Saturday, February 11, 2012

Justification: Five Views

My thanks to friends at IVP for a review copy.

I started Justification: Five Views yesterday, and I enjoyed the essay "Justification in Historical Perspective" by Paul Rhodes Eddy, James K. Beilby and Stephen E. Enderlein. This chapter is an ambitious attempt to cover a lot of ground, so I wouldn't ever want to be too fussy about what they don't cover. They cram a lot in approximately 50 pages already. Their overview of Pentecostal contributions to the debate was particularly interesting and it is always good to see engagement with my two heroes, Bultmann and Barth.

Having said that, they hedged their bets a bit too much on their reflections on Barth! In a footnote they write:

"Even so, perhaps it says something about the current state of Barth studies that this is the only section of this historical survey about which the authors are nervous to say anything for fear of being shown not just wrong, but pitifully wrong. Then again, we find a small bit of comfort in the fact that no matter what we say here, most likely someone in the Barthian world will come to our defence!" (37 n.96)

I think they hit upon the crucial point at this juncture, however, when they note that, for Barth, Jesus Christ accomplishes the reality of reconciliation with God, and not merely its possibility. Yes! And amen!

As it seems that most have not understood Douglas Campbell's thesis, I was not surprised to find misunderstanding in this overview. They write: "Douglas Campbell, for example, agrees wholeheartedly with the new perspective that the old perspective—which he refers to as the ‘Justification theory’—is ‘a paradigms with multiple flaws’" (63). However, Campbell categorically does not equate the old perspective with “Justification theory”. In fact, as DC puts it in his conclusion: “the solution that I am aiming toward is deeply Protestant if not Lutheran” (The Deliverance of God 934)!

With contributions from Michael S. Horton, Michael F. Bird, James D. G. Dunn, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Gerald O'Collins and Oliver Rafferty, this promises to be an extremely helpful book on a very complicated set of debates.


At 2/11/2012 10:16 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

I agree, the history of the doctrine of justification is fascinating. I enjoyed many parts of McGrath's volume on the subject. I think a study of the history of justification implicitly brings into question the accuracy of post-Luther doctrine on the subject, given the dramatic shift in interpretation that occurred at that time.

As it seems that most have not understood Douglas Campbell's thesis,
If Campbell wrote more clearly, less people would misunderstand him. :p

In my view, 'Old Perspective' means something like "the standard Protestant reading of Paul". The 'New Perspective' means "any recent Protestant interpreter who rejects the standard reading of Paul". DC rejects the standard reading, which he calls 'justification theory'. Therefore, it is straightforwardly true that DC is a New Perspective writer and "agrees wholeheartedly with the new perspective that the old perspective... is ‘a paradigms with multiple flaws’". DC doesn't seem to like to think of himself as a New Perspectiver on the grounds that he is more thorough-going in his rejection of the Old Perspective than other New Perspective writers are. He thinks that other New Perspective writers haven't gone far enough and haven't rejected enough of the Old Perspective and so from his point of view (from the far end of the New Perspective continuum) a lot of what the other New Perspective writers teach shares too much in common with the Old Perspective and so he doesn't like to associate his views with theirs. Plus, DC's work doesn't really build on the work of other New Perspective scholars nor deal with the same sorts of issues as them, so calling him 'New Perspective' perhaps implies a relationship that doesn't exist. Thus, I think DC can and should be labelled as 'New Perspective' because he rejects the Old Perspective, but I can understand his reluctance to accept that labelling.

“the solution that I am aiming toward is deeply Protestant if not Lutheran”
Hmm, I don't think I'd call his solution 'deeply Protestant'! I can see the similarities between his view and some variants of Finnish Lutheranism. And he does cherry-pick various protestant ideas to combine into his view. But given he is rejecting 90% of what 90% of Protestants teach... 'deeply Protestant'?!

At 2/21/2012 12:01 AM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Hi Andrew,
to be honest, I think Doug wrote very clearly! You are right that Doug thinks the new perspective has not gone far enough, but he also rejects some of their key arguments relating to covenantal nomism et cetera. His entire procedure, methodology and results are both more traditional and more radical. He is beyond old and new perspectives!

At 2/25/2012 3:53 AM, Blogger Edwardtbabinski said...

Justification is bloody boring, both in fact.

Let's talk about the next step, sanctification.

Christians have the cleansing waters of baptism.

AND they have the Lord's Supper, the "living bread which came down from heaven," the body and blood of Jesus--"if ye do not eat my body and drink my blood ye shall not have life within ye" (John 6: 51-59) interpret that however you will--but also note it's such a serious gift that if you don't celebrate the Lord's Supper in the right manner you can anger God so much He may make "many of you ill" or may even kill you according to Paul in 1 Cor.

AND they have prayer and fasting,

AND they have prayers and psalms to recite from the world's only directly God-inspired book,

AND they have the Holy Spirit "leading them into all truth,"

AND, they have the promise that "where sin abounded grace abounded all the more." Grace is literally "divine favor," something that God hands out. And he has infinitely big hands.

So with so many supernatural advantages that only Christians posssess what can possibly go wrong with the sanctification process?

At 2/25/2012 11:37 PM, Anonymous Barry Matlock said...

Hi Chris. I think, actually, the equation between 'old perspective' and 'JT' in Campbell is quite clear: 'the old perspective on Paul that I am articulating in terms of Justification theory' (DOG p. 202).

At 2/25/2012 11:58 PM, Anonymous Barry Matlock said...

Perhaps what you mean is he does not simply equate the 'old perspective' (or 'JT') with Protestantism. Even here, he strongly associates the two, while wanting to say this tradition is 'more complex' than we have sometimes allowed (DOG pp. 247-50).

At 3/01/2012 9:05 PM, Anonymous Katrina, Sunday School Craft Blogger said...

I’ve heard quite a bit about “Justification: Five Views”, but this is the first blog post I’ve read that really made me want to go pick up a copy and check the book out. I’m glad that you pointed out that it’s a dense read—your honesty is refreshing—and your other notes have definitely raised my interest. Thank you for sharing!

At 3/21/2012 8:19 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Dear Barry,
I had written a response to this a while ago – but it seems to have been lost (?)
Actually, I think I got it right first time. Campbell does not equate the old perspective with justification theory (as I show in the main post), and the reference you make to p. 202 of DoG does not say this either, I think. Speaking of the ‘old perspective’ (certainly as it is used in Justification: Five Views) as the same thing as JT has the potential to miss crucial distinctions Doug has made in his book, though of course he certainly does critique the old perspective “in terms of JT”.
It is a real honour to have you comment on my blog!
Best wishes,


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