Stellman has replied here to my blog post concerning the interpretation of key passages. I will not focus on the areas where we agree, but concentrate on the areas where we are either disagreeing or miscommunicating.
He argues, concerning the Galatians passage:
Lane then says that what faith working through love avails for is the “hope of righteousness,” or, glorification. But I do not necessarily disagree with him here. The believer, as he lives a life of living faith which works through love, will thereby be granted on the last Day to enter fully into the eternal inheritance that Jesus won for him by his cross and resurrection. Perhaps Lane’s disagreement with me stems from his idea that justification is a once-for-all event rather than something that we receive initially, grow in, and then are fully granted on the last Day. But I would suggest that the more fully-orbed understanding of justification (one with initial, ongoing, and future elements) will better allow Paul to simply speak for himself in this text. After all, it is pretty obvious that the apostle’s formulation, “faith working through love avails for ________” should end with the word “justification,” since he just finished telling “those who would be justified by the law” that “circumcision avails nothing.”
I would dispute his translation of the Greek word “ischuo.” Jason is implying that the word needs to have some sort of direction arrow on it, as indicated by the large blank. However, this is not needed. Indeed, we can see this in several other translations of the verse. ESV has “counts for anything,” the HCSB has “accomplishes anything;” the NET has “carries any weight.” Looking up the word in BDAG reveals its opinion that the word in this context means “have meaning, be valid, be in force.” There is no reason to assume, therefore, that there is anything particular in Paul’s mind here for which this FWTL avails. It is merely that this is what counts. This is what matters. In this I am correcting what I wrote in the last blog post, wherein I wrote that FWTL avails for the hope of righteousness. I no longer think that such is the proper translation of “ischuo.”
Stellman thinks my paragraph about faith and love is confusing. Faith and love are distinct, yet inseparable, much like the two natures of Christ, or the persons of the Trinity. Justification and sanctification are distinct yet inseparable. I’m not sure where his confusion comes in. I am saying that faith and love are two distinct things, and yet you will never find the one without the other. This is the only way, I believe, to understand how James and Paul can both be correct. Paul emphasizes the distinctness of faith and love (while not ignoring the inseparability), while James emphasizes the inseparability (without ignoring the distinctness).
So it would seem to me that it is Lane who imports works of love into his definition of saving faith, such that the latter necessarily includes the former, whereas I have been saying all along that faith alone is dead, unless it is “active along with works” of love (to borrow James’ phrase).
Now, this is confusing to me. I have worked for years to maintain the distinctness of love and saving faith. How exactly did he come to the conclusion that I was importing love into my definition of saving faith? I am at a total loss, I must confess. Maybe he can help with the actual steps of how I did this. I hasten to assure my readers that I do believe that saving faith is one thing, and love is something else, however much they always appear together. You never have the light of the sun without its heat, and yet they are two distinct conceptual things.
Lane here is altering Paul’s actual words in order to make them fit with his theology. Paul does not say, “Circumcision avails nothing for glorification, but faith does, since it alone justifies. But after we are once-for-all justified, we do works of love as a matter of course, which works play no role in our receiving eternal life.” That is at best a strained example of exegetical gymnastics.
This is an assertion, not an actual argument that I have so gymnasticified the text, if I may coin a rather inelegant word.
Stellman goes on to say:
What Paul in fact says, is this: “You who want to be justified by the law by receiving circumcision are severing yourselves from Christ. Circumcision avails nothing for attaining our inheritance, but faith working through love does. This love fulfills the law and is the fruit of the Spirit, and if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life.”
The words “for attaining our inheritance” are imported into the text in Stellman’s exegesis. I have already argued above that “ischuo” does not require the prepositional phrase “for x.” Nor does it require the translation “avail.” The meaning of the word (and there is no Greek prepositional phrase corresponding in any way to Stellman’s addition) seems more comfortably to be “have meaning, or validity.” In which case Paul is not in this verse telling us how a person may be justified. Jews believe circumcision is what matters. Paul believes that faith working through love is what matters. The contextual argument is still strong for contrasting FWTL with circumcision, and what the Judaizers expect and believe. The opposition goes something like this: circumcision is opposed to faith in justification. Love is opposed to Pharisaic works as the way of life that results from justification. Paul is, after all, transitioning to exhortations concerning sanctification in verses 13 and following. It seems logical to see verse 6 as a bridge verse between his discussion of justification and sanctification, showing us that union with Christ is where the two meet (see the “en Christo” formula at the beginning of the verse).