Is there a link between N. T. Wright and Roman Catholic Theology? One of N.T. Wright's most shocking statements is in his book What Saint Paul Really Said"If we use the language of the law court, it makes no sense whatever to say that the judge imputes, imparts, bequeaths, conveys or otherwise transfers his righteousness to either the plaintiff or the defendant. Righteousness is not an object, a substance or a gas which can be passed across the courtroom” (pg 98). R. C. Sproul makes the observation in his book, Getting The Gospel Right, that the church of Rome does not make imputation (accrediting something to our account) part of its doctrine of salvation. He comments: "The raging issue of the Reformation was the ground by which God declares us just. The Reformers insisted that the sole ground of our justification is the righteousness of Christ wrought for us in his perfect obedience. This is done by imputation. This means that God transfers to our account the righteousness of Christ wrought in his own person an that this righteousness is 'counted' or 'reckoned' to us by imputation. Rome, on the other hand, believes God will declare just only those who really are just, who are inherently just. What Rome rejects is Luther's simul iustus et peccator. In this formula Luther declared that believers are 'at the same time just and sinner.' We are just by virtue of the fact that Christ's righteousness has been imputed to us, an act that takes place the moment we put our faith in Christ, and thus before we have been sanctified to the point that we are no longer sinners. Rome rejects this view of justification as involving a 'legal fiction' in which God declares people to be just who are not really just. For Rome God only declares people to be just when in fact they are just. This is the issue that sharply divides the gospel of Rome from the evangelical gospel. At the heart of the 'good news' of the gospel is that God justifies us while we are still sinners" (pg 64). N. T. Wright's mockery of the doctrine of imputation reveals his true colors, his is in league with Rome. However, Sproul is not completely right either. The Scripture does not say that we get "the righteousness of Christ wrought for us in his perfect obedience." Rather it says that we get "the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe" (Romans 3:21-22). The idea that Christ had to earn righteousness to give to us comes from a misreading of Romans 5:18-19, which reads,
"Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous."It's true that Christ was obedient in all that He did, but His obedience was to the Father "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38). As a man Jesus was "born under the law" in order "to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:4-5). Christ was not born under the law in order to achieve righteousness, His obedience to the law showed who He was, the Son of God; "born under the law" means that He was born a human which made Him able to be our substitute. As God He is able to bring to us the righteousness of God. All that said, the Reformers got the main point right - righteousness is imputed to us from God. "For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:17). The righteousness of God is part of the gift of salvation. Wright and the Catholics miss the boat and miss the gospel because they believe the in some way righteousness is required for justification. The whole argument can be dismissed with two phrases: "The righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ" (Romans 3:21) and "the gift of righteousness" (Romans 5:17).