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Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology) Paperback – July 13, 2013
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About the Author
Robert Wilkin (Ph.D., Dallas Theological Seminary) was born and raised in Southern California. After graduating from college he joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ, serving two years each at Arkansas State University and North Carolina State University. During his seminary studies Bob served in a variety of ministries including a year each in college and high school ministry, a year as a hospital chaplain, and three years as a pastor. After receiving his doctorate, Bob taught at Woodcrest College in Lindale, Texas and then at Multnomah Bible College in Portland, Oregon.
Feeling that there was a great need for an educational and networking organization for Christians who believe in the freeness of the Gospel, Bob started Grace Evangelical Society in June of 1986. In July of 1987 he left his teaching position to devote full time to heading up this ministry. Since its inception, readership of the bimonthly newsletter, Grace In Focus, has grown from 30 to over 9,500 in 54 countries.
Dr. Wilkin has written three books, Confident in Christ, The Road to Reward, and Secure and Sure, as well as two booklets, and hundreds of newsletter and journal articles. Bob and his wife Sharon live in Lewisville, Texas.
Thomas R. Schreiner (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament and associate dean of Scripture and interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. The author of numerous books, he is the preaching pastor of Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.
James Dunn (Ph.D., Cambridge) was for many years the Lightfoot Professor of Divinity in the Department of Theology at the University of Durham. Since his retirement he has been made Emeritus Lightfoot Professor. He is a leading British New Testament scholar, broadly in the Protestant tradition. Dunn is especially associated with the New Perspective on Paul, a phrase which he is credited with coining during his 1982 Manson Memorial Lecture.
His books include Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? (2010), The New Perspective On Paul (2007), A New Perspective On Jesus: What The Quest For The Historical Jesus Missed (2005),The Theology of Paul the Apostle (1998), The Acts of the Apostles (1996), and The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (1996). In 2005, a festschrift dedicated to Dunn was published, entitled The Holy Spirit and Christian origins: essays in honor of James D. G. Dunn, comprising articles by 27 New Testament scholars, examining early Christian communities and their beliefs about the Holy Spirit.
Michael Barber (Ph.D., Fuller Theological Seminary) is Professor of Theology, Scripture and Catholic Thought at John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego, California. His dissertation was on the Historical Jesus and Sacramental Eschatology under the world famous scholar, Colin Brown. He has an MA in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville and received his BA in Theology and Philosophy from Azusa Pacific University. He is the author of several books, including, Coming Soon: Unlocking the Book of Revelation and Applying Its Lessons Today (Emmaus Road, 2006) and most recently, Genesis to Jesus: Studying Scripture from the Heart of the Church (Servant, 2007), a Bible study co-authored with Kimberly Hahn. He is a Research Fellow for the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, founded by Dr. Scott Hahn. His weekly podcast of 'The Sacred Page with Michael Barber' is carried on many Catholic radio stations. He lives in San Diego with his wife Kim and two young boys, Michael Patrick (Jr.) and Matthew Stephen.
Alan P. Stanley is Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Brisbane School of Theology, Brisbane Australia, since 2003. He has published two books on this and associated topics: Did Jesus Teach Salvation by Works?; Salvation is More Complicated Than You Think: Studies in the Teachings of Jesus.
Stanley N. Gundry is executive vice president and editor-in-chief for the Zondervan Corporation. He has been an influential figure in the Evangelical Theological Society, serving as president of ETS and on its executive committee, and is adjunct professor of Historical Theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He is the author of seven books and has written many articles appearing in popular and academic periodicals.
Top customer reviews
My most recent find and soon after review request is Four Views on The Role of Works at The Final Judgment. Edited by Alan P. Stanley, this roundtable of views features:
Robert Wilkin (Free Grace position, works determine rewards but not salvation)
Thomas Schreiner (Reformed Baptist, works will provide evidence that one is actually saved)
James Dunn (New Perspective on Paul, works will provide the criterion by which Christ will determine eternal destiny of people)
Michael Barber (Catholic position, works will merit eternal life)
In terms of contributor selection, I thought this was an excellent roundup. Here we have a true full spectrum all the way from works have no role at the final judgment (Wilkin) to them having a fully determinative role (Barber).
I won’t go blow by blow, but a few comments are in order. First, alongside IVP’s Five Views on Justification, this volume gives readers a good view what is at stake in the debates about how to read Paul. Schreiner and Dunn do not disagree with each other much (at least not to the extent Dunn tears into Wilkin) but there is a sharp contrast between them, and both have authored commentaries on Romans and theologies on Paul. Especially since Dunn was the contributor for the New Perspective on Paul position in IVP’s books, you can get a good cliff notes of his overall position by reading his essays in these two books. The subject matter here though is what makes many evangelicals uncomfortable, and within the book there is much talk of justification. For both Dunn and Barber, works play a determinative role in the final judgment (justification by works), and interestingly for both, you can lose your salvation. In that, Catholics and Arminians are on the same page, though the expositions of Dunn and Barber are not identical.
Second, while each contributor’s position is embedded within his overall system (or in Dunn’s case his refusal to systematize), Wilkin’s is entirely dependent on a certain kind of dispensationalism. Schreiner points this out, but it would be obvious to most readers after reading his essay. Unless you hold to an eschatological system that has multiple final judgments, then much of Wilkin’s exegesis seems strained. Wilkin also relies heavily on John’s Gospel, something the other three contributors don’t do (focusing instead mostly on Paul and James, just like the justification debates), and seems baffled that none of them follow his lead. He does makes some good points highlighting assurance based on faith, but ultimately he has to interpret all passages that seem to suggest believers being judged at the final judgment as applying to a different judgment, an option not open to anyone who isn’t dispensational.
Third, many evangelical readers will be surprised at how Barber’s essay unfolds. I think it is good for evangelicals to read Catholic writers in their own words. It may not change your overall understanding (salvation is still ultimately by works and assurance that you’re saved is not possible), but it does break down some stereotypes (specifically he really likes grace and talks about it a lot!).
Fourth, Dunn’s aversion to fitting his exegesis into a “system” seems to exert the same amount of hermeneutical force as someone else’s attempt to fit into a system. By that I mean it is a presupposition he brings to the text (“we need to allow for diversity and not force unity”) that is not unlike the systematizer’s presupposition (“we need to strive for unity and not allow for leftover diversity”). In both cases, it “colors” how the interpreter reads the text. It is as if Dunn is so weary of forcing the wrong pieces of the puzzle together that he is reticent to allow that the pieces might fit together without forcing. I think that is probably better than thinking “hey this group of puzzle pieces must make a complete picture and I’m going to put it together one way or the other.” But is still shapes how Dunn reads the NT and the end result is a “system” that more or less Arminian that allows for loss of salvation and syncs with Catholicism’s teaching that salvation is by works (even grace empowered ones).
Fifth, I’m not sure I completely follow Schreiner, but I’m definitely not following any of the other three contributors. He is offering a Reformed Baptist position, but I don’t think it is the position. I’m thinking a traditional Reformed position (maybe by someone like Michael Horton) might fit in between Wilkin and Schreiner, but then again they just slightly modify Schreiner to the point that another voice is not needed. His contention that works provide evidence but are not determinative seems correct to me, as well as his insistence that we are justified truly at the moment of faith/repentance/conversion. In his thinking, works will not fail to follow from that initial justification (if we are truly justified in that instant). Christians cannot fall away, but our works have no determinative effect on our ultimate salvation.
On the whole then, I think this is a valuable book. For people up on the contemporary debates concerning the New Perspective on Paul, it provides a stark contrast between how someone in the heart of that movement understands justification/final judgment/works and how a Reformed Baptist and a Catholic would view it. Wilkin feels kind of like the odd man out, mainly because he is the only one who sees works having no role in the judgment of believers (which is also because of his dispensational view of the judgments). But, I did like his voice being part of the conversation because he offered criticisms I wouldn’t think of, even his position is one I would ultimately never adopt. Like most of the multi-view books I’ve read to review on here (ok, maybe all of them), I would highly recommend it to you, especially if you are interested in the New Perspective on Paul in particular or just discussing soteriology in general.
[I was given a review copy of this book by the publisher]
Zondervan through their excellent Counterpoints series has provided yet another salvo of discussion on this topic in their book Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment. Scholars Robert Wilkin, Thomas Schreiner, James Dunn, and Michael Barber provide their views and positions on this perennially thorny theological issue with a great deal of skill and fervor. Wilkin provides what could be classified as the free grace approach, Schreiner and Dunn support a mixture of works and grace while Catholic scholar Michael Barber endorses the necessity of works to include the sacraments.
As is the typical format of the Counterpoints series, each scholar provides their perspective with a follow on engagement of their respective position by the other contributors. The discussion at times can be very direct with the authors noting varying levels of disagreement and at times agreement with their colleague's opinions and positions. While disagreement is very pointed, any element of challenge to another contributor's thoughts on a matter is done with a spirit of respect and in the spirit of irenic debate. With that said, no punches are pulled and the back and forth debate can be quite intense which only serves to provide the reader with the intended variety of thought on a particular issue, in this case the role of works at the final judgment.
The material in this book is admittedly very heady theological and arguably at times over the head of the average layman. However, this is a subject of great importance and one that can be understood provided the reader takes the necessary time to read through each contributor's presentation, taking into account the pros and cons of each argument as noted by the follow-on responses. Additionally, due to the limited amount of space each other is provided in which to state their case, there is often the feeling that much more could be said by any of these authors. Thankfully, each author recognized that fact and did a great job of providing the reader with footnotes or references to additional reference material to read through in addition to what they had the space to discuss. Furthermore, the scripture and subject index make this book a valuable resource for future engagement of the topic of works for anyone desiring to dig a little deeper in their personal bible study.
Understanding the role of works in the life of the believer is truly an important issue and each author approaches the topic with great care and precision. Each argument for or against a particular position is done with a great deal of theological acumen, something I noted very quickly even in regards to a few positions I took issue with such as that of Wilken and Barber. Despite my personal disagreements, after reading this book, I came away with a much deeper appreciation for the subject matter as well as a more fully developed understanding of not only the various positions taken within the theological community on the issue of works, but also a better scripture understanding of the passages used to support one idea or the other. Knowing the scriptural background and how this subject is outlined throughout scripture is a great help and this book does a marvelous job through the discussion provided by the contributors of enabling the reader to have a more broad understanding of what scripture has to say. So despite being a somewhat heavy theological book at times, tools are provided for the reader to engage the topic of works in the future.
As with the other books I have read in the Counterpoints series, Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment is a valuable resource. In just a little over 200 pages of quick but very engaging reading, the reader will find themselves engaged and in a clear learning mode, a true sign of a book that fulfills its overall intended purpose, that of providing the reader with an overview of how to approach the topic of works according to what scripture has to say. One will not be disappointed with this book and I highly recommend it as well as the entire suite of Counterpoints books provided by Zondervan.
I received this book from Zondervan for free for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."