Sunday, November 18, 2007

Piper, Justification, ETS and Theories

johnMark

A theological issue came up on Justin Taylor's blog in his blurb about ETS from Christianity Today's interview about ETS's annual convention. In the interview, Francis Beckwith and the upcoming papers at ETS are mentioned about which I had my own blurb. The topic that came up on Taylor's blog, of course, was justification and rightly so. His short post has so far generated 89 comments. In these comments James White and others get some uncomplimentary responses from Beckwith himself, other Roman Catholics and at least one protestant, Michael Bauman. Okay, now we're caught up.

At the ETS meeting we have J.P. Moreland telling us that evangelicals are over-committed to Scripture. It'll be interesting to read the responses to Moreland's assertions, if any. More importantly we have John Piper step up to the plate defending the protestant and biblical understanding of justification at the ETS meeting. The audio and text are all ready available. I'm sure this is close to his heart as his book The Future of Justification was just released which you can purchase or read online for free. In his ETS talk he says that the "truth of justification has become increasingly embattled".
* The lines between evangelical faith and Roman Catholic teaching have been blurred.

* The doctrine of the imputation of Christ’s obedience has been denied.

* The New Perspective on Paul, especially N. T. Wright, has redrawn the map of New Testament theology in such a way that confusion is widespread as to just what justification is and how it relates to the gospel and conversion and judgment.
* Others have so merged faith and its fruits that the term “by faith alone” has ceased to provide a foundation for holiness but is now virtually identical with it.

* And some have so changed the ordinary meaning of the word “righteousness” that in the act of justification, it no longer refers to anyone’s right attitude or right action but only to a courtroom verdict of acquittal.

And also quoting from his newest book.
If we begin to deny or minimize the importance of the obedience of Christ, imputed to us through faith alone, our own works will begin to assume the role that should have been Christ’s. As that happens, over time (perhaps generations), the works of love themselves will be severed from their root in the Christ-secured assurance that God is totally for us. In this way, for the sake of exalting the importance of love, we will undermine the very thing that makes it possible.

Read or listen to Piper's presentation it's well worth it. I'm glad he's standing up for truth. I wonder who will challenge Piper on this issue. It would be a good and necessary discussion. I also wonder if Piper will address Rome directly.

Back in the comments section on Justin Taylor's blog we had Michael Bauman respond saying that we are merely disagreeing on "various theories" of justification. So now I want to go back with John Piper to 1999 where he is dealing with and responding to the issue of open theism and Greg Boyd. In this article he deals with "theories of doctrines". Let's look at some quotes.
It falls into the trap of saying that doctrine is the words you use, but theory is the meaning of the words. Therefore you have to agree to say the words, in order to be orthodox, but you don't have to hold any particular view of what the words mean. This is very modern and very destructive to the cause of truth.

You can make anything you want a non-doctrine, if you can think of a higher doctrine that it happens to be an explanation for.

Another example would be the doctrine of justification by faith alone. That is an essential doctrine. One theory about this doctrine is that "by faith alone" justification happens through infused righteousness (Roman Catholic). Another theory about this doctrine is that "by faith alone" justification happens through imputed righteousness (Protestant). Does DC think that these theories are "peripheral things" and "non-essentials"?

There are many other examples. The point is, this paradigm of distinguishing "doctrine," which must be agreed on, from "theories about doctrine," which are "peripheral things," is of no help in deciding whether a "theory about a doctrine" is in fact important enough to be itself essential, as are the virgin birth and the inerrancy of Scripture and the imputed righteousness of Christ.

Good and much appreciated words again from Pastor Piper. Not much more really needs to be said. I hope that some pastoral and scholarly debate on justification will take place. I also hope the protestants who think the Reformation is over and justification doesn't matter will be convinced it's not over or will make the move to Rome. This would just keep the differences much cleaner unlike the blurring and obfuscation Vatican II caused.

I do look forward to finishing his new book on justification.

Mark

28 comments:

Machaira said...

"At the ETS meeting we have J.P. Moreland telling us that evangelicals are over-committed to Scripture."

How I wish the preceding statement were actually true. At least then, we wouldn't have educated protestants saying things like, we are merely disagreeing on "various theories" of justification. Talk about bluring the lines between Rome and the Reformation! Unfortunately, as one who is an elder in a PCA church, I can tell you first hand that this is exactly what is happening - even in "reformed" congregations. I hear constantly how theology doesn't matter and we should just concentrate on "preaching the Gospel." My question is: Which one of "viable" theories should we choose???

Don't let anyone fool you. Theology does matter. So does justification by faith alone in the imputed righteiousness of Christ - just as Scripture teaches. You know . . . that book to which evangelicals are so "overly committed."

EgoMakarios said...

What is ETS? By the way, Piper's book is very pathetic. He admits in it that Protestantism is not based on Sola Scriptura at all. In that one passage where he quotes Wright as claiming to be some sort of new Martin Luther, Piper says something like "but the difference between Wright and the Reformers is that they went ad fontes, back to the sources, to the church fathers for their views." Thus we see why Protestantism and the Protestant Reformer are both failures, and why further reformation even restoration were needed, to return fully to Scripture, to actually apply Sola Scriptura and not simply mock the phrase Sola Scriptura as Luther and Calvin did.

EgoMakarios said...

(Not that I'm agreeing with Wright in everything he teaches, but this little dispute with him and Piper shows what the spirit of Protestantism truly is, and it certainly is more Augustine and Jerome, those pernicious double-agents of Rome and Manicheanism, than Scripture.)

Machaira said...

Egomakarios,

By the way, Piper's book is very pathetic. He admits in it that Protestantism is not based on Sola Scriptura at all.

He admits no such thing. I suggest that you read Piper's comment in context. Read pages 57 through 61 and all will become clear. Piper is critiquing Wright's treatment of Church history.

In his recurrent reminders that he is a Protestant-like, Scripture-only man, Wright does not communicate the kind of respect for history and careful treatment of it that wins our confidence. - Piper, The Future of Justification, p.61

You're also overlooking a very important fact. "Ad Fontes" includes the practice of examining the Scriptures in their original languages. You need to do your homework before you come to such asinine conclusions.

L P Cruz said...

I used to be a fan of Dr. Piper but his book Desiring God has lots of things to be "desired" (pun intended). Dr. Piper is quite helpful in some articulation of justification that is why I have some trepidations with Desiring God as here he defines a Christian as not simply clinging to Christ's work for him but added more things.

John you said Piper said And some have so changed the ordinary meaning of the word “righteousness” that in the act of justification, it no longer refers to anyone’s right attitude or right action but only to a courtroom verdict of acquittal.

But this was what the Reformers understood justification - it is a declaration. Like it or not whether Prot or RC or EO, in the final analysis God is going to say something about you - so on what basis is God saying what he is going to say about you - on the basis of your works (something inside you) or on the works of his Son (something outside you)?

Sure we become what God declares us to be but it is only completed as an experience of ours when we exit this world. What the Reformers where distinguishing was justification from sanctification and the definition of it with the definition of faith. When God justifies us in the reception of his gift through faith, he also changes us, but the change is not called justification rather it is called regeneration. To mix the two will be confusing categories.

If Piper disagrees that justification is a declaration then he too is collapsing justification with regeneration or sanctification (IMHO).

Now, I can be wrong as I can not verify all his quotes. My response is only offered as an initial comment.


LPC

johnMark said...

LPC,

Did you read Piper's article? And see the link to John Owen he gave?

I believe he is saying that the imputation of Christ's righteousness to us has a real affect on our lives. He may be speaking to cheap grace antinomian tendencies. Or to those not submitting to the righteousness of Christ.

He's written plenty on these topics as well as a chapter in his new book dealing with the "Law-Court Dynamics of Justification".

Mark

GeneMBridges said...

Thus we see why Protestantism and the Protestant Reformer are both failures, and why further reformation even restoration were needed, to return fully to Scripture, to actually apply Sola Scriptura and not simply mock the phrase Sola Scriptura as Luther and Calvin did.

EM has been corrected on this before, and he continues to ignore the correction. EM subscribes to SolO Scriptura, not SolA Scriptura. So, what he has done here is merely redefine the term and then castigate Piper for not living up to his redefinition. This is a classic case of mirror-reading. SolA Scriptura does not negate an examination of the Church Fathers for anything. What it negates is the elevation of the Fathers to an authority on par with Scripture, which is alone infallible.

I find this rather humorous, since he was on Tblog a few weeks back claiming that Calvinists have changed the meaning of "free will." It's EM who regularly "changes" the meaning of historic terminology.

L P Cruz said...

Mark,

I went to the article on his reaction Dr. Boyd's, but searching for text for 'Owen' yielded nothing.

I understand, Piper may be reacting to antinomian tendencies, that may be true. However, he should just recap what the Reformers did in confronting anti-nomianism. The thing is that we need to be caring because the opposite side of it is neo-nomianism and neo-legalism of which some are afraid Dr. Piper sometimes comes to.

http://www.trinityfoundation.org/PDF/197a-PiedPiper.pdf

But do help me get some more as I do not wish to be unfair in his attempts to defend JBFA.

LPC
LPC

johnMark said...

LPC,

The link to Owen is in the first and most recent article.

Mark

John Bugay said...

John Mark: for future reference, you may want to be careful referring your readers to such sites as the chiesa site. If you were to go to the "about us" page on that site, you would see such things as the proprietor's solidarity with "Catholics who support abortion rights" etc.

Thanks for your contributions here though, you do great work!

Anonymous said...

So who is right about who properly practices "sola scriptura?" Is EgoM correct? Do the reformers need reformation?

If so, what qualifies him as the judge of others' adherence to sola scriptura? Can you use scripture alone to justify your defence? Can EM use scripture alone to justify his accusation?

Stay tuned for anothe exciting epesode of "Sola Scriptura Rides Again!"

johnMark said...

John,

Long time to talk! I purposely linked to the Chiesa site because of the RC disagreements, but your warning is well noted.

Mark

EgoMakarios said...

"EM subscribes to SolO Scriptura, not SolA Scriptura."

The only difference between the two, Gene, is that Solo is Spanish, Sola is Latin. You are simply trying to redefine the word "sola" which means "only" to mean "only plus." THat's how also, you say salvation is by grace only and faith only - two onlys? You are confused only.

EgoMakarios said...

Piper says on page 61 "Whether we should follow Wright as a new Luther over against the Reformation and fifteen hundred years of wrong-footed conceptuality is open to question." 1500 years? Why not 2000 or 1974? Answer: Piper is counting from AUGUSTINE. The church, to him, started with Manicheus' double agent converting to Catholicism.

He goes on to answer his own question "I don’t think so. One of the differences between Wright and the Reformers is that the latter labored to link their thinking
to the writings of the church fathers (hence the Reformers’ adoption of the slogan, ad fontes, “back to the sources”)."

Are the "church fathers" the sources of the faith, or is Scripture? This is a flat denial of Sola Scripture no matter what Gene M. Pontifex or anyone else says.

Piper goes on "In his recurrent reminders that he is a Protestant-like, Scripture-only man, Wright does not communicate the kind of respect for history and careful treatment of it that wins our confidence." Neither does Piper, though, since he ignored the first 4 centuries of the church and goes straight to Augustin! In my reading of "church fathers" I stop with Tertullian, since he was the first Catholic, the first to use the term as a name of a denomination, and as a name of a people. He is the terminus, the end of true Christianity being recored. And even before him, the men are questionable. Scripture must always prevail over history. That's what Sola Scriptura means, but the Reformers did not apply their own principle.

EgoMakarios said...

I just want to emphasize again, before I leave the comments in your very capable hands, that just as Wright does not in Piper's view, Piper also in my view "does not communicate the kind of respect for history and careful treatment of it that wins our confidence" since he ignores the first 4 centuries of the church and goes straight to Augustine! He ignored the fact that infant baptism developed over time, that Justin Martyr taught only believers were to be baptized, that Tertullian called infancy "the innocent period of life" - he ignores everything prior to Augustine his god, the true god of Calvinism. Calvinism's god is Augustine deified.

EgoMakarios said...

I just want to emphasize again, before I leave the comments in your very capable hands, that just as Wright does not in Piper's view, Piper also in my view "does not communicate the kind of respect for history and careful treatment of it that wins our confidence" since he ignores the first 4 centuries of the church and goes straight to Augustine! He ignored the fact that infant baptism developed over time, that Justin Martyr taught only believers were to be baptized, that Tertullian called infancy "the innocent period of life" - he ignores everything prior to Augustine his god, the true god of Calvinism. Calvinism's god is Augustine deified.

Anonymous said...

"Calvinism's god is Augustine deified."

I consider that comment not only inaccurate, but also uncharitible. I see no reason to accuse Calvinists of idolizing Augustine. To make such a statement one must know not quite enough of Catholocism, Calvinism, or Augustine.

Anonymous said...

"Scripture must always prevail over history. That's what Sola Scriptura means"

Given that scripture is part of history, this statement makes no sense. It is as if to say part of history must always prevail over all of history.

Aquinas observed that if our understanding of the world around us conflicts with our understanding of scripture, then the actual truth about either or both is not perfectly known. God does not lie to us in scripture, nor does He lie to us in creation; for the heavens are telling the glory of God and the wonder of His works are displayed in the skies.

but then
I could be wrong--as could you or anyone else commenting on what sola scriptura truly means.

...and this leads us to our next installment of (DUH du DAHHHHHH) Sola Scriptura Rides Again

Yes, return with us to the days of yesteryear, when men were REAL men and women were REAL women and 1000 angels dancing on the head of a pin were REAL angels dancing on the head of a pin...

Starring:
EgoM ............as the Pope
Rhology .........as the infallable Fallable Voice
Carrie ...........as Vulgarity Cop T.A. Bottomly
James Swan ....as Billy the bantum-weight blogger


And featuring:
Anaymous .....as the voiceover who keeps making the same joke over and over and over...

Machaira said...

That's how also, you say salvation is by grace only and faith only - two onlys? You are confused only.

Your ignorance of reformed theology is made manifest with each post. I'm afraid the confusion is all yours. Watch carefully. I'll make this easy.

We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.

Notice the prepositions that come before each "sola." Here we have agency, instrument, object and goal - each "alone" in its own operation or result.

Anonymous said...

"Your ignorance of reformed theology is made manifest with each post. I'm afraid the confusion is all yours. Watch carefully. I'll make this easy. '

Auu ah ah ! Scripture only, please. :-) And be sure to prove with scripture that yours is the absolutely correct understanding of it while you're at it.

Hiegh-ho Luther! Away!

(Que music--Willmn Tell)

Carrie said...

...and this leads us to our next installment of (DUH du DAHHHHHH) Sola Scriptura Rides Again

I would prefer to be the "Lame Jokes Cop" or "Useless Anonymous Comments Cop" so that I could write you a ticket.

If you must keep cracking these jokes can you at least try and make them funny? Even better would be to add some sort of substance to the discussion at hand.

Machaira said...

Auu ah ah ! Scripture only, please. :-) And be sure to prove with scripture that yours is the absolutely correct understanding of it while you're at it.

No problem. Let's kill two birds with one stone, shall we? The "solas" I mentioned previously are contained in the following.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XI

Of Justification



I. Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth:[1] not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them,[2] they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness, by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.[3]

1. Rom. 3:24; 5:15-16; 8:30

2. Rom. 3:22-28; 4:5-8; 5:17-19; II Cor. 5:19, 21; Titus 3:5, 7; Eph. 1:7; Jer. 23:6; I Cor. 1:30-31

3. John 1:12; 6:44-45, 65; Acts 10:43; 13:38-39; Phil. 1:29; 3:9; Eph. 2:7-8

II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification:[4] yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love.[5]

4. John 3:18, 36; Rom. 3:28; 5:1

5. James 2:17, 22, 26; Gal. 5:6

III. Christ, by his obedience and death, did fully discharge the debt of all those that are thus justified, and did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to his Father's justice in their behalf.[6] Yet, inasmuch as he was given by the Father for them;[7] and his obedience and satisfaction accepted in their stead;[8] and both, freely, not for anything in them; their justification is only of free grace;[9] that both the exact justice and rich grace of God might be glorified in the justification of sinners.[10]

6. Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:8-10, 18-19; Gal. 3:13; I Tim. 2:5-6; Heb. 1:3; 10:10, 14; Dan. 9:24, 26; see Isa. 52:13-53:12

7. Rom. 8:32; John 3:16

8. II Cor. 5:21; Eph. 5:2; Phil. 2:6-9; Isa. 53:10-11

9. Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:7

10. Rom. 3:26; Eph. 2:7; Zech. 9:9; Isa. 45:21

Anonymous said...

"Auu ah ah ! Scripture only, please. :-) And be sure to prove with scripture that yours is the absolutely correct understanding of it while you're at it.

No problem. Let's kill two birds with one stone, shall we? The "solas" I mentioned previously are contained in the following.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XI

[Remainder deleted -- Not Scripture alone. Try again.]

Anonymous said...

Just to be clear: the task was to demonstrate which of the two of you correctly understands "sola scriptura" and prove it by using Scriopture Alone.

Still waiting.

Machaira said...

Just to be clear: the task was to demonstrate which of the two of you correctly understands "sola scriptura" and prove it by using Scriopture Alone.

I'm certainly glad that you at least desire to be clear, but I'm afraid you're still missing the mark. When you say "the two of you" I assume I am one of the two. Who else are we talking about here . . . and how in the world did we get on to the topic of sola scriptura???

Anonymous said...

"I'm certainly glad that you at least desire to be clear, but I'm afraid you're still missing the mark. When you say "the two of you" I assume I am one of the two. Who else are we talking about here . . . and how in the world did we get on to the topic of sola scriptura???


EgoM was lecturing the Reformed folk for having an incorrect view of sola scriptura. I asked him to clarify, by sola scriotura how he was right and the Reformed folks were wrong. By your answering, I assumed you were making yourself the voice for Ego's opposition. Apparently I was mistaken.

EgoMakarios said...

We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.

There's nothing wrong with that, provided we aren't going by the incorrect 'Reformed' definition of faith which is really just a suped-up version of mental assent.

EgoMakarios said...

"I see no reason to accuse Calvinists of idolizing Augustine."

Then I'd question whether you are able to see at all.