Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Other good books on Justification and Imputation

Jesus' Blood and Righteousness: Paul's Theology of Imputation., by Brian Vickers. (Brian Vickers is Assistant Professor of New Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. )

This is an excellent book that I am working through, full of fresh exegetical insights and theological rigor.

I found a review of this book at Reformation 21.

Here is another review; this time by Denny Burk.

This is to add to the list that I put together recently.

Louis pointed out that I should have had John Owen's work on this list. Yes, I need to read that also; and I am sure there are many others, like John Murray and James Buchanan and Francis Turretin and J. V. Fesko.

Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine, by J. V. Fesko


repeater75 said...
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Algo said...

Here is a brief 2 part video by R.C Sproul on:

Imputed vs Infused Righteousness by R.C. Sproul - Part 1 of 2


Ken said...

Excellent addition to the posts!
Thanks Algo!

Nick said...

Here are some *direct* quotes from Vicker's book that I find interesting:

-While Genesis 15:6 is not, as we will see, the first time Abraham believed, and subsequently not the time of his, so to speak, conversion [footnote 4], it is a pivotal moment in the biblical narrative. (p. 73)
Footnote 4: I am not arguing that this text is not about salvation, I am simply saying that neither Moses nor Paul are focusing on when Abraham believed i.e., his conversion. This seems like a simple enough observation.

-Secondly, it is clear that well before the narrative reaches chapter 15, a relationship that includes the elements of promise, condition, and response between God and Abraham is firmly established prior to the covenant ceremony (15:7-18). (p.74)

-It is, moreover, a response based on a prior, established relationship. Simply put, this is not the first time Abraham believed in God. (p. 78)

Not only does James White reject the idea Abraham was in a relationship with God prior to Genesis 15:6, but Vickers is stuck having to explain how one can be in a non-soteric relationship with God as Abraham was from Gen 12-15.

louis said...

Nick, does Vickers actually say it was "non-soteric" prior to Genesis 15? In the quote you excerpted it says that Genesis 15 was "not... the first time Abraham believed" and therefore "not the time of his... conversion." That seems to imply that Abraham was in a "soteric" relationship from Genesis 12-15.

Ken said...

Yes, there is a lot of interesting insights in Vickers book. Have you read the whole book yet?

Vickers makes some excellent and interesting points about the Hebrew verb structure with the waw (or sometimes pronounced, “vav” = "and" of "and he believed" (Abraham). waw + Hiphil perfect = he believed, “as was his normal response to the Lord’s word”(p. 78), implying that Abraham's faith was there between Genesis 12:3 and Genesis 12:4; and that his response of obedience is the result of true faith. But the teaching of justification by faith and that God imputes the person who believes as righteous, is not communicated / revealed to us in the text until Genesis 15:6.

Vickers quotes Wenham’s commentary on Genesis, that the structure here is unusual for “and he believed” (the waw consecutive with the Hiphil perfect). (p. 78, footnote 12) “Wenham points out that it is unusual to indicate single events in past time with perfect + waw. Imperfect + waw is the more likely construction.” (ibid)

Vickers also gives citing in footnote 12, of the extensive pages of Gesenius’ Hebrew grammar, pages 330-339 (the standard advanced Hebrew grammar of seminary training) , showing the unusual structure of the verb (“and he believed”, there in Genesis 15:6. (p. 78, footnote 12) – I was hoping to refresh my Hebrew understanding of the Hiphil perfect and that construction, but it is too much in this short time space, for right now. (I confess I have forgotten a lot of Hebrew verb and syntax stuff that I learned in seminary, but I hope to get caught back up on it in due time.)

Galatians 3:6-8 puts both Genesis 12:3-4 and 15:6 together as “one unit” in teaching what the gospel is and that we are justified by faith alone and not by the condition of works and without the merit of good works.

Vickers seems to me to give room for:
1. Genesis 15:6 is the first time the doctrine of "faith alone" is communicated /written in the text of Scripture (see Romans 4:23), but it is not the point in time when Abraham was justified, which seems to be implied in Genesis 12:3-4. (Abram does not get justified in Genesis 12:4 and then looses it, and then again gets justified in Genesis 15:6 (as Roman Catholics want to say), rather 15:6 is communicating to us the doctrine of justification by faith and not by works.) But it clearly is communicated there in the text in Genesis 15, to show that justifying faith is before good works and obedience to the law, and in this case, before circumcision, in Genesis 17, which is the main point that Paul makes in Romans 4:1-25, especially verses 9-12. Dr. White is right to emphasize that it is the apostle Paul who is inspired in the NT who uses Genesis 15:6 to teach about justification by faith alone in Romans 4 and Galatians 3; and that those who try to say that Abraham was justified at several points in his life, and also in Genesis 22, are arguing against Paul’s inspired argument in Romans 4 and Galatians 3.


Ken said...

Continued -
2. Genesis 15:6 is what Paul uses (quoting it several times) to prove justification by faith alone (Sola Fide) in Romans 4 and Galatians 3; before obedience to the law, before the condition of good works, before circumcision, which is clearly demonstrated for us by Genesis 15 coming before Genesis 17 (circumcision) and Genesis 22 (the obedience and willingness to offer Isaac proved that he already had true and justifying faith before good works, which is the point of James 2; that true faith results in good works, and proves or vindicates the person, that they have true faith.

3. Genesis 12:4 is where Abram is justified in history (but it does not explicitly say that, being only implied by Hebrews 11:8), but it is not revealed to us in Scripture there; it is revealed for us to read about it in Genesis 15:6. (see also Romans 4:23)

4. Abram has simple faith in Genesis 12:4 and responds in obedience, but Abram himself could not articulate what justification is; just as many times today, Christians have real conversion and real repentance and simple faith/trust in Christ alone for salvation, but we cannot articulate the doctrine of justification by faith alone until we are taught the Scriptures, and the right theology of the Reformation.

5. Moses is recording/writing out justification by faith for us in Gen. 15:6, and in Genesis 15:6 the text is saying, "and he trusted in the Lord (just as he was before); and it was credited to him leading to righteousness; that is, He was justified back in Genesis 12:3-4, but it is not revealed to us until Genesis 15:6.

So there is no contradiction between Romans 3, 4, 5 and Galatians 3 and Hebrews 11.

The point is still that faith alone justifies, before and apart from the condition of good works or obedience, and apart from the merit of good works.

and that good works are the result and proof and vindication of true justifying faith, as demonstrated in James 2.

louis said...

Thank you, Ken. That was helpful. We should also point out Hebrews 11.

Verse 8 says, "by faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance" (a reference to Gen. 12).

Verse 17 says, "by faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac" ( a reference to Gen. 22).

All showing that from beginning to end, it was "by faith." Gen. 15:6 describes the basis of Abraham's standing with God: "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness."

louis said...

One other note about James 2. He is talking there about the nature of true saving faith, that it issues forth in good works. Notice he says that Abraham was "justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the alter" but he explains that "faith was completed by his works; and the scripture was fulfilled that says 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness."

Now he is referring to Genesis 22, and in Genesis 22 when Abraham was blessed for offering up Isaac, the reason is given as this: "Now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son." (v.12).

Again, Hebrews 11: "by faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac." His faith is commended, and it was by faith that he obeyed. His works issue forth from a true and lively faith. So it by faith, and there is no contradiction between this and James 2.

Ken said...

Also, Vicker's insights point to Gen. 15:6 "and he believed" - that the Hebrew waw ן should be translated as "and", not "then"; not as the NASB interprets it, "then he believed", as if this is the first time Abram trusted the Lord.

The idea of Genesis 15:6 seems to be "and Abram kept on trusting the Lord, just as he did at the beginning of his relationship, and his faith is what justifies, not works; and the Lord counted Abram righteous, because of his faith."

Also, Vickers (p. 74) points out that the context of Genesis 12-15 starts at the end of chapter 11, with "There is a subtle but important point here as well. Terah's genealogy ends with a comment about Abram's wife: And Sarai was barren; she had no child" (Genesis 11:30) . . . Though often overlooked, this little comment sets the stage for what comes next. Salvation will require a supernatural work: from Sarai's dead womb life will come, and through that life a blessing to all the nations. In the next chapter [Gen. 12] God will make promises that only He, not Abraham, can fulfill." (Vickers, p. 74)

This shows the overall context of Genesis 12 - 15 is about the seed/descendent/child of promise who would be a blessing to all the nations. Galatians 3:6-8 and 3:16 tells us that the promise was the one seed - the Messiah. But Abraham is struggling later in his faith in Genesis 15 when he starts asking questions - "where is the seed? I have no child" - i.e., "how are you going to bless all the nations, through me, when I don't have any children yet?"

Also, after quoting Genesis 12:2-3, Vickers states, "Dumbrell captures this idea when he says, "we must not loose sight of the fact that the call of Abraham in this passage is a redemptive response to the human dilemma which the spread of sin narratives of Genesis 3-11 have posed." (p. 74)

Genesis 12-15, as Abraham is struggling with "where is the seed/child/descendent?" - shows us that even after justifying faith, true believers struggle and doubt sometimes, and God encourages Abraham in his faith; and it shows that justification by faith alone continues to have relevance for us all our lives, as we continue to grow in faith and trust, and realize that our justification is always based on faith alone. In that way, this also harmonizes with I John 1:5-10 and 2:1-2, when we sin, we confess our sins again constantly, and the blood (bloody death of the once for all atonement at the cross) of Jesus continues to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If the RC view of the Eucharist was true, I John 1:5-2:2 would be the place to explain it, but the inspired apostle does not say anything about that; he rather points us back to the once for all death of Christ.

Abraham was struggling and his doubts needed encouragement; and he even doubted again in Genesis 16 and decided to do a work and "help God out" by "the will of a male/husband" and the "will of the flesh" - alluded to in John 1:13 - "we are born children of God (v. 12), " not by the will of the flesh, and not by the desire of a male, and not by blood, but by God."

Ken said...

". . . and it shows that justification by faith alone continues to have relevance for us all our lives, as we continue to grow in faith and trust, and realize that our justification is always based on faith alone."

should have been

". . . and it shows that justification by faith alone continues to have relevance for us all our lives, as we continue to grow in faith and trust, and realize that our justification is always based on Christ and His righteousness alone, that comes to us through faith alone."

louis said...

Excellent, Ken.