JUSTIFICATION, VOLUME 2, by Michael Horton

Published on July 18, 2019 by Benjamin J. Montoya

Zondervan, 2018 | 928 pages

A Brief Book Summary from Books at a Glance

By Mark Baker


About the Author

Michael Horton (PhD, University of Coventry and Wycliffe Hall, Oxford) is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. He has authored many books including The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way. He also hosts the White Horse Inn radio program (back cover).


Overview of the Series

Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain serve as co-editors of the New Studies in Dogmatics series. The series “follows in the tradition of G.C. Berkouwer’s classic series, Studies in Dogmatics, in seeking to offer concise, focused treatments of major topics in dogmatic theology that fill the gap between introductory theological textbooks and advanced theological monographs” (11). It further seeks to engage in constructive theology through the process of renewal through retrieval. Retrieval “is an inclusive and enlarging venture, a matter of tapping to a vital root and, in some cases, of relearning a lost grammar of theological discourse, all for the sake of equipping the church in its contemporary vocation to think and speak faithfully and fruitfully about God and God’s works” (12). Each book in this series aims to do four things: (1) to engage with the “state of the question” of the particular topic; (2) to interact with biblical-theological and exegetical patterns that form the particular doctrine; (3) to give attention to ecclesiastical statements of the church and leading theologians; (4) to locate the doctrine within the larger system of theology as well as in practical application.


Overview of the Book

This two-volume series seeks to retrieve the doctrine of justification by specifically locating sanctification in the context of other doctrines of the Christian faith. Volume 2 is a constructive work on the topic of justification through a biblical-theological, exegetical, and systematic-theological lens.


Table of Contents

Introduction: Justification and Biblical-Theological Paradigms

PART ONE: The Horizon of Justification

  1. Adam and Israel
  2. “Works of the Law” in Paul

PART TWO: The Achievement of Justification

  1. The God Who Justifies the Ungodly
  2. Justified by His Blood: Angus Dei and Christus Victor
  3. Vicarious Victor: An Integrated Account
  4. Raised for Our Justification

PART THREE: The Gift of Righteousness

  1. What Justification Means
  2. Imputation: The Mechanism of Justification
  3. Justification and Judgment: The Role of Works in the Day of Christ Jesus

PART FOUR: Receiving Justification

  1. Faith: Looking to Christ
  2. Union with Christ: Justification and the Great Exchange


Introduction: Justification and Biblical-Theological Paradigms

From popular level books to scholarly monographs, various authors have claimed that the doctrine of justification has gone through a “Copernican Revolution.” The old system needs to be thrown out and replaced with the new. They claim the Reformers were wrong, and we need to pave a new way forward. The goal of this book is not to vindicate the Reformers but rather to “investigate the biblical doctrine of justification in light of contemporary exegesis” (18). Nevertheless, the conclusions of this exegesis are clear: the Reformation paradigm has been caricatured, not genuinely engaged. When the Reformers are read rightly, we can conclude that no new paradigm is needed.

After the second world war, Pauline studies exploded with new proposals. The New Perspective on Paul (NPP) emerged around the 1980s through the work of scholars such as E. P. Sanders, James D. G. Dunn, and N. T. Wright. NPP scholars deny the doctrine of Christ’s imputed righteousness to the believer and redefine justification by focusing more on the “horizontal” element (person to person) rather than the “vertical” (person to God). They also redefine Paul’s phrase “works of the law,” and they place a greater emphasis on the influence of second temple documents such as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

In scholarship, with every claim there is also a counter-claim. After the NPP, the pendulum swung the other way with “post-new perspective” suggestions such the Apocalypticism of scholar Douglas Campbell. Whereas the NPP saw greater continuity between Paul and Judaism, the post-new perspective camp wants to increase discontinuity between Paul and his contemporary Jews. One of the main problems of both of these recent proposals is the problem of false choices. Both sides ultimately focus too heavily on one point of emphasis with a lack of sensitivity toward another legitimate facet of justification. We must resist the temptation to reduce complex systems to a “distinguishing central dogma” (49). Therefore, the constructive task of this volume is “not simply to repeat noble maxims and formulas along with their traditional proof texts but to encounter these remarkable passages in conversation with the provocative proposals that, despite a wide range of differences, have brought the doctrine of justification once again to the forefront of contemporary debate” (53).


PART ONE: The Horizon of Justification

Chapter 1: Adam and Israel

When you think about the major players in the Old Testament, certainly Adam and Israel are two prominent figures in the story. Moreover, they are not just prominent figures; they are intimately connected in the narrative. Israel’s story echoes Adam’s story. Like Hamlet’s play-within-a-play, Israel is given a similar commission to Adam, and Israel falls as Adam did (Hos 6:7). Additionally, we see that God made a covenant with Adam and Eve in the garden, much like God made a covenant with Israel. Though the word “covenant” is not present in Genesis 1–3, all the characteristics of the biblical covenants are present.

When we think about the Torah, the law that God gave at Sinai, we see a strong connection between act and consequence. The tension of this system is that Israel falls woefully short to God’s standards. They deserve covenant curse. But Jesus brings the solution to the tension between God’s demands and man’s disobedience. Contrary to popular belief, Jesus is not a “nicer Moses.” Jesus is an effective mediator of the new covenant that provides the heart transplant that disobedient people truly need.


Chapter 2: “Works of the Law” in Paul

When Paul says in Galatians 2:16 that believers are not justified by “works of the law” but by “faith in Christ,” what does he mean? Scholars have traditionally claimed that Paul is writing against legalism here. You don’t work your way to heaven; rather, God saves you by grace through faith. In contrast, NPP scholars want to narrow the meaning of “works of the law.” Instead of human effort to get to heaven, “works of the law” refers to the ceremonial laws such as circumcision and dietary laws that served as “boundary markers” between Jews and Gentiles. For NPP scholars, Paul isn’t arguing against legalism but ethnocentrism.

In order to pave the way forward, we need to understand the main contrast between “works of the law” and faith. The main difference is “not primarily that of legalism versus love, or externalism versus inwardness, but fundamentally that of promise versus fulfillment” (121). Paul’s point is that Christ’s work on the cross fulfills the law. Trying to win…

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Justification, 2 Volumes (New Studies in Dogmatics)

Zondervan, 2018 | 928 pages

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