Saturday, November 16, 2013

Calvin and Justification

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Alister McGrath summarizes the Reformation’s understanding of justification as follows: Justification is a forensic declaration of righteousness involving a sinner’s status rather than his nature; Justification is distinct from regeneration or sanctification; and justifying righteousness is an alien righteousness, completely external from man and imputed to him.[1] It is within this paradigm that John Calvin lived, moved and had his existence, yet he did add his own unique flavor. His contributions that I would like to highlight is his emphasis on the forensic aspect of justification, which can be seen most readily in his controversy with Osiander, his cementing of the distinctions between regeneration and justification, and his answer to the familiar charge of antinomianism and the role of works in salvation.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Luther - God wills man to do evil?

"For I misspoke when I said that free will before grace exists in name only; rather I should have simply said ‘free will is a fiction among real things, a name with no reality.’ For no one has it within his control to intend anything, good or evil, but rather, as was rightly taught by the article of Wycliffe which was condemned at [the Council of] Constance, all things occur by absolute necessity.  That was what the poet meant when he said, ‘All things are settled by a fixed law’ [Virgil, Aeneid 2.324]…."

This is part of Luther's Assertion of Article Thirty Six which was a response to Pope Leo X’s official document (Latin: bulla) Exsurge Domine dated June 15, 1520. He here denies free will not only to do good, but even to will evil. This was in part to combat the idea of Congruous Grace, which taught that man can do some good before he is converted, though not to merit him eternal life. However, in doing so, Luther went as far as to say:

"What, then, is free will but a thing in name only? How can it prepare itself for the good when it does not even have the power to make its own paths evil? For God does even bad deeds in the wicked..."

So God is the doer of even evil deeds? Thoughts?

Quotes taken from Thomas Scheck's BISHOP JOHN FISHER’S RESPONSE TO MARTIN LUTHER article, which can be found in the journal Franciscan Studies.

Origen's response to those who use Rom 9:16 to argue that man does not have free will

"So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy." - Rom 9:16

"Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain." - Psalm 127:1

In this [Psalm 127:1] he is not dissuading us from building or teaching us not to keep awake in order to guard the city in our soul [allegorical interpretation of verse 1], but he is showing us that what is built without God and what does not receive its guard from him is built in vain and protected to no purpose, since God may reasonably be regarded as the lord of the building and the Master of the universe as the ruler of the guard for the city.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Luther on Justification

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When one thinks of the Reformation, the fat monk with beer in hand who goes by the name of Martin Luther is usually the first person that comes to mind. According to the Augustinian monk, justification was by far the most essential doctrine of the Church. What makes this claim so monumental is that this was the first time in the history of the church that such an emphasis was placed on justification. Luther went as far as claiming that if one did not believe the correct teaching, one was not even a Christian![1] Luther viewed justification as the very foundation of the Church. It was “the master and prince, the lord, the ruler and the judge over all kinds of doctrines;”[2] “upon this article all things depend which we teach and practice in opposition to the pope, the devil, and the whole world.[3]
Having grown up in the Protestant Church, I had heard the phrase “justified by faith alone” so many times I thought that it was an actual verse in the Bible. It was used to combat the heretical Catholic doctrine of “justification by works.” Since these were the only two options available, the former was obviously correct. As I dug deeper into theology, I also started hearing “justification by faith alone” to combat Arminianism, with emphasized free will and man’s part in salvation, thereby also a sort of “salvation by works.” Recently, I have learned about justification’s prominence in Free Grace Theology, or the Eternal Security doctrine. Obviously, much confusion swirls around this phrase. Are Christians using it today in the same way Luther used it in the sixteenth century? Is he truly responsible for the teaching of those who came after him, including the recent theology of “Free Grace”? 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Update on Justification Quest

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Hey guys!

I just want to give you a heads up with my quest :). The summer has been pretty hectic but I have still managed to spend a decent amount of time reading up on Luther. I had the pleasure of reading portions of his Commentary on Galatians which was quite enjoyable. I should have a post up soon on Luther's justification. I then will hit Calvin for a bit, some Post-Reformation justification, and briefly hit modern stuff. My final paper will wrap everything up. Stay tuned!

Great Free Grace intro article

One of my classes this summer is on understanding Free Grace Theology. It is such a bizarre system and I realized after talking with a proponent I would need to devote some study to it. What has been really hard to find though is a solid article that articulates the whole system clearly. I think I have finally found that here -

It is an article called "The Terms of Salvation" by Lewis Chafer, who is well-known for being an early dispensationalist and the father of free grace theology. If you are looking to get some understanding, take a look!

Also, I did just realize I have written on this topic a few years ago when I first got a glimpse of this important debate. Someone just found the post and commented. I think it's worth a read.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Luminescing Logos: Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and Counseling and Brazos Theological Commentary

This was originally published in the Moody Mosiac, my school's newspaper:

Luminescing Logos

            As way of reminder for those who went off and had a wonderful summer forgetting everything that had to do with Moody, Luminescing Logos is a regular column that reviews two different Logos resources: One that you already own included in the Logos Silver base package, and one that is available for purchase in Logos’ massive resource library.
            One digital book that is well worth digging out of your deep library is the Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and Counseling. As can be surmised from the title itself, this resource is part of the renowned Baker Reference Library. It contains over 1,400 articles concerning the controversial field of Christian psychology. However, this is quite a large discipline. One can indeed find articles on technical topics like “General Adaptation Syndrome” or “Homeostasis,” but much to the pastor’s delight, articles that deal with more general counseling issues are also found in plenty. For example, the entry on “Demonic Influence, Sin, and Psychopathology” is very helpful article to all who are in ministry.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Midway Recap: Early Church to Eve of Reformation

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It has been quite a journey thus far. It began with a somewhat vague question – what has the doctrine of justification looked like throughout the history of the Church, especially in regards to faith and works? I have surveyed The Shepherd of Hermas, Origen, Jerome, Augustine, Anselm of Canterbury and finally Thomas Aquinas. I have read numerous articles to help fill in the gaps as well as read the portions of The History of Justification by Alistair McGrath that covered the early church to the eve of the Reformation. Through this I have now been able to whittle things down to two different Protestant doctrines– 1) the sharp distinction between justification and sanctification and 2) the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. My reworked question is this – has the historic church held to these views before Luther or did Luther and company bring in teachings that the church had never seen before? This paper will attempt to summarize my findings and explain their implications.   

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Aquinas and Justification: The Dumb Ox Plays Theologian

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The Dumb Ox Plays Theologian

We now make an eight hundred year leap to the genius of the “dumb ox,” Thomas Aquinas, the scholastic Aristotelian who lived from 1225-1274. Aquinas became known as the Angelic Doctor of the Church because of his immense influence and the massive amount of work he accomplished. The leaders of the Council of Trent held Aquinas in such high regard that they actually put his Summa on the altar along with the Scripture and the decrees of the earlier Popes![1] Obviously, his opinion was held to be important to the Church of his day.

Today, my aim will be to describe Thomas Aquinas’ views on justification – especially how it relates with sanctification. So far, I have found that the sharp distinction between justification and sanctification that we as Protestants champion is utterly absent in the Shepherd of Hermas, Origen, Jerome, and Augustine. From my little bit of secondary reading, I also haven’t seen this sharp distinction mentioned in any of these fathers’ contemporaries either. Instead, what I have found is that these fathers declare with one voice that justification is a process, and actually involves in the sinner being made righteous, instead of simply being declared righteous. Will our brothers who lived in the Middle Ages continue this view of justification, or will they proclaim something different?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Augustine and Justification

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OK, I am warning you now, this paper isn't exactly the most refined or organized. I still have much to learn about Augustine and don't exactly have his views ironed out in my head. The paper reflects this a bit :).

Justification in Augustine of Hippo

                Augustine of Hippo is considered the most influential theologian apart from Paul. In the twelfth century, Anslem of Canterbury gave a great glimpse of the effects of the genius of Augustine when he equated orthodoxy with the writings of Augustine.[1] With Augustine’s emphasis on God’s grace and love being the supreme motivator for all things, it’s not hard to see why so many fell in love with him. I too, especially when reading Augustine’s writings on God’s grace, could not help but feel the love of God being “shed in my heart through the Holy Spirit.”[2] Though much has been made of Augustine’s views on the grace of God, his doctrine of justification is not as well-known and has proved to be more elusive. Before we look at Augustine’s teachings on justification however, let us first examine his contemporary, Jerome, so that we can understand Augustine’s context and better appreciate the significance of his teachings.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Jerome on justification

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So, for this next period I will be focusing on Augustine and his contemporaries. Before I jump right into the big man himself, I thought it would be beneficial to read a little Jerome to get a better idea of where the West was before Augustine struck. I also just so happened to have received Dr. Thomas Sheck’s translation of Jerome’s commentary on Galatians, so I figured it was meant to be.

Before unpacking some of Jerome’s theology, it is essential to note that Jerome was highly influenced by Origen and was known to use Origen’s commentary extensively when writing his own. Jerome admits this in his preface,[1] and will at times quote word for word from Origen’s commentary when exegeting a text.[2] It is also important to understand that Jerome was borrowing much from the other Greek fathers that came before him, which means we are not only getting Jerome’s views in the commentary, but those who came before him as well.

Origen’s influence is evident in Jerome’s views relating to justification. Like Origen[3], he identifies the remission of sins being for only past sins.[4] Jerome also identifies being “in Christ” as being in all the virtues.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Shepherd of Hermas: The Tower built on the Rock

Upon finishing the Shepherd of Hermas, I realized that I need about six more months to really do this document justice. Alas, I have only the next thirty minutes to try and make sense of this very fascinating work. Before I get started on the theology in Hermas, some background information is in order.

The Shepherd of Hermas was written sometime during the second century, with most scholars pegging it at around 150. I would initially want to lean towards a date of about 100, only because the Shepherd mentions Clement of Rome (ca. 100) as if he was living during the time. Scholars also assert that the Shepherd was written from Rome. 

The Shepherd of Hermas was the most popular noncanonical work in the early church. Some even considered it Scripture. Even Athanasius, though not considering it canonical, taught that the Shepherd should be used as private reading for new converts. This is very important, because that means the contents of the Shepherd were highly regarded, and will give us quite a glimpse into not just Rome, but the rest of the church.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Shepherd of Hermas: Intro

I now have the opportunity to read the Shepherd of Hermas. It is taking a step back, but I have a little extra time and what I really care about is what the second century thought, so the more I can get of that the better. The Shepherd of Hermas is interesting. It was highly influential in the early church, and many considered it Scripture. The main point of the vision that Hermas is given is to proclaim that for a limited time there exists an opportunity for the forgiveness of post-baptismal sins. Let that sink in for a bit. This is very foreign to our ears, since we would never consider the possibility that God would not forgive us, no matter what we do.

But it makes sense when you consider that the church may be thinking that the original remission of sins applies only to past sins. Now, I don’t think anyone even at that time believed you couldn’t be forgiven for the usual sins. I believe this applied to more of the major sins. However, I don’t exactly know, so I will have to update you once I have actually read through the book.

Anyway, this would very much benefit me in my quest for understanding the church’s historic stance on Justification. We will just have to see what I dig up.

Justification: A month in

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I have written my paper on Origen's view but need to edit it a bit. It should be posted shortly.

I have been looking into justification for about a month now. It has been an interesting experience. I first looked into the classic evangelical position, which I vaguely remember. Then, the last three weeks I have dove into Origen’s view, which was quite fascinating. Though many Protestants do try and make him a proponent of Sola Fide, from my reading it does not appear to be so. Origen seemed to teach, supposedly along with the rest of the early church, that the remission of sins given at conversion forgives only the past sins. What was cool though, was that though Origen also highly emphasized works, he also insisted on the fact that one is justified by faith alone. However, justification for Origen does not happen in a moment, but is an ongoing process that sounds a lot like what we might today term as sanctification. One thing is for certain, the lines between justification and sanctification are much more blurred than they are today. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Origen of Justification

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The Origen of Justification

                Origen’s doctrine of justification is not easy to piece together. Though he did write what many consider the first systematic theology (On First Principles), justification was not among the doctrines that he discussed. One of the first places to start then is his massive Commentary on Romans (CRom). Origen penned this commentary[1] around the year 246 AD,[2] making it one of his last and most mature works.[3] Unfortunately, Origen is very erratic, especially when compared to other commentators of the early church.[4]
What complicates things even further is the only complete extant manuscript that we have is Rufinus’ Latin abridgement from year 406/7, which almost exactly abridges Origen’s commentary to half of its original size. What is important about this time period is it is around the same time that Augustine and Pelagius had their infamous debate regarding free will, sin and grace. In fact, Bammel argues that Rufinus may have been inspired to translate Origen’s CRom in order to provide the west with an alternative to Augustine’s extreme views of original sin, free will, etc.[5] While some question the integrity of Rufinus as a translator, Scheck argues that Rufinus’ abridgement is faithful to Origen’s own views; however, this translation issue should be kept in the back of the reader’s mind and should probably be researched further.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Origen and the History of Justification

 Here is  quick snippet of Origen's idea of Justification according to Thomas Scheck in his book, Origen and the History of Justification, page 46. It is something I should have concentrated on in my essay:

Origen illustrates the three stages toward justification from Ps 32.1—2:
“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord does not impute iniquity." First,
he says, the soul leaves its evil and obtains pardon. Next by good deeds
it covers its sins. "But when a soul forthwith reaches perfection, so that
every root of evil is completely cut off from it to the point that no trace of
evil can be found in it, at that point the summit of blessedness is promised
to the one to whom the Lord is able to impute no sin.""’

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Chrysostom on the tragedy of those who fall away

 As I am reading Origen for my history of Justification class, I also stumbled upon some John Chrysostom that hits deep. He is talking about those who fall away from the Christian faith. Gives me the chills:

Who then is to be found “the faithful and wise servant”? Who are they that are deemed worthy of such good things? How miserable are those who fail! For if we were forever to weep, should we do aught worthy of the occasion? For were you to make mention of hells innumerable, you would name nothing equal to that pain which the soul sustaineth, when all the world is in confusion, when the trumpets are sounding, when the Angels are rushing forward, the first, then the second, then the third, then ten thousand ranks, are pouring forth upon the earth; then the Cherubim, (and many are these and infinite;) the Seraphim; when He Himself is coming, with His ineffable glory; when those meet Him, who had gone to gather the elect into the midst; when Paul and his companions, and all who in his time had been approved, are crowned, are proclaimed aloud, are honored by the King, before all His heavenly host. For if hell did not exist, how fearful a thing it is, that the one part should be honored, and the other dishonored! Hell, I confess, is intolerable, yea, very intolerable, but more intolerable than it is the loss of the Kingdom.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Evangelical Justification: My Initial Thoughts

This was a very good exercise to help gather my thoughts and figure out what it is I want to hone in on as I study the rest of the church. I think it really has to do with the relationship of justification and sanctification. Is justification instantaneous? What do we do with passages like 1 Peter 1:9 that speak about salvation being at the end of a believers life? Or the beautiful imagery that Paul uses of running the race to obtain the prize? 

The Evangelical doctrine of justification

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The first piece I read on the topic was JI Packer’s article “Sola Fide: The Reformed Doctrine of Justification.” I had heard that this was a classic article that many Evangelicals referred to when discussing justification. I also consulted “Sanctification and Justification: A Unity of Distinctions” by Andrew V. Snider, Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology, Theissen’s Lectures in Systematic Theology, and finally, the classic Arminian systematic theology by Miley. 

It wasn’t until I read Miley’s section on justification that I realized that Evangelicals don’t exactly have a unified perspective on justification.

My Journey into the History of Justification

This semester I have been blessed with the opportunity to deeply examine the doctrine of justification throughout the centuries of the Church. This will prove to be a heavy task I am sure, and I assume that I will not even begin to scratch the surface by the end of my 14 weeks. Lord willing, I will be blogging about it each week. You can find the links to each post at the bottom.

The plan is to first start with an overview of the traditional Evangelical understanding of justification, then read some Apostolic Fathers, Origen and his legacy on the Eastern and Oriental churches, spend four weeks on Augustine and his contemporaries, hit Aquinas and his era, along with his legacy on the Catholicism of Luther’s day, and finally end with Luther and the Reformers. I am planning on reading a little bit of secondary sources, then hitting mainly the primary sources.

There are many reasons as to why I am doing this.