Augustine And The Justification Debates: Appropriating Augustine’s Doctrine Of Culpability -- By: Gerald Hiestand

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 28:1 (Spring 2007)
Article: Augustine And The Justification Debates: Appropriating Augustine’s Doctrine Of Culpability
Author: Gerald Hiestand

Augustine And The Justification Debates:
Appropriating Augustine’s Doctrine Of Culpability

Gerald Hiestand*

* Gerald Hiestand is pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, and president of The Society for the Advancement of Ecclesial Theology.

The doctrine of justification by faith has often been viewed—at least since the Protestant Reformation—as the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls. Calvin, whose articulation of the doctrine has had perhaps the most enduring legacy within Protestant thought, called it the “hinge” upon which religion turns. Luther likewise viewed the doctrine of justification by faith as central to true Christian theology. This emphasis of the Reformers, though perhaps diminished in wider Protestant thought, has yet retained a significant, indeed central, place within evangelicalism. And though evangelicals have long guarded this sacred doctrine of the Reformation, the last number of decades has seen it come under new scrutiny. Though the debates have surely emerged in the broader field of theology, it is in the realm of NT scholarship that the sharpest tremors are being felt. New Testament scholars N. T. Wright, James D. G. Dunn, and Robert Gundry, are but a few of the evangelical theologians adopting a newer view of justification that leaves no room for the imputation of Christ’s legal, volitional, righteousness.1 Further, there is a growing willingness among NT scholars to view justification as more than the declarative act of God whereby the Christian is pronounced righteous. Increasingly the concepts of regeneration and sanctification are being blended into this central doctrine.2

In light of the current controversy, the recent justification debates would profit considerably by contributions from the field of

historical theology. New Testament scholarship is heavily influenced by the reigning paradigms (both within and outside of evangelicalism) of recent Pauline studies. Though not uninformed regarding historical theology, NT scholars are interacting largely with the biblical text and the writings of other NT scholars.3 Though as evangelicals we must always allow the text to serve as the final authority regarding any soteriological conclusion, we do well to consider the contributions of history’s greatest theologians. Establishing continuity between contemporary interpretations of Paul’s doctrine of justification and the broader historical context provides needed credibility to those scholars attempting to establ...

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