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Keeping Me Honest

June 11, 2007

I have received some feedback on the previous post N. T. Wright and the Understanding of Salvation. Two in particular have sought my clarity and some further explanation on a few of my comments. I don’t think I need to share the names, since I didn’t even ask them if I could display their comments, but know that I hold both of their opinions in high regard. The first response is a little technical, since he was a past Greek student with me and he is holding me accountable with my exegesis. Here is his comment and my response:

John, At the outset, I want to say I faithfully read your blogs, and I enjoy them thoroughly. It makes me feel less disconnected from Greek class, which is something I miss… Hebrew not so much, [undisclosed Professor’s name] gave me [undisclosed grade], and I have no idea why. Anyway, I just read your recent entry on NT Wright and Ephesians 2. To be frank and honest with you (as if we are ever anything less with one another) I think your exegesis is a little convoluted. Let’s just get right down to it, you are obviously correct in saying that Ephesians 2:10 does not directly say, “we are saved by grace through faith for the purpose of good works prepared beforehand”, but I think the flow of thought does imply that. Imply is to weak a word, I believe it says that in an unpacked sort of way, and I think if you reread your blog you will find that you betray yourself a bit. You state in your blog the definition of “his workmanship”, it is the work that God has done for us in Christ found in verses 4-6. Now, what are these things but what Markus Barth refers to as, “salvation by resurrection”. Therefore, if our conversion, or salvation, is God’s workmanship then it follows in verse 10 that we are saved for the purpose of good works that God has prepared beforehand, subordinate conjunction of purpose, in order that we might walk in them. You are right in saying that there is also a purpose for our salvation in verse 7 (another subordinate conjunction of purpose), “in order that he might display in the coming ages the abundant riches of his grace…” This is I will concede is the primary reason for our salvation. I am as Edwardsian as the next guy, and I fully subscribe to his end for which God created the world. But, just because verse 10 is a sub-purpose lets say, it does not make it any less of a purpose. The two should not be pitted against one another. You may not be pitting them against one another, but I do think you are neglecting the natural inclusion of works in the event of salvation. Anyway, let me know what you think if you get a minute.

My response:

[Undisclosed person], Thanks for reading my blog and giving me your thoughts, I really appreciate it, though I think I’m still right:). Reading over my post, I know I was not as clear as I would have like to have been. I guess what seals it for me is that ‘good works is not the purpose of salvation’ is the way Paul uses “walk”. The first three verses, “walk” is used as a lifestyle ( I know you know this) of sin, being compelled by our wrath nature. I don’t want to be too quick to take that meaning away from walk in verse 10, as a lifestyle, rather than actual specific works. I also see this in Romans in 8:29 “he predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” We were predestined by God to live in a way that is conformed to the image of Christ – he ordained this beforehand. But we have to concede that all of this is the work of God, because he even created the works in which we will act on. My whole argument against Wright is not that when God saved us he does not expect us to act in a way that is good – because faith is obviously good and pleasing to God, but that at the end of the day (or at the end of our life) we cannot put faith and works on the same platter before God. They do not have equal footing, as Wright puts it. He compares them to “air and food”. You need both to live. While I will completely agree that “faith is never alone”, but it is faith alone that saves us. I will give you that there is purpose in our good works that we work as a new creature, but it is all in faith, magnifying the grace in Christ, not as something to supplement with our faith. I hope maybe I am clearer than I am on my post. Sorry for the lexical and exegetical sloppiness. I hope you are not ashamed to be in the same Greek class as me. And feel free to publicly call me out on my blog comments. I can take it. Well, i hope you guys (the future wife included) are doing well. God bless, John (Jena says hey)

Here is the second comment and my response:

Thanks for your great post on Tom Wright – very thoughtful and provocative. You took the scalpel to him. Question for you… Could you elaborate on what you mean about the relationship b/w faith and works being “means” and “proof of means” – not quite sure if I totally understand where you’re going with that.

My response:

Hey [Undisclosed name]! I guess what I mean is that faith is the “means” of salvation. It is through faith we are saved, or better put, God graciously provides the means – faith – for salvation. At least that is how I see “by grace through faith.” Therefore, if we do good works, that is proof of God working the means in us. So if we have the means (faith) then we should be able to display proof of means (good works). But ultimately “good works” is not doing good things, but doing things out of faith. Building an orphanage for AID’s victims is still a dishonoring of God if it is done apart from faith. Therefore, if anything we do is good, it is in faith. When I say proof of faith, I don’t necessarily mean proof to others, but really to yourself and God. I think that is what Hebrews 7-12 and all of 1 John deal with. Anyway, after re-reading my post this morning, I realized that I wasn’t as clear as I would have liked to be. But I hope others will be gracious. I received an email from a guy from my Greek class back at Bible college, and he gave me a hard time over a few things, though I think he agreed with me for the most part. He did accuse my exegesis of being convoluted. But he is a good friend and I appreciated his words.

I thought these were great responses to my post and I hope I was able answer them clearly. If there are other questions or clarifications from my comments on my previous post or this one, please let me know. This is an important subject to be clear on, and I am a little disappointed that I wasn’t as clear in the first place.

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