October 17, 2013

Four Views of the Role of Works at the Final Judgment

This book, edited by Alan Stanley, is another nice entry in this very solid series. The four views are all relatively well defended (I found Wilkin's case for works playing no role to be rather feeble). Many Christians (and especially evangelical protestants) will be surprised at the similarities between the views expressed by Schreiner, Dunn, and Barber (a conservative calvinist, a progressive evangelical, and a catholic): they agree that Christians will stand before God at the final judgment and that our works will matter. They do disagree on how those works will be understood (fruit/evidence, necessary condition, meritorious), but the unanimity on that basic point will probably surprise many. Paul is the primary focus in a number of the essays and responses, but the whole New Testament is kept in view. The book could have benefited from a Lutheran perspective, I think, given Luther's watershed role in the formation of protestantism and the role of works in that key moment, and also given the centrality of justification in Lutheran thought. Criticism aside, I think this book is a very worthwhile read. It is nicely positioned to be easily understood by nonspecialists, but is still solid scholarship. In the end, I think Dunn is right when he writes, "It is hard to avoid the conclusion, then, that as Paul insisted on the need for faith, so he was equally insistent that his converts should demonstrate their faith by the quality of lives they lived" (130). God is gracious, and salvation is in and through Christ, but believers remain responsible before God for their doings. We may not be able to fully piece together how this is so (as Dunn affirms), but we clearly see both streams firmly present in the New Testament. There's lots to ponder here. Enjoy.

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