Friday, September 21, 2012

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Basic Ontic Flaw in the Rejection of Objective Justification

The Roman Catholic understanding of justification as the sinner's renewal through the reception of created and uncreated grace is essentially flawed because of its ontological assumptions.  In absorbing Platonism and other ancient philosophical systems (notably that of Aristotle after the 12th century), Catholicism assumes that righteousness is in fact a quality.  It is a quality that you can more of or less of- it is, rather like color.  The basic assumption of the Roman Catholic view is that God (who possesses this quality of righteousness archetypally) cannot in fact recognize humans as righteous without said quality becoming a predicate of their being (just as one cannot recognize a wall as blue unless it is in fact painted blue!).  Being the embodiment of this quality, he cannot pretend that a certain quality that is not there is in fact there.  God is willing to give this quality by his grace, but he must actually see it to count the person as righteous.  Hence they find the Lutheran view inexplicable.

What is implicit in the RC understanding of righteousness as a quality is a centered concept of being-which they of course also get from Greek metaphysics.  An entity is what is it is because of the qualities that make up its centered essence internal to it.  Losing those qualities, the entity loses its essence.  There is no sense (as in the Biblical tradition) that righteousness is a judgment of God, more properly, a right relationship with the God.

This scriptural concept of righteousness is true both of God and his relationship to creation.  Internally, God is righteous because he is true to his own love and holiness as lived out relationally within the Trinitarian life.  Externally, insofar as he enters into covenantal relationship with his creatures, God is righteous because what he does what he says he will do to them and for them (that is, he condemns with the law and redeems with the gospel!).

Because righteousness is not a quality, but a relationship, such a concept implies an ecstatic rather than centered concept of being.  Entities are what they are because of something outside of themselves.  The Father is the Father because he has the Son, and the Son is the Son because he has a Father.  Man is man because of woman- and the creature lives external to itself through God's constant speaking of his existence into being.

Therefore, when it comes to sin and righteousness, the creature is defined by what is external to the center of his or her being.  This is exemplified in Paul's discussion of Adam and Christ in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15.  Adam is the person of every human person coram Deo.  Every person lives through Adam and his rejection of God's grace in favor of his ambitio divnitatis, and therefore all are subject to habitual sin and inevitable death.  In the same manner, all are in Christ and therefore suffer the judgment of their old person in him and are righteously resurrected him as well.  Coram Deo, Christ is the reality of every person and therefore a new Adam.  He defines humans before God and therefore righteousness is not something internal to humans, but something outside of them in Christ: "Though your body be dead, your life is hidden in God in Christ" (Col. 2).

With this, therefore, we observe the basic ontic flaw in the logic of those who rejection of objective justification.  Objective justification assumes that Christ is the real reality of humanity before God.  Our justification is not therefore a legal fiction because righteousness is not a predicate of our being, but something that exists outside of ourselves already actualized in Christ.  This is true irrespective of our faith.  What those reject objective justification assume is that being righteous means possessing a certain quality in our being.  The predicate "righteousness" cannot be recognized coram Deo unless faith is first present.  If faith is present, God can now predicate the quality of righteousness present in Christ to person who has now accepted and received this predicate into their being- though of course in this case by imputation  rather than by renewal (as in RC theology).  In other words, the two centered realities of Christ and the believer now converge being of the bridge of faith, which prompts God's imputation.  In this theology, I am an individual, centered entity, existing on my own.  Likewise, so is Christ.  The only thing that connects the various qualities present in our beings is faith which prompts God's imputation.

This criticism of the anti-OJ forces use of the concept of faith is of course not meant to say that having faith is not necessary to enjoy the benefits of Christ.  Faith does unite the sinner with Christ and bring about salvation through subjective justification.  The point is rather that the subjective justification brought about by faith is not a legal fiction or the convergence of two centered entities by an arbitrary judgment of God.  Rather, since Christ is the being of my being, having faith means to cease to be self-alienated from my true self which is to be found in the person of Christ.  The essence of sin is the be (as Augustine says) curved in on one's self.  One's true being is external to one's self in God's address.  Adam was "very good" because God continuously gave him the good by his sustaining Word and he passively received it.  We now passively receive the good every moment of every day and yet we are not good because he do not praise God and therefore reject his grace in creation.  In the same way, the person of my person is Christ and yet if I remain unbelieving, I am alienated from my true reality before God in Christ.  I am rejecting God's grace in creation and redemption, and consequently I will be judged.  Faith therefore simply means coming to my true self as God has actualized in a new narrative of creation in Christ.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Samuel Huber: The Red Herring in the Objective Justification Debate

Over the last few months those in the Lutheran blogsphere who reject the orthodox Lutheran teaching regarding objective justification have been going nuts over the publication of a translation of a series of theses by a third generation Lutheran theologian named Aegidius Hunnius against a Swiss heretic named Samuel Huber.  For a quick summary: Samuel Huber was a Reformed pastor who deeply disliked Theodore Beza's hardening of Calvin's doctrine of double predestination and therefore came to agree with the Lutherans regarding the objectivity and universality of God grace.  He was invited to come to Wittenberg, where he was supposed to help the faculty there fight Calvinism.  Unfortunately, trying to avoid the ditch of double predestination, he went in the other direction and claimed that election and justification were universal.  Being universal, election and justification were communicated to all human beings.  Huber never really went all the way though and said that all were going to be saved.  In fact, he taught that people could (using their own free will) reject this universal justification and election.

The anti-OJ forces on the Internet take early Lutheranism's rejection of his heresy has sign that they would have also rejected the later 19th century Lutheran distinction between objective and subjective justification.  There are a couple of problems with this claim: 1. Walther in the Baier compendium specifically rejects Huber's doctrine (in fact he has a whole section on it!).  2. Huber did talk about a universal justification, but his heresy was more about and a reaction to the doctrine of election.  Advocates of OJ such as Walther always taught particular election.  3. Moreover, since Huber claimed that justification was not merely pronounced to all (objective justification), but communicated to all (functional universalism), he has virtually no place for subjective justification.  This would pretty much destroy the entire point of the distinction between objective and subjective justification.

The main problem with Huber and the entire discussion as it has gone on the Internet up to now is this:  Huber was a speculative theologian, rather than a practical one.  As a number of Church historians have pointed out, he was a fairly bad one at that.  Therefore, when considering this debate the following is important to recognize: The objectivity of justification is not a speculative or abstract claim about the relationship of the Triune God to the world, but rather A. A recognition of redemption as an inter-Trinitarian event (In reaction to the universal atonement brought about by the Son, the Father has a reaction of the declaration of universal grace, wherein he send the Spirit to mediate such universal grace through the means of grace). B. A rule of preaching, whereby the Church is authorized to speak the words of grace as something already accomplished- “Your sins are forgiven for the sake of Jesus.” The difficulty with Huber’s position is not only did it claim a universal election (which Lutherans deny) and free will (which Lutherans also deny), but it created a situation wherein preaching the gospel as an unconditional word “your sins are forgiven, etc.” is not possible. In such an event the gospel becomes law. Logically one would have to say “you are redeemed, if you accept universal election, etc.” or perhaps "you are redeemed if you don't reject universal election." Again, what’s the irony here: As much as the anti-OJ folks rage against Huber, they logically must have the same position. They must say “your sins are forgiven, if you have faith and repent.” Why have they taken this position? Because they have not theologized from the perspective of a bound will. They think if faith is not emphasized, then people will some how not use their free will to have faith or perhaps they will forget to have faith.  This is absurd.  Once you understand the will is bound, the you’ll stop worrying about giving people too much grace. God is the one who causes faith, so you don’t have to worry that people won’t have faith unless you tell them to. In fact, there is a belief among many of the Anti-OJ folks that because there is too much grace in the ELS, WELS, and the LCMS there are higher rates of immoral behavior.  This is uber-Pietistic- which is ironic in light of fact that they accuse us of Pietism!  It was such impulses that led Spener to start Pietism. He thought there was too much grace being preached and so people were becoming immoral.