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S. E. Paynter (Bristol, England)

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Jesus' Blood and Righteousness: Paul's Theology of Imputation
Jesus' Blood and Righteousness: Paul's Theology of Imputation
by Brian Vickers
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid Exegesis which finds the Reformed Doctrine of the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness to Believers in Paul, 8 Jan. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a published version of the author's PhD thesis, and is a
careful and substantial piece of work. The author sets out to exegete
the main the passages which have traditionally been used as evidence
for the Reformed doctrine that justification involves the imputation
of Christ's righteousness to believers. The three main passages he
considers are Romans 4; Romans 5:12-21; and 2 Corinthians 5:21. He
exegetes each carefully, not trying to find the whole `doctrine' in
each passage. Vickers then synthesises them together. He then
supplements this synthesis with consideration of other relevent
Pauline passages (e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:30; Philippians 3:9; and
Romans 9:30-10:4). As the reviewers quoted on the book observe,
Vickers's work has an irenic tone, and he does not demonise those with
whom he disagrees.

In an opening chapter Vickers shows his understanding of the historic
dimensions to this debate, tracing `trajectories' in the way
imputation has been treated by various scholars since the
Reformation. He deals briefly with Luther; Malanchthon; Calvin;
various Protestant confessions; John Owen; Charles Hodge; Louis
Berkhof; Albrecht Ritschl; Rudoplh Bultmann; Adolph Schlatter; Ernst
Kasemann; and Peter Stuhlmacher.

Vickers conclusions from his exegesis are that the classic orthodox
Reformed view is substantially right. He recognises that justification
in Pauline thought, although sometimes treated as being essentially
just forgiveness of sins, actually involves a `counting' of a positive
righteousness before God, and that this righteousness is Christ's,
for it is based on his substitutionary redeeming death for believers,
and is for those who are found in him through faith.

Vickers has a helpful position on the controversal distinction between
Christ's `active' and `passive' obedience. He underlines that
biblically it is not right to view Christ's death a purely `passive
obedience' and his life as purely `active' obedience. Each of his
actions have both elements. Vickers is not denying the
`active/passive' distinction can be helpful if understood correctly,
and he is certainly not denying that for Paul justification involves a
`positive' imputation of righteousness and not merely the `negative'
non-imputation of sin.

As a contemporary work of New Testament exegesis this is an exemplary
work showing how exegesis should be carried out with appropriate
historical and theological awareness. Vickers conversation partners
are not only current scholars, such as James Dunn, N.T. Wright,
R.H. Gundry, John Piper, Richard Gaffin and D.A. Carson, but the
principal commentators through history, including Luther, Calvin,
Vermigli, Turretin, Owen, Buchanan and Vos. Vickers, in a synthesising
chapter, does not fail to address the main objections that have been
raised to the doctrine of imputation.

In conclusion, this is an important contemporary defense of a critical
doctrine, which determines whether the Church stands or falls. Well
worth any Christian's time to read, but mandatory for any minister or
scholar who doubts (or who has to deal with those who doubt) whether
the classic Reformed doctrine can be justified from Scripture.

Where is Boasting?: Early Jewish Soteriology and Paul's Response in Romans 1-5
Where is Boasting?: Early Jewish Soteriology and Paul's Response in Romans 1-5
by Gathercole
Edition: Paperback
Price: £24.64

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Crucial Contribution to the New Perspective on Paul Debate, 31 Dec. 2008
This is the published version of Simon Gathercole's PhD thesis, which
he did under the supervision of James D.G. Dunn. However, Gathercole's
conclusions are significantly more conservative than his supervisor's.
It is undoubtedly the case that this book makes a real contribution to
the `New Perspective' debate, and any history of this controversy has
to take this contribution into account.

The New Perspective on Paul was launched in 1977 with the publication
of E.P. Sander's, `Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of
Patterns of Religion'. Sanders attempted to show that Second-Temple
Palestinian Judaism was not the works-righteousness obsessed,
legalistic religion that it was often presented as being. Instead he
argued that it had a `pattern' which he called `covenantal nomism'. A
pattern of a religion was characterised by two questions - how one
`got in' to the religion, and `how one stayed in'. Sanders argued that
Judaism was a gracious rather than a legalistic religion, as one got
into the religion if one was a Jew through the gracious election of
Abraham, not by observing the Mosaic Law. Obedience to the Law was how
one stayed in the covenant.

Gathercole starts with some very helpful and important observations
concerning the slippery-ness of such terms as `self-righteousness',
`legalism', `merit-theology' and `works-righteousness'. Failure to
understand this plagues the New Perspective on Paul debate.

Gathercole then challenges Sander's concept of `pattern', arguing that
his two questions are inadequate. He suggests that they betray the
typical `liberal' downplaying of eschatology. He argues that they need
to be supplemented with the question `how one finally gets there'.

Gathercole then proceeds to reexamine the relevant literature from
Second Temple Judaism with this question in mind, and he finds that
belief in an ultimate judgment on the basis of one's observances is
widespread, suggesting that grace played a much smaller role in early
Jewish soteriology than Sanders suggested.

Gathercole then provides a fairly conservative exposition of Romans
1-5, with a particular emphasis on how Paul's gospel is designed to
make boasting before God impossible.

It is hard to over-emphasise how important the contribution is that
this thesis makes to the proper assessment of Sanders' work. It is not
the final or last word in showing the weaknesses of the New
Perspective, but it is an important element.

Justification in Perspective: Historical Developments and Contemporary Challenges
Justification in Perspective: Historical Developments and Contemporary Challenges
by Bruce L. McCormack
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read: scholarly explorations of the development of doctrine of justification, 30 Dec. 2008
This is a scholarly collection of papers from a variety of
perspectives about the Christian doctrine of justification. Different
papers treat justification from various eras, giving a good
understanding of the various historical debates and positions. There
are also papers by important contributors to the contemporary debate.

The papers are invariably well written, and the book is nicely
typeset, with footnotes at the bottom of the page (where they
belong!), and it comes complete with a Scripture index and a
subject/name index.

The first paper, by Mark Bonnington, is entitled, `The Protestant
Doctrine of Justification: The Heart of Protestant Preaching'.
Bonnington introduces the subject via a rapid overview of the
gospel in the early chapters of Romans.

The second paper, by Nick Needham, is entitled, `Justification in the
Early Church Fathers'. Needham does a careful job of culling telling
quotations on justification from the writings of such `Fathers' as:
Justin Martyr, Origen, John Chrysostum, Cyprian, Athanasius, Ambrose,
Jerome, Tertullian, Methodius, Gregory of Nazizianzus, Hilary of
Poitiers, Ambrosiaster, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Basil of
Caesarea, and Clement of Rome. Needham shows that `justification'
language in the non-Latin Fathers is primarily forensic, meaning `to
be declared righteous' or `to be vindicated.' He shows that there
furthermore is some use of the concepts of `imputation' and `crediting',
for both the nonimputation of sin, and for the imputation of righteousness.
Needham also shows that most of the fathers were prepared to recognise
a `initial justification', and that some were explicit that this was
by faith alone. Needham is careful to point out, however, that for the
Fathers, forgiveness was mediated through baptism. Needham goes on to
explore how the Fathers understood `subsequent' justification in the
Christian life. There is clear teaching that expresses that `faith
without works' does not justify, and Needham collects some great
`evangelical' quotations which show many Fathers were looking to trust
in Christ's mercy at this stage too. Needham identifies the growing
tendency in the Latin Fathers to speak of `merit'. If one lesson is to
be drawn from this part of history it is do not expect doctrinal
clarity and consistency appropriate to a later age in those writing
before the controversy. No doubt our statements are equally muddied
with respect to controversies yet to occur.

The third paper, by David F. Wright, is entitled, `Justification in
Augustine'. Wright acknowledges that it is difficult to summarise
Augustine on justification, partly because Augustine never wrote a
work which concentrated on the doctrine. However, it is precisely
Wright's careful collecting of Augustine's thought on justification
from across his corpus, which makes this paper important. Wright shows
that Augustine's view of justification was due to the Latin Bible, and
that it was that it involved the making of a person to be righteous,
and he shows how this fitted into Augustine's monergistic
soteriology. Wright draws the cautionary tale from Augustine's
position that people should beware of basing their doctrine purely on
the Bible known only in translation.

The fourth paper, by Carl F. Trueman, is entitled, `Simul peccator et
justus: Martin Luther and Justification'. Martin Luther's relationship
to Reformed and subsequent Lutheran orthodoxy concerning the matter of
justification is highly controversial. Trueman shows that partly this
is because Luther's views were in development until about
1520. Trueman shows this development, and then considers whether there
was any difference between the mature Luther and the `forensic'
teaching of Philip Melanchthon. Truemen argues that there
wasn't. Truemen identifies the strong links in Luther's thought
between baptism and justification, and argues that this aspect is
inadequately appreciated by evangelicals who claim commonality with
Luther's teaching.

The fifth paper, by Karla Wubbenhorst, is entitled, `Calvin's Doctrine
of Justification: Variations on a Lutheran Theme'. Wubbenhorst
considers the development in Calvin's thought on justification by
considering the first (1536) edition of the Institutes, Calvin's
commentary on Romans, and the last (1559) edition of the Institutes.
She identifies Calvin's treatment of justification in the context of
`union with Christ through faith given during regeneration' as being an
important contribution that Calvin made to the doctrine.

The sixth paper, by Anthony N.S. Lane, is entitled, `A Tale of Two
Imperial Cities: Justification at Regensburg (1541) and Trent
(1546--1547)'. The meeting at Regensburg revealed that on some issues
the Reformers and Rome could not be reconciled - however,
justification was not considered one of them. Lane explains that
Calvin, who attended as an observer, saw it as a victory for the
Reformers, and in accordance with Protestant teaching. Luther, who did
not attend, was dismissive of the agreement, believing it to have
been a fudge. Lane favours Calvin's interpretation. Of course,
Rome came to reject the Catholic theologians who made these
compromises, and at Trent the Lutheran position was rejected outright.

The seventh paper, by A.T.B. McGowan, is entitled, `Justification and
the ordo salutis'. McGowan explores the role that various Reformed
theologians have given to justification in the ordo salutis (that is,
in the `logical' order that exists between the actions that comprise
salvation's affect on the believer). Typically justification is placed
after faith and before sanctification. McGowan distinguishes those
that concentrate on the ordu salutis from those that make the
believer's Union-with-Christ central, and who see the various elements
of the ordu salutis as aspects of what it means to be united with
Christ. McGowan notes the differences between the Barthian
neo-orthodox position on this, and the positions being advocated by
the teachers current at the Westminster Seminary. McGowan favours the
Westminster approach, but believes that it need not necessarily lead
to ignoring the ordu salutis. A very wise conclusion in my humble

The eighth paper is by Bruce L. McCormack, and is entitled, `Justitia
aliena: Karl Barth in Conversation with the Evangelical Doctrine of
Imputed Righteousness'. McCormack is a world renowned Barthian scholar,
and he works hard in this paper to make his deep insights into Barth's
theology (and philosophy) comprehensible to evangelicals. I thought
he succeeded at the time, but, alas, the insights have since slipped
away from me.

The ninth paper is by Henri A. Blocher, is entitled, `The
Lutheran-Catholic Declaration on Justification'. Blocher brings his
enviable clarity and insight to dissect the 1999 agreement between the
Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Congress on
justification. Blocher digs deep and finds a few areas where the
issues were fudged, or difficulties were simply ignored. A balanced
and insightful paper.

The tenth paper is by Simon J. Gathercole, and is entitled, `The
Doctrine of Justification in Paul and Beyond: Some Proposals.'
Gathercole has the impossible task of trying to elucidate Paul's
teaching on justification in a single paper, where the interpretation
of practically every verse is contested. Gathercole finds a more or
less Reformed doctrine taught by Paul, except he is not convinced that Paul
teaches the imputation of both Christ's active and passive obedience
to believers. He interacts with N.T. Wright's view of the
righteousness of God in articulating his position. A paper with many
insights, but ultimately unsatisfactory where it deviates from
orthodox Reformed teaching.

The eleventh and final paper is by N.T. Wright, and is entitled, `New
Perspectives on Paul'. In this, N.T. Wright is careful to dintinguish
himself from other `New Perspective' scholars on justification, such
as E.P. Sanders and James D.G. Dunn. Furthermore, he is keen to
emphasise his Reformed, Calvinistic, and evangelical credentials. In
particular, he emphasises that he is trying to be faithful to
Scripture alone in the exposition of his understanding of the doctrine
of justification. Careful reading nevertheless shows how far Wright's
views are from Reformed Orthodoxy. Perhaps the most shocking sentence
in the paper is the following discussing a future justification: `We
now discover that this declaration, this vindication, occurs twice. It
occurs in the future, as we have seen, ON THE BASIS of the entire life
a person has led in the power of the Spirit--that is, it occurs on the
basis of `works' in Paul's redefined sense' (emphasis added, page 260)
If `on the basis' is really meant (and remember `basis' has a
technical sense in most literature on justification), it is hard to
see how Wright's position avoids the worse kind of
`works-righteousness'. I suspect, however, that Wright is being loose
in his writing -- unfortunately, there is not enough in the rest of
the paper to require such a generous reading of his position. This is
why the whole `New Perspective' debate is so crucial, and ends up
being about how sinners may stand before their God.

This is a fascinating collection of papers, a number of them being
absolutely first class, and they make the whole book well worth
purchasing. However, it should be pointed out that there have been
three other slightly more recent books of the same kind, but which are
more consistently written from the Reformed perspective, that should
also be considered as possible purchases. These are:

(1) Johnson and Waters (eds), `By Faith Alone: Answering the
Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification', Crossway Books (Wheaton:
Illinois), 2007. (2) R. Scott Clark (ed), Covenant, Justification and
Pastoral Ministry: Essays By the Faculty of Westminster Seminary
California, P. and R. (Phillipsburg: New Jersey), 2007; and (3)
Oliphint (ed), `Justified in Christ: God's Plan for Us in
Justification', Mentor (Fearn: Scotland), 2007.

All four contain important insights into the biblical teaching about
justification, and complement each other in important ways. God,
through numerous scholars, is providing the church with a profound
reflection on the heart of his holy Gospel. To him alone be the glory.

Justified in Christ: God's Plan for us in Justification
Justified in Christ: God's Plan for us in Justification
by K. Scott Oliphint
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read: a scholarly exploration of the biblical doctrine of justificatio, 16 Dec. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a scholarly collection of papers on the Reformed doctrine of
justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, from
scholars who are (or have been) associated in various ways with
Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia). The papers are well
written, and the book is nicely typeset, with footnotes at the bottom
of the page, and it comes complete with subject/name and scripture
indexes. There is also a collected bibliography ... something I hope
will catch on in other collections of scholarly papers.

Sinclair B. Ferguson provides a helpful introduction to this
collection, in which he argues for the importance of the subject,
given that evangelicalism is drifting from its historical moorings. He
traces the history of the debate around the doctrine of justification,
especially in recent biblical scholarship, and uses this to situate
the various contributions made by the papers in this book.

The first paper is by Richard B. Gaffin Jr, and is entitled
`Justification and Eschatology'. In it Gaffin takes it as read that
the declaration that a believer is justified is a verdict that
anticipates the final eschatological verdict. Instead he concentrates
on the extent to which justification has an element which is `not yet'
that is, still future. He argues that the final judgement is in some
sense, our future justification, and he shows that this is the
traditional teaching of Reformed orthodoxy. Gaffin then turns to
exegesis an shows that our `union with Christ' involves union with him
in his death and resurrection, and that these aspects have a forensic
as well renovative element to them. Gaffin also looks at our Adoption,
shows that it has a future aspect, and a forensic element. Finally he
also looks at the final judgement directly. Gaffin's argument is that
final acceptance is both certain for the justified believer who has
Christ's righteousness imputed to them, and that the faith that
justifies the believer is never unaccompanied by the fruits of

The second paper is by Lane G. Tipton, and is entitled `Union with
Christ and Justification'. In it Tipton addresses the question of `how
does the imputation of Christ's righteousness relate to our union with
Christ?' He argues that union with Christ is the organising structure
in which the Holy Spirit gives us all our spiritual blessings, and
that imputation of Christ's righteousness is best understood as `the
aspect of the union with Christ that supplies the judicial ground of
justification.' Tipton argues these points exegetically, and then
investigates their historical formulation - interacting with both
Reformed and Lutheran orthodoxy, and with the contemporary scholar,
N.T. Wright. This paper provides both a helpful understanding of
centrality of `Union with Christ' in Pauline and Reformed thought, and
another insight into the weakness of New Perspective teachings.

The third paper is by Peter A. Lillback, and is entitled `Calvin's
Development of the Doctrine of Forensic Justification: Calvin and the
Early Lutherans on the Relationship of Justification and Renewal'. In
it Lillback seeks to show the controversial point that Luther's (and
the early Lutheran) understanding of justification differed slightly
from the Reformed doctrine - in spite of many Lutheran and Reformed
scholars failing to draw attention to the matter. Lillback accepts
that subsequent Orthodox Lutheran teaching on the nature of
justification as only having a forensic character fell in line with
the Reformed teaching that justification is an event not a process. To
my mind, the evidence that Luther held that justification had an
important `renewal' element to it, as well as being forensic, was
convincingly documented. Those who wish to argue that there was no
difference between the Reformers on justification have to reckon with
the material that Lillback collects. However, Lillback's evidence does
not support the position taken by some Federal Vision advocates, who
argue that the traditional Reformed doctrine is too Lutheran, and that
a new - `properly Reformed' doctrine is needed. If anything, it might
support a view amongst Orthodox Lutherans that their doctrine is too
Reformed! My reservation with Lillback's evidence arises from a
failure on my part to really understand Luther's position. Perhaps
there is another way to read Luther's words? In any case, Luther seems
to sound a confused note at times. No wonder Lutherans later abandoned
his position and followed Calvin on this!

The fourth paper is by Carl R. Trueman, and is entitled `John Owen on
Justification.' It is (I believe) a reprint of his introductory essay
to the recent reprint of Owen's 1677 classic on justification by faith
alone. This is a helpful essay with helps situate Owen in his
historical context, and which inspires one to go and read Owen
himself. Trueman helpfully traces Owen's various emphases on
justification, including his understanding of the imputation of
Christ's active righteousness in the context of Covenant theology (and
in particular, in the context of the Covenant of Works and the
Covenant of Redemption). Trueman also highlights the relationship Owen
saw between Christology and justification. Owen's debate with Baxter
concerning `eternal justification' and `antinomianism' is also
covered, and Trueman argues that Owen successfully defended the
orthodox Reformed doctrine from these charges.

The fifth paper is by Jeffrey K. Jue, and is entitled: `The Active
Obedience of Christ and the Theology of the Westminster Standards: A
Historical Investigation'. In it Jue convincingly shows that the
imputation of the active obedience of Christ to believers is an
integral part of the Westminster Confession of Faith, in spite of a
last minute modification in one statement concerning it in the
Confession, which made it less explicit. It would have been nice if
Jue had recognised that subsequent Reformed (but non-Presbyterian)
confessions which built on the Westminster Confession (such as the
Savoy Declaration and the 1689 Particular Baptist Confession) made
this doctrine even more explicit.

The sixth paper is by William Edgar, and is entitled `Justification
and Violence. Reflections on Atonement and Contemporary
Apologetics'. In it Edgar advances the fascinating thesis that people
will seek replacement `atonements' if Christ's atonement is unknown.
I'm not sure if I agree ... it is a new idea to me; but the examples
Edgar collects are worth pondering.

The seventh paper is by K. Scott Oliphint, and is entitled, `Covenant
Faith'. In it Oliphint argues that everyone is in a covenant
relationship with God (either in Adam or in Christ), and that
`covenant faith' consists of two elements, `original faith' and
`saving, justifying faith'. Oliphint provides a philosophically and
theologically aware discussion of `original faith' and then sketches
the traditional Reformed understanding of justifying faith as an
instrumental act of the believer.

The eighth paper is by J. Stafford Carson, and is entitled, `The
Pastoral Implications of the Doctrine of Justification'. In it, Carson
argues that preachers need to do better in presenting the implications
of the doctrine of justification by faith alone to our contemporaries,
as there is widespread evidence that it is not understood. Carson
extremely helpfully explores the relationships that exist between
justification and guilt and pride, and the need for growing
sanctification. He explains how justification should keep us from
antinomianism and legalism. A wonderfully practical essay, which
underlines again just how important the doctrine of justification by
faith alone is to our everyday lives and to the health of our churches.

A final section of the book reprints John Murray's four essays on `The
Imputation of Adam's Sin' which were originally published in the
Westminster Theological Journal in late 1950s. These essays, which are
not included in the Banner of Truth four volume `Collected Works' of
John Murray, are excellent, and show again Murray's incisive mind as
he throws the light of a master systematician and careful exegete on
an important topic which has important parallels with how Christ's
righteousness is imputed to us, as Paul teaches. Thrilling stuff!

I have become increasingly convinced reading this (and other books,
some of which I mention below) that what the church today needs more
than anything else, is preachers who will preach and apply
`justification by faith alone' to the church and to the world. Some
`evangelical' churches are currently ignoring the question of
salvation, and are concentrating instead on other matters. Others
urge certain behaviour to win acceptance with God. In either case,
hearers will end up trusting in their own compliance with the
behavioural norms of those churches. What is needed are churches who
will spell out clearly that acceptance with God is purely through
trusting in Jesus, as in this way (alone!) his righteousness is
counted as ours, and we are declared righteous by God. No lesser
righteousness will do. Any other `gospel' is not the Gospel - but
bondage. This book will help us understand and preach `justification
by faith alone' better. So buy it. Read it. Study it. Preach it. All
to the glory of God alone.

Two recent books which helpfully supplement this one with further
scholarly treatment of the doctrine of justification by faith from a
traditional Reformed perspective are (i) Johnson and Waters (eds), `By
Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of
Justification', Crossway Books (Wheaton: Illinois), 2007; and (ii)
R. Scott Clark (ed), Covenant, Justification and Pastoral Ministry:
Essays By the Faculty of Westminster Seminary California, P. and
R. (Phillipsburg: New Jersey), 2007.

Get and read all three. God, through these scholars, is providing a
profound reflection on the heart of his holy Gospel.

Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry, Es
Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry, Es
by R. Scott Clark
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read: a Fresh Scholarly Exploration of the Reformed Understanding of Justification and Covenant Theology, 16 Dec. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a book of scholarly papers by the faculty of Westminster Seminary
California on the subject of justification and covenant theology. The
papers are well written, the book nicely typeset, and footnotes are where
they belong ... at the bottom of the page they are reference on. There is
a Scripture and a Subject/Name index.

This is a book for those who think they know a lot about the doctrine
of justification and for those who would like to. There are 14 papers.

1) R. Scott Clark, `How We Got Here: The Roots of the Current

Clark follows the development of the doctrine of justification through
the 17th century neonomians and on to Norman Shepherd. He provides an
overview of this book.

2) David VanDrunen, `Where We Are: Justification under Fire in the
Contemporary Scene'.

VanDrunen rehearses the 20th century debates with the Roman Catholics
over justification, and then moves on to discuss the new perspective on
Paul and the challenge of the `Reformed Revisionists'. This is a helpful
overview, but it is necessarily has to omit much.

3) Iain M. Duguid, `Covenant Nomism and the Exile'.

This takes a fresh approach to the New Perspective debate by rehearsing
the reasons given in Scripture for the Exile, and in particular,
considering how God judged Israel and Judah in spite of his covenants
with them.

4) Bryan D. Estelle, `The Covenant of Works in Moses and Paul.'

This exegetes Genesis chap 2-3 and Romans to show the biblical
foundations for doctrine of the covenant of works. This interacts with
various Reformed scholars who have denied the covenant of works.

5) S.M. Baugh, `The New Perspective: Mediation, and Justification'.

Baugh tackles exegetically shows the relationship between mediation and
justification. He argues that the New Perspective handles this subject
inadequately. A solid contribution to an important weakness in the New

6) David VanDrunen and R. Scott Clark, `The Covenant Before the

It explores the historical development and Scriptural support for the
`Covenant of Redemption' - the eternal covenant between the Father and
Son. This paper probably worth the price of the book by itself.

7) Michael S. Horton, `Which Covenant Theology?'.

Horton shows the difference between the monocoventalism of the New
Perspective and Federal Vision proponents, and compares it with the
covenantal framework which the Reformed have traditionally used. Horton
concludes that covenant theology, rightly understood, is crucial for
understanding the relationship between forensic justification and our
union with Christ.

8) R. Scott Clark, `Do This and Live: Christ's Active Obedience as the
Ground of Justification'.

This is a compelling look at the necessity of understanding justification
as involving the imputation of Christ's active obedience to the believer.
Clark traces the historical development of the doctrine, and looks
at the exegetical and theological basis for it. He then answers all the
main arguments raised against the doctrine. Excellent stuff.

9) W. Robert Godfrey, `Faith Formed by Love or Faith Alone? The
Instrument of Justification'.

This paper looks at medieval, Roman Catholic, and Reformation teaching on
the relative primacy of `love' and `faith'. An informed and
informative contribution.

10) Hywel R. Jones, `Justification by Faith Alone: No Christian Life
Without It'.

The classic Protestant distinction between justification and
sanctification is used, and the meaning of justification explored. It
then discusses how justification by faith alone should guard a Christian
against trying to rely on their own works in any way, and also, from
thinking that sanctification is an optional extra.

11) Hywel R. Jones, `Preaching sola fide Better'.

This is a helpful look at how to preach `by faith alone'.

12) R. Scott Clark, `Letter and Spirit: Law and Gospel in Reformed

This main burden of this essay is to show by quotation that the `law'
`gospel' distinction is a `Reformed' insight, and not merely a Lutheran

13) Julius J. Kim, `The Rise of Moralism in Seventeenth-Century Anglican
Preaching: A Case Study'.

It is scary to see how a Reformed church could so quickly slip from
deep Reformed insights into the Gospel, into the crass semi-Pelagian
(if not actually Pelagian) moralism of the Latitudinarians in the 17th

14) Dennis E. Johnson, `Simul iustus et peccator: The Role of
Justification in Pastoral Counselling'.

This is an exciting look at the role that assurance has in holy, rather
than antinomian living.

The book ends with the staff of Westminster Seminary California
affirming the traditional Reformed doctrine of justification using words,
drawn from the relevant passages in the various Reformed confessional

In books like this we begin to see why God allows heresies like the
`New Perspective on Paul' and the `Federal Vision' to disturb the
church. It drives us to dig deeper into Scripture (and into our
theological heritage) to appreciate again (and perhaps in fresher
ways) just what the gospel is, and how it all fits together. Although
this book in part has its roots in these contemporary debates,
actually it is primarily a profound investigation of the heart of the
holy Gospel. Buy it. Read it. Study it. Preach it. All to the glory of
God alone.

Two recent books which helpfully supplement this one with further
scholarly treatment of the doctrine of justification by faith from a
traditional Reformed perspective are (1) Johnson and Waters (eds), `By
Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of
Justification', Crossway Books (Wheaton: Illinois), 2007 and (2) Oliphint
(ed), `Justified in Christ: God's Plan for Us in Justification',
Mentor (Fearn: Scotland), 2007. Get and read all three.

[This is a cut down version of my review on, due to the
(irritating) word limits on reviews at]

Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.72

5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read: a scholarly exploration of the biblical teaching on justification, 16 Dec. 2008
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This review is from: BY FAITH ALONE PB (Paperback)
Gary L.W. Johnson and Guy Prentiss Waters (eds), `By Faith Alone:
Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification', Crossway
Books (Wheaton: Illinois), 2007.

This is a book of scholarly papers by theologians with a traditional
Reformed understanding of the doctrine of justification. The papers
interacts with recent challenges to that doctrine. The papers are well
written, the book nicely typeset, and footnotes are where they belong
... at the bottom of the page they are referenced on. There is a
Scripture index and a Subject/Name index.

The Foreword is by David F. Wells, and in it he argues that there are
three streams in contemporary evangelicalism: the orthodox; the
marketers (pragmatists who while not denying orthodoxy, often keep it
out of sight as they package Christianity for `seekers'); and the
emerging church, which seems to be against doctrinal clarity (or
denies that it is possible). This is a passionate appeal for the
Reformation of evangelicalism, and, perhaps in places, is more
passionate than fair.

The first chapter is by Guy Prentiss Waters, and is entitled
`Introduction: Whatever Happened to Sola Fide?'. This sketches the two
principle contemporary challenges to the Reformed doctrine of
justification: the New Perspective(s) on Paul, and the Federal Vision.

The second paper is by Cornelis P. Venema, and is entitled `What Did
Saint Paul Really Say? N.T. Wright and the New Perspective(s) on
Paul.' This is a good and fair (if short) treatment of the New
Perspective(s) on Paul, focusing in particular on the subtle position
of N.T. Wright, who is a powerful advocate of one strand of the `New
Perspective on Paul'. Venema sketches the debate, and points out
important areas where the New Perspective positions are
problematic. Venema is clearly drawing upon the various books he has
written on this subject, and such mastery of the debate shows, and
makes this an important short treatment of the debate. It is a pity
that the timing of this book meant that John Piper's more substantial
treatment of Wright's position could not be interacted with.

The third paper is by T. David Gordon, and is entitled `Observations
on N.T. Wright's Biblical Theology With Special Consideration of
`Faithfulness of God'.' Gordon helpfully takes on Wright on his own
ground of `Biblical Theology', and shows the inadequacy of Wright's
reduction of God's righteousness to `covenantal faithfulness'.

The fourth paper is by Richard D. Phillips, and is entitled `A
Justification of Imputed Righteousness'. In this, Phillips reviews the
recent debate between Arminians and the Reformed over whether
justification involves the imputation of Christ's righteousness
(passive or active). One good feature of this paper is that Phillips
interacts with D.A. Carson's important paper (`The Vindication of
Imputation', published in `Justification: What's at stake in the
Current Debates', 2004) which responds to the Arminian
arguments. Phillips also tackles New Perspective critiques of
imputation. An important overview of the current debate, and
a helpful rebuttal of the challenges.

The fifth paper is by C. FitzSimons Allison, and is entitled `The
Foundation Term for Christian Salvation: Imputation.' This is a
profoundly important essay which traces the deleterious impact of
imagining that we can stand before God with anything other than the
perfect righteousness of Jesus. In particular, Allison explores how
the whole concept of `sin' has to be down played in Roman Catholic
thought (and in other systems) to make our imperfect obedience or
`faith' the ground of our acceptance with God. Insightful and

The sixth paper is by T. David Gordon, and is entitled `Reflections on
Auburn Theology.' Auburn Theology or `Federal Vision', for those not
in the know, is a rag-bag term for the teachings of various `Reformed
Revisionists' associated with Auburn Avenue. Gordon, who has some
sympathies for the aims of the Federal Vision apologists, does a
sterling job of exposing some of the poor theology behind this
vision. In particular, he shows how they fail to take the plurality of
biblical covenants into account, and traces this monocovenantalism back
to John Murray. He acknowledges, however, that Murray was kept from
the mistakes of the Federal Vision by maintaining the historic federal
understanding of Adam's representative role. This paper unfortunately
does not do as good a job as it could have done in orienting the newcomer
to what actually the Auburn Theology is about.

The seventh paper is by David VanDrunen, and is entitled `To Obey is
Better Than Sacrifice: A Defence of the Active Obedience of Christ in
the Light of Recent Criticism.' This paper traces the Reformed
teaching that justification involves the imputation of the active
obedience of Christ and discusses the Federal Vision and New
Perspective rejections of it. Helpfully, he traces a cause of this
rejection to a view that perfect obedience to the Law is not required
by God for eternal life, advocated by scholars such as
E.P. Sanders. VanDrunen exegetes the Pauline passages which talk about
God's righteousness, and shows how they contribute to the debate. He
concludes that the active obedience of Christ is important not only
for justification and the work of Christ, but for the character of God
and the nature of man. A super essay.

The eighth paper is by R. Fowler White, and E. Calvin Beisner, and is
entitled `Covenant, Inheritance, and Typology: Understanding the
Principles at Work in God's Covenants'. This is a tour de force of
exegetical treatment of the biblical covenants, especially focusing on
the relationships between them. The relationship between the Covenant
of Works and the Mosaic Covenant are explored, and the differences
between them and the Abrahamic, Davidic and New covenants are

The ninth paper is by John Bolt, and is entitled `Why the Covenant of
Works in a Necessary Doctrine: Revisiting the Objections to a
Venerable Reformed Doctrine'. Bolt provides an important defence of
the Covenant of Works by collecting and answering the various
objections that `Reformed' theologians have advanced against it.

The tenth paper is by Gary L. Johnson, and is entitled `The
Reformation, Today's Evangelicals, and Mormons: What Next?' In this
Johnson documents how doctrinally vacuous some definitions of
evangelicalism are, and shows how this allows some Catholics and even
some Mormons(!) to claim to be evangelicals.

There is an afterword by R. Albert Mohler, Jr., entitled `A Change in
the Audience, Not in the Drama'. In this helpful essay Mohler argues
that traditional Reformed gospel is facing a new audience, namely
contemporary evangelicalism, and that many are impatient with aspects
of it. He concludes with the following observation: `We can only hope
and pray that contributions like this important volume can help to
awaken evangelicalism to its doctrinal peril. Otherwise, nothing
genuinely evangelical will remain of evangelicalism.' To which this
reviewer can only add his heartfelt, `Amen!'

I have become increasingly convinced that the doctrine of
justification by faith alone must play a central role in our preaching
and teaching. Failure to explain it will lead our hearers into thinking
that it is something that they do which will win them acceptance with
God. This book is a helpful and inspiring aid to treating justification

Two recent books which helpfully supplement this one with further
scholarly treatment of the doctrine of justification by faith from a
traditional Reformed perspective are (i) R. Scott Clark (ed),
`Covenant, Justification and Pastoral Ministry: Essays By the Faculty
of Westminster Seminary California', P. and R. (Phillipsburg: New
Jersey), 2007 and (ii) K. Scott Oliphint (ed), `Justified in Christ:
God's Plan for Us in Justification', Mentor (Fearn: Scotland),
2007. All three are worth reading.

The Pre-existent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark and Luke
The Pre-existent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark and Luke
by Simon J. Gathercole
Edition: Paperback
Price: £26.99

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Synoptic Gospels Teach Jesus was Preexistent, 8 Feb. 2008
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This is a book of exemplary New Testament scholarship, which challenges
the widely held view amoung scholars of a certain stripe, that it is only
John's Gospel which knows a preexistent Christ. Gathercole argues his case
convincingly, and with scrupulous attention to detail and the views of
other scholars. He shows a mastery of the background material, which he
then uses to great effect. His prose style is clean - even elegent.

Gathercole's book starts with two chapters which seek to put his
investigation into whether Matthew, Mark and Luke taught the preexistence
of Jesus into context. He looks at the pre-existence teachings of Paul
and the Synoptic teaching of Christ's transcendence, as this is the
background against which claims that the Synoptic Gospels teach that
Jesus was preexistent must be judged. With such a background, it should
not be surprising if Matthew, Mark and Luke also taught
a pre-existent Christ.

There then follow a series of chapters which look at the "I have come" + a
purpose sayings in the Synoptics. In the first Gathercole argues that
there is a superficial plausibility to these verses teaching Christ's
preexitence. In the second, his demolishes the alternative readings
of these verses that different scholars have proposed. He then shows that
the best parallel in the extant literature of the time is in the sayings
that are used to introduce angelic visitors to the human realm. Then he
gives a fresh exegesis of these verses which shows that there is a clear
pre-existence Christology in each of the Synoptic gospels.

One of the compelling features of Gathercole's work is that he is not
desperate to support his thesis with any argument whatsoever. He
is critical of inadequate or inappropriate arguments for Jesus' pre-
existence in the Synoptics. In particular, Gathercole is not at all
convinced by the so-called Wisdom Christologies that some have tried to
use to argue for Jesus' preexistence. As Gathercole observes, there is
a big difference between a personal preexistence and the preexistence of
a personification.

The later parts of the book look at other evidence, such as the
the main Christological titles, Son of Man; Son of God; Lord; and
Messiah/Christ. One intriging section looks at the possibility that there
is a logos Christology in Luke-Acts.

This book is concerned with the teachings of the Synoptic gospels as we
have them. Gathercole does not address the question of whether these
sayings are dominical, nor how (if at all) they have been redacted. It is
not a criticism to note this, as all such studies must have a boundary.

In summary, the scholarship seems to be impeccable; it certainly convinced
me! It is difficult to imagine that a low Christology will be able to be
ascribed to the Synoptic Gospels in the light of Gathercole's work. This
is an important result, requiring many scholars to re-work their theories
of how a high Christology developed. If this is an example of the work of
the new wave of conservative scholars, it is an exciting time for the
academy and the church. It shows that sceptical scholars can be taken on
even in the field of Synoptic studies, and their house of cards starts to
look shaky indeed.

The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright
The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright
by John Piper
Edition: Paperback

25 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A courteous and generous rebuttal of N.T. Wright's views, 22 Dec. 2007
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Piper sets the perfect tone for any theological debate right at the start
of this book - he points to his nearness to glory and explains he has no
desire to score cheap points off anyone, to misrepresent what they say, or
to use any tricks to make his argument seem stronger than it is ... and,
in my opinion, he admirably achieves it.

Piper interacts carefully with N.T. Wright's views on justification.
It seems that Wright replied with a 10,000 word essay to an earlier draft
of this book, and Piper responded by increasing and modifying his
treatment. As far as I can tell, having read most of Wright's works that
Piper quotes, Piper has done a good and fair job of representing Wright's

Is this book important? Yes. Wright is typically presented as one of the
three principle developers of the so-called "New Perspective on Paul",
along with E.P. Sanders and James D.G. Dunn, and the New Perspective is
currently influential in many theological departments. This means that
in time, its ideas will have been taught to many who come to lead the
Church. The significance of this is increased by the radically different
understanding of justification and the gospel that Wright and the other
New Perspective scholars have compared with, for example, the Reformers.

Wright at different times has both emphasised the distance between his
own views and the Reformers, and minimised the significance of these
differences. Piper admirably (and generously) grapples with the
complexities and subtleties of Wright's various writings, critiquing
them from the Bible, and contrasting them with traditional Reformed

In some ways, this is a frustrating book to read. However, this does not
reflect poorly on Piper, but rather on the relatively unsystematic
way Wright has written on justification. Piper points out the
flaws in Wright's wilder statements, and then moves on to "give him
the benefit of the doubt" by treating his position as if it were actually
that in his more sober (qualified) statements. This is what leads
a earlier reviewer to conclude that the only issue at stake in this
debate is the imputation of Christ's active obedience. Piper does
effectively reach this conclusion at one point, but only after
tackling many of Wright's more extreme statements, and then
ignoring them and interpreting him in the most conservative way
possible. It is not true that this is all that this "New Perspective
on Paul" debate is about.

In conclusion, this is a good critique of a critical thinker on a
profoundly important subject that is only going to become more
important in the years ahead. A must read for all New Testament scholars,
ministers and church officers.

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