Monday, October 26, 2009

Still Thinking about Justification: Need Feedback

I thought -- very recently -- that justification was not core to Paul's gospel. I was wrong. The actual noun, dikaiosis, is indeed rare in Paul's letters, restricted to one section of Romans in fact. But what does Paul have in mind in 1 Cor 1:30, when he calls Christ "our righteousness" if not justification? Or 2 Cor 6:7, when he mentions the "weapons of righteousness"?

Having read N. T. Wright's Justification recently, it strikes me that Paul's justification language doesn't always mean the same thing. In some prominent cases it's legal or accounting language, as in Paul's argument that Abraham was "counted" righteous on account of his faith.

But in others -- and here's the point of this post -- I think Paul means something more, something Wright perhaps minimizes. I think there are times when Paul uses justification language to point to God's act of making things right. The old-fashioned English word rectification seems to convey the idea. Look at 1 Cor 6:11 (and here I'm borrowing from Lou Martyn by way of Stephen Chester): "but you were washed, you were made holy, you were justified/rectified (fixed?) in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." Here Paul is making an argument concerning how believers should live in accordance with God's work in their lives. If justification doesn't entail some measure of "fixing," then Paul isn't making sense. (So I read 2 Cor 5:21, in which Paul and his colleagues become the "righteousness of God.")

I'm just at the beginning of thinking about this, but it seems to me that Paul's justification language is very, very big -- and that it extends beyond the mere categorical notion that God declares us "justified" in God's sight to God's active work of making things right with us. (So Wright would agree -- sort of.)

In conclusion, I'm writing to invite Paul people and others to help me get my mind around this. Is "rectification" part of Paul's justification talk?

13 comments:

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Here at Duke, Susan Eastman likes the term "rectification," so I'd say that would be sympathetic ears for what you're saying.

AKMA said...

Greg. It sidesteps some of the questions that arise from the distinct usage patterns of either “justification” or “righteousness” in English, and points toward a coherent, consistent Pauline usage. And it’s more euphonious than using “righteous” as a verb (as Lee Keck sometimes has done).

AKMA said...

That should have been, “I’m with you, Greg” to start the last comment.

Greg Carey said...

Very helpful -- thanks to both of you.

Sean said...

If memory serves me, Richard Hays suggests this (rectification) is a good transltation in his commentary on Galatians.

Law+Gospel said...

Just getting ready to start reading Wright's book, but I would concur with others.My own understanding from my studies supports your claim that "justification" is a much broader concept. Certainly within the Lutheran theological center this is borne out in our confessional stance, particularly as it is then set forth in the concept of "new obedience."

Leo Hartshorn said...

The early sixteenth century Swiss Anabaptists rejected Luther's forensic understanding of Paul's idea of justification for a more evidential or real righteousness in life as in "being made just," which has been a traditional Mennonite way of reading Paul.

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