Reason No. 76: Faith versus Works – 100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive
Posted by NT Wrong on December 22, 2008
The following post is an abridged version of one of the 100 reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive included in my forthcoming book:
100 Reasons πίστις Χριστοῦ is an Objective Genitive
Reason No. 76: Faith versus Works
Proponents of the objective genitive have pointed out that πίστις Χριστοῦ is used in contexts where works are being contrasted with faith. As the natural contrast to human works is human faith, this supports the objective genitive translation. The interpretation is also supported by other similar passages such as Rom 9.30—10.8 and Phil 3.2-11 (Schreiner 2001: 213-14).
However, it is countered by Cousar (1996: 130) that it makes more sense to read Paul as pitting a human activity (works) against a divine activity (Christ’s faithful obedience). This rather misses the point of the passages. While Cousar’s suggestion may indeed be a “more powerful contrast” (Matera 1992), the question remains: is it the actual contrast being made in the text? Probably not. This contrast is not in fact Paul’s own contrast.
Matlock (2000: 12) provides an argument showing that this is not a good interpretation of Paul’s contrast. He points out that, if Paul’s antithesis were focused on divine versus human actions, it is unusual that Paul does not directly contrast ἔργα νόμου and ἔργα Χριστοῦ.
Accepting the governing context of Paul’s contrast between human faith and works, and between Abraham’s faith (Gen 15) and Abraham’s observance of God’s command (Gen 17), Paul’s antithetical worldview is a significant piece of evidence in favour of the objective genitive interpretation.
Hays’ theological objection that this places human faith at the basis of the promise (2002: 150-151) would only be true if human faith were the ultimate basis in any of these passages. But it is never is. Human faith is always made possible by the grace of God through Christ, and functions merely as the explanation of how humans are to appropriate this gift.