Monday, December 5, 2005

Rom 7, an indicator.

How one views Romans 7 is a good indicator of their general philosophy of Christian life. I find it interesting that some of the Federal Vision types are taking a very similar view of Romans 7 as the New Covenant Theology folks. Both view Rom 7 (the latter part) as not referring to the Christian's experience in dealing with a new heart in a sin-tainted flesh, but rather as that of an unregenerate individual.

While NCT would not consider the Law the Christian is under today to be the 10 Commandments but rather the "law of Christ", meaning the commands of Christ expressed in the New Testament, they would agree with some of the FV types who claim that the Law of God was never intended as a perfect standard of righteousness.

12 comments:

  1. Micah, I've got a few questions for you, if you don't mind.

    1) Precisely who among the "FV types" does not hold that the law is "a perfect standard of righteousness"? I'm not familiar with them doing that.

    2) Do you mean to limit the law to the ten commandments? Surely there are lots more.

    3) What do you make of "the law of Christ"? I'm not in with the NCT group, but I do think we need to figure out what Paul means by this.

    4) When will you actually engage Daniel's exegetical observations on Romans 7? It is one thing to suggest and imply and associate, it is quite another to actually engage.

    5) What do you make of Ridderbos on Romans 7? Is he NCT too, or FV, or NPP? And is he wrong merely because he can be labeled?

    6) What do you make of Augustine on Romans 7? I know he changed his mind here and there, but his thought is worth hearing.

    7) What will you lose if you lose Romans 7? And, is Romans 7 the only text upon which you can hinge that conviction?

    Blessings,
    Kevin

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  2. 1) by 'perfect standard of righteousness' I am referring to the view that some seem to be adopting wherein the Law didn't demand perfection and/OR that partial obedience Law could be considered as keeping the Law. As to the who, one might review the works of several authors out there and see this trend. As to NCT types, I've heard this view preached in their churches, but as "God doesn't expect perfection..." in regards to the 'law of Christ'.

    2) No. I view the "Law" as alternately the whole council of God or specifically all the commands of God throughout Scripture.

    3) The 'law of Christ' is the Law of God expressed in its fullness in Christ as opposed to the Law of Moses (as viewed by the Jews of Paul's era), which Christ declared "you have heard it said". The 'law of Christ' then is the perfect Law of God obeyed by faith in Christ Jesus.

    4) When will I? Not sure, I've simply made an observation here. I've noted previously the connection between FV and NCT theory on certain issues (specifically on Barb's blog.) I've not taken the time to go thru Daniel's piece word for word.

    5) I dunno nuffin about no Ridderbos. I also reject the claim that I'm somehow labelling anyone. Those who hold to NCT generally admit it, those who hold to some portion of what can be called "federal vision" seem reluctant to embrace the various 'labels', and that's understandable given the various views within said movement... yet it is a movement none-the-less, whatever you want to call it. Also note I never declared either view "wrong", this is an extrapolation on your part. I do admit that I do not agree with either view, however, my observation is not in relation to my opinion but on the comparison of these views held by others.


    6) I've not read Augustine more than a few snippets, thus I am unaware of Augustine's opinion of Romans 7. Regardless, I've never said that an alternative view is wrong per-se, though I may disagree with it.

    7) What will I lose? I'm not sure what you're attempting to say here. I find Calvin's view of Romans 7 seems to adequately express the intent of the Paul well given the context of the passage in question and Paul's various other works.

    My entire point of this observation is that where one finds an alternative view of Romans 7 there is generally a differing view of the Law /grace discussion than the so-called traditional view, but if you wish to see the wheels turning in my head, yes I see that those who deny this part of Romans 7 as applying to the believer generally appeal to one of several interpretations of the Law, all of which in my opinion lower the bar.

    For the NCT it is preached as "God doesn't expect perfection, he just wants you to do your best." In the FV circles this might appear as a denial that the 10 Commandments primarily serve to convict of sin or that the Law can be/was kept in those who kept it only partially. To both Christ replies, "be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect", to which we ask... "how ya doin?"

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  3. One clarification...

    I wrote: The 'law of Christ' is the Law of God expressed in its fullness in Christ as opposed to the Law of Moses (as viewed by the Jews of Paul's era)

    I do not mean to say here that the Law of Christ and the Law of Moses are different laws, rather they are different expressions of the one Law of God, which is holy, righteous and good. In Matt 5~6 Christ re-explains the Law of God as expressed in the Old Covenant and returns the standard to its rightful place as being met only in Him and in those in Him.

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  4. Micah, I'd like to engage your thoughts but you've provided so few specifics that I'm not sure where to grasp. You keep waving your hands in such general ways and provide no particular references. But if your assertions hold up (regarding what some FV folks advocate), then you should be able to provide the references yourself.

    Regarding NCT, I guess I can say that I too have interacted with them in the past. My view is far different than theirs, not to mention that they seldom had the will to address the exegetical observations I offered for various passages. Indeed, I found that they did not share my reading of Romans 7 (though I imagine they are not a homogenous group). And while I agree with Moo on Romans 7, I can assure you that he and I do not enjoy a common view of the law. In fact, as I continue to progress in my PhD thesis, I find that I regularly take issue with Moo (as I mentioned on Daniel's blog). Thus, in the end, I think you're striving too hard to make associations. And the observation you've made is trivial enough that any substantial inferences would seem unwarranted.

    How about if we begin with a verse and see where that leads us? Luke 1:6. Tell me what you make of it and how it might inform your theology. We could discuss other verses later. In fact, how about if you tell me your thoughts on Luke 1:6 and ask me to address a verse that you think is relevant?

    Your blog may not be the best forum for this. I'm happy to do this via email, if you'd like: kevin@kevinbywater.com. And do feel free to peruse my website to gain a better understanding of my own convictions and such.

    Blessings,
    Kevin

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  5. Micah,

    In my study of the New Perspective on Paul, I’ve seen that they do the same thing with Romans 7. It’s kind of a pivotal text, since it may or may not give us an insight into Paul’s struggles of conscience. If it speaks of Paul’s condition post-conversion, there is every possibility that Luther’s reading of Paul was correct (especially when he probes the question: “How can I, as an individual, find a gracious God?”).

    At any rate, I recommend Michael Middendorf, The “I” in the Storm: A Study of Romans 7 (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1997). The author does some serious exegesis of the text in addition to handling the claims of those who oppose the reading we hold in common.

    Peace,

    Steve

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  6. Kevin,

    As I stated before: "The 'law of Christ' then is the perfect Law of God obeyed by faith in Christ Jesus." This is what Luke 1:6 is talking about, Luke 1:6 is not suggesting that these individuals had a righteousness of their own that obtained blamelessness, while they were surely holy people walking by faith, this is what made their deeds righteous and their lives blameless. Yet in relationship to the entire Law, as a rule of life, they fell short, as Scripture states we all do.

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  7. May I encourage you & Kevin to continue this discussion here on your blog Micah? I think it would be profitable for all of us.

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  8. That's my thinking as well, however, I'm not able to devote more than a cursory look at things and I don't want to defraud Kevin by suggesting that I am seriously engaged in the discussion. Perhaps later.

    And no, I'm not bowing out. My observation stands and is confirmed by the discussion of Ridderbos and Moo. ;) (who!?)

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  9. Dear Micah,

    How would you account for the plurality of the commands of God mentioned in Luke 1:6. Notice that their obedience is not collapsed into a statement of faith but rather presented in a robust expression of their faithfulness. Indeed, the text of God's holy word declares that they had obeyed God and were blameless before him.

    Some OT passages that inform what this means are Gen 6:9; 2 Sam 22:24//Psa 18:23 (and notice parallel explanation about having kept himself from sin); Job 1:1; Pss 15:2; 19:13 (which provides a most helpful qualification regarding blamelessness and sin); 26:1, 11; 37:18, 37; 84:11; 101:2, 6; 119:1, 80; Prov 2:7, 21, etc. (One might also ponder such passages as 1 Thessalonians 2:10 and Titus 1:6-7.)

    Permit me a few observations: First, without a doubt, the men and women described as "blameless" are people of the faith. Second, blamelessness is not equated with sinlessness (notice how when Christ is described as without sin the words "righteous" and "blameless" are insufficient for the task). Third, what I don't find in these passages is a blamelessness that is foreign to these individuals or merely imputed. Rather, these are descriptives of their lives: people who live lives of faith, lives of repentance, and lives of faithfulness, though not lives of sinlessness.

    Well, enough. I won't be back on your blog for at least a week, if even then. I have some deadlines looming over me right now. If you do have any thoughts you'd like me to ponder, please do send me an email alert.

    Blessings,
    Kevin

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  10. There are two issues here that seem to be discussing: positional righteousness and so-called practical righteousness. I believe one's practical righteousness is a result of their positional righteousness. That is, a person's sanctification will follow their justification they're intertwined in that respect. A person of faith will in fact show fruit of that faith.

    Therefore you write: "...the text of God's holy word declares that they had obeyed God and were blameless before him."

    Of course, they obeyed.. by faith. Saying "by faith" doesn't make it less obedience but rather expresses the engine from which true obedience comes from. The Scripture do not need to record the expression each time for it is evident that people of faith obey their Master.

    One could not be called either blameless or righteous apart from faith, for whatever is not of faith is sin.

    Hebrews 11 spells this out for us clearly. We know from Romans 4 etc that Abraham was 'declared righteous' by faith, yet we see in Heb 11 that "by faith Abraham... obeyed by going", Abraham was not only positionally righteous (Rom 4:4) but the work of God that provided positional righteousness to Abraham also worked in him to cause him to obey. As it is written, " it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

    "Some OT passages that inform what this means are..."

    Great, but you indicate later that you're not suggesting that any of these people were truly "sinless" in any sense. You write: "blamelessness is not equated with sinlessness". Thus "blameless" in your understand seems to indicate something less than sinless righteousness, correct? Are you advocating an obedience to the Law which can make one blameless, but not "perfect"?

    ... what I don't find in these passages is a blamelessness that is foreign to these individuals or merely imputed...

    I'm not sure where you get the idea that I believe it is 'merely imputed', nor do I find that imputation something "mere". Imputation doesn't occur in a vacuum of God's other work, that is, those whom are declared righteous are made 'practically' righteous by God. This is part of what the New Covenant is about, Eze 36 states: "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." It doesn't say "I will put My Spirit in you and you'll go willynilly about the country-side commiting gross sin".

    Yet we also know that those folks of whom your quoted verses mention were not sinless. You therefore believe there must be some difference between "blameless", "righteous" and "sinless". If you might at some point give us a definition of these three concepts, it might help.

    You've written: " blamelessness is not equated with sinlessness (notice how when Christ is described as without sin the words "righteous" and "blameless" are insufficient for the task)."
    This is a semantic difference, not an evident one, for messianic Scriptures do call the Messiah blameless as well as righteous. God himself is also called "blameless" in the Psalms. Surely God is not blameless and yet not also sinless.

    Is there a sense in which one can be 'blameless' and not 'sinless', sure, Paul expresses this in Phil 3:6, but this is not the same kind of 'blameless' expressed in the OT and elsewhere for it is that kind of righteousness "which is in the Law" a righteousness "of my own derived from the Law" (Phil 3:9). Paul says rather that now he has a "righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith". Herein lies the difference.

    Paul, Abraham, Noah, Enoch, David etc had a righteousness "which comes from God on the basis of faith" which is not their own "derived from the Law" but which results in one who is "careful to observe My ordinances". The difference is a supernatural one and is grounded in the righteousness of Christ but it manifests itself in love for God and one's neighbor.

    Now to tie this all together...

    Paul time and again speaks of a contrast between the "flesh" and the "Spirit" throughout his writings. In Gal 5 he says that those who are led by the Spirit are "not under the Law", prior to that he stated that those who were "born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also." This is a clear tie-in with Paul's words mentioned prior in Phil 3:6. Paul, acting by the flesh, persecuted the church. This also harkens back to Romans 9 wherein the children of promise and the children of the flesh are contrasted... thus it is evident that unbelievers "walk according to the flesh." Paul also terms this contrast as a difference in "faith" and "law" in Galatians and elsewhere thus he writes, "Yu have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law."

    But Paul also states in Gal 5 that Christians were to "walk by the Spirit" so that they would not "carry out the desire of the flesh." There and elsewhere it is made evident that the believer, while redeemed, yet retains in their flesh the corruption of sin which must be faught. This corruption which the unbeliever obeyed is now evident for what it is to the believer (Gal 5:19) and they're commanded to war against it by the Spirit... this is the newness Paul speaks of in Rom 7:6 which is not by the letter.

    Thus, as it is written, it is those who are of faith who are the children of Abraham. They are considered as blameless before God... that is "perfect as your Faher in heaven is perfect" and yet in our temporal understanding they are "being saved" and "being conformed".

    What does this all mean for Romans 7:14-25? Well I have to ask the age-old questions that always come up when this is discussed. What unregenerate person wants to do good and "joyfully concurs with the law of God in the inner man"? "No not one"!

    What kind of person can truly say that when they sin "no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me" except those who in their inner person have been renewed to life yet await the redemption of their bodies?

    How, if this is an unregenerate person, can Paul exclaim, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin."? He cannot!

    Remembering that the chapter/verse division is one made for our convience rather than something native to the text we must remember that Romans 8:1 follows Romans 7:25. Thus, when we read the passage together the meaning becomes clear:

    24Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. 1Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

    Thus the difference between the unregenerate person and the regenerate is not always their deeds, but their Deliverer. What does it matter that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus if the regenerate are not condemnable? Christ has set us free from the "law of sin and death" in that He has removed from us the curse, abolished in His flesh the emnity, which is the Law of commandments, canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us etc.

    Therefore the believer, though loving God's Law and joyfully concuring with it in his inner-man is still in dire need of a Savior every moment else the Law of God would render him guilty.

    Thus the aforementioned OT folks who were blameless were not so because they kept the Law in part, or in toto, rather they were blameless because their deeds were those of the faithful who were in Christ in whom there is no condemnation.

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  11. clarification: "One could not be called either blameless or righteous apart from faith, for whatever is not of faith is sin."

    I mean in the sense of the OT verses mentioned.

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