James Beilby and Paul Eddy’s The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views has been one of my “go-to” theology books for several years. In general, I love any book that presents multiple views on an academic topic because it feeds into my fantasy that evangelical scholars are all polite, reasonable people who wear tweed and never shout, but this book has been especially significant in my own understanding of how multi-faceted the atonement is.
Beilby and Eddy’s newest book, Justification: Five Views, has been available for several months, but only now have I been able to sit down and work through it. So far, I’ve only gotten as far as the Introduction, but the margins are already filled with notes, questions, and ideas for blog posts.
In Part 1 of the Introduction, the authors survey 2000 years of justification theology, touching on everyone from Origen to Bultmann. While they drive a little too fast at times, occasionally just waving at Augustine or Anselm when I would have liked to have stopped and gotten out of the car to take a better look, I appreciate the inclusion of less mainstream views of justification such as Anabaptist and Pentacostal. And their short description of feminist theology is, I think, one of the best I’ve read.
It is, of course, the New Perspectives on Paul (NPP) that consumes much of the Introduction. Somehow, the authors manage to survey pre-NPP 19th and 20th century scholars and summarize the views of E.P. Sanders, James Dunn, and N.T. Wright and effectively describe the wide-ranging diversity of opinions that exist under the NPP umbrella—all in the Introduction. As someone who has often wondered what all the fuss is about, this chapter managed to wipe the fog off my glasses and clarify why these issues are so important.
The Introduction ends with a catalog of what the authors describe as five “exegetical flashpoints” in the justification debate: (1) What, really, was Paul’s attitude towards Judaism? (2) What is the role of works in final judgement? (3) What is the Old Testament’s view of righteousness? (4)What is the exact nature of the “righteousness” by which believers are justified? (5) How should the Greek word “pistis” be translated?
While these questions sound obtuse (and possibly even a little dull) when I list them, the authors manage to both clarify what the issues are and, more importantly, convince the reader why they’re relevant.
Joel and I will be blogging through Justification: Five Views for the next few weeks, so anyone who wants to still has time to pick up the book and join the conversation.