A Faith Unlike Abraham’s: Matthew Bates on Salvation by Allegiance Alone -- By: Will N. Timmins

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 61:3 (Sep 2018)
Article: A Faith Unlike Abraham’s: Matthew Bates on Salvation by Allegiance Alone
Author: Will N. Timmins


A Faith Unlike Abraham’s: Matthew Bates on Salvation by Allegiance Alone

Will N. Timmins*

* Will N. Timmins is Lecturer in NT at Moore Theological College, 1 King Street, Newtown, NSW, 2042, Australia. He may be contacted at will.timmins@moore.edu.au.

Abstract: In Salvation by Allegiance Alone, Matthew Bates seeks to help us “rethink the gospel, faith, and other matters pertaining to salvation” (p. 5). At the heart of SAA is a bold proposal, which involves interpreting pistis in salvation-oriented contexts, not as “faith,” or “trust,” but as “allegiance” to Jesus the reigning king. The following review article analyzes Bates’s arguments for understanding pistis as “allegiance,” paying close attention to the key lexical, theological, and exegetical aspects of his discussion. Major deficiencies are observed in each of these areas, and, as such, the proposal is judged untenable.

Key words: Matthew Bates, salvation, allegiance, faith, works, gospel, grace, Abraham

In Salvation by Allegiance Alone (SAA), Matthew Bates seeks to help us “rethink the gospel, faith, and other matters pertaining to salvation.”1 Or, again, “to explain in a forthright fashion the central biblical teachings about salvation, faith, works, and the gospel” (p. 9). At the heart of SAA is an attempt to reconsider “precisely what we mean” by the concepts “faith” and “the gospel” (p. 2).

Bates proposes—in view of the meaning of pistis that he discerns in the NT and contemporaneous literature—both an “excision” and a “transplant.”2 The excision involves the removal from Christian discourse of “‘faith’ and ‘belief,’ insofar as they serve as overarching terms to describe what brings about eternal salvation” (p. 3). The transplant is the replacement of this language with that of “fidelity to Jesus as cosmic Lord or allegiance to Jesus as king” (p. 5). It is a bold proposal which would, of course, involve significant changes to current English-language translations of the NT, to name but one of the far-reaching implications of Bates’s proposal.3 SAA is, in short, a book about NT soteriology, with a special focus on the meaning of pistis.

Bates’s argument involves not only a discussion of the meaning of pistis (chaps. 4–5) but also a reconsideration of what the NT gospel is (chaps. 2–3), and brief treatments of the character of the new creation (chap. 6), restored humanity (chap....

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