Saturday, May 16, 2009

Does a Reformation View of Justification Paralyze Social Action?

Now I'm just an amateur when it comes to studies in Paul and the Law and justification, etc., but I can't say I loved Blomberg's review of N. T.'s new book. I'll leave the detailed interactions for Jeff, but Doug Wilson reviewed Blomberg's review, critiquing Wright's emphasis (which Blomberg likes) on the grand scale renewal of all things vis-a-vis the Reformation emphasis on an individual's reconciliation with God.

Blomberg writes, "Fixate on the Reformers’ (understandable) preoccupation with how an individual becomes right with God (crucial in its day against medieval Catholicism) and one may miss the bigger picture, in which the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham through the children of Israel as progenitor of the Messiah looms even larger."

Wilson's response is powerful:
Notice what is being juxtaposed here. The Reformers had a individualistic fixation on getting individuals into heaven when they die. But we, upon whom the new perspective has shone, now understand that there is a "bigger picture." I see. And what did the Reformers do with their narrow vision? Well, they toppled kings, transformed laws, overhauled cultures, settled a continent, built nations, founded schools and colleges, inspired musicians and painters, and we could continue in this vein for quite a while. And what do we do, entranced as we are by the new perspective? We write academic papers, download podcasts of academic lectures that we can listen to in the privacy of our ear buds, and we go white in the face if conservative Christians suggest that Jesus might have an opinion about the ongoing slaughter of the unborn. John Piper, with his preaching on the pro-life issue, challenges the principalities and powers. The soft statism that goes with trendy theology these days does nothing of the kind -- it simply suggests (but not too loudly) that we need kinder, gentler principalities and powers.
Aside from the actual quality of Wilson's critique of Blomberg per se, the point is important. I think of how Wilberforce's theological backbone was exactly that individual justification. It certainly seems that those who just can't get over the forgiveness of their sins and their restored relationship with God are mobilized for remarkable ministry (in all its forms) in this world.

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