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Book Review: Counted Righteous in Christ

Click on image to purchase at Amazon.comShould We Abandon the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness by John Piper.

I decided to read Counted Righteous in Christ because Piper refers to it repeatedly in the footnotes of his more recent book, The Future of Justification, particularly when he is giving biblical support for the doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness by exegeting relevant passages. Since imputed righteousness is one of my favorite subjects, how could I not check this book out?

While the arguments in it are aimed at all challenges to the doctrine of imputation, this book is a specific response to arguments made by Robert Gundry, because Piper considers him to be “one of the most courageous and straightforward and explicit and clearheaded” of those who challenge the traditional doctrine. Besides, it was two articles Gundry wrote for Books and Culture in 2001 that served as impetus for Piper to tackle this issue.

Gundry believes that God decided to count our own faith as our righteousness. There is no such thing as positive imputation of Christ’s righteousness to those who believe. And justification, according to Gundry, includes freeing the believer from “sin’s mastery,” something that has traditionally been called sanctification and kept distinct from justification. 

The middle section and greatest part of this short book (66 of 125 pages) contains Piper’s exegetical basis for the traditional Protestant view that justification includes the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer, and that it is not faith that is counted as as our righteousness. This bit is difficult reading. I had to work to follow the arguments, and there are sections I’ve marked to go over yet again. It was, however, worth the effort, because Piper builds what is, in the end, an airtight case for the historical Protestant view of justification as the biblical one. 

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A Catechism for Girls and Boys

Part II: Questions about The Ten Commandments

52. Q. How should the Sabbath be kept?
      A. In prayer and praise, in hearing and reading God’s Word, and in doing good to our fellow men.

(Click through to read scriptural proof.)

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Theological Term of the Week

kenosis theory
The teaching that Christ, when he become human, voluntarily gave up some or all of the powers and attributes of God, yet remained God; also called kenosis or kenotic theology.

  • Scripture used to support kenosis theory: 

    [Christ Jesus] emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7 ESV). 

  • From The Westminster Confession of Faith, a declaration that excludes kenosis theory:
  • Chapter VIII 
    Of Christ the Mediator

    II. The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.

    III. The Lord Jesus, in His human nature thus united to the divine, was sanctified, and anointed with the Holy Spirit, above measure, having in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell; to the end that, being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, He might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a Mediator and Surety. Which office He took not unto Himself, but was thereunto called by His Father, who put all power and judgment into His hand, and gave Him commandment to execute the same.

  • From Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem: 

    Beginning with [Philippians 2:7], several theologians in Germany (from about 1860-1880) advocated a view of the incarnation that had not been advocated before in the history of the church. This new view was called the “kenosis theory,” and the overall position it represented was called “kenotic theology.” The “kenosis theory hold that Christ gave up some of his divine attributes while he was on earth as a man. … According to the theory Christ “emptied himself” of some of his divine attributes, such as omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence, while he was on earth as a man. This was viewed as a voluntary self-limitation on Christ’s part, which he carried out in order to fulfill his work of redemption.

    It is important to realize that the major force persuading people to accept kenotic theory was not that they had discovered a better understanding of Philippians 2:7 or any other passage of the New Testament, but rather the increasing discomfort people were feeling with the formulations of the doctrine of Christ in historic, classical orthodoxy. It just seemed too incredible for modern rational and “scientific” people to believe that Jesus Christ could be truly human and fully, absolutely God at the same time. 

Learn more:

  1. Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry: Kenosis/What Is Kenosis?
  2. Bible.org: Jesus Incarnation
  3. Bible.org: Will you comment on the kenosis heresy?
  4. Charles T. Buntin: The Empty God
  5. Dan Musick: Christ “Emptied” Himself (Phil. 2:7)
  6. Martin Downes quoting B. B. Warfield: The Cost of Kenosis Theory
Related terms:

Filed under Defective Theology.

This week’s term was suggested by Diane Bucknell. Do you have a term you’d like to see featured here as a Theological Term of the Week? If you email it to me, I’ll seriously consider using it, giving you credit for the suggestion and linking back to your blog when I do.

Clicking on the Theological Term graphic at the top of this post will take you to a list of all the previous theological terms in alphabetical order.


Just in Time for Christmas Ordering

Westminster Bookstore has all Bibles 45% off until November 29, including all ESV Bibles published by Crossway and the Reformation Study Bible, but excluding case specials, Four Holy Gospels, and Cambridge Bibles.

That’s an excellent deal and they ship to Canada now, too. (You’ll want to be careful if you are shipping to the Yukon, the Northwest Territories or Nunavut, because the shipping costs are $12.00 + $4.50 per lb., which can very quickly cause even an extra-good price to go sour. It makes me appreciate the merchants who ship Canada-wide at a flat rate.)


Round the Sphere Again: Blue Notes

Nicole Starling writes about one of my favorite book. I read it first when I was in fourth grade and then introduced it to my own children 20 years later. I’ve never met a kid who didn’t like this story.

but not natural. The real scoop behind blue raspberry (mental_floss Blog).