In working through Justification: Five Views, here’s where we’ve been:
- Justification: History and Contemporary Debate
- Justification: The Roman Catholic View (Gerald O’Collins and Oliver Rafferty)
- Justification: The Lutheran Deification View (Veli-Matti Karkkainen)
- Justification: The New Perspective on Paul View (James D. G. Dunn)
- Justification: The Traditional Reformed View (Michael S. Horton)
- Justification: The Progressive Reformed View (Michael F. Bird)
Having looked at all the views, I do think the last is the best. That being said though, I benefited from reading them all and definitely learned from the different authors. I like that the format of this book in that each author gets to present his case and also has to critically respond to the each other view. It definitely adds value to the book as a whole to not just have 5 side by side essays.
It is also instructive on perhaps a different level to see how each author tends to respond to the others. Though both authors are named “Michael” and both have a view classified as Reformed, there was quite the gap between how each handled criticism. Michael Bird was perhaps the most appreciative critical responder and always had compliments to start off his critique. Michael Horton on the other hand tended to obliquely compliment and then jump right into a significant critique.
It is also interesting, especially considering the presence of Catholic authors, that Horton’s critiques often stemmed from tradition, more so than the Catholics responses. It seems that almost a priori, for Horton’s position there can be no defect in the Reformed creeds and the Reformers were generally right about most everything. Now I don’t think Horton actually thinks that, but many times his responses could be boiled down to “the Reformers didn’t teach that,” or “you’re right about that and the Reformers already said it.”
In short, I found his responses kind of off-putting.
On the other hand, though I expected it at the outset, I really did enjoy Bird’s approach to both his essay and his criticisms of the other authors. He was gracious in disagreeing, which shows that it is possible to be a Calvinist and not alienate people (I say that tongue-in-cheek of course). He was even quite playful when it came to it, showing you can have a discussion about serious theological issues without being stone-faced. His view quoted approvingly from two of the other contributors, and the only criticism he got from the Catholic responder was his affirmation of penal substitutionary atonement.
Overall, this is a great book to grab a copy of if you’re interested in studying the doctrine of justification. You are presented five well written positions and can read four counter-arguments to each. I look forward to more books like this being released and especially to the upcoming one on hermeneutics. I’m glad I took the time to go through this book, and would encourage you to take some time as well!
- Editors: James K. Beilby, Paul Rhodes Eddy
- Title: Justification: Five Views
- Publisher: IVP Academic (September 28, 2011)
- Series: Spectrum Multiviews
- Paperback: 320pgs
- Reading Level: Bible School (but Seminary level discussion)
- Audience Appeal: Prophets interested in digging into the justification debates
- Gratis Review Copy: Yes (courtesy of IVP Academic)
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