Saturday, January 24, 2009
Some comments and ruminations posted yesterday, concerning the issue of justification, have prompted me to create a responsive thread. At de reginis duobus, Jason Stillman posted in the thread, Who Said That?, a quote he had, "heard…in a Protestant/Catholic debate involving Michael Horton". Jason does not tell he readers the name/place of the original debate, but once he mentioned Michael Horton’s name, I immediately was able to deduce the original source: What Still Divides Us? I own this entire debate in a cassette format produced by Basilica Press. On the back of the 8 tape album cover we read: “This debate took place at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, California, on March 3 & 4, 1995, before a Protestant audience of 1,500.”
Research via Google revealed that the full debate is still available in various formats, through numerous providers (caveat emptor - costs vary significantly).
Interestingly enough, a transcript of Michael Horton’s opening statement on justification is also available under the title: Are We Justified By Faith Alone?.
Now that ‘due diligence’ has been carried out concerning the source of the quote provided by Jason, it is time to provide some resources and reflections on the subject matter.
First, Michael Horton’s opening statement has been thoroughly critiqued by Robert Sungenis at his Catholic Apologetics International site.
Second, the quote provided by Jason is highly selective; as such, it is misleading. The following is a brief compilation of some of my own research into this issue; the Protestant patristic scholar, Alister McGrath, penned the following observations:
…it will be clear that the medieval period was astonishingly faithful to the teaching of Augustine on the question of the nature of justification, where the Reformers departed from it…The Reformation understanding of the nature of justification – as opposed to its mode – must therefore be regarded as a genuine theological novum. (Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei, 1986 ed., pp. 1.185-187.)
He then asked the following queston: “For what reasons did the Reformers abandon the catholic consensus on the nature of justification?” (Ibid. 187.)
An important background to McGrath’s later assessment of the “reasons” was provided earlier:
Man’s righteousness, effected in justification, is regarded by Augustine as inherent rather than imputed, to use the vocabulary of the sixteenth century. A concept of ‘imputed righteousness’, in the later Protestant sense of the term, would be quite redundant within Augustine’s doctrine of justification, in that man is made righteous in justification. The righteousness which man thus receives, although originating from God, is nevertheless located within man, and can be said to be his, part of his being and intrinsic to his person. An element which underlies this understanding of the nature of justifying righteousness is the Greek concept of deification, which makes its appearance in later Augustinian soteriology. (Ibid., pp. 1.31, 32.)
But, did Augustine ‘get it wrong’? The consensus of the Protestant world (excluding Anabaptists/Mennonites) sure thought so. But this consensus is not nearly as large at it once was. Some recent/current scholars are now convinced that the verb dikaoō has a causative/factitive/effective sense in Paul’s usage, and if they are correct, we can say we with confidence that Augustine did not ‘get it wrong’.
One current scholar goes so far as to conclude:
The various dikai- terms all refer to the same quality or effect of Jesus’ death on the believer. In other words, despite their grammatical distinctions, dikaiosunē, dikaios, dikaiōsis and even dikaioō all have the same sense; therefore, the rendering of dikaiosunē is “righteousness,” of dikaios, “righteous,” and of dikaioō, “make righteous. (Chris VanLandingham, Judgment & Justification in Early Judaism and the Apostle Paul, pp. 245, 246 – the entire chapter, “’Justification by Faith’—A Mistranslated Phrase and Misunderstood Concept”, pp. 242-332, is a must read.)
The Lutheran scholar, John Reumann (hearkening back to Melanchthon) maintains that dikaioō has a double sense: declarative and causative (see his, Righteousness in the New Testament, pp. 4-11.)
Further, a group of Finnish Lutheran scholars are now recognizing the importance of deification in understanding the nature of justification, and are able to declare, “Lutherans can without difficulty argue that a Christian is both made righteous and also deified as a partaker of the divine nature”.
Even McGrath could write:
It is certainly true that Augustine speaks of the real interior renewal of the sinner by the action of the Holy Spirit, which he later expressed in terms of participation in the divine substance itself…God has given man the power both to receive and participate in the divine being. By this participation in the life of the Trinity, the justified sinner may be said to be deified. (Ibid., p. 1.32)
Though one must wait until Augustine to find a concrete reflection on the role that deification plays in justification, the doctrine of deification itself is quite prominent in many of the Church Fathers prior to Augustine. And though most are aware of the importance of deification in Orthodox thought, recent scholars are now identifying certain elements of deification in Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley.
To make a very long story short, Augustine’s take on justification certainly has Biblical warrant, and just might be spot-on.
 See Theological Lexicon of the New Testament - by Ceslas Spicq, trans. & edited by James D. Ernest, pp. 1.337-343; Rereading Paul Together – edited by David Aune, pp. 83-86; Justificaton: What’s at Stake in the Current Debates – edited by Husbands and Treier, pp. 17-45; Justification by Faith in Catholic-Protestant Dialogue – by Anthony N.S. Lane, pp. 158-167, for some examples.
 See Union with Christ: The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther – edited by Braaten and Jenson
 Ibid. p. 67.
[Two other excellent resources are the essays produced by Gerald Hiestand and Fr Alvin Kimmel.]
I think I shall end this post with a quote from Sacred Scripture:
The first to plead his case seems just, Until another comes and examines him. – Proverbs 18:17 (NASB)
Grace and peace,