REVIEWING FIVE VIEWS ON JUSTIFICATION AT ONE TIME
Justification: Five Views. Edited by James K. Beilby & Paul Rhodes Eddy. InterVarsity Press, 2011. 319 pp. $25.00. ISBN 978-0-8308-3944-5.
The Biblical teaching about justification is often portrayed as one of the most important biblical doctrines, and not without reason. Many Christians consider justification before God to be synonymous with salvation, and if this is the case, then it is primordial to have a proper understanding of what the Bible teaches about justification. Furthermore, there are many different explanations of justification, all of which purport to be the proper understanding of justification. Not only do Protestants and Catholics differ on their views of justification, but within protestant circles there are many different ways of understanding the doctrine of justification. For these reasons this book is a welcome addition to the library of any person who truly wishes to wrestle with what it means to be justified before God and by God. In this review we will first consider the purpose of this book, and how it is organized. We will then give a brief survey of the contributors and the views that they present. Finally we will note the advantages and disadvantages of the book. Due to the nature of this type of book, we will not interact with the many views that are presented in the book.
This book is part of InterVarsity Press’s Spectrum Multiview books series. The purpose of this series is to present a dialogue between the numerous views that have gained popularity in Christianity, concerning important theological and apologetical subjects. The purpose of this particular book is to create a dialogue between the proponents of 5 important views on the question of Justification. Each view is presented by a scholar who advocates the view in question, and each main presentation is followed by the reactions of the scholars who hold the other views that are included in the book. The book is edited by Paul R. Eddy and James K. Beilby with the assistance of Steven E. Enderlein. The editors of this book begin by giving two introductions to the subject of justification, which help to situate the reader in the contemporary debate. The first chapter is a historical survey of the doctrine of justification, beginning with the early church fathers and bringing the reader up to the modern debate. The second chapter is a survey and introduction to the contemporary debate, and overview of the primary developments that have moved the debate forward. Following the two introductions there are 5 views that are presented by reputable scholars who adhere to the views that they present.
The first view to be presented, in chapter 3, is Michael S. Horton’s presentation of his understanding of the Traditional Reformed view. Horton begins his chapter by explaining the historical background of the reformation view of Justification, over against the Roman Catholic condemnation of the reformer’s at Trent. He defines the reformed view, first, by comparing it with the declarations of Trent, and, later, by responding to the exegetical challenges brought to the reformed view by a number of the proponents of the New Perspective on Paul.
In chapter 4 Michael F. Bird presents his understanding of what has been called the Progressive Reformed View. He begins by noting that he considers himself a reformed theologian, but that he thinks that it is important for reformed theologians to integrate some of the claims of recent exegetical work into their theology. He describes his view by comparing it with the traditional reformed view, and this by giving an exegesis of justification in Galatians, and then justification in Romans. He then turns to a critical examination of the notion of imputation as held by traditional reformed thinkers, and follows this up with an analysis of the relationship between justification and works as seen in a comparison of the writings of Paul and James. Interestingly enough, aside from a few disagreements, Michael Horton thinks that Bird exaggerates the differences between Bird’s view and the Traditional reformed view.
In chapter 5 James D. G. Dunn presents his own version of the New Perspective on Paul view. James D. G. Dunn begins by noting that he also considers himself to be a reformed theologian, and gives an overview of what he considers to be the 4 main contentions of the New Perspective. His article is an explanation of the four main contentions.
This is followed, in chapter 6, by Veli-Matti Karkkainen’s presentation of the Deification view. Karkkainen’s presentation explains the recent developments in the Lutheran view of justification, through their contact with the Orthodox Church, and their involvement in the Lutheran-Catholic discussions. He defends the view that the best way to understand salvation is by the orthodox view of justification as Theosis. He begins by explaining developments in the Finnish school of Lutheran theology. This is followed by an examination of the Catholic-Lutheran joint agreement on Justification. He concludes with an analytical section that seeks to provide a direction for future discussion on justification.
The book is wrapped up, in chapter 7, with an essay by Gerald O’Collins and Oliver P. Rafferty who present their understanding of the Roman Catholic view of justification. The essay is divided into two parts. The first part is written by Rafferty, who gives an explanation of the Catholic view of justification. This is done by a historical overview of the many views that have been held by Catholic theologians throughout history, and concludes with an explanation of the declaration of the Council of Trent. The second part of the essay is written by O’Collins, and is an auto-biographical sketch of how O’Collins’ views of justification were moulded, through contact with Catholic and Protestant theologians.
This book is a great introduction to the subject of justification. It is well-written, by well-known scholars who provide a large amount of references for further study. The book comes with an author and subject index, as well as a scripture index, both of which are important for research purposes. The introductions to the subject of justification that are provided by the editors are an invaluable source of information. Furthermore, the dialogue that is created by the presentation and replies is invaluable for a proper understanding of the views presented. The book is not, of course, perfect. My primary difficulty with this book is that it seems a little unbalanced that three of the five views presented are presented by reformed theologians. Their respective views are important, and due to the variety of views in the reformed camp alone, perhaps it would have been better to do a book entitled “Justification in Reformed theology: three or four views”. In my opinion this book would have profited from the presence of a traditional Arminian view, a traditional Lutheran view and a traditional orthodox view of justification, rather than three variations of the reformed view, and a hybrid between the Lutheran, Orthodox and Catholic views. All in all this book was a wonderful introduction to the contemporary debate on justification, and I would highly recommend it to anybody who wishes to learn more about the subject.