The Role of Works at Final Judgment, Dunn (Review, part 4)

Our review of Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment is nearly at a close. We have worked through the introduction, and essays by Wilkin and Schreiner. Now we are up to James D.G. Dunn.

The title of Dunn’s essay captures his overall view: “If Paul could believe both in justification by faith and judgment according to works, why should that be a problem for us?” A key example of his own perspective is found in Philippians 2:12-13 – “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” – why should it prove so probematic that Paul could put both clauses in the same sentence (p. 132)?

In this essay, Dunn makes six points I wish to highlight.

#1: We should not be so quick to read a coherent system and logic into the text that we neglect a key emphasis (i.e., judgment). This point is made using examples like Phil 2:12-13.

#2: There are many indicators that salvation/justification is conditional. So Rom 8:13; Gal 6:8; 1 Cor 15:2; Col 1:22-23; 1 Cor 3:10 and so forth. Dunn writes, “it is hardly possible to doubt that part of Paul’s pastoral theology was his all-too-real concern that faith could once again be compromised and cease to be simple trust, that commitment could be relaxed and resolve critically weakened. The result would be an estrangement from Christ, a falling away from grace, a reversion to life solely ‘in accordance with the flesh’, and the loss of the prospect of resurrection life” (p. 127).

#3: Covenantal Nomism? Dunn tries, despite his warnings to avoid systemization, to think about the relationship between justification and judgment, and keeps coming back to the nature of early Judaism – founded on grace and election, but determined also by covenantal obedience. Keep in mind Sanders didn’t think Paul’s theology was CN. But Dunn feels comfortable reading Paul this way.

#4: Transformation: this was my favorite section. Dunn establishes a teliology for justification. What is the goal of faith? In Dunn’s reading of Paul, “it is never less than the divine intention that faith should be expressed in faithfulness” (129). Furthermore, grace is not just a blank slate or a clean record. We must attend in Paul’s theology to “the transforming character of divine grace” (p. 129).

#5: The purpose and nature of Paul’s letters and teachings. Dunn notes how much Paul focuses on ethical/pastoral issues in his letters.

Paul’s ethical teaching assumes that his readers were responsible people, who should be making effort–enabled by God’s Spirit, of course– but nevertheless having the responsibility to walk by the Spirit, to be led by the Spirit, with the express corollary that failure to do so would have severe and possibly damning consequences. (135)

#6: The Teaching of Jesus: The devaluation of the reality of judgment, or the over-emphasis on “free grace” among modern Christians, Dunn urges, may have something to do with the lack of attention paid to Jesus in the Gospels. Even John records Jesus saying, in the last day, “those who have done good will come forth (from the grave) to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29). Matthew’s Jesus condemns the judged because they are “workers of lawlessness” (Matt 7:21-23).


I am not going to line them up individually except to say that several of them commented that Dunn is more deconstructive than constructive. He nods his head at covenantal nomism, but continues to press again forced systematization where something important is lost.

Wilkin raises the important question regarding assurance – should Christians have a doctrine of assurance? What kind, if salvation is conditional? I think Wilkin asks a fair question, but in the end I do not think we were meant to have impenetrable assurance (a “get out of jail free” card). This is where Dunn’s discussion of transformation is important. What if God’s goal is not just to “save,” but to restore-in-order-to-equip-for-agency? I once gave a paper called “To What End Dikaiosyne?” We often think about what we get from justification. What about what God gets? I think that is the point behind Rom 2. Does God want “saved people” or does he want “good people”? He wants “good people.” Wouldn’t you? [Now I am starting to sound Catholic, aren’t I? Well, its very Wesleyan too]

Ultimately, we see that Schreiner, Dunn, and Barber share much in common. Dunn even affirms the Catholic view briefly. So, I will look forward to reading Barber’s own essay, and the responses.


Book Notice: Embracing Shared Ministry, Joseph Hellerman

In seminary and on into my doctoral program, I was deeply influenced by returning again and again to Michael Gorman’s Cruciformity and Joseph Hellerman’s Reconstructing Honor in Roman Philippi: Carmen Christi as Cursus Pudorum. I have often taught students Hellerman’s point about the double-teaching of Phil 2:5-11 – Christology (who Christ is) and ethics (how he models humility and other-regard). Hellerman does a fantastic job contextualizing all of this within Roman Philippi, and then drawing out the substance of Paul’s message.

However, I never entertained using his monograph as a textbook because it can be very technical, and a young student would have to be very patient to get to the final pay-off. Well, seven years after the publication of Reconstructing Honor in Roman Philippi, Hellerman has published a popular-level book that attempts to draw out the wider implications of his cruciform reading of Paul’s theology, and how that can help pastors and leaders better understand their role in the kingdom of God and community of the saints.

0004666_embracing_shared_ministry_power_and_status_in_the_early_church_and_why_it_matters_todayThe book is called Embracing Shared Ministry: Power and Status in the Early Church and Why It Matters Today (Kregel, 2013). It is nearly 300 pp., but the text is largely free from footnotes and Hellerman has done a fine job eliminating jargon and furnishing plenty of ancient and modern examples for the topics and issues that he addresses.

I have only poked around here and there in the book, but I imagine that I could easily be persuaded to use this as a textbook for my Biblical Theology of leadership course for next fall.

Derek and Diane Tidball on The Message of Women in Scripture (Review)

Recently a pastor asked me, I have a parishioner interested in the issue of women in ministry leadership and teaching. He wants to know the exegetical arguments in favor of supporting women in ministry. Is there a good lay-level book?

I have often struggled with this question because egalitarian defenses that are convincing tend to be quite advanced (like the outstanding Discovering Biblical Equality). There are less-than-convincing discussions, but I don’t want to support those further. So, I was delighted to have Derek & Diane Tidball’s volume on The Message of Women come across my desk (IVP, 2012). This is now my go-to volume when a lay-person wants to know more about what the Bible says about women in ministry. I have used books by Derek Tidball before and he is a very good researcher, and particularly skilled at making arguments and ideas accessible. No doubt it means something special to have Derek and Diane write and teach together in this project.

The book does not deal exclusively with issues of leadership and ordination – it attempts to address what Scripture has to say about women comprehensively. There are four sections (Foundations, Women under the old covenant, Women in the kingdom, Women in the new community) divided up further into twenty short chapters. I could spend dozens of posts offering nuggets of wisdom from this book, but I will limit myself to a handful of  reflections.

Fatherhood and Family: 

…the Biblical emphasis on the upbringing of children is that it is the joint responsibility of the parents, not primarily the responsibility of the mother. Fathers, if anything, were considered to be more responsible. The Bible does not put forward a particular pattern or structure of child-rearing, even if there are principles to be observed. (p. 77)

Leadership of Miriam:

Micah later acknowledged the significance of her leadership when, without making any distinction between them, he wrote, ‘I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam’ [Mic 6:4] (117)

The legacy of Huldah:

Later Jewish tradition regarded Huldah with great respect. Two sets of gates at the south-eastern entrance to the temple mount were named in her memory at the time of the second temple. They became the most frequently used access to the temple. (p. 121)

Mary as teacher:

Luke’s attribution of the Magnificat to Mary and his inclusion of it in his Gospel meant it would be read widely in the church and used as the basis for Christian instruction. In identifying Mary as its author, as Kenneth Bailey has pointed out, ‘he indirectly presents her as a teacher of theology, ethics, and social justice for all his readers.’ (p. 154; Bailey –> see “Women in the NT: A Middle Eastern Cultural View’, Anvil 11 (1994): 9)

Context and Meaning of Paul’s Instruction in 1 Tim 2:5-11 [and salvation through child-bearing]

Paul seems to be warning women not to stridently reject or abandon their primary role for some sought-after status as teachers in the church but to accept their procreative privileges with good grace. Thy need have no fear that they will be denied salvation if they fulfil the role that only they can play in creation. (p. 255)

I could say much more, but I will leave it at that. This is a book every pastor should own, and could easily be a basis for a Sunday School course on women in Scripture. There is a handy study guide for discussion groups in the back of the book. I hope this resource will enjoy a broad readership and will aid and support and encourage women in their pursuit of God’s calling in ministry.