Debating the New Perspective As Distraction from Adam’s Sin Imputed and from the Elect’s Sin Imputed to Christ

A focus on “the active obedience” can become a distraction from the death, the righteousness. The death and resurrection of Christ is what is imputed. To make something else be imputed can only get our eyes off that.

Theologically I have no big problem saying that Christ’s life also is imputed. But I am still looking for texts, not only for what Reformed tradition says. And yes, this question makes me uncomfortable. because Shepherd and federal vision and NT Wright deny the active obedience.

But to tell the truth. I think the debate about the active obedience being imputed is a a distraction from three big things.

1. It’s a distraction from Adam’s sin imputed to humans. Wright does not have any place in this theology for original sin as Adam’s original guilt. Who does? We should be talking about that more.

2. It’s a distraction from the sins of the elect being imputed to Christ. This is the main thing. This is more important even that saying that Christ’s death is only for the elect or saying the Christ’s death is effective to save all for whom He died.

I didn’t see this when I was lost. Of course it’s true that, if God only imputed the sins of the elect to Christ, then Christ only died for the elect (and that this death is effective). But we need to think not only about Christ’s successful death but also about God’s righteousness and the justice of Christ’s death.

Focusing on “active obedience” can sometimes distract from this. Because lots of folks who get heated up about the new perspective never talk about Christ’s just death for the elect only.

3. It’s a distraction from the truth that justification is not conditioned on faith as its instrumental cause. After all these folks like John Piper fight with Wright about faith not being the “active obedience”, then they turn around and say that God counts the faith (the apology) as the righteousness, and teach that the righteousness is “appropriated” by the condition of faith.

So, on the one hand, I don’t want to be a distraction by debating “active obedience as vicarious law-keeping” (or by debating if there was a “covenant of works” with Adam. ) I want to take sides with these folks against the new perspective. But on the other hand, most of these folks don’t believe in Christ’s just death only for the elect. If they did, they would teach it.

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10 Comments on “Debating the New Perspective As Distraction from Adam’s Sin Imputed and from the Elect’s Sin Imputed to Christ”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Nobody can know if they are elect or justified until they believe (not until Christ believes for them).Faith is essential: nobody is justified until they believe. Faith is not only so they know about their justification. Faith is an IMMEDIATE result of righteousness being imputed. “Through faith” but faith is not any kind of cause or condition. Faith is not our “instrument”. Faith is not God’s “instrument”

  2. markmcculley Says:

    People who teach a. eternal justification or b justification at the cross or c Christ’s faith imputed to us, all spend most of their time showing the evils of salvation conditioned on faith. I agree with them on the enemy. But then they think their case is proved for the positive thing they want to say.

    And worse, they caricature my view–if I don’t agree with them that Christ’s faith is imputed, then I must be saying salvation is conditioned on the sinner’s faith. They won’t consider a third alternative (except perhaps that I am so dumb that I can’t see that I am conditioning salvation on the sinner’s faith but just don’t know it.)

  3. markmcculley Says:

    Phil 2:9 says that God has highly exalted him and BESTOWED on him the name. But that bestowing is not grace, but just reward. Is 53–out of the anguish he shall see and be satisfied, therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his life (nothing here about active obedience, the soul is the blood…)

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Getting away from the ‘imputed works’ of Christ and emphasizing grace only (or faith) as opposed to works, gets us away from the “finished work” that is the basis of our justification, which is the only way that a righteous God can be gracious. Of course this is something different from saying we must insist of the imputation of the perfect life (before the death) of vicarious law-keeping

    because the death of Christ itself

    is a. active, willed by Christ himself
    b. the righteousness, not something else besides the righteousness

    which is not to deny that the vicarious law keeping is also part of the righteousness but
    1. the true gospel does not depend on that debate, as long as we agree that the result of righteousness imputed is not only forgiveness but also positive security (not still under a test, probation). I agree with Piscator on this

    2. my hesitation is the lack of a clear prooftext—if we say Romans 5, then are we saying that the one act of death is NOT a positive act of obedience?

    the first adam had perhaps many successes (I don’t know), but one failure, one sin

    Christ, the last Adam had all successes. Not just one success. But zero failures.

    None of us is “too big to fail”. But for the elect, Christ has already not failed.

    Some worry that such “federal” thinking will cause “moral hazard”. If we don’t depend on ourselves to help ourselves, we might live like the devil.

    we have already lived like the devil, saying no to God

    thus the need for God’s grace and God’s righteousness

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Tom Nettles: “A second error is subtle in nature and involves a shift in the understanding of the sacrificial death. Although Jesus’ death is spoken of as passive obedience–and though the concepts of reconciliation and propitiation are defined as activities accomplished in the Father’s setting forth God the Son–when the sufficiency of the death of Christ arises, the emphasis shifts from the Son’s passive obedience to what he actively accomplished by his infinite divine nature.”

  6. markmcculley Says:

    Piscator says that Paul excludes all of our works from justification “whether they be done by the strength of free will or by grace.” Consequently, Piscator could readily agree with the Westminster Confession of Faith XI.1 that says that God does not justify sinners “for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness.”

    What, then, is the source of man’s righteousness? It is Christ’s satisfaction imputed to the believer. “God accepts Christ’s satisfaction for the elect…imputes the same unto them; and thereupon receives them into favor, and adopts them for sons and heirs of eternal life.” Many objected to Piscator’s view –they said that to have forgiveness of sins is not the same as being accounted righteous. They said that to have forgiveness only is to only be back where Adam began before sin.

    If Christ’s active obedience is not accounted as our righteousness, then how can Christ be our righteousness? Piscator responds that when sins are forgiven, someone is counted not only as not having done any sins but also as having done all things required. “Man’s justification consists in remission of all sins: and therefore not only of sins of committing,but also of sins of omitting.” Piscator would not agree that if only Christ’s passive obedience is imputed to us, then we ourselves must supply positive righteousness. Rather, once Christ’s satisfaction is imputed to us, we are in a state of having done everything required because our sins of omission are forgiven. Thus, for Piscator, the source of our righteousness in justification is only Christ’s satisfaction imputed to us.

    Piscator emphasizes that faith itself is excluded as a part of our righteousness before God. The consequence is that all of our works are excluded from our justification. While Christ’s satisfaction imputed to us is the sole source of our righteousness, we are by nature unrighteous. Further, even the righteous acts that we do after grace and faith are excluded from our justification, which, according to Piscator, continues to rest solely in the satisfaction of Christ imputed to us. He argues against Bellarmine that all of our works are excluded from our justification before God. He argues from the fact that Paul “speaks of works in general, whether they be done by the strength of free will or by grace,because Romans 4 speaks of Abraham’s works, those which he had done of grace and faith” Even those works that flow out of faith are clearly excluded from our justification.

    The same pronunciation that gave us comfort in this life that we have a righteous standing before God will then be pronounced openly by the Lord Jesus Christ: “You are righteous on the basis of My satisfaction imputed to you.”

    What are the results of this justification? For Piscator, we are not only forgiven of our sins, but we also have a right to eternal life, for when someone is justified, God “receives them into favor, and adopts them for sons and heirs of eternal life.” The reason why this can occur, according to Pisactor, is because God has said, “Do this, and you will live” (Lev. 18:5, Mt. 19:17, Gal. 3:12). “It comes about that he to whom God forgives sins, is so accounted as if he had not only committed nothing which God has forbidden in his law, but also omitted nothing of that which he has commanded: and therefore, as if he had perfectly fulfilled the law of God.”

  7. markmcculley Says: Hodge on Romans 5:12-13 Of course it is not denied that men are subject to death for their own sins; but that is nothing to the point which the apostle has in hand. His design is to show that there is penal evil to which men are subject, anterior to any personal transgression or inherent corruption.
    In other words, it was “by the offense of one man that judgment came on all men to condemnation.” It is of course not implied in this statement or argument, that men are not now, or were not from Adam to Moses, punishable for their own sins, but simply that they are subject to penal evils which cannot be accounted for on the ground of their personal transgressions

  8. markmcculley Says:

    Jesus was not a Christian
    Torrance argued for an “active obedience” in which Christ repented for us, believed for us, was born again for us, was converted for us, and worships for us. “We must think of him as taking our place even in our acts of repentance” (The Mediation of Christ, p 95)
    Donald Macleod responds (Christ Crucified, 2014, p 219)—There is a great discontinuity between Christ and those he came to save. They were sinners and Christ was not. Christ could not trust in God’s forgiveness because he had no need of forgiveness. He could not be born again because he required no changed of heart. He could not be converted because His life demanded no change of direction.
    If we move from the idea of Jesus as a believer to the idea of Jesus as the one who is believed IN, does Jesus believe, vicariously, in Himself?….It is not his faith that covers the deficiencies of our faith (as it is given to us by God). It is Christ’s death that covers the deficiencies of our faith…Our faith is not in the Son of God who believed for us, but in the Son of God who gave Himself for us.

  9. markmcculley Says:

    A Lutheran comment on the new perspective—“They say that the Gospel is not justification of the ungodly as forgiveness of sins on account of Christ’s cross. Instead, they say that the Gospel is a matter of whether “the church” is exclusive or inclusive. This comes out of “Covenant Theology.” For adherents to this theory, “in the covenant” is more important than Christ and his cross. They then interpret Galatians very differently than Lutherans have. They say that circumcision was not about adding a law to the gospel. They say that Galatians was rather about who gets entrance into the covenant.”

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