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Amazon.com: 11 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Important Work on Interpreting NT Texts Related to Justification 10 Jan. 2014
By Nate Claiborne - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It should be no secret by now that I am fond of multi-view books. Whether they are published by Zondervan, IVP Academic, or even Baker Academic, I’m always on the lookout for a good multi-view book that will explore some interesting and relevant topic.

My most recent find and soon after review request is Four Views on The Role of Works at The Final Judgment. Edited by Alan P. Stanley, this roundtable of views features:

Robert Wilkin (Free Grace position, works determine rewards but not salvation)
Thomas Schreiner (Reformed Baptist, works will provide evidence that one is actually saved)
James Dunn (New Perspective on Paul, works will provide the criterion by which Christ will determine eternal destiny of people)
Michael Barber (Catholic position, works will merit eternal life)

In terms of contributor selection, I thought this was an excellent roundup. Here we have a true full spectrum all the way from works have no role at the final judgment (Wilkin) to them having a fully determinative role (Barber).

I won’t go blow by blow, but a few comments are in order. First, alongside IVP’s Five Views on Justification, this volume gives readers a good view what is at stake in the debates about how to read Paul. Schreiner and Dunn do not disagree with each other much (at least not to the extent Dunn tears into Wilkin) but there is a sharp contrast between them, and both have authored commentaries on Romans and theologies on Paul. Especially since Dunn was the contributor for the New Perspective on Paul position in IVP’s books, you can get a good cliff notes of his overall position by reading his essays in these two books. The subject matter here though is what makes many evangelicals uncomfortable, and within the book there is much talk of justification. For both Dunn and Barber, works play a determinative role in the final judgment (justification by works), and interestingly for both, you can lose your salvation. In that, Catholics and Arminians are on the same page, though the expositions of Dunn and Barber are not identical.

Second, while each contributor’s position is embedded within his overall system (or in Dunn’s case his refusal to systematize), Wilkin’s is entirely dependent on a certain kind of dispensationalism. Schreiner points this out, but it would be obvious to most readers after reading his essay. Unless you hold to an eschatological system that has multiple final judgments, then much of Wilkin’s exegesis seems strained. Wilkin also relies heavily on John’s Gospel, something the other three contributors don’t do (focusing instead mostly on Paul and James, just like the justification debates), and seems baffled that none of them follow his lead. He does makes some good points highlighting assurance based on faith, but ultimately he has to interpret all passages that seem to suggest believers being judged at the final judgment as applying to a different judgment, an option not open to anyone who isn’t dispensational.

Third, many evangelical readers will be surprised at how Barber’s essay unfolds. I think it is good for evangelicals to read Catholic writers in their own words. It may not change your overall understanding (salvation is still ultimately by works and assurance that you’re saved is not possible), but it does break down some stereotypes (specifically he really likes grace and talks about it a lot!).

Fourth, Dunn’s aversion to fitting his exegesis into a “system” seems to exert the same amount of hermeneutical force as someone else’s attempt to fit into a system. By that I mean it is a presupposition he brings to the text (“we need to allow for diversity and not force unity”) that is not unlike the systematizer’s presupposition (“we need to strive for unity and not allow for leftover diversity”). In both cases, it “colors” how the interpreter reads the text. It is as if Dunn is so weary of forcing the wrong pieces of the puzzle together that he is reticent to allow that the pieces might fit together without forcing. I think that is probably better than thinking “hey this group of puzzle pieces must make a complete picture and I’m going to put it together one way or the other.” But is still shapes how Dunn reads the NT and the end result is a “system” that more or less Arminian that allows for loss of salvation and syncs with Catholicism’s teaching that salvation is by works (even grace empowered ones).

Fifth, I’m not sure I completely follow Schreiner, but I’m definitely not following any of the other three contributors. He is offering a Reformed Baptist position, but I don’t think it is the position. I’m thinking a traditional Reformed position (maybe by someone like Michael Horton) might fit in between Wilkin and Schreiner, but then again they just slightly modify Schreiner to the point that another voice is not needed. His contention that works provide evidence but are not determinative seems correct to me, as well as his insistence that we are justified truly at the moment of faith/repentance/conversion. In his thinking, works will not fail to follow from that initial justification (if we are truly justified in that instant). Christians cannot fall away, but our works have no determinative effect on our ultimate salvation.

On the whole then, I think this is a valuable book. For people up on the contemporary debates concerning the New Perspective on Paul, it provides a stark contrast between how someone in the heart of that movement understands justification/final judgment/works and how a Reformed Baptist and a Catholic would view it. Wilkin feels kind of like the odd man out, mainly because he is the only one who sees works having no role in the judgment of believers (which is also because of his dispensational view of the judgments). But, I did like his voice being part of the conversation because he offered criticisms I wouldn’t think of, even his position is one I would ultimately never adopt. Like most of the multi-view books I’ve read to review on here (ok, maybe all of them), I would highly recommend it to you, especially if you are interested in the New Perspective on Paul in particular or just discussing soteriology in general.

[I was given a review copy of this book by the publisher]
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Discussion on the Role of Works in the Life of the Believer 21 Aug. 2013
By Michael C. Boling - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The debate has raged for many years concerning the role of works in the life of the believer. Some take the position that works are a necessary part of the equation with varying positions on just how necessary they are with others negating the whole idea of works instead embracing a heavy dose of grace with works being something we can do but rejecting the overall necessity of such actions.

Zondervan through their excellent Counterpoints series has provided yet another salvo of discussion on this topic in their book Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment. Scholars Robert Wilkin, Thomas Schreiner, James Dunn, and Michael Barber provide their views and positions on this perennially thorny theological issue with a great deal of skill and fervor. Wilkin provides what could be classified as the free grace approach, Schreiner and Dunn support a mixture of works and grace while Catholic scholar Michael Barber endorses the necessity of works to include the sacraments.

As is the typical format of the Counterpoints series, each scholar provides their perspective with a follow on engagement of their respective position by the other contributors. The discussion at times can be very direct with the authors noting varying levels of disagreement and at times agreement with their colleague's opinions and positions. While disagreement is very pointed, any element of challenge to another contributor's thoughts on a matter is done with a spirit of respect and in the spirit of irenic debate. With that said, no punches are pulled and the back and forth debate can be quite intense which only serves to provide the reader with the intended variety of thought on a particular issue, in this case the role of works at the final judgment.

The material in this book is admittedly very heady theological and arguably at times over the head of the average layman. However, this is a subject of great importance and one that can be understood provided the reader takes the necessary time to read through each contributor's presentation, taking into account the pros and cons of each argument as noted by the follow-on responses. Additionally, due to the limited amount of space each other is provided in which to state their case, there is often the feeling that much more could be said by any of these authors. Thankfully, each author recognized that fact and did a great job of providing the reader with footnotes or references to additional reference material to read through in addition to what they had the space to discuss. Furthermore, the scripture and subject index make this book a valuable resource for future engagement of the topic of works for anyone desiring to dig a little deeper in their personal bible study.

Understanding the role of works in the life of the believer is truly an important issue and each author approaches the topic with great care and precision. Each argument for or against a particular position is done with a great deal of theological acumen, something I noted very quickly even in regards to a few positions I took issue with such as that of Wilken and Barber. Despite my personal disagreements, after reading this book, I came away with a much deeper appreciation for the subject matter as well as a more fully developed understanding of not only the various positions taken within the theological community on the issue of works, but also a better scripture understanding of the passages used to support one idea or the other. Knowing the scriptural background and how this subject is outlined throughout scripture is a great help and this book does a marvelous job through the discussion provided by the contributors of enabling the reader to have a more broad understanding of what scripture has to say. So despite being a somewhat heavy theological book at times, tools are provided for the reader to engage the topic of works in the future.

As with the other books I have read in the Counterpoints series, Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment is a valuable resource. In just a little over 200 pages of quick but very engaging reading, the reader will find themselves engaged and in a clear learning mode, a true sign of a book that fulfills its overall intended purpose, that of providing the reader with an overview of how to approach the topic of works according to what scripture has to say. One will not be disappointed with this book and I highly recommend it as well as the entire suite of Counterpoints books provided by Zondervan.

I received this book from Zondervan for free for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A must read for anyone who wants to know the major views on works, faith, and assurance of salvation. 10 May 2014
By Gary - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
What will be the basis of my entrance into heaven when I stand before Jesus on judgment day? What role will my works play? Do I have to stay faithful to the end? How assured of my salvation can I be if I don’t know if I’ll persevere to the end?

This book is a must read for anyone who wants to be abreast of the present debate over works, faith, and assurance of salvation. It reflects the developments over the past twenty years of the Lordship/Free Grace Salvation debate which began between Charles Hodge and Lewis Sperry Chafer in the 1920’s and continued between John MacArthur and Zane Hodges (now deceased) in recent years. Michael Barber’s essay is especially helpful for Protestants who want to understand the Catholic view on the relationship between faith and works as they relate to justification and eternal life.

Wilkin (Free Grace view) represents the view that no works will determine one’s destiny in eternity, but rather one’s rewards. Schreiner (Reformed Calvinist) argues that works are a necessary fruit of faith, which if absent, proves faith was not present, and so will determine one’s eternal destiny at the final judgment. Dunn (Arminian) considers works necessary for final justification, seeing Paul through the lens of first century Judaism’s covenant nomism (the new perspective on Paul as promoted by N. T. Wright). Barber explains the Catholic view that salvation is by faith in Christ who empowers the believer to do works that merit salvation.

The book was especially helpful for understanding the issues in the debate and the challenge before evangelicalism with regard to the gospel of salvation. Though all four views agree that initial justification is by grace through faith alone—Ephesians 2:8-9 was quoted by all—they are very different understandings of the relationship of works following initial justification to final salvation, whether one “goes to heaven” or not.

All four contributors tended toward a dogmatic hermeneutic in that they used verses, sometimes out of context, to define or defend their position. They all failed to address key passages that weakened their arguments. This has characterized much of theological debate in the past centuries and so is not surprising, not just on this topic, but on others a well. I was disappointed in both Wilkins and Schreiner in that both tended to force passages through their theological grids. Still, they are helpfully clear about the differences between their views. Additionally, in their defense, space was limited and all four clearly defined their views, both in their contributions and their responses to the other contributors.

It should be noted that the three views that require good works to be present for one to receive eternal life at the final judgment are Amillennial views with a single judgment, the Great White Throne, where everyone must appear. Wilkin alone has two judgments, one for the Saints at the Bema Seat of Christ prior to His millennial reign and one for unbelievers at the Great White Throne Judgment following the Millennial Kingdom of Christ.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Good representations of four distinct views 12 Aug. 2014
By David - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book examines four views: Wilkin argues that works affect only rewards and in no way interact with our final justification by God; Schriener argues that our works confirm our justification at the final judgment; Dunn, speaking for the New Perspective on Paul, argues that the New Testament teaches final justification by both faith and works without the possibility of separating the two; and Barber, a Roman Catholic theologian, argues that the believer’s union with Christ graciously renders his works meritorious for final judgment.

Wilkin’s position is a nonsensical mishmash of begging the question and selection of evidence. He puts himself most clearly here: “Many would agree that there is a necessary connection between believing in Jesus and obeying his commandments. I would not.” He can therefore safely be dismissed on the evidence of scripture. Schreiner elucidates (mainly from Paul, but also other texts) the interpretation that I am most inclined toward – that “works are necessary for justification, but they are not the basis of justification or salvation since God requires perfection and all human beings sin. Hence, works constitute the necessary evidence of fruit of one’s new life in Christ.” Dunn’s arguments are interesting, but essentially he pushes a non-integrated view of faith and works: “Can we actually reconcile ‘justification by faith and not by works’ with ‘justification according to works’? … Assuredly we can maintain that any good that the believer does derives entirely from God’s grace. … But can we also deny that for Paul, believers do and will bear responsibility before God for their doings? Is it so serious that we cannot fit the two neatly into a single coherent proposition?” He argues well, but I do not see the force of his objections that Schreiner’s position weakens the text by not giving more emphasis to the warnings. Barber, a Protestant-trained Catholic (!) argues for the modern Catholic view from Eph. 3:20 and Matt 19 (among other similar verses) that the grace of God in the union of Christ to the believer is powerful enough to make our works meritorious: “The works that the believer performs in union with Christ are therefore capable of doing far more than all we ask or think – they even have salvific value!” His arguments are creative, but textually unconvincing. Of special note, unfortunately, is the general editor Alan Stanley, whose closing essay, in contrast with those by Pate in 4V: Revelation or by Grudem in 4V: Miraculous Gifts, is boring and unhelpful. Overall, an interesting and useful volume.
17 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Does everyone teach salvation by works now? 22 July 2013
By SKClimacus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is about the relationship between works and God's judgment.

Despite there being 4 views represented, there really only seem to be two views.

On the one hand, you have Schreiner (Calvinist?), Barber (Catholic), and Dunn (New Perspective), all arguing that we are ultimately saved by a mixture of grace, faith, and works at one Final Judgment (well, Schreiner more or less takes that position back at the end, saying that works merely prove we were saved to begin with, but 90% of his exegesis is that works are necessary to be saved). In sum, there is one judgment, where eternal salvation is at stake, and works will help decide the final outcome of salvation or damnation.

And then you have Wilkin (Free Grace). He argues that believers have eternal life the moment they believe in Jesus, and this is absolutely apart from any works that we do. Wilkin is a Dispensationalist, and he makes distinctions between eternal salvation and eternal rewards, between different judgments, the pre-millennial Kingdom, defends eternal security, etc. He says that at the moment of faith, believers escape the future Great White Throne judgment (because they already have eternal life), but they still need to appear before Christ at the Judgment Seat of Christ, where they will be judged according to their works. Faithful believers will receive a rewards in Christ's kingdom, and unfaithful believers will not.

I'm still digesting the critiques of each other's views. Its a worthwhile read. If anything, it makes you wonder how many people in the "mainstream" still preach salvation by faith apart from works.
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