Friday, November 09, 2007

Justification Debates at ETS

Over at CT, ETS acting president Hassell Bullock of Wheaton College is interviewed on what to expect at the forthcoming ETS meeting. Included is a question on renewed debates about justification:
"I believe there is a need for discussing the basic doctrines of our faith over and over again, not with the intent of discovering a new doctrine, but discovering new dimensions of old doctrines. Since the doctrine of justification was the "watchword" of the Reformation, and thus the one doctrine, perhaps above all others, by which Protestantism distinguishes itself from its Catholic and Orthodox communions, it is only wise that we should talk about it and try to understand why our understanding distinguishes us from other Christian brothers and sisters. In so doing, I hope we shall come to a better understanding of the theological dilemma we have and do face, and find that behind the doctrine of justification stands our common Lord. From my point of view, this is not likely to erase the reformers' understanding of justification, but hopefully will bring us to a better understanding of each other, and that can only be a touch of God's grace."
I thinks this is good advice! I do not see any need to abandon the essential architecture of justification as bequeathed to us from the Reformers, however, we have to recognize that the Jew-Gentile issue has alot to do with the content and context of Paul's debates about justification. Thus, covenant membership is at the very least a consequent of being justified by faith.
On another matter, Bullock is asked:
Is there any merit to suggestions for changing the ETS doctrinal basis?
"The recent return of Francis Beckwith, the ETS president, to the Catholic faith of his childhood, has obviously and understandably created questions within the society about the adequacy of our theological basis, which is quite brief: "The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory." The society was founded upon a simple theological basis rather than a statement of faith, with the intention of providing a broad evangelical basis for academic discussion, thus allowing and encouraging diversity within unity. While the proposed amendment will not change that basis, it will expand the statement quite significantly, and, while solving one problem, may create others.
However the society decides this issue, I hope ETS will continue to see itself as a wide space for discussing biblical-theological and related issues within the bounds of an unshakable commitment to the inerrancy of Scripture."
My own view is that a doctrinal statement of Inerrancy and Trinity is inadequate for defining both the boundaries and breadth of the society. I agree with Denny Burke and Ray Van Neste that we should adopt the UCCF, but I would also prefer that the UCCF statement be adopted as it currently is with no additions or revisions.

1 comment:

Geoff Smith said...


With all of this talk about justification going on, and me being a young theology student I have been reading a lot of literature on the subject. My readings have brought me from Paul to Irenaeus, to Augustine, to the scholastics, to the Reformers, Puritans, revivalists, all the way to Sanders, Dunn, and Wright (and Carson). This of course has even included McKnight on the subject. But I found your blog and your book and read your book and am surely convinced that atonement is bigger than justification and that NPP folks and Reformed folks should not be suspicious of one another.

I ordered Piper's book and have yet to get it in the mail, but instead of sleeping this week I read it online and have found it very helpful. Though I have a hard time discerning how he can be so convinced of a well defined doctrine of imputation as being essentially in the text, I agree with Piper that in Paul justification is God's declaring one righteous (whatever the content is) so that that is in, not just his declaration of already being "in."

Anyway, I read that you helped the editing process and was wondering what you thought of his discussion of legalism, hard and soft. I thought that it was helpful in saying that ethnocentrism is a self-righteous attitude, but I thought that it was unhelpful in that it made an impossible demand on faith(that it be entirely free of self-righteousness to be effectual). Anyhow, thanks for your contribution to the discussion, and I'm sure it had to do partly with Piper's attitude throughout the book, and thanks for reading this silly comment.