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The Justification Reader (Classic Christian Readers) Paperback – July, 2002
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Now, beyond this, I believe his efforts at trying to interpret the fathers is wrong. He does admit that there was no unanimous view of what justification is in the early church, however through out the book he seems to quote every church father one could think of as if they did all believe in a protestant doctrine of justification. This simply is not true. He did not have a discussion of the process of deification which many of the fathers held. He did not have a big discussion on the Latin translation of Iustificare, which played into views held by later fathers. His book is a set of random quotes of fathers with no context offered. It is much like the attempts of Roman Catholics trying to prove the papacy by taking any random quote they can find that says good things about Peter. I would like a good scholarly book which studied the views of certain fathers showing that the protestant understanding is not a new one but was held by several (but not all) of the fathers, although they can be inconsistent with themselves. Ambrose, Chrysostom, Hilary and Augustine come at least very close to what would later be termed a "Lutheran" understanding of Paul and the doctrine of justification. Unfortunately I do not think such a book exists. Oden tries to prove too much in this small book and I think fails.
Many of the fathers spoke wonderfully regarding grace and how we are saved by grace. Sometimes they were merely parroting the words of the apostle Paul, but that is certainly not always the case. It was not until the Pelagian heresy arose in the West that the fathers spoke ever more cautiously about how important the grace of God is to our salvation. In that sense there is doctrinal development in the early church as heresies compelled the Church to speak ever more clearly about hot topics. It is also safe to say from a Protestant perspective that certain forms of late medieval thought had lost sight of the fathers' works and words on grace. That would explain why those who began to read Ambrose and Augustine in their entirety during the late Middle Ages began to see themselves at odds with the scholastic theologies of their day. And so while the Fathers are not as Protestant as Oden would have them be, there is still good cause to provide citations that demonstrate the fathers' emphasis on grace. Ambrose, for instance, held a concept of justification that was close to that of Augustine and one even sees a gradual theology of grace developing as early as the third century. It is more difficult, however, to make the Greek fathers sound Protestant given their penchant for describing salvation with the metaphor of "deification," rather than the legal one St. Paul uses in his epistles. (Justification itself is a legal metaphor that was not so readily apprehended by the Greek mind with its platonic mindset. The Latin mind of the West found it easier to grapple with a legal metaphor given the Roman penchant for law and order.)
The fathers are sui generis. Neither fully Protestant nor Roman Catholic. They should be understood on their own terms, but I still recommend this work as a source of patristic citations on a much debated topic.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
who are "gun shy" regarding the Early Church.Read more
Oden sets himself the task of demonstrating that during the first five centuries of the Church there existed a clear consenual teaching on justification that looked very...Read more