Just now and again I begin to wonder if Paul could possibly have meant anything so complex as the massive books by people like Wright, Dunn and Campbell suggest. Then in my more fanciful moments I wonder how, within the life of the Triune God where self-giving, outgoing love is creative, redemptive and eternally purposeful in God's mission to a broken world, such exegetical scholasticism, theological polemic, and conceptual gymnastics is viewed. In other words what is the justification for Christian scholars argy-bargying (is that how you spell it) over how to reduce what God has done in Christ to words that in the end will have to describe the indescribable, define the indefinable, contain and constrain the mystery of faith, and use terminology that requires in two most recent publications 1200 pages and a million or so of such inadequate words to do so.
OK. I oversimplify, unjustifiably. But do these books overcomplicate unjustifiably, since we are talking about justification here? So, what justification is there for serial book sized assertions and retorts, positions and assaults, and seasonal contests such as Piper versus Wright, Dunn versus Wright, Dunn versus Piper, Campbell versus Wright and Dunn and Piper, with others in the wing should the protagonists tire and someone else take up the exegetical cudgels and theological brickbats to show where each is wrong and they are right.
So with some relief I found someone who brings an admirable clarity to the entire discussion. I refer to the theologian most loved by people who try to live the reconciled life rather than argue about it, who don't need to exhaustively parse their vocabulary of choice before trusting in the God who in Christ justifies the ungodly, and whose goal as Christians is, well, to justify their existence as Christians by living the life of faith enabled by the grace of God in Christ to love and serve a broken but God-loved world:
Justification: (1) function of word processors that makes sure everything is tidied up satisfactorily at the end of the line (2) divine, grace-filled initiative that makes sure everything is tidied up at the end of the line.
Adrian Plass, Bacon Sandwiches and Salvation. The A-Z of the Christian Life (London: Paternoster, 2007), 97.
Whatever else Holman Hunt's painting might portray, it does make me wonder if Christ is knocking unnoticed by those inside, who are so busy debating the finer points of their particular take on theology, they won't open the door. But jesus knocks. And not so they will let him into their conceptually intense living space, but to invite them outside with Jesus into a world where what is needed is more lanterns!