Justified By Faith, Judged According To Works: Another Look At A Pauline Paradox -- By: Dane C. Ortlund

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 52:2 (Jun 2009)
Article: Justified By Faith, Judged According To Works: Another Look At A Pauline Paradox
Author: Dane C. Ortlund

Justified By Faith, Judged According To Works: Another Look At A Pauline Paradox

Dane C. Ortlund*

* Dane Ortlund is a Ph.D. student at Wheaton College and resides at 1008 Webster Ave., Wheaton, IL 60187.

Nigel Watson articulates in blunt terms the perennial friction between the twin Pauline themes of justification by faith and judgment according to works: “either justification is emptied of its meaning or judgment by works is rendered harmless.”1 The challenge is how to fully and impartially affirm both Pauline teachings. For understandable (and at times necessary) reasons, the Protestant branch of the church has conscientiously shone its theological spotlight on justification by faith while, in light of perceived Roman imbalances, begrudgingly putting up with the prodigal son of judgment according to deeds. Yet unless Protestantism is prepared to domesticate the judgment motif to the point of signifying little more than “the seriousness of the moral struggle in the Christian life,”2 we must continue to grapple with this thorny issue—lest we promote either presumptuousness (neglecting the judgment/ works motif) or equally dangerous moralism (neglecting the justification/ faith motif).

The tension is neither new nor limited to the rarified air of esoteric academia.3 This essay, moreover, does not proceed under the illusion that the light of consensus can be seen at the end of the scholarly tunnel. Still less does it attempt an exhaustive analysis of this “jungle full of traps and temptations.”4 It does attempt, however, to create a taxonomy of ways in which scholars reconcile justification by faith and judgment according to works in Paul before suggesting a way forward in light of a few neglected factors in the discussion. In this way we hope to spur on a discussion which “has still a long way to run.”5

I. Proposed Reconciliations

We begin by noting fourteen ways scholars have sought to square Paul’s teaching on justification by faith with that of judgment according to works. The goal is to provide more specificity than normally afforded—the usual breakdown consists of three to five options6—while recognizing that the number of scholars examined, no matter how many, will be only slightly greater than the number of distinct attempts to reconcile these two Pauline teachings, since almost no one expresses their ...

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