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Author Topic: imputed righteousness/justification?  (Read 3239 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: May 22, 2012, 12:30:53 AM »

Anyone have a relatively simple answer, that wont melt my brain, as to why the Orthodox dont often use words like 'justification' or 'imputed righteousness?'  I did a search, but the topics that came up werent that helpful.

What exactly is wrong with those terms, if anything?  Did these ideas exist in the early writings of the Church under different names?
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« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2012, 12:50:28 AM »

I'm working from memory here, but as I recall Fr. Andrew Damick tackles this in one of his "Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy" podcasts on AFR. As I recall, he defined "imputed" righteousness as a sort of opinion that God has about you, so you're affixed with the label of righteousness, rather than the Orthodox concept that one can become really and truly righteous through participation in the energies of God.

I hope I've summarized this correctly, as I'd never heard that term before I listened to the podcast. It's probably best to listen to it yourself via the AFR website (I'd provide a link, but I don't remember which talk it was).
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« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2012, 12:57:51 AM »

thanks! i will definitely look for that.  since ive listened to practically every podcast AFR has ever put out, (a slight exaggeration, but you get the point) i have probably heard it before.  ill need to find it again.

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« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2012, 01:14:01 AM »

Anyone have a relatively simple answer, that wont melt my brain, as to why the Orthodox dont often use words like 'justification' or 'imputed righteousness?'
I don't know that it's true that we don't use the word "justification". I think it more accurate to say that we don't emphasize justification as much as Protestants do.
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« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2012, 01:33:41 AM »

Anyone have a relatively simple answer, that wont melt my brain, as to why the Orthodox dont often use words like 'justification' or 'imputed righteousness?'
I don't know that it's true that we don't use the word "justification". I think it more accurate to say that we don't emphasize justification as much as Protestants do.

But on the other hand I don't think they need to be seen so antithetical to each other. I wonder what the Fathers talk about justification and imputed righteousness?
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« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2012, 02:50:55 AM »

I'm working from memory here, but as I recall Fr. Andrew Damick tackles this in one of his "Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy" podcasts on AFR. As I recall, he defined "imputed" righteousness as a sort of opinion that God has about you, so you're affixed with the label of righteousness, rather than the Orthodox concept that one can become really and truly righteous through participation in the energies of God.

I've heard this kind of thing a couple of times. The general gist of this caricature of imputed righteousness is that God puts on his " Jesus' blood-colored glasses" and views you as righteous when you are not actually righteous. My first thought upon hearing this was "then what happens at baptism?" One second we are sinners, and then *poof* we are righteous before God. The same thing happens in confession, or any other time our sins are forgiven. I think this is another example of a contrived and superficial East/West distinction. "Evil and stupid West teaches blah blah scholasticism blah."
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« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2012, 03:39:33 AM »

I am not entirely sure if I understand your question sufficiently, so please excuse me if my answer seems irrelevant or misses the point of your question. But, I think that the reason we generally refrain from using terms like 'justification' is because these terms are usually associated with legalism; something that is virtually unheard of in Orthodoxy. On the other hand, western Christians use terms like 'justification' extensively because western Christianity itself is very legalistic in nature. And I have to say that this legalistic perspective of things saddens me because it distorts the true loving and forgiving nature of God and instead substitutes it with this legalistic image of God where He is seen almost as this type of wrathful judge that wants to punish and send you to Hell unless you spend your lifetime begging Him for forgiveness. Ultimately, the spiritual life gets reduced down to that of a convict trying to appeal to the judge in hopes that he will get acquitted. But in Orthodoxy we see this type of approach to things as being unhealthy and doctrinally unsound. In fact,  I would say that this view can be very harmful because it can potentially cause people to spend so much time trying to please God and 'get on His good side' if you will in hopes of getting 'acquitted', that they ultimately forget to live out the Christian life and allow God to actually Deify them. It is like disobeying your doctor and spending so much time apologizing to him for disobedience that you ignore his new instructions and fail to follow through on his treatment because you are too busy wallowing in your self pity apologizing to him. Do you see the point? Sometimes holding onto guilt and apologizing too much can actually be a bad thing because that guilt and constant apologizing can hold you back from following God's present instructions for your life. On the other hand, Orthodoxy has no need of words like 'justification' in the legalistic sense that western Christians use it because we believe that God is a God of forgiveness and mercy; that He can always forgive us provided that we humble ourselves and are willing to receive it. Attaining forgiveness for our sins in a legalistic sense is only of secondary concern for us. Our main concern is about the long term natural affects that sin has on our souls; are our souls in a position capable of receiving God's grace and love? Are they allowing us to be Deified by the Holy Synergy or have they been so tainted with sin that they reject God's offer for deification? What state will our souls be in when we die? Will they be in a worthy state capable of continuing Theosis in the afterlife or will they still remain in a stubborn, tainted state that will be miserable and tormented by the very presence of God? The welfare of the soul is very serious business, and sin has negative affects on our soul that impede upon our deification. This is why Theosis is the main purpose of our entire spiritual life; to allow God to deify and cleanse our souls and through the process turn us into little Icons of Himself; this is what salvation is to us. Salvation is that eternal process of God bringing us closer to Him, cleansing our souls and making us like Him through His Holy Grace. Indeed, legalistic 'forgiveness' for our sins is definitely something that God grants us, but it is in no way our primary concern; for our primary concern lies in the soul becoming Deified. 'The Son of God became man so that men may become god,'-St. Athanasius.
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« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2012, 03:43:38 AM »

I'm working from memory here, but as I recall Fr. Andrew Damick tackles this in one of his "Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy" podcasts on AFR. As I recall, he defined "imputed" righteousness as a sort of opinion that God has about you, so you're affixed with the label of righteousness, rather than the Orthodox concept that one can become really and truly righteous through participation in the energies of God.

I've heard this kind of thing a couple of times. The general gist of this caricature of imputed righteousness is that God puts on his " Jesus' blood-colored glasses" and views you as righteous when you are not actually righteous. My first thought upon hearing this was "then what happens at baptism?" One second we are sinners, and then *poof* we are righteous before God. The same thing happens in confession, or any other time our sins are forgiven. I think this is another example of a contrived and superficial East/West distinction. "Evil and stupid West teaches blah blah scholasticism blah."

Does baptism (and confession) make us righteous? Or does it cleanse our sins and unite us to Christ so that we can begin the process of becoming righteous?
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« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2012, 09:28:01 AM »

Does baptism (and confession) make us righteous? Or does it cleanse our sins and unite us to Christ so that we can begin the process of becoming righteous?

Typical wordsmithing. If our sins are truly cleansed then we are made righteous. It doesn't stop there, though. Often the "imputed righteousness" is used to skirt sanctification and repentance.

It makes us righteous so that we can become divine.
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« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2012, 12:06:32 PM »

Does baptism (and confession) make us righteous? Or does it cleanse our sins and unite us to Christ so that we can begin the process of becoming righteous?

Typical wordsmithing. If our sins are truly cleansed then we are made righteous. It doesn't stop there, though. Often the "imputed righteousness" is used to skirt sanctification and repentance.

It makes us righteous so that we can become divine.

How is mine any more 'wordsmithing' than yours?
And it's an honest question - at this point I can't recall any Scriptural or Patristic references that say that baptism (and by extension confession) makes us 'righteous'. Those I'm remembering all say it cleanses us, wipes us clean of every stain. But I believe 'righteousness' is something more active and positive than simply the negative quality of 'having no sin'--were Adam and Eve 'righteous' in the Garden, or simply innocent with the opportunity to become righteous if they had resisted rather than fallen to temptation? It seems to me 'becoming righteous' and 'becoming divine' are two ways of lookng at the same process, both of which begin with the return to sinlessness caused by the Mysteries.

(As I say, 'at this point I can't recall', I've started going back over the relevent verses and Patristic commentary and will share as I come across anything on point but if you have anything besides conflicting opinion I'd appreciate seeing it).
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« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2012, 12:31:10 PM »

Please allow this Anglican Catholic to chime in...

In my opinion, Orthodox really should have nothing to fear regarding the concepts of "justification" and "imputed righteous" given that justification, while distinct from, is never separated from sanctification (ie theosis).  Why?  Because  justification and sanctification are both dependent on our ongoing union with Christ.
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« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2012, 01:36:18 PM »

Imputed righteousness is a doctrine I have heard and read mainly from the Calvinist wing of Evangelical life. The idea is - and I am not defending it, but only seeking to explain or describe it - that Christ lived a perfect life, wholly fulfilling the Law of God, vicariously, on our behalf, and that the genuine, lived righteousness of his earthly life is ascribed, assigned, credited, imputed to us. It is not linked with, and does not contradict, the teaching about sanctification, namely that the Christian should progress in a life of increasing Christlikeness.
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« Reply #12 on: May 22, 2012, 01:37:57 PM »

The general gist of this caricature of imputed righteousness is that God puts on his " Jesus' blood-colored glasses" and views you as righteous when you are not actually righteous... I think this is another example of a contrived and superficial East/West distinction. "Evil and stupid West teaches blah blah scholasticism blah."
I would disagree, Alveus. Groups actually DO spew the "blood-colored glasses" crap. But they're Protestants, not Catholics.

And usually evangelicals.

In America.

In megachurches.
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« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2012, 04:00:41 PM »

The general gist of this caricature of imputed righteousness is that God puts on his " Jesus' blood-colored glasses" and views you as righteous when you are not actually righteous... I think this is another example of a contrived and superficial East/West distinction. "Evil and stupid West teaches blah blah scholasticism blah."
I would disagree, Alveus. Groups actually DO spew the "blood-colored glasses" crap. But they're Protestants, not Catholics.

And usually evangelicals.

In America.

In megachurches.

You know, I actually don't have that big of a problem with the idea of God looking through 'blood-colored glasses' AS LONG AS one acknowledges that the ones on whom God so looks are the ones who are grafted into and who are actively abiding in the VINE, and in so doing are the same ones who will also bear the fruit of sanctification.

I do have a problem with the idea that God continues to look through 'blood-colored glasses' on those who made a one time decision to 'accept Christ' but who are no longer abiding in Him by faith which works through love.

If there is ultimately no fruit of a genuine union with Christ (John 15) then there is ultimately no imputed righteousness either. 
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« Reply #14 on: May 22, 2012, 04:04:01 PM »

The general gist of this caricature of imputed righteousness is that God puts on his " Jesus' blood-colored glasses" and views you as righteous when you are not actually righteous... I think this is another example of a contrived and superficial East/West distinction. "Evil and stupid West teaches blah blah scholasticism blah."
I would disagree, Alveus. Groups actually DO spew the "blood-colored glasses" crap. But they're Protestants, not Catholics.

And usually evangelicals.

In America.

In megachurches.

You know, I actually don't have that big of a problem with the idea of God looking through 'blood-colored glasses' AS LONG AS one acknowledges that the ones on whom God so looks are the ones who are grafted into and who are actively abiding in the VINE, and in so doing are the same ones who will also bear the fruit of sanctification.

I do have a problem with the idea that God continues to look through 'blood-colored glasses' on those who made a one time decision to 'accept Christ' but who are no longer abiding in Him by faith which works through love.

If there is ultimately no fruit of a genuine union with Christ (John 15) then there is ultimately no imputed righteousness either.  
If God actually makes us righteous, vs. merely attributing Christ's righteousness to us through some external label, then there's no point in the blood-colored glasses.

Or as Protestant theologian Greg Boyd put it, the "febreezed trash bag" model.

Besides, from a semitic perspective, God imputes everything, and not through a label. He really imputes it in the sense of making it happen. So he either imputes everything or nothing.
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« Reply #15 on: May 22, 2012, 04:04:08 PM »

If there is ultimately no fruit of a genuine union with Christ (John 15) then there is ultimately no imputed righteousness either. 

Amen.
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« Reply #16 on: May 22, 2012, 04:36:36 PM »

Looking back a my replies in the thread, I don't find them very helpful. I think that others have brought a lot more insight and really have addressed the issues better. Thanks for helping me to see a bit more nuance between remission of sins and actual righteousness. I guess I have some implanted assumptions about things that are taking years to root out. Some Southern Baptist doctrines must be in there pretty deeply and remain undetected.
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« Reply #17 on: May 22, 2012, 04:48:32 PM »

I'm working from memory here, but as I recall Fr. Andrew Damick tackles this in one of his "Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy" podcasts on AFR. As I recall, he defined "imputed" righteousness as a sort of opinion that God has about you, so you're affixed with the label of righteousness, rather than the Orthodox concept that one can become really and truly righteous through participation in the energies of God.

I've heard this kind of thing a couple of times. The general gist of this caricature of imputed righteousness is that God puts on his " Jesus' blood-colored glasses" and views you as righteous when you are not actually righteous. My first thought upon hearing this was "then what happens at baptism?" One second we are sinners, and then *poof* we are righteous before God. The same thing happens in confession, or any other time our sins are forgiven. I think this is another example of a contrived and superficial East/West distinction. "Evil and stupid West teaches blah blah scholasticism blah."

Does baptism (and confession) make us righteous? Or does it cleanse our sins and unite us to Christ so that we can begin the process of becoming righteous?

The answer is yes. Smiley
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« Reply #18 on: May 22, 2012, 05:33:41 PM »

Looking back a my replies in the thread, I don't find them very helpful. I think that others have brought a lot more insight and really have addressed the issues better. Thanks for helping me to see a bit more nuance between remission of sins and actual righteousness. I guess I have some implanted assumptions about things that are taking years to root out. Some Southern Baptist doctrines must be in there pretty deeply and remain undetected.

I think you're right, though, about Orthodox apologists manufacturing a theological conflict out of this. "Justification" and "imputed [reckoned] righteousness" are Scriptural terms that were not used as much by Eastern Fathers as they are in the West. The Church Fathers mostly wrote about what was controversial, not what was agreed on.
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« Reply #19 on: May 23, 2012, 02:32:46 AM »

Anyone have a relatively simple answer, that wont melt my brain, as to why the Orthodox dont often use words like 'justification' or 'imputed righteousness?'  I did a search, but the topics that came up werent that helpful.

What exactly is wrong with those terms, if anything?  Did these ideas exist in the early writings of the Church under different names?

No simple answers! Your brain must be melted!

1.) Read these blog posts:
http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Forthodoxbridge.com%2F%3Fp%3D796&h=2AQG65sA3 (Response to Michael Horton)

http://orthodox-apologetics.blogspot.com/2011/02/propitiation-or-expiation-in-saint-paul.html (Propitiation or Expiation in Saint Paul)




2.) Buy these books, and read them:
http://www.amazon.com/Fides-Christi-Justification-Paul-OCallaghan/dp/1851823166(Fides Christi: The Justification Debate)


http://www.amazon.com/Iustitia-Dei-Christian-Doctrine-Justification/dp/0521533899 (Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification)


http://www.amazon.com/Deification-Eastern-Orthodox-Tradition-Perspective/dp/1593336381/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1337755077&sr=1-2 (Deification in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition: A Biblical Perspective)



Your questions will then be answered
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« Reply #20 on: May 23, 2012, 11:19:47 AM »

Anyone have a relatively simple answer, that wont melt my brain, as to why the Orthodox dont often use words like 'justification' or 'imputed righteousness?'  I did a search, but the topics that came up werent that helpful.

What exactly is wrong with those terms, if anything?  Did these ideas exist in the early writings of the Church under different names?

No simple answers! Your brain must be melted!

1.) Read these blog posts:
http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Forthodoxbridge.com%2F%3Fp%3D796&h=2AQG65sA3 (Response to Michael Horton)

http://orthodox-apologetics.blogspot.com/2011/02/propitiation-or-expiation-in-saint-paul.html (Propitiation or Expiation in Saint Paul)




2.) Buy these books, and read them:
http://www.amazon.com/Fides-Christi-Justification-Paul-OCallaghan/dp/1851823166(Fides Christi: The Justification Debate)


http://www.amazon.com/Iustitia-Dei-Christian-Doctrine-Justification/dp/0521533899 (Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification)


http://www.amazon.com/Deification-Eastern-Orthodox-Tradition-Perspective/dp/1593336381/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1337755077&sr=1-2 (Deification in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition: A Biblical Perspective)



Your questions will then be answered

Thank you for the links! I read about half of the first one and it was already very helpful.  I will finish the rest later.  I will also check out the books.

EDIT*  Why are those books so expensive?? Maybe I wont check them out just yet, unless I can find them for cheaper.  Ha.  Are they textbooks or something?
« Last Edit: May 23, 2012, 11:21:03 AM by Timon » Logged

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« Reply #21 on: May 23, 2012, 12:16:31 PM »

Anyone have a relatively simple answer, that wont melt my brain, as to why the Orthodox dont often use words like 'justification' or 'imputed righteousness?'  I did a search, but the topics that came up werent that helpful.

What exactly is wrong with those terms, if anything?  Did these ideas exist in the early writings of the Church under different names?

No simple answers! Your brain must be melted!

1.) Read these blog posts:
http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Forthodoxbridge.com%2F%3Fp%3D796&h=2AQG65sA3 (Response to Michael Horton)

http://orthodox-apologetics.blogspot.com/2011/02/propitiation-or-expiation-in-saint-paul.html (Propitiation or Expiation in Saint Paul)




2.) Buy these books, and read them:
http://www.amazon.com/Fides-Christi-Justification-Paul-OCallaghan/dp/1851823166(Fides Christi: The Justification Debate)


http://www.amazon.com/Iustitia-Dei-Christian-Doctrine-Justification/dp/0521533899 (Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification)


http://www.amazon.com/Deification-Eastern-Orthodox-Tradition-Perspective/dp/1593336381/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1337755077&sr=1-2 (Deification in the Eastern Orthodox Tradition: A Biblical Perspective)



Your questions will then be answered

They are expensive because they are High Quality peer reviewed sources. If you really want to know and be informed, then you are going to have to pay the price........in more ways then one.

This isn't fast food in where you are able to get everything you want quickly! You are going to have to take the time to do the hard work and read all this stuff and pay the hard cash to get these books! If you can get it through inter-Library loan then try that, but it's best to own your own copy.

It's well worth the price for this is indeed high quality stuff!
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« Reply #22 on: May 23, 2012, 12:53:03 PM »

Gotcha. Thanks for the help. I look forward to checking this out in more detail.
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« Reply #23 on: May 24, 2012, 07:59:05 PM »

Anyone have a relatively simple answer, that wont melt my brain, as to why the Orthodox dont often use words like 'justification' or 'imputed righteousness?'  I did a search, but the topics that came up werent that helpful. What exactly is wrong with those terms, if anything?  Did these ideas exist in the early writings of the Church under different names?

I'm not sure why Orthodox theologians do not use the term "justification" more frequently.  Goodness knows, it's a perfectly respectable biblical term.  Perhaps the infrequency of usage suggests that Orthodox pastors need to start preaching on the Apostle Paul's epistles to the Romans and the Galatians.  I suspect that Eastern exegesis tends to see the Pauline use of justification as being restricted to the Jew/Gentile question of the first century and thus not particularly helpful for post-apostolic Christianity.  But in any case, justification can never enjoy the decisive importance that it enjoys in Protestant Christianity, for the reasons advanced by Panagiotes Nellas in his essay "Redemption or Deification?"  From an Orthodox perspective, justification must be integrated into the more comprehensive theme of theosis. 

For patristic discussion of justification, you might want to take a look at St John Chrysostom's homilies on Galatians and Romans. But the classic patristic work on justification is St Augustine's On the Letter and the Spirit.

As far as imputed righteousness, you will not find this notion in the Church Fathers.  Though it may have antecedents in some medieval theologians, it really is an invention of the Reformers.  Not only is imputed righteousness nonbiblical and nonpatristic, but it only makes sense within a penal construal of Atonement and the propitiation of the wrath of God.  But Orthodoxy does not understand the atonement in penal and juridical terms.  Salvation is regeneration and incorporation into the Trinitarian life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  There is no "imputation" of salvation; there is only the actual experience of salvation, in all of its transformative power and reality.  To put it simply: I do not need the imputation of righteousness, I need righteousness; I do not need the imputation of healing, I need healing.         
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« Reply #24 on: May 24, 2012, 08:27:11 PM »


As far as imputed righteousness, you will not find this notion in the Church Fathers.  Though it may have antecedents in some medieval theologians, it really is an invention of the Reformers.  Not only is imputed righteousness nonbiblical and nonpatristic, but it only makes sense within a penal construal of Atonement and the propitiation of the wrath of God.  But Orthodoxy does not understand the atonement in penal and juridical terms.  Salvation is regeneration and incorporation into the Trinitarian life of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  There is no "imputation" of salvation; there is only the actual experience of salvation, in all of its transformative power and reality.  To put it simply: I do not need the imputation of righteousness, I need righteousness; I do not need the imputation of healing, I need healing.         

That makes sense. The imputed righteousness idea certainly works better in the context of penal substitution/satisfaction.  All these theories of atonement have always been something difficult for me to really understand well.  I think that is part of the reason why the 'imputed righteousness' doesnt make sense to me either.  I mean, that idea is certainly what I was taught my whole life but now that I look at things within the context  of the Church, it just doesnt work anymore.  Im still trying to wrap my head around everything. 
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« Reply #25 on: May 25, 2012, 09:20:43 PM »

'justification'

We use this word at baptisms and chrismations.

Quote
'imputed righteousness?'

This means that (paraphrasing for simplicity) God declares that you are something when you are actually something else in reality.
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And FWIW, these are our Fathers too, you know.

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« Reply #26 on: May 26, 2012, 05:14:29 AM »

The imputed righteousness idea certainly works better in the context of penal substitution/satisfaction. 

Yes. Without discussing whether the substitutionary teaching of the atonement is correct, is part of the truth, or is wrong, your statement is (I believe) true.

Quote
All these theories of atonement have always been something difficult for me to really understand well. 

You're not the only one! I think everyone can grasp the idea that Christ bore our sins and the penalty for them in our place (whether they agree or not, it is not a difficult concept); but I suspect few people 'in the pew' understand imputed righteousness, but Reformed preachers love it. They preach it a lot - and I suspect leave their hearers baffled but still glad that Christ's work can be trusted to save them. I believe John Piper wrote a book (I forget its title) arguing that this doctrine was the secret of the success of certain great Christian leaders of the past: nonsense, in my view, for what was the secret of success for others who didn't hold or emphasise this view?
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« Reply #27 on: May 26, 2012, 01:54:23 PM »

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Christ's work can be trusted to save them.

This can be comforting, even to us.  Even if we dont have a great understanding of this, we can be comforted in the fact that, whatever happened, Christ has provided a path to Salvation.  Even if we dont completely understand that, we do understand that we must have faith and strive to grow closer to God via the sacraments.
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« Reply #28 on: May 26, 2012, 03:49:13 PM »

Even if we dont have a great understanding of this, we can be comforted in the fact that, whatever happened, Christ has provided a path to Salvation.  Even if we dont completely understand that, we do understand that we must have faith and strive to grow closer to God via the sacraments.

I have been preaching recently (the effect you "you lot"?) that one is saved by trusting Christ's work, not by understanding it. But I think it also has a lot to do with C S Lewis (in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) when the saving of Edmund is ascribed to (if I remember the phrase aright) "deeper magic from before the beginning of time".

I am happy to trust that that saved me, and to leave the mechanics of it to God.

J R R Tolkien (a devout RC) said the death and resurrection of Christ was a myth, with this difference: that it was a myth that really happened. That thought also has a lot going for it: the story of Christ works upon us in the way that the old myths did, but this myth really happened. Its effect does not depend on understanding. (Hallelujah! - for otherwise there would be little hope for the likes of me.)
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« Reply #29 on: May 27, 2012, 12:50:52 AM »

Even if we dont have a great understanding of this, we can be comforted in the fact that, whatever happened, Christ has provided a path to Salvation.  Even if we dont completely understand that, we do understand that we must have faith and strive to grow closer to God via the sacraments.

I have been preaching recently (the effect you "you lot"?) that one is saved by trusting Christ's work, not by understanding it. But I think it also has a lot to do with C S Lewis (in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe) when the saving of Edmund is ascribed to (if I remember the phrase aright) "deeper magic from before the beginning of time".

I am happy to trust that that saved me, and to leave the mechanics of it to God.

J R R Tolkien (a devout RC) said the death and resurrection of Christ was a myth, with this difference: that it was a myth that really happened. That thought also has a lot going for it: the story of Christ works upon us in the way that the old myths did, but this myth really happened. Its effect does not depend on understanding. (Hallelujah! - for otherwise there would be little hope for the likes of me.)
"I know that’s heresy in some circles, but I think it’s important that we are justified by faith: not by believing in justification by faith, but by believing in Jesus Christ." –N. T. Wright
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« Reply #30 on: May 27, 2012, 12:57:32 AM »

An excerpt from K. I. Onesti and M. T. Brauch, “Righteousness, Righteousness of God,” in  Gerald Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, eds., Dictionary of Paul and His Letters: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship (1993), pp. 827-837:

"3.5. Currents of Recent Discussion. The variations within the history of interpretation reflect two basic views: (1) that God’s righteousness is a quality of God (or Christ) imparted, making the sinner righteous; (2) that God, the righteous one, declares the sinner to be righteous in a legal transaction (imputed). These dominant views have increasingly been challenged (see Paul and His Interpreters). J. Reumann contends that there is a stronger basis in Christian hymnody for these views than in the NT.
...4. God’s Righteousness as Relation-Restoring Love.
The history of interpretation, including the recent perspectives sketched above, reveals two facets; (1) that the understanding of the righteousness of God has been largely dominated by Greek and Latin categories, where righteousness as a quality of God’s character is either given to us and makes us righteous, or is the basis for God’s judical pronouncement, declaring us righteous; (2) that the more recent discussion, in seeking to take more seriously Paul’s grounding in the OT, has found the earlier understanding to be an inadequate explication of Paul’s meaning. Particularly important has been the insistence on the OT covenantal context of the righteousness of God as an interpretive background for the Pauline formulations."  See the whole article here (@ my blog: http://katachriston.wordpress.com/2011/09/03/dikaiosyne-theou-the-righteousness-of-god-in-contemporary-biblical-scholarship/  )

Orthodox Christians today can note that significant trends in major contemporary Protestant scholarship critical of classic Reformation models reflect, e.g., concise statements in the Orthodox Study Bible that justification is not a one time not-guilty verdict, that to be justified is to be in communion/to be in covenant; that we are justified by ongoing faith (the just shall *live by* faith), that justification includes being or becoming righteous and is a covenant relationship centered in union with Christ (OSB pp. 1526-1529), and so on.

Forensic imputation is the idea that righteousness in justification is entirely extra se, i.e., it is completely external to the person and imputed in a moment of belief to the believer. Thus justification happens as a punctiliar event (not a process), and the justifying righteousness is completely external, imputed to a person "as if" he was perfect. According to the forensic view, any change in life is entirely ascribed to a categorically separate/isolated process named sanctification which is a great thing, but which has absolutely nothing to do with justification. According to this model all of one's salvation is predicated on the external righteousness of Christ judicially and forensically imputed, i.e., considered as if it belonged to the "believer" even though the believer has none. As Luther described it, we are dunghills covered with snow.

Interesting system, but certainly nonexistent before the Reformation, and in my view, unbiblical.

It is fairly difficult, for example, to reconcile certain views of forensic imputation with things like "neither will your Father forgive you if you don't forgive..." We should also note carefully that the manner in which fruitbearing, apostasy, etc. is related to imputed justification can vary considerably between major "classical" Protestant trajectories flowing from the Reformation, e.g. Luther/Calvin/Wesley/Dispensational etc.

From A. E. McGrath, " Justification," in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters: A Compendium of Contemporary Scholarship:

"How does justification relate to other Pauline soteriological terms? It is tempting to adopt a simplistic approach to the matter. For example, one could attempt to force justification, sanctification and salvation into a neat past-present-future framework (Donfried), as follows:
Justification: a past event, with present implications (sanctification).
Sanctification: a present event, dependent upon a past event (justification), which has future implications (salvation).
Salvation: a future event, already anticipated and partially experienced in the past event of justification and the present event of sanctification, and dependent upon them.
But this is inadequate. Justification has future, as well as past, reference (Rom 2:13; 8:33; Gal 5:4–5), and appears to relate to both the beginning of the Christian life and its final consummation. Similarly, sanctification can also refer to a past event (1 Cor 6:11) or a future event (1 Thess 5:23). And salvation is an exceptionally complex idea, embracing not simply a future event, but something which has happened in the past (Rom 8:24; 1 Cor 15:2) or which is taking place now (1 Cor 1:18).
It is important to note that not all Paul’s statements regarding justification are specifically linked with the theme of faith. The statements appear to fall into two general categories (Hultgren): (1) those set in strongly theocentric contexts, referring to God’s cosmic and universal action in relation to human sin; and (2) those making reference to faith, which is the mark to identify the people of God."

A few additional observations from Alister McGrath:

"Whereas Augustine taught that the sinner is made righteous in justification, Melanchthon taught that he is counted as righteous or pronounced to be righteous. For Augustine, ‘justifying righteousness’ is imparted; for Melanchthon, it is imputed in the sense of being declared or pronounced to be righteous. Melanchthon drew a sharp distinction between the event of being declared righteous and the process of being made righteous, designating the former ‘justification’ and the latter ‘sanctification’ or regeneration.’ For Augustine, these were simply different aspects of the same thing... The importance of this development lies in the fact that it marks a complete break with the teaching of the church up to that point. From the time of Augustine onwards, justification had always been understood to refer to both the event of being declared righteous and the process of being made righteous. Melanchthon’s concept of forensic justification diverged radically from this. As it was taken up by virtually all the major reformers subsequently, it came to represent a standard difference between Protestant and Roman Catholic from then on…The Council of Trent…reaffirmed the views of Augustine on the nature of justification... the concept of forensic justification actually represents a development in Luther’s thought... Trent maintained the medieval tradition, stretching back to Augustine, which saw justification as comprising both an event and a process.. (Alister E. McGrath, Reformation Thought: An Introduction (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), 108-109, 115).

"The essential feature of the Reformation doctrines of justification is that a deliberate and systematic distinction is made between justification and regeneration. Although it must be emphasized that this distinction is purely notional, in that it is impossible to separate the two within the context of the ordo salutis, the essential point is that a notional distinction is made where none had been acknowledged before in the history of Christian doctrine. A fundamental discontinuity was introduced into western theological tradition where none had ever existed, or ever been contemplated, before. The Reformation understanding of the nature of justification—as opposed to its mode—must therefore be regarded as a genuine theological novum."(Alister Mcgrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, the Beginnings to the Reformation (Cambridge University Press, 1993), Vol. 1, p. 184-5).

Be sure to check out the DPL link for further study if you have time; it's quite illuminating.
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« Reply #31 on: May 27, 2012, 10:28:31 AM »

Forensic imputation is the idea that righteousness in justification is entirely extra se, i.e., it is completely external to the person and imputed in a moment of belief to the believer. Thus justification happens as a punctiliar event (not a process), and the justifying righteousness is completely external, imputed to a person "as if" he was perfect. According to the forensic view, any change in life is entirely ascribed to a categorically separate/isolated process named sanctification which is a great thing, but which has absolutely nothing to do with justification. According to this model all of one's salvation is predicated on the external righteousness of Christ judicially and forensically imputed, i.e., considered as if it belonged to the "believer" even though the believer has none.

What a superb post! Thank you.

The quotation I have extracted is definitely what is commonly preached in Evangelical pulpits, conferences and books here in Britain. I move mainly in non-Charismatic, non-Pentecostal circles, so I cannot tell what is preached there.
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« Reply #32 on: May 27, 2012, 11:11:26 AM »

That`s the only way I can think of a Saving Christ.. By us receiving His imputed righteousness.. Than again what need was for a saving Christ?Save us from what, from Himself?
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« Reply #33 on: May 27, 2012, 01:01:26 PM »

There are some Protestant theologians who have sought to move beyond a mere forensic justification by asserting the recreative power of the justifying gospel.  Consider, for example, this passage from the great Scottish Reformed theologian T. F. Torrance:

Quote
Forgiveness is not just a word of pardon but a word translated into our existence by crucifixion and resurrection, by judgment and recreation. …  Justification is not only a declaratory act, but an actualization of what is declared. … The resurrection tells us that when God declares a man just, that man is just. Resurrection means that the Word which God sent on his mission does not return to God void but accomplishes that for which he was sent. … When, therefore, the Protestant doctrine of justification is formulated only in terms of forensic imputation or righteousness or the non-imputation of sins in such a way as to avoid saying that to justify is to make righteous, it is the resurrection that is being by-passed.  If we think of justification only in the light of the crucifixion as non-imputation of sins because of what Christ has borne for our sakes, then we have mutilated it severely. … If justification is only a forensic or judicial act of imputation or non-imputation, then the resurrection is correspondingly an "event" of the same kind.  But if the resurrection is an actual event in the raising of Jesus Christ in the fullness of his humanity from corruption and death, then justification must correspondingly be a creative, regenerating event.  A proper doctrine of justification and a proper doctrine of the resurrection hang together--when one is mutilated the other becomes attenuated.  Regarded in this way, justification is a continuing act in Christ, in whom we are continuously being cleansed, forgiven, sanctified, renewed, and made righteous. (Space, Time and Resurrection, pp.  61ff.)

Notice the similarities between Torrance and John Henry Newman:

Quote
God's word, I say, effects what it announces…. God's word is the instrument of His deed. When, then, He solemnly utters the command, "Let the soul be just," it becomes inwardly just;… On the whole then, from what has been said, it appears that justification is an announcement or fiat of Almighty God, which breaks upon the gloom of our natural state as the Creative Word upon Chaos; that it declares the soul righteous, and in that declaration, on the one hand, conveys pardon for its past sins, and on the other makes it actually righteous. (Lectures on the Doctrine of Justification)

I have not come across any Orthodox writers where the justifying and re-creative Word of the gospel is spoken in this way; but I do not see any reason why it could not be.  Any thoughts, folks?

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« Reply #34 on: May 31, 2012, 02:45:10 PM »

Consider a marriage ceremony (keeping in mind that marriage is an analogy for our relationship with God all throughout the New Testament). At the very end, the priest/pastor/officiator says, "I now pronounce you man and wife." On what basis is that declaration made? Are the two actually married? Are they only legally viewed as being married without actually being married? The declaration of marriage is made on the basis of the two actually being married. They aredeclared married because they are married. Similarly, if one is going to make the case that we are declared righteous, we are only declared righteous because we have actually been made righteous.

In marriage, the two are "married" because they have become one. In our salvation, we are made one with Christ. If you look at an icon of a saint, you will see the "halo" behind their head (I forget the name that we typically use for that). That is the uncreated light of God that is, essentially, the life of Christ in that person. We see it coming from that person only because Christ is in that person and that person is united to Christ. That Light is that saint's justification, and it is our justification, too. That which is Christ's is ours. His life is lived in us. We are made one with Him. It is not a matter of a legal contract, but a matter of intimate relationship. And in that relationship we become more and more like the one to whom we are married (that "marriage" begins at our Baptism). And as I let go of myself more and more, Christ's life becomes more and more apparent in my life, and that union of lives becomes more and more complete.

Thus, we can say that we "have been justified", and we can also say that we are "growing in our justification", as our "justification" is our union with the Life of God though our marriage to Him, which happens at our Baptism.
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« Reply #35 on: June 04, 2012, 10:17:05 AM »

Consider a marriage ceremony (keeping in mind that marriage is an analogy for our relationship with God all throughout the New Testament). At the very end, the priest/pastor/officiator says, "I now pronounce you man and wife." On what basis is that declaration made? Are the two actually married? Are they only legally viewed as being married without actually being married? The declaration of marriage is made on the basis of the two actually being married. They aredeclared married because they are married. Similarly, if one is going to make the case that we are declared righteous, we are only declared righteous because we have actually been made righteous.

In marriage, the two are "married" because they have become one. In our salvation, we are made one with Christ. If you look at an icon of a saint, you will see the "halo" behind their head (I forget the name that we typically use for that). That is the uncreated light of God that is, essentially, the life of Christ in that person. We see it coming from that person only because Christ is in that person and that person is united to Christ. That Light is that saint's justification, and it is our justification, too. That which is Christ's is ours. His life is lived in us. We are made one with Him. It is not a matter of a legal contract, but a matter of intimate relationship. And in that relationship we become more and more like the one to whom we are married (that "marriage" begins at our Baptism). And as I let go of myself more and more, Christ's life becomes more and more apparent in my life, and that union of lives becomes more and more complete.

Thus, we can say that we "have been justified", and we can also say that we are "growing in our justification", as our "justification" is our union with the Life of God though our marriage to Him, which happens at our Baptism.

Thanks! This is a very helpful analogy.
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« Reply #36 on: June 13, 2012, 11:24:14 AM »

This is similar to a comment I made in another thread, so forgive me for beating a dead horse.  As a convert from the Lutheran Church, this was a huge issue for me.

"Justification" as Protestants understand it doesn't really make sense in Orthodox theology.  Most Protestants (and I include Lutherans in this out of convenience and similarity of terms, though I acknowledge they do not typically consider themselves Protestants) view "justification" as God declaring us righteous and forgiving our sins.  This, say Protestants, is salvation.  Sanctification is something that happens after justification, and is the process of us conforming our lives to Christ, but justification, not sanctification, is the playing field of salvation.  There are a number of problems with this when looking at it from an Orthodox perspective. First, for us, "salvation" is not split up between "justification" and "sanctification."  There are a lot of reasons for it, but approaching it from a Protestant perspective, the biggest one is that we are not guarding against works righteousness, because that idea is also foreign to Orthodox theology. Second, "grace" in Orthodoxy means something completely different than it does in Protestantism.  Rather than being "unmerited favor," for us, "grace" is the operation of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian -- it is how God works in us and through us.  It is an action, not a declaration.  I've said before that we take widely divergent paths in our theology, but we end up not very far apart in the final analysis.  I'll try to sort some of that out.

For the Orthodox, salvation is not a forensic "ruling" where God declares us righteous.  For the Orthodox, the problem of man is not that we sin, or even that we are sinners, but rather that we have lost communion with God in the fall.  Sin and "being sinners" are both results of the fall, but the fall itself -- this broken communion -- is the problem.  We sin because we are mortal.  Lacking the connection with the source of life itself, we look to preserve our lives instead of caring for the poor, putting our needs behind our neighbor's, etc.  This is why we steal, we kill, we lie, we cheat -- all because we are inwardly focused and striving (in vain) to preserve our "life" for as long as it will last.  It is why we fear death more than anything else.

For the Orthodox, "salvation" is not MERELY having our sins forgiven.  It is that, but it is not ONLY that.  Rather, "salvation" is being reconnected to the divine energies of God, since He is the source of life.  This was accomplished in the person of Christ.  He took on our humanity not to "pay the penalty" for our sins and satisfy God's divine judgment, but to HEAL our humanity and make us whole again.  This healing cannot be accomplished through our works.  We can do all the good works in the world and we are still broken, dying and lost.  The Theotokos is a good example of this -- we confess her to be without personal sin (to varying degrees, depending on which Orthodox you talk to), and yet she was still in need of a savior.  Her good works availed her nothing without Christ taking on her flesh, restoring the commiunion with the Father in mankind, and then giving that communion to us in the Sacramental life.

For us, we are "declared righteous" in several ways.  In Absolution, in the Eucharist, in Baptism, etc.  Our sins are forgiven and the slate is clean.  But this is the beginning of salvation, not the end of it.  God could easily forgive our sins without Christ.  He has chosen to do more than that.  He makes us holy, actually makes us righteous.  And this is not something that is done once for all, but rather it is a lifelong process and that "lifelong" includes the life to come.  We are constantly being drawn closer and closer to the Father through our communion with Christ.  This makes Protestants wary because to them, when we say our good works are part of our salvation, and our almsgiving, prayer and fasting are part of salvation, they hear us as saying "God needs me to do these things so that He can forgive me," and they think we are earning our own salvation.  But for us, these are things we do not in order to be saved, but because we are saved. 

I have analogized before that it is like making my kids eat their vegetables.  I don't do this because I enjoy seeing them make faces, or because I'm the boss and I just have this overriding need for them to do what I tell them to do so that my justice will be satisfied.  I make them eat their vegetables because it is good for THEM, not me.  For us, good works, prayer, fasting, almsgiving -- these are things we do because they are for OUR good.  Not to satisfy God, but to live the life He has given us to live, because this is what salvation is.  We do good works not to "please God" (though our good works certainly please God), but rather God "makes" us do good works because they are what is good for us.  He doesn't need our works, we do.

In proofexting these ideas, most Protestants know Ephesians 2:8-10:

Quote
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

But most don't read on to verse 11:

Quote
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We agree -- salvation is not "because of" our works.  But works are what we have been saved to do.  They are good for us.  They are what is healthy.  Like eating your vegetables.  As we grow, the hope is we learn to love eating our vegetables because they are good for us, not because someone is "making" us eat them.  It is the same with good works, prayer, fasting, almsgiving -- we are children learning to be whole.  And as with any child/parent relationship, we hope to grow more and more able to do this on our own, but we will always rely on our parents.  This is perhaps where the analogy falls apart -- our heavenly Father will always be with us, and we will always need Him.
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« Reply #37 on: June 14, 2012, 02:53:44 PM »

Another great response! Thank you for this.  I like the vegetable analogy and may use that one myself! Smiley
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Even if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit, our confidence in being heard must be based on God's mercy and His love for men. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is by mercy that we shall be saved.

— Chrysostom

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Clemente
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« Reply #38 on: June 14, 2012, 05:26:58 PM »

This is similar to a comment I made in another thread, so forgive me for beating a dead horse.  As a convert from the Lutheran Church, this was a huge issue for me.

"Justification" as Protestants understand it doesn't really make sense in Orthodox theology.  Most Protestants (and I include Lutherans in this out of convenience and similarity of terms, though I acknowledge they do not typically consider themselves Protestants) view "justification" as God declaring us righteous and forgiving our sins.  This, say Protestants, is salvation.  Sanctification is something that happens after justification, and is the process of us conforming our lives to Christ, but justification, not sanctification, is the playing field of salvation.  There are a number of problems with this when looking at it from an Orthodox perspective. First, for us, "salvation" is not split up between "justification" and "sanctification."  There are a lot of reasons for it, but approaching it from a Protestant perspective, the biggest one is that we are not guarding against works righteousness, because that idea is also foreign to Orthodox theology. Second, "grace" in Orthodoxy means something completely different than it does in Protestantism.  Rather than being "unmerited favor," for us, "grace" is the operation of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian -- it is how God works in us and through us.  It is an action, not a declaration.  I've said before that we take widely divergent paths in our theology, but we end up not very far apart in the final analysis.  I'll try to sort some of that out.

For the Orthodox, salvation is not a forensic "ruling" where God declares us righteous.  For the Orthodox, the problem of man is not that we sin, or even that we are sinners, but rather that we have lost communion with God in the fall.  Sin and "being sinners" are both results of the fall, but the fall itself -- this broken communion -- is the problem.  We sin because we are mortal.  Lacking the connection with the source of life itself, we look to preserve our lives instead of caring for the poor, putting our needs behind our neighbor's, etc.  This is why we steal, we kill, we lie, we cheat -- all because we are inwardly focused and striving (in vain) to preserve our "life" for as long as it will last.  It is why we fear death more than anything else.

For the Orthodox, "salvation" is not MERELY having our sins forgiven.  It is that, but it is not ONLY that.  Rather, "salvation" is being reconnected to the divine energies of God, since He is the source of life.  This was accomplished in the person of Christ.  He took on our humanity not to "pay the penalty" for our sins and satisfy God's divine judgment, but to HEAL our humanity and make us whole again.  This healing cannot be accomplished through our works.  We can do all the good works in the world and we are still broken, dying and lost.  The Theotokos is a good example of this -- we confess her to be without personal sin (to varying degrees, depending on which Orthodox you talk to), and yet she was still in need of a savior.  Her good works availed her nothing without Christ taking on her flesh, restoring the commiunion with the Father in mankind, and then giving that communion to us in the Sacramental life.

For us, we are "declared righteous" in several ways.  In Absolution, in the Eucharist, in Baptism, etc.  Our sins are forgiven and the slate is clean.  But this is the beginning of salvation, not the end of it.  God could easily forgive our sins without Christ.  He has chosen to do more than that.  He makes us holy, actually makes us righteous.  And this is not something that is done once for all, but rather it is a lifelong process and that "lifelong" includes the life to come.  We are constantly being drawn closer and closer to the Father through our communion with Christ.  This makes Protestants wary because to them, when we say our good works are part of our salvation, and our almsgiving, prayer and fasting are part of salvation, they hear us as saying "God needs me to do these things so that He can forgive me," and they think we are earning our own salvation.  But for us, these are things we do not in order to be saved, but because we are saved. 

I have analogized before that it is like making my kids eat their vegetables.  I don't do this because I enjoy seeing them make faces, or because I'm the boss and I just have this overriding need for them to do what I tell them to do so that my justice will be satisfied.  I make them eat their vegetables because it is good for THEM, not me.  For us, good works, prayer, fasting, almsgiving -- these are things we do because they are for OUR good.  Not to satisfy God, but to live the life He has given us to live, because this is what salvation is.  We do good works not to "please God" (though our good works certainly please God), but rather God "makes" us do good works because they are what is good for us.  He doesn't need our works, we do.

In proofexting these ideas, most Protestants know Ephesians 2:8-10:

Quote
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

But most don't read on to verse 11:

Quote
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We agree -- salvation is not "because of" our works.  But works are what we have been saved to do.  They are good for us.  They are what is healthy.  Like eating your vegetables.  As we grow, the hope is we learn to love eating our vegetables because they are good for us, not because someone is "making" us eat them.  It is the same with good works, prayer, fasting, almsgiving -- we are children learning to be whole.  And as with any child/parent relationship, we hope to grow more and more able to do this on our own, but we will always rely on our parents.  This is perhaps where the analogy falls apart -- our heavenly Father will always be with us, and we will always need Him.
Great answer. Thanks. Grace and peace to you.
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