Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Gerhard on Romans 4:25

Interestingly enough, Rydecki has translated the full section from Gerhard's Romans commentary that I cited yesterday: http://www.intrepidlutherans.com/2012/10/johann-gerhard-on-romans-425.html

 In the first two paragraphs, Gerhard says that Christ died for everyone's sins, but we receive redemption individually by trusting in his death and its saving power. For some reason I think he thinks that this is somehow damning to the position of OJ.  It's not.  Redemption accomplish is different than redemption received.  Again, no one thinks that salvation is communicated apart from faith. 

Then he cites the last part, which I cited partly yesterday from a Hoenecke translation.  This is Rydecki's own translation and not mine:

With respect to the actual application from sin. Just as the heavenly Father, by delivering Christ into death for our sins, condemned sin in His flesh through sin (Rom. 8:3)—that is, condemned it because it had sinned against Christ by putting an innocent man to death, and so He withdrew from sin its legal right against believers so that it cannot condemn them any longer; or He also condemned it, that is, punished in Christ our sins that were imposed on Him and imputed to Him as a Substitute—so also, by raising Him from the dead, in that very deed absolved Him from our sins that were imputed to Him, and hence also absolves us in Him, so that the resurrection of Christ may be both the cause and the pledge and the complement of our justification.

Again, I think what Rydecki believes that he finds in this passage is his view that there is a universal atonement, but no universal justification.  In point of fact, the very opposite is the case:

1. First, Gerhard believes that all sins were imputed to Christ.  When the Father raises Christ, he reveals his reaction to this death of Christ, namely, that he absolves Christ from all the sins impute to him.  This means  word of universal forgiveness actualized in the resurrection and subsequently received by faith.  Notice that the absolution is a reality in Christ prior to it being received by us.  In other words, it is objectively real prior to the existence of our faith.  We of course do not participate in apart from faith (SJ), but it is already a reality before our faith (OJ).

2. Regarding the Trinitarian dimensions of atonement and justification, the passage largely exposes the incoherence of Rydecki's position (universal atonement yes, universal justification no).  If the Son atones for sin before the Father, then the Father has a reaction to it (absolution, as Gerhard says) and attaches a word to the Son's atonement.  He reveals this Word by raising the Son from the dead.  The Son in turn gives this Word to the Church.  Notice the first thing that Jesus does after the resurrection is give the disciples the Word and the Spirit he has received from his Father in reaction to his atonement: "receive the Holy Spirit, those sins you forgive are forgiven... etc."

If universal atonement was right, but universal justification were wrong, the Son would in a sense keep the satisfaction he renders to himself.  But that is not the case.  He offers it to the Father and the Father gives a Word of forgiveness to the Church through the Son in the power of the Spirit.  Therefore, for Rydecki to be correct, faith wouldn't have an object, because it wouldn't have a word to believe in, just the bare historical event of the atonement without any divine promises of forgiveness attached to it.  As Luther points out in one of his Easter sermons, historical events without a word to preach in relationship to them are meaningless.  Hence, it is difficult to see how his position can be viewed as coherent. 

1 comment:

  1. Nice post, particularly how you wrap it up. Though I haven't given a lot of attention to this debate, this--"faith wouldn't have an object...just the bare historical event of the atonement without any divine promises of forgiveness attached to it."--seems to me the key thing. Objective and subjective go together because the word and faith go together. In fact, it's hard to figure what "atonement" could even mean without any word, since it involves the Word himself from beginning to end. So the position you describe would be, dare I say it, functionally non-Trinitarian.

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