Thursday, November 17, 2011

Five Views on Justification?

The Valiant for Truth blog has an interesting write-up regarding the recently released book Five Views On Justification. An excerpt:

For example, one of the repeated mantras throughout the book by the other essayists is that justification is but one metaphor for redemption; there are other important metaphors (124, 133, 234-35). Justification, it is claimed, cannot take precedence over other metaphors, such as sanctification, adoption, or reconciliation. Metaphor? Really? If the antonym of justification is condemnation, are we to believe that condemnation is just a metaphor for not being saved? What of Jesus’ justification? Is that a metaphor too? What about standing in the presence of a holy God and being declared righteous is metaphorical?

As a group, New Testament scholars do not read historical theological texts and the entries from the NT scholars in this volume only confirm this statement. If you read these contributions you might be led to believe that the church began with Bultmann and Kaseman and throw in a light sprinkling of Calvin. For those claiming to being indebted to Reformed theology, there is little to no interaction with classic Reformation and post-Reformation texts. In a word, there is no historical depth (145, 146n 17, 150, 150n 29, 180, 200). For example, one of the repeated ideas is that union with Christ (120, 135, 211, 232, 241) is superior to the idea of the “straight jacket of the ordo salutis” (131, 152). Yet, no attention is given to the fact that countless theologians, Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, and Arminian, have all embraced the doctrine of union with Christ. The doctrine did not arise with the NT guild in the nineteenth century. Arminius, for example, embraces the twofold grace of union with Christ, justification and sanctification. And everyone, whether they like it or not, has an ordo salutis. Who believes that election and glorification are identical? Does not the former come before the latter? And for Dunn, for example, who believes in an initial justification before a final justification, is not the former before the latter? And for those such as Bird, who argue that one must be incorporated into Christ in order to be saved, do not the believer’s good works come after incorporation into Christ, not before? However, there is a wholesale rejection of the ordo without any research given into how Reformed theologians actually use the doctrine. There is no Reformed theologian of which I am aware that uses the ordo to indicate a temporal or chronological sequence or parceling out of the benefits of redemption. There are numerous instances where classic Reformed texts indicate that the ordo is another way to express, surprise, surprise, union with Christ. For all of the claims to read the Scriptures communally and covenantally, too many NT scholars read the text isolated from the rest of the church. ...

This book would be an interesting read, when I have the time to do so.


Charlie J. Ray said...

What is alarming about this is that it is the same sort confusion being taught at Westminster PA. Lane Tipton and Richard Gaffin have subsumed justification by faith alone and made it subservient to "union with Christ". Tipton goes so far as to say that union with Christ is the sine qua non of Reformed theology and even tries to make that Calvin's focus. Unfortunately the WCF devotes an entire chapter to justification and precious little to the doctrine of union with Christ.

Even more disappointing is Tipton's insistence that "union with Christ" is some sort of ineffable, mystical, and existential union. That would imply that it has nothing to do with the intellect or knowledge of biblical doctrine. The fact of the matter, however, is that union with Christ is simply believing what Christ says and living by faith. The ground or basis for union with Christ is not sanctification but justification. Hodge clearly says that justification is imputed and that instrument of the application of justification is faith. That would mean it is an intellectual apprehension and comprehension since faith is a conscious act of believing specific doctrine and teaching.

Westminster PA is moving in the more neo-orthodox direction and the doctrines of grace are being discarded in favor of neo-legalism. It is not a far jump from the idea that Scripture is an analogy of God's Word to the idea that justification is just a metaphor. Liberalism has a way of slowly infiltrating until a saturation point is reached.


PuritanReformed said...


I have heard such allegations, but I do not have the time to substantiate the charges. I do find the New Perspective on Calvin rather disappointing, in that they take the ordo docendi and make it the ordo salutis.