The Way of Salvation

Well. I began reading a new book a few days ago titled, The Way of Salvation: The Role of Christian Obedience in Justification, by Paul A. Rainbow and published in 2005 by Paternoster Press. (By the way, these guys are publishing some seriously interesting books! There’s another book coming down the pike from them that is a review of the wide spectrum of Messianic theology–I can’t wait to read that.)

Anyway, Dr. Rainbow is a man of significant intestinal fortitude, because he is daring to challenge an idea (sola fide) that has been cherished for centuries. In fact, not just cherished, but waved as the primal evidence of Protestant orthodoxy.

Read his description of his core idea:

“My thesis in a nutshell is that, though the Reformers had Paul on their side in decrying merit before conversion and rightly emphasized that God freely imputes Christ’s righteousness to a believing sinner apart from prior moral efforts, nevertheless they were wrong to exclude ‘evangelical obedience’ (as the Puritans called deeds produced by divine grace in the lives of the redeemed) from having a secondary role in the way of salvation which we tread thereafter. Paul and James alike point to good works as the pathway to God’s approval at the last judgment, and they consider this future moment an integral part of justification itself. For persons to be justified in the full sense, God’s present imputation of righteousness to those who are incorporate in Christ by faith must be legitimized in the end by his approbation of an actual righteousness which he brings about in them during the meantime. While faith is the ultimate condition for both events, deeds are proximately conditional in their own right for the culminating event. My understanding of the grammar and of the implied metaphysics of Scripture requires me to engage sharply with the Reformers over the issue of how Christian obedience relates to justification in eschatalogical perspective. Sola fide is true when it describes how we first enter into a new standing with God, but it oversimplifies the nature of the Christian journey into the coming age, with potentially disastrous effects.” (xvi)

“A fresh look at the doctrine of sola fide is needed for at least three further reasons. Its method violates the rule of the scriptural canon. In substance, stress on faith alone severs justification too cleanly from sanctification. And with regard to its effects in history, the doctrine is dangerous. Since the 1520s, it has proven powerless to check repeated outbreaks of antinomianism (opposition to the teaching of moral law) in churches indebted to the Reformation, resulting in large fringes of congregants today imbued with the heresy that without mortifying sins they can nevertheless rest assured of reaching heaven.” (xvii)

It’s too early for me to be able to evaluate whether I think his over all analysis is correct or not. However, his reading of the effects of antinomianism is dead on. I’m looking forward to finishing this book.

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