Sunday, April 22, 2012

Faith Of or Faith In?

New Testament scholars debate the meaning of this phrase in Galatians 2: 16—“διά πίστις Χριστός . . . ἐκ πίστις Χριστός”

Should this be translated as “the faith of Christ” or “faith in Christ”?  Scholars who favor the former argue that Christians are justified by Christ’s faithful obedience, whereas the latter translation would mean that Christians are justified by their faith in Christ.

Wesley’s translation of this passage follows the first translation, “Even we (knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ) have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ.”  However, in his doctrinal Notes, Wesley conflates the two translations, “But by the faith of Jesus Christ - That is, by faith in him.”

The Articles of Religion reflect this double translation—
Article IX—Of the Justification of Man
We are accounted righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith, only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.
The Confession of Faith, however, only contains the latter translation—
Article IX—Justification and Regeneration
We believe we are never accounted righteous before God through our works or merit, but that penitent sinners are justified or accounted righteous before God only by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Do the United Methodist Doctrinal Standards on justification contradict each other?  (I'd love to hear some holy conversations about this question at General Conference!)

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