Saturday, November 28, 2015

Faith Alone by Thomas Schreiner

We are coming upon the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. It is fitting that a new series of books would highlight the five rallying cries of that movement.

Faith alone – sola fide – declares our justification is by faith alone. Schreiner shows that justification by faith alone is the teaching of the Bible and is deeply rooted in the early church writers and theologians throughout church history. He shows it also makes sense in our Christian experience. He also looks at contemporary authors on the subject.

He lays a foundation by defining terms. His historical section is not exhaustive as he looks at major theologians prior to the Reformation, major Reformation Protestants, and the Council of Trent. He covers the debate on Christ's work, whether it includes the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of righteousness or not.

He reviews what the Bible says regarding justification, beginning with Paul, then the gospels and Acts. He covers the “faith in Jesus Christ” verses the “faith of Jesus Christ” issue. He explains justification in Paul's theology, critiquing many contemporary authors. He explores the meaning of righteousness and then the eschatological nature of justification in Paul's writings.

He covers the complicated issue of whether God's righteousness is transformative or forensic. He argues for the forensic position, that is, a declaration. He shows that the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ is imputed to believers, addressing those who oppose the idea. He looks at the role of good works with respect to faith.

He lastly answers contemporary challenges to sola fide, including the Catholic dialogs, the Joint Declaration, the ECT, Frank Beckwith's return to Catholicism, and N. T. Wright's New Perspective on Paul.

I really appreciated Schreiner's argument that the verdict of justification is effective. Sinners who trust in Christ are truly righteous before God. That righteousness is not of themselves but in Jesus Christ. “They are righteous because they are united to Jesus Christ and he is their righteousness.” This righteousness is no legal fiction. Christ's righteousness has been imputed to believers. “We are truly right in God's sight by faith alone!”

This is a very good introduction to justification by faith, including an exploration of the doctrine. Those looking for a review of the topic, including history, the Bible, and theology will appreciate this book. It is a bit academic, with tons of footnotes, but serious laypeople will be able to follow the text well. There is an extensive Bibliography included for those who would like to study the subject further.

I highly recommend this book to those who want to know what justification by faith alone really means and how it affects their spiritual life.

You can watch a book trailer here.

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Thomas R. Schreiner (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament and associate dean of the School of Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. The author of numerous books, he is the preaching pastor of Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.

Zondervan Academic, 288 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

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