Tuesday, August 14, 2012

"Reformed civil war": the continuing conflict

My recent reception in the mail of two publications, Horton's, The Christian Faith - A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, and the Spring 2012 issue of The Westminster Theological Journal, has prompted me to take a brief break from my Irenaeus research to share a few reflections on some of the data discussed in these works.

Back on May 31st, 2010, I published a post on Williams B. Evans' Spring 2010, Westminster Theological Journal article, DÈJÁ VU ALL OVER AGAIN? THE CONTEMPORARY REFORMED SOTERIOLOGICAL CONTROVERSY IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
, which spoke of a "Reformed civil war" concerning certain aspects of soteriology. This "Reformed civil war" is showing no signs of ending, for in the most recent issue of The Westminster Theological Journal (Volume 74.1 - Spring 2012), yet another article on this "civil war" was published: William R. Edwards, John Flavel On The Priority Of Union With Christ: Further Historical Perspective On The Structure Of Reformed Soteriology.

Edwards' essay begins with:

A relatively small but significant debate continues within a segment of the Reformed community regarding priority within the structure of soteriology. Although there is a much longer history, the context for the current debate reaches back most immediately to various critiques of the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision. These movements emphasize union with Christ while objecting to the doctrine of justification as historically understood within Reformed theology. In particular, the role of imputation, whereby Christ's righteousness is attributed to the believer, is openly challenged. (Page 33 - see above link for full article.)

Edwards then writes that, "The response from Reformed circles defending the traditional formulation of the doctrine of justification has, generally speaking, followed along two lines." The first, "continues to assert the central role of union with Christ as the overarching principle in the application of redemption", while the second, "places greater emphasis on the priority of justification for the entire structure of salvation". He lists Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., Lane G. Tipton, Mark A. Garcia, and William B. Evans as representatives of the first view, and Michael S. Horton, John V. Fesko, W. Robert Godrey, and David VanDrunen of the latter.

Via an interaction with the 17th century Reformed theologian John Flavel, Edwards end up siding with first group, arguing that their position is, "no new reading of Calvin", and that, "those maintaining the priority of union with Christ are standing well within the Reformed tradition."

In addition to Edwards' WTJ contribution, I found online, the following blog post by him: A Guide to Recent Discussions on Justification and Sanctification.

And before ending, I would like to list a few more resources, that can be accessed and/or obtained online, which are related to the topic of 'union with Christ':

J. V. Fesko - John Owen On Union With Christ and Justification

More later, the Lord willing...

Grace and peace,


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