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Justification: Five Views

Justification: Five ViewsJames K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy, eds., Justification: Five Views (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2011), 308 pages, ISBN 9780830839445.

The concept of justification carries eternity on its shoulders as many endeavor to understand, explain and experience the nature of salvation and how we need it. Justification is a term one would assume that scholars and theologians would strive to agree upon for the good of the global community. However, in spite of ecumenical efforts that include The Joint Declaration, the concept of justification remains unsettled in scholarship. In an attempt to examine justification, James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy, editors of Justification: Five Views, serve the Christian community by wisely drawing on six scholars to present and analyze the five primary justification views. The list of scholars and views includes Michael F. Bird, the Progressive Reformed View; James D.G. Dunn, the New Perspective View; Michael S. Horton, the Traditional Reformed View; Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, the Deification View; and Gerald O’Collins and Oliver Rafferty, the Roman Catholic View. Each scholar offers their position on justification and provides summary responses to each of the other views. While ecumenical resolution on justification may not have been the end goal, this book can serve as another conversation piece in the grand ecumenical dialogue. A well-organized text featuring a scholarly and respectful tone, Justification offers thought-provoking debate to an issue that is made possible by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ so that we may discuss the nature and need for salvation.

Setting the context for a debate to understand what is at stake and how this debate came about can either intensify or diminish the reader’s interest in the topic. Thankfully, Beilby and Eddy heighten the reader’s awareness of not only the history and contemporary components of the justification debate but also their significance. The first two chapters set the tone for the weighty conversation that is to come. Some of the topics discussed include justification and imputation, the teaching of final judgment in light of justification, pistis Christou (i.e. faith in Christ vs. faith/faithfulness of Christ), and the forensic nature of justification. For The Pneuma Review reader, it is noteworthy that while the role of the Spirit is initially highlighted by Beilby and Eddy, the significance of the Holy Spirit in the justification conversation warranted more attention.

As I read the text, a few thoughts consistently came to mind that may have enriched Justification. The first thought asks, what do these five views actually agree upon in the grand understanding of justification? A final, concluding chapter that brings the five authors together to produce the three or four tenets and/or terms that each of the five agree upon might have assisted in the ecumenical component for the reader. The extensive debate causes one to wonder whether a resolution is possible, and Horton quotes N.T. Wright stating, “If Christians could only get this [doctrine of justification] right, they would find that not only would they be believing the gospel, they would be practicing it; and this is the best basis for proclaiming it” (p. 106). Being able to read a final chapter that indicates there are some components the five views agree are “right” could have been beneficial. Speaking of N.T. Wright, the second thought involves the ghost-like involvement of this prominent scholar. His presence seems to permeate the text and direct contribution by Wright might have enhanced the conversation. The concluding thought asks whether an agreed upon definition of justification could have occurred. For the pastoral side of me, it is very difficult to walk away from an important text like this without having a definition for justification that all five authors could agree on.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Winter 2014

About the Author: Matthew Jones, Th.M., is currently pursuing a Ph.D. through Regent University in Renewal Studies with a concentration in Biblical Studies while serving as an Advisor and Affiliate Professor at Colorado Christian University. Matt is married to Cathy Jones and loves hanging out with his three children, Hannah, Tyler and Kenzie.

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