Saturday, November 12, 2005

Paul Owen: Judaizer

According to Paul Owen:


Romans 2:13 says: "For it is not those who only hear the Law who are just before God, but those who do the Law will be justified." In this verse, Paul plainly says that doing the Law is necessary for justification at the final judgment. This may not go down very well at your local Evangelical church, but it is biblical and Catholic theology. The following are a few reflections on this verse:

First of all, it shows us that we must distinguish between present and future justification. It is those who are just before God in this life (by faith; 1:17) who will be justified in the future (according to their works).

Therefore, justification not only changes our status, it also changes our condition (though it is not itself based on that change of condition).

Since justification is simply being joined to Christ and his benefits (Rom. 6:5; 7:4), Christ’s righteousness is not only imputed to us for justification in this life (Rom. 4:6, 11), it is imputed to our good works as well (Rom. 15:18; Gal. 2:20), so that the works we do in the power of the Spirit will be truly accepted as perfect in the sight of God, and meriting the reward of eternal life (Rom. 2:6-7).


There are quite a few problems with this analysis:

1.Notice how he distances himself from “your local Evangelical church.” Now, Dr. Owen claims to be a Presbyterian who subscribes to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Concerning the immediate point at issue, the Confession says that “those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth…not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone.”

But according to Dr. Owen, in his distinction between present and future justification, we are justified in part both by something done in us and by us.

So Dr. Owen subscribes to the Westminster Confession with his fingers firmly crossed behind his back.

2.St. Paul has a stereotypical way of expressing the instrumentality of justification. He does so through the use of a prepositional phrase. The exact syntax varies with the Greek noun which supplies the verb, as well as any contrasting phrase. In standard English versions, this takes the form of saying that we are justified by (or through) faith (Rom 3:28; Gal 2:16,24; 3:8), or grace (Rom 3:24; Tit 3:7), or Christ (Gal 2:17), or the blood [of Christ] (Rom 5:9). By contrast, we are not justified by works (Rom 4:2; Gal 2:16; 3:11; 5:4).

Now, according to Dr. Owen’s gloss on Rom 2:13, we are justified by works at the final judgment.

Notice, though, that Paul doesn’t use that stereotypical construction in Rom 2:13. He doesn’t say that we are justified by the law, or by keeping the law. He doesn’t say that law-keeping is instrumental to our justification.

What he states is not a causal relation, but a correlation. There is a correspondence between the class of the justified and the class of the law-keepers.

But to say that antinomians will not be justified is not to say that we are justified by keeping the law. If that is what Paul wanted to say, he had a standard formula for expressing that relation.

3. What Paul is doing at this preliminary stage of his argument is a ground-clearing exercise to show that Jews have no automatic advantage over Gentiles when it comes to justification. Appealing to their membership in the Mosaic covenant would only be advantageous if they were faithful to the law of Moses, but since the Jews are law-breakers, this is, if anything, disadvantageous. So if they and the Gentiles are to be justified, it must be by some other means.

4.Paul uses the future tense in Rom 2:13, not with reference to a future act of justification but a future event—the day of judgment. Because the context is eschatological, the verb is in the future tense, just like the verbs in the preceding verse. The eschatological verdict and sentencing phase take place in the future because the event itself takes place in the future. But unless we are already justified when we appear before the bar of God, we will be condemned. And one purpose of this event is the public revelation who, indeed, was justified in Christ—as opposed to mere hearers of the word (13,16).

5.Dr. Owen also has a morally and intellectually loose habit of citing prooftexts to say things and prove things which, if you look them up and actually read them, they never state or imply.

Rom 6:5 and 7:4 do not say that justification is simply being joined to Christ and his benefits. Indeed, they don’t mention justification at all. Rom. 15:18 & Gal. 2:20 do not say or imply that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to our own good works. Rom. 2:6-7 doesn’t say that our good works are accepted as “perfect” in God’s sight, much less that our good works “merit” eternal life.

Dr. Owen is furiously feeding nickels and dimes into the expired meter after spotting the parking citation stuck in-between the windshield and the windshield wiper of his car.

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