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The Justification Reader (Classic Christian Readers) Paperback – July 29, 2002
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From the Back Cover
"The Justification Reader sets out the classic Christian teachingof "salvation by grace through faith." Distinguished theologianThomas C. Oden, well known for retrieving the riches of churchtradition, here gathers together the early Christian sources on thetheme of justification.
Ranging broadly through Christian history and across allbranches of the church, Oden cites the writings of such majorfigures as Athanasius, Basil, Gregory Nazianzus, and John Chrysostomin the East and Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory theGreat in the West. Although Oden presents all the relevant historicaltexts on justification, the book also includes his own insightfulexplication of the doctrine. His work shows that what these churchfathers teach on justification was restated almost verbatim by thesixteenth-century Reformers and can still be confessed in goodconscience by Christians from every communion. Thus this volumeboth provides a compendium of a central belief of the faith anddemonstrates its ecumenical potential.
The first volume in a new series, this book will be an importantsourcebook for readers from every tradition.
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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.
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
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
It shows how the Early Church affirmed the doctrine that
came to be known as Justification by Grace through Faith,
shows how the fathers of the church held the doctrine, and
yet shows how they did so in a way without modern evangelical
distortions of the biblical evidence.
Thomas Oden is to be thanked for his efforts. I wish the
readings had been republished in an appendix without his
commentary - only subject headings. But still this is a fine
work despite the detractors he has managed to create!
Thank you, Dr. Oden.
Once you have read this work, I encourage you to go on to
learn more about the teaching of the Early Church with the
conviction that it will help you go more DEEPLY into the
Holy Scriptures, not AWAY from them. And where you DIFFER from the teachings, at least you will be forced to justify your faith biblically. And isn't that what we who were raised in the evangelical church were raised to do anyway?
Pastor Chuck Huckaby - ...
Oden shows why he is a present-day gem for the church.
Most recent customer reviews
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