Friday, June 29, 2007

Declaration #3: Imputation

The PCA Federal Vision Report's third declaration states:

"The view that Christ does not stand as a representative head whose perfect obedience and satisfaction is imputed to individuals who believe in him is contrary to the Westminster Standards."
Representative of the view the report condemns is Rich Lusk's, who insists that justification, biblically understood,
"... requires no transfer or imputation of anything. It does not force us to reify 'righteousness' into something that can be shuffled around in heavenly accounting books.... My in-Christ-ness makes imputation redundant" ("A Response to 'The Biblical Plan of Salvation'" in The Auburn Avenue Theology, Pros and Cons, 142).
I'll deal with the view, so characteristic of nineteenth-century liberalism, that assumes a disharmony between the filial and the forensic in a later post. For now, though, I will point out the problems, biblically and confessionally, with Lusk's view of imputation.

"Justification," according to Paul, comes to "sinners" as a "free gift of righteousness" through the "one act of righteousness" and "one man's obedience" that are "imputed by faith apart from works" (Rom. 5:16, 12, 17, 19; 4:6). Righteousness, then, is something that one may "have" in one's account (Phil. 3:9 [despite Lusk's distaste for economic metaphors]).

Confessionally speaking, Jesus "perfect obedience and sacrifice" have "fully satisfied the justice" of his Father (WCF VIII.5). We are justified by our being "accounted" as righteous, through God's "imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ" to us (WCF XI.1). Christ's "obedience and death" comprise his "proper, real, and full satisfaction to the Father’s justice" (WCF XI.3). Our Mediator's work, therefore, resulted in "exact justice" for him, and "rich grace" for those whom he represented (WCF XI.3).

Though no one is confessionally bound to call it "active" and "passive" obedience, we are bound to uphold Jesus' "obedience" and "satisfaction" as the imputed ground of our justification.

"Tomato" / "To-mah-to" if you ask me....