How We Got Here: The Roots Of The Current Controversy Over Justification

Presently there is open disagreement within Reformed and Presbyterian churches over the most basic elements of the doctrine of justification. Some are arguing (implicitly and explicitly) that the doctrine of justification contained in the Reformed confessions and catechisms (i.e., symbols) is either inadequate or incorrect. Continue reading →

Letter and Spirit: Law and Gospel in Reformed Preaching

Preaching begins with Bible reading and interpretation. Before a minister can preach a given text, he must decide what it says. To interpret a passage, the preacher necessarily brings to bear his broader reading of Scripture, a system of doctrine, and the history of interpretation. Continue reading →

Faith Formed By Love Or Faith Alone? The Instrument Of Justification

Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry

In his discussion of works, Calvin anticipates the great error of many contemporary critics of the Reformation doctrine. They think that as long as they say that salvation is by grace alone they have said all they need to say theologically, but many medieval theologians said exactly that. They taught that grace alone worked to transform and sanctify the life and that all the works of the Christian are the fruit of grace. Such an improved life, however, is still an imperfect life and cannot stand in the judgment. Calvin summarizes the situation succinctly: “If righteousness is revealed in the gospel, surely no mutilated or half righteousness but a full and perfect righteousness is contained there. The law therefore has no place in it” (Institutes 3.11.19). What one needs to stand in the judgment, Calvin declares over and over again, is a perfect righteousness. No matter how much progress one makes in grace during this life, so that one’s life becomes holier, holier, and holier, it will never get to the point where it will be able to stand in the judgment. Continue reading →