Vanguard readers, allow me to introduce you to Nick, a Catholic apologist friend of mine who wrote this in-depth article on the Protestant doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and justification.
I am grateful to Nick for taking the time to dig in and research this important doctrine, and for him allowing me to post his work as a guest article here.
Imputation: The fig-leaf of the Reformation
The doctrine of Imputation truly is the linchpin of Protestantism. I believe it was this doctrine that led to advocating for Sola Scriptura, because in the Protestant mind the Catholic Church had mangled the plain Scriptural teaching on Justification so badly that there was no way Catholicism could be right. Obviously, if someone botches a key doctrine of Scripture, then they lose a lot of credibility. In this article I am going to analyze what Imputation is and see whether it is Biblical or not. I will conclude by examining what the Early Church Fathers have to say on a few important passages.
What is Imputation?
Imputation is relatively simple concept, despite the term itself being somewhat outdated. Reformed pastor and writer Dr Joel Beeke explains the concept as follows:
Imputation signifies to credit something to someone’s account by transfer, i.e. God transfers the perfect righteousness of Christ to the elect sinner as a gracious gift, and transfers all of the sinner’s unrighteousness to Christ who has paid the full price of satisfaction for that unrighteousness. (Justification by Faith Alone)
Concurring with this definition, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church issued an important “Report on Justification”in 2006, stating,
“We need to be reckoned or accounted (logizomai) as righteous in God’s sight and imputation is the way that we as a confessional church understand the Scriptures to speak of that transfer of righteousness (cf. WLC 71)” (p74).
Adding a significant detail to the definition of Imputation, the the OPC’s references the Greek word logizomai. Reformed Scholar T.F. Torrance states Paul’s use of logizomai corresponds directly to the Reformer’s notion of Imputation (Atonement, p136). This Greek word will be the central focus of this study, since it is the term Scripture uses when speaking on imputation of righteousness, especially in Romans 4 (where logizomai is used 11 times).
The Tyndale Biblical Dictionary, “Imputation”, p630, summarizes how Imputation connects all the important aspects of justification together:
The Biblical teaching on imputation represents one of the principal doctrines of the Christian faith. … In relation to the doctrine of salvation, the word is consistently used in a legal sense. Philemon 1:18, which affirms that the apostle Paul assumed the debt of Onesimus, aptly illustrates the predominant theological usage of the word: “if he owes you anything, charge that to my account.”
The Bible sets forth the theological concept of imputation in three distinct yet related ways. First, Scripture affirms the imputation of Adam’s original sin to the entire human race. … Second, the sin and guilt of the human race was imputed to Christ… Finally, the Bible teaches that, as a result of his atoning work, Christ’s righteousness is set to the believer’s account.
Following the example of Philemon 1:18, the Protestant notion of imputation is exemplified when Paul graciously takes on the debt Onesimus owes his master, transferring his debt to Paul’s account. This dictionary goes onto state that, according to Scripture, this same concept of Imputation takes place in a three-fold manner: (1) when the guilt of Adam’s sin is imputed to all men; (2) when the sins of believers are imputed to Christ; and (3) when the righteous and obedient life of Christ is imputed to the believer by faith. Various other Bible dictionaries repeat this truth almost verbatim (Cf. Easton’s Bible Dictionary EBD, “Imputation”, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, “Imputation”; Nelsons New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, “Imputation”; Grudem’s Systematic Theology pages 725ff).
That brief description should give an idea of how to interpret the Westminster Confession of Faith, which is a major historic Protestant document that has been a standard on how to properly understand the true meaning of Justification by Faith Alone. In the Chapter on Justification it says:
Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.
Here the authors of the Confession distinguish between “infused righteousness” and “imputed righteousness”. The Confession makes a secondary distinction on top of that, stating that faith itself is not what is imputed as righteousness, but rather the righteousness of Christ is. Note that there is an equivocation in the Confession on this point, since the term “imputing” is used twice in the Confession, but not in the same sense. While the latter instance of “imputing” is used to mean “transferring” an (extrinsic) righteousness, the former instance of “imputing” cannot mean this, since “imputing faith itself” cannot mean “transferring faith”. This problem of equivocation will come to greater light later in this essay.
Despite the straightforwardness in which these sources explain the doctrine of Imputation, some Protestant sources are honest enough to admit that the teaching is not clearly laid out in Scripture. One scholar, George Ladd, taught the following in his hugely popular seminary textbook:
Paul never expressly states that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to believers. His words are, “And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom 4:3,5).
These words could be taken to mean that God regarded faith as the most meritorious human achievement, and therefore God accounts faith as the equivalent to full righteousness. This, however, would ignore the context of Pauline thought.
(A Theology of the New Testament, “Imputation”)
What is even more worthy of note, in my opinion, is what one of the foremost Reformed scholars today, D. A. Carson, said in an equally grand admission in his boldly titled essay “The Vindication of Imputation”:
Even if we agree that there is no Pauline passage that explicitly says, in so many words, that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to his people, is there biblical evidence to substantiate the view that the substance of this thought is conveyed?
(Justification: What’s at Stake, Ch2, P50)
And a few pages later he is even more clear:
It is time, past time perhaps, to devote some attention to the most crucial passage where Paul says that something was indeed imputed to a certain person as righteousness – even though Paul does not unambiguously say that what was imputed was Christ’s righteousness. No, he says that faith was imputed – credited, reckoned – to Abraham as righteousness, and the same is true today (Rom 4:3-5). The passage is notoriously complex. I shall restrict myself to the following observations. (P55f)
This is quite an astonishing admission by a well respected and very conservative scholar, since Protestants teach that the Bible alone is the only inspired source for Christian teaching, including the idea that Scripture clearly teaches all essential doctrines (i.e. Scripture is “perspicuous”). So, from the get to, Carson has not only admitted that Romans 4 is “notorious complex,” but also that Paul does not clearly state Christ’s righteousness is imputed. This should leave room for a long pause to consider the implications of these admissions: the chief proof text for Justification by Faith Alone, Romans 4:3, does not, by their own admission, clearly teach what they need it to teach.
Any reasonable person will agree that a doctrine does not have to be explicitly taught in Scripture to be true, with the doctrine of the Trinity being the chief example. This is indeed what Protestants argue when it is affirmed that Paul nowhere clearly teaches Christ’s Righteousness is imputed. But there is an important catch here: though the word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible, the word “impute” does. The Greek word logizomai appears 41 times in the New Testament, and in the Old Testament the equivalent Hebrew term chashab appears about 120 times. These two terms are translated into English in various ways, most popularly as “reckoned” or “counted”. Thus, if God deemed a term worthy to be used over 150 times in the Bible, and yet never used it the way Protestants contend, then there is clearly a problem.
In the course of this article, I will demonstrate the following propositions beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The Bible never uses the term logizomai (or any similar term) in regards to the three-fold imputation of Adam’s sin to mankind, our sin to Christ, or Christ’s Righteousness to the believer.
- The term logizomai never means “to transfer” or anything similar. Nor does the term ever get used in an ‘instrumental sense’, that is, with something like faith being an ‘empty hand’ (i.e. no inherent value) that simply ‘reaches out’ and ‘carries’ something of value from one place to another.
- The Early Church Fathers don’t interpret key texts in the way that Protestants do, forcing the Protestant side to dispense with the Patristic testimony.
- (Appendix) There is a serious lack of integrity and honesty in Protestant scholarship and thinking when approaching and speaking on this subject. This is especially true when it comes to addressing logizomai, particularly when analyzing how the Bible employs the term.
It is for these reasons why I say logizomai is the lynchpin of Protestantism. Once one examines the plain evidence, they will see Protestantism has not a single leg to stand on.
What does the Bible say about logizomai?
Many people get uneasy when the issue of Biblical Greek comes up because they simply don’t know any Greek. This is understandable. The good news is, knowledge of Greek is not crucial for understanding logizomai, since we have the aid of Bible dictionaries and lexicons. The biggest strength about the case I will present is that it does not rely upon the opinions of Greek scholars, but rather a straightforward analysis of how and when the Bible employs the term. One simply needs to go through every occurrence of logizomai in the Old and New Testaments (about 160 verses) to see how the term is used and whether or not it ever occurs in reference to the three-fold imputation taught by Protestantism. Though I have done this and I strongly recommend others to invest about 2 hours to do so themselves, in this article I make this study even easier by highlighting key examples and showing what to look for.
The easiest place to start is examining how the New Testament uses logizomai, which requires looking at 40 verses. This is the most important set of data to examine. That might seem like a lot of work, but this issue is so crucial that there is no room for intellectual laziness. I will list off and categorize all the verses which use logizomai, and one simply needs to hover their mouse over the passage to see what the verse says.
To “reckon” (logizomai) something is to form a correct mental evaluation or calculation about it. So, for example, to reckon something as having a certain quality, it is because that thing truly does have that quality.
- John 11:50 – they reckon it’s better to lose one life rather than many
- Acts 19:27 – the pagans reckon their idol to be of value and don’t want it devalued
- Romans 3:28 – Paul reckons that faith justifies apart from the works of the Law
- Romans 4:4 – working wages are reckoned in the debt category (as on a ledger)
- Romans 4:8 – sin is not reckoned to David since his sins are forgiven (Ps 32:1)
- Romans 6:11 – the Christian is to reckon themselves dead to sin and alive to Christ
- Romans 8:18 – Paul reckons the present sufferings don’t compare to Heavenly glory
- Romans 9:8 – Abraham’s spiritual children are reckoned as God’s children
- 1 Corinthians 4:1 – Christians should reckon Paul as a servant of God
- 1 Corinthians 13:5 – love does not reckon or dwell on wrongs done
- 1 Corinthians 13:11 – when Paul was a child, he’d reckon (reason) as a child does
- 2 Corinthians 3:5 – Paul doesn’t reckon himself adequate apart from God’s grace
- 2 Corinthians 5:19 – God does not reckon sins to believers who are forgiven
- 2 Corinthians 10:7 – let Christians reckon themselves to be in Christ
- 2 Corinthians 10:11 – let Christians reckon that Apostolic authority exists in writing
- 2 Corinthians 11:5 – Paul reckons himself a full fledged Apostle
- 2 Corinthians 12:6 – nobody should reckon Paul to be more that what he really is
- Philippians 3:13 – Paul reckons he has not laid hold of the final prize (Heaven) yet
- Philippians 4:8 – Christians are to reckon or dwell upon whatever is good
- 2 Timothy 4:16 – Paul forgives his friends and so doesn’t want sin reckoned to them
- Hebrews 11:19 – Abraham reckoned that God could raise the dead
- 1 Peter 5:12 – Paul reckons Silvanus as a faithful Christian
Some passages show when people “reckon” something incorrectly, that is they make a mental error concerning the true nature of something, and reveals the individual to be either ignorant or malicious.
- Mark 15:28, Luke 22:37 – Jesus is falsely reckoned as a transgressor
- Romans 2:3 – the hypocrite falsely reckons he wont be judged for his sins
- Romans 8:36 – persecutors falsely reckon Christians as sheep to be slaughtered
- Romans 14:14 – the weak Christian brother improperly reckons foods unclean
- 2 Corinthians 10:2 – some troublemakers falsely reckon Paul as an unbeliever
It is possible to reckon by assigning an equivalency to something else, such as in the case of Romans 2:26, where God will reckon a commandment keeping Gentile as being inside the covenant, even if he never got the opportunity to be circumcised.
In examining these 29 verses, clearly these lists are in harmony as to what it means to logizomai something. In each case it is clear a person either is reckoning something accurate or else he should have been if he did not. This leaves to be examined the 10 verses in Romans 4 speaking of “reckoning righteousness,” along with the parallels in Galatians 3:6 and James 2:23.
Approaching Romans 4, especially the critical verse 4:3 – Abraham’s faith being reckoned as righteousness (cf 4:5, 9) – with the consensus just established, it should be very clear that for God to reckon (logizomai) faith as righteousness, it is because faith in God does have a righteous quality about it. Contextually speaking, which is no less important, Abraham’s faith is clearly described as robust and worthy of imitation (see Romans 4:18-22 and James 2:22-23). Paul’s reference to Genesis 15:6 in Galatians 3:6-9 sheds even more light on this matter, since he places his quote within the context of Abraham’s faithful obedience of Genesis 12:1ff (Galatians 3:8; see Hebrews 11:8), and even uses the Greek word for “faithful” (3:9b; G4103:pistos) as a synonym for his regular word, “faith” (3:9a; G4102:pistis). Some Protestants might appeal to Romans 2:26, suggesting it’s possible for God to reckon faith as righteousness even if it is not, but they misuse this example because a true comparison would mean faith holds the equivalent weight of, say, keeping all the commandments perfectly – which is perfectly reasonable (but unacceptable for Protestants).
This ‘foundational’ analysis of the New Testament can be carried over to help analyze how the Old Testament employs logizomai through the Hebrew equivalent chashab (since Rom. 4:3 quotes Gen. 15:6). Since chashab occurs about 120 times in the Old Testament, I will not quote and categorize every verse. Instead, I will simply quote and categorize the most pertinent examples:
Quite often, about 50 times, the term chashab means “to devise,” particularly to devise an evil plot against someone (e.g. 1 Sam. 18:25; Neh. 6:2; Ps. 10:2; 21:11; 35:4; 40:17; 73:16; 119:59). These numerous passages testify that reckoning is about mentally calculating, not transferring.
As with the New Testament, chashab means to form a right mental evaluation of something. For example:
- Genesis 15:6 – Abraham’s faith is reckoned to have the quality of righteousness
- Genesis 31:15 – Laban sold his daughters and thus now reckons them as foreigners
- Leviticus 7:18 – an improper sacrifice will not be reckoned as valid
- Leviticus 17:4 – the man who unlawfully sheds blood will be reckoned a sinner
- Leviticus 25:27; 25:50; 25:52; 27:18; 27:23 – the priest should reckon or calculate the proper value of land based on usage and jubilee year
- Numbers 23:9 – God will reckon Israel as a special people, set apart from others
- 2 Samuel 19:19 – Shimei asks King David not to reckon him guilty, to forgive him
- Nehmiah 13:13 – faithful workers are reckoned as reliable
- Psalm 32:2 – the blessed man is the forgiven man, he has no sin reckoned to him
- Psalm 106:31 – Phinehas’s good deed was ‘reckoned as righteousness’
And as with the New Testament, there are many examples of people in the Old Testament reckoning incorrectly, often using sinful motives. For example:
- Genesis 38:15 – Judah falsely reckons his daugher-in-law to be a prostitute
- 1 Samuel 1:13 – Eli the priest falsely reckons the praying woman to be drunk
- Job 13:24; 19:11; 33:10 – Job falsely reckons that God is mad at him
- Psalm 44:22 – mentioned in the NT analysis above
- Isaiah 29:16 – the wicked falsely reckon that the potter is equal to the clay
- Isaiah 53:3-4, 12 – the wicked falsely reckon the Messiah as under God’s displeasure
Finally, as with the New Testament, there are examples in the Old Testament where something is considered equivalent or holding the same weight as something else, for either calculating or metaphorical purposes. For example:
- Leviticus 25:31 – houses without walls shall be reckoned as equivalent to an open fields for taxing and zoning purposes (see the earlier Lev. 25 examples)
- Numbers 18:27; 18:30 – the Levites’ tithe is reckoned the equivalent of the harvest tithes of the citizens, since the Levites don’t own land and cannot harvest
- Job 41:27, 29 – The Leviathan monster is so strong it reckons human weapons as equivalent to sticks and straw
- Isaiah 40:15, 17 – God is so ‘big’ that all creation is reckoned as equivalent to a speck of dust in His sight
We see the same trend in the Old Testament as in the New Testament examples. Protestants desperate to find ‘exceptions’ will look in vain. Any appeals by them to the last set of verses simply fails to recognize there is a metaphorical/equivalency use to chashab, just like the Romans 2:26 example, which doesn’t help their cause.
And notice that the first two points of my thesis are explicitly confirmed: nowhere does the Bible use logizomai in reference to the three-fold imputation taught by Protestantism, and nowhere does logizomai mean anything along the lines of “to transfer”.
At this point I should focus a bit more on some of the key texts, since they play a more significant role than the others.
- Philemon 1:18 speaks of having a debt “charged to” Paul’s account. This text is important because it is one of the most appealed to passages by Protestants (throughout their history) when “proving” their doctrine of Imputation from Scripture. But what isn’t well known – and there’s no good excuse for this – is that the term logizomai does not appear in this text! Rather, it is an other Greek word, ellogeo, which appears only here and in Romans 5:13. This is quite an astonishing revelation, for why would Protestants be looking to an obscure Biblical term when the term Paul used throughout Romans 4 appears numerous times throughout Scripture?
- Psalm 106:30-31 uses the identical Greek/Hebrew language as Genesis 15:6. This is huge. Using the principle of ‘Scripture interprets Scripture‘, and basic logic, we should conclude that the identical phrases have the same meaning. Thus, while Phinehas’ deed was “reckoned” as a good righteous deed, so must Abraham’s faith have been. Of course, this is devastating to Protestantism, so they must scour to find a reason around this, despite the fact the ‘plain reading’ of Scripture fits just fine.
- Psalm 32:2 gives an important insight on what it means to “not impute sin” to someone (see also Romans 4:8 comment below). This Psalm was written by David, repenting after he sinned gravely and lost his justification. Even Luther recognized this (see Smalcald Articles #43). The “blessed man” (i.e. justified) of verse 1 is he who has his “sins forgiven,” and “in who’s spirit there is no deceit”. He is the one who did not hide his sin but confessed it to God (verse 5), after which he became “righteous” and “upright in heart” (verse 11). The parallel prayer to this is David in Psalm 51, where he is just as explicit on what happens at forgiveness, namely the sinner is “washed,” “cleansed,” “purged,” resulting in a man “whiter than snow” and having “a clean heart”. With all this going on, how can there be sin to reckon? There cannot be! Thus to “not impute sin” is synonymous to saying “forgive,” that is “make my slate clean so there is no sin there to reckon”. This is the principle in which we are to interpret texts like 2 Samuel 19:19, 2 Corinthians 5:19 and 2 Timothy 4:19 (Cf Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60).
- James 2:21-23 says that “Abraham’s faith was active with and completed by works”. Does that sound like a faith that lacks a righteous quality to it? Quite the contrary (see Romans 4:18-22 and Galatians 3:9). Ironically, many Protestants condemn 1 Maccabees 2:52 as heretical for saying Abraham’s act of offering up Isaac was “credited as righteousness” (same phrase as Genesis 15:6), and yet this is in fact what James 2:21-24 says!
- Romans 4:4 uses logizomai sandwiched right between the important verses 3 and 5, where logizomai also appears. Obviously, the term must have the same meaning in all three verses, else Paul would be equivocating. Though many misread verse 4 to be saying wages are “transferred” to an “account,” that’s not what the verse is saying. Rather the verse is speaking in terms of a ledger, where ‘working wages’ are recorded on the “debt” column, and thus “reckoned as debt”. In other words, the wage is reckoned in the mind as what it truly is, having the quality of a debt. This necessitates that faith should be reckoned as what it truly is as well.
- Romans 4:8 is in a similar case as Romans 4:4. As noted earlier, this text is important for it quotes Psalm 32:2. What is important to note here is how logizomai is being used, in a negated fashion: “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not impute sin”. If logizomai in Romans 4 means “to transfer,” then Romans 4:8 ends up saying: “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not transfer sin.” That’s absurd, for it means the Blessed (justified) individual is he whom the Lord will not get rid of his sin! Thus, logizomai cannot mean “transfer” in this context. This ties into the equivocation in the Westminster Confession that was mentioned earlier in this essay.
As we can see, these texts can determine a lot, and thus it is important to keep these texts and principles in mind as we approach the next phase of this study.
What do the Church Fathers say about Genesis 15:6 and Psalm 32:2?
A study of logizomai would be incomplete without a look at how the Early Church Fathers interpreted key texts like Genesis 15:6 and Psalm 32:2. This testimony will either confirm or refute what has just been presented. I was able to find about eight Church Fathers who directly reference Genesis 15:6, none of whom said anything close to resembling the idea faith has no intrinsic quality of righteousness and instead must look ‘outside itself’ to Christ’s (alien) righteousness. It was this kind of realization that led the early Protestants to conclude that the Fathers were only as useful as a lexicon or Bible dictionary (see Tradition and the Lexicon), rather than successors of the Apostles who passed on invaluable testimony of the Christian Faith. And it is at this point where the Protestant mind has little issue dispensing with the Councils and Patristics whenever they don’t support the Protestant interpretation of Scripture, but this approach implicitly succumbs to the error of Ecclesial Deism since this is effectively saying the Early Church didn’t understand the “plain teaching of Scripture” on a (very) essential matter and thus misunderstood and failed to teach the heart of the Gospel.
The Patristic testimony is unanimous in seeing Genesis 15:6 as signifying a righteous act of faithful obedience on Abraham’s part, starting as early as Saints Clement (Epistle to the Corinthians Ch 10) and Irenaeus (AH 4:16:2; 5:32:2). Saint Cyprian states the consensus quite succinctly, “whosoever believes in God and lives in faith is found righteous, and already is blessed in faithful Abraham, and is set forth as justified” (Epistle 62:4 Cf. Chrysostom, Commentary on Hebrews, Homily 34:7; Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 5:5). Saint Hilary could not be more direct, “Nothing is more righteous than Faith” (On the Trinity, 10:68; 9:64), and St. Gregory of Nyssa concurs with that sentiment, “God counts to men for righteousness their faith, not their knowledge” (Answer to Eunomius). Saint Augustine sheds some more direct light on logizomai when he confronts the Donatists, saying their unbelief should be “counted unto you for unrighteousness, as it fairly would be counted” (Answer to Petilian Ch14:33), and Chyrsostom substitutes the standard term by saying Abraham’s “faith sufficed unto righteousness” (Commentary on Galatians 3:6).
Commenting on Psalm 32:3, the Catholic Encyclopedia states, “It is one of God’s attributes always to substantiate His declarations; if He covers sin and does not impute it, this can only be effected by an utter extinction or blotting out of the sin. Tradition also has always taught this view of the forgiveness of sins” (Sanctifying Grace). This description matches what I found when I examined the Fathers comments on this passage, though the Fathers went further to place David’s repentance within the context of doing penance. Saint Clement uses this example in admonishing the Corinthians, saying: “Blessed are we, beloved, if we keep the commandments of God in the harmony of love; that so through love our sins may be forgiven us” (Epistle to the Corinthians, Ch 50). Directly contradicting the Reformed idea that all future sins are forgiven at the moment of coversion, Saint Justin says, “you deceive yourselves, and some others who resemble you in this, who say, that even though they be sinners, but know God, the Lord will not impute sin to them. We have as proof of this the one fall of David, which happened through his boasting, which was forgiven then when he so mourned and wept, as it is written. But if even to such a man no remission was granted before repentance, and only when this great king, and anointed one, and prophet, mourned and conducted himself so, how can the impure and utterly abandoned, if they weep not, and mourn not, and repent not, entertain the hope that the Lord will not impute to them sin?” (Dialog 141). Augustine, likewise, sees David as an example of a great man who fell and needed to be forgiven, “even [David’s] faults are overcome by great piety, through the most salutary humility of his repentance” (City of God 17:20), because “[God] does not impute it [sin] to those who say to Him in faith, ‘Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.’ ” (Perfection in Righteousness, 15th Breviate; see Reformed Imputation and the Lord’s Prayer). St Ambrose places the Psalm in a twofold forgiveness, first in baptism, then in penance: “He calls each blessed, both him whose sins are remitted by the font, and him whose sin is covered by good works. For he who repents ought not only to wash away his sin by his tears, but also to cover and hide his former transgressions by amended deeds, that sin may not be imputed to him” (On Repentance 2:5:35).
There is, however, a secondary undersanding of not imputing sin, which St Gregory Nazianzen describes as those sinners “whose actions are not praiseworthy, but who are innocent of intention” (Oration 40:32), but this is perfectly compatible with the standard understanding of logizomai, as Augustine explains “whatever shall not be imputed as sin is not sin” (see 15th Breviate quoted prior).
Thus, there is no support of a Protestant reading of Romans 4:6-8, nor is there an idea of God cloaking our sins under a blanket of snow, much less imputing those sins to Christ.
In this essay I have demonstrated the Protestant understanding of imputation is contrary both to the Biblical testimony as well as the Patristic testimony, leaving the doctrine of Sola Fide without any credibility. I believe that if more Protestants knew these facts, they would readily abandon the doctrine, and because of that I believe education and getting the word out on this subject is crucial.
* * * * *
Part IV to VI: APPENDIX
What do the experts say about logizomai?
In this section of the study, I will examine various sources from well respected Protestant authors (most of whom are Reformed). I have consulted almost 50 Protestant sources (including the ones quoted earlier), focusing specifically on whether they mention the term logizomai or not, and if they do what they say about it. While this is neither an exhaustive nor a thorough treatment of every author, I feel the quotes are very representative of the specific author’s understanding and the general understanding of Protestant scholarship as a whole. It is my contention that Protestant scholarship has failed miserably on this task to analyze such a crucial word. As will be shown, these sources range from incompetent to deceptive in their utter lack of upfront honesty about this subject. This is truly an “Emperor has no clothes” moment if I’ve ever seen one.
I think it is best to focus on the ten most important authors I’ve come across, and from there fill in the analysis with the other authors.
ñ John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis: Ch15:6. For the word ??? (chashab,) which Moses uses, is to be understood as relating to the judgment of God, just as in Psalm 106:31, where the zeal of Phinehas is said to have been counted to him for righteousness. The meaning of the expression will, however, more fully appear by comparison with its opposites. … [references Leviticus 7:18; 17:4; 2 Samuel 19:19; 2 Kings 12:15] … Let us now return to Moses. Just as we understand that they to whom iniquity is imputed are guilty before God; so those to whom he imputes righteousness are approved by him as just persons; wherefore Abram was received into the number and rank of just persons by the imputation of righteousness. For Paul, in order that he may show us distinctly the force and nature, or quality of this righteousness, leads us to the celestial tribunal of God. Therefore, they foolishly trifle who apply this term to his character as an honest man; as if it meant that Abram was personally held to be a just and righteous man. … Lastly, it is not less the part of stupor than of impudence, when this faith is said to have been imputed to him for righteousness, to mingle with it some other meaning, than that the faith of Abram was accepted in the place of righteousness with God.
Without a doubt, Calvin has ‘set the bar’ on exegeting Genesis 15:6 – and almost every Protestant author I’ve consulted has followed this pattern. Of the various works I consulted, this is the most “in depth” he’s been on his exegesis of this matter (and I found nothing close to this in his Institutes). He clearly ignores logizomai all together and focuses solely on the OT term chashab, and as you can see he singles out a few biased examples to form his “conclusion”. His reference to Psalm 106 was totally in passing, ignoring any natural link to interpreting 15:6 with. His “conclusion” is absolutely ridiculous and straw man, ruling out the idea Abraham could have been righteous in any sense, including it being a quality of Abraham’s faith. That’s not exegesis; that’s an agenda.
ñ John Owen, The Doctrine of Justification by Faith, Ch7, Wherefore, in the imputation of any thing unto us which is ours, God esteems it not to be other than it is. He does not esteem that to be a perfect righteousness which is imperfect; so to do, might argue either a mistake of the thing judged on, or perverseness in the judgment itself upon it. Wherefore, if, as some say, our own faith and obedience are imputed unto us for righteousness, seeing they are imperfect, they must be imputed unto us for an imperfect righteousness, and not for that which is perfect; for that judgment of God which is according unto truth is in this imputation.
…Imputation may justly ensue “ex voluntaria sponsione,” — when one freely and willingly undertakes to answer for another. An illustrious instance hereof we have in that passage of the apostle unto Philemon… And this voluntary sponsion was one ground of the imputation of our sin unto Christ.
…There is an imputation “ex mera gratia,” — of mere grace and favour. … For the imputation of works unto us, be they what they will, be it faith itself as a work of obedience in us, is the imputation of that which was ours before such imputation; but the imputation of the righteousness of faith, or the righteousness of God which is by faith, is the imputation of that which is made ours by virtue of that imputation. And these two imputations differ in their whole kind. The one is a judging of that to be in us which indeed is so, and is ours before that judgment be passed concerning it; the other is a communication of that unto us which before was not ours. And no man can make sense of the apostle’s discourse, that is, he cannot understand any thing of it, if he acknowledge not that the righteousness he treats of is made ours by imputation, and was not ours antecedently thereunto.
This ‘analysis’ of Owen is some of the most in-depth philosophically that I’ve found (I only quoted a portion for brevity), but Biblically it holds no weight. He literally invents a distinction and projects it right onto the Bible. His “antecedent” distinction (i.e. speaking of a quality possessed beforehand) has no basis in Scripture; he invented it simply to make Imputation work. But his agenda is pretty easy to see, given that he cites no Scriptures using logizomai, and now he makes logizomai hold two meanings: first to transfer, second to reckon. This sneaking in of the “transfer” component is unacceptable and reveals the fundamental flaw of the entire Protestant system. This is also the earliest example I’ve found where Philemon 1:18 is used as the ‘definitive’ proof text, despite it not using the term logizomai and practically ignoring the passages that do use logizomai. To add insult to injury, he claims that all man is capable of having is an imperfect righteousness, such that even if Abraham’s faith itself was seen as a righteous act, at most it could have only been an imperfect righteous act. How ridiculous. Arthur Pink in The Doctrine of Justification, Ch5, makes a similar claim when he sneaks in a ‘transfer’ component into the mix: “as the sins of him who believes were, by God, transferred and imputed to Christ… even so the obedience or righteousness of Christ is, by God, transferred and imputed to the believer… And any denial of that fact, no matter by whomsoever made, is a repudiation of the cardinal principle of the Gospel.” Notice this “cardinal principle,” as he explains it, has no basis in Scripture; it’s merely asserted.
ñ Francis Turretin, Institutes, Vol 2, p648, (Sixteeth Topic; Third Question; Section 7, 9), However, because we treat here of the imputed righteousness of Christ, we must remark further that the word “impute” (which is in Hebrew chshbh; in Greek logizesthai or ellogein) can be taken in two ways, either properly or improperly. That is said to be imputed to anyone improperly which he himself has done or has, when on that account a reward or punishment is decreed to him. … [references 2 Sam 19:19; Ps 106:31] … Properly is to hold him who has not done a thing, as if he had done it. In turn not to impute is to hold him who has done a thing as if he had not done it; as Paul desires the fault of Onesimus to be imputed to him (which he himself had not committed, Philem. 18) and asks that the fault should not be laid to the charge of those who forsook him (which they had committed, 2 Tim. 4:16). … Therefore when we say that the righteousness of Christ is imptued to us for justification and that we are just before God through imputed righteousness and not through any righteousness inherent in us, we mean nothing else than that the obedience of Christ rendered in our name to God the Father is so given to us by God that it is reckoned to be truly ours…
As with the others, Turrentin makes a drive-by analysis of the term. He speaks as if it is beyond doubt that there are two ways the term is used, despite the fact there is not, and he uses Philemon as his principle proof for this distinction. And note how Turretin sneaks in the ‘transfer’ component into his description, stating that imputation implies Christ’s righteousness is “given to us” and then reckoned to be ours.
ñ James Buchanan, The Doctrine of Justification, Part II, Lecture XII, Proposition XVII:
‘There is not in all the Scriptures,’ says one [opponent], ‘an instance in which one man’s sin or righteousness is said to be imputed to another. There is not in all the Bible one assertion that Adam’s sin, or Christ’s righteousness, is imputed to us; nor one declaration that any man’s sin is ever imputed by God or man to another man. Having followed (the Hebrew and Greek verbs) through the concordances, I hesitate not to challenge a single example which is fairly of this nature in all the Bible.‘
These are bold statements, and may seem to imply a denial of the doctrine… But the question is, Whether the same verbs [i.e. logizomai] may not be equally applicable to other cases, in which that which is imputed to him was not personally his own, and did not previously belong to him, but became his only by its being put down to his account? The debt due, and the wrong done, by Onesimus to Philemon, were not chargeable against Paul personally or previously, but he became chargeable with them simply by their being imputed to him: ‘If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account,’ or ‘impute that to me;’ ‘I will repay it.’ In like manner, ‘He, who knew no sin, was made sin for us,’ and ‘bore our sins in His own body on the tree,’ not that our sins were chargeable against Him personally or previously, but they became His by imputation on God’s part, and voluntary susception on His own. If it be said, that the mere word ‘impute’ is not employed in this case, it may be asked, whether there be any other which could more accurately express the fact, if it be a fact; and whether the word itself is not used in a parallel case, when God is said ‘to impute righteousness without works,’ as often as ‘He justifieth the ungodly?’
This quote is one of the most revealing I’ve ever come across. Buchanan makes so many fatal admissions that I believe this should be cause for concern to any Protestant reading it. An opponent challenges Buchanan, stating nowhere is the term logizomai (or chashab) ever used in regards to the three-fold Imputation. Buchanan admits he could find no such verses himself, but only that certain verses suggested as much. This is an invalid argument, especially considering he fails to examine the term logizomai himself, and instead is satisfied by quoting the infamous Philemon 1:18 as the chief proof text.
ñ Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, p165-7:
“This [Rom 4:3] is an important passage, as the phrase ‘to impute faith for righteousness,’ occurs repeatedly in Paul’s writings. … [references 2 Chron 5:5; Mk 15:28; Isaiah 53:17; Gen 31:15; Isa 40:17; Job 19:11; 33:10; 2 Sam 19:19; 1 Sam 22:15; Ps 32:2; 2 Cor 5:19; 2 Tim 4:15] … These and numerous similar passages render the scriptural idea of imputation perfectly clear. It is laying anything to one’s charge, and treating him accordingly. It produces no change in the individual to whom the imputation is made; it simply alters his relation to the law. All those objections, therefore, to the doctrine expressed by this term, which are founded on the assumption that imputation alters the moral character of men; that it implies an infusion of either sin or holiness, rest on a misconception of its nature. It is, so far as the mere force of the term is concerned, a matter of perfect indifference whether the thing imputed belonged antecedently to the person to whom the imputation is made or not. It is just as common and correct to speak of laying to a man’s charge what does not belong to him, as what does. That a thing can seldom be justly imputed to a person to whom does not personally belong, is a matter of course. But that the word itself implies that the thing imputed must belong to the person concered, is a singular misconception. These remarks have, of course, reference only to the meaning of the word. Whether the Bible actually teaches that there is an imputation of either sin or righteousness, to any to whom it does not personally belong, is another question. That the Bible does speak both of imputing to a man what does not actually belong to him, and of not imputing what does, is evident from the following, among other passages… [references Lev 17:3-4; Lev 7:18; Philem 1:18; Rom v:13] … … This idea of imputation is one of the most familiar in all the Bible, and is expressed in a multitude of cases where the term is not used. … The objection, therefore, that the word impute does not occur in reference to the imputation of the sin or righteousness of one man to another, even if well founded, which it is not the fact, is of no more force than the objections against the doctrines of the Trinity, vicarious atonement, perserverance of the saints, &c., founded on the fact that these words do not occur in the Bible. The material point surely is, Do the ideas occur?”
While Hodge does list multiple passages where logizomai/chshab do occur, this is fundamentally dishonest scholarship for he has systematically gone through Scripture and ignored any occurrences which would hurt his claim. Just as outrageous is the definition he goes onto give. First of all, no Catholic should be arguing logizomai entails a transformation, since it does not; that’s really a red herring here. But Hodge uses this straw man to take liberties with defining the real meaning. He states that it is just as acceptable to speak of reckoning to someone something they actually possess as much as what they do not possess. How outrageous: not a single text he cites (nor any he fails to cite) say it’s acceptable to reckon to someone what they don’t possess. As he continues, he states this twisted definition is “one of the most familiar” in the Bible, despite only quoting 3 biased examples (which I addressed earlier), including the infamous Philemon 1:18! And as with Buchanan, Hodge admits he can find no Scriptural examples of the three-fold Imputation, and yet that doesn’t matter to him.
In another important text, Hodge makes similar comments:
Systematic Theology Bk3:Ch17:Sec5, The righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer for his justification. The word impute is familiar and unambiguous. To impute is to ascribe to, to reckon to, to lay to one’s charge. When we say we impute a good or bad motive to a man, or that a good or evil action is imputed to him, no one misunderstands our meaning. Philemon had no doubt what Paul meant when he told him to impute to him the debt of Onesimus. [… also cites 1 Sam 22:15; 2 Sam 19:19; Lev 7:18; Lev 17:4; Ps 32:2; Rom 4:6; 2 Cor 5:19 …] The meaning of these and similar passages of Scripture has never been disputed. Everyone understands them. We use the word impute in its simple admitted sense, when we say that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer for his justification.
This drive-by exegesis is all too familiar and continues to be troubling. The idea that Hodge can be writing a systematic theology textbook and hiding and twisting such facts is astounding. The meaning of impute is by no means settled as he pretends, nor does the honest reader allow to slide his “proofs” from a biased sampling of the evidence.
ñ Alexander Hodge, Outlines of Systematic Theology, Ch25, 9, To impute sin is simply to charge it to one’s account as the ground of punishment. (1) The Hebrew word [chashab] means to estimate, count, credit, impute as belonging to. – Genesis 31:15; Leviticus 7:18; Numbers 18:27; Psalm 106:31. (2) The same is true with regard to the Greek word logizomai —Isaiah 53:12; Romans 2:26; 4:3–9; 2 Corinthians 5:19. (3) The Scriptures assert that our sins are imputed to Christ.—Mark 15:28; Isaiah 53:6 and 12; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13.
As usual, a totally biased sampling of the evidence. What makes this attempt so sad though is that even the biased evidence doesn’t support what Hodge is trying to prove to his reader. Nowhere does the Bible say sins are imputed to Christ, that’s a totally inaccurate statement. Alexander had made similar erroneous comments elsewhere in his Systematic Theology textbook:
Outlines of Systematic Theology, Ch21, “Imputation” (the Hebrew chashab and the Greek logizomai frequently occurring and translated “to count,” “to reckon,” “to impute,” etc.) is simply to lay to one’s charge as a just ground of legal procedure, whether the thing imputed antecedently belonged to the person to whom it is charged, or for any other adequate reason he is Justly responsible for it. Thus not to impute sin to the doer of it, is of course graciously to refrain from charging the guilt of his own act or state upon him as a ground of punishment; while to impute righteousness without works is graciously to credit the believer with a righteousness which is not personally his own.—Romans 4:6,8; 2 Corinthians 5:19; see Numbers 30:15; 18:22–27,30; Leviticus 5:17,18; 7:18; 16:22; Romans 2:26; 2 Timothy 4:16, etc.
The same flawed logic, propped up by the same worthless analysis of the evidence. To admit the term logizomai appears frequently and yet to only quote a biased sample is dishonesty at its core.
ñ Robert Dabney, Systematic Theology, Chapter 23, The Catechism says that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. This Latin word, to reckon or account to any one, is sometimes employed in the English Scriptures as the translation of [chashab], logizomai , ellogew, and correctly. Of the former we have instances in Gen. 15:6; 38:15; 2 Sam. 19:19; of the next in Mark 15:28; Rom. 2:26; 4:5, etc.; Gal. 3:6, etc.; and of the last, in Rom. 5:13; Philem. 18. Sometimes it is evident that the thing imputed is that which is actually done by or personally belongs to the person to whom it is reckoned, or set over. (This is what Turrettin calls imputation loosely so called). Sometimes the thing imputed belonged to, or was done by another, as in Philem. 18; Rom. 4:6. This is the imputation which takes place in the sinner’s justification. It may be said, without affecting excessive subtlety of definition, that by imputation of Christ’s righteousness, we only mean that Christ’s righteousness is so accounted to the sinner, as that he receives thereupon the legal consequences to which it entitles. In accordance with 2 Cor. 5:21, as well as with the dictates of sound reason, we regard it as the exact counterpart of the imputation of our sins to Christ. … When we attempt to prove this imputation, we are met with the assertion, by Arminians and theologians of the New England School, that there is no instance in the whole Bible of anything imputed, except that which the man personally does or possesses himself; so that there is no Scriptural warrant for this idea of transference of righteousness as to its legal consequences. We point, in reply, to Philemon 18, and to Romans 4:6.
This is one of the more revealing quotes in this list, somewhere up there by Buchanan’s admission. Notice how Dabney (a) limits the examples he gives, (b) admits the Bible doesn’t use logizomai in reference to Christ, and (c) uses Philemon 1:18 as his key interpretive text. He clearly understand the dilemma and what is hanging in the balance. And in a later chapter, he says:
Systematic Theology, Chatper 29, The Hebrew word [chashab] and the Greek, logizomai both mean primarily to think, then to deem or judge, then to impute or attribute. In this sense the former occurs in Ps. 32:2, and the latter in Rom. 4:6–8, as its translation. See also 2 Sam. 19:19; 2 Cor. 5:19; Gal. 3:6; James 2:23. Without going at this time into the vexed question, whether anything is ever said in Scripture to be imputed to any other than its own agent, I would define, that it is not Adam’s sin which is imputed to us, but the guilt (obligation to punishment) of his first sin.
More of the same. He is clearly not interested in analyzing logizomai, but pushing through an agenda. Notice how he quotes Galatians 3:6 and James 2:23, both saying the same thing, when there are numerous other verses he can cite.
ñ B.B. Warfield, Studies in Theology, Chapter 10, The theological use of the term “imputation” is probably rooted ultimately in the employment of the verb imputo in the Vulgate to translate the Greek verb logizesthai in Psalm 32:2. This passage is quoted by Paul in Romans 4:8 and made one of the foundations of his argument that, in saving man, God sets to his credit a righteousness without works. It is only in these two passages, and in the two axiomatic statements of Romans 4:4 and 5:13 that the Vulgate uses imputo in this connection (cf., with special application, 2 Timothy 4:16; Philemon 1:18). … Romans 4:11, 22, 23, 24; 2 Corinthians 5:19; James 2:23…Galatians 3:6…Romans 4:4, 9, 10… the technical term for that which is expressed by the Greek words in their so-called “commercial” sense, or what may, more correctly, be called their forensic or “judicial” sense, “that is, putting to one’s account,” or, in its twofold reference to the credit and debit sides, “setting to one’s credit” or “laying to one’s charge.”
Warfield says a lot, but nothing at all. He doesn’t examine logizomai at all, except to tell us how it was rendered in Latin. His real focus should be to see whether the Greek meaning conforms to his own. Instead, we get is numerous references to Genesis 15:6, and passing references to 2 Timothy 4:19, 2 Corinthians 5:19, and Philemon 1:18. This is all in keeping with his predecessors.
ñ Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, p211f, The word [logizesthai] can certainly mean “to hold or consider a person for what he or she is” (1 Cor. 4:1; 2 Cor. 12:6). However, it can also have the sense of “to credit to a person something one does not personally possess.” Thus the sins of those who believer are not counted against them although they do have them (Rom. 4:8; 2 Cor. 5:19; cf. 2 Tim 4:16); and thus they are counted against Christ, although he was without sin (Isa. 53:4-6 …) . Similarly, to those who believe, a righteousness is imputed that they do not have (Rom. 4:5)…
The logic here is just bad. These comments are typical of those who have not stopped and carefully looked at the evidence and simply repeated what others have told them. The idea that logizomai “can also mean” credit to a person something they don’t possess is not accurate at all, nor do those Biblical texts show this. In fact, those texts show that to not impute sin means to forgive, it does not mean “and thus they are counted against Christ,” which is a logical fallacy of begging the question. And to top that off, Bavink lumps Romans 4:3 into the second camp rather than the first, without even giving the former a chance.
ñ Douglass Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, p262, Of considerable importance for Paul’s use of the text [Gen 15:6] is the meaning of God’s “reckoning” Abraham’s faith “for” righteousness. The language could suggest that his faith is considered as the “equivalent” of righteousness – that God sees Abraham’s faith as itself a “righteous” act, well pleasing to him. But if we compare other verses in which the same grammatical construction as is used in Gen. 15:6 occurs, we arrive at a different conclusion. These parallels suggest that the “reckoning” of Abraham’s faith as righteousness means “to account to him a righteousness that does not inherently belong to him.” [FN35] Abraham’s response to God’s promise leads God to “reckon” to him a “status” of righteousness. If this interpretation of Gen. 15:6 is correct, then Paul’s application of the verse is both fair and appropriate.
[Footnote 35: …offerings or sacrifices which are “reckoned” to a person’s benefit cf. Lev. 7:18; Num. 18:27, 30… Others refer to a status, or legal standing, which someone “reckons” to someone else. In 2 Sam. 19:20, e.g., Shimei, who confesses his sin, nevertheless asks David not to “credit his guilt against him”. What Shimei is asking is that David “reckon” or “regard” him in a way that overlooks, or does not correspond to, the facts of the case. In Ps. 106:31, similarly, God’s “reckoning” of Phinehas as righteous (see Num. 25) is a declarative act, not an equivalent compensation or reward for merit (cf. Also Gen. 31:15; Ps. 32:2).]
Totally astounding. Moo admits the language certainly fits the reading that faith itself was reckoned as a righteous act, but says if we only compare texts with similar construction we will come to an opposite conclusion. Yet what are these parallel texts? Nothing but a few verses of biased sampling, including the whopper Psalm 106:31, which uses identical construction yet conveniently skimmed. This kind of scholarship is downright embarrassing.
ñ D. A. Carson, Justification: What’s at Stake (Ch2 “Vindication of Imputation”), P55ff,
Because Paul says that faith is counted as righteousness, Gundry says that, in effect, Abraham’s righteousness “consists of faith even though faith is not itself a work.” 29 Faith becomes the equivalent of righteousness that is the way God “counts” faith, though of course faith and righteousness in themselves are not to be confused. Merely to assert, however, that faith of such equivalent value is not itself a work would not have impressed readers familiar with the Jewish background, where the precise counter-claim was standard fare. Moreover, although it is true that one important Old Testament text with the same grammatical construction (in the LXX) establishes a similar sort of equivalence (Ps 106:28 ), the equivalence in that case is not between faith and righteousness, but between a righteous deed and righteousness (the righteous deed in question is the zealous execution of public sinners by Phinehas, Num 25:7- 13). In other words, in this instance “God’s ‘reckoning’ Phinehas as righteous (see Num 25) is a declarative act, not an equivalent compensation or reward for merit (cf. also Gen 31:15; Ps 32:2).”30
Carson begins by quoting Gundry (a modern Protestant scholar who is making similar claims as Catholics regarding imputation and receiving a lot of criticism by Calvinist authors). Of course, Carson does not present any worthy counter argument at all, and makes the ridiculous ‘out-of-thin-air’ distinction that despite identical language, Psalm 106 was speaking of a “righteous deed” while Genesis 15 was speaking of “righteousness” itself. Now examine the footnotes #28 and #30, where Carson says:
[Footnote 28]… the Hebrew verb has little to do with “counting” or “reckoning” in a commercial sense, and much more to do with the notion of “plan,” “invent,” “devise,” or, alternatively, to denote a kind of thinking in which will and emotion are involved, or to denote “count (as)” or “count [something or someone](as),” often as a subjective judgment (e.g., Gen 31:15; 1 Sam 1:13; Job 41:27, 29; Is 5:28). But this presupposes not only that Paul made this subtle distinction in his interpretation of Genesis 15:6, but that he expected his readers to, which is highly unlikely…
30 Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 262 n. 35. This distinction perfectly reflects the fact that sometimes logizomai conceives of the “counting” or the “imputing” as a reckoning up of what is in fact there, and sometimes conceives of the “counting” or the “imputing” as a reckoning up of one thing as another thing. See further below.
Carson seems to be suggesting that Paul didn’t really know how logizomai was to be used, and that he wouldn’t have used a subtle definition. Carson would not say this if he actually opened up a lexicon and examined the verses where it appears. Then he quotes Moo’s commentary on Romans, which I also reference. Carson uses this ipse dixit to garner support of the faulty definition of “reckon” he seeks to establish. Now to see some actual “proofs,” Carson goes onto say:
Of greater interest, because they are conceptually closer to Genesis 15:6, are those passages where the same construction is used to say that something is imputed or reckoned to another as something else. Thus Leah and Rachel assert that their father “reckons” them as “strangers” (though obviously they are not, Gen 31:15). The Levite’s tithe is “reckoned” as the corn of the threshing-floor and as the fullness of the winepress, though transparently it is neither (Num 18:27, 30). If a certain sacrifice is not eaten by the third day, its value is lost, and it is not “reckoned” to the benefit of the sinner (Lev 7:18): clearly the passage “envisions a situation in which righteousness could be ‘reckoned’ to a person, even though the individual concerned admittedly is a sinner.”31 The relevant expression … is used in other passages to refer to the offering of sacrifices that are “reckoned” to a person’s benefit (e.g., Num 18:27, 30). In other words, neither the verb nor the grammatical form will allow us to decide whether this “faith” that Abraham exercises was originally viewed as a righteous act which God himself then declared to be righteous (as the act of Phinehas was declared to be righteous, Ps 106:28, above), or, alternatively, that this “faith” that Abraham exercises is to be viewed as belonging to a different species than “righteous act,” with the result that when it is “reckoned” or “imputed” to Abraham “as righteousness” it provides an instance in which, although God himself “reckons” it as righteousness, this is an instance in which something is imputed to another as something else. 32 How then shall we decide? We clearly see, of course, that the Jewish heritage in which Paul stood before his conversion opts for the former.
Sticking to the main plan, Carson carefully selects (and botches) a few biased examples. His own argument of examining the use of “reckon” in Genesis totally backfires, for he totally misunderstands the Leah/Rachel passage (and ignores Gen 38:15, both of which I’ve commented on earlier). But for him to say the verb nor grammatical form will allow us to decide is laughable. Nothing he presented points to an exegetical ‘draw’, much less Paul’s Jewish heritage being the deciding factor. Now consider another important footnote:
32 Strangely, Don Garlington, “Imputation or Union with Christ?” n. 4, refers to the sorts of passages in which there is not strict equivalence as supporting a “non-imputational” reading of logi/zomai. It is true that logi/zomai has a semantic range large enough to include non-imputational readings: see, for instance, Romans 3:28, briefly discussed below. But these passages are not among them. In each instance, something that is not-X is reckoned to be X. To label them “non-imputational” in order to enforce the conclusion that the faith of Romans 4:3 demonstrates that Abraham was thus rightly reckoned to be righteous is to pre-judge the linguistic matters and, as I shall argue above, distort the flow of Paul’s argument.
Carson is playing fast and loose with his conclusions, likely deliberately. Garlington is another Gundry, both Protestant scholars who are pointing out (though imperfectly) that the Bible does not teach imputation, and this is causing serious unrest among the Reformed. This is the first time Carson has been willing to look at other texts, but even here doesn’t give them any chance.
… By contrast, the analogy of Romans 4:4 does not tell us what the wages are credited as, that is, what they terminate in, but simply specifies whether they are credited “according to obligation” or “according to grace.” In other words, the structure of the crediting or imputing language is not consistent through these verses, so it becomes easy to force the wrong kind of parallelism and miss the train of thought. Romans 4:4 establishes that there is a crediting, an imputing, that is nothing more than getting your dessert; there is also a crediting, an imputing, that means something is credited to your account that you do not deserve. But Paul does not make this analogy from the field of wages walk on all fours and try to specify what this wage is credited as. It is sufficient for his argument, at this juncture, that the distinction between merited imputation and unmerited imputation be preserved.
Carson is rightly noting the parallelism does not carry directly over, but he admits that Romans 4:4 establishes an imputing “that is nothing more than getting your dessert,” in other words, reckoning what is indeed owed! This is crucial, for it shows how Paul is using reckon right within this context.
…Fifth, although Gundry asserts, doubtless fairly, that he can find no unambiguous instance in the LXX, the New Testament, or in pagan literature, of logi/zomai being used to refer to something being imputed in an instrumental sense, one must also aver that the verb is not a terminus technicus. It has an astonishingly wide range of meaning. Note, for instance, Romans 3:28: “we reckon (logizo/meqa) that a man is justified by faith (pi/stei)”: here (i) the “reckoning” is certainly not imputation in any technical sense, (ii) the justification (in the light of the preceding paragraph) is grounded in Christ’s cross-work, and (iii) the means of benefitting from Christ’s propitiatory death is unambiguously faith. In the light of such linguistic realities, it seems a bit doctrinaire to read the Genesis 15:6 citation in Romans 4 in the controlling way that Gundry advocates.
This is another very revealing passage. Carson admits that Gundry is right in claiming never is logizomai used in an “instrumental sense,” meaning never is X used as a ‘tool’ to transfer something from one place to another: thus the historic Protestant reading of “faith reckoned as righteousness” meaning ‘faith is the tool that reaches out and grabs and transfers righteousness to me’ is a wholly novel idea with zero biblical precedent. To add to this, Carson says logizomai has an “astonishingly wide range of meaning,” which is totally false: it has a very narrow range of meaning! And his “proof” of wide range of meaning actually betrays his total lack of understanding and research, since Romans 3:28 follows the same pattern of logizomai throughout Scripture!
…The language of 2 Corinthians 5:19-21 is also instructive. … Explicitly, then, Paul speaks of the non-imputation of our sins to ourselves— that is, God refuses to count up to our account what is in fact there — on the ground that God made Christ, himself sinless, to be sin for us. True, the text does not explicitly say that God imputes our sins to Christ, but as long as we perceive that Jesus dies in our place, and bears our curse, and was made “sin” for us, it is extraordinarily difficult to avoid the notion of the imputation of our sins to him.
This is the closest thing any Reformed author has ever been able to dig up as proof that our sins were imputed to Christ, since the Bible never uses logizomai in this way. The Protestant argument is that since our sin wasn’t logizomai to us (since they were forgiven, cf David’s example in Psalm 32), that they “thus must be” imputed to someone else, namely Christ. But this is a total logical fallacy. Just because sin isn’t imputed to X does not at all require ‘then they must be imputed to Y’.
ñ Thomas Schriner, Galatians, p192, The verb “count” (?????????) can refer to something that is reckoned to someone. For example, Phinehas’s zeal in killing the Hebrew and the Midianite woman “was counted to him as righteousness” (Ps 106:31). Phinehas was counted righteous because he was righteous. In Gen 15:6, however, righteousness is reckoned to Abraham even though it does not belong to him. Abraham was counted as righteous by faith, even though he was not inherently righteous.
That’s the extent of his treatment of this all important matter, in a commentary on Galatians (esp. Gal 3:6) designed to address this kind of stuff. This sort of ‘drive by’ exegesis of crucial terms is unacceptable.
Shreiner, Romans, p215, This polarity between believing and working casts light on the meaning of the verb [logizesthai], which plays a major role in this chapter. The conception is that something is reckoned to a person that is not inherent to him or her. God’s righteousness is not native to human beings; it is an alien righteousness granted to us by God’s grace.
His Romans commentary is even more unacceptable. Where is any analysis? How did he get this definition? This kind of scholarship should not be.
ñ James White, The Roman Catholic Controversy, pp. 155f; (c.f. The God Who Justifies, pp.112f), The Hebrew term hashav has some interesting uses in the Old Testament. We need to discover the background of Paul’s use of the term as it is found relative to the imputation of righteousness. … [quotes Genesis 31:14f and Leviticus 25:31] … All of the examples listed above of this use hashav are translated in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) by the very same term [logizomai] Paul uses in Romans 4 when he speaks of the imputation or reckoning of righteousness to the believer! Why is this so significant? Because scholars recognize that Paul utilized the Septuagint as his main source of biblical citations, and his vocabulary is deeply influenced by it. Our understanding of what it means to impute something should take this into consideration.
White starts off admitting we need to look at the background of the term, but what does White do? He quotes two biased examples, which ironically don’t even support what he wants to get at. This is his definition of getting a good idea of what the Bible defines “reckoned” as before we approach Genesis 15:6. That is unacceptable research.
ñ John Piper, Counted Righteous In Christ, p57, footnote 4,
In a helpful article on Genesis 15:6, O. Palmer Robertson points to several places in the Pentateuch where a person is “reckoned” to be something he is not. For example:
(1) … (Genesis 31:15). Leah and Rachel say that Jacob “reckons” them to be strangers when in fact they are his daughters.
(2) … (Numbers 18:27: cf. v. 30). The Levite’s tithe is “reckoned” as the threshing-floor corn and the fullness of the winepress though it is neither of these things.
That’s the extent of Piper’s treatment I’ve been able to find. As with White, Piper doesn’t do his homework and falls back on these ‘decisive’ proofs, failing to see his biased and invalid appeal. But as we’ve seen, this is par for the course.
ñ John MacArthur, Romans, p33f, Imputed: Used in both financial and legal settings, the Greek word means to take something that belongs to someone and credit it to another’s account. It is a one-sided transaction. As in the case of Abraham, Abraham did nothing to accumulate it; God simply credited it to him. God took His own righteousness and credited to Abraham as if it were actually his.
That is the most MacArthur could come up with in a book dedicated to analyzing the book of Romans? He cites no examples, just asserts, and falsely at that.
MacArthur, Abraham-Justified by Faith Pt1, The word “counted,” very important word. It’s the word logizomai. That word is used 11 times in this section. In fact, I think it’s 11 times right in this immediate section. And what does it mean – logizomai. It means “to credit to one’s account, to put to one’s account, to reckon, to impute to one.” And what it’s saying is that because he believed God imputed to him, put to his account, a righteousness which Abraham on his own did not possess. That’s the whole point.
For such an important word, MacArthur spends no time learning about it. Instead he gives his own opinion, which is a false definition, and tells us if we fail to get this right, we’re the one’s who have blown it!
ñ Brian Vickers, Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness, p80-83, One basic sense of [impute] can be seen in a text such as Numbers 18:27. The tithe given by the Levites, which is a tenth of what they themselves received as tithes, is reckoned or counted as a tithe of their own produce. Dumbrell narrows the word down to two categories. In the first, something is reckoned to a person or thing when in reality the facts argue to the contrary. [cites Job 13:24; 19:11; 33:13; 41:27; Heb 11:19] If this is the sense in Genesis 15:6, then God “reckons” Abraham’s faith as righteousness; faith counts for something else, namely, righteousness. In the second category, something is reckoned to a person or thing and the facts argue that the “something” is indeed true. [cites Lev 7:18; 17:4; Num 18:27; 2 Sam 19:19; Ps 32:2; Ps 106:31; Prov 27:14] Thus the “something” is reckoned appropriately. For Abraham this would mean that his faith is reckoned for righteousness because it really is the case. Scholars often note the similarities between Genesis 15:6 and Psalm 106:31. … For now, and in spite of the similarity in wording, the reckoning of Abraham’s faith seems to have more in common with those texts where one thing is reckoned as something else than it does with reckoning Phinehas’s action. For example, when Laban “reckons” his daughers as foreigners (Gen 31:15), he clearly is not asserting that they really are foreign but that for all intents are purposes he views them as such. He is counting one thing (flesh and blood daughters) as something else (foreigners).
[Footnote 29 Other examples include Proverbys 27:14 in which a loud morning blessing spoken to a friend will be “reckoned a curse” to the inconsiderate early-riser; likewise, Shimei asks David not to “reckon” his guilt to him, i.e. to reckon his guilt as innocence (2 Sam 19:19). Like the case of Laban and his daughters, in both of these examples, one thing (a blessing; Shimei’s guilt) is counted for another (a curse; innocence).]
Not only does he follow the pattern of only listing biased examples, he totally self-refutes his own argument. For example, he quotes Hebrews 11:19, where Abraham “reckons” God was powerful enough to bring Isaac back to life, as proof of facts pointing to the contrary! And despite citing 2 Sam 19:19 as proof of imputing what is indeed true, he totally reverses this judgment in footnote 29. As with other Protestants, Vickers sees that he must explain away the clear similarity between Phinehas and Abraham, and proceeds to beg the question. Again, all of this horrendous scholarship is par for the course.
Next are some authors that are relatively popular but cannot seem to muster up more than a few sentences on the subject:
ñ John Fesko, Justification, p191 & 194f, This term [chashab] is important because it is used in a number of legal texts for counting (Lev. 7:18; 17:4; Num. 18: 27, 30; Prov. 27:14; Ps. 106:31).
ñ Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, p197, The verb credited [Fn15: For logizomai see the note on 2:3. It is used of Phinehas in Ps 106:31.] is used in the keeping of accounts. It was set down to Abraham’s account [Fn16: Godet comments, “It is possible to put to one’s account what he possesses or what he does not possess. In the first case it is a simple act of justice; in the second, it is a matter of grace. The latter is Abraham’s case, since God reckons his faith to him for what it is not: for righteousness.”] that he was righteous.
ñ Luke Timothy Johnson, Reading Romans, p147, Beginning with the use of “reckon” in Gen 15:6 (see 4:3 [p74f, in which Johnson totally ignores any analysis of logizomai when discussing Abraham and Rom 4!!]), Paul has spoken of a number of “reckonings” from the side of humans and of God (see 2:3, 26; 3:28; 4:4-6, 23-24; 6:11). Most pertinently, in contrast to the perception of opponents that Paul and his associates should be “reckoned as sheep for the slaughter [Rom 8:36; Ps 43:23; cf Isa 53:7],” Paul began this section by affirming [Rom. 8:18].
ñ Michael Horton, Covenant & Salvation: Union with Christ, on page 116. Horton makes a passing and indirect reference to logizomai, quoting an objector. Despite using the term “imputation” numerous times, I found no actual analysis of the term. In his new major book The Christian Faith, he mentions: “Counting as” or “being counted as,” logizomai eis, is also found in Romans 2:26; 9:8 and 2 Corinthians 12:6; as well as Acts 19:27 and James 2:23. Although the term does not appear in Romans 5, the idea is evident throughout Paul’s comparison and contrast between Adam and Christ.”
ñ John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, p131, Paul could not have appealed to Psalm 106:31 in this connection without violating his whole argument. For if he had appealed to Psalm 106:31 in the matter of justification, the justification of the ungodly (cf. vs. 5), then the case of Phinehas would have provided an inherent contradiction and would have demonstrated justification by a righteous and zealous act. Though then the formula in Genesis 15:6 is similar to that of Psalm 106:31, the subjects with which they deal are diverse.
ñ Zondervan Bible Dictionary, “Impute”, (Heb. chashav, Gr. logizomai). A word meaning to attribute something to another person, to reckon something to another’s account. … Imputation is mentioned throughout Scripture (Lev 7:18; 17:4; 2 Sam 19:19; Ps 32:2; Rom 4:3 – 25; 5:13; 2 Cor 5:19; Gal 3:6; James 2:23), underlying the doctrines of original sin, atonement, and justification.
That’s the extent of the treatment which each of these authors gives. As you can see, it’s more of the same of what’s been said elsewhere, with the same problems (e.g. wrong definitions, biased verses).
The following are authors that reference Philemon and use that as their exclusive lens by which to define imputation:
ñ John Gill, Justification, p77, Section 5B, The form of it, is imputation; or the manner in which the righteousness of Christ is made over to a sinner, and it becomes his, is by imputing it to him; [quotes Rom 4:6]. The words used both in the Hebrew and Greek, signify, to reckon, repute, estimate, attribute, and place something to the account of another: as when the apostle said to Philemon, concerning Onesimus…
ñ LS Chafer, Systematic Theology, p191, The word impute means to reckon over unto one’s account, as the Apostle writing to Phielmon regarding whatever Onesimus might owe Philemon declared: “Put that on mine account” (1:18). Because of the various phases of the doctrine involved, imputation becomes at once one of the major fundamental doctrines of Christianity. On this account great care is enjoined, that the student may comprehend the teaching perfectly. There are three major imputations set forth in the Scriptures, as will be seen below.
ñ William Webster, The Biblical Teaching on Justification, This word [logizomai] is used forty–one times in the New Testament. It means a mental evaluation, conclusion or judgment regarding a particular issue. It is an accounting term. Paul illustrates this in his letter to Philemon…
ñ International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Imputation”, … it makes no difference whether that which is imputed is something which is personally one’s own prior to the imputation, as in the case above cited, where his own good deed was imputed to Phinehas (Psalms 106:30f), or something which is not personally one’s own prior to the imputation, as where Paul asks that a debt not personally his own be charged to him (Philemon 1:18). In all these cases the act of imputation is simply the charging of one with something.
Not only have these authors all come to erroneous conclusions by citing Phielmon as their chief text, they totally ignore any texts where logizomai actually occurs. Despite how much “care” they claim we need to have, they don’t seem to be taking “great care” themselves.
Lastly, here is a list of authors of which I could find no mention of logizomai or imputation in their works I consulted:
ñ R. C. Sproul – I don’t recall him mentioning anything in his book Faith Alone relating to logizomai or any generic analysis of impute in Scripture. He does have the famous video describing double imputation, which would likely play into all these false definitions.
ñ R. Scott Clark – I couldn’t find anything online be it book or articles on justification. His book Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry says practically nothing on imputation but did mention the word logizomai in passing.
ñ Charles Spurgeon – Various talk on justifcation but nothing more than the mere mention of the word “imputation” scattered throughout.
ñ Meredeth Kline – I could not find any books or articles focusing on imputation.
ñ J.I. Packer – I did not find anything relating to logizomai or analysis of imputation in any of his online articles.
ñ Louis Berkhof – In his popular seminary textbook, Systematic Theology, I couldn’t find any mention of logizomai nor even any examples/analysis.
ñ Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, p176. He mentions logizomai in passing, with no analysis.
ñ John Frame – I couldn’t find anything online be it book or articles on justification.
ñ Thomas F Torrance, Atonement, p136. The most Torrance says is Paul’s use of logizomai is the same as the Reformer’s concept of “impute”.
ñ C. FitzSimmons Allison, Guilt, Anger & God, p45: “Another reason for the present hiddenness of the Gospel message is that the scriptural word logidzomai, crucial for understanding this good news, lost its force in English by being weakly translated ‘impute,’ a word not often used today.”
If anyone has any knowledge of references to logizomai in these authors, I will be glad to quote them and comment upon them. I suspect that, following the trend we’ve seen, these authors have likely not spoken on logizomai in any significant manner. For such a crucial term, it should be relatively easy to find references, not hard.
This final section will look at some generally honest authors who, for whatever reason, have felt it necessary to be upfront and honest about what the Bible does and does not say about logizomai. The sad news though is that often authors that shows this kind of courage are marginalized and ridiculed by the mainstream.
ñ Albert Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible (Commentary on Romans 4:3), Was counted – ???????? elogigisth?. The same word in Romans 4:22, is is rendered “it was imputed.” The word occurs frequently in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, the verb ???? chaashab, which which is translated by the word ????????? logizomai, means literally, “to think, to intend,” or “purpose; to imagine, invent,” or “devise; to reckon,” or “account; to esteem; to impute,” that is, to impute to a man what belongs to himself, or what “ought” to be imputed to him. It occurs only in the following places: Psalm 32:2; Psalm 35:4; Isaiah 10:7; Job 19:11; Job 33:10; Genesis 16:6; Genesis 38:15; 1 Samuel 1:13; Psalm 52:4; Jeremiah 18:18; Zechariah 7:10; Job 6:26; Job 19:16; Isaiah 13:17; 1 Kings 10:21; Numbers 18:27, Numbers 18:30; Psalm 88:4; Isaiah 40:17; Lamentations 4:2; Isaiah 40:15; Genesis 31:16. I have examined all the passages, and as the result of my examination have come to the conclusion, that there is not one in which the word is used in the sense of reckoning or imputing to a man what does not strictly belong to him; or of charging on him what ought not to be charged on him as a matter of personal right. The word is never used to denote imputing in the sense of transferring, or of charging that on one which does not properly belong to him. The same is the case in the New Testament. The word occurs about forty times (see “Schmidius’ Concord),” and, in a similar signification. No doctrine of transferring, or of setting over to a man what does not properly belong to him, be it sin or holiness, can be derived, therefore, from this word. Whatever is meant by it here, it evidently is declared that the act of believing is what is intended, both by Moses and by Paul.
This quote confirms everything I’ve said. Though there are more passages he could have listed, his overall conclusion is exactly correct. Of course, talk like this didn’t make Barnes a popular Presbyterian, and though he was tried for heresy was not convicted.
ñ Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, p207f & 512f, hashab is found approximately 120 times, meaning “reckon,” “account,” “esteem,” “regard.” hashab is also used about thirty times with the related meaning “consider.” One of the best known uses of this term is found in Isa 53:3, where the Suffering Servant of Yahweh is descrbed as one who has had no consideration from his own people, no regard, no esteem. Rather, is his considered worthless and dishonorable. Then, in Isa. 53:4, this pathos is deepened by the observation that his people regard him as afflicted by God. Another significant use of the term is found in Gen. 15:6, where it is said that God regarded or counted Abraham’s faith as righteousness. In other words, God considered Abraham to be a righteous man in light of the faith he demonstrated. Similar uses of hashab with this meaning are found in Neh. 13:13; Ps 106:31. with the negative sense of the imputation of guilt, hashab is found in Lev. 7:18; 17:4. Other mundane uses of hashab with the meaning “consider” are found in Num 18:27; Job 18:3; Isa 40:14; 2 Sam 4:2; Num. 23:9. … logizomai is a verb found about forty times, translated various ways, with the underlying connotation of mental “reasoning” or “calculating.” It often means to “count,” “consider,” “or reckon.” The meaning “count” in the sense of “consider” or “regard,” is found a number of places. “Regarding” uncircumcision as circumcision, as in the case of Gentiles who were devout followers of the Jewish Law, is the meaning of Rom. 2:26. To “consider” someone justified by faith rather than works of the law is a position indicated in Rom. 3:28. This assessment applies especially to Abraham in Rom. 4:3ff; Gal. 3:6; Jas. 2:23. “Regarding” oneself as dead to sin is a state of mind indicated in Rom. 6:11. Believers “considered” as sheep to be slaughtered are indicated in the context of persecution in Rom. 8:36. In Rom. 9:8, children of Abraham are “reckoned” as children of God. God refuses to “count” the sins of his people against them in 2 Cor. 5:19. Other occurrences include those in 1 Cor. 4:1; 2 Cor. 12:6; Phil. 3:13; 2 Tim 4:16; Heb. 11:19. … … [P512f.] With Yahweh as the agent of imputation, the following texts illustrate this usage of hashab. Righteousness is imputed to Abraham on account of his faith in Gen. 15:6. Lev. 7:18 declares that flawed offerings are refused by Yahweh – that is, they are not credited or imputed to the worshipers benefit. According to Lev. 17:4, failure to present one’s sacrificial animal for offering in the prescribed way will result in severe punishment for the worshiper, who is “reckoned” to be guilt of bloodshed. In Isa. 40:15, the Gentile nations are reckoned by Yahweh to be utterly insignificant in their opposition to him. They are considered as dust on the scales. In Job 13:24; 19:11; 33:10, Job mistakenly believes that God counts him as his enemy. In other contexts, it is not Yahweh but human agency that is involved in the process of imputation. 2 Sam. 19:19 contains Shimei’s plea to King David not to “hold” him guilt. In Neh. 13:13, a group of Levitical scribes is considered, or reckoned, to be trustworthy. Prov 17:28 refers to the reckoning or imputation of wisdom. Other general references to this process are found in 2 Sam. 4:2; 1 Kgs. 10:21; Ps. 44:22.
This is one of the most fair and honest treatments I’ve found. The only source more direct and honest is Barnes. This quote above has everything. It quotes numerous examples, properly analyzes them, doesn’t inject agendas, doesn’t try to sneak in texts like Philemon, and overall gives any unbiased reader precisely the information they need to be properly informed.
ñ Peter Leithart, his personal website, August 14, 2004, In Rom 2:3, Paul warns the sinner that passing judgment on others does not save anyone from condemnation; don’t “reckon” that you will escape the judgment of God by casting accusations in other directions, Paul says. Don’t reckon yourself, in short, safe from God’s condemning judgment; don’t judge yourself favorably simply because you have condemned other sinners. LOGIZOMAI here, especially in combination with the final clause of the verse, is virtually equivalent to KRINEIN. In Rom 14:14, Paul says that anyone who “reckons anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.” Here reckon does not mean first covering over something clean with a cloak of uncleanness, and then judging it unclean. To “reckon” a thing unclean simply means to judge it unclean, to put it in the category of unclean. In 1 Cor 4:1, Paul tells the Corinthians how they are to “reckon” Paul and his associates as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Clearly, this has nothing to do with reckoning Paul to be something other than he is. Nor is there any notion of transferring servanthood to Paul’s account. Paul’s exhortation is that the Corinthians judge him according to what he in fact is – a servant of Christ. If this is how LOGIZOMAI is to be taken in Rom 4:3, for instance, we would have this conclusion: The phrase “reckon righteous” is simply a synonym for “justify.” When God “reckoned Abraham righteous,” he was judging him to be so. This doesn’t work so well with the usage of the verb in verse 4, it appears. But it is a line of investigation worth pursuing.
Leithart is an interesting person, because while he is Reformed, he was accused of embracing “heretical” views by his Reformed leaders. He was acquitted, but many Calvinists are still uneasy about his views of justification. As you can see from his frank and honest (even though insufficient) look at logizomai, he is certainly onto something. Clearly, just taking a fair look at how the Bible uses the term will reveal a lot. The obvious “problem” is that his honest research should him to conclude the Protestant reading of Romans 4:3 is false.
ñ Ligoneir website [run by Sproul, but not all articles are his], “Devotionals: Focus on the Facts,” Now Paul gives us something he has not given heretofore—an exhortation: “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” [Rom 6:11] At last—something to do. But we must be careful to understand what Paul is saying before we spring into action. The key word, the imperative verb here, is reckon. This is the Greek word logizomai, which was used in bookkeeping (to speak of the value of something or to appraise a project’s success) and in philosophy (to refer to objective reasoning). “The common ground in these two uses of the word is that logizomai has to do with reality, with things as they truly are,” Dr. James M. Boice writes in his Romans commentary. “It is an acknowledgement of or an acting upon something that is already true or has already happened.” Paul is exhorting us to get a firm mental grasp on two important facts. First, we are dead to sin. As we have seen, this means that our old life of complacent sinfulness is ended and we cannot go back to it. Second, we are alive to God in Christ Jesus.
This is a very accurate definition of logizomai. Unfortunately, it isn’t talked about within the ‘dangerous’ contexts of justification (e.g. Romans 4), so Protestants tend to be more honest about its meaning. If this meaning were applied to Romans 4:3, then “unfortunate” consequences would follow.
ñ The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says ( “Imputation”): Three acts of imputation are given special prominence in the Scripture, and are implicated in the Scriptural doctrines of Original Sin, Atonement and Justification, though not usually expressed by the words chashabh and logizomai.
As has been shown, the three-fold imputation is not only “not usually expressed” by the term logizomai, they never are!
ñ Richard D Phillips, By Faith Alone, p80, What about Gundry’s survey of logizomai, which purportedly proves that when the Bible reckons one thing as another, it has identification and not imputation in view? This is an example, in my view, of both the strength and weakness of so-called biblical theology today: Gundry rigorously examines the usage of a particular phrase, but the conclusions he draws are not at all to the point when it comes to the theological doctrine at hand. The reason for this is that the passages from which Reformed theology deduces the doctrine of imputed righteousness do not rely upon a particular use of logizomai. In most of the key passages I will cite, logizomai is not used at all; this shows that Paul does not rely on a particular verb in teaching this doctrine but rather on the ideas that he conveys.
In other words, because Gundry has analyzed the term it self and found out it doesn’t agree with historic Protestantism, that Gundry’s methodology must be flawed. And to add insult to injury, Phillips thinks it’s OK to say Reformed theology does not depend upon the meaning of logizomai, and that it’s OK to use passages that don’t even use the term! In other words, he implicitly admits logizomai is not on the Protestant side but isn’t concerned about it.
While it is unfortunate that it took this many pages, often repeating the same thing, this is important to demonstrate just how widespread the ignorance and misinformation there is out there on such a crucial term. These are the “teachers” of the average pew-sitter as well as seminarian, who ends up repeating and perpetuating the errors. It is very clear that Protestant scholarship is thoroughly bankrupt on this matter, with a few honest men still found on the fringes.