I read the volume, well not each and every page, edited by Mark Husbands and Daniel J. Treier, both at Wheaton, called Justification: What’s at Stake in the Debates? — don’t you just love artistic titles? Well, scholarly books rarely get cool titles. This is mostly a robust, scholarly defense of the Reformation’s understanding of justification. And that means imputation — what do you think of double imputation? Necessary or is this a mystery too?
It begins in a most un-Reformed way with Robert Gundry going all the way with the view that imputation of Christ’s righteousness to believers is not taught in the NT. And then DA Carson comes back in his piece on the vindication of imputation by arguing just the opposite. The issue here is that the way we conceptualize imputation is just not in the NT, but I basically side with Carson on this one — it is hard to see 1 Cor 1:30 (Christ is our righteousness) as not involving some kind of imputation (though I’m quite happy to say it is as at least recapitulation) and 1 Cor 5:21 looks like some kind of imputation to me, too. But some disagree, and that is the point Carson is actually making: there is exegesis and there is theology, and the theology fills in gaps and incompletenesses.
The stakes are high in this issue of imputation, and Bruce McCormack’s piece on Luther and Calvin shows why: he contends that, apart from a fully consistent theory of double imputation, the Reformation’s case is simply not made. Both he and Carson got into “union with Christ” but they differed wildly: Carson thinks union is the ground of justification and McCormack thinks justification is the ground of union with Christ and regeneration. Both of them make comments about Eastern Orthodoxy’s emphasis on union, though I don’t think either of them takes Orthodoxy seriously enough in these matters. 2 Pet 1 comes to mind. But that’s another post.
The rest of the pieces weren’t as interesting to me, but I fingered my way through them, and I liked the piece on Luther by Mark Seifrid, and the pieces on Paul Lehman, Wesley, and the ecclesial dimension in the ecumenical discussions, which had a nice section on Lesslie Newbigin.
Here’s the big issue as I see it: a consistent doctrine of justification in the Reformation requires a double imputation — of our sins to Christ and Christ’s righteousness to us. This works out a radical contrast between God’s glorious grace, holiness and love and our radical sinfulness. McCormack shows, though, that Luther did not have all this worked out nor was he entirely set free from some of the Roman Catholic theology he was opposing, and Calvin has an internal inconsistency on the place of regeneration in the ordo salutis. The problem for a “consistent” Reformation view is that the NT doesn’t talk quite like this. Carson knows this, and that is why he argues that theology works to be both consistent with the Bible but extensive of it.