Friday, June 09, 2006

Works of the Law

Another good one from Scott McKnight. This is relevant for me since I am getting ready to teach a class on Romans.

Here’s an expression that has the Pauline scholarly world in a stir: “works of the Law.” Let me break the options into two groups, with all sorts of variations overlooked, and suggest that how you understand this expression shapes how you understand nearly everything Paul says. Yep, it is that significant. What is your view?

First, there is what I will call the anthropological view: some think “works of the Law” describes the all-too-common human attempt to live in such a way that they are finally pleasing to God. Such persons do the Law to gain God’s favor, to maintain God’s favor, and to give themselves the sense that they are doing their best. The Reformation sabotaged this sort of yearning on the part of humans, and argued on the basis of Paul that there is nothing a human can do to be pleasing to God, that any such striving on the part of a human blows apart what God wants from humans (which is trusting God, not trying to do it on our own), and that this is the basal human yearning that stems from pride on the part of humans. Everyone, so they argued, is trapped into this yearning and that is only by a work of God’s grace that humans are relieved from this striving to find that they, like Luther, can find God’s grace and can trust God for everything, and that “works of the Law” are not something God’s people do. Instead, it is an expression that describes how non-trusting humans act before God to secure their own righteousness. Read More.

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