Revisiting an old “kingdom-gospel” argument of mine

Years ago I was fairly hard-core New Perspective on Paul.  I don’t think several forms of NPP necessarily led to Tridentine Catholicism, but it is certainly a move away from some Reformation teachings.  Obviously, I’m in the Reformation camp now.   What is interesting is that I am reading through some old study bibles of mine.  I have the ESV Journaling bible which allows for copious notetaking in the margins.

I was reading parts of Isaiah yesterday (which, aside from the gospel of Matthew is really the only piece of literature I would take with me to a desert island) and came across 52:7

Blessed are the feet of those who proclaim good news,
who publish tidings of salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

That is my favorite verse in the Bible.  Look at the underlined sections:  Gospel, salvation, Reigns.  Following the structure of Hebrew poetry, we can easily see that “salvation” and “reigns” expand the idea of “good news,” or gospel.  In the margins I have written “Cf. Romans 1:3-4,” which says,

concerning his Son, who was descended from David[b] according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord

The word “concerning” is referring back to the subject of the sentence in verse 1, which is “gospel.”  Here we see that the Gospel is that the Davidic king, Jesus of Nazareth, is raised from the dead and is Lord of the world.

In my NPP days I asked, “What does that mean for justification?”  I won’t bother with my answer now, but I realized: it does nothing to the Reformed understanding of justification.  It simply empowers it.  Let’s go back to the motion of Isaiah 52.  It is a proclamation.  Whatever else the gospel and salvation are, they are a “proclamation” of what God has done in Jesus of Nazareth  Everything WSC 33 says about justification is absolutely true and we shouldn’t budge from that one iota.   This above understanding further strengthens the case by realizing that justification is not transformation, it is not sanctification, it is not union with Christ, it is not theosis, however important those topics are in their own right.  It is above all an extra-nos announcement of what God has done in Jesus of Nazareth.


Don Garlington has written a thirty page response to Piper’s (admittedly old) book on imputation (I realize I am five years behind the debate on the New Perspective.  Actually, I’m not.  I read all this stuff five years ago, but I have been reexamining the issues for other reasons).  Garlington makes a number of interesting observations that should give many New Perspective readers pause (of which I am one).   Outside the conceptual framework of medieval Catholicism, Calvinism derives its merit imputation theology from Romans 4, primarily.  One has to admit that Calvinists don’t simply make up the argument from nowhere.   Paul does use the word logizomai which has connotations of “impute” for later English speakers.  Garlington gives his reasons why that is not the best translation for Romans 4.

Garlington’s paper is interesting, but it is not the main point here.   I was listening to the exchange between Richard Gaffin and N. T. Wright.  They got to the problem of imputation in Paul, specifically appealing to the word “reckon.”   Gaffin made a surprisingly strong case for “reckon” = “impute.”  Wright’s rebuttal was interesting.    Wright acknowledged the force of “reckon,” though he like Garlington said that given the context of the Abrahamic story, other connotations of logizomai are more faithful to the passage.  Wright then admitted that imputation was a biblical concept.  He said we should read imputation language, not in Romans 4 but in Romans 6–baptism.  Through our baptism we reckon ourselves dead to sin.  We are baptized into the death of Christ, and have that reckoned to us.   If one wants to insist in “imputation” language in the Pauline corpus, I don’t mind transferring it to the baptismal passages in Romans 6.