New Sale at Westminster

Great sale on pastoral resources going on here. Authors include Carson, Dickson, Reeder, Dever, Poirior, Baxter, Laniak, and Sanders.

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Justification By Faith Alone?

The next section is on justification by faith. Again, there is much to commend. However, this paragraph falls short of confessional orthodoxy, and in some places, rather badly.

The first paragraph is unobjectionable, as far as it goes. Everything in it is true. But it doesn’t go far enough. It does not say that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. Jeff Meyers once made a huge stink about the fact that his 30 reasons couldn’t be read as denying imputation, and that he believed in imputation. I said fine. But the question still remains: if imputation is the heart of justification, then why didn’t he mention it then? And why isn’t it present here? If Jeff Meyers is the expert on justification that he says he is (for he went to the most justification-thumping seminary in existence: Concordia), then he should know that everything depends on imputation, and that imputation must be defended at all costs. I don’t see him making an all-out effort to defend imputation. In the previous section on union with Christ and imputation, they also fall short of saying that Christ’s full righteousness is imputed to us. They say “credited.” But that doesn’t answer the question. Is it imputed or not? Are they using “credited” the same way as “imputed?” The only time they used “imputed” in that paragraph was to deny the importance of the IAOC. They want us to avoid reading them with a hermeneutic of suspicion. It is hard to resist such a hermeneutic with all the lack of clarity going on in FV statements.

The second paragraph is far more objectionable. And again, it is lack of clarity that is the issue here. FV guys really ought to know by now what the critics are saying, and how we view justification as being completely unrelated to our works in any way, shape or form. And yet, the FV insists on maintaining a constitutive understanding of works with regard to justification. Here is the problematic sentence:

Justifying faith encompasses the elements of assent, knowledge, and living trust in accordance with the age and maturity of the believer. (emphasis added)

Just to be clear on what they mean, the previous sentence defines this living trust as “living, active, and personally loyal faith.” There is one thing that needs to be cleared up here: NO FV critic believes that we are justified by dead faith, not even Scott Clark. However, the FV is guilty of mixing up James and Paul here. The question here is whether jusifying faith justifies BECAUSE it is living, or whether the living-ness is an always concomitant accompaniment. It is a question of what the ground of our justification is. The Reformation has always said that faith justifies instrumentally because of Christ’s righteousness (the ground). Faith is the instrument, and Christ’s righteousness is the ground. The sentence quoted above in the FV statement is ambiguous. Charitably read, it is saying the same thing as James is saying. But we are not forced to read it that way. The words admit of another interpretation, which is that because faith is alive, we are justified, which is to say that because of our perseverance (read good works), we are justified. It is hard to imagine a worse way of putting James’s point than the above statement, since, if it is trying to rephrase James, it is using “justifying” in an ambiguous sense. Do they mean it in the declarative sense of Paul, or in the evidentiary sense of James? Or do they argue (as all non-Reformed folk do) that “justify” is used in the same sense in Paul and James? Unfortunately, we have to say that they are using “justifying” in the declarative sense of Paul, because of the first paragraph, which defines justification as the declarative act of God’s grace. So, they are using “justifying” in the way that Paul does, and yet they are including works in the definition. Or at least, it can easily be read that way. Not clear at all.