- Paperback: 773 pages
- Publisher: Queenship Pub Co; First Edition edition (July 1, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1579180086
- ISBN-13: 978-1579180089
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.8 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 50 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #806,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Not by Faith Alone: A Biblical Study of the Catholic Doctrine of Justification Paperback – July 1, 1997
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In the first three chapters, Sungennis looks at Catholic soteriology in light of the teachings of Paul, James, and Jesus. He presents and analyzes countless passages that vouch for Catholic teaching and looks at passages that Protestants say teach faith alone theology. He critiques many protestant arguments and builds an impressive case for the Catholic view on how works fit into our salvation. Interspersed throughout the book is a discussion on how many famous Old Testament figures were justified. He spends considerable time on Paul and James' commentary on these Old Testament characters of which Abraham is most often discussed. He really helped the story of Abraham come to life for me, and actually gave me a greater appreciation of God's plan for us and the heroism of Abraham.
Of the arguments he employs throughout the book, much of them hit the nail right on the head and, even though I'm a Catholic and certainly have my biases, I think would be very difficult to refute. At other times with certain difficult scripture verses or arguments taken in isolation, he adequately explains how the Catholic interpretation fits into the verse without completely shutting the door on alternative interpretations. In these situations, he tries to bring in both the immediate and larger context that the verse is set in. Ultimately, throughout the book he relentlessly brings torrents of scriptural evidence proving different facets of the Catholic teaching and thus, after seeing the big picture, I think the reader might by willing to believe Sungennis's interpretations of these "toss-up" verses.
In the next chapters he explains different facets of the Catholic teaching on justification. Namely, that justification is a process (not a one time event), a familial restoration (not a courtroom acquittal), and an infusion of grace (not a mere forensic covering). In these chapters, I was really able to see how it all fits together in Catholic theology.
Considering the difficulty of the topic of predestination, he does a good job setting up the parameters of what the Church teaches on predestination and free will, while critiquing the reformers' various views. This chapter segues into the chapter where he looks at many different personalities of the reformation and, very intentionally, points out some of their more extreme views (with plenty of footnotes) and shows the disharmony and infighting that plagued them as they struggled to work through the details of their theology. Sungennis stated that (I'm paraphrasing) it was his goal that as Protestants see the discord of the reformation that they might take a second look at what they believe.
Aside from a few nitpicky things not worth mentioning, I thought that one thing that would have improved the book is a longer discussion on the theology of the cross and a comparison between Catholic and Protestant views on just exactly what the death and resurrection of Christ accomplished. He spends some time on this, but I could have used more - maybe ten to fifteen pages would have been nice.
I highly recommend this book to all Christians. It's long but it's well worth spending a little time on this subject and getting it right. I think that all but the most ardent Protestants will find this book convincing, and at the very least will have a new found respect for the Catholic teaching.
With careful rigour, Sungenis refutes the long-standing arguments of Protestant, especially Reformed, theologians and apologists, such as Calvin, Luther, Sproul, White, Zins et al., demonstrating that (1) the Bible does not support the concept of Justification being an external, once-for-all event; (2) that the concept of alien imputed righteousness is foreign to the biblical texts; (3) in some way (though not in a legalistic manner), works do indeed justify, as seen in the case of Phinehas in Ps 106 (cf. Num 25) and both Abraham and Rahab (cf. James 2 [Sungenis also refutes the argument that the noun form of the verb dikaioO in James 2 refers to vindication, not salvific justification) and that the judgment according to one's works in New Testament passages are not merely about rewards in the life to come, but also scenes that determine where one will spend eternity, among many other issues.
This is a wonderful volume, and one would do well to study it. Do note, however, that Sungenis does not deal in great detail with the New Perspective on Paul, a movement that refutes the historical Protestant interpretation (read: eisegesis) of Paul, so one should look elsewhere for the NPP (see the works of NT Wright; Dunn and others on this issue). However, notwithstanding this, do buy this book!
Alongside this volume, I do suggest Chris Vanlandingham's 2006 book published by Hendrickson, "Judgment and Justification in Early Judaism and the Apostle Paul."
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