Sunday, 21 December 2008

Justification (What's at Stake in the Current Debates) edited by Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier (IVP)

At present, discussion of the doctrine of justification is taking place for a variety of reasons. These include the ongoing ecumenical dialogue between Protestant and Roman Catholic theologians and the contributions of scholars pursuing different aspects of the ‘new perspective on Paul’. This volume is a collection of lectures given at a conference on the doctrine of justification held in 2003 at Wheaton College, near Chicago. The contributors, who include D. A. Carson, R.H. Gundry, Mark Seifrid, Tony Lane and Bruce L. McCormack, are acknowledged specialists regarding the subject and the volume will help those who want an accurate understanding of where studies on this topic are at present.

The contents are divided into four sections: Justification in Biblical Theology, Justification and the Crisis of Protestantism, Justification in Protestant Traditions, and Justification and Ecumenical Endeavour. Personally I found the first and third sections to be the more interesting, but in saying so I am not demeaning the other two sections; rather the contributors to sections one and three consider the subject from the standpoints of Biblical Theology and Historical Theology, points of view which I enjoy. In section one the imputation of Christ’s righteousness is considered and in section three the understandings of Luther, Melanchthon and Wesley are discussed.

Although much of the detailed discussion in this book is the concern of academic theologians it is important for church leaders to be aware of these developments because it is inevitable that writers of Christian literature and speakers at Christian conferences will have diverse views on the meaning of justification – which means that members in our congregations will absorb these differences of understanding, perhaps without realising it. As far as my reading of this book is concerned, the issue where this is seen most clearly is in the meaning and significance of the imputation of Christ’s life of obedience to believers. D. A. Carson has an excellent chapter in which he advocates the positive imputation of Christ’s righteousness and argues effectively against alternative opinions; indeed the book is worth buying for this chapter alone.

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