Thoughts of a Living Christian

Musings of an amateur theologian and hopeful writer

Archive for the month “November, 2010”

Indescribable – Chris Tomlin

The Set of the Sail

I find the greatest thing in this world not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind, and sometimes against it, but we sail, and not drift, nor live at anchor.  –  Oliver Wendell Holmes

One ship drives east and another drives west, with the selfsame winds that blow; ’tis the set of the sails and not the gales which tells us the way to go.  –  Ella Wheeler Wilcox

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  –  Matthew 16.24

Let us put up our sails, trusting the Lord alone to lead us onward; forget ourselves, and look forward to Christ. Let us surrender our will to his, and give all we can offer to God. It matters not the direction we try to head in, yet the direction Christ leads us is vital. Trust him, not ourselves, for we can lead ourselves towards nothing but death, whereas he leads us to true life.

Trust Christ alone to lead us to life.

The Persecution of Anabaptism: 16th Century Catholic, Lutheran and Calvinist Perspectives

Introduction

The Anabaptist movement is one part of the Reformation that is shrouded in controversy and questionable motives. Appearing early in the 16th century, the radical movement grew out of teachings by the Protestant preachers Zwingli and Luther. Protestantism was rapidly gaining strength, and Anabaptism emerged as a radical extension of the Reformed theologies. They rejected infant baptism and civil authority[1], and “though Anabaptists were recognized as Christians, their status as heretics in the eyes of all of the emerging confessions nonetheless pushed them to the religious and political boundaries”[2]. Eventually, the true colors of Anabaptism shone, and were persecuted from virtually all angles.

This essay will discuss this persecution, concentrating on the three greater persecuting groups, Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists. Part one will discuss firstly the 16th century context, particularly in regard to the treatment of sects considered heretical, followed by an overview of Anabaptism; part two will discuss the theology and reasoning behind the persecution of the radical movement.

Part One – Historical Context

The Context of the 16th Century

When studying history, it is vital one does not allow his or her own presuppositions effect the interpretation. The 16th century was an unsettling period; the Protestant religion, enforced by such theologians as Zwingli, Luther and Calvin, was growing in rapidity, and the power that the Roman Catholic Church possessed was dwindling. The idea of free thinking was spreading, allowing for “enthusiasts…spiritualists, fanatics, and Anabaptists”[3] to appear.

These Anabaptists were persecuted, for (a) their theology, deemed unacceptable by Catholic and Protestant theologians, and (b) as a result of 16th century political philosophies[4]. These philosophies included execution of those considered heretics[5]. Furthermore, Lindberg argues, refusal of infant baptism was a “capital offense since the days of Roman law under the emperors Theodosius and Justinian”[6].

Anabaptism is generally acknowledged to have come out of Zurich. At that time, Switzerland had no standing army. Instead, all citizens were expected to bear arms when required. It was considered a civil liberty, as were tithes and taxes[7]. In addition, the Catholic Church and the State often worked together. Eire regards the relationship between the two, arguing that they often used one another for their own gain, but would generally stay out of the realm of the other[8]; arguably, a symbiotic relationship.

According to Walker, pre-reformation heretical sects were often tortured and executed. He even goes so far as to compare the treatment of these sects with the treatment of contemporary terrorists[9]. It can be surmised, therefore, that heresy was feared as a threat not only to the Roman Catholic Church, but also to the state itself. Government authorities were in a position to deal with heretics – as defined by the Roman Catholic Church – however they felt necessary.

As will be discussed, neither the actions nor theology of the Anabaptism movement were compatible within its context.

The Radical Anabaptism Movement

The origins of this radical sect are unclear and diverse, but a major centre for Anabaptism arose out of Zurich, influenced inadvertently by Zwingli. Zwingli, having been inspired by the writings of Luther, was a primary reformer in Zurich, who believed that, in order to implement the new church, the authority lay with the State[10]. Hence, the reformation took longer than Zwingli’s students would have liked.

One of these students in particular, Grebel, “was deeply disappointed by Zwingli and the magistrates’ slowness in ‘cleansing’ the churches”[11]. A smart, wealthy man, Grebel eventually began to question Zwingli’s teachings. Slowly he and a small following separated themselves and held services of communion independently[12]. Grebel was totally pacifist, “a consequence of Grebel’s still more basic conviction as to the captaincy of Christ over the true milites Christi, recruited for service as a suffering church, making an ideal of absolute nonviolence”[13].

The role of the civil government increasingly became a topic of heated debate. While Zwingli was content to be patient, his radical students became impatient, refusing infant baptism. Eventually the Anabaptists were banned from assembling and discussing their views by the Zurich city council[14]. Furthermore, the council ordered that all unbaptized infants be baptized, under threat of banishment[15]; “those therefore who have hitherto allowed their children to remain unbaptised, must have them baptized within the next week: and whosoever will not do this, must with wife and child, goods and chattels, leave our city, jurisdiction, and dominions, or await what will be done with him”[16]. As a response, these radicals met at the village of Zollikon that evening – 17th January 1524 – where they baptized each other[17]. Despite calling themselves the Swiss Brethren[18], they were labeled ‘Anabaptist’, a derogatory term “applied to those who believed that only adults able to make a profession of faith may be baptized”[19].

Felix Mantz owned the house outside of which the first Anabaptists were baptized. Along with Grebel, Mantz studied under Zwingli, who even commended Mantz on his grasp on Hebrew[20]. Mantz continued to grow in popularity and influence, developing his radical theology, despite his ideas being rejected.

Zwingli believed Mantz to be creating too great a division within society, who pressed for his new community of elite believers; a church completely separate from state and society. It was generally accepted that “a community without a common ideology was not only at the mercy of one that was united…but was also subject to a civil war that could imperil the very existence of the state”[21]. As stated earlier, 16th century Switzerland (and most of Europe, for that matter) enjoyed a close relationship between the church[22], the people and the state. This included bearing arms, paying taxes and tithes, swearing oaths and infant baptism – all of which the Anabaptists rejected. Due to rejecting traditions such as these, an act not only considered heretical but a violation of citizenship[23], Zwingli saw them as a threat; “he regarded these evangelicals as quarrelsome, envious, back-biting, and hypocritical extremists who lacked charity and undermined the government”[24].

Because of the threat that they posed, persecution on the Anabaptists quickly increased, in an attempt to stifle the movement. As persecution increased, so did the resistance of the Anabaptists, who interrupted sermons – both Catholic and Protestant alike. Eventually, Zwingli and the Council of Zurich, in a desperate attempt to stop the spread of Anabaptism, decreed that many Anabaptists be imprisoned, tortured and sometimes even drowned[25]. On January 5 1527 Mantz was the first to be executed by drowning. Mantz’s persecutors believed drowning was appropriate, as “against the waters of baptism he sinned…so by the water shall he die”[26]. After Mantz, thousands more were executed[27].

Up until this point, the Anabaptists were pacifists, “perfect quietists, preaching the duty of non-resistance and the wickedness of bearing arms, even in self-defense”[28]. However, this was not the case amongst all Anabaptist groups. Inspired by an Anabaptist preacher, Rothmann, the city of Münster was declared by many millennial Anabaptists to be the New Jerusalem[29].

What is arguably the culmination of the persecution endured by the Anabaptists, this North German village was witness to the constitutional and eschatological Anabaptism turn from pacifism to a militant community, attracted to Old Testament prophecy. In particular, Rothmann became obsessed with seeing in the New Jerusalem, located at Münster[30]. Despite being Lutheran initially, Rothmann grew in his radical nature, and by 1534 held a great deal of influence and began preaching his ideas of goods, as he would “emphasize Christian stewardship and the duty of the Christian to use his possessions for the common good”[31]. Later that year, he was rebaptized and went on to baptize fourteen hundred citizens[32].

Eventually the city essentially adopted an attitude not dissimilar to modern communism and grew violent, demanding any who would not accept the radical beliefs be banished or killed[33]. In 1535, the prince-bishop of the area besieged Münster. However, when he “massed his troops to besiege the city, these Anabaptists defended themselves by arms” and “as the siege progressed, even more extreme leaders gained control…they claimed that Old Testament ethics still applied, and thus they felt justified in reintroducing polygamy”[34]. June 1535 heralded the slaughter of Münster; the attackers “were convinced that persecution was the only way of containing [the] potential violence”[35], seeing the Anabaptists as being more violent than anyone else.

The Münster debacle was the climax to the Anabaptist persecution, but was not the conclusion to it. The Anabaptist beliefs continued, albeit far less radical, in Menno Simons, who continued the movement discreetly, spreading the movement elsewhere. Anabaptism never received any persecution on the same level as before, but nor did it attempt to overrule Catholicism or Protestantism as the movement once tried[36].

Part Two – Theological Context

The Differing Theologies

Oyer argues that the Reformers believed the Anabaptists to be sectarian, separating themselves without reason and becoming excessively subjective. They “turned the reconciling work of God into a subjective human response to that work of God”[37], and the Catholics blamed the Reformers for the emergence of Anabaptism, who called Anabaptists “schismatics”[38].

Zwingli found their theologies to be contradictory, Luther found their entire organization confusing[39], Calvin labeled them as “poor fools”, “scatterbrains”, “ignoramuses” and “enemies of government”[40], and the Catholics associated them with the Devil, labeling them “messengers of the Antichrist”[41].

The closest that the Anabaptists had to a confession of faith was the Schleitheim Confession of Faith (1527), but even this was not completely accepted. In this confession, there were seven statements as outlined below[42]:

  1. Baptism. Reserved for those who truly understand repentance and the atoning work of Jesus Christ.
  2. The Ban. Those not living a ‘Christian’ life – i.e. those who are seen to be living in sin, rather than in Jesus’ resurrection – are banished from the community of believers.
  3. Communion. After being baptized, being united with the body of Christ, a person may participate in communion, a ritual remembering Jesus’ unifying work of atonement.
  4. Separation. The church must establish itself as distinct from society and the state, and all Christians may not associate themselves with anyone not of the Church[43].
  5. One Pastor. There is one leader of the church, who has the authority and responsibility to ban, admonish, teach and lead prayer.
  6. Pacifism. As Jesus Christ is the Christian’s only protector, the sword is a wicked tool of the devil, and the only forms of discipline may be the ban and the command to sin no more.
  7. Oaths. No Christian can partake in taking oaths, as Jesus forbade it Himself. This is to insist on the perfection of the Law, rather than civil authority.

Sattler was the instigator of this confession, but was burnt at the stake later that year. By 1540, it was accepted that discipline was an important conviction, emphasizing a daily Christian walk, shaped purely by Jesus’ teachings, which was a major influence on the above seven convictions. Out of this the theme of love developed, hence establishing themselves as completely pacifist[44].

These theologies erred with Catholicism on several accounts. Baptism, in particular, was an important differentiation. The Catholic Church believed that “regardless of our age at Baptism, we continue to be similarly connected to that event with a bond that transcends conscious memory… ‘The water, which is the divine experience . . . now holds us, owns us,’ says Fragomeni. ‘It is the power of God into which we are baptized.’”[45] Thus, you are baptized through Christ’s power to wash away sins and continue to grow in your understanding of atonement and baptism. Contrary to this, the Anabaptists – as stated above – believed that baptism came after one was properly able to understand it, as an adult. Baptism was a sign of a renewed community, as the body of Christ, and true baptism was an inner baptism by the Spirit, leading to the symbolic act of water baptism[46].

Regarding baptism, Luther argued that the Anabaptist position “displaces God’s grace by the work of faith, and thus brings back the uncertainty of salvation prevalent under the papacy,” who believed “the good news of the sacrament of baptism is that God chooses the sinner, not vice versa”[47]. Further he argued that the Anabaptists used eloquent words to convince others that because water can only touch mere skin, the water does not wash away sin[48]. Furthermore, baptism is “indispensable and foundational for Christian life and ecclesial community”[49] and the purpose of baptism was to “save, that is, to deliver one from sin, death, and the devil and to enter into the Kingdom of Christ and live with him forever”[50]. Regarding the taking of oaths, he believed that despite Christ telling us we should not swear oaths, we can read Abraham’s swearing to his king not as a sin, but as a sign of respect to authority. Thus, “the authority of the civil government must not be lowered in our estimation, as the foolish mob of the Anabaptist raves”[51].

Calvin, despite having little first-hand contact with Anabaptists[52], labeled the Anabaptists as ignorant, stating that “these vermin differ from all other heretical sects in that they not only err in certain points, but they give rise to a whole sea of insane views”[53]. He was astounded by the varying nature of the different Anabaptist groups, who had “so many absurd views that it is a marvel how creatures who bear the human figure can be so void of sense and reason as to be so duped and fall victim to such brutish fantasies”[54]. For Calvin, infant baptism was a far older tradition than the Catholic Church, but in fact had divine origins[55]. Furthermore, he states that:

Scripture shows, first, that it points to that cleansing from sin which we obtain by the blood of Christ; and, secondly, to the mortification of the flesh, which consists in participation in his death, by which believers are regenerated to newness of life, and thereby to the fellowship of Christ…it is also a symbol to testify our religion to men.[56]

It is therefore evident to see that Calvin believed baptism to be both a beginning of relationship with Christ, and a growth activity, contrary to the Anabaptist belief, who saw baptism as the ritual occurring as the culmination of one’s daily walk with Christ.

Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists all believed the church and state were compatible, and “believed that the visible church embraced all professing Christians”[57]; both theologies contrary to the Anabaptist position, which stated that the state and society were evil. Due to their radical beliefs that baptism symbolized a Christian’s fulfillment in Christ, thus becoming able of living sinless lives, they did not embrace all who professed to be Christians, banishing those not seen to be living a sinless lives[58].

The Persecution Considered Justifiable

Due to these contradictions in theology, culminating in the Anabaptist attempt to usher in the New Jerusalem, they were deemed heretical by both Catholic and Protestant authorities. Furthermore, due to their disturbances of civil authority, and essentially refusing citizenship, the state became wary of them, and then threatened by them as they took control of Münster. Hence, they were being persecuted from all angles.

The Catholics, Lutherans and Calivinists all “at least agreed in perceiving the Anabaptist groups as a threat to sixteenth-century society”[59]. Anna Bijns, a Catholic poet and teacher stated that the “Anabaptists had come to epitomize the dangers of heresy”[60], but believed that the persecution should go further than what Luther was comfortable with. Advocating that heresy deserved death, she argued that if God had not wanted the executions to occur, he would have sent a sign[61]. When this sign did not appear, the persecution continued.

Bullinger, an adamant follower of Zwingli, hated the Anabaptists, accusing them of excessive spiritualism and literalism in biblical interpretation. The Lutheran, Melanchthon, believed that all Anabaptists be executed, taking Luther’s evaluation to the next step. Another Lutheran, Menius, “hated the Anabaptists and thought their leaders should be executed”[62]. Despite initially resisting the use of force, Luther came to believe that “hell was sufficient punishment for the Anabaptists”[63]. While the Catholics demanded the death penalty for Anabaptists, being the major instigators of execution, all Protestant groups demanded expulsion, imprisonment and occasionally execution[64]. Luther believed them to be “not mere heretics but open blasphemers; are rulers are in duty bound to punish blasphemers”[65].

As discussed above, heretics were executed, to refuse infant baptism was a capital offense, and refusing to pay taxes, tithes and bear arms was essentially a rejection of citizenship. The persecutors of the Anabaptists thus felt themselves to be justified.

Conclusion

The Anabaptists were subject to great persecution from the Lutherans, Calvinists and Catholics. Emerging from a difference in theology out of Zurich, Anabaptism spread rapidly, preaching seven major themes, outlined in the Schleitheim Confession of Faith. Their major theological differences consisted of the rejection of infant baptism and their separation from state and society, an action considered a capital offense. These theological differences had great consequences, including the execution of thousands, as heresy was punishable by death.

The persecution culminated at Münster, where the Anabaptists took control violently, establishing a government similar to communism, and separated themselves from the surrounding churches and civil authority. Attempting to usher in the New Jerusalem, through eschatological interpretations primarily based in the Old Testament, the Anabaptists grew in violence and eventually both Catholics and Protestants united to destroy these radicals.

A violent period in a tumultuous time in Christian history, the persecution of Anabaptism was deemed justified by all religious authorities of the time, and by the state, who were threatened by the Anabaptists and pressured by the Catholics and Protestants. Despite seeming archaic by us in the 21st century, the persecution was considered at the time the best response to Anabaptism.

Bibliography

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Michigan: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989.

Clasen, Claus-Peter. Anabaptism: A Social History, 1525-1618. London: Cornell University Press, 1972.

Dinn, Jim. “Make a Splash at Sunday Mass.” U.S. Catholic April (2005): 24-27.

Dowley, Tim, ed. The History of Christianity. Oxford: Lion Hudson, 1977.

Eire, Carlos M. N. War against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Farley, Benjamin Wirt, ed. John Calvin: Treatises against the Anabaptists and against the Libertines. USA: Baker Book House Company, 1982.

Gassmann, Gunther, and Scott Hendrix. The Lutheran Confession. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999.

Institute, Christian History. “Zwingli and Calvin.” Worcester, PA: Vision Video, n.d.

Klaassen, Walter. Anabaptism: Neither Catholic nor Protestant. Ontario: Conrad Press, 1973.

Lindberg, Carter. The European Reformations. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996.

Lindberg, Carter, ed. The European Reformations Sourcebook. Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, 2000.

Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works. Vol. 1 (Genesis 1-5), Edited by Jaroslav Pelikan. Missouri Concordia Publishing House, 1958.

Matheson, Peter, ed. Reformarion Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.

Pollmann, Judith. “”Each Should Tend His Own Garden”: Anna Bijns and the Catholic Polemic against the Reformation.” CHRC 87, no. 1 (2007): 29-45.

Smith, Preserved. Reformation in Europe. New York: Collier Books, 1962.

Walker, Greg. “Heretical Sects in Pre-Reformation England.” History Today May (1993): 42-48.

Williams, George H. The Radical Reformation. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1962.


[1] Carter Lindberg, The European Reformations (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1996).

[2] Peter Matheson, ed. Reformarion Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007). 233.

[3] Lindberg. 199.

[4] Claus-Peter Clasen, Anabaptism: A Social History, 1525-1618 (London: Cornell University Press, 1972).

[5] Christian History Institute, “Zwingli and Calvin,”  (Worcester, PA: Vision Video, n.d.).

[6] Lindberg. 215.

[7] Ibid. 204.

[8] Carlos M. N. Eire, War against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986). 285-287.

[9] Greg Walker, “Heretical Sects in Pre-Reformation England,” History Today May, no. (1993). 42.

[10] Lindberg. 212.

[11] Ibid. 212.

[12] George H. Williams, The Radical Reformation (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1962). 91-99.

[13] Ibid. 99.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Lindberg. 214.

[16] Carter Lindberg, ed. The European Reformations Sourcebook (Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers, 2000). 130.

[17] Tim Dowley, ed. The History of Christianity (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 1977). 401-402.

[18] Williams. 122.

[19] Lindberg, The European Reformations. 200. The term literally means re-Baptists.

[20] Williams. Zwingli even recommended Mantz become lecturer in Hebrew.

[21] Lindberg, The European Reformations. 201.

[22] Depending on the canton, there was either a focus on Roman Catholicism or Protestantism. In Zurich, the emphasis was on Protestantism, as taught by Zwingli.

[23] Lindberg, The European Reformations. 215.

[24] Ibid. 201.

[25] Walker. 216.

[26] Christian History Institute.

[27] Dowley, ed. 404.

[28] Preserved Smith, Reformation in Europe (New York: Collier Books, 1962). 85.

[29] Walter Klaassen, Anabaptism: Neither Catholic nor Protestant (Ontario: Conrad Press, 1973). 6.

[30] Williams. 362.

[31] Ibid. 367-368.

[32] Ibid. 368-369.

[33] Klaassen. 6-7.

[34] Dowley, ed. 404.

[35] Klaassen. 7.

[36] Dowley, ed. 405.

[37] J. S. Oyer, “The Reformers Condemn the Anabaptists” (paper presented as a public lecture at the Young Center for Pietist and Anabaptist Studies, Elizabethtown (PA) College. Feb 23rd 1995) 3-15. 5.

[38] Ibid. 5.

[39] Lindberg, The European Reformations. 200.

[40] Benjamin Wirt Farley, ed. John Calvin: Treatises against the Anabaptists and against the Libertines (USA: Baker Book House Company, 1982). 16.

[41] Judith Pollmann, “”Each Should Tend His Own Garden”: Anna Bijns and the Catholic Polemic against the Reformation,” CHRC 87, no. 1 (2007). 37.

[42] Lindberg, ed. The European Reformations Sourcebook. 133.

[43] This is very reminiscent of the relationship between the Jews and the Gentiles, of which Jesus and his apostles attempted to amend. The fact that the Anabaptists insisted on similar exclusivity is not surprising, however, as they placed much emphasis on the Old Testament.

[44] Dowley, ed. 402-403.

[45] Jim Dinn, “Make a Splash at Sunday Mass,” U.S. Catholic April, no. (2005). 25.

[46] Lindberg, The European Reformations. 208.

[47] Ibid. 208.

[48] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, vol. 1 (Genesis 1-5) (Missouri Concordia Publishing House, 1958). 160-161.

[49] Gunther Gassmann and Scott Hendrix, The Lutheran Confession (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999). 94.

[50] Ibid. 97.

[51] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, vol 4 (Gen 21-25) (Misouri, Concordia Publishing House, 1958). 78.

[52] He made contact when some Anabaptists arrived in Geneva from the Netherlands in 1537 who asked for two disputations with Calvin and his good friend and companion Farel through the year. Both times the favour swung drastically away from the Anabaptists who were promptly banished by the Geneva council. In Strassburg, Calvin encountered and even converted a few more before returning to Geneva. (Farley, ed. 21-22).

[53] Ibid. 39.

[54] Ibid. 40.

[55] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Michigan: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989). 529.

[56] Ibid. 530.

[57] Lindberg, The European Reformations. 202.

[58] Ibid. 202.

[59] Ibid. 200.

[60] Pollmann. 36.

[61] Ibid. 37.

[62] Oyer. 4.

[63] Clasen. 381.

[64] Ibid.

[65] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan, vol 13 (Selected Psalms 2) (Misouri, Concordia Publishing House, 1958). 61.

A Christian Critique of Marxism

Karl Marx was a German born Jew who became an immensely influential atheism. Today’s New Atheism movement, Darwinism, and the Cold War communism owe some of their success to Marx’s philosophy. He is heralded as the Father of Communism[1], because his philosophies greatly influenced socialism throughout Europe. Marxism shares many similarities, and many conflicting ideas, with Christianity. The focus on community and the improvement of human conditions is one such similarity, but the rejection of supernaturalism and absolute humanism is one aspect of Marxism that clashes with Christian thought. This essay will analyze Marxism, in light of its philosophical assumptions, historical background and similarity with Christianity, and will propose approaches Christians can take when dealing with Marxism in today’s society.

Marxism

To understand Karl Marx’s philosophy is simultaneously to understand his approach to history. Marx’s philosophy is often labeled ‘dialectical materialism’,[2] or in other words an interpretation of history as progression through conflict,[3] where “man is the highest essence for man”.[4] He was influenced by the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, in which he saw a pattern in the social structures.[5] Furthermore, Hegelian philosophy was a great influence. Hegel argued that the only truth comprehendible to humanity is that which is presented through reality; all human thought is a progression toward ultimate truth, which “is slowly uncovered through the unfolding evolution of the history of ideas”.[6] Hegelians argued that Christianity was merely a primitive form of this philosophy.[7]

A further influence was Feuerbach, who developed Hegelian philosophy, with a focus on materialism. He argued that religion caused alienation, of which Marx and his colleague Engels noted as “a separation from nature, and from the opportunity to act freely and creatively upon it.”[8] Marx’s personal experience of alienation was fueled by the fact that as a boy he was Jewish in a Catholic community, within a Protestant state. Thus, alienation became a major influence on his philosophies.[9]

Before entering into politics and economics, Marx studied literature and philosophy. He saw himself as an artist, “a poet of dialect”.[10] Marx became highly intelligent, and was able to present his views effectively, often quoting Shakespeare to further his point. Influenced by materialism, his atheistic approach caused him to be expelled from France in 1845, at the age of 27, hence adding to his experience of alienation. He and Engels began production of The Communist Manifesto, which was published in 1848.[11] This publication was essentially a response to capitalism and outlined his initial views of the process of history inevitably leading toward a revolution against capitalism, to be replaced by a purely socialist community.

Where Hegel believed the progression of human knowledge fueled social and political change, Marx asserted that it was the progression of economics, ultimately leading toward a change of thinking, and thus a change in society and politics.[12] At the time, capitalism was developing, with great industrialization occurring. Marx was thus influenced to define a person’s class position as determinable by ownership of property or not. The two main classes he distinguished between were the ‘Bourgeoisie’, or the land-owners, and the ‘Proletariat’, or those without property. The Proletariat were essentially the working-class, working for the Bourgeoisie, who made the profit.[13] As a result, the Proletariat had no emotional attachment with their labor, which was exclusively done for the Bourgeoisie. The Bourgeoisie exploited the Proletariat, and Marx and Engels considered this inevitable capitalist process as dehumanizing and alienating. The Proletariat were the majority, and increasingly became so; the Bourgeoisie were the minority. The former got poorer, the latter richer.[14] Marx saw this process as alienating, as “the worker is forced to bring fulfillment to someone else, instead of finding personal fulfillment.”[15]

His experience of alienation and his dialectical materialist philosophies lead him to conclude that this continuing tension would “eventually build up to such a point that a socialist revolution would occur,”[16] resulting in an economic system that, rather than alienating people from one another and from the world,[17] was devoid of private property and state implementations, effectively emancipating all humanity. Rather than attacking capitalism as unjust, as his contemporaries had done so, Marx argued that “what mattered most not that capitalism was morally wrong, but that it was already out of date and therefore historically doomed.”[18] Believing everything to be influenced by material and economic conditions, Marx insisted that history is essentially predetermined, shaped by developing economical factors.[19] In other words, communism was inevitable.

Being materialistic, Marxism places great emphasis on science, as Sheehan states, “Marxism took science extremely serious, not only for its economic promise in building a socialist society, but for its revelatory power in understanding the world.”[20] Marx combines this materialistic[21] approach to science and philosophy with dialectical materialism, arguing that the physical reality is prior to spirituality. This approach was furthered by Hegel’s influence upon Marx, causing Marx to analyze this human experience in relation to history.[22] This lead to his conclusion that throughout history, humans are bound by necessity to institutions, determined by evolving methods of production, fueled by advancements in technology.[23] Thus, capitalism was bound to eventually become obsolete – so Marx predicted – followed by communism, “a political system dominated by the majority of the population, not a minority or small elite.”[24]

Human beings, according to Marxism, are no more than a product of matter. The mind evolved from material; the nonliving formed the living. Thus, humanity was determined by material conditions, in turn influenced by economic factors, namely production. The only difference between humans and animals is that humans have the ability to produce what allows their continued existence; humans “work for their living.”[25] Hence, Marx argues it is essential for humans to work and produce.

Geisler outlines three characteristics of Marxist ethics: (1) relativism, (2) utilitarianism, and (3) collectivism. Firstly, Marx insists that there are no moral absolutes. The only “absolute is the unfolding dialectic world process,”[26] and what is considered ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is determined by society and economics. Secondly, what is good is whatever contributes to the implementation of communism.[27] This ethical construct inevitably involves the idea that the end justifies the means. For example, the – possibly violent – destruction of capitalism is justified by the implementation of communism. Thirdly, Marx saw the universal transcending the individual. The requirement of the implementation of this universal was, thus, necessary. This universal, Marx argued, was free will, found not individually, but expressed corporately. He argued that “in the perfect society private morals are eliminated and the ethical ideals of the community are achieved.”[28]

Marxism was highly influential for approximately a century and a half, existing at some point in most of Eurasia. The Paris Commune in 1871 – the French government in which the Proletariat expressed societal and political control – was influenced by Marxist movements,[29] and the German Social Democratic Party existed largely due to Marxism.[30] A major outworking of Marxism, however, was expressed in the Russian revolution in 1917. The Russian revolutionary, Lenin, further developed Marx’s philosophies. After Lenin, when Joseph Stalin reigned, the USSR Communist Party became the major interpreter of Marxism, justifying totalitarian rule; the result, however, obviously influenced by the belief that the end justifies the means, became quite different to Marx’s original philosophy, and became very violent.[31]

Since the end of the Cold War, it seems Marxism is not as influential. However, it is not completely diminished. Contemporary Marxists focus on the original philosophical assumptions made by Marx, and it “lives on, but in circuitous and complex ways, sometimes in strong, brilliant, defiant ways, sometimes in subtle yet influential ways, but sometimes, too, in weak, confused and debated ways.”[32] The Great Depression and the recent Global Financial Crisis have caused Marxists to speak out, assured that what has happened was predicted in Marx’s writings. Martin Jacques states, “This crisis shows that capitalism is…inherently prone to crisis…in this sense, Marx was, and is, right.”[33] The successive recovery of this crisis, however, has shown capitalism and society as it currently is to be a more than capable economic system.

Marxism and Christianity

As has been demonstrated, Marxism is essentially an all-encompassing ideology. For this reason, it functions similarly to a religion.[34] Some commentators have labeled Marxism as a secular religion, as it provides a meaning to life, as well as demanding complete commitment.[35] Despite functioning similarly to religious ideology, however, Marxism and religion do not have a harmonious relationship. Religion merely kept the Proletariat content, sustaining morals and supporting social order.[36] Religion was, according to Marx, “the opium of the people”.[37] It was essentially another force used to subjugate the working class. Furthermore, Marx believed that “religion, with its beliefs, attitudes, and value judgments, is a particular type of mans estrangement from his essence.”[38]

In 1946, the USSR Communist Representative, Molody Bolshevik stated:

The theoretical basis of the Communist Party is the philosophy of Marxism/Leninism – dialectical materialism. This is a complete and consistent world view which is incompatible with religion. Our worldview is based on scientific facts. Religious beliefs contradict science. And because the Party derives its activities from a scientific basis, it cannot but take a stand against religion.[39]

Marx argued that all religion, including Christianity, is merely an illusion,[40] and in 1964 the Marxist Konrad Farner declared Christianity to be irrelevant, superseded by something else – as has everything else in history.[41] Because Marxism is so all-encompassing, it can answer any question, and a system with gaps has no right to claim to be true. Further, “for a thing to be accepted and believed it has to be plausible for the human mind and things that are beyond its comprehension are by that very fact considered untrue.”[42] Therefore, Marxism rejects supernaturalism, a direct dissension with Christianity.

Being somewhat influenced by Judeo-Christianity[43], Marxism even has several doctrines which reflect Christian thought. Within Marxism, there is a doctrine for creation (found in the evolution of matter), original sin (division of labor), salvation (found in the Proletariat), ecclesiology (the church being the Party), and eschatology (with communism the aim and purpose of history).[44] However, as Bockmuehl outlines, there are 4 major issues which confront Christianity:

  1. Knowledge of truth,
  2. Practice of the faith,
  3. View of reality, and
  4. Purpose of life.

Firstly, Marxism confronts reality with what is believed to be truth. Establishing a ‘truth’ requires a presupposed standard to be analyzed in light of reality, reflecting its materialistic philosophy. The issue for Christians, then, is whether or not we believe in truth; “do we as Christians also have a truth which critically turns against rotten reality?”[45] Or, has Christianity become a religion of relatives? Secondly, Marxism requires an absolute commitment to the practicality of the perceived truth. Marx did not desire a change of interpretation, but a change of the world. As Christians, hence, how much do we put our faith into practice? John 13.17 and Matthew 7.24 assert that Christians must practically express their faith.

Thirdly, Marxism insists “on concrete reality as the theatre of human life.”[46] The practical outworking of truth must be absolutely determined by the physical reality. Christianity, therefore, comes under attack, as it declares supernaturalism. Marxism requires a changing of man and the world now, posing the challenge to Christians, who have often acted solely in relation to a future, eschatological judgment. In other words, the materialism of Marxism is in contrast with the spirituality of Christianity. Lastly, Marxism understands its truth to be attainable. Each adherent to Marxist philosophy understands the truths and goals of Marxism, and continues to work toward those goals. What results from this idea is that the end justifies the means, which – as history has shown – can have disastrous results. Furthermore, this idea essentially means those who do not have the means to attain these goals, such as the elderly, disabled people, less talented or intellectual people get left behind. Despite this fact, Christianity is posed with the challenge to be aware of its truths and goals and work towards it.[47]

Hanes analyzes contemporary Marxism, arguing that despite Marxism does not enjoy the same influence it once did, “attitudes are deeper than words”[48] and Marxist philosophies are still prevalent in some form. As has been outlined above, Bockmuehl asserts the major division between Christianity and Marxism comes down to truth. Christianity views absolute truth coming from the supernatural; Marxism views absolute truth as that which humanity, fueled by materialism and economics, progresses toward, completely rejecting supernaturalism. Hanes stresses the lack of an absolute truth in contemporary Marxism, as influenced by post-modernity, and “for residual Marxism the proof of truth depends much more on logical reasoning.”[49] Where a Christian would argue truth is found through experience and analysis, a Marxist would argue truth is merely an ideological tool. Further, where a Christian would argue humanism[50] is an expression of love, and charity an expression of grace, a Marxist would argue for anthropocentrism and that charity is humiliating and is resented. Hanes continues to argue that for a Christian to approach a Marxist, he/she must have a deep understanding and appreciation of Marxism and its similarities with Christianity. He further argues for a non-threatening approach, an acceptance of Marxist criticism, a presentation of the Christian alternative, and lastly, to rely on God.[51]

Conclusion

In conclusion, therefore, the atheistic, dialectical materialistic philosophy of Karl Marx, which has had great influence throughout the past 200 years, poses a challenge to Christianity, even today, albeit in minor forms. Marxism projects a philosophy deeply rooted in an understanding of the progression of history, different eras clearly marked by revolutions and violence. The alienation and dehumanization inevitable with capitalism eventually comes to a conclusion found in a giant international upheaval by the working-class, the Proletariat. This working-class will take control of the socio-economic factors inherent in community, leading through a process of socialism toward the final goal of communism, where privatization would be eliminated and all humanity experiencing true emancipation and true life, receiving dignity and meaning from the community.

Despite the few positive elements Marxism has provided, such as the improvement of working conditions, the emphasis on the person as a human rather than a tool to generate wealth, and the general goal of improving human life; Marxism’s negative elements have been its downfall. Marxism is a militant atheism, destroying imagination and purpose for the individual. Marx’s predictions of capitalism inevitably collapsing have, obviously, not found fruition[52], thus disproving his theory that economic factors function like physical laws. Furthermore, the “absolute denial of absolutes cuts its own throat…Socialist society has hardly avoided absolutism.”[53] We can conclude that Marxism is good in theory, but does not work in practice.

Bibliography

Bancroft, Nancy. “Marxism Requires Atheism: Implications for Religious Believers.” Journal of Ecumenical Studies  (n.d.): 567-575.

Benton, Ted. “Marxism.” In Dictionary of Ethics, Theology and Society, edited by Paul B. Clarke and Andrew Linzey. London: Routledge, 1996.

Bockmuehl, Klaus. The Challenge of Marxism: A Christian Response. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1980.

Carmody, Denise Lardner, and John Carmody. The Story of World Religions. California: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1988.

Collins, Philip. “Karl Marx: Did He Get It Right?” The Times2008.

Farner, Konrad. “A Criticism of Christianity.” In The Church and the Problem of a Christian Society: Communio Viatorum, 1964.

Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999.

Hanes, Pavel. “Christianity in the Post-Marxist Context.” EuroJTh 17, no. 1 (2008): 29-37.

Holmes, Leslie. Communism: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Krejci, Jaroslav. “Religion and Anti-Religion: Experience of a Transition.” Sociological Analysis 36, no. 2 (1975): 108-124.

McBride, William L. “Marxism.” In Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, edited by Robert Audi. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Roberts, J. M. History of the World: Since 1500. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1976.

Roberts, J. M. Moden History: From the European Age to the New Global Era. London: Duncan Baird Publishers, Ltd., 2007.

Sheehan, Helena. “Marxism and Science Studies: A Sweep through the Decades.” International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 21, no. 2 (2007): 197-210.

Stokes, Philip. Philosophy: 100 Essential Thinkers. New York: Enchanted Lion Books, 2002.

West, Charles C. “Marxism.” In The Encyclopedia of Religion, edited by Mircea Eliade, 9. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987.

Wheen, Francis. Marx’s Das Kapital: A Biography. London: Atlantic Books, 2006.


[1] Leslie Holmes, Communism: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

[2] Philip Stokes, Philosophy: 100 Essential Thinkers (New York: Enchanted Lion Books, 2002). 132.

[3] Holmes. 2.

[4] Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1999). 440.

[5] Holmes. 2.

[6] Stokes. 103.

[7] Ted Benton, “Marxism,” in Dictionary of Ethics, Theology and Society, ed. Paul B. Clarke and Andrew Linzey(London: Routledge, 1996). 553.

[8] Ibid. 555.

[9] Francis Wheen, Marx’s Das Kapital: A Biography (London: Atlantic Books, 2006). 7-8.

[10] Ibid. 5.

[11] Geisler. 440.

[12] Stokes.

[13] Holmes. 4.

[14] Geisler. 442.

[15] Ibid. 441.

[16] Holmes. 5.

[17] Wheen. 7.

[18] J. M. Roberts, Moden History: From the European Age to the New Global Era (London: Duncan Baird Publishers, Ltd., 2007). 316, 516.

[19] Geisler. 441.

[20] Helena Sheehan, “Marxism and Science Studies: A Sweep through the Decades,” International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 21, no. 2 (2007). 197.

[21] As opposed to theological.

[22] Nancy Bancroft, “Marxism Requires Atheism: Implications for Religious Believers,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies (n.d.). 569.

[23] Roberts. 317.

[24] Holmes. 5.

[25] Geisler. 441.

[26] Ibid. 442.

[27] It would not be surprising if an alleged contradiction appears here. If there is no moral code, asserted by the first characteristic, how can what is ‘good’ be determined by whether or not it helps communism? However, Marx would argue that communism is, historically, inevitable. Therefore, history leading towards communism is the dialectical absolute. Hence, what is ‘bad’, such as the continuation of capitalism, is that which is hindering history itself.

[28] Geisler. 442.

[29] Holmes. 6.

[30] William L. McBride, “Marxism,” in Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, ed. Robert Audi(Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995). 466.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Sheehan. 208.

[33] Martin Jacques, Renmin University professor and previous editor of Marxism Today, in: Philip Collins, “Karl Marx: Did He Get It Right?,” The Times2008.

[34] Denise Lardner Carmody and John Carmody, The Story of World Religions (California: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1988). 259.

[35] Klaus Bockmuehl, The Challenge of Marxism: A Christian Response (Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1980). 17.

[36] J. M. Roberts, History of the World: Since 1500 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1976). 630.

[37] Roberts, Moden History: From the European Age to the New Global Era. 240.

[38] Jaroslav Krejci, “Religion and Anti-Religion: Experience of a Transition,” Sociological Analysis 36, no. 2 (1975). 108.

[39] Ibid. 111.

[40] Bockmuehl. 49.

[41] Konrad Farner, “A Criticism of Christianity,” in The Church and the Problem of a Christian Society (Communio Viatorum, 1964).

[42] Pavel Hanes, “Christianity in the Post-Marxist Context,” EuroJTh 17, no. 1 (2008). 31-32.

[43] Benton. 554. Judeo-Christianity, Benton argues, expresses a progression toward a good life. West argues that Engels saw in Christianity a universality, a vehicle for revolution. This theme influenced Bloch, was saw revolutionary themes throughout the bible, such as the exodus from Egypt. Marxism essentially “transposed the structure of Christian faith and hope into a humanist key.” (Charles C. West, “Marxism,” in The Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Mircea Eliade(New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1987). 241.)

[44] Bockmuehl. 17.

[45] Ibid. 24.

[46] Ibid. 30.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Hanes. 30.

[49] Ibid. 33.

[50] A Christian, however, would most probably avoid humanism, but should the argument rise, a Christian would likely argue for the value of human life, in light of God’s grace and love.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Even though some would argue the Great Depression and the recent Global Financial Crisis have shown Marx to be right, capitalism has continued to grow.

[53] Geisler. 443.

Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies

Whilst attacks against Christianity seem to be growing with increasing rapidity, the occasional Christian Apologist makes a stand. The Dawkins Delusion by Mcgrath[1] and Strobel’s The Case For Christ[2] are excellent responses to the contemporary New Atheism movement. Hart’s Atheist Delusions[3] is another excellent response; an argument formulated against misconceptions of Christianity’s history that are commonly used to discredit Christianity.

Present Lies and Past Truths

Hart’s analysis begins with an overview of contemporary misconceptions of Christian history. In Part One: Faith, Reason, and Freedom: A View from the Present, he states that:

atheism that consists entirely in vacuous arguments afloat on oceans of historical ignorance, made turbulent by storms of self-righteousness, is as contemptible as any other form of dreary fundamentalism. [4]

Contemporary atheism, he continues to argue, is completely ignorant of all the good that Christianity has caused, rather focusing on distorted pieces of evidence, painting Christianity as evil.

He first addresses a common misconception of Christianity hindering science and reason. According to the New Atheism movement, Christian towns established leprosy hospitals merely to clear their conscious; burnt down the Great Library of Alexandria, in a bid to stifle ‘heathen’ research; smothered Galileo’s scientific advancements, because they didn’t fit with what the Catholic church believed; persecuted heathens; and waged giant wars against anyone not conforming to Christian values.

Hart systematically dispels these myths, arguing that Christianity never once tried to stifle reason and science, but rather had a large part in its advancement. According to Hart, “Christianity has been the single most creative cultural, ethical, aesthetic, social, political, or spiritual force in the history of the West” [5] and has only ever had the best of intentions for all of mankind.

Christians were, according to Hart, the only people to care for Leprosy patients whilst any other culture merely killed the victims; the Great Library of Alexandria was not burnt down by Christians, but burnt down years before Christ, let alone in the fourth century[6]; Galileo was not hated by the church, nor did he hate the church[7], but historical records show he wasn’t exactly a pleasant man, was very arrogant and was often jealous of other people’s achievements – the church was merely demanding evidence of his claims, of which Galileo was slow to produce; the apparent persecution of anyone outside the church Hart dismisses as either (a) the result of the aftermath of Christian institutions, (b) politics[8], or (c) uncaring, blood lusting mercenaries recruited to fill the ranks of armies who originally had pure, Christian intentions.

 This section involved the bulk of Harts argument, dispelling historical inaccuracies of ignorant Atheistic claims. His third section addresses the issue of tolerance, arguing against claims that Christianity has been intolerant of other beliefs and cultures. According to New Atheists, Christians have historically forced Christianity onto other cultures. However, according to Hart, Pagans who became Christians did so out of their own free will. They willfully turned their back on their old beliefs and turned toward Christianity. Hart argues that “to renounce one’s bonds to these beings was an act of cosmic rebellion, a declaration that one had been emancipated,”[9] hence the phrase: Christian Revolution.

The Future

Hart seems to gain pace with his argument from this point on, seemingly growing in confidence and vigor. He addresses concerns of Christianity enslaving other cultures, but twists this perception to reveal Christianity as a form of emancipation. The Pagan cultures were, in fact, the aggressive ones, particularly early Roman culture. Christianity has always been seen as a peaceful institution offering freedom from the bondage of sin. Harts language becomes more and more evangelical as it culminates in a doxological analysis of Christ’s act of emancipation. He argues that Christianity is not a religion of intolerance and aggression, as presented by ignorant critics of today[10], but is the only truly human organization. To be human, he argues, is to be Christian.

He concludes with an outlook of the future. After assessing the history of Christianity, Hart nearly pleads with his audience to stand up and defend Christianity. There is a sense of desperation to his language, as he urges for a new Christian revolution, which stands against this New Atheism movement, which continues to enslave many more people at a growing rate. Harts argument pivots around the idea that Christianity brings emancipation, and anything other than Christianity enslaves the human mind from true reason; he states “when Christianity passes away from a culture, nihilism is the inevitable consequence”[11].

Strengths and Weaknesses in Hart’s Argument

The strengths of Hart’s argument are a long list. Nearly insomuch as a rebuttal to contemporary critics, his arguments and claims – sometimes of which are quite controversial – are drenched in evidence and historical analysis and support. His arguments don’t presuppose an answer, but rather begins with the objective data, thus resulting in a reliable answer. Furthermore, his arguments are incredibly thorough and detailed; it would be no easy task to respond to him.

What could be considered as both a strength and weakness is his language. Quite often his language reveals a sense of urgency and desperation, causing the reader to believe his claims and get gathered up in his motivational argument for reform. Furthermore, his language belies an intelligent wit and charm, infused with delicate artistry and masterful aesthetics. However, his language often bordered on the edge of sarcasm, mocking critics such as Hitchens and Dawkins in a style not dissimilar to Hitchens and Dawkins. His artful analogies and stories also at times caused the reader to lose track of the overall argument.

One other weakness – albeit a minor issue – is the fact that sometimes he tended to ramble and be repetitive. In an attempt to be thorough, including historical analysis impossible to fault, it was often difficult to follow his train of thought. However, Hart always returned to the point in glorious fashion, but often what was said in three pages could have been said in one[12].

Final Thoughts

Saying this, however, this is an excellent Apologetic book, and Hart has done an incredible job of what would initially have seemed an impossibly large task. His arguments are flawless and flow from chapter to chapter, building on one another gloriously. It must also be mentioned that Hart admits there have been times where the good name of Christianity has been abused, and people in the past have used the church as an excuse to further their own intentions. However, these are in a very small minority of instances – unlike the claims made by many ignorant critics of today. Hart and his book Atheist Delusions are above reproach, a timely and important argument in a turbulent period of Christian history.

Bibliography

Hart, David B. Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and it’s Fashionable Enemies. New

Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.

McGrath, Alister, and Joanna C. McGrath.  The  Dawkins  Delusion:  Atheist  Fundamentalism

            and the Denial of the Devine. London: SPCK, 2007.

Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.


[1] Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath, The Dawkins Delusion (London: SPCK, 2007).

[2] Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998).

[3] David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009).

[4] Ibid., 4.

[5] Hart, Atheist Delusions, 100.

[6] Hart argues that the myth of Christians burning the library down was caused by a misinterpretation and confusion of data. The supposed date of the library being burnt down by zealous mobs of Christians in 390 AD was simply a time of distress between Christians and Pagans, in a historically violent city. The library was in fact burnt down centuries earlier by the Roman Empire; a historical fact seemingly lost to Atheistic historians.

[7] According to Hart, one of Galileo’s closest friends went on to become Pope.

[8] Therefore, not the church itself, but rather the State, who persecuted non-Christian societies.

[9] Hart, Atheist Delusions, 113.

[10] These critics, he argues, are a disappointment, and are nothing like they used to be. In his opening chapters he claims earlier critics at least had the dignity to know about what they criticized. Today’s critics, ignorant of actual facts, label anything they don’t like as ‘religion’ and unashamedly attack these ideas blindly.

[11] Hart, Atheist Delusions, 229.

[12] This was particularly prevalent in his final chapters, when it seemed he was carried primarily by incredible enthusiasm and excitement, causing him to ramble. It could even be argued that perhaps what was said in his last several chapters could have been said in two or three.

Romans 5.1-11

Introduction

Romans 5.1-11 is an exciting passage in the epistle to the Romans. This chapter is a decisive shift in Paul’s argument as he moves from they why and how of justification, to detailing the benefits of this justification. As a result of being justified we receive peace with God, but more than that – we are reconciled to God. By this, Paul argues that not only are we made innocent before God’s judgment, avoiding his wrath and condemnation through Christ’s sacrifice, we in fact become friends of God, as our relationship is restored and strengthened. Furthermore, we receive absolute assurance that our hope in God and in our salvation will not disappoint us. We objectively understand Christ’s sacrifice but we also subjectively experience God’s love for us. Because of this, we have constant access to God’s love and blessing, and we also have the ability to endure suffering that is inevitable in this world.

The overall message of this passage has to do with the assurance of our hope. We are assured our hope is valid. This will be analyzed in the following exegetical essay. The essay will start by placing the passage in its context, followed by systematic exegesis of the passage. A summary of the major themes of the passage – namely (1) the assurance of hope, and (2) reconciliation – will conclude the exegetical part of the essay, followed by hermeneutical section, applying the passage to a contemporary setting. The essay does, however, argue that the themes are universal and timeless, and, hence, relating the passage solely to a 21st century context is irrelevant. Instead, the essay will attempt to outline the themes in order to make them relevant to any setting.

Exegesis

The exegete is faced with a few problems when interpreting this passage. Whilst the overall message is agreed upon to be an assurance of hope, minor disputations have risen surrounding issues involving some of the theological themes, the use of ‘we’, and the location of the passage within the text. Often overlooked is Paul’s use of ‘we’. Tobin states that “by using the first-person-plural subjunctive (‘we’)…[Paul] rhetorically unites himself with his audience,”[1] and McDonald goes so far as to argue this passage is primarily a bridge between Paul and his audience. In previous chapters, Paul has not used the first-person-plural, however he now uses it eighteen times, speaking of the faith Paul and his Roman audience share. Thus, McDonald concludes that Paul diplomatically establishes himself with his audience prior to this passage, unites them in this passage, and confidently maintains this unity through the rest of the epistle. Paul relates the Christian experience of justification and reconciliation (vv.9, 10) to this unity experienced by Paul and his audience.[2] Whilst providing helpful insights, McDonald places too much emphasis on the use of the first-person-plural, essentially missing the major thrust of the passage.

Some commentators place this passage within Paul’s first argument (i.e. ch.1-5), marking a separation between chapters five and six.[3] Advocates of this structure argue that chapters 1-5 deal with justification, and 6-8 deal with sanctification. However, Schreiner postulates a separation between chapters four and five, arguing that “chapters 1-4 emphasize that God has fulfilled his promises so that both Jews and Gentiles are now part of the family of Abraham, and human beings can enter into the people of God by faith, whereas chapters 5-8 highlight the hope that belongs to those who are right with God.”[4] Moo similarly argues for such a structure, detailing the similarities this passage has with 8.18-39, forming an inclusio for chapters 5-8, thus emphasizing this unity.[5]

Thus far, therefore, we can see a clear unity in chapters 1-4, dealing with justification; 1.18-3.20 detail the need for justification, 3.21-4.25 detail the way of justification.[6] Chapter five marks a distinct shift in Paul’s argument, now detailing the benefits of being justified. According to Fitzmyer, “through the gospel and through the grace of God that it proclaims humanity now finds justification, redemption, expiation, and pardon of its sins…Paul now explains how, as a result of such justification and salvation, human beings are at peace with God, and now God’s love further manifests itself toward them.”[7]

The use of ‘therefore’ in v.1 connects this passage with previous passages,[8] and this verse essentially summarizes the argument of these previous passages.[9] However, Paul continues by explaining the benefits of this justification. Fitzmyer asserts that the translation is literally “justified from faith,”[10] a connotation referring to the once-off action of Jesus Christ. Other commentators, despite a slightly different translation (eg. Schreiner asserts it should be read, “justified by faith”[11] and Moo, “justified through faith”[12]), come to the same conclusion[13]. Following is the first of several benefits of this justification. Paul’s phrasing has been a matter of debate surrounding the nature of the verb (echomen, or echōmen);[14] even so, the argument is clear: justification results in peace with God. An analysis of ‘peace’ is below, but for the moment it is important to understand the interpretation of this to basically mean that Christ has removed the possibility of us receiving God’s wrath.

Bruce argues that ‘access’ (v.2) is appropriate[15], but Stott claims ‘introduction’ is a better translation, arguing that ‘access’ “might suggest that we take the initiative to enter” whereas ‘introduction’ “acknowledges our unfitness to enter, and our need for someone to bring us in.”[16] Hence, “through [Jesus] we have been introduced (by faith) to this grace” would be a better understanding of this verse.[17] MacArthur notes that to stand in God’s grace “refers to the permanent, secure position believers enjoy,”[18] and not necessarily access to God Himself, but to his grace, a permanent “state” Christians are in, in which God’s giving never ceases.[19] While Paul condemns boasting in human achievements, he here states that boasting “because of the gracious provision of God in Christ is entirely appropriate”[20], where boasting could further be understood as exultation.[21] In other words, it is okay – even encouraged – to boast in God and the hope we have in our future salvation. Further, boasting in God is a humble act of “turning away from efforts to claim superior honours.”[22]

Paul here (v.3) contrasts a rejoicing that is to be expected – in God, and in our salvation – with an unexpected rejoicing, that of suffering. Whereas it is good to rejoice in something that leaves behind suffering (future salvation), it is also good to rejoice in present troubles.[23] This should not be understood as a form of masochism, rather a joyous recognition of the inevitability of difficulties and the fact that, through God’s grace, we can withstand it.[24] Dunn notes that through suffering, Christians share Christ’s suffering, and, furthermore, suffering is not to be avoided, but endured patiently.[25]

The reason why we are to learn to endure suffering is because endurance produces character. This character is to be understood as ‘proven’[26] or ‘tested’[27]{MacArthur, 2007 #4} character, thus through enduring suffering, “a strength of character develops that was not present previously.”[28] This character in turn generates hope, as character is evidence of transformation, thus providing assurance.[29] Stott notes Christians have hope because “the God who is developing our character in the present can be relied on for the future too.”[30] Moo notes that hope – like a muscle – needs to be used to be strengthened.[31]

In verse five Paul explains why hope is to be treasured. Some translations use “disappoint” but some commentators, such as Dunn and Schreiner, argue the word kataischynein, preferably understood in the future tense, should be translated as “put to shame”, i.e. “hope does (will/shall) not put us to shame.”[32] In a society that places great emphasis on shame and honor, to believe in a hoax was ultimate humiliation,[33] thus Paul is arguing that this hope will not prove false; God will save us. We can be assured of this because of the subjective and emotional realization of God’s love for us, provided through the Holy Spirit. As Moo states, “it is the Spirit, dwelling in the heart of believers, who communicates God’s love to us.”[34]

Where verse five argues for a subjective assurance of our salvation, verses 6-8 argue for an objective assurance, in that Christ died for sinners.[35] Bruce asserts that the “right time” (v.6) refers to that of our “greatest need”[36]; MacArthur argues it should simply be understood as “the moment God had chosen”[37]; whilst others understand it as relating to the “weak”.[38] Considering Paul does not expand on this issue, it could be assumed to be emphasizing the weakness of the ungodly, who were doomed to perish if God did not intervene at some point. “Ungodly” refers to the refusal of worshipping God, thus emphasizing God’s love in that Christ died for those who rejected him.[39]

In order to understand verse seven, it is important to decipher why Paul distinguishes between a ‘righteous’ and a ‘good’ man. Interpretations of this vary greatly, but the tension is relieved in verse eight, as Paul’s aim is to emphasize God’s love for us, by contrasting it with human love. Some commentators argue that ‘good’ and ‘righteous’ are essentially synonymous,[40] others argue they are identical, with the ‘good’ being slightly more noble. Some argue it is referring to a good cause,[41] and some interpret it as referring to a benefactor,[42] as ‘good’ was often used in the first century to the social elite and to benefactors. Clarke argues this is the case in this instance, as “obligations which were owed to one’s benefactor were socially binding, and it would not have been unthinkable for a man to lay down his life for such an honourable person,”[43] thus God’s love for us is exemplified in that Christ died for us despite us having no claim over him. However, Martin cites several ancient authors (such as Philo, Origen, and Clement of Alexandria) and other instances in the New testament, where ‘good’ refers to the deity. Therefore, Martin concludes that in this instance Paul is essentially arguing that whilst rarely would a person die for another person (even a just person), a person might dare die for God.[44] Schreiner’s argument, however, is preferable, arguing that dikaiou and agathou are both masculine, referring to a human being, concluding “that in verse 7b he [Paul] is speaking of a person whose goodness is palpable.”[45]

The point is that God’s love is emphatically and gratuitously shown through Christ’s sacrifice and provides objective proof to the hope we have in our salvation. This is made clear in verse eight. The phrasing is similar to verse six, placing emphasis on Christ. Furthermore, by using “Christ” Paul is asserting Jesus’ messiahship is not disproved by the crucifixion.[46] According to Moo, “sinners” refers to those “hating God, in rebellion against him,” hence “the awesome quality of God’s love for us is seen in that Christ died for us while we were [hating him].”[47]

Verses nine and ten share some parallels, one being Christ’s death, of which Bruce argues should be understood in a sacrificial sense.[48] This recalls the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, and, thus, justification “was free but not cheap. It was obtained at the cost of Christ’s blood.”[49] Paul, here, argues from the greater to the lesser[50] leading Moo to conclude that if Christ has completed the ‘hard’ job of securing our salvation, how much ‘easier’ would it be for him to deliver believers from God’s wrath.[51] This wrath is to be understood as “being manifested at the eschaton, at the time of judgment.”[52]

Verse ten, according to Moo, restates what was said in verse nine, and the following layout expresses the parallels evident between these verses:[53]

v.9                                                       v.10

                                                                        If, while we were enemies,

Having now been justified                  we were reconciled to God

Through his blood                               through the death of his Son

How much more                                 how much more

                                                                        Being reconciled

Will we be saved                                 will we be saved

From wrath

Through him                                       through his life

The major difference, as can be seen, is Paul’s use of “reconciled”, rather than “justified”. Whereas justification has a forensic sense, reconciliation is more relational. Reconciliation is virtually unheard of in other religions, as Christianity is nearly unique in that the deity wishes a relationship with the human.[54] Furthermore, by labeling humans ‘enemies’ furthers this point. However, it is unsure whether Paul was referring to God’s enmity toward humans, or humans’ enmity toward God. Human beings are under God’s wrath; humans have rejected God, worshipping false gods. Therefore, Schreiner concludes that the enmity mentioned here refers to both enmity toward humans from God, and enmity toward God from humans.[55]

Verse eleven acts as a general conclusion to this passage, serving to reemphasize “the reconciliation accomplished was a gift from the Father and Son, and the human response is simply to receive gratefully the gift given.”[56] Furthermore, Dunn adds that “his chief intention seems to be to gather up the whole of the preceding paragraph by drawing into a single sentence two of the key terms from the beginning and end of the paragraph,”[57] namely boasting/rejoicing in God, and reconciliation.

The two major theological themes in this passage are the assurance of hope and reconciliation. The hope we have is to be at peace with God (v.1), share in the glory of God (v.2), and to be reconciled to God (v.10). This peace refers to humans no longer being at war with God,[58] which links to verse ten; we are no longer God’s enemies. This peace is eschatological in nature and denationalizing.[59] But is more than merely the absence of hostility; it is “the objective state of harmony with God.”[60] The remainder of this passage explains why this hope is reliable.

The second theme evident is reconciliation. Whilst ‘reconciliation’ and ‘justification’ should not semantically be separated completely, they have connotative differences. Whereas justification has a legal, forensic sense, reconciliation has greater emphasis on relationship. Reconciliation refers to the coming together of two previously hostile parties,[61] in which friendship and intimacy is experienced.[62] This theme is rare in Pauline theology, detailed in only four of Paul’s works (Rom 5.1-11; 2 Cor. 5.11-21; Eph. 2.11-22; Col. 1.15-20). Reconciliation cannot occur until justification has occurred, and – being virtually synonymous with peace – places Christians as ‘friends’ of God. This reconciliation can only occur through the death of Jesus Christ.[63]

Contemporary Relevance

Peace with God. Paul asserts that the relationship between God and humans is a hostile relationship. As Witherington notes, Paul uses a “crescendo of terms” to describe humans: weak, ungodly, sinners, and enemies.[64] These terms carry no light connotation. On the contrary, Paul’s pessimistic view of humanity is exemplified in this passage. However, this serves to demonstrate God’s incredible love. For while we were sinners, Christ died for us (v.8); while we were enemies, God longed for us (v.10). Because of this love, shown through Christ’s sacrifice, that hostility exists no more. In fact, we become God’s friends as our relationship is restored with him.

The LXX incorporates eirene as a translation of the Hebrew shalom.[65] The former has more to do with the ending of hostility, the latter – as stated above – harmony with God. Both fit the themes of justification and reconciliation of this passage, but it seems the context suits shalom, a term which further occurs as a blessing; “Paul transfers the term peace from the national blessing of Israel to the personal experience of every believer.”[66] Thus, peace – in any age and setting – is important and liberating for everyone, in order to receive comfort and blessing from God, knowing his wrath will not be felt.

Living in God’s grace and love. According to Dunn, “Paul’s thought is of the infinite resource of God’s favor (including the royal power to translate that favor into practical effect)…it is that which Christ has secured for those who seek to approach God through him, trusting themselves to him.”[67] In other words, through Jesus’ sacrifice we have direct and constant access to God who loves us and wishes to pour his blessing into our lives. Furthermore, Schreiner adds that the hope we have in God and in our salvation is unlike any other hope, in that this hope will never put us to shame.[68] Hence, living with the knowledge that we have eternal access to God, who loves us dearly, who will never put us to shame and will not visit his wrath upon us; contrarily, God will reconcile us to him, pouring his love through his Spirit into our hearts. The only appropriate response humans can give is to accept Christ’s sacrifice and God’s love through the Spirit, and to boast and rejoice in God.

Assurance of hope. The above two themes deal with God’s love for us, our being justified and reconciled to God. Further, we have hope – hope unlike anything that this world can provide – proven through: a) the subjective realization of our justification, reconciliation and God’s love for us, provided to us and proven via the Holy Spirit given to us; and b) the objective understanding of our justification and God’s love for us, proven in the historical act of Jesus’ sacrifice. This hope will not disappoint, and will be with this always, as we are in a constant state of grace, no matter what.

Endurance of suffering. Because of this hope we have, through Jesus Christ, we can endure suffering. As Moo points out, suffering is inevitable as “we still live in a world hostile to God and his values,”[69] and this suffering strengthens our faith. God does not wish for suffering, but he uses this for our advantage, if we let him (Cf. Rom. 8.28). Furthermore, it is not the suffering itself that is to be rejoiced in, rather we rejoice in the midst of this suffering. We have hope that one day God will remove all suffering.[70] Our hope is strengthened from enduring suffering,[71] and learning endurance strengthens our resolve, giving us courage, determination and focus to achieve what must be achieved, and to bring God glory.

Conclusion

Chapters one through four of this epistle detail the need and way of justification. This passage, supported by following chapters, details the benefits of having received this justification. Paul here is emphatically encouraging a unity of believers by using “we”, thus as Christian individuals and community, we have peace – with God, and with each other. The three main benefits of this justification are peace with God, reconciliation with God, and a hope that God will be victorious and spare our lives. Firstly, we are no longer enemies of God; the hostility between humans and God has been removed. Secondly, we have a relationship with God, a relationship in which God’s love and blessing are constantly poured into hearts. Furthermore, we have constant and eternal access to God, as we stand in his grace. Thirdly, we need not worry or become depressed in this world, as we have hope that God loves us, that he has (and will) save us, that he allows us to share in his glory, and helps us endure and be strengthened by the trials of this life.

Because of these three benefits, we can, today, experience God’s love and blessing, provided through the Holy Spirit. We have peace with God, thus liberated from his condemnation. We can rejoice in God and in our hope. We can also rejoice in our suffering. This is not enjoyment of pain, but a confident understanding that God helps us endure this suffering, and allows us, even, to benefit from it, helping us to grow through our trials. Lastly, we will not be disappointed as we have both objective and subjective proof that Christ has saved us. The only appropriate response is to love God in return.

 

 

References

Bruce, F. F. Romans Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985.

Clarke, Andrew D. “The Good and the Just in Romans 5:7.” Tyndale Bulletin 41, no. 1 (1990): 128-142.

Dunn, James D. G. Romans 1-8. Vol. 38a World Biblical Commentary. Dallas, Texas: Word Books, 1988.

Fitzmyer, Joseph A. Romans. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1993.

Garlington, Don B. Faith, Obedience and Perseverance. Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1994.

Grieb, A. Katherine. The Story of Romans: A Narrative Defense of God’s Righteousness. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002.

Jewett, Robert. “Romans.” In The Cambridge Campanion to St Paul, edited by James D. G. Dunn. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

MacArthur, John. The Macarthur New Testament Commentary. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2007.

Martin, Troy W. “The Good as God (Romans 5.7).” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 25, no. 1 (2002): 55-70.

McDonald, Patricia M. “Romans 5.1-11 as a Rhetorical Bridge.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 40 (1990): 81-96.

Moo, Douglas. The Epistle to the Romans New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996.

Moo, Douglas J. The Niv Application Commentary: Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.

Schreiner, Thomas R. Romans Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic 1998.

Schreiner, Thomas R. Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2001.

Stott, John R. W. The Message of Romans Bible Speaks Today. Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.

Tobin, Thomas H. Paul’s Rhetoric in Its Contexts: The Argument of Romans. Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004.

Witherington, Ben. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary”. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004.


[1] Thomas H. Tobin, Paul’s Rhetoric in Its Contexts: The Argument of Romans (Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 2004). 159.

[2] Patricia M. McDonald, “Romans 5.1-11 as a Rhetorical Bridge,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 40, no. (1990).

[3] James D. G. Dunn, Romans 1-8, World Biblical Commentary, vol. 38a (Dallas, Texas: Word Books, 1988). Also, F. F. Bruce, Romans, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 1985). and John MacArthur, The Macarthur New Testament Commentary (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2007).

[4] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic 1998). 245.

[5] Douglas J. Moo, The Niv Application Commentary: Romans (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000). 169. Cf. Robert Jewett, “Romans,” in The Cambridge Campanion to St Paul, ed. James D. G. Dunn(New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003). And Don B. Garlington, Faith, Obedience and Perseverance (Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1994). Garlington argues that there is an element of Christology evident in each of the four chapters (5-8), thus emphasizing their unity.

[6] John R. W. Stott, The Message of Romans, Bible Speaks Today (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994). 138.

[7] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans (New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1993). 393.

[8] This, however, does not contradict what was said above, regarding the separation of chapters 4 and 5. The separation refers merely to the overall theological themes, but by using ‘therefore’ Paul is thus building on his last argument i.e. human beings need justification, provided through faith in Jesus Christ, and now ch.5 details the benefits of such justification.

[9] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996). 298.

[10] Fitzmyer. 395. Cf. Dunn. 245.

[11] Schreiner. 253.

[12] Moo, The Epistle to the Romans. 297.

[13] Including, MacArthur. 429.

[14] “let us have peace” places the verb as subjunctive, echōmen; “we have peace” places the verb as indicative, echomen. Stott argues that the former must be understood as an exhortation, contrary to the paragraph, consisting of affirmations and no other exhortations. Therefore, he argues echomen is preferable. (Stott. 139.)

[15] Bruce. 127.

[16] Stott. 140.

[17] Dunn interprets this verse similarly, (Dunn. 248.) Fitzmyer holds to a traditional translation, but postulates a message virtually synonymous with Stott, arguing that Christ has “escorted them into the royal audience-chamber of God’s presence” (Fitzmyer. 396.)

[18] MacArthur. 429.

[19] Moo, The Niv Application Commentary: Romans. 170.

[20] Moo, The Epistle to the Romans. 302.

[21] Schreiner. 255; Exulting, rather than boasting is – according to Schreiner – more appropriate in this context.

[22] Jewett. 95.

[23] Something of Paul’s eschatology (as will be noted later) is discerned here. The ‘already/not yet’ theme that appears in common New Testament theology is currently being expressed, as Paul notes that while we have access to God and his grace now, total salvation – and complete peace, lack of suffering – is yet to come. Cf. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans. And A. Katherine Grieb, The Story of Romans: A Narrative Defense of God’s Righteousness (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002).

[24] Cf. Stott. And Dunn. Further, Witherington notes that Romans was written at a time of great oppression for Christians, thus by providing the Romans with a reason for their suffering, he provides them with hope (Ben Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary” (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004). 134.

[25] Dunn. 251.

[26] MacArthur. 429.

[27] Dunn. 251. Dunn notes this word is exclusive to Pauline theology.

[28] Schreiner. 256.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Stott. 142.

[31] Moo, The Epistle to the Romans. 303.

[32] Dunn. 252; and, Schreiner. 256.

[33] Witherington. 136.

[34] Moo, The Niv Application Commentary: Romans. 172.

Furthermore, Schreiner points out that God’s love should be understood as his love for us – contrary to Pelagianism – and Paul is here alluding to Pentecost. However, rather than the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, God’s love is poured out through the Holy Spirit. God’s love and the Holy Spirit should not be separated, thus Paul is arguing for a subjective experience of the Spirit in a believer’s life. Hence, “believers know now in their hearts that they will be spared from God’s wrath because they presently experience God’s love for them through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.” (Schreiner. 257.)

[35] Schreiner. 259.

[36] Bruce. 127.

[37] MacArthur. 430. Cf. Moo, The Niv Application Commentary: Romans. 172.

[38] Schreiner outlines a couple of positions regarding the appropriateness of the time. However, he seems hesitant to come to a conclusion. (Schreiner. 260.)

[39] Moo, The Niv Application Commentary: Romans. 172.

[40] Andrew D. Clarke, “The Good and the Just in Romans 5:7,” Tyndale Bulletin 41, no. 1 (1990). 128.

[41] Origen took this interpretation, believing it to refer to martyrs who died for God. (Grieb. 63).

[42] Schreiner. 261.

[43] Clarke. 141.

[44] Troy W. Martin, “The Good as God (Romans 5.7),” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 25, no. 1 (2002).

[45] Schreiner. 262. Schreiner also argues that there is good evidence for it to be understood as a benefactor, such as in Clarke’s argument.

[46] Dunn. 254. Dunn further argues it was in the crucifixion itself that Jesus’ messiahship was, in fact, proved. Cf. 1 Cor. 1.23; Gal. 2.20-3.1.

[47] Moo, The Niv Application Commentary: Romans. 172.

[48] Bruce. 128.

[49] Schreiner. 263.

[50] Ibid. 262.

[51] Moo, The Niv Application Commentary: Romans. 172.

[52] Fitzmyer. 400.

[53] Moo, The Epistle to the Romans. 309.

[54] Ibid. 311.

[55] Schreiner. 264.

[56] Ibid. 265.

[57] Dunn. 261. Dunn further adds that Paul is referring back to his argument against Jewish boasting and pride. When Paul here argues to “boast in God” is encouraged, “it is precisely the same boasting of which Paul spoke critically in 2:17. What was presented as improper there is now presented as wholly proper and appropriate. The crucial difference is that Paul now describes it as boasting ‘through our Lord Jesus Christ’ – not a boasting in God which is coordinate with a boasting in the law.” (269).

[58] Jewett. 95.

[59] Dunn. 263.

[60] Moo, The Niv Application Commentary: Romans. 170. This understanding of peace – the Old Testament shalom – is preferred in this instance as it is substantiated by Paul’s later argument of reconciliation, as well as the eschatological protection (by Jesus Christ) from God’s wrath.

[61] Moo, The Epistle to the Romans. 311.

[62] Fitzmyer. 401.

[63] Thomas R. Schreiner, Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2001). 222-225.

[64] Witherington. 137.

[65] Moo, The Niv Application Commentary: Romans. 173.

[66] Ibid. 174.

[67] Dunn. 263-264.

[68] Schreiner, Romans. 253.

[69] Moo, The Niv Application Commentary: Romans. 177.

[70] Ibid.

[71] Moo, The Epistle to the Romans. 303. Read more…

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