Posted By MSH on June 21, 2011
I thought I’d post some comment questions / statements produced by the initial NPP post that I said I’d return to. Here goes. My take at MSH.
Q: What about the Romans 5 – ’sin is not counted where there is no law?’ That can’t mean that pre-Moses people were ‘let off the the hook’ in light of the rest of the passage, but it’s confusing. Any ideas?
MSH: I take this as “sin is not known” without the law; that doesn’t mean they aren’t guilty; it means they didn’t know they had done something God disapproved of.
Q: Paul’s message is to declare an end of the Law “in Christ”. But this happens in real time, as we live and breath, not outside or beyond time as Calvinists would have it.
MSH: The law is “at an end” in terms of its ability to bring wrath. Those in Christ are no longer under the wrath of God. But Paul still argues his morality on the basis of the law. So it’s still relevant for believers. There’s really no other way to look at Paul’s constant use of it when writing to Gentiles no less on matters of morality for believers in Jesus.
Q: I’m just wondering how much your views on Monergism and Synergisim has on what you think with regards to the issues raised by NPP.
MSH: For those reading, monergism is the view that conversion or salvation is accomplished exclusively by God, as opposed to synergism, which holds that humans participate (“work”) with God in salvation / conversion. I believe Scripture is clear that for anyone to believe, they must be enabled to believe (“quickened” in KJV parlance; cf. Eph 2:5). That is necessary since we are spiritually dead (Eph 2:1 again). I consequently reject “Princess Bride” theology — that we are “mostly dead” :-). Being truly dead in trespasses and sin means we need to be made alive – enabled to respond. But God does not believe for us. We must believe. God ultimately therefore gets credit for anyone and everyone’s salvation. But he does not believe for us. We must respond. A related question is whether all who are quickened inevitably believe (“respond”). I am not convinced that is the case. And so this is where I’m at: all who believe were quickened; but all who are quickened do not necessarily believe.
How does this relate to NPP? I think this depends on whether a Jew would assert that merely *being* a Jew (being part of the believing community) = salvation (in which case, there would be no need for quickening — you’re born in). Paul rejects this (Romans 2-4) for both (obviously) Gentiles and Jews. And I wonder how many Jews would buy it. Certainly salvation was “of the Jews” in their mind, but it is difficult for me to believe that a Jew who had any acquaintance with his Bible would say being born into the community *nullified* the need for belief in Yahweh and his promises or that it *replaced* that need. After all, many Jews were apostate, so many so that Yahweh rejected the nation, sent them to exile, and began anew with the believing remnant. But I suppose there would be Jews who missed something that obvious. Paul of course asserted that Gentiles (not members of the Israelite community) could be saved, and were, once they believed in the message of Christ. For Paul (as a commenter pointed out), the “true Israel” = believers, and Gentile believers were, well, believers — and so membership in national Israel wasn’t necessary to be a member of believing Israel, which was the real Israel after all (Gal 3).
Q: Still, on the question of ethical and moral obligations (the NPP view of “Law”), if I understand the problem right, I think Paul was properly wary of the problem of believing that ‘doing good’ as simple rule-following behavior was not salvific – at least not the same as doing good ‘from Christ’ i.e. from love.
Paul would say (since he did!) that the law showed us God’s morality, and that it is a matter of the heart. To quote from the essay I originally posted:
Paul then turns to the Jewish world where God’s impartiality (Rom 2:11) requires that the same standard of judgment hold true: “It is not the hearers of the Law who are righteous in God’s eyes, but the doers of the Law who will be declared righteous” (Rom 2:13). This standard is so firm, says Paul, that in God’s eyes it is appropriate for a Gentile who keeps the Law in spirit but violates its letter by remaining uncircumcised (Rom 2:26, 29) to sit in judgment upon a Jew who boasts (Rom 2:23) in the possession of the Law but does not obey it (Rom 2:14–29). Although this is a complex passage, its fundamental point is clear: it is no use for Jewish Christians to impose a standard upon Gentile Christians which the Jews themselves have historically not been able to keep (cf. Rom 2:24 and Acts 15:10–11). The reason for this is that doing the “just requirements of the Law” (Rom 2:26) and keeping it “inwardly” and “spiritually” (Rom 2:28–29) are what matters before God, not boasting in the possession of the Law (Rom 2:23) and in outward marks like circumcision (Rom 2:25–26).