A review of Alan P. Stanley’s “ Did Jesus Teach Salvation by Works? The Role of Works in Salvation in the Synoptic Gospels” -- By: Bob Wilkin
Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 21:41 (Autumn 2008)
Article: A review of Alan P. Stanley’s “ Did Jesus Teach Salvation by Works? The Role of Works in Salvation in the Synoptic Gospels”
Author: Bob Wilkin
JOTGES 21:41 (Autumn 2008) p. 65
A review of Alan P. Stanley’s “
Did Jesus Teach Salvation by Works? The Role of Works in Salvation in the Synoptic Gospels”
(Eugene, Or: Pickwick Publications, 2006)
The title of the book certainly grabbed my attention. Regardless of what answer Stanley gave to the question, this is a work I considered a must read.
When I discovered that the book is actually the author’s doctoral dissertation, and that his dissertation was done at my alma mater, Dallas Theological Seminary, in the New Testament department, I was even more enthusiastic about reading it.
The subtitle alerts the reader to the fact that the stress in the work will be the Synoptic Gospels, not the Gospel of John and not the NT epistles. However, as one would expect in a scholarly work, Stanley comments fairly often on how what he sees in the Synoptics is consistent with his understanding of the epistles and John.
Stanley’s answer is more or less Yes. The author is trying to avoid saying that Jesus taught salvation by works even as he asserts that the Lord indeed taught salvation by works.
II. His Thesis: Mild Works Salvation
Readers who recall the first edition of John MacArthur’s work, The Gospel According to Jesus, will recall that every ten pages or so he would give disclaimers that somewhat called into question the harsh statements he’d made until that point. It was reasonable to conclude, as many of us did at the time, that he meant what he said and his disclaimers were simply evidence of his discomfort with the practical problems associated with his view. Subsequent works, such as Hard to Believe,
JOTGES 21:41 (Autumn 2008) p. 66
have shown that he indeed meant what he said. No longer does he see the need to give disclaimers.
The reader of Stanley will find disclaimers, though to a much lesser degree. Stanley’s thesis is that the Lord Jesus clearly and often taught salvation by works in the Synoptic Gospels. Yet occasionally Stanley will adopt a sort of theological doublespeak as he gives disclaimers. Here is an example:
First, Jesus understands salvation to be more than just an historical entry point. Salvation is submission to God’s rule—His kingdom—now and entrance into His eschatological kingdom or eternal life in the future. Thus where Paul is primarily speaking out against pre-conversion works Jesus is endorsing post-conversion works. Therefore passages that appear to contradict Paul do not in fact contradict him at all.
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