Whopping New Book on Justification

Wow, a new 480 page book on justification by one of the modern experts on the doctrine. It is due out in September. I eagerly look forward to reading this volume. J.I. Packer once said in the preface to the Buchanan volume on justification that it was a sad state of affairs when the doctrine had not received any kind of thorough treatment since Buchanan. There are now several volumes (!) that will quite adequately fill up that lacuna, especially in light of recent challenges to the doctrine. One could mention Oden’s helpful reader in the Patristics, which shows that there is a bit more continuity between the Reformed doctrine and the early church than people might have thought. This book has very helpful discussions of recent debates (especially valuable is the debate between Gundry and Carson on imputation). Then a further volume is a very helpful companion volume to the previous one, having an especially helpful historical essay on Regensburg. The two Westminster seminaries have come out with excellent volumes, WTS’s here and WSC’s here. Tony Lane’s book is essential for understanding the Protestant/Catholic discussions that have been happening recently. A good technical refutation of the New Perspective on Paul is available here and here. Also excellent in technical matters is Guy Waters’s book (despite all the flack this book has received, I still consider it an excellent resource), and Westerholm (this book has some good humor (!) in it). On a more popular level regarding the NPP is Venema’s book and Piper’s book on N.T. Wright. A much quoted exegesis of Romans 1-5 that deals with the NPP is Gathercole’s book. Seyoon Kim has carefully critiqued Dunn’s work here. Stuhlmacher has also critiqued the NPP here. Then there is the book that Waters and Johnson edited, which I reviewed in a number of posts. Now, this isn’t even all the books that have been written in the modern period on justification, let alone the wonderful volumes by Buchanan, Owen, Burgess, Vermigli and others in the time of the Reformation and afterwards. All Reformed pastors should have a good knowledge of this doctrine and be conversant with the various challenges that have arisen.



  1. August 6, 2008 at 10:49 am

    […] Book on Justification and Bibliography I have posted a bibliography of recent works on justification here. And I am very much looking forward to a new book on […]

  2. August 6, 2008 at 11:07 am

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  3. Gil said,

    August 6, 2008 at 11:31 am


    Do you know where Tony Lane teaches, if he does so?


  4. Wes White said,

    August 6, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    I think that has been one helpful aspect of the current justification controversy. It has helped to bring attention back on this central doctrine. The Reformed theologians generally saw this doctrine as the most crucial doctrine for the purity and comfort of the Church. Somehow that seemed to be lost over time. The Lord has a way of using controversy to refocus attention on things that we have not been emphasizing as we should.

  5. August 6, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    You mentioned Gathercole’s book. I have long wanted to ask someone like you what you think of Gathercole’s chapter in the book you mention, “Jewish Soteriology in the New Testament”? There Gathercole discusses how parts of the NT “assign a determinative role to works at the final judgment.”

    It is always humorous to me how many in the more conservative Reformed world selectively use sources such as Gathercole in their various causes, in this case to support traditional Reformed/Lutheran readings of Paul in the midst of contemporary upheavals in Pauline studies.

    Also, you mention the 1st volume of Justification and Variegated Nomism. Have you actually read it? Almost all the contributors support Sanders’ conclusion, with qualified disagreements and nuances. The most common criticism is that Sanders studies Judaism with Protestant categories and questions. Humorously, they do not really advocate returning to any form of an “Old Perspective” on Judaism. Seifrid’s essay and Carson’s summary essay are the lone entries in the volume that are in any way strongly critical of Sanders in the way most anti-NPP Reformed folk claim the volume is critical of Sanders. Alexander’s essay on Rabbinic Judaism is a slightly different story altogether.

    Backing up a bit, and just for fun, Bauckham’s essay covers 4th Ezra. For those who are not aware, Sanders claims 4 Ezra is the lone exception of importance to his understanding of Palestinian Judaism as Covenantal Nomistic. Sanders claims 4th Ezra has displays legalistic works-righteousness Judaism. Humorously, Bauckham (again, who treats 4th Ezra in Justification and Var. Nomism vol 1) claims Sanders is wrong about 4th Ezra and that, indeed, 4th Ezra too broadly fits a covenantal nomistic framework. So, in this case, a contributor claims Sanders did not go far enough.

    It is widely acknowledged (see almost every academic review of the book!) that Carson misrepresented the various contributors in his summary essay, making it seem as though they were much more strongly critical of Sanders than they were. This was certainly my impression when I read the volume. Since almost every essay in the 2nd volume claims to start with “the findings” of volume 1 (by which they mean Carson’s misleading assessment of the findings), does this not mean both volumes are slightly less helpful to you than you and others who deploy them against the NPP make them out to be?

    So, just some questions about some of your Justification bibliography.

    Just to clarify, I am not simply trying to frustrate and annoy you. I am curious if you (or others) are aware of these points about these books and what your thoughts are about them.

    Thanks for your time and for the notice about the upcoming Fesko volume.

  6. greenbaggins said,

    August 7, 2008 at 8:13 am

    Gil, he is professor of historical theology at the London School of Theology. FTH, I will get to your post later, as I am on vacation, and internet access is somewhat limited. I will just say one thing. I have not only read the two volumes of justification and variegated nomism, but I also read most of the Judaic literature being discussed in volume one. I disagree with your assessment. Not all of the essays were in direct disagreement. But the point of the essays (many more than just two) is that Judaism in the 2TJ was much more varied than Sanders’s thesis allows. This I think was quite adequately proven. The article on Josephus, for instance, proves that all by itself, dealing with literature that Sanders never considered (I have read Sanders too, by the way. I have read most of these books).

  7. GLW Johnson said,

    August 7, 2008 at 8:40 am

    You never got around to answering the question I posed to you over at Scott Clark’s blog: Do you think that the Apostle Paul -in developing his doctrine of justification- abused the various texts in Genesis in the process.And did Moses write them?

  8. August 7, 2008 at 11:21 am

    GLW, do you want me to answer these questions so everyone can see how far “out there” I am? Or do you have an edifying purpose in wanting to have a conversation about such issues?

    Here we go.

    No, I do not think Moses wrote Genesis, or any of the Pentateuch as we have it for that matter. I have said that elsewhere before, including in a comment on R. Scott Clark’s blog where you asked me your questions before.

    Just for fun, Genesis never claims to have been written by Moses. I am not convinced by the arguments that various NT authors assume Moses wrote the Pentateuch. If you go that route, then Enoch wrote the Book of the Watchers (a 3rd century BCE Jewish Apocalypse; 1 Enoch 1-36) as Jude 14-15 assumes he did—Jude cites it as other parts of the NT (and contemporary Jewish and Christian writings) cite “Scripture,” saying “Enoch…prophesied…” This is just one of my many reasons for thinking this way. Most of them have to do with how I understand the writings of the Pentateuch, what they are doing, and in what context(s) they make the most sense.

    I do not think Paul “abused” the various texts in Genesis. I do think he read them in ways that are not as congenial to grammatical-historical readings of them as we would like. I think Paul’s “opponents” in Galatia probably had readings of Genesis and the Hebrew Bible that were closer to the grammatical-historical meanings than Paul did. This does not mean he “abused” them, however. He read them in their ultimate context, of God and the climax of redemptive-history in Christ.

    His “opponents” had more convincing readings of the Scriptures. Paul’s argument’s in Galatians ultimately depend not on him “proving” things from Scripture, but on an argument from experience: the Galatians experienced the Spirit apart from Torah (cf. 3.1-6); therefore the idea that his “opponents” and their readings from Scripture were the Christian way to go is wrong. Paul appeals to the reality of what God really did and from there offers his ultimately-Christian (re)readings of the Scriptures in question—in this case, about Abraham, sonship, Torah, and righteousness.

    The cogency of Paul’s re-reading (in the light of Christ) of those Scriptures in Galatians, for example, depends upon his argument from experience and his understanding of Christ’s death in relation to Torah and “righteousness.” Thus he can re-read the Scriptures in the light of Christ’s faithfulness. I discuss this in greater detail on a blog post on the Conn-blog ( http://connversation.wordpress.com/2008/06/21/what-has-galatians-to-do-with-jubilees/ ), one on which I invited you to comment. You responded by saying, “I was trained as a simple church historian-not a Biblical scholar” and that you would follow Silva, who does not address the points I make in that post.

    For Genesis, Abraham was a Torah keeper and his faith(fulness) had a Torah shape to it. For Paul, Abraham was most certainly not a Torah keeper, his faith(fulness) most certainly did not have a Torah shape to it, and the “righteousness” Abraham had is dissociated from Torah. For Genesis Abrahamic descent means keeping Torah and being circumcised (c.f, Gen 17, 26.4-5, etc.). For Paul, true Abrahamic Sonship is antithetical to Torah factoring into one’s identity.

    So, there are some of my thoughts in short. I (and others in the Evangelical-Reformed world) have reasons for thinking along these lines and think this is being faithful to Scripture in a deep way.

    Is there room to have reasonable discussions about such things in our churches; to investigate if this is faithful to Scripture and edifying? Or, are the things I said simply proof of my guilt, how “far out” I am, reasons to marginalize me, etc.—so that neither you nor anyone else should listen to me? Is talking about the Bible and investigating it in this way outside the bounds of living out Christ together?

  9. GLW Johnson said,

    August 7, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Thanks so much. This was very illuminating-especially in light of the two posts Lane put up from WTS.

  10. ReformedSinner said,

    August 7, 2008 at 11:36 am

    The fundamental problem remains the same. The historic Reformed orthodoxy believed in the unity of Scripture. The Old is complete by the New and the New brings true light to understand the Old. It is one product that is revealed in history and time and culture.

    “New Reformed Evangelicalism” (my own term) decided that’s bad scholarship and indefensible. But rather they take the path of 18 century higher criticisms and modern historic criticisms. Old is in of itself a stand-alone theological threaties (and even within the Old there are diversity and not a unity) that served autonomously before Christ, but now after Christ is here and the New is written in light of Christ that somehow the New has a God-given right to “overpower the Old” and force all Christians to “re-read” the Old in new, contradictory, and opposite light, but that’s ok because we are reading it through Christ.

    So instead of OT righteousness as a revelation that will organically grow in its revelation and finally be completed by the NT, now it’s OT righteousness is completely different than NT righteousness.

    At the core we have two major camps of systematic paradigms approach to the doctrine of Scripture competing for a right to be called Reformed Orthodoxy.

  11. its.reed said,

    August 7, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    Foolish Tar Heel:

    FWIW, one of Lane’s rules here at Green Baggins is that no one post anonymously. So if you would, please introduce yourself (name, general geographic location, church membership).


    Reed DePace
    moderator among MODERATORS

  12. August 7, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I thought most of you knew who I am.

    Stephen Young
    New Life Glenside (PCA)

  13. its.reed said,

    August 7, 2008 at 2:24 pm


  14. rfwhite said,

    August 7, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    FTH, aka Stephen,

    Would you summarize for us the evidence that led you to the conclusion that “for Genesis, Abraham was a Torah keeper and his faith(fulness) had a Torah shape to it”?

  15. Mark said,

    August 8, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    I’ve always thought that Genesis pre-dated Moses. Why not allow that the generation of the Exodus already had Scripture inspired and written by Seth, Noah, Abraham, etc?

  16. ReformedSinner said,

    August 8, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    The written Pentateuch has always been attributed to Moses. However, that is not to say the Israelites have no idea what’s going on before Moses written everything down. There is a strong oral tradition from the beginning all the way down to Moses. Seth, Noah, and Abraham may have pretty well orally passed down what they witnessed, what they experienced, and their interpretations to the later generations.

    Yet this at the same time does not deny Mosaic authorship. And the Pentateuch has many internal evidences that points to Mosaic authorship.

    Distrusting oral tradition and puts credibility only in written text is a modern concept.

  17. Vern Crisler said,

    August 8, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    Re: #16

    Hello RS

    Can you provide any evidence for this “oral tradition”? Or is the idea just based on the absence of writing samples from so far back?


  18. its.reed said,

    August 11, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Ref. 19:

    Rey, yet again another mis-characterization. Augustine’s expression of the Bible’s doctrine of sin does not lay the blame for sin at the feet of someone else (presumably Adam).

    Rather, your faulty understanding does. Thanks again for the humor.

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