Can someone please tell me the difference between RL Dabney and NT Wright on imputation here?
It may be said, without affecting excessive subtlety of definition, that by imputation of Christ’s righteousness, we only mean that Christ’s righteousness is so accounted to the sinner, as that he receives thereupon the legal consequences to which it entitles. . . . All are agreed that, when the Bible says, ‘the iniquity of us all was laid on Christ,’ or that ‘He bare our sins,’ or ‘was made sin for us,’ it is only our guilt and not our moral attribute of sinfulness which was imputed. So it seems to me far more reasonable and scriptural to suppose that, in the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, it is not the attribute of righteousness in Christ which is imputed, but that which is the exact counterpart of guilt – the title to acquittal (Lectures in Systematic Theology, Lecture LIV).
I would be happy to think of Paul thinking something which, in my view, he never explicitly says anywhere: that the verdict “in the right,” “righteous,” which God issues over Jesus at his resurrection, becomes the verdict God issues over us when we believe – in other words, that we are incorporated into the “rightous-verdict,” perhaps even the “righteous-ness” of Jesus himself.” “Justification: Yesterday, Today, and Forever.” JETS (March 2011): 63.
Ummm … so is Dabney denying the gospel here? Hello? *Crickets*
I’m writing this because I wanted to internalize a quick argument that I picked up from reading Myron Penner’s Christianity and the Postmodern Turn. Penner edited the work, which hosts interactions between Merold Westphal, John Franke, James KA Smith, R Scott Smith, Doug Geivett, and Kevin Vanhoozer on the relationship between postmodernism and Christianity.
James KA Smith asserts that we can’t get outside of language and know an objective extra-linguistic world. Everything is mediated through language, so we can’t know the world in and of itself. One of the respondents to Smith asks this question: Now, are pomos making this sort of claim about reality’s essence or just from within their particular community’s language games? If they’re making the claim about reality’s essence then they’re assuming what they’re claiming can’t be known: knowledge of an objective extra-linguistic world. If they’re not making a claim about reality’s essence then they’re just making claims from within their own community’s phantom theatre of language parlour tricks. So, why should I accept their view? They’re just making a claim from within their own community’s world, and I’m most likely not a part of said community. And if I’m part of a different linguistic community, then I talk a different language and inhabit a different world. So, who cares?
Obviously, Jamie Smith and others want to say much more than the banal observation that their particular communities talk in certain ways. After all, they’ve written so much to get those of other linguistic communities to see as they do! But, their methodology ( = we can’t go out and observe the world as it really is due to linguistic barriers) betrays what they’re trying to say: Pomo philosophers see the world the right way, and other don’t.
Mike Bird recently put up some reflections on homophobia up on his blog. I enjoyed it so much, I’m reposting it in full here.
In my next response to James Crossley’s allegations of “homophobia,” I thought I would narrate two stories, two experiences with gay men and women, which have shaped my perceptions and pastoral approach to homosexuality.
Story One: Violent Homophobia.
In a previous life time, I was a soldier in the Australian Army. One evening my section was on a boys night out on the town in Sydney, doing bit of a pub crawl. I was not a heavy drinker, so I was the only sober one in the group by 9. 00 p.m. In one of our excursions across a park, several of us walked passed a couple of gay men innocuously holding hands as they strolled through the park. As they walked by, however, one of my group (the highest ranked member in fact) began yelling all sorts of hateful things interspersed with vicious expletives at them. He pushed his way over towards them as the couple quickly hurried their pace. Sensing the potential for fruitless violence at two innocent citizens, I grabbed my superior (and let it be known that this guy was built like Sylvester Stallone in his 80s physique) and dragged him back towards the group, fortunately a few other guys stepped in to help me. Eventually the drunken aggressive man desisted from his attempted attack and rejoined us on our walk. It was a vivid experience, one I’ve never forgotten. I felt sorry for that couple who could not even walk down a public park after dark without fear of physical attack due to no more than holding hands. From that experience I can say that I believe homophobia exists, it is real, it is based on nothing more than prejudice without reason, and it is morally wrong … and I say this as a Christian, one who tries to follow Jesus by loving my neighbor, even my gay neighbors walking down the street.
Story Two: The Ultimate Homophobia.
Back in 2002, just after it was announced that Rowan Williams was going to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury, I led an ecumenical Bible study among a group of Christians from the Army. I remember vividly the small group in question: A fiery Lutheran warrant officer, a meek Pentecostal girl from transport corps, a liberal Catholic logistics Captain, and a softly spoken nominal Anglican lady working for the DoD. When we got to the subject of Rowan Williams and his views of sexuality, well, the conversation heated up, like a furnace. The Lutheran warrant officer earnestly made the point that the Bible condemns homosexuality, the liberal Catholic rebutted that sexuality is genetically innate and cannot be helped so one should not oppose it, the nominal Anglican lady said that gay people make great friends and are great at helping you decorate your house, while the Pentecostal girl just sat there quietly not saying anything. Well, the conversation, now argument, got hotter and hotter. Despite my best efforts to moderate the tone and change the subject, it just got worse. It turned into a yelling match with the Bible-bashing Lutheran trying to shout down the liberal Catholic on the one side and the nominal Anglican lady adding her two-cents every so often. The poor Pentecostal girl sat their very quiet, staring catatonically at the floor, wisely avoiding the melee. Right before I was gonna yell “time out children, time to go home,” all of a sudden the Pentecostal girl loudly interjected with these words, “I used to be a Lesbian but Jesus saved me.” Right after that there was a silence you could cut with a knife. The Lutheran, the Catholic, the Anglican, and the poor Bible study leader, had nothing to say. What do you say to that? How do you follow that up? The young girl was engaged and a few months later was married and last I heard she was living a joyous heterosexual marriage with her new husband. In her story, homosexuality was something that she needed to be saved from, Jesus saved her from it, and she remained grateful for the transformation that had taken place in her life. But I want to say that her story is the greatest homophobic epic that can ever be told. In her story, it is possible, indeed actual, for some (note the qualifier) gay men and women to be changed and transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed, homosexual men and women can be liberated, rescued, and saved from homosexualilty … that is their testimony, not mine. Now I know that the reasons why people have same-sex desires are complex and range from biology to upbringing to sociology to psychology. I do not believe that the Pentecostal girl’s story would necessarily be true of all homosexual men and women. I don’t think homosexuality is a disease much less something that can be cured. Some Christians with same-sex desires struggle with it for all their lives (just as heterosexuals can struggle with certain desires and behaviors). I know that there are many ex-gays, but I also know that there are many ex-ex-gays too. My point is that I have heard the testimony of men and women who consider themselves saved from homosexuality. Moreover, their words constitute the greatest act of betrayal of the gay-cause, the greatest act of treachery in gay-rights, and the greatest attack on efforts to deny that same-sex desires can change in people. In our secular and pansexual culture, ex-gay Christians are the worst and most vile homophobes in the universe because they announce that Jesus saved them from homosexuality and the Holy Spirit transformed them and empowered them to live a holy life without it. Though society may call them homophobes, I am not ashamed to call them my brother or sister.
As we are often told nowadays, we live in a postmodern era; and postmodernists pride themselves on rejecting the classical foundationalism that we all learned at our mother’s knee. Classical foundationalism has enjoyed a hegemony, a near consensus in the West from the Enlightenment to the very recent past. And according to the classical foundationalist, our beliefs, at least when properly founded, are objective in a double sense. The first sense is a Kantian sense; what is objective in this sense is what is not merely subjective, and what is subjective is what is private or peculiar to just some persons. According to classical foundationalism, well-founded belief is objective in this sense; at least in principle, any properly functioning human beings who think together about a disputed question with care and good will, can be expected to come to an agreement. Well-founded belief is objective in another sense as well: it has to do with, is successfully aimed at, objects, things, things in themselves, to borrow a phrase. Well-founded belief is often or unusually adequate to the thing; it has an adequatio ad rem. There are horses, in the world, and my thought of a given horse is indeed a thought of that horse. Furthermore, it is adequate to the horse, in the sense that the properties I take the horse to have are properties it really has. That it has those properties – the ones I take it to have – furthermore, does not depend upon me or upon how I think of it: the horse has those properties on its own account, independent of me or anyone else. My thought and belief is therefore objective in that it is centered upon an object independent of me; it is not directed to something I, as a subject, have construed or in some other way created.
Now what is characteristic of much postmodern thought is the rejection of objectivity in this second sense – often in the name of rejecting objectivity in the first sense. The typical argument for postmodern relativism leaps lightly from the claim that there is no objectivity of the first sort, to the claim that there is none of the second. As you have no doubt noticed, this is a whopping non sequitur; that hasn’t curbed its popularity in the least. Classical foundationalism, so the argument runs, has failed: we now see that there is no rational procedure guaranteed to settle all disputes among people of good will; we do not necessarily share starting points for thought, together with forms of argument that are sufficient to settle all differences of opinion. That’s the premise. The conclusion is that therefore we can’t really think about objects independent of us, but only about something else, perhaps constructs we ourselves have brought into being. Put thus baldly, the argument does not inspire confidence; but even if we put it less baldly, is there really anything of substance here? In any event, by this route too we arrive at the thought that there isn’t any such thing as truth that is independent of us and our thoughts. The idea seems to be that objectivity in the first, Kantian sense, necessarily goes with objectivity in the second, external sense, so that if our thought isn’t objective in the first sense, then it isn’t objective in the second sense either. And what has happened within at least some of so-called postmodernisms is that the quite proper rejection of the one – a rejection that would of course have received the enthusiastic support of Kuyper and Dooyeweerd – has been confused with the rejection, the demise of the other – an idea that Kuyper and Dooyweerd would have utterly rejected.
Below, Kevin Vanhoozer dismantles John Franke’s communitarian theology. Vanhoozer provides a helpful corrective to those who uphold the absolute necessity of the community for interpreting Scripture:
Jesus says that the Spirit “will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears” (John 16:13 NIV). The Spirit’s role is to “remind you of everything I [Jesus] have said to you” (John 14:26 NIV). In light of these explicit passages, I am inclined to resist any attempt to “deregulate” pneumatology from Christology. The Spirit ministers the Word (who is Truth and Life), nothing else. As such, the Spirit is the executor of the living Word and the Word written. To be sure, Franke rightly says that the voice of the Spirit never speaks against the text. But this claim has purchase, and protects, only to the extent that the text has determinate meaning. I am not sure what to make of [Franke's] claim that the Spirit speaking through Scripture and culture constitutes “one unified speaking.” Again, I would like to see biblical warrant for this claim.
The Spirit is also at work in tradition – but which one? Does Franke believe that there is a single Christian tradition? If so, where is it? How do we know which trajectories of tradition are Spirit-guided and which are not? The problem with nonfoundationalism is that the Scripture has meaning only when it is read by such-and-such interpretative community. My question, then, concerns the ability of the text to speak against and correct the interest and interpretative strategies of a community. My epistemology and ecclesiology alike are fallible, for all human beliefs and practices are distorted by the fall, even Christian beliefs and church practices. That is precisely why we need a “norming norm” that is independent of our systems of beliefs and practices. But this is precisely what a nonfoundationalist approach disallows, if I have understood it correctly. (Mryon Penner, ed. Christianity and the Postmodern Turn: Six Views).
In (2 Corinthians) 8 Paul invokes the example of Christ’s self-giving: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that through his poverty might become rich” (8:9). Here in chapter 9 Paul says that, if the Corinthians come through with their promised gift, people “will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity” (9:13). In any case Paul never lets Christians forget that all our giving is but a pale reflection of God’s “indescribable gift” (9:15), which of course lies at the heart of the Gospel.
So much of basic Christian ethics is tied in one way or another to the Gospel. When husbands need instruction on how to treat their wives, Paul does not introduce special marriage therapy or appeal to a mystical experience. Rather, he grounds conduct in the Gospel: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). If you are looking for maturity, beware of any “deeper life” approach that sidesteps the Gospel, for Paul writes, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Col. 2:6-7). Of course, there is “deeper life” in the sense that Christians are exhorted to press on toward greater conformity to Christ Jesus and not to be satisfied with their present level of obedience (e.g. Phil. 3). But none of this is an appeal to something that leaves the Gospel behind or that adds something to the Gospel.
We must avoid the view that, while the Gospel provides a sort of escape ticket from judgment and hell, all the real life-transforming power comes from something else – an esoteric doctrine, a mystical experience, a therapeutic technique, a discipleship course. That is too narrow a view of the Gospel. Worse, it ends up relativizing and marginalizing the Gospel, stripping it of its power while it directs the attention of people away from the Gospel and toward something less helpful.
Dispensationalists will say that, in the end, salvation in the Old Covenant was by the grace of God through faith. However, they also say that, hypothetically, salvation was offered to men on the basis of their keeping the law perfectly — that God extended an invitation to legalism — in the Old Covenant. By contrast, they say, the New Covenant knows no legalism, even hypothetically; salvation is purely by grace without any consideration of works whatsoever. This viewpoint displays a very disturbing and unbiblical understanding of God’s character and sovereignty. According to Covenant theology, salvation has never been by works, even hypothetically; it has always been proclaimed on the basis of God’s grace. And this grace has always called for the response of faithful obedience on the part of God’s people — in both of Old and New Testaments. Thus dispensationalists have misconstrued God’s work of salvation and (again) the newness of the New Covenant.
It’s of course no surprise that John Maynard Keynes was a fierce critic of the gold standard, but lest anyone think that he was an unthinking proponent of fiat currency, consider this quote from James Rickards’ Currency Wars:
Near the end of his life, Keynes supported a new currency, which he called the bancor, with a value anchored to a commodity basket including gold. He was, of course, a fierce critic of the gold exchange standard of the 1920s, but he was practical enough to realize that currencies must be anchored to something and, for this reason, preferred a global commodity standard to the dollar-and-gold standard that emerged from Bretton Woods in 1944.
Right now I’m reading one of the best books on economics I’ve come across: Currency Wars: The Making Of The Next Global Crisis, by investment banker and risk manager, James Rickards. Since we’ve bandied around on this blog with Ron Paul, Keynesianism, and other assorted economic truffles, I thought I’d weigh in with something provocative from Mr. Rickards’ book. Rickards contends that critics of the Fed like Ron Paul are actually a part of the U.S. central bank’s plan. As amusing as those Youtube clips are of Ron Paul laying into the central bank grand wizard, Ben Bernanke, according to Rickards, they’re exactly what Bernanke and his central bank minions want.
Before I defend this, I’ll provide some background reading to help this make sense.
We first have to understand the economic theory of monetarism. Monetarism is the theory, made popular by Milton Friedman, that changes in the money supply are the most important changes a country can make in GDP. One of the things that Friedman became famous for was his contention that GDP changes can be broken down into a ‘real’ component, with actual gains, and an ‘inflationary’ component, with illusory gains.
The theory is encapsulated in the following equation:
MV = Py.
Money supply (M) times velocity (V) equals nominal GDP, which can be broken down into its components of price changes (P) and growth (y).
The money supply is controlled by the Fed. But, not everything is directly under the Fed’s control (you could even dispute that ‘M’ is under the Fed’s control, but that’s for another post). The problem is that velocity is all psychological – the proverbial wildcard in the deck. As Rickards says:
It all depends on how in individual feels about her economic prospects or about how all consumers in the aggregate feel. Velocity cannot be controlled by the Fed’s printing press or advancements in productivity. It is a behavioural problem, and a powerful one.
In the mind of the Fed, the economy is screeching to a painful stop. Uncle Milton’s equation is breaking down. The Fed has exhausted their ability to change the money supply, so the solution is to attempt to change velocity. And this will mean manipulating the hopes and fears of enough U.S. citizens to get the economy humming along again.
There are two ways to do this. The Fed can instill in the public either euphoria from newly created ‘wealth’ or the fear of inflation. Rickards points out that there was a stock market rally from 2009-2011, but it wasn’t strong enough to move consumer spending and investment in any significant way. So, Rickards thinks that the government has turned to creating fears of inflation.
The way for the Fed to do this was to manipulate three things at once: nominal rates, real rates, and inflation expectations. You keep the nominal rates and inflation expectations high and create negative real rates (the difference between nominal rates and the expected rate of inflation). Rickards uses the example of having inflation expectations at 4%, nominal rates at 2%, with leaves you with a real rate of -2%. According to this way of thinking, if real rates are negative, borrowing becomes more attractive, which will fuel investment and spending. “Negative interest rates create a situation in which dollars can be borrowed and paid back in cheaper dollars due to inflation.”
Now, this all makes sense theoretically, but is there any evidence that Ben Bernanke agrees with this line of thinking? There is.
Bernanke and Krugman studied Japan’s economic plight in the late 1990s at Princeton University. A summary of their work was written by a colleague of Krugman and Bernanke, Lars Svensson, in 2003. First, Svensson talks about everything that we’re seeing play out in the world economy right now: a depreciating US currency in order to boost exports and create inflation.
Even if the … interest rate is zero, a depreciation of the currency provides a powerful way to stimulate the economy … A currency depreciation will stimulate an economy directly by giving a boost to export … sectors. More importantly … a currency depreciation and a peg of the currency rate at a depreciated rate serves as a conspicuous commitment to a higher price level in the future.
Here’s the money quote from Svensson:
If the central bank could manipulate private-sector beliefs, it would make the private sector believe in future inflation, the real interest rate would fall, and the economy would soon emerge from recession … The problem is that private-sector beliefs are not easy to affect.
In Svensson’s writings, we see what according to James Rickards, is Bernanke’s playbook: interest rates are kept close to zero, the dollar is devalued by quantitative easing, and public opinion is manipulated to create the fear of inflation.
It would seem that Ron Paul is accomplishing what Ben Bernanke wishes he could do himself – stoke the fears of inflation at home.
Rickards concludes in a poignant, though somewhat overblown conclusion:
This was central banking with the mask off. It was not the cool, rational, scientific pursuit of disinterested economists sitting in the Fed’s marble temple in Washington. Instead it was an exercise in deception and hoping for the best. When prices of oil, silver, gold and other commodities began to rise steeply in 2011, Bernanke was publicly unperturbed and made it clear that actual interest rates would remain low. In fact, increasing inflation anxiety reported from around the world combined with continued low rates was exactly what the theories of Bernanke, Krugman and Svensson advocated. America had become a nation of guinea pigs in a grand monetary experiment, cooked up in the petri dish of the Princeton economics department.