow NT Wright( I have heard that there is actually an anthem that is sung in his honor-” All hail the name of NT Wright let angels prostrate fall: bring forth the royal diadem and crown him the greatest exegete of all!”)

  91. Matt said,

    July 5, 2007 at 8:57 am


    I said that “the suffix -ikon” indicates that the body is animated by the principle…”. NB: The suffix does not animate. The principle (Adam or Christ) does.


    You suggested that I might not be able to follow the Greek. You dismissively assigned me this article, then refused to provide it when I offered to pay for it. I obtained it, and gave a detailed answer. You now dismiss my answer with no interaction or rebuttal.

    The readers of this blog can draw their own conclusions about who is able to do exegesis.

  92. July 5, 2007 at 9:27 am

    You remind me of Erasmus and his famous debate with Martin Luther. Erasmus was a very accomplished Greek scholar, and Luther greatly profited from Erasmus’s labors , especially in the field of the Greek text of the NT- but as his defense of free will demonstated his techincal knowledge of the Greek NT did him no good. As Packer rightly notes in the preface to ‘The Bondage Of The Will’, Erasmus was no theologian-Luther was above all a theologian and declared that a man is not made a truly wise Christian because he is a good Greek and Hebrew scholar. My esteemed professor, the late S. Lewis Johnson was a very accomplished Greek and Hebrew scholar. He taught Hebrew for a number of years and Bruce Waltke,( who was one of his students and perhaps the most accomplished Reformed OTscholar of our time), called Johnson the best OT exegete he ever knew. But Dr. Johnson’s grasp of the theological issues of Rom.5:12 show him to be much more than simply a technical superior Greek grammarian. You can see this very thing in J.Gresham Machen’s notes on Galatians when he interacts with the very accomplished Greek scholar Ernest DeWit Burton’s commentary-Burton certaintly new his Greek, but was abysmal in his grasp of the Apostle Paul.And you, my good friend, despite your expertise in Greek, have a very poor grasp of the theological issues that Johnson is addressing.

  93. Xon said,

    July 5, 2007 at 9:34 am

    First Matt was unable to follow the Greek, and he needed to go to SLJohnson’s article to receive proper instruction in exegesis. Now all of a sudden exegesis is not Matt’s problem–you admit him to be quite technically proficient–but rather his problem is that he is not a “theologian” who can see the “issues that Johnson is raising” which, apparetnly, lurk behind or beneath or under the text itself.

    You understand why people could be frustrated by such contradictory accusations, don’t you?

  94. barlow said,

    July 5, 2007 at 9:37 am

    GLWJ – strip away the anecdotes, the name dropping, and the accusations and you still haven’t answered the substance of Matt’s interaction with the Johnson article – an article you “assigned” to him.

  95. July 5, 2007 at 10:37 am

    More power to you-I am finished arguing with this bunch.They are like the cow that Luther likened Erasmus to- standing and staring at at fence with no comprehension whatsoever.

  96. Matt said,

    July 5, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Kevin J.,

    Augustine, Luther, and Calvin all weighed in on the question of what — sin, guilt, corrupt nature? — we receive from Adam, and how we receive it. If you email me privately, I’ll be happy to send you a copy of the Johnson article I was critiquing, which has references to the places in which each of these past theologians treat the question.

    As for N.T. Wright’s alleged novelty — the man is a gift to the church, and he stands on the shoulders of a century of scholarly work on 2nd Temple Judaism that has informed his reading of Paul. It would be surprising indeed if he did not illuminate some passages that have been misread by past generations of Christians.

    Mark Jones,
    I hope you don’t read me as saying that union makes imputation “redundant”. I’m arguing, rather, that union is the means of by which both the verdict of “guilty” that Adam received (in his death) and the verdict of “righteous” that Christ received (his resurrection), are imputed to us. I’m arguing this against S.L. Johnson’s “immediate imputation” position; against R.S. Clark’s “constituting us righteous” by fiat position; and against Lane Keister’s “secret declaration in the heavenly council” position.

    You may be surprised to hear that I had no criticisms of S.L. Johnson’s handling of the Greek. He’s as good as you say. I faulted him for his theology, i.e. his omission of 1 Cor. 15, and consequent failure to see that Paul advocates a “realistic union” of a sort that Johnson had not considered.

  97. thomasgoodwin said,

    July 5, 2007 at 12:49 pm


    No, I didn’t have you in mind. I am not sure that S.L. Johnson, RSC and Lane are so different. I mean, how would you have described my post on the issue? FV-like? I have only tried to articulate what I believe is the historic Protestant position which, as it turns out, is my own position. Of course, you seem to be implying that things aren’t as monolithic as I suggest they might be. Maybe Frame and Poythress are on to something? :)


  98. thomasgoodwin said,

    July 5, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    PS, is there anything about #84 that you are unhappy with? Besides, of course, Mark Horne’s frustration over me bringing up the imputation is redundant thing!

  99. Matt said,

    July 5, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Mark J.,

    What do you mean when you say you’re not sure “that S.L. Johnson, RSC and Lane are so different”? From each other? Or from you?

    S. L. Johnson, Gary, and RSC will not affirm imputation by union with Christ. Lane will not affirm that the resurrection was God’s verdict on Christ, which we share by union with Him. As I read you, you ARE willing to affirm these things.

    Gary now reveals that he thinks union with Christ is a form of Roman Catholic-style infusion. Do you feel that your view falls under this (ridiculous)condemnation, Mark J.?


  100. Matt said,

    July 5, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    No, I don’t see anything right now to disagree with in 84. I would only add that “God’s righteousness” in Romans is not only as a judge, but also a covenant-partner, and that the covenant is the standard by which God’s righteousness is evaluated.

    I would also add that by agreeing with 84, I do not mean to close off other ways of expressing the Bible’s teaching on justification. And the possibility remains that you might further explain your words in ways that would make me disagree with them on further reflection. But for now, it looks pretty good.

  101. Matt said,

    July 5, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    One more thing, Mark: I especially liked your approving quotation of Calvin on the justification of our works — this doctrine is a major part of Peter Lillback’s The Binding of God, and differs completely from Luther’s doctrine. Yet another reason why it is very misleading to talk about a single Reformation doctrine of justification.

  102. thomasgoodwin said,

    July 5, 2007 at 3:33 pm


    Well, I can’t speak for Gary, Lane, or RSC. Unless I am mistaken about Calvin, Owen, Goodwin, and Gaffin (all very different men in different contexts), union with Christ is the goal of the covenant whereby we receive, through spirit-wrought faith, the double benefit of Christ, justification and sanctification. Again, these two are ‘distinctio sed non separatio’. A principle that governs much of Calvin’s thought/hermeneutic.

    Concerning God’s verdict on Christ, I would want to spend time fleshing out Rom. 4:25 so as not to be misinterpreted. Sometimes I feel that the comments board is not something that facilitates careful theology; hence, many seem, on the surface, to be positing different views when, in actual fact, I think they could be fleshed out a bit more before someone invariably jumps on their back calling them Romanists (both so-called sides are guilty of this, of course).


  103. Xon said,

    July 5, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    Mark, for what it’s worth I think you and Matt are having a nice, profitable discussion. Don’t let the comment-format deter you. You are both overcoming the implicit limitations of the medium quite nicely.

  104. Matt said,

    July 5, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    Moo! :-)

  105. markhorne said,

    July 5, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    #97 is full of significance.

  106. thomasgoodwin said,

    July 5, 2007 at 11:47 pm

    Mark H., could you elaborate? Not sure what Matt means. I suggest for one that we refer to each other by name; after all, on the view of charity, we are brothers in Christ. None of you are heretical, I hope. Of course, that’s an interesting debate for another time, but even some of my TR brothers tend to disagree with me on that one.

  107. July 6, 2007 at 6:17 am

    I simply cannot let pass Matt’s spin on things.To begin with, how he reads the doctrine of union with Christ into Rom. 5:12-21 is, to say the least, very unique to him. I am unware of a single commentary on Romans that follows him on that. Second, by disregarding S.Lewis Johnson’s position on immediate imputation, he has,as I am sure Mark Horne knows all too well, thrown John Murray out the window as in the process.When he commends Wright’s view because it is the result of “good old-fashion philology” I must demur.Charles Hill, professor of NT at RTS,Orlando, pinpointed a very good example of Wright’s mishandling of the critically important word group DIKAIOSUNE and DIKAIOO. The good bishop contends,depite the total lack of lexical support, that these terms refer to “membershipp within a group ” or ” to make or declare a person a member of a group” and Chuck rightly issued a challenge- find one example from any Greek lexicon that supports Wright’s claim- there are none.Third, Matt’s ‘revised’ realism is as probelmatic as the older position as advocated by the noted WGT Shedd ,who S.Lewis Johnson interacts with.There are still insurmountable objections to this form of realism.To begin with, Matt’s view cannot adequately explain how Adam’s sin relates to his posterity as INDIVIDUALS and as PERSONS who did not exist- how was it posssible for us to ‘act’ in Adam? And why are not Adam’s other specific sins mentioned here if Paul entertain a realistic position? More importantly, in Rom.5 Paul over and over again and again relates our sin and guilt to the act of one man, Adam-but never once does he mention the act of ALL men, which you would expect if any form of realism were true. Finally, realism breaks the analogy the apostle draws here between Adam and Christ-Why? Simply because our justification is not related to the fact that we were seminally in Christ when he died for our sins- and you cannot go seek sanctuary in 1 Cor.15: 44-45 to escape the difficulty-Why? Because in Rom.5 Paul is NOT dealing with the resurrection – he is restricting his argument to the two Adams and their respective disobedience and obedience.

  108. Xon said,

    July 6, 2007 at 7:52 am


    1. Matt said that Wright’s “good philology” was shown in his breakdown of those words ending in -ikon. So your name-dropping a NT professor who thinks Wright screwed up on the dikaio word group is off-point. Unless, that is, you are claiming that if Wright screwed up one word then we are justified in dismissing his work on all other words? (But I’m sure you’re not saying that.)

    2. Many TRs have already thrown Murray under the bus as a sort of “crazy uncle” who inadvertently gave birth to a number of FV heresies. Now he is trotted out as an authority against Matt. Murray, like all people, got some things wrong. I guess Matt thinks that immediate imputation is one of those things.

    3. You say that “how Matt reads the doctrine of union with Christ into Romans 5:12-21” is “unique to him,” with not “a single commentary” agreeing with him (that you know of). But this is a fairly vague way of stating Matt’s position. What are you disagreeing with and calling unique, exactly? The bare connection of “union with Christ” (which we all agree I’m sure is taught in Rom. 6) and the concepts taught in Romans 5 (only one chapter earlier)? Are you saying that you think that Romans 5:12-21 has nothing to do with union with Christ? If you grant that there is some room for “union with Christ” here, then perhaps you could be more specific as to where exactly Matt went wrong, how your view differs from his, etc.

    4. I appreciate the substantial interaction that you attempt to give in the second half of #107. Thank you! (I’ll bet Matt thanks you as well). I’ll let Matt answer for himself on those points, probably. It being Friday I might get frisky later on in the day.

  109. Matt said,

    July 6, 2007 at 8:09 am

    Gary has apparently decided to try to interact with me again. So I’ll moo back a little now, over the fence:

    1. I didn’t “disregard S. Lewis Johnson’s position on immediate imputation.” I rejected it for what I felt were good reasons.
    2. I don’t care whether I agree with John Murray. I don’t pray to saints. I am not “of Paul” or “of Cephas.” I even disagree with John Calvin on many matters. Jeepers!
    3. Wright’s ecclesial use of “dik-” root words is not a matter of lexical argument, but of historic Second Temple Judaism. Wright contends that the Jews of Paul’s day were expecting God to vindicate some Jews and condemn others, and that when he did so, the vindicated (=justified) ones would be the eschatological people of God, the new Israel. He discusses this at length in “The Resurrection of the Son of God.” He sees that Paul, in contrast to 2TJ, understands Jesus to have been the true Israel of God, and to have received the promised vindication in His resurrection. Finally, Wright says that when we are united to Christ by faith, we too share in this vindication, which is past, present, and future: to wit, we are united with the vindicated One, and His resurrection, which took place in the past, is now ours, so that in the moment when we are united to Him, God counts us righteous by Christ’s resurrection. At the same time, we eagerly await the resurrection of our own bodies, of which Christ’s was the firstfruits. This will be the completion of the vindication which we already have in Christ now. Thus, Wright says, justification within the life of an individual is a declaration by God that this person is a member in the present of the people of God that will be publicly vindicated in the future, and has already been vindicated on the cross.

    Thus, Wright is not arguing by a mishandling of “dik-” root words, but establishing the context in which those “dik-” words are operating. Justification is still an act of “vindication” (and thus, Wright’s use is supported by the Greek lexicons); the question is only “What shape does that vindication take?” Wright answers that Second Temple Judaism always expected the vindication of the righteous to have an ecclesial shape.

    4. Gary says: “Matt’s view cannot adequately explain how Adam’s sin relates to his posterity as individuals and as persons who did not exist – how was it possible for us to ‘act’ in Adam?” This is not a new objection to realistic union, but the same one from SL Johnson’s article that I already refuted. To wit, Adam relates to his posterity as individuals and as persons who did not exist in the same way that Christ relates to his people, which includes many who at the time of His incarnation did not exist yet. If it is not a problem for us to be sharers in Christ’s righteousness, and in his resurrection, then how can it be a problem for us to be sharers in Adam’s guilt and death? Adam is “in us” and we “in him” just as Christ is “in us” and we “in him.”

    5. Thus, there is a clear and obvious answer to your objection that “realism breaks the analogy the apostle draws here between Adam and Christ.” Namely, I am not arguing for a “seminal” union with Adam — precisely because that is not the form of our union with Christ either. The union is not like Aaron paying tithes to Melchizedek while in Abraham’s loins. SLJ’s criticism doesn’t touch my position, and neither does yours, Gary.

    6. It is thus clear why Paul does not mention Adam’s sin as “the act of ALL men.” Contrary to Gary, we would NOT “expect this if realism were true.” For the same reason, Paul talks about Christ dying on the cross, and says that “we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be in the likeness of His resurrection” (Rom. 6:5). But any metaphysical objections to our sharing in Adam by vital union will also apply to our sharing in Christ by vital union.

    7. There is an obvious answer to Gary’s question “why are not Adam’s other specific sins mentioned?” — namely, it was his eating of the forbidden tree that brought death, and it is this death that Paul is concerned with, as the verdict that we must escape by being united to Christ instead.

    8. Gary thinks that in Romans 5 Paul is “restricting his argument to the two Adams and their respective disobedience and obedience” and “not dealing with the resurrection.” This claim is shown to be false by 5:17’s phrase “righteousness will reign in life” and 5:18’s “justification of life” and 5:21’s “so that grace might reign through righteousness unto eternal life“. These three phrases, which come in the conclusion of Paul’s argument, show clearly that the apostle is indeed dealing with the resurrection. Not only that, but the word “life” in in each case linked with either dikaiosyne (righteousness) or dikaiosis (justification). This is a strong corroboration of my claim that the resurrection of Christ is God’s forensic verdict for our justification.

    Since, then, Romans 5 is indeed dealing with the resurrection, we are fully entitled to compare other passages dealing with the same theme. In Romans 5, Paul adduces union with Christ and His resurrection in order to answer the question of how God can be just in rescuing us from our death sentence in Adam. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul adduces the same union with Christ and His resurrection in order to answer metaphysical objections to the idea that we will be bodily raised from the dead. I have already pointed out the strong parallels in phrasing between Romans 5:12 and 1 Corinthians 15:44-45.

  110. markhorne said,

    July 6, 2007 at 2:54 pm


    Mark, I was commending you, that’s all. Sorry I didn’t state your name. I’m not sure why you are making something out of that.


  111. July 7, 2007 at 7:14 am

    Fellow travelers
    Nothing needs be said in response to Matt-I hope it is self-evident to everyone that his idiosyncratic reading of Rom. 5:12 is classic example of eisegesis.Practically the whole Reformed tradition lines up against him, and get this, he doesn’t care! In fact it appears to be a badge of honor to disregard Calvin,Owen,Hodge,Warfield ,Murray( to mention only a few) in order to pay homage to the brilliant insights of NT Wright. Oh, Xon this includes Jonathan Edwards as well, but I don’t think that really matters all that much to you given your ardent defense of all things related to the FV. And this ‘name dropping’ thing that you and Barlow have chided me for doing-it is called citing your sourses,and it is a good habit to get into, otherwise you end up committing plagiarism (which , as two of your fellow FVers have experienced, can be very embarassing) and since you and Jon are both grad students you need to know that most grad schools really frown on that kind of thing. I do hope this has been helpful. Adios.

  112. Matt said,

    July 7, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Gary, I’m certainly open to being convinced that my understanding of Romans 5:12 is wrong. But I think the claim that my example is “self-evidently eisegesis” is just a way to avoid having to specify just what it is that I have read into the text from outside it.

    FWIW, I don’t pay homage to N.T. Wright either. I think he’s wrong about many things (e.g. women in office, church polity, economics, world affairs, and how to deal with the homosexualism crisis in Anglicanism). But he is a very good exegete, and I’m thankful for his service to the church in that regard.

    It is a sin to receive this or that claim of Reformed exegesis as true just because it comes from revered theologians of the past. That’s called respect of persons (prosopolempsia). God hates it.

  113. GLW Johnson said,

    July 8, 2007 at 8:07 am

    It would be nice to someday set down together and face to face discuss our differences- exchanging comments on a blog has certain drawbacks, especially when it comes to how one’s comments are to be taken. I do not doubt that you are sincere in your attempt to understand the issues surrounding Rom.5:12-21- but it is beyond my feeble comprehension that you actually think that your brief comments (on what amounts to maybe three pages max) has successfully “refuted” S.Lewis Johnson and the entire history of the Reformed doctrine of immediate imputation that he so capably represented.Having been his teaching and research assistant (and this required me to attend all his classes-which included advance exegesis of the Pauline epistles, 1 Corinthians being part of the course) he was very much aware of all the passages that touched upon the subject of Christ and Adam- and the reason he did not interprete Rom.5:12-21 through the lenses of 1 Cor.15:44-45 is because the two passages are not directly related in the way that you insist that they are( primarily in the sense that is so key to your understanding of the doctrine of union with Christ and the status of his resurrection serving as the distinctive feature of your ‘revised’ realism). I would again point you to Brian Vicker’s recent work, JESUS’ BLOOD AND RIGHTEOUSNESS:PAUL’S THEOLOGY OF IMPUTATION (Crossway,2007) for a complete analysis and defense of the doctrine of imputation-which it appears from what you are saying really does make imputation ‘redundant’ protest not withstanding.

  114. Matt said,

    July 9, 2007 at 1:31 pm

    Gary, neither your comments here nor your esteemed mentor’s article give any good reason to think that Paul means something different when he says “through [one] man” in Romans 5 than he does in 1 Cor. 15. You do not present any competing exegesis of 1 Cor. 15. You just swear up and down that the presence of Adam and Christ in us that is described in 1 Cor. 15 can’t have anything to do with justification in Romans 5. Well, why on earth can it not? You don’t say.

    Johnson’s conclusion is that there is no means by which God imputes righteousness and guilt; that such imputation is immediate. He spends most of his article arguing against the means of imputation that have been proposed by others. All I had to do to answer him was argue that the Bible teaches a means of imputation is not susceptible to any of his criticisms. I didn’t have to refute the whole article. Indeed, I agree with most of it.

    I’d be happy to interact via a more personal medium. My phone number is area code 513, then 204-5623. I live in Cincinnati.

  115. GLW Johnson said,

    July 10, 2007 at 7:05 am

    What is your email? We can continue this discussion by that means. Have you read Warfield( vol.9 of his Works,’Studies in Theology’) on the subject? After you have had achance to read Vickers we can pick up the conversation because, candidly I am not convinced that you understand the doctrine we are debating. Adios.

  116. Matt said,

    July 10, 2007 at 7:48 am

    Vickers is presumably a Baptist, teaching at SBTS. There was a very interesting review of his recent book on Amazon.com:

    “Vickers argues for imputation in a “non-traditional” way. What I mean by that is that he comes to his conclusions through an exegesis that is decidedly non-traditional. Vickers writes, “No single text contains or develops all the `ingredients’ of imputation . . . Taken alone, not one of the `key’ texts that have played such an integral role in the historical discussion [of imputation] argues decisively, or explicitly, for a full-orbed doctrine of imputation” (pp. 18, 235). For Vickers, not even Romans 4 (in which logizomai figures so prominently) teaches the full-blown doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.”

    “Thus, even though traditionalists may like Vickers’ theological conclusion affirming imputation, they may chafe at some of his readings of particular texts. But Vickers’ approach to these Pauline texts should not diminish the fact that his argument taken as a whole comprises a thoroughgoing defense of the traditional view. Vickers is showing that even though Christ’s righteousness is never explicitly named as that which is imputed (as Gundry charges), the doctrine is the necessary correlation of a synthesis of Paul’s teaching.”

    “Traditionalists will continue to debate Vickers’ description of the imputation of Christ’s active obedience. In traditional formulations, Christ’s active obedience refers to the life of obedience to God’s law that Christ rendered in His incarnation. Such obedience to God’s law is the obligation of every person, but no person ever achieves it. Vickers thinks that Paul does not necessarily have this total obedience to the law in mind when speaking of Christ’s obedience in Romans 5:19. Rather, Paul has in mind Christ’s obedience to the point of death on the cross. This obedience cannot be neatly separated from Christ’s total obedience to God’s law, but this singular act of obedience on the cross is nevertheless the focus in Paul. Thus Vickers suggests a redefinition of Christ’s active obedience (pp. 196, 198, 226-28) that may not fulfill the so-called “covenant of works” (which is a central feature in covenant theology).”

    I haven’t read the book, so I can’t judge the accuracy of this review. But if it is accurate, I am surprised that you would be satisfied with Vicker’s view, Gary. It sounds similar to Francis Sullivan’s “From Apostles to Bishops”, a Roman Catholic argument for apostolic succession which gives away the store by admitting that the doctrine in question is not taught in any Biblical texts. The case might be similar with Vickers if he thinks (as I do not) that imputation is not taught in any isolated text of the NT, but must be constructed from a synthesis of many.

    At any rate, perhaps a book worth reading. For me, the test of Vicker’s work will be whether he is successful in painting a better “big picture” of Paul’s theology.

  117. GLW Johnson said,

    July 10, 2007 at 8:10 am

    What,huh? I fail to see what Vickers being a baptist has any thing to do with this particular debate-so is D.A.Carson(you have probably seen his piece,” The Vindication of Imputation” in the book ‘Justification: What’s at Stake In The Current Debate’ eds. M Husbands and D.J. Treier(IVP,2004) as is John Piper-what does this have to do with Roman Catholics arguing for apostolic succession for pete sakes!

  118. GLW Johnson said,

    July 10, 2007 at 8:25 am

    Are you saying that for a doctrine to be ‘Biblical’ (as opposed to being ‘theological’) it cannot be constructed from a synthesis of many texts? What about the doctrine of the Trinity? I am amazed at this approach.

  119. Stewart said,

    July 10, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    This is a great thread! I’m, however, a little miffed that no one will actually debate the text with Matt. All he’s getting is, “well you obviously haven’t read …”

    Anyway, Lane, what problem do you have with calling the resurrection a verdict ? Was it?

  120. A. Dollahite said,

    July 10, 2007 at 4:14 pm


    RE #118 – I could be wrong, but it doesn’t read to me that Matt is saying a ‘Biblical’ doctrine cannot be constructed from a synthesis of many texts. I’m assuming he would say that such doctrines *could* be formed by synthesis of many texts.

    What he appears to be saying, as I read him, is that he is surprised *you* would be pleased with a work (Vickers) which argues “that imputation is not taught in any isolated text of the NT, but must be constructed from a synthesis of many.” Matt seems to under the impression that you would reject (along with him) the notion that imputation is not taught explicitly by any particular text, but must be pieced together from a variety of places.

  121. Matt said,

    July 10, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    Yes. I believe the Bible explicitly teaches imputation of righteousness in several passages, and not just by synthesis. And I’m surprised that Gary would agree with that view.

    It makes me wonder who is really the true defender of imputation here. Here I am saying that the Bible both teaches the doctrine explicitly, and also teaches us the means by which God does it. But Gary points me to S.L. Johnson and B. Vicker, who who say there is no means by which God does it (SLJ), and that the Bible doesn’t teach it except by synthesis (BV).

    Whose doctrine of imputation is more real, robust, and life-like? Whose is better integrated with the rest of Christology (cur Deus homo)? Whose fits better with other doctrines? Whose provides a more satisfying account of various scriptures? Whose paints a more comprehensive picture of Paul’s theology?

    I haven’t read Vicker yet, so I’ll have to get back to you later with a review of him. But these are the questions that I’m asking, and that I hope the readers here are asking.

  122. Matt said,

    July 10, 2007 at 5:34 pm

    Gary wrote: “What does this have to do with Roman Catholics arguing for apostolic succession for pete sakes!”

    Just this: Sullivan was an example of someone who advocates a position, but so attenuates and weakens the very doctrine he’s defending, that he practically gives away the store to those who want to deny it.

  123. Matt said,

    July 10, 2007 at 9:53 pm

    My email is on my blog, Gary. But I’d prefer phone, because I don’t think that you would treat me as rudely over the phone as you would in email. Contact me by email and I’m willing to call you.

  124. GLW Johnson said,

    July 11, 2007 at 6:40 am

    Why is that most of you guys over ‘there’ are so lacking when it comes to having a sense of humor in a theological discussion? I am still not sure we are on the same page here,for a couple of reasons. You start out by rejecting immediate imputation and claim to have ‘refuted’ S.L.Johnson’s position in a paltry couple of paragraphs-but then you say you agree with most of what he said and with the substance of his exegesis but then you turn around and import a very unique type of realism into the passage which you claim to have derived from 1 Cor.15:44-45- but this makes no sense-how on earth can you agree with S.L.Johnson handling of Rom.5:12-21 and yet reject immediate imputation? Finally, you admit that you haven’t read Vickers yet-but you put alot of stock in a review and use that as the basis for your criticism of Vickers. I can only chuckle at how Dr. Johnson would have responded to you in class with this kind of approach.

  125. Xon said,

    July 11, 2007 at 8:12 am

    Matt is just trying to keep up a converstaion with you, Gary. He isn’t “putting a lot of stock” in that review of Vickers without having read Vickers; he is simply pointing out to you (since YOU brought the Vickers article up) that “Hey, here’s an interesting review of that article, what do you think about it?” Matt admitted explicitly that he didn’t know how accurate the review was when he first brought it up.

    As to Matt’s argument against SLJ, Matt can agree with the majority of SLJ’s exegesis b/c that exegesis by itself does not prove SLJ’s doctrine of immediate imputation. For that, SLJ has to go a bit further, add in some assumptions, etc., which Matt thinks are problematic. There is no contradiction in Matt’s approach here.

  126. GLW Johnson said,

    July 11, 2007 at 8:35 am

    It is Matt who is making all the assumptions here.To begin with, he is building his whole argument around a FV understanding of union with Christ and the status of his resurrection-this in turn is imported into Rom.5:12-21 ( and I will once again say that neither the resurrection nor the doctrine of union with Christ is in the forefront in this text). Appeal is made to the passage in 1 Cor. 15: 44-45 (a text that does focus on the resurrection)to substaniate Matt’s novel realism- and I am saying as clearly as I possible can that this cannot be harmonized with S.L.Johnson’s exegetical arguments that are joined at the hip with immediate imputation. Matt is operating with some very obvious theological presuppositions , we all do this-but his are clearly derived from NT Wright and are not the result of simply ‘reading the text’ and allowing it to speak for itself.

  127. Xon said,

    July 11, 2007 at 8:51 am

    and I am saying as clearly as I possible can that this cannot be harmonized with S.L.Johnson’s exegetical arguments that are joined at the hip with immediate imputation

    Well, you are making this assertion pretty clearly, but I’m still not clear on the argument.

  128. greenbaggins said,

    July 11, 2007 at 8:58 am

    Stewart, I don’t have any principial objection to calling Christ’s resurrection a vindication of Christ’s innocence. However, the statement by itself is a bit vague, and it can be taken in directions that confuse justification and sanctification. It needs to be carefully guarded against misunderstanding.

  129. A. Dollahite said,

    July 11, 2007 at 3:44 pm


    I’m sorry, but perhaps I’m missing the point here when you say the following:

    Matt is operating with some very obvious theological presuppositions , we all do this-but his are clearly derived from NT Wright and are not the result of simply ‘reading the text’ and allowing it to speak for itself.

    1) You assert Matt has presuppositions derived from N.T. Wright.
    2) You admit everyone makes presuppositions.
    3) Here’s where you lose me…You suggest Matt should just “‘[read] the text’ and ‘[allow] it to speak for itself.” I’m not quite sure how one ‘just reads’ without having any presuppositions. Aren’t presuppositions there *before* you read a text? Did you arrive at your position by “simply ‘reading the text’ and allowing it to speak for itself” without any presuppositions? Also, in what way are the presuppositions you say Matt is building his case on improper?

    Seriously (since I’m out looking for my sense of humor… wink, wink),

    Andy Dollahite

  130. A. Dollahite said,

    July 11, 2007 at 3:58 pm


    Perhaps what I”m missing is the place where Matt said he formed his interpretation just reading the text without any presuppositions. It would be helpful to me if you could point me back to where he said something akin to this. Thanks.

  131. Matt said,

    July 11, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    S.L. Johnson’s article contains no exegetical argument for immediate imputation. That is, he never says, “Paul says X and Y, and this entails immediate imputation.”

    No, SLJ’s exegetical arguments only establish certain boundaries of interpretation, and rule out some of the competing theories. His arguments do not touch MY understanding of imputation by union with Adam and Christ.

    Gary replies that my interpretation is “novel” and “derived from NT Wright.” But the only part I got from NT Wright is the interpretation of 1 Cor. 15’s terms “pneumatikon soma” and “psychikon soma.” My recognition of the relevance of 1 Cor. 15:44-5 to Romans 5:12 can hardly be an innovation of mine — after all, I only discovered it from an inspection of Nestle-Aland’s marginal notes of verbal allusions and parallels. Since N-A is the standard scholarly edition of the NT, I can hardly be charged with novelty. I just looked at the parallel passage that somebody else had already pointed out.

    Nor do I think it is fair to say that imputation via union with Christ is a theological novelty within the Reformed tradition. Mark Horne has already pointed out that R. L. Dabney and J.W. Nevin agreed with the view that imputation is on the basis of union with Christ (and with Adam). (See Horne’s article “Real Union or Legal Fiction” at Theologia:


    Then there’s Michael Horton:
    “Through union with Christ, we receive his righteousness imputed (justification) as well as his righteousness imparted (sanctification).”

    And John Calvin:
    “We must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us….All that he possesses is nothing to us until we grow into one body with him” (Institutes, III.i.1)

    Examples could probably be multiplied, but I am not much of a theologian, and do not own many theological books.

    Gary is right that I brought presuppositions to bear on my reading of Romans 4-5. But I got those presuppositions from Reformed theologians like Dabney, Calvin, and Horton. My view that imputation is brought about by our union with Christ was taught by all these men. I had no need to get it from N.T. Wright. His work was merely helpful for confirming my view with further exegetical evidence from 1 Cor. 15.

  132. GLW Johnson said,

    July 12, 2007 at 8:01 am

    Matt initially took umbrage at my suggestion that he was depend on Wright, claiming he arrived at his position by simply ‘reading his Greek text’.
    You are now changing directions in mid-stream. Whatever happened to your ‘realism’? Now you want to say that imputation is connected with union with Christ-but this is a sleight of hand move because what you are really doing is attemping to advance the notion that union with Christ (and Adam )are to be understood realistically, in which case you cannot appeal to Dabney or Calvin , and you face the very same objections that S.L.Johnson raised to WGT Shedd’s position. What I see happening here is imputation being brought in as an after though-an appendage or caboose. You speak of imputation but it is niether immediate or mediate- it has no distinguishing feature.Vickers , by the way, has a good analysis of Dabney on the subject.

  133. pduggan said,

    July 12, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    Wow. Long thread

    78: Looks good matt. I don’t know if these questions have been addressed.

    I wonder why mere immediate imputation of sin would be enough for us to have a corrupt nature. If we have a corrupt nature via the adamic animating principle, that makes more sense why we have a corrupt nature AND a guilty verdict hanging over us, and why God doesn’t have to perform an act and a trick of thought at the same time.

    74: on God’s courtroom. JOB never finds out that God thinks he’s great in his courtroom. But we’re supposed to know that we have received a verdict of righteous. How? Aren’t we to look at the actual news event? rather than out subjective state?

  134. pduggan said,

    July 12, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    You all can ignore me, and maybe I’m just asking Matt for his feedback, but ti strikes me theology would be much simpler under a lutheran objective/subjective justification understanding. The WCF rules out justificaiton of ANYONE until faith, but it seems to me Messiahship inherently is an office that includes representation of a body of folks. So when the messiah is justified, the folks are too, at least “objectively”

    I’m not sure if this is fiat, constitutive, realistic, or immediate,but it makes some measure of sense.

  135. October 22, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    […] part 1), part 2 (General observations, part 2), part 3 (Exegetical response, part 1), part 4 (Exegetical respons, part 2), Leithart’s response to the charge of illegitimate totality […]

  136. November 12, 2007 at 11:48 am

    […] observations, part 1), part 2 (General observations, part 2), part 3 (Exegetical response, part 1), part 4 (Exegetical respons, part 2), Leithart’s response to the charge of illegitimate totality […]

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