UPDATE (11/17/2020) – Recently, a certain “Nicholas” of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has published an article with a plea to traditional Roman Catholics to make an exodus out of Catholicism and into the Eastern Orthodox Church. In this article, he demonstrates falling into the same illusion that I described in the article below. He fits the description of the title of this article as an aggressive apologist for Orthodoxy to Roman Catholics. I appreciate his desire to spare Catholics of the painful situation that we are in right now with the current Pontificate of Pope Francis and his very left-leaning regime in the hierarchy, but Nicholas’s saving balm, namely, to join the Orthodox, is not proving to be a workable solution for Catholics who meditate in foresight of what being Orthodox would look like. Not only does he make some basic mistakes on Catholic theology (i.e. he thinks Catholics believe the Pope can change doctrine by his lawful use of authority), but he also tries to reinforce his apologia for the “indestructible” unity of the Orthodox Church by citing a certain Western rite Orthodox priest (a convert from Roman Catholicism) Fr. Victor Novak. Fr. Novak was considered an ardent defender of the Orthodox Church under the omophorion of Metropolitan Hilarion of the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia, but is he still in good standing? His parish, Holy Cross, who presents its heritage as the “Celtic Church in Britain,” is no longer recognized on the official website for the Western rite parishes for RoCoR. I’ve contacted the proper authority and have received confirmation of Fr. Novak’s uncanonical status, but it seems altogether ironic how this “Nicholas” of GOA (under Archbishop Elpidophorus, who is closely tied to the man he accuses of “heresy,” Patriarch Bartholomew) is citing a Fr. Novak, a priest who seems to be unrecognized by even the Russian Orthodox Church. How does that help his message of triumph for the Orthodox Church’s unity and functioning status? Is it the case that the Orthodox find strength for the veracity of their communion by its ability to continually break off with a wider Church when the wider Church “goes off the rails?”Continue reading
“I’m not convinced any New Testament texts, on its own, leads to this doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.”
So says Dr. Douglas J. Moo, Professor of New Testament @ Wheaton College (see minutes 25 to 31). This is one of my favorite modern commentators on the letters of St. Paul, and I particularly followed his thought in my Protestant days. That was many years ago. At that time, my own exegetical studies were leading me farther away from the traditional exegesis of Paul’s use of “imputation” as understood by Reformed Covenant theology. I remember when I had reached a point where I still retained a purely forensic understanding of the justification act, but I didn’t think there was exegetical support to insist that the “active obedience” of Christ was imputed to the believer to make for the cause of his or her justification. I thought the discharge from guilt achieved by the atonement of the cross was sufficient to match what St. Paul was arguing for in his letters. I remember I had a brief correspondence with Professor Moo at some point about this precise issue, but I can’t find it since it was an old email account. I find it interesting that in 2019, I happened upon this lecture he gave last year at DTS where he expresses his inability to see any texts forthrightly teaching imputation of Christ’s active obedience and righteousness in the justification act.
Now, that isn’t to say that Professor Moo rejects the imputation of Christ’s righteousness in the justification-act, but it goes to show that he, as one of the foremost Pauline interpreters of our generation, understands the full basis of said doctrine to involve a supra-textual theological construct, rather than in any precise reference or citation from Holy Scripture. That is not revolutionary, of course. I believe it was D.A. Carson who argued as much in his essay “The Vindication of Imputation: On Fields of Discourse and Semantic Fields” (2004) in a book “Justification: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates” (eds.) Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier. There, Carson argued that the Protestant doctrine of the imputation of humanity’s sins to Christ is nowhere explicitly stated but it is a reasonable construct from the texts of Scripture.
In any case, I just find it interesting that, for a doctrine that ascends the heights of doctrinal importance, such that by it the Church stands or falls, it is being admitted by these top notch Evangelical scholars to be nowhere stated explicitly in Scripture, but rather relies on theological and systematic construction. I think that countless exegetical Reformed theologians have always been aware of this, but it is an observation to keep handy for everyone.
I was on The Meaning of Catholic this evening with my good friend Timothy Flanders speaking about the Greek and Latin schism from the early Councils to Florence (15th century) in what was a speed tour. God bless!