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The Justification Reader (Classic Christian Readers) Paperback – July 29, 2002

2.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Series: Classic Christian Readers
  • Paperback: 163 pages
  • Publisher: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (July 29, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802839665
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802839664
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #810,208 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alvin Kimel on May 2, 2003
Format: Paperback
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 much like the teaching of the Reformers. Unfortunately, I do not believe that he has accomplished his task. Specifically, I am not persuaded that he has shown that the imputation of righteousness is a consensual patristic understanding.
My big disappointment is that this book is so very Protestant. Oden ends up quoting Reformation and Protestant sources almost as much as he cites the Fathers. It's as if he could not make up his mind as to what he wanted this book to be.
Oden presents a good summary of the Reformation understanding of justification, with which I find myself in strong personal concurrence. But I wanted to hear the voice of the Fathers interpreted on their own terms, not filtered through Reformation conceptuality and distinctions. Can one really say that St. Augustine held the same view on justification as Luther, when the former understood justification/sanctification as a process? Can one say that the Eastern Fathers understood justification as an imputation of righteousness, when they understood salvation as our incorporation into the risen humanity of Christ, as theosis? I'm trying to keep an open mind. Indeed, I want to be persuaded that Oden's interpretation is true. I just don't think he has made his case yet.
So I do not think that Oden has accomplished the goal that he explicitly sets out for himself. And so I am disappointed. On the other hand, I am grateful and delighted to have before me now the patristic texts that he does cite. I suspect that many of them have been ignored by everyone, whether Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant.
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This is an excellent starting point for evangelicals
who are "gun shy" regarding the Early Church. Read
this work, and I believe you will be more willing to
actually pursue other studies in the realm of the
doctrine of the Early Church.

Many evangelicals fear the teachings of the Early
Church. In my experience this is due to a class of people
who claim to represent the "historic church" and
who use the the claim of following in the footsteps
of the fathers as a bludgeon to pummel evangelicals into submission.

Usually these are former evangelicals themselves who
have the new found zeal of former smokers. Such folks
are now on a crusade to save the world from tobacco.
These former evangelicals end up end up ridiculing
everything in their evangelical heritage in an almost
pathological manner.

But even these zealots have a good point.

To be quite honest, the Protestant Reformers in the
Reformed, Anglican, and Lutheran camps were dedicated
students of the Early Church and believed themselves to
be restoring the primitive Christian teaching.

Their followers in the modern era have distorted
the teachings of these reformers (and the scriptures)
with a modern proof text mentality that takes some
verses as "gospel" while shunning "inconvenient"

As a minister who has been blessed to be raised
in the evangelical church and who has now found a home
in the historic reformed church, yes, the New Testament church I
was always encouraged to seek, I say you will value this
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It is very difficult to make the fathers sound "Protestant" when it comes to forensic righteousness. Imputed Righteousness, i.e, the alien righteousness that God imputes to us on account of Christ through faith due to NO merit of our own is a Reformation concept developed by Luther and Melanchthon over a period of years. The fathers tended to speak more about what we would call inherent righteousness, i.e., a righteousness that inheres in us by virtue of the work of the Holy Spirit. (And so Augustine described justification as "faith working itself out through love.") If Alister McGrath is correct, then fathers such as Augustine focused more on "being made righteous" as opposed to being "declared righteous" and so the patristic understanding of justification operated within the parameters of an inherent righteousness, rather than an alien one imputed to us. The medieval Scholastics, in turn, built their theology upon that of the fathers and so the notion of a forensic/imputed/alien righteousness appeared as a novelty during the Reformation era. That makes it difficult to agree entirely with Oden's arguments, but his book is useful in bringing more attention to the fathers' understanding of grace and justification, though they were certainly not Protestants.

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.
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