God's judgment and its related themes are a particular point of interest for me, especially when they come into contact with the justification debates. So, across several posts, we'll be looking at judgment, justification, and other related topics (I am not sure how many posts it will be in total). I wrote a paper this past semester on the theme of judgment for my intro to biblical theology class. I'll present some of my findings from that paper in this series, but I also want to use these posts to extend some of the observations that I made and also address systematic theology questions that were not germane to a biblical theology paper. One thing that I do want to stress up front is that while I have put a lot of thought into these issues, I see my proposals as being far from a final word. This is a work in progress in what I intend to be a life long pursuit. I appreciate feedback, and especially push back, because, to borrow a line from NT Wright, I am sure that a fair amount of what I will go on to say here is wrong, I just don't know which parts they are. Part of my purpose in writing here is in hopes that you all will engage in these questions with me resulting in mutual sharpening.
In today's post we will address what and why. What is judgment and why am I so interested in it? We'll take the first one first, what is judgment? We can talk about two different things using the term judgment. What probably pops into most people's minds first is judgment as a negative concept. A very common usage for 'judgment' in the Bible is as the negative counterpart to salvation. Exodus 6:6 demonstrates this clearly: 'Therefore, say to the Israelites: 'I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment' (TNIV). Judgment can also be a more neutral concept meaning something like 'a rendering of a decision.' While not explicitly using the term 'judge' or 'judgment,' the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 is a good example of judgment of the latter type. Judgment can be either/or, and it's especially the latter type that needs to factor into our discussions of justification.
Why do I care about judgment and justification so much? First, I think that they're (especially judgment) central to the biblical witness. If you were to excise every passage dealing with judgment, you'd be missing a very large portion of your Bible. Second, honestly, is because it's so controversial. There are a lot of views on judgment and especially on justification (and I have no intentions of interacting with many of them, just a select few). How could something so central be understood so variously? Third, I think that our understanding of justification and judgment have sizable doctrinal and practical implications, some of which we will explore at the end of this series.