I continue examining the claims of Southern Seminary professor Mark Seifrid on the issue of justification and the imputed righteousness of Christ. Seifrid writes,
By virtue of their extrinsic character and finality, Christ’s cross and resurrection exclude the notions of an inherent righteousness and progress in justification which Protestant divines were concerned to avoid. As a result, there is no need to multiply entities within ‘justification’, as Protestant orthodoxy did when it added the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the forgiveness of sins (175).
While I would agree that the cross and the resurrection are extrinsic and final, the issue is how that external act interfaces with me, the believer. Rome has had many years to find ways of connecting the extrinsic and final to the internal and incomplete (it is highly doubtful Dr. Seifrid has ever listened to Scott Hahn spin Hebrews’ testimony to the finality of the crucifixion), and the mere observation that the cross and resurrection are final and extrinsic does not even begin to speak to the sacramentalism Rome has imposed upon the message. Such a dismissal of Rome’s theology, while it may be based upon a true observation, shows little interaction with those who most aggressively promote it.
But more problematic is the assertion that, in essence, the theology of the Westminster Confession, the London Baptist Confession, etc., is guilty of “multiply(ing) entities within justification,” with specific reference to “adding” the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the forgiveness of sins. One could wish these words were not being written “within the camp,” but such is the situation we face today. It is important to clearly understand what is being said here. The belief that justification is a full, rich term that, due to the truth of the union of the elect with Christ in His death includes the imputation of the very righteousness of Christ (positively and negatively, as we will see later) to the believer as the grounds of their relationship through life to God, the grounds of the peace we have with Him by faith (Romans 5:1), is here styled an addition to the biblical truth, which seemingly is that justification is the forgiveness of sins alone and not the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. It is hard to know how to read this without understanding it to be clearly saying that the concept of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is an unbiblical addition without support in the text of Scripture. This is exactly what Seifrid is saying:
When Paul speaks of ‘justification’ as the forgiveness of sins, he has in view the whole of justification, the resurrection from the dead, not merely an erasure of our failures which must be supplemented by an ‘imputed’ righteousness (Rom. 4:6-8, 25). Likewise, the further distinction which some Protestants made between the imputation of Christ’s active righteousness (in fulfilling the law) and his passive obedience (in dying on the cross) is unnecessary and misleading. This view, too, arose from a failure to grasp that Christ’s work represents the prolepsis of the final judgment and the entrance of the age to come.
But does Paul only speak of justification as the forgiveness of sins? Surely not! And the passage that is cited militates directly against Seifridâ€™s position! As the text is far too large for a blog entry, I here offer as an excursus the exegesis of Romans 4:4-8 that appears in The God Who Justifies.
To summarize, there is most clearly in these verses a plain teaching of the concept of imputation that is not a Protestant “addition” to the forgiveness of sins, but is part and parcel of the rich work of Christ envisioned in the biblical text itself. We must reject Seifrid’s mischaracterization of both the biblical evidence and the theology of the Reformation.
I will continue my response to Seifrid’s position in future blog entries.
Update 12/30/2014: This review eventually became a major series of posts. For those interested in reading the entire series in order I post the links below. RP
Dr. Seifrid on Imputation July 9, 2004
More in Response to Southern Seminary Professor’s Denial of Imputed Righteousness July 9, 2004
Continuing Review of Mark Seifrid’s Views on the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness July 11, 2004
An Interesting Expansion in the LBCF, 1689 July 27, 2004
The Abstract of Principles on Justification July 30, 2004
The Imputation Controversy August 25, 2004
Imputation Controversy #2 August 26, 2004
Why I Care About “Christ, our Righteousness” August 28, 2004
Imputation Controversy #3 August 30, 2004
Southern Seminary and Dr. Mark Seifrid September 4, 2004
A Response to Southern Seminary and Dr. Mark Seifrid September 4, 2004
Listen to Today’s DL for a Full Discussion of the SBTS/Seifrid/Imputation Issue September 7, 2004
From the 1994 WTJ September 7, 2004
A Word of Rebuke to the Firebrands September 8, 2004
And Verily It Got Nuttier September 11, 2004
Yes, I Have a Copy, Thank You September 13, 2004
An Open Letter to Dr. Mark Seifrid (Part 1) September 14, 2004
Seifrid Response, Part II September 15, 2004
Seifrid Response, Part III September 18, 2004
Open Letter to Mark Seifrid, Part IV September 21, 2004
Open Letter to Mark Seifrid, Part V October 2, 2004
If I Misrepresented Dr. Seifrid, then…. December 3, 2004