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Douglas Moo, the Kenneth T. Wessner Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School, has a new commentary on Galatians in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. We recently sat down to talk about how it is that he was teaching at the seminary level just five years after his conversion, his process for writing commentaries (it’s the opposite of how most scholars do it), the big issue where he has changed his mind while studying Galatians (it has to do with justification), how he understands the relationship between the law of Moses and the law of Christ, and what projects are next for him.

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15 thoughts on “An Interview with Doug Moo on His New Galatians Commentary”

  1. Eric J. Bargerhuff says:

    I understand the point that Doug is making on final justification, but I think for clarity in theological discourse, we best leave the term justification for the moment of conversion. I like his suggestion to use the term final judgment or better yet vindication. That idea is clearly there in Galatians, but there is something about using the phrase final justification that makes this feel a little too Catholic for me and it seems to water down the definitive aspects of our initial justification by faith alone.

  2. Mark Kim says:


    I understand your concern. However, I think there is some biblical legitimacy to say that believers will be vindicated through their good works at the final judgment. This is not to say that believers will be allowed to enter the kingdom based on how they lived but that their good works will demonstrate publically that they truly belong to Christ.

    I also find Moo’s law-gospel framework very helpful when it comes to understanding Paul, the law, and justification by faith alone.

  3. Eric J. Bargerhuff says:

    I think we are in agreement Mark. I simply would like to keep vindication at the end and reserve justification for the beginning.

  4. Erick Ybarra says:


    I am a Catholic, and so you may have an understanding of how I view this doctrine. But I wanted to support your view that justification is something that is definitive at conversion. When reading St. Paul, most of the time this concept of “justification” has a relationship to the moment of conversion.

    However, the “righteousness of God” (Rom 3:21) is not limited to the said “righteousness of Christ”, and involves the internal renovation of the heart, will, and mind of man. This is why of course St. Paul can bring up the verb dikaioo in contexts where the reorientation of our hearts is strictly in view (Titus 3:7; 1 Cor 6:11).

    Therefore, justification does not an “already” aspect, but it is transformative as well as declarative.

    Lastly, one cannot deny that St. Paul speaks of a final end time salvation according to “works” (Rom 2). The “works” of the baptized will reap eternal life (Gal 5), and is the logical end of such a righteous life (Rom 6). If one sows to the flesh, he will of the flesh reap corruption, or eternal hell. Therefore, only those who live the life of the Spirit, mortifying the flesh with all it’s desires, will reap everlasting life.

    1. Mark Kim says:


      What I find amazing is how Catholics are still stuck with the Medieval Scholastic tradition that views justification as also being transformative. Numerous biblical scholars have argued that the dik-word group always only denotes a declaration in a legal context. They trace this from the OT usage of the righteousness word group and connect it to the way NT writers used the word. For example, in the OT the judge does not make the innocent person more righteous but merely declares the fact that he or she is innocent.

      Anyway, I’m just pointing out that Catholics are too seeped into their confessional traditions that they cannot see beyond what the biblical texts says apart from the Catholic hermeneutical lens. Reformed people are sometimes guilty of traditioalism too, but not so much as Catholics.

      1. Erick Ybarra says:

        Mark Kim,

        Thank you for your response. I would mention that many biblical scholars are well aware of these findings that you speak of. It is not as if Catholic, Anglican, or Wesylan scholars don’t realize these facts. I hope that out of charity that you can at least ascribe some sort of intelligence to those who might disagree with you.

        For what it is worth, Paul does have a declarative ring to his usage of the word, but it is part of a whole structure of salvation that he sees in being “in Christ”, and being “raised with Him”. Justification, then, may be a pure declaration that an individual is “righteous” in the “eyes of God”, but it never has detached from it the underlying event of being “renewed” (Titus 3:7, see the same word dikaioo).

        If justification involves being “renewed” as well as being forgiven for sins, then we can see why St. Paul ties in the longing to have “God’s righteousness” with experiencing the “power” of Christ’s resurrection (Phil 3:9). It is all grace, but the “kind of grace” that the reformed wish to have is overly systematic, and then tends to become foreign from the mind of the biblical authors.

        1. Mark Kim says:

          Most evangelical Anglicans and Wesleyans do not believe that justification includes transformation. The vast majority of them do recognize that it is not possible to understand the biblical concept of justification as going beyond a declaration by a judge. It is only the Catholics and Orthodox who believe that justification involves renewal and sanctification.

          1. Erick Ybarra says:


            How much of Anglicanism and Wesley have you read? And ultimately it does not matter what they believe, the question is what has our Lord taught us? What has his holy apostles taught us? It is very blatant that “justification” involves a renewing of the inner person, and I get this from Titus 3:7.

            1. Mark Kim says:

              I know quite a bit about Anglicanism considering I did my theological degrees at an Anglican school. I studied a bit on Wesley, but his views are not what mainstream Wesleyan/Methodist evangelicals hold. Wesley at times did confuse justification and sanctification, but (thankfully) his theological descendants were more careful and biblical than he was.

              In regards to the verse you posted, Titus 3:7, let us examine the verse in the greater context. Titus 3:5-7 states:

              “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (NASB)

              There is nothing in that passage to suggests that Paul confused renewal with justification. In fact, he clearly makes the distinction between “washing of regeneration” (v. 5) and “being justified by His grace” (v. 7). I don’t know how you can conflate those two soteriological gifts when Paul makes a clear distinction between both.

              If you read the Scriptures on its own terms apart from your Roman Catholic hermeneutical lens you will see more clearly that Paul never confuses justification with sanctification.

              1. Erick Ybarra says:

                Mark Kim,

                Perhaps you should read some of the writings of the Original Anglican divines, if you haven’t already read some of their theological summaries, in the following book

                With regard to Titus 3:7, you are missing the “so that” before “being justified”, and so you are not connecting the previous comments as a cause to the effect of being justified.

                That Greek word (hina, iva) is a conjunction, demonstrating the result of some cause. In this case, the salvation that sinners have received by mercy and love is the “washing of regeneration” or “bath of rebirth” (which denotes something further than exterior putation) and the “renewal of the Holy Spirit” (which ties to a greater motif in Paul of new creation, which also goes beyond exterior putation)and the goal or result of these saving acts upon the human being is “being justified”.

                Of course, there is more than one way to take this, but with good reason, I believe, we can deduce what I have shown.

                But having come from your frame of mind, I immediately would turn to my storehouse of evidence from Romans 3-5 and Galatians 2-4. And of course if you wish to discuss this further we can. But I would ask you consider deeply this passage in Titus, as well as 1 Corinthians 6:11 which recounts also (as in Titus) the sinful past of the redeemed and then proves that they have been transformed by the act of being sanctified, justified, and redeemed through baptismal regeneration (this is implicit by the “in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God”). Here again, the Spirit is tied to our justification, something which in Protestant theology has no direct relationship.

  5. Nick Batzig says:


    How does Moo differ from Wright when he says that there are texts in Paul that seem to go further than vindication according to our good works?

    1. Bruce Russell says:


      Perhaps he is moving toward John (5:24-29) and Paul (Romans 2:5-8).

      Believers possessing the promise of eternal life bring the experience of its future certainty nearer through covenant obedience.



  6. Bruce Russell says:


    Very insightful and thought provoking questions!

    How do you think he did on the last one?

    It seems to me that the Galatian heresy subverts the Gospel at its root and foundation: that Jesus has inaugurated the eternal kingdom in which Jews and Gentiles both serve God in Christ as sons of Abraham. To continue to serve the failed covenant of Moses is inherently a rejection of the fulfilled covenant of Jesus.

    Though the Corinthians had many moral failings, they were well within the bounds of New Covenant provision for purification. In the same way, Old Covenant Jews could be guilty of many sins, yet with the boundaries of Jehovah’s blessing.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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