Review Article Justifying Justification: A Review Article Of Michael Horton On Justification -- By: Ryan M. McGraw

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 81:2 (Fall 2019)
Article: Review Article Justifying Justification: A Review Article Of Michael Horton On Justification
Author: Ryan M. McGraw


Review Article
Justifying Justification: A Review Article Of Michael Horton On Justification

Ryan M. McGraw

The doctrine of justification is vitally important and it deserves expansive attention. Failing to understand the biblical teaching of this doctrine means more than the difference between truth and falsehood. It marks one key difference between the gospel of Jesus Christ and false hopes. This is why Michael Horton has made the herculean effort of writing two large volumes on this subject: one historical and one dogmatic. Horton is interesting to read and his zeal to defend the gospel of Jesus Christ is refreshing. While I have more points of agreement than disagreement with the author, there are a number of areas in which his arguments are ambiguous or create difficulties, both in relation to historical method and to theological content.

This review seeks to reflect this appreciation for the author and his conclusions, while raising some key issues affecting Horton’s overarching case for the classic Protestant doctrine of justification. After summarizing the entire project, I will examine the historical volume first and then move to the dogmatic one, with some concluding reflections.

I. Survey: The Trajectory of Horton’s Entire Project

Being “Reformed” today is as much a statement about what one believes about history as it is about what one believes concerning the Bible (though the Bible alone has magisterial and divine authority in our lives). Saying that we are “Reformed” means that we identify with a specific Christian confessional tradition as representing the doctrines taught in Scripture. While historical theology cannot tell us what to believe, taking it seriously reflects a conviction that the infallible Christ has led his fallible church faithfully

through the ages, preserving his truth in her and through her (e.g., 1 Tim 3:5; Eph 4:4–16). For these reasons, Horton’s method for treating justification is both sound and commendable. In order to recover a classic Reformed theology that continues to be useful today, he seeks to establish a platform for the doctrine of justification that is both historically informed and biblically grounded. In doing so, he rightly believes that the church must critically appropriate the insights of historical theology, not only bringing the teachings of the church to the bar of Scripture, but also using the teachings of the church to interpret Scripture.

Volume 1 of Horton’s book traces the doctrine of justification from the early church through the Middle Ages and up to the Refor...

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