Sunday, April 20, 2008

Justification: Ecclesiology or Soteriology?

Wright works hard to distance himself from a view of justification (in his mind, the Reformation view) that makes it a doctrine of “how to get right with God.” Justification, Wright argues, is not about how to get right with God, but about who is already right with God—it is the divine pronouncement that so and so is in right standing with God. For Wright, this means justification is about ecclesiology—who is in the covenant; not about soteriology—how to get into the covenant.

Even granting Wright’s view of justification, I’m not certain his attempt to remove the doctrine of justification from soteriology really works. Ecclesiology cannot be so neatly divided from soteriology. When it comes to the doctrine of justification--even as Wright has defined it--ecclesiology is soteriology. A doctrine which defines the boundaries of the covenant, demarcating whose in and whose out, sounds pretty soteriological to me—particularly when one’s final salvation is directly related to being “in” the covenant.

The question of “who will be vindicated at/by the final resurrection” is fundamentally soteriological, with subsequent ecclesial implications, rather than fundamentally ecclesial with subsequent soteriological implications. It would seem to me that a discussion of justification framed in this way still provides plenty of soil for proto-Pelagianism to grow and flourish, despite Wright’s insistence to the contrary.

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