Justification: Five Views – Progressive Reformed @ivpacademic (Joel)

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Bird, so far, is the only one to mention the role which the atonement plays into justification. His writing style is almost verbal, by which I mean that he seems to be preaching it rather than writing it. I do not mean this as a fault, but indeed, just the opposite. He is not polemic, although accused of being, and seemingly only mentions an opposing view once and then gives the view full deference while maintaining his ground.

I am almost persuaded by Bird’s essay, given his use of both substitutionary atonement as hints of Christus Victor as well as his idea that such an important issue is not so one-sided. Indeed, Bird is able to show that “justification is multifacted” (156) with at least five different angles to examine. While he falls clearly without the Calvinistic-Reformed line of thought, he has reformed this somewhat to reflect current scholarship and gotten under the usual patina to examine verses outright and not through the lens of the fathers of the Reformation. My main issues are with the reading of Romans as the zenith of Paul’s theology. We seem to believe that we know the Apostle’s mind on such matters. Wouldn’t it be odd to find out that Paul thought little of the self-serving Roman Epistle (if Stowers and others, including myself, are correct) and instead saw, say, Philemon, as the height of his own theology. Further, I take issue with the usual focus on Romans 1.16-17 as the central thesis to the entire letter as well as the reading which Bird places on Romans 1.18-32. I do, however, appreciate his enthrallment with Galatians and his grace in such a manner. Bird presents his case supported firmly with a near complete biblical picture. Again, he’s almost persuaded me, and not just because he has the word “progressive” in the title of his position.

Horton leads the responses with a rather short one, pointed to, of course, the Reformation and, again, doing his best to focus the attention on N.T. Wright who is not apart of this volume. Dunn is able to assure me of why I am almost persuaded by Bird’s essay, because he himself has so little negative to say about it. While he concludes that Bird’s presentation does not perfectly consider Paul’s whole theology, he notes that Bird’s position is “irenic”, and a fresh voice between the Traditional and the New Perspective. The deification respondent follows another respondent in suggesting that  Bird is being somehow polemical in some of his sections, but I simply didn’t see it. Further, unlike with Horton, the response here is much more give and take. Collins, for his part, seems to follow Dunn as well, while maintaining some differences with Bird. Thus far, Bird has presented to me a case for a new way of thinking. While I will eventually disagree with Bird over all, his position as one of peace is a most helpful one, as evidenced by both Dunn and Collins, the two positions which I assume will represent me the most.

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