I am sometimes asked, due to the heated debates surrounding the so-called New Perspective on Paul, if I truly believe in imputation. To put it very simply, "What is my understanding of the relationship of Christ’s righteousness and his work of imputation?" I always answer this question as plainly as I know how.
No one will be saved without the imputed righteousness of Christ alone (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:30, the only text that specifically refers to the idea of imputation by direct reference). I understand imputation to be the reckoning of our sins to Christ and the reckoning of his death (a righteous payment in the courtroom of divine justice, to use one Pauline metaphor) to us. He takes our sin and we receive his gift (forgiveness). What I do not see so plainly revealed in Scripture is the idea that Christ kept the law for us and by this action "merited" salvation for all who believe. In this thinking we are saved by merit, Christ’s merit. This kind of merit is what I do not see plainly revealed by Scripture. By employing this merit category we effectively separate keeping the law, by the Spirit, from trusting Christ alone to save us. The very important point I am making is that I do not see two types of saving faith, but rather one faith, a living and obeying faith which produces the works of faith seen in Hebrews 11. When I hear esteemed Reformed writers, attempting to defend their position on these issues, speak of a faith which justifies as passive, in any sense of the word, I cringe. By this approach I see systematic categories being employed that practically and dangerously deny Scripture’s repeated warnings to us to make sure that we have living, trusting, obeying faith.
I am not enough of an expert on the Westminster Confession to be confidently sure that what I have written affirms or denies the WCF. Norman Shepherd believes the confession is not as clear on this point as some believe. I am not prepared to argue this point and do not need to do so since I do not formally (ministerially) subscribe to the WCF. I hold it in high esteem, in many ways, but also see it as a human document that can be improved upon.
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