Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Justification by busyness?

Re-reading Tim Chester's book "The Busy Christians Guide to Busyness", a few sentences really hit home:

"Pastors [or UCCF Staff Workers it turns out] preach justification by faith and then tell you at the door how busy they are, in an act of hypocritical self-justification. ... the temptation to talk up our busyness is strong. We want to show we're earning our money. We want people to respect our hard work."

Temptation to talk up our busyness - yep, that's me. I'm often trying to prove my worth by explaining that I've got a lot on, that I'm worth all the money people are giving me to do my job, that I should be respected because of all the things I fit in. I want to feel I've proved and justified my life through being 'oh, very busy' (or when I'm not really that busy, listing lots of things I'm doing to make me sound like I am). But when its stated plainly for what it is, I can see how foolish and sinful this is - trying to earn worth, acceptance, respect, when Christ has died and all is completed. My identity is now in Jesus and not in looking, or being, busy (or anything else). Oh Lord, help us to stop justifying our existance by what we do!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Is Wright right?

I've started reading Tom Wright's latest book on Justification alongside John Piper's critique of Wright 'The Future of Justification'. (Wright's book is his response to Piper's response to his teaching on the 'new perspective on Paul'!)

A few initial thoughts on Wright's position:
- Wright is at great pains to emphasise the overarching story of the people of Israel as terribly important. Agreed. But just because Wright emphasises this doesn't mean that everyone who holds to what is now the 'old perspective' is only interested in 'me and my salvation'. That may be true of some, but certainly not all - I'd heard of biblical theology from Reformed sources long before I'd heard of the new perspective!

- Wright alleges that, since the above is true (that we traditional Reformed types are only interested in individual salvation), for all our loud claims to the contrary we're actually being man-centred. Wright's position, however, is God-centred - focusing on God's grand plan rather than little old me. This raises two questions: (i) why should the grand story of the Bible be incompatible with the traditional teaching on justification? No one is suggesting that justification is the be-all-and-end-all of the Christian life or the biblical worldview! (ii) for all his claims, is Wright going to smuggle man-centredness in through the back door later through changing the categories in which we think of justification? Will the new perspective turn out to be leaning down the slippery slope that logically leads to salvation by works?

- One thing certainly seems lacking thus far in his discussion. (Let's be fair - he may come to it later.) But I distinctly remember him bemoaning in the early pages of the book the lack of consideration of the 'in Christ' language of the NT by the traditional camp. That may be a fair complaint. But, as Mike Reeves brilliantly shows in talks you can buy here, that very 'in Christ' language offers the solution to Wright's big problem with the idea of the imputation of Christ's righteousness...