Sunday, June 10, 2007

N. T. Wright on Faith and Works

N.T. Wright has an interesting piece on the relationship between faith and works in salvation, as well as a discussion of what "salvation" really means. We tend to think of "salvation" as ourselves being rescued out of an evil world; but our salvation is merely one part of God redeeming the entire creation into the "new heavens and new earth" promised in Revelation 21. He also tantalizingly hints at problems involved in our understanding of salvation deriving from the relationship between Paul's battles with the Judaizers, the Reformers' battles with the medieval Catholic church, the Romantic division between "inward" and "outward" spirituality, and the existentialist idea of "authenticity." Good stuff.


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  2. Hi Keith,

    It's an interesting, and well written piece. First, just let me give a note of thanks that the nutjobs posting comments on N.T. Wright's column haven't yet discovered your blog. Talk about a house divided, wow; there's so much division there I don't think the word "house" even applies.

    I think Wright is on the right track. (I'm sure he- a professionally trained theologian with decades of study and teaching experience- would be greatly reassured to know he's won the confidence of a middle-aged building tradesman- LOL) As we've discussed before, the solution to the seeming disagreement between Paul in Ephesians and James in James is found in the appropriately anonymous Hebrews. It was by faith that those we refer to as "heroes of the faith" actually did things. They did works, by faith, i.e. Noah, by faith, built the Ark.

    Certainly faith without works is dead, the bible tells us so. I think that we can safely infer that works without faith are also dead. I recall the counsel of Gamaliel, in Acts, to the members of the Jewish High Council who wanted to stamp out the new "Jesus of Nazereth cult." He recalled to their memories a past rebellion that claimed divine origin. He said that their claims (of divine inspiration/origin)were proven false by their movement going nowhere. I submit Gamaliel's tale to the Council as biblical evidence of the concept "works without faith is dead." It should be noted that Gamaliel's counsel regarding Jesus' disciples was essentially that if they're not of God, they'll die out without any effort on your part, but if they are of God, you would do well to not be found opposing them.

    The caution for us today, I think, is that we discern properly what are truly faith-inspired works. Faith without works is merely dead. Works inspired by pride or greed rather than faith actually glorify death. They are whitewashed tombs that inspire followers to travel the world to make one convert who becomes twice as much a son of perdition.

    At least, that's how it looks to me. Your thoughts?

    Grace and Peace, Dave

  3. I guess I don't struggle that much to understand that we are saved "by grace through faith" and "not by works", but that now that we are a new creation we do "good works" out of love for God.

    I think sometimes people overcomplicate these truths.