This started as a comment on a recent post at Word and Spirit, but was getting too long so I made it a separate post. In his post, Mark Heath discusses Romans 2:6-10 and justification. The basic problem is that if we are justified by faith, how can we be judged on the basis of works?
I've been thinking about this issue a lot lately as I've been reading Gorman's Inhabiting the Cruciform God. I think that for those of us (I include myself tentatively - Gorman's book has shaken me on this issue a bit but I'll hold off on commenting on his views until I publish my book review) who hold to a doctrine of imputation that the problem is exacerbated. If the righteousness we possess is Christ's righteousness imputed to us, then judgment on the basis of works seems to be non-sense. However, it's something that the Bible clearly affirms.
How do we go forward? One suggestion that Heath draws attention to in this Romans passage is that Paul could be speaking hypothetically. You could have eternal life if you lived perfectly, but no one does. While it may make sense within the flow of Romans, I think that too many other passages in the Bible (in Paul and outside of Paul) refer to judgment on the basis of works for that argument to hold at a biblical theological level.
Next Heath offers Schreiner's view for evaluation, that these verses are referring to Christians keeping the Law by the power of the Spirit. I think that there is a lot of merit to this view. Passages like this require us to see a strong transformative element in the righteousness of God that we receive when we are justified.
My question then is, does this work with the doctrine of imputation or are they irreconcilable? Even if we receive the ability to do works by grace, I still think that there stands strong tension with the idea that we only stand before God on the basis of Christ's righteousness. Doesn't some righteousness of our own seem to be required, even if its a righteousness that we cannot produce without the righteousness of God given to us? I would appreciate some input, as this is something I am currently wrestling with.