Justification: Five Views – the Traditional Reformed View @ivpacademic

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Remember, this is a read through to which you are all invited, so not really a traditional review.

I find it ironic that this view is called the “Traditional Reformed” View, given the often times anti-Tradition tradition of the Reformed Churches as well as the motto, ‘ever reforming.’ Further, given the attention to detail of historical writings of their tradition, often times ad nauseum, doesn’t transfer to either exegetical revelations or other viewpoints. Horton shows the pitfalls of making dogma, to reverse what Dunn says (119), bow to exegesis in that he makes conflicting statements and shows an almost purposeful ignorance of both Catholic doctrine and New Perspective studies which seem to be his focus of adversus stances. I betray my biasness against the Traditional Reformed view, but upon reading this first view and the responses, I am left wondering where I will eventually end up. Already, I have my suspicion, but we’ll see.

Horton’s writing is almost polemical, beginning with the disagreement that the Progressive Reformed should contain that name, noting that it is not Progressive to fall away from the truth. This is the problem with Horton and others who insist on the Traditional view, that for them, the dogma of justification is the measure by which to test new exegesis, facts and studies. Horton shows that it is not the fair evaluation of the other perspectives and doctrines which he is after, so much as it seems to be the denial of their validity and the attacks to thwart actual consideration of their views. As several of the respondents have shown, Horton misses the many nuances of the other positions in attempt to defend his own. For instance, his usual anti-Catholic biases come forth when he writes of the Council of Trent and dismisses the importance of the document signed between Rome and the World Lutheran Federation. Further, he is unable to truly handle Dunn’s New Perspective, accusing them, not of misunderstanding Paul so much as misunderstanding the Reformation. As Dunn points out, this is simply not true, as for many in the non-monolithic NPP, he wants to bring an added dimension to Paul’s theology which was missing during the Reformation.

My only concern so far is that the responses are a bit disjointing. They aren’t just responding to Horton but responding to Horton while setting up their own stances and responding to others. Overall, however, there is enough fodder in this first view to show not only why Justification is important, but why the various sides struggle to accept one another, albeit, it is generally the Traditional Reformed who simply do not accept the others.

Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

2 thoughts on “Justification: Five Views – the Traditional Reformed View @ivpacademic

  1. I didn’t find Horton’s article polemic as much as I found it disjointed. He seemed to begin writing with the goal of explaining his position (which, I think, he achieved), but then get sidetracked by an obsession with discrediting N.T. Wright. I agree with you (and several of the contributors) that Horton seems as committed to defending the Reformers as he did in engaging Scripture. To be fair, though, this is a weakness shared by other “Traditional Reformed” scholars that I’ve read. They often seem to consider Luther and Calvin as inerrant and unassailable as Paul.

    I thought that Bird and Dunn did a stellar job in responding to Horton, although I agree that Karkkainen seemed way too eager to skip the first assignment and start laying the foundation for his views rather than critiquing Horton’s. This is huge misstep in a scholarly book and does not make for a good first impression.

    I don’t think Horton started strong, but it will be interesting to see how persuasive he is when responding to the other views.

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