Friday, April 14, 2006

The OT as a "Forgiveness Code"

N.T. Wright has an old paper posted here :

While much of the paper anticipates arguments he developed more exhaustively in his subsequent work, there was a throw-away line that I found arresting. He mentioned that Israel took the law largely as a holiness code (hence implying separation) while the law was largely a forgiveness code (implying inclusion). The Israel of Jesus' time sinned, he argued, by separating, and thereby implicitly damning, those whom they were called to minister to (and thereby offer forgiveness to).

The approach is of course well known in Wright's more recent work. But I was struck by the contrast between viewing the OT law's distinctive as a holiness code in contrast to viewing it as a forgiveness code.

To be sure, the distinction cannot be taken to the extreme. God's holiness drives us to the cross for forgiveness, but God's forgiveness transforms us into loving servants (the "third" use of the law in Augsburg evangelical churches). Still, the neo-marcionism of much of modern Christianity sees only a holiness code in the OT, and neglects that it more strikingly presents us with a forgiveness code as well.

So, too, many non-Christians (and Christians, for that matter) seem to think of Christianity as primarily a holiness code rather than as a forgiveness "code" (if it's at all proper to refer to the means by which we receive Christ's work as a "code").


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