Saturday, July 28, 2007

Righteousness, Extraordinarily Considered

Having described what he calls "ordinary righteousness" (i.e., righteousness attained by obeying the covenant of works), Westerholm goes on to argue that human sin and inability to obey God's commands neccessitates that righteousness be attained in an extraordinary way: Through faith in Christ (Perspectives Old and New on Paul, pp. 273 – 84).

A comparison of Romans 2:13 and 5:9 demonstrates the necessity of another type of righteousness beyond the "ordinary." In the former verse, one is justified because he is just—he is a "doer of the law." In 5:9, however, the one who is justified is "ungodly" (v. 6) and a "sinner" (v. 8). This is an example of what Westerholm calls "extraordinary righteousness ."

The basis for this extraordinary righteousness is the death of Christ (Rom. 3:24-26), without which it would be unjust for God to justify the wicked (Ex. 23:7). In fact, in order for God to justify in this extraordinary way, he must demonstrate his own righteousness in doing so (Rom. 3:26). This is not the case with "ordinary righteousness" (such as in 2:13, where justification is to be expected).

Moreover, extraordinary righteousness is called a "free gift of righteousness" and "justification by faith" (Rom. 5:17; 3:28), the "works" apart from which extraordinary righteousness is received being acts of moral goodness. The blessedness of being counted righteous "apart from works" consists in having one's lawless deeds forgiven, having one's sins covered, and not having one's sin counted against him (Rom. 4:4-8). And finally, the phenomenon of justified by faith is the divine response to the crisis brought about by man's sin (Rom. 1:18ff).
"When the ones justified are sinners, their righteousness cannot be the 'normal' one based on God's recognition of their deeds as appropriate (righteous). Lacking such deeds themselves, they must 'receive' righteousness 'freely' (3:24), 'without works' (4:2, 5, 6), as a 'gift' (5:17) – none of which can be said of those recognized as righteous because they are doers of the law. The contrast between the righteousness of the law and that of faith amounts to that between the righteousness of those who do the good spelled out in the law and that of sinners" (p. 281, emphasis original).
Though this point falls outside Westerholm's purview, it seems clear that the Federal Vision's most glaring fault is its unwillingness to distinguish between ordinary and extraordinary righteousness (or if you prefer, between the law and the gospel).