In What was credited to Abraham by faith? I suggested—perhaps somewhat mischievously, certainly polemically—that ‘The language of “imputation” or “impartation” or “infusion” is overblown.’ Nathan wonders why I am so opposed to the concept. What am I trying to counter? That bears some consideration. At a gut level…
I object to the assumption that we need this sort of esoteric, pseudo-rational, unbiblical metaphysics in order to explain the significance of Jesus’ death for the life of his people.
I object to the obscurantism of so much of the technical theological language.
I object to the finicky, obsessive, blinkered, book-keeping scholasticism that reduces the concrete life of trust to the management of an absolute, overriding, non-negotiable soteriological abstraction.
I object to the hold that theologians have over the mind of the church.
I object to the fact that such doctrinal formulations blind our minds to the painful religious realism of Paul’s argument.
I object to the dissociation of justification by faith from the lived historical experience of the early communities of those who believed that the resurrection of Jesus augured a massive realignment of the ancient world.
I object to the systemic individualism of justification theory.
I object to the devaluation of the believer as a responsible and accountable moral agent.
I object to the fact that the theoretical construct drives a wedge between Paul and his Jewish heritage.
I object to the fact that it’s not actually what Paul says. The bottom line is that those who believed—and who lived consistently in accordance with that belief—would be found to have been in the right on the day of God’s “wrath” against the Jew first and then against the Greek. Nothing gets imputed or imparted or credited or transferred. Not as far as I can see.
I object to the fact that we have to spend so much time unpicking the knots that the theologians have tied Paul in.
Finally, I object to the disgraceful practice of setting up theological straw men and laying into them wildly with a pitchfork just to allay some deep-seated intellectual frustration, ignorance, or fear of the other. Can’t be helped, though, sometimes.