It is time to move beyond the old and new perspectives. I find myself nodding in hearty agreement to Dr Tilling’s arguments and commend it for your consideration. But as I was listening to the lecture I kept experiencing a feeling of déjà vu. I’ve heard this before. In fact, this is how I have preached Paul for well over twenty years, with a few minor differences. So where did I learn this? How did I pull it together into an unscholarly understanding that sounds very much like Tilling’s interpretation of Paul. I think I learned this from a synthetic reading of Robert W. Jenson, Thomas F. Torrance, and John Henry Newman. From these theologians I learned that at the heart of justification is our incorporation into Christ, rebirth in the Spirit, and participation in the trinitarian life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Ultimately, I suspect I learned this from the Holy Eucharist.
Curiously, though I have read gobs and gobs of N. T. Wright over the past two decades or so, his reading of Paul regarding justification has not been as formative for me. I simply have not found persuasive his construal of justification as “covenant membership.” It’s that, of course, but also so much more. Back in my old Pontificator days, when I was wrestling with Roman Catholic presentations of grace and justification, I wrote on justification by Christ more than any other topic. I took a glance at those articles this morning. It’s interesting to see myself going back and forth on various points. But two things remained constant—justification as hermeneutical instruction for the preaching of the gospel and justification as incorporation into the body of Christ and thus into the Trinity.