on 8 January 2009
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.
on 9 July 2008
This book is an interaction with the latest thought and denials of the doctrine of imputation. It is a helpful discussion that carefully covers the relevant biblical texts exegeticaly discerning the nature of biblical teaching on this matter. Agreeing and dissagreeing with his opponents at points he sets forth a well reasoned presentation of the biblical nature of this doctrine. A good amount of lengthy footnotes support his interactions. Furthermore, the opening chapter provides a helpful overview of the confessional history of this doctrine. In all a valuable and helpful assesment.