Faith in Christ or the Faithfulness of Christ

David Stubbs in an article for the Scottish Journal of Theology entitled The shape of soteriology and the pistis Christou debate, argues that instead of reading Scriptural texts like Romans 3:21-22 “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” and drawing the conclusion that our faith in Christ saves us, we should rather understand the texts as saying something akin to “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ to all who believe.”

In short, he along with others are advocating a new understanding of theology. Let me start by saying that I am still struggling through the implications of such a view in its entirety. I have made no conclusions on the veracity of such a claim other than to say that what is gramatically being proposed is fully acceptable in the Greek. Stubbs, outlines the basic argument of the pistis christou debate as follows:

“Those who understand the pistis Christou phrases ‘christologically’ believe Paul intends to draw parallels between the faithfulness of God, the faithfulness of Christ and a faithful human response to God….[while others] think Paul draws a sharp distinction between the common Hebrew understanding of faith meaning faithfulness and an understanding of pistis that means belief and trust in God’s faithfulness…the way one interprets the meaning of ‘faith’ has important theological implications for the relationship between faith and salvation. When one takes faith to mean merely belief and trust, faith becomes the key to acceptance by God but does not tell us anything further about the content of salvation…On the other hand, in a ‘faith(fulness) of Christ’ reading, Paul’s talk about faith and salvation no longer revolves around the typical Lutheran question of ‘how can a sinner find acceptance before a just God?’ but rather the question, ‘how can the purposes of God come to pass in light of the unfaithfulness of Gentiles and also Jews?’ Salvation now is understood as being saved from the power of ‘sin’, from the ways of the world and ‘flesh’ that are contrary to the purposes and patterns God has intended for God’s creation – these purposes of God are highlighted.” pg 145-147

I find the christocentric reading refreshing after my initial reading of the article and look forward to engaging others in dialog concerning it. If you would like a copy of the article, email Dr. Stubbs at david.stubbs[at]westernsem[dot]edu

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About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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