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Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine [Paperback]

By J. V. Fesko (Author)
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Item description for Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine by J. V. Fesko...

A comprehensive restatement of the classic Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone. Fesko explains the doctrine in terms of the ordo and historia salutis, as well as in the light of recent challenges.

Publishers Description
Topics Include
Church history - Imputation - Union with Christ - Redemptive history - Sanctification - The covenant of works - Final judgment - The work of Christ - The church - Roman Catholicism - Justification by faith - The new perspective on Paul - Eastern Orthodoxy

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Item Specifications...

Studio: P & R Publishing
Pages   461
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 6" Height: 1"
Weight:   1.4 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 5, 2008
Publisher   P & R Publishing
ISBN  1596380861  
ISBN13  9781596380868  

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More About J. V. Fesko

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! J. V. Fesko is Academic Dean and Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary in California.

J. V. Fesko was born in 1970.

J. V. Fesko has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Basics of the Reformed Faith

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Soteriology

Christian Product Categories
Books > Theology > Theology & Doctrine > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine?

Justified by Faith Alone: The Biblical Warrant  Jan 6, 2010
How does an important biblical doctrine become alive through the exegesis of scripture and the survey of history?
In the stirring, yet astute volume, "Justification" by J.V. Fesko. The author's treatment is both precise and comprehensive (480 pages) as he produces an outstanding work on the doctrine of Justification by faith alone. Some churchmen are diluting (some even denying) the truth of the imputation of Christ's righteousness and this prompts Fesko to deliver a defense springing from scripture and the context of history. If you are despairing over the doctrinal compromise of some recent church leaders, herein is one of the best and most thorough expositions concerning the consequential truth that helps makes Christianity unique among the religions of the world (see the book that presses this truth in refuting false religions: One Way to God: by Mike Robinson).

The author lays out the case that Justification forensically renders the believer righteous and gives him peace with heaven. Without justification, the unbeliever has no peace with God. We must never assert that there is peace, when there is no peace between the ungodly and God. Without justification by grace alone, there can be no real peace. Imputation is the biblical term for the positive element of justification. Through God's grace by faith: The believer is judicially constituted as righteous. He is declared righteous. Christ preached in Matthew 5:48, "Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." The Law demands perfect obedience. This is a perfection equal to the Father's perfection. Nobody except Christ has accomplishes therein, so we need a perfect righteousness that is not our own. We need to be justified by by grace alone. Justification is a forensic term which speaks of the Christian's legal position before God. The believer is declared righteous despite his unrighteous deeds.

No other religion offers the marvelous and unique doctrine that furnishes the sinner with a perfect, complete righteousness through the obedience of Jesus Christ. Christ alone obeyed the Law every moment in thought, word, and deed, and this righteousness is imputed to the believer by grace alone, through faith alone because of Christ alone.
The Necessary Existence of God: The Proof of Christianity Through Presuppositional Apologetics
An Up-to-Date Encyclopaedic Treatment of Justification from a Reformed Perspective  Sep 8, 2009
Fesko has provided us with an up-to-date encyclopaedic treatment of
justification from a Reformed perspective. He treats the history of
the doctrine; discusses the relationship between justification and
theological presuppositions; the nature of redemptive history,
including the covenant of works, the work of Christ, and the fact
that, salvation-historically speaking, the church age is the `last
days'. The Reformed doctrine of justification by faith alone is understood
as involving forgiveness and a legal declaration of righteousness in
God's sight on the basis of Christ's imputed obedience to the believer.
This is defended exegetically, and in discussion with various alternatives,
including bishop N.T. Wright's version of the New Perspective on
Paul. The relationship between justification and the *ordu salutis* -
that is, to the order in which salvation impacts a believer is
treated, as is the relationship between justification and
sanctification, and justification and the final judgement. Also
discussed is the relationship between justification and becoming part
of the church. Furthermore, a chapter each is devoted to the
discussion of the justification debate with the Roman Catholic and
Eastern Orthodox churches.

I have to concur with Guy Prentiss Waters that ``Now I know where to
direct students, ministers and interested congregants for a `one stop'
overview of justification by faith alone.'' Although, only if the
congregant is able to handle fairly demanding reading. For a less
able, or more time pressured, congregant, I would still recommend
Philip Eveson's Great Exchange, The: Justification by faith alone in the light of recent thought (Facing the Issue)

Fesko's book is very nearly the book I would like to write (or, at
least, to own) on the subject, and hence I will make a few
observations on what I would love to see expanded on in a second
edition. However, I wouldn't want these comments to discourage a
would-be purchaser, as Fesko's book is excellent as it stands. My aim
is either to provoke Fesko himself to make his book even better, or to
inspire someone else to write an even better book.

Firstly, in his account of the history of the doctrine Fesko doesn't
give as much attention to the `lower Arminian' and `Wesleyan'
doctrines of justification as they deserve, given the number of
evangelicals who, wittingly or otherwise, hold them. The alternative
understanding of justification that most Reformed evangelicals will
encounter is probably these `Arminian' ones, and hence they deserve a
clear treatment, such as can be found, for example, in James
Buchanan's 19th century classic on justification,
The Doctrine of Justification (Students reformed theological library)

Secondly, I think it would also be helpful to enrich this section in a
future edition to include further discussion of the Medieval Catholic
schools on justification, such as can be found in McGrath's
Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification
A treatment of the Thomas Aquinas's psychologised `process' of
justification could also helpfully be added. These debates are
important to teach for various reasons, including the way they
help put the Reformation (and Reformation doctrine) into perspective,
and because of the way Roman Catholicism is often badly represented
in both Protestant pulpits and in contemporary scholarly debates
like the `New Perspective on Paul'.

Thirdly, a history of the doctrine of justification (especially for a
Reformed audience) really does need to treat the seventeenth century
debates over `eternal justification' and antinomianism, and the whole
duty-faith debate between pastor-scholars such as Andrew Fuller and
C.H. Spurgeon and the Hyper-Calvinists. This is the opposite `pole'
from `neonominism' that a doctrine of justification has to avoid, as
Fesko rightly notes, but which he doesn't spend much time treating.

The only really important omission from Fesko's treatment of the
doctrine of justification itself is a failure to give an extensive
treatment of `faith': what it is (whether it is active, passive, mere
assent, trust, e.t.c); what promises or grounds it is based on; who or
what it is in; and whether or not everyone has a duty to believe,
e.t.c. I am thinking of a similar kind of treatment of faith in the
context of justification as can be found in John Owen's classic,
The Doctrine of Justification by Faith
The point is that one can undermine a sound understanding of
`justification by faith alone' by defining `faith' in such a
way that it is made to consist of moral `evangelical' obedience.
According to J.I. Packer it was in this way that the seventeenth
century Reformed Anglican Church slipped into
works-righteousness that was only reversed by the Great Awakening
under Whitefield and the Wesleys.

Personally, I would also have liked to have seen a chapter or two on
the preaching of justification by faith alone and its pastoral
application. Some warmth on the importance of putting this doctrine
central in one's ministry would not have been amiss either.

In conclusion, this is a great book that is well worth reading.
It will enrich and inform anyone who takes the time to read it,
and - of course - it is dealing with a crucial aspect of the holy
gospel, and therefore it is more than worth our attention.

The Doctrine on Which the Church Stands or Falls?  Oct 6, 2008
Here's a book that deserves to be read, re-read, and referred back to often. Unlike his previous book (What Is Justification by Faith Alone?) that came out earlier this year, J.V. Fesko's Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine, is massive in comparison, weighing in at 461 pages. The main body is made up of and introduction, 15 chapters, and a conclusion. Each chapter title (except for one) begins with the word "Justification" and is followed various predicates. The issues Fesko touches on are wide-ranging. The breakdown looks like this:


1. ... in Church History
2. ... and Prolegomena
3. The Structure of Redemptive History
4. ... and the Covenant of Works
5. ... and the Work of Christ
6. ... in Its Historical Context
7. ... by Faith Alone
8. ... and the New Perspective on Paul
9. ... and Imputation
10. ... and Union with Christ
11. ... and Sanctification
12. ... and Final Judgment
13. ... and the Church
14. ... and the Roman Catholic Church
15. ... and the Eastern orthodox Church


Does that whet your theological appetite?

This isn't some milky introductory work either, there's real meat Fesko serves up. Fesko pulls from all sorts of corners, profiting from all aspects of theological loci - biblical, systematic, exegetical, historical etc., in explaining and defending the classical, Reformed (Pauline!) doctrine of justification by faith alone. The issues discussed in the chapters are so wide-ranging, the arguments so weighty, and his interlocutors so many, a detailed, even semi-detailed, review doesn't seem feasible on goodreads character limits. So below I'll offer the basic resources he pulls from to argue for and defend the doctrine of justification, and then I'll briefly discuss his interlocutors.

Fesko makes much of the two-age eschatological construct, as seen especially in the writings of Paul. This stems from his insistence that one not divorce the ordo salutis from the historia salutis. That is, we need to look not only at the application of justification to the individual and how it relates to the other elements of redemption, but we need to look at what time it is in redemptive history too.

Eschatology isn't just dealing with the final few days of history and the time after Jesus' return. We live in "the last days" now, says Paul. So Jesus, the last Adam, has inaugurated the eschaton. In his death and resurrection, the verdict of the final judgment has been brought foreword in history, declared in the present. Thus those who are united to Christ have already been judged and found innocent. They have been given his righteousness. The have been raised "according to the inner man" and now only wait the raising of the "outer man" by means of the bodily resurrection which is simply the visible manifestation of what is true of those who have placed their faith in Christ. (Fesko makes use of and profits from the view that the general resurrection, the Parousia, and the final judgment are not separate events but one single event.) By faith alone we are propelled into the indefectible state of the last Adam. We are not returned to "protology;" to the state Adam was in while in the Garden-temple (see book for an excellent discussion on Adam, the Garden-temple (relying ob Beale's excellent work here), and the covenant of works).

So we who place our faith in Christ are part of the eschatological Adamic humanity. We are the bride of Christ, the eschatological Eve. This is had by faith alone. But this does not lead to antinomianism, especially if one takes note of "what time it is," i.e., the historia salutis. In "the last days" God, by His Spirit, causes his people to walk in his ways. He writes his law on their heart. Thus antinomianism forgets our place in redemptive history. Works are thus necessary for salvation in the sense that they are the inevitable fruit of our justification, justification cannot be divorced from the work of last Adam, and hence the inauguration of the eschaton whereby God's justified people will have his law writ large on their heart. But nomianism is avoided too since the ground of justification is extra nos, the active and passive obedience of Christ out side us, and the sole instrument of justification is faith alone. Faith trusts and rests in Christ. It is by faith alone that we are saved, but that faith is never alone in that it is accompanied by the works promised to be a part of the eschatological age brought about by the last Adam.

Emphasizing the historia with the ordo doesn't mean we ignore the ordo. This helps us in specifying the ground and nature of justification and all other aspects of our redemption. The ordo is needed to distinguish works from our justification. It helps us reflect the logical priorities in our redemption as set forth in Scripture. Paul doesn't bring union with Christ to Galatia to confront the Judaizers with, he brings justification. Good works must logically come after justification. Without the ordo, the gospel is lost.

These are some of the categories and arguments Fesko invokes to explain and defend the doctrine of justification by faith alone. He invokes imputation, law/Gospel hermeneutic, Covenant of Works, Redemptive history, and biblical, systematic, and exegetical theology with great profit and defends them against myriad attacks. He looks at contemporary literature on Second-Temple Judaism. He even discusses, though somewhat briefly, the Greek philosophical presuppositions of Roman Catholic understandings of salvation and anthropology, benefiting from some trenchant critiques of RCC/Thomistic views of our knowledge of God, faith and reason, and anthropology by Cornelius Van Til.

When he turns to criticisms and critics of the classical Reformed doctrine of justification, Fesko deals with almost every challenge, and almost every challenger to the Reformed doctrine of justification. As you should expect, he spends the majority of his efforts dealing with those of the New Perspective on Paul, NPP. He ably explains the position of many of the top advocates of the NPP, and then subjects them all to blistering critiques, spending most of his time on N.T. Wright. He really shows that, for all their erudition, advocates of NPP are rather ignorant of the Reformers they attack, the divide between Protestantism and Rome, exegesis of relevant texts, and important systematic doctrines.

He interacts with ecumenicalist attempts at a feigned, forced, and alethically disrespectful "resolution" between Reformed and RCC explications of the doctrine of justification. In Jeremiahic style, Fesko shows that the eccuenicalists "dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. `Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace" (6:14). Basically, if you make things sloppy enough, anything looks like it could belong there.

Fesko interacts with both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, showing that: (a) there is no unity to be had between their views and classical protestant ones on the issue of justification without such major concessions that the RC and EO churches would be unrecognizable, and (b) their views on the matter are such that "they preach another gospel" (yet Fesko allows that there is a church among the apostate institution of the RCC and EOC). He notes that all of these contra-protestant positions end up just not offering good news.

I'll close this all-too-brief review with Fesko's conclusion: "In the end, the doctrine of justification by faith alone turns on the question of whether sinful man will take shelter in the righteousness of Christ. It is the glorious exchange where man's sin and guilt are imputed to Christ, and Christ's active obedience is imputed to his people. Sola fide is indeed the main hinge on which all religion turns, the only foundation for our salvation. It is the article on which the church stands or falls" (413).

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