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Sunday School: Thinking about Sacrifices

Sunday School: Thinking about Sacrifices

Sacrifice
Credit: Adobe Stock 46272514

I’m preparing to teach tomorrow, and the main text is Hebrews 4:14-5:10. The quarterly is kind enough to stop just before the author tells his readers/hearers that the topic is difficult and they’re not very bright!

Nonetheless, the idea of priesthood brings up the idea of “sacrifice” and “sacrifices,” and these are two concepts that I don’t believe modern audiences are prepared for. We tend to get locked into one of two unhelpful modes.

On the one hand, we may believe sacrifice is critical, and its primary, or even only purpose is to atone for sin. This feeds into the penal substitutionary atonement theory (or I prefer metaphor), in which the sacrifice of Jesus is specifically as a substitutionary death taking the punishment for our sins. The reason I prefer metaphor to theory here is that a theory should be an explanation that deals with the relationship between various facts. A good theory is a singular thing because it is the best explanation of the data. A metaphor, on the other hand, is one of many ways of looking at a set of events. In this sense I reject a substitutionary atonement as a theory, but accept it as a valid metaphor.

On the other hand, because the whole idea of substitutionary atonement, sometimes even referred to as “cosmic child abuse,” is so foreign to our way of thinking about things, that we reject everything that relates to it. But there is a least one really good thing about substitutionary atonement (and I believe there are others): A person convinced that Jesus died as a substitutionary sacrifices for his or her sins will be convinced that wrath and punishment have been averted.

This is not the place to cover this in detail, but I am doing so in my video series on perspectives on Paul. I started in Paul’s Gospel vs. Another Gospel, then went on to part 2, and this coming Thursday night I will be doing part 3. I’m thinking there may be yet more parts, because I’m looking verse by verse at some defining statements about the gospel in various Pauline and disputed epistles.

I think there’s a better background against which to think about sacrifice, and that is communication within a relationship. The priesthood and sacrifices were part of the way in which ancient people carried on communion within an ongoing relationship with their god(s). The Israelites had specific ways of offering various sacrifices, ways of representing their God, and expectations.

I like to think of gifts that I give my wife. One of the traditional gifts for someone with whom we are romantically involved is roses, often a dozen, maybe two dozen. I have only done that once in our relationship. I mean the dozen. There have been a scattered number of times on which a gift has included roses, but that is much less frequent than in other relationships.

So am I neglecting my wife and being unromantic by not giving her the traditional gift? I don’t think so, and she’ll surely read this post and let you know if I’m wrong. We’ve established a different tradition that fits her personality and mine. That tradition has to do with surprise and variety. I look at various places where I can buy flowers. The grocery store even works out frequently. I look for flowers of a different color or a different type than she has had recently. I often buy enough for a couple of arrangements in vases. More importantly, I try to bring the flowers into the house when she is not expecting them.

It is true that flowers are frequently a way of expressing regret for a wrong action, but that wouldn’t work all that well in our relationship. In fact, the only thing that does work is sincere regret, directly expressed (no weasely political apologies), and a discussion of how we can improve as we move forward. Flowers as a sacrifice for sin are not functional in our relationship, yet they are given.

I’d like to suggest thinking of the reason why you might do something for another person, or have something done for you and the various reasons you might give or receive a gift. Then start looking at the sacrificial system again. There are still many things that will not connect. For example, in those cultures that practiced human sacrifice, the killing of the human victim—the ideal one being a firstborn son—was seen as giving that child to God. So also with the animal sacrifices.

If you think of the sacrifices in this way I think it will be easier to follow how sacrifice was replaced by the “mitzvah” (good deed) in Judaism, and by a combination of giving and symbolic acts in Christianity. You might even start to think about the Sunday liturgy at your church and what it says about what God would like to see happening in your relationship to him. Is it possible God might prefer a “mitzvah” of some sort?

I’m going to build on this, but I think this is a good foundational metaphor to use in looking at sacrifice. Then we can adjust for the people involved and how they viewed what was good and bad in a relationship.

PSA: Thoughts on Centering

PSA: Thoughts on Centering

David Heddle commented on my earlier post, PSA: An Unbalanced and Ineffective View of the Atonement, in his post Penal Substitutionary Atonement: it’s not about Justice. I haven’t had time to respond until now, and I will only respond to a few points. One of the things I have noticed about debates on the atonement is that they tend to cover wide swathes of material, and bring on board large numbers of assumptions. It’s pretty much impossible to avoid.

First let me note a couple of quotes to which I want to respond briefly and then get to the actually topic.

Heddle says: “The scriptural support for PSA is impressive.” He then proceeds to cite Isaiah 53:5 and Romans 3:23-25. Of course both sides claim support from scripture–that’s required–but it seems to me that proponents of PSA find every verse that has both the words “redemption” (or salvation, or something similar) and the word “for” in them, and claim that they support substitutionary atonement as understood in a courtroom setting.

That importation is certainly wrong in Isaiah 53, which quite clearly has the concept of substitution, but lacks the courtroom metaphor and doesn’t deal with someone being adjudged in one way or another. It is not good practice to interpret the substitution of Isaiah 53, in which the servant suffers for a group of people, without looking at the servant passages in general. In this case, we have a small group of people suffering as a result of the actions of the whole nation. There is substitution and representation, but there is no imputation or impartation going on. The more I study “clear” texts supporting penal substitution, the less clearly they support penal substitution. In particular, few can properly be read in a courtroom setting.

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Heresy in the Bible?

Heresy in the Bible?

I’ve noted a tendency amongst both friends and enemies (hopefully this is hyperbole!) of mine to declare people heretics for some very brief statements, especially in matters of soteriology. People are particularly quick to pick up on any suggestion of legalism or Pelagianism.

But I notice that the Bible writers are not terribly careful to nuance their statements on such issues. There are, in fact, many places in the Bible where one could assume salvation by works if one took a small section at a time. Peter seemed to have some problem with Paul’s clarity, referring to “obscure passages” (2 Peter 3:16). One could get the idea that Paul was antinomian in some of his passages. Of course, he himself would respond with a me genoito should he be confronted with such a possibility.

Jesus might have been accused of preaching salvation by works when he says that those who simply say “Lord, Lord” or call him “Lord” will not necessarily enter the kingdom, but those who do his Father’s will (Matthew 7:21-23). Now I’m aware of many of the ways we fit these passages together into a coherent soteriology, but the fact is that the Bible has plenty of passages that pose difficulties.

Perhaps this should suggest to us that there is a little bit of flexibility in the way we express God’s plan of salvation, and if not flexibility, at least forgiveness.

I was reminded of this as I do a series of podcasts on 2 Peter 1:3-11. My attention was first called to this passage by Laura Curtis of Pursuing Holiness, and it has stuck with me. Today, as I was preparing the script for the latest installment, I noticed again this portion: “be all the more eager to confirm your call and election.” Confirm one’s election? Surely you jest, Peter! If one is elected, one is elected!

Well, perhaps not. There seems to be some tension here, and the flexible handle tension better.

 

Keeping up with the Justification Debate

Keeping up with the Justification Debate

I am doing some reading before I respond to a couple of posts, but I did want to link to some interesting stuff.

Both Mark Olson (Pseudo-polymath) and Anne (Heart, Mind, Soul, and Strength) have written posts discussing justification from a perspective other than the judicial/penal substitution approach. Their posts simply confirm to me that there are many, many valid ways to talk about the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf, and that penal substitution is just one of those. Unlike some, I do not wish to discard it, but I also will not make it the one and only metaphor.

Adrian Warnock has posted twice, first Legalism, Racism, and the First Century Jew, to which I will respond later at some length. I find much to object to in that short post, but I’m also working through Piper’s comments in their context before I blow off steam.

The second one is 2 Corinthians 5 and Romans 5 – Two Critical Passages on Justification in which he links an article that I had linked earlier, and says:

If you are interested in seeing an example of this, there is an article by Wright on 2 Corinthians 5:21 [PDF-HN] that I must say I found wholly unconvincing.

I see a great deal of “finding unconvincing” but I see remarkably little actual exegetical argument. The primary form of argument appears to be theological. If the question is whether the new perspectives on Paul differ from prior theological statements, then we can cheerfully answer yes, and go on. But for me the question is whether the new perspective gets us closer to correctly understanding Paul and what he has to say.

One of the keys here is to understand the paradigm shift that several interpreters have taken. If you do not accept that paradigm shift, you are likely not to accept Wright’s specific exegesis of 2 Corinthians 5:21. That is not surprising, since he is dealing with that verse in the context of that new paradigm. (I am not overly fond of “paradigm shift,” as a term, or at least I don’t think I am, but it seems to me that the new perspectives on Paul do justify that term.)

Peter Kirk blogged on this same topic, and brings up a number of points. I have to say that anyone who implies that Augustine was a theological pygmy is likely to get my favorable attention! But more importantly, Peter points to one side issue, and that is the way in which (some?) reformed theology can make God look like he is a bit veracity-challenged, and can’t truly tell whether people are righteous or not.

Meanwhile, the view that I am working towards is a rejection of the “Reformed” idea that Christians remain sinners in actual fact but are nevertheless, by a legal fiction, counted as righteous in Christ. Instead of this, the picture I have, based on various biblical passages such as Ephesians 4:22-24, is that the Christian consists of two separate persons or personalities: the “old self” (in some versions “old man”, but to be understood of course in a gender generic sense) born by natural birth who is a sinner, guilty, condemned to death and destined to die; and the “new self” born of the Spirit and into Christ, who is righteous, holy, free from condemnation, will not die, and indeed is already living eternal life in God’s kingdom. . . .

Just so. Like Peter, I continue to be in flux on some of these issues. There are boundary lines that I’m fairly certain of, but others I’m studying a great deal, but Peter’s paragraph is one of those that strikes me as promising. When I read it, I feel that he is “with” Paul in a significant way. Perhaps he’ll have to adjust some, as he says, but he’s going the right direction.

I will be blogging a bit more on 2 Corinthians 5 from an exegetical point of view, hopefully in the next few days.

New Perspectives on Paul – Shifting the Paradigm

New Perspectives on Paul – Shifting the Paradigm

I find myself commenting a bit on this topic before I really feel ready to do so, but there are certain things I’d like to insert into the conversation that is being generated from Adrian Warnock’s blog, through the discussion of John Piper’s book The Future of Justification. (Some preliminary notes on the new perspectives may be found on my participatory Bible study blog, category New Perspectives on Paul. All these are just my notes as I journey through some of this interesting writing.)

Adrian has put a good deal of emphasis on what he sees as the gracious approach that John Piper has taken toward N. T. Wright’s work, and how accurately, in his view, Bishop Wright has been portrayed. I have no reason to believe that Piper is intending to be anything but gracious and accurate, and yet there are some things that bother me just a bit. (On these, see below.)

I’m going to outline the points here, but much of my reading on the new perspective has been from sources other than N. T. Wright, so I want to emphasize two things. First, I am in no way trying to characterize Wright’s views on this. I think those who really want to understand him should read what he has written. I linked to an excellent paper he wrote in my previous post on this topic, Justification: The Biblical Basis and its Relevance for Contemporary Evangelicalism (PDF). Second, I am myself exploring these ideas, and my training was primarily Old Testament, though I did a considerable amount of exegesis in Greek in school, and afterward. But even so I think I can perhaps help clarify a couple of things.

I started from Adrian’s post today, Legalism Versus Grace in First Century Judaism, in which he says:

Anyone who has read anything about the New Perspectives on Paul will realize that one of the key arguments is that we have misunderstood the Pharisees through the perspective of the Reformation. The first century Jews were never legalists, we are told. . . .

But there are a number of problems with this claim as well. First, it is not essential for the New Perspectives on Paul (NPP) that one assume that there were no Jewish legalists, or that there were no legalistic Pharisees. The key position is that Judaism was and is not a legalistic religion, and that in it favor with God was based on grace. I can find any number of legalistic Christians, plenty of whom would fit as targets of some passages in Luke 18 (cited by Adrian later in the paragraph), but they do not make Christianity into a legalistic religion by nature.

Jesus can encounter dozens and hundreds of legalistic Pharisees, and yet the essential foundation of Pharisaism need not be legalistic, nor does it have to carry over into modern Judaism in a legalistic fashion. Just how far one goes on this issue is another matter, and one which I am studying. I definitely believe that the religion of the Mosaic covenant, Israelite religion, was founded on grace expressed through the covenant. That has been my position long before I read any NPP material.

I tend to see first century Judaism as both a bit more corrupted and also more fragmented, so that I find it questionable to make many generalizations about first century Judaism. One could make a few generalizations about groups. Having said that, the Pharisees were probably one of the less corrupt groups. I suspect that they often disputed with Jesus because they were able to connect more frequently, while still not agreeing with him.

But this whole debate illustrates one of the problems I’m seeing with the online critique. (And again I must emphasize that I have not read The Future of Justification, and thus am not commenting on Piper’s own work, but only on Adrian’s presentation of it on his blog.) This issue of legalistic Pharisees as opposed to the legalistic nature of Judaism (or not, as Wright would maintain), illustrates the major paradigm shift that Wright and others are making. They are not seeing justification as dealing with whether an individual is “saved” or not, but rather as proclaiming/acknowledging that person’s entry into God’s people as a group. It is an individualistic perspective that, in answer to the claim that a faith position is based on grace, points out individuals who are legalistic.

For the NPP, we have been reading Galatians and Romans from the wrong perspective, asking the wrong questions. This was drilled into me both as an undergraduate Biblical languages student and in seminary: The message of Galatians is that we are saved by grace through faith and not by the works of the law. Essentially, in that case, Galatians is written in opposition to legalism, and particularly Jewish legalism.

Since first reading a bit about the NPP, I have worked through Galatians twice in Greek, using two different commentaries that at least partake of portions of the NPP. Each time through has been a bit mind twisting. But as I teach at the most basic level of Bible study methods, your questions often determine your answers, so it is very important to ask the right questions. In the case of Galatians, in the seminary classroom, I asked the question “How can I be saved?” I found an answer there–not by the works of the law, but rather by faith.

The NPP suggests that Paul is answering a different question: How does one become a part of God’s people, i.e. how does one come under the covenant? Paul’s enemies say it is by becoming Jews, with the sign of circumcision; Paul says that incorporation takes place because of the death and resurrection of Jesus and through faith. We are looking here much less at individual salvation, and much more at the definition of community. Neither side believes that being part of the covenant people can be earned by works. The sign and the means of incorporation are different.

This is over-simplified, partially because I haven’t incorporated the vocabulary myself, but after two passes through the book of Galatians trying to answer those questions I think I begin to see how the categories work. If you really want to try to understand the NPP, one good exercise is to ditch the “how does an individual become righteous in God’s eyes?” question, and replace it with “how and why does a person come under God’s covenant?” Then read Galatians looking for the answer to that second question. I’m not saying give up your view ahead of time. Just tentatively ask yourself how the book would work if you were asking a different question.

Ironically, it looks to me like Piper might have erred in an attempt to be as gracious as possible. He attempts to read Wright as favorably as possible from his own perspective. In Adrian’s post John Piper: Is N. T. Wright Preaching Another Gospel?, he quotes Piper noting the areas in which Wright would agree with the reformed view, and then the single item on which he disagrees. From Piper’s point of view, making Wright agree in most senses with the reformed view appears gracious. But it looks to me like he is missing the point. It is not that Wright goes along with the standard view and then disagrees because he does not believe righteousness is imputed or imparted. Rather, he is defining righteousness in a different way, and therefore the declaration that one is righteous means something different. It is a paradigm shift in which almost all definitions are adjusted, not a minor alteration.

I think we need to understand the NPP, and particularly Wright’s view of all of this carefully as a whole. Picking it apart in a point by point comparison with the reformed view, or any other for that matter, will not work well, because Wright is shifting the categories. Justification doesn’t mean the same thing to him as it does to a traditional reformed theologian.

A Question of Ecumenism, Theology, or Exegesis

A Question of Ecumenism, Theology, or Exegesis

Over the last few days Adrian Warnock has been posting excerpts from John Piper’s new book on justification, The Future of Justification. His latest seems to represent an escalation, with its title John Piper: Is N. T. Wright Preaching Another Gospel?. Adrian has maintained throughout that Piper is being gracious to Wright and is accurately representing Wright’s views.

Other than to note the escalation, however, the grace (or lack thereof) of Piper’s book (which I have not read) is not my topic. I don’t have a dog in this hunt, so to speak, because I am not nearly as concerned that one gets justification precisely right. This topic is, in my view, very susceptible to “doctrinal correctness”–a tenseness about precise terms that makes it difficult to explore. Reformed theologians in particular seem to want to make one’s precise understanding of justification they anchor point of their theology. They equate it with the gospel. I couldn’t possibly disagree more. The gospel is not a precise understanding of esoteric points of theology.

Which leads me to the actual purpose of this post. What is driving the discussion? Piper is criticizing Wright’s view on justification, and I’m not going to criticize him directly, but there is a clear tendency in Adrian’s quotes from Piper, and that is simply define what reformed theology has been up until now, demonstrate that Wright disagrees, and leave the obvious impression that Wright must be wrong.

Elsewhere, there are some who claim that Wright’s theology is driven by ecumenical goals–bringing Catholic and protestant views together. I’m not sure how well that is going, if it is true. Certainly the hardliners in the reformed camp aren’t feeling the ecumenical spirit in all of this.

But when I read Wright himself, I get a different impression entirely of his driving force. Now I need to place a caveat here. I am only a small part of the way through my own preliminary studies of this New Perspectives on Paul, and I probably won’t try to express my own opinion on some of the key issues for months. Right now I can simply say that the work of Wright answers some questions about Paul for me and raises others. I’m tempted to simply fall back to the notion that Paul was a complex character, and does not willingly fit into our theological boxes.

When N. T. Wright goes about doing his own writing he appears to me to be driven not to find or produce a particular theological result, but rather by exegetical concerns. He seems to be more careful to follow the text where it leads than the majority of writers. I’ve read. For an example of his exegetical writing, see On Becoming the Righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). For a more theological view, with Wright expressing his own view of justification, see Justification: The Biblical Basis and its Relevance for Contemporary Evangelicalism.

In response to this, we need more than theology. I have no doubt that there are reformed theologians making theological arguments, yet there are also many who are simply happy to point out that Wright fails to meet their standards of “orthodox evangelical theology” and thus can be dismissed out of hand.

But wasn’t one of the features of the reformation going directly back to scripture? At this point it looks to me like the Bishop of Durham is behaving like a reformation theologian–digging through the texts and trying to come to the best understanding possible, while the purported defenders of the reformation are left to point out just how orthodox their teaching is–by their standards.

If I’m given the choice between defending theological turf and wrestling with exegesis and trying to understand Paul in his world and mission I’ll choose the latter every time.

Morning Reading – 11/6/2007

Morning Reading – 11/6/2007

I read a large number of blog entries each day, and I never have time to comment on everything I’d like to. Considering how many posts I do write, this may be a good thing. One way to comment without having to write is by linking to extremely good posts, and this morning provided me with some excellent material.

Responding to Torture

First, I have been trying to get a handle on writing a post on torture, with the Mukasey hearings, but I haven’t gotten beyond “torture is evil.” After that it feels odd to be explaining that torture is bad. It’s so much a part of me, that I have a hard time taking it seriously as a debate, but there it is, being debated by presumably serious people.

But Joe Carter has saved me on this point, by writing a 100% on target, excellent post, Our Tortured Silence: The Shameful Response of Christians to Waterboarding.

All I would add is that our fear sometimes makes us waffle on our moral convictions. We must fight terrorism, but we must be sure to maintain our integrity while we do it, or the terrorists win even if we physically defeat them. Let’s be sure we like who we are when we’re done.

Dividing the Denominations

Through an unrelated comment, I found a post on the division of the church, Happy Reformation Day/Hallowe’en. This relates to my own previous post, Setting Doctrinal Priorities. I’m not concerned about their being denominations, or at least accountability organizations that bring congregations together, but we very often do not see the unifying factors, and thus splinter further and further.

What is the Gospel?

Again, relating to two earlier posts, Adrian Warnock has posted on justification again, and after quoting a description of forensic justification, and details of imputed righteousness, he says:

That, my dear reader, is the Gospel. What better explanation of it have you ever read?

Now I don’t have a problem with Adrian seeing the gospel there, but that is simply one way of expressing it; it is not the only one. When we divide along such detailed lines, I see many problems ahead for Christian unity.

Am I an Evangelical?

Am I an Evangelical?

[Reflective rambling alert, to those who prefer more substantive stuff.]

I’ve answered this question before, but it was brought back to me over this past weekend when someone who knows me well enough to know better described me as “a solid evangelical.” Say what? He definitely intended it as a compliment, but I was somewhat surprised.

Then I was reading Adrian Warnock’s blog, on which he has begun to work through Piper’s new book The Future of Justification. Adrian says:

That infamous quote from N. T. Wright and his framing of thousands of years of debate about the imparting or imputing of Christ’s righteousness as ‘muddle headed’ is breathtaking. Either Wright is as much of a lone figure reformed as say Martin Luther himself, pointing back centuries before him to another lost truth that makes Luther as much in error as the Pope of his time, OR Wright, however bright a scholar he is, is very wrong. I believe Piper has shown how very wrong Wright is. Join me over the next few days as we explore how he does this.

When I read something like this from Adrian, surely an evangelical, I have to doubt whether I want the label. It’s not that I think Adrian or Piper are being discourteous. It is just that they split doctrinal hairs down so many times. To me, N. T. Wright is conservative. I understand the differences between him and other evangelicals. I just don’t see the critical importance of the difference in the way Adrian states it. (I will certainly be following Adrians comments, though I doubt that I will read the book.)

In fact, I don’t think the Bible itself manifests anything like the unity in describing human sin, redemption, atonement, and God’s expectations of people that appears in this very tense reformed evangelical theology. N. T. Wright is not, in my view, all that opaque. He’s extremely thorough with impeccable scholarship. And as for Martin Luther, while I appreciate some of his reform efforts, I truly do not think he said the last word on understanding Paul.

Reformed interpretation of Paul has gotten muddle headed and it has done so simply because theological propositions have been given preeminence over an exegesis of the text. In addition, an assumption that the Bible teaches a single theology tends to paper over the differences.

Labels are such slippery things. Any label that manages to acquire a positive connotation will also tend to spread, as people want to claim the label, even when they are not in the center of the definition. “Fundamentalist” has had a bit of a negative connotation, and so it hasn’t become nearly so diluted. The label “orthodox” (lower case ‘o’) is generally very positively perceived in Christian circles. It’s definition started with those who toed the doctrinal line put out by the church councils, and these days very few Christians want to be called “unorthodox.” I like to say that being “orthodox” means you can say the apostles creed without crossing your fingers. Trouble is, of course, that people have very different tolerances for reinterpretation before they feel obligated to cross their fingers.

In my previous answer to this question I mentioned the evangelical commentators on Daniel I have found, including Earnest Lucas who wrote the Daniel volume in the Apolos Old Testament Commentary series. Lucas maintains that one can assert Biblical inerrancy and also a 2nd century date for the book of Daniel. When I mentioned this to an evangelical friend, he said, “Well, that series is published by InterVarsity Press and they’re pretty much just another liberal publisher any more.” Note that Lucas does not exclusively affirm a 2nd century date, but simply asserts that either is possible for one who believes in inerrancy.

So an evangelical commentary on Daniel can assert a 2nd century date, and InterVarsity press can be considered liberal. Such are the wanderings of labels over the conceptual landscape.

Quotes on Imputed Righteousness

Quotes on Imputed Righteousness

The translator’s difficulty with this passage arises from the lack of a single English verb to express both “do right” and “be right with God”; of a noun that means both “righteousness” and “acceptance with God as righteous”; and of an adjective to describe the man who is both “righteous” and “accepted as righteous,” or to use the Latin, both “just” and “justified.” The resulting obscurities and inconsistencies give aid and comfort to human nature–Paul would say “the flesh”–in its habit of divorcing faith from faithfulness and justification from righteousness. The interpreter has to guard against basing “justification by faith” upon a fictive or imputed righteousness rather than presenting it as an actuality inseparable from the Christian’s present life in Christ. When Paul says that the righteous man who is both just and justified is to live on the basis of faith, he is describing a way of life that is present as well as future. His faith is the determinant of action which makes righteousness actual even now.
— The Interpreter’s Bible on Galatians 3:11

But to him that worketh not – It being impossible he should without faith. But believeth, his faith is imputed to him for righteousness – Therefore God’s affirming of Abraham, that faith was imputed to him for righteousness, plainly shows that he worked not; or, in other words, that he was not justified by works, but by faith only. Hence we see plainly how groundless that opinion is, that holiness or sanctification is previous to our justification. For the sinner, being first convinced of his sin and danger by the Spirit of God, stands trembling before the awful tribunal of divine justice ; and has nothing to plead, but his own guilt, and the merits of a Mediator. Christ here interposes; justice is satisfied; the sin is remitted, and pardon is applied to the soul, by a divine faith wrought by the Holy Ghost, who then begins the great work of inward sanctification. Thus God justifies the ungodly, and yet remains just, and true to all his attributes! But let none hence presume to “continue in sin;” for to the impenitent, God “is a consuming fire.” On him that justifieth the ungodly – If a man could possibly be made holy before he was justified, it would entirely set his justification aside; seeing he could not, in the very nature of the thing, be justified if he were not, at that very time, ungodly. — John Wesley on Romans 4:5

Note that I’m not quoting these as authority for the position, but rather as expressions of this view of imputed and imparted righteousness to spark thought. I do consider both of these statements very good expressions of my own view on the matter.

I would place these expressions alongside what Adrian Warnock quoted from Wayne Grudem.

If I could add my own note, God counted (not “thought of”) Jesus as one of us (sinners), to bring an end to that reality. He counts us as righteous upon our justification, in order to begin bringing an end to the reality of sin in our lives. This is one of the problems I see with making PSA the central metaphor of the atonement. One almost has to see God in error. He sees Jesus as sinful, even though he is not, and he sees us as righteous, even though we are not. I would say that God intentional mixes the categories–counting Jesus as one of us, and then us with Jesus–to bring about the reality. He always knows what he is doing, and I think it’s better to express it in that way.