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Zondervan is publishing a new 5-part series as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is just a couple of years away. Edited by Matthew Barrett, each sola of the Reformation will get its own accessible treatment:

  1. Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification, by Thomas Schreiner (September, 2015)
  2. God’s Glory Alone: The Majestic Heart of the Christian Faith and Life, by David VanDrunen (December, 2015)
  3. God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture, by Matthew Barrett (September, 2016)
  4. Grace Alone: Salvation as a Gift of God, by Carl Trueman (December, 2016)
  5. Christ Alone: The Uniqueness of Jesus as Savior, by Stephen Wellum (2017)

Here is John Piper’s foreword for Schreiner’s volume, followed by some endorsements.


unnamedKnowing from James 2:26 that there is such a thing as dead faith; and from James 2:19 that there is such a thing as demonic faith; and from 1 Corinthians 15:2 that it is possible to believe in vain; and from Luke8:13 that one can “believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away;” and knowing that it is through faith that we are born again (1 John 5:1) and have eternal life (John 3:16, 36), therefore, surely we must conclude that the nature of faith, and its relationship to salvation, is of infinite importance.

I use the word infinite carefully. I mean that, if we don’t have such faith, the consequences have infinite significance. Eternal life is an infinite thing. And thus the loss of it is an infinite thing. Therefore, any human concern that has only to do with this world, no matter how global, no matter how painful, no matter how enduring—if it has only to do with this world—compares to the importance of saving faith as a thimble to the ocean.

Which means, this book is dealing with treasures of immeasurable importance. Infinity cannot be measured. And infinite things are at stake. As Tom Schreiner says, the book “tackles one of the fundamental questions of our human condition: how can a person be right with God?”

The stunning Christian answer is: sola fide—faith alone. But be sure you hear this carefully and precisely: He says right with God by faith alone, not attain heaven by faith alone. There are other conditions for attaining heaven, but no others for entering a right relationship to God. In fact, one must already be in a right relationship with God by faith alone in order to meet the other conditions.

“We are justified by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone.” Faith that is alone is not faith in union with Christ. Union with Christ makes his perfection and power ours through faith. And in union with Christ, faith is living and active with Christ’s power.

Such faith always “works by love” and produces the “obedience of faith.” And that obedience— imperfect as it is till the day we die—is not the “basis of justification, but . . . a necessary evidence and fruit of justification.” In this sense, love and obedience—inherent righteousness—is “required of believers, but not for justification”—that is, required for heaven, not for entering a right-standing with God.

Everything in this book is measured by the Scriptures. “We should hold to the tradition of sola fide because it accords with the Word of God.” Therefore, thematically and structurally, the center of the book is biblical exegesis. “In this book I attempt to tour the historical teaching of the church, explain the scriptural teaching on justification, and provide some sense of contemporary relevance” (emphasis added).

But even in the historical and contemporary sections, Scripture remains the lodestar, guiding the ship of Schreiner‘s analysis. Thus the book is overwhelmingly constructive rather than merely polemical—and always careful, for when handling the most volatile issues, one must handle with care.

Schreiner is unusually careful in handling viewpoints that are different from his own. I have never read another author who states his challenger’s viewpoint so fully and persuasively, that it seems so compelling, and then turns around and demolishes it one piece at a time with careful biblical observation and argumentation. It is a trait that awakens trust.

Schreiner does not play God. He does not render judgments about men’s souls, only their doctrines. He follows John Owen in the gracious position that “men may be really saved by that grace which doctrinally they do deny; and they may be justified by the imputation of that righteousness, which, in opinion, they deny to be imputed.”

His aim is not to defeat others or merely win arguments; his aim is the glory of God and the everlasting joy of people. “Sola fide gives all the glory to God, so that no one will boast in human beings (1 Cor. 1:31).” This is true not only because Christ is the sole ground of our right standing with God, but also because faith itself is a gift: “No one can boast about faith, for faith itself is a gift of God.” Moreover, faith, by its very nature, “glorifies and honors God, for it confesses that God can do what he has promised.”

And this faith is no mere mental assent, but a heartfelt embrace of Jesus Christ as its all-satisfying treasure. “Justification is by faith alone, for faith finds its joy in Christ alone, seeing him as the pearl of great price, the one who is more desirable than anything or anyone else” (emphasis added).

Thus Schreiner closes his book with a joyful testimony—and I rejoice to join him in it: ”My confidence on the last day . . . will not rest on my transformation. I have too far to go to put any confidence in what I have accomplished. Instead, I rest on Jesus Christ. He is my righteousness. He is the guarantor of my salvation. I am justified by faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.”


“Dr. Schriener has done a magnificent job of expounding the key doctrine of the Protestant Reformation, which remains as vital for us today as when Martin Luther first proclaimed it. His clear explanation of justification by faith alone will do much to strengthen the faith of a new generation and its witness to this timeless truth.”

— Gerald Bray, Research Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School

“The doctrine by which the church stands or falls—that’s how Luther described the importance of justification by faith alone. Without the imputed righteousness of Christ received by faith alone, we are truly without hope before a holy God. Thomas Schreiner, one of the most clear-headed and biblically faithful New Testament scholars of our generation, has produced a compelling and careful defense of the doctrine of justification that readers will find both exegetically faithful and theologically enriching. This book will help the church in this generation to stand on solid ground.”

— R. Albert Mohler Jr, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“As new ideas about justification have proliferated in recent years, the need for clear analysis of these ideas and better understanding of the traditional Reformation view has grown. Tom Schreiner’s Faith Alone accomplishes both tasks admirably. Schreiner anchors his exposition of the key biblical themes in the history of the doctrine, and defends the Reformation view in light of the many current challenges. Comprehensive, readable, persuasive.”

— Douglas J. Moo, , Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies, Wheaton College; Chair, Committee on Bible Translation

“The Protestant Reformation was driven by a renewed appreciation of the singular fullness of the triune God and his unique sovereignty in all of human life. But that profound reality expressed itself with regard to many questions and in a number of forms, ranging from facets of the liturgy to soteriological tenets and back again. I’m delighted to see this new series expositing the five most influential expressions of that God-centeredness, the pivotal Solas of the Protestant Reformation. By expounding the biblical reasoning behind them, I hope these volumes will invigorate a more profoundly theological vision of our lives and callings as Christians and churches.”

— Michael Allen, Associate Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary

“The Reformation’s 500th Anniversary will be celebrated as a significant historical event. However, The Five Solas series explores the contemporary relevance of this legacy for the global church. Superb evangelical scholars have been enlisted not only to summarize the ‘solas,’ but to engage each from historical, exegetical, and constructive perspectives. These volumes demonstrate that, far from being exhausted slogans, the Reformation’s key themes need to be rediscovered for the church’s very existence and mission in the world.”

— Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California

“A timely project, and not simply because the 500th anniversary of the Reformation will soon be upon us. Much of ‘who we are’ is determined by ‘where we have come from'; at a time when even so significant a part of our past as the Reformation is, for many, little more than a name, informed, accessible treatments of its basic principles are welcome indeed.

— Stephen Westerholm, Professor of Early Christianity, McMaster University

Thomas SchreinerFaith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015. 288 pp. $19.99. Posted with permission.


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59 thoughts on “John Piper’s Foreword to Tom Schreiner’s New Book on Justification by Faith Alone”

  1. Dean Davis says:

    Piper writes, “There are other conditions for attaining heaven, but no others for entering a right relationship to God. In fact, one must already be in a right relationship with God by faith alone in order to meet the other conditions . . . Such faith always ‘works by love’ and produces the ‘obedience of faith.’ And that obedience— imperfect as it is till the day we die—is not the ‘basis of justification, but . . . a necessary evidence and fruit of justification.’ In this sense, love and obedience—inherent righteousness—is ‘required of believers, but not for justification’—that is, required for heaven, not for entering a right-standing with God.”

    I wish he had not written this. I’m sure he knows what he means, but I do not. If genuine, Spirit-wrought faith is the sufficient condition for “being right with God,” then surely it is the sufficient condition for entering heaven. If something else besides such faith is a necessary condition–something related to obedience and good works–then you have lost, I think, the very “sola fide” you are trying to extol.

    “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life (first in heaven, then in the World to Come); and I myself will raise him up on the last day.” — John 6:40.

    Amen.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      But Piper’s comment is in full accord with what the best of Protestant-Reformed-Puritan theologians have taught for centuries on this.

      1. Brian Onstead says:

        They are not in full accord with the best Protestant-Reformed and Puritan theologians. Whereas the Reformers and Puritans said our good works were EVIDENCE of our salvation, Piper is making our works as GROUND for a particular stage of our salvation. Not only is this not in accord with Reformed and Puritan writers but it is a complete reversal of what Paul says in Col 3:1-5ff. Paul says that we are to put sin to death because we will be glorified (indeed our life is now hidden in Christ in heaven and will appear when he appears). Piper says we will be glorified because we are putting since to death. Whereas, Paul grounds our sanctification in our glorification, Piper grounds our glorification in our sanctification. Good works are EVIDENCE, not GROUNDS for our salvation – any stage of our salvation.

        1. Justin Taylor says:

          Brian, you are publicly misreading and misstating Piper’s position. He has written an entire book largely devoted to refuting the idea that works are the ground of our salvation rather than the evidence and fruit.

    2. steve hays says:

      There is more to salvation that justification. Salvation includes (among other things) regeneration and sanctification. Although we are justified by faith alone, we aren’t saved by justification by faith alone. There’s more to salvation by grace than justifying faith. There’s sanctifying grace. There’s perseverance.

    3. Hugh McCann says:

      It is a weird one. Sounds a bit too Federal Visiony.

      1. Hugh McCann says:

        Luther would’ve eaten Piper’s lunch. And then some! ;)

  2. A few logical implications follow:

    1. Being righteous before (“right with”/justified) God is insufficient to attain heaven.
    2. Christ’s righteousness is insufficient to attain heaven.
    3. Justification is not “the divine verdict of the Eschaton being brought forward into the present time and rendered here and now concerning the believing sinner.” (Reymond, Systematic, p. 743)
    4. There is not therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
    5. Justification is meaningless.

    1. Forgot to add one:
      6. I cannot rest in Christ alone on the last day, but must hope in my transformation.

  3. Craig Biehl says:

    The only one to ever meet the condition for heaven is Christ; His perfect righteousness alone meets the qualifications for heaven. True faith unites to Christ in whom we are justified by the imputation of His perfect righteousness. In Him we necessarily have new life, such that new life constitutes evidence of true saving faith and justification. And to be united to Christ by faith is to possess all that Christ earned for His elect, including heaven. To not persevere in faith is to never have been right with God. I assume that John Piper would agree with this. Yet, the way he states the necessity of new life could be interpreted, in places, as a kind of covenantal nomism. And with respect to being in accord with what the Reformers believed and taught, they would have been a bit more careful to avoid the possibility of being misinterpreted as espousing the Roman Catholic idea of “infused righteousness” and “formed faith’ that they so vigorously opposed.

    We have all had occasion to choose less-than-clear words to explain a doctrine, and I assume that this is the case here. But, it appears that negative reactions to the wording of the introduction are justified. When one speaks of “conditions” a great deal of explanation is required (to wit, Edwards’ discussion of the same in “Justification by Faith Alone”), or when one appears to be making a distinction between the faith that makes one “right with God” and the faith that “attains heaven.” In a day when popular theologians are seeking rapprochement with Rome on this very point (such as with some proponents of the NPP) we must go out of our way to avoid any confusion in our choice of words.

  4. Duane Hawkins says:

    While Piper almost certainly spends more time than most in the Scriptures, I believe he (and Schreiner, it would seem) have fallen into the disastrous error of interpreting Scripture in the light of systematic theology (Fuller’s? Pink’s? MacArthur’s?), rather than the converse.

    The idea that we are somehow justified by faith (belief), yet saved by some other work of ongoing sanctification is not a new one, but it is readily dismissed from Scripture. Jesus compared Himself to the the bronze serpent lifted up in the wilderness. Those who were bitten (a metaphor for sin) had only to look on the serpent to pass from sick and dying to well and living. If that is not a metaphor for salvation, I don’t know what is. Jesus said that those who hear His Word and believe have passed from death to life (past tense – John 5:24). Again, what is salvation, if not passing from eternal death to eternal life? John 3:16 tells us that whoever believes shall not perish, but has everlasting life.

    In addition we have the Old Testament heroes who in many cases did not live well or finish well, but are still declared faithful and righteous: Lot, who was carnal; Samson, who ended well, but lived almost his entire life in the pursuit of pleasure; Gideon, who fell into idolatry; David, who was never the same after his sin of adultery and murder; Solomon, who fell into carnality and ultimately, idolatry, to name a few.

    Assurance never comes from evidence in our own lives, but only by reliance on the promises of God and the finished work of Christ (“Finished” – meaning that the work of righteousness is complete, not being completed via progressive sanctification).

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Look for Wayne Grudem’s book, due out next year, that responds to these kinds of arguments. It’s entitled “Free Grace Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel.”

      1. Hugh McCann says:

        I am sorry, Mr Taylor, but that title is cringe-worthy.

    2. Craig Biehl says:

      The parts of Scripture must always be interpreted in light of the whole, and individual and difficult passages in light of the more clear passages and greater weight of what Scripture teaches on a given topic. Systematic theology is not the problem. If anything, the greater weight of what Scripture teaches regarding the relationship of new life and justification (both of which we have in salvation) would prevent the error in discussion here.

      With respect to assurance, it certainly comes from the promises of God, but at issue with assurance is do those promises apply to me and how do I know? The promises of God do not apply to everyone who reads them or even claims them as their own. Or, put another way, how does one know that he or she has truly been born again, or that their faith is true saving faith, and not mere mental assent without new life? True saving faith is exercised by a heart that has been changed from loving darkness to embracing Christ (the antithesis of darkness) in faith, a faith that involves a love for who Christ is as to His holiness and perfect character. We do not embrace Christ while still hating Him and rejecting His authority.

      Making the attainment of heaven contingent upon our works is a great error, but denying new life in salvation is also an error. United to Christ in faith, one possesses all the righteousness of Christ’s perfect righteousness imputed, including heaven and eternal security, as well as the righteousness of Christ in our heart by the active, indwelling Holy Spirit. We are justified by the imputed righteousness of Christ alone, but will always have new life, as “he who hath not the Spirit of God is none of His.” To say that salvation does not come from our works is true, but to say that assurance never comes from the evidence of God’s work in our hearts is not true. Scripture is replete with descriptions of evidence for true faith, both with respect to others, but primarily with respect to ourselves. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 ESV). Perfection? Absolutely not. A new heart and direction, a new love of holiness and hatred of sin, a heart that cries “Abba Father”? Yes. Stumbling and bumbling? Yes. But, no new love and desire to please Christ? No. The error of adding to the complete work of Christ is not corrected by denying new life in Christ, but by a proper understanding of the relationship of new life to justification, which requires a systematic understanding of all of what Scripture teaches about them.

    3. Hugh McCann says:

      Thank you Duane. A good follow-up to Dean’s post at the head of these comments.

      I’d merely add these from John’s gospel:

      3:36a ~ 36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life;

      6:40 ~ And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

      6:47 ~ Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.

      1. Hugh McCann says:

        How is the eternal life Jesus promises us upon our believing on him *not* the attaining of heaven?

        Piper: He [Schreiner] says right with God by faith alone, not attain heaven by faith alone. There are other conditions for attaining heaven, but no others for entering a right relationship to God.

        How is “right with God by faith alone” *not* “attain[ing] heaven by faith alone”?

        It appears that Mr Piper is in disagreement with Jesus, not merely Calvin or others.

      2. Mark says:

        Also from John’s gospel:

        Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (Joh 5:28-29 ESV)

  5. Jack Miller says:

    Calvin, “When we see that the whole sum of our salvation, and every single part of it, are comprehended in Christ, we must beware of deriving even the minutes portion of it from any other quarter.”

    Calvin, “Hence the Scriptures make the sum of our salvation to consist in the removal of all enmity, and our admission into favor; thus intimating, that when God is reconciled all danger is past, and every thing good will befall us. Wherefore, faith apprehending the love of God has the promise both of the present and the future life, and ample security for all blessings, (Ephesians 2:14.)”

    1. jack Miller says:

      Paul’s golden chain, the gospel of God’s sovereign grace that is good news indeed without any fine print:

      Romans 8:
      29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

      By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We are called to a life of faith and obedience. But let’s not mix the two when considering the cause and merit of our complete salvation, i.e. Christ and him crucified.

  6. Barbara Miller says:

    Justin, How is it possible that I can be right with God by faith in The Righteous One but am not fit by His righteousness alone to enter heaven? Do I need to do more than believe in Jesus and trust in what He has done for me by his perfect life, suffering and death, resurrection and ascension, glorification and reign from the Father’s right hand? Please tell me to whom I must look to add to what Jesus has done for me.

  7. Adam says:

    I am okay with this is Piper goes on to argue that all who are truly justified will also eventually be sanctified or meet whatever other conditions he sees in order to be saved. Is that his argument?

    If not then is he saying that there are people who are justified before God, but not saved? How does that make sense.

  8. The Waldensian Confession: “XXI. That good works are so necessary to the faithful that they can not attain the kingdom of heaven without the same…” http://bit.ly/1FsaobM

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Piper’s words (and his other writings) are not being considered very carefully here. He is clear that they are necessary as fruit and evidence, not grounds or means.

      1. Richard says:

        Justin, I appreciate what you say, but it seems we are all considering his words very carefully. He said ” . . . not attain heaven by faith alone. There are other conditions for attaining heaven . . .” It seems from a plain reading he denies sola fide. And I say that with real perplexity.

        1. Perhaps Piper is saying something similar to Thomas Boston:

          “They that would enter heaven, but not by the way of obedience, must resolve to get in over the walls, but come not in by the door; that is, they shall never see it; ‘for without holiness no man shall see the Lord.’ We must follow the footsteps of our blessed Lord and the flock, who all entered heaven this way; though in different respects, he by, and they in, obedience.” Works 4:281.

          Or similar to what Michael Horton says:

          “The New Testament lays before us a vast array of conditions for final salvation. Not only initial repentance and faith, but perseverance in both, demonstrated in love toward God and neighbor…Holiness, which is defined by love of God and neighbor…is the indispensable condition of our glorification: no one will be seated at the heavenly banquet who has not begun, however imperfectly, in new obedience.” God of Promise, 182-3

          1. Richard says:

            This would be the Thomas Boston who said this: “The author of sanctification. . . Negatively, It is not the sinner himself, nor any other creature, who is the author of it. . . Positively, It is the work of God; for it needs no less power than was necessary for creating a world, or raising the dead.” ~

            1. Richard says:

              Or, this from Thomas Boston: “We want a title to heaven, we must get that in justification and adoption: we want a meetness for heaven, we must get that in sanctification.”

        2. Justin Taylor says:

          It’s preposterous to charge that he is denying sola fide—unless one does not understand the use of the term in Reformed theology. Justification is sola fide—sanctification is not. See Kevin DeYoung’s post: http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2011/06/16/is-sanctification-by-faith-alone/.

          As Piper explains in Future Grace, “faith is the bottom-line condition that unites us to the power of future grace; and love is a condition only in confirming the reality of this faith.”

          Further, he explains that he is using the simple dictionary definition of condition: “Something essential to the appearance or occurrence of something else: prerequisite.” Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 235.

          Piper has spent a lot of time refuting the notion that works are the ground or basis for attaining heaven. He is arguing for its necessity as evidentiary fruit.

          Perhaps one way to advance the discussion: how do you understand Heb 12:14, referring to the holiness “without which no one will see the Lord”?

          1. Brandon Adams says:

            Justin, please address my 6 points from above if you would like to engage. It should be very simple to do.

            1. Being righteous before (“right with”/justified) God is insufficient to attain heaven.
            2. Christ’s righteousness is insufficient to attain heaven.
            3. Justification is not “the divine verdict of the Eschaton being brought forward into the present time and rendered here and now concerning the believing sinner.” (Reymond, Systematic, p. 743)
            4. There is not therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
            5. Justification is meaningless.
            6. I cannot rest in Christ alone on the last day, but must hope in my transformation.

            1. Justin Taylor says:

              Brandon, respectfully, I’m unable to follow the logic of these statements. They are on different levels, there is no syllogistic structure, they don’t logically follow, they mix positive assertion with denial with supposed implications, etc. It’s very difficult to interact with.

              1. LOL. It’s pretty straightforward Justin and the difficulty in interacting with it does not come from it’s lack of clarity. I’ll spell it out for you.

                P1 We are made right with God (justified/made righteous) by faith alone.
                P2 We do not attain heaven by faith alone.
                C1 Being righteous before (“right with”/justified) God is insufficient to attain heaven.

                P3 Being righteous before (“right with”/justified) God is insufficient to attain heaven.
                P4 We are made right with God (justified) when Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us.
                C2 Christ’s righteousness is insufficient to attain heaven.

                P5 Christ’s righteousness alone is insufficient to attain heaven.
                P6 My Spirit-wrought, obedient works are the condition to attain heaven.
                C3 I cannot rest in Christ alone on the last day, but must hope in my works.

                P7 Being righteous before (“right with”/justified) God is insufficient to attain heaven.
                P8 Our entrance to heaven is determined at the divine verdict of the Eschaton.
                C4 Justification is not “the divine verdict of the Eschaton being brought forward into the present time and rendered here and now concerning the believing sinner.” (Reymond, Systematic, p. 743).

                P9 Justification is not “the divine verdict of the Eschaton being brought forward into the present time and rendered here and now concerning the believing sinner.” (Reymond, Systematic, p. 743).
                P10 Our escape from condemnation awaits the future verdict of the Eschaton.
                C5 Justification does not mean there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

                P11 Justification (being declared righteous) does not mean there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
                P12 Only the unrighteous are under God’s condemnation.
                C6 One can be simultaneously declared both righteous and unrighteous before God.

                P13 One can be simultaneously declared righteous (justified) and unrighteous before God.
                P14 Contradictions are meaningless.
                C7 Justification is meaningless.

              2. Justin, I have laid out the logical implications of Piper’s statements in syllogistic form so that they are easier for you to follow and no longer difficult to interact with. Please do so.

            2. Justin Taylor says:

              Brandon, I’m trying to reply to your extended “syllogism” but the system won’t seem to let me do it there, so I’m doing it here. The equivocation in premise 2 means that all the other premises and supposed conclusions don’t follow. Look for a forthcoming blog post from Mark Jones seeking to show that Piper’s points are mainstream Reformed theology and that your objections are not. Thanks for interacting.

              1. Thanks Justin. But surely you can do better than that. Why are you so studiously avoiding giving a direct answer?

                I’m not equivocating, I’m using Piper’s words. Piper has distinguished between having a right standing before God and attaining heaven. Piper did not say “one has a right and title to heaven by faith alone but they do not enter heaven by faith alone” (which would still be a problem). Piper said we do not attain heaven by faith alone and we do not attain heaven by a right standing with God. His position rests upon a denial that justification is the final judgment rendered in the present.

                Looking for support from Mark Jones is simply confirmation Piper is on the wrong side on this, like Jones.

              2. Brandon Adams says:

                Thanks for the link to Jones. However, quotes from Jones do not answer what I have written above. You still need to do so. It may very well be the case that all the men Jones quotes make Piper’s same error (I’m only granting this for the sake of argument – there are plenty of reasons not to trust Jones’ interpretation of the sources. See Samuel Renihan’s “Dolphins in the Woods” for example http://www.rbap.net/our-books/journal-of-the-institute-of-reformed-baptist-studies-2015/). That still does not address what I have said.

                And if you are eager to quote the best of Puritan thought in defense of Piper, I would encourage you, as a baptist, to quote the baptist Puritans in his defense. Why don’t you quote from Benjamin Keach’s The Marrow of True Justification? Rather than relying on Jones’ reading of paedobaptist sources, why don’t you look to baptist historians reading baptist sources – like Tom Hicks Jr.’s dissertation on Keach’s response to Baxter? Covenant theology is directly related to this discussion and was integral to the debate amongst Puritans.

                In a post titled “Good Works Necessary to Salvation” (no longer online) Jones argued that works are more than fruit and “mere evidence” of our justification. “God will not grant eternal life unless there are good works; indeed, these works have a sort of ‘efficacy.’”

                If our works play more than an evidentiary role in our salvation and inheritance of eternal life, then what is that role? Stephen Cunha notes in his critique of Richard Gaffin:

                “Unless there is a new category of description that this writer is not aware of to characterize the relationship between works and justification, we are limited to the categories of ground, instrument, and evidence. If works produced through faith are in the smallest degree beyond purely evidential of justification, it follows that they must be, to some degree, either the ground or instrument of justification.”
                (The Emperor Has No Clothes)

                But Jones says he’s not talking about justification, he’s talking about salvation. To which Rick Phillips rightly responds:

                “to see these works as efficacious with any sense of instrumentality requires us to have two doctrines of justification, one present and one future, in such a way that justification through faith alone is simply not conclusive. But this is contrary to Paul’s constant emphasis: “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). That “now” is not provisional, but conclusive and final.”

                So we’re right back to where we started, and thus you still need to provide an answer. Providing a link to Mark Jones is not an answer.

              3. Pascal Denault is addressing this very point right now (re: Lev 18:5) in lectures on Baptist covenant theology and how it differs from paedo: http://www.sermonaudio.com/playwebcast.asp?SourceID=hbctx

        3. Steve Prost says:

          no different than the respect in which James and the Holy Spirit themselves says the same thing in saying “you will not attain heaven (or be ‘saved’) by ‘faith alone'”…
          …however, anyone familiar with Piper’s teaching and his longtime passionate scholarly and exegetical modern defense of this doctrine (e.g. “Counted Righteous in Christ”, “The Future of Justification”) against those who would weaken some of its exegetical and resultingly systematic supports (e.g. NT Wright) knows its ridiculous to read him in an uninformed bad light as you are just as it would be bad to read James in that respect.

          Justin Taylor is right to say Piper has always clearly consistently taught that these other conditions to going to heaven are “fruit” and “evidence” not means, and these conditions themselves must be performed “in faith” Piper teaches, but that by no means logically negates the fact that they truly are “conditions” as the many “ifs” of Christ’s and the apostles’ teaching make abundantly clear.

      2. Brandon Adams says:

        Justin, his words are being considered very carefully, as Richard explained. Simply adding that these works are a fruit of justification does not negate everything else he said. Part of disagreement and iron sharpening is showing the logical implications of statements, as I did in 6 points above.

        Piper is trying to retain his mentor Fuller’s denial of sola fide while at the same time rejecting his mentor’s denial of sola fide, and it doesn’t work. He needs to pick one or the other.

        1. Justin Taylor says:

          The comment re: Fuller is factually incorrect.

          1. Brandon Adams says:

            Please clarify. Incorrect because Fuller does not deny sola fide or incorrect because Piper is not trying to retain Fuller’s errors?

  9. Justin,

    Another important passage to discuss is Rom. 8:12-13. Here is Douglas Moo’s comment:

    “Verses 12-13 [of Romans 8] cap off this proclamation of life in Christ by reminding us that God’s gift of eternal life does not cancel the complementary truth that only by progressing in holiness will that eternal life be attained.” (Romans, 472)

  10. I find it curious that I have yet to see people suggest or charge Michael Horton with denying sola fide when he says that no one will enter heaven without new obedience (see quote above). But then when Piper says the same thing people are quick to suggest that he is denying sola fide.

  11. Justin Taylor says:

    The latter. They do not agree on the relationship between faith and the obedience of faith.

    1. That’s the whole point in question. Piper says Fuller’s books are the most influential books to him other than Scripture. “The influence of these two books is indistinguishable from the influence of Dr. Fuller [a heretic] as a living teacher.” Clearly there is contradiction in Piper’s thought, which is my point.

      1. Justin Taylor says:

        It seems fairly clear, then, that you have not read Piper’s two subsequent books on justification.

        1. Richard says:

          Justin, I haven’t read Piper’s prior book on justification, but I’m still flummoxed by the quote he gave. And I get Luther’s comment — ‘We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.’

  12. Hugh McCann says:

    One thing getting (humorously) lost in the Piper brouhaha is that his is a forward to someone else’s book.

    When Piper says, “The stunning Christian answer is: sola fide—faith alone. But be sure you hear this carefully and precisely: He [Schreiner] says right with God by faith alone, not attain heaven by faith alone. There are other conditions for attaining heaven, but no others for entering a right relationship to God. In fact, one must already be in a right relationship with God by faith alone in order to meet the other conditions.”

    We wish that he had cited Dr Schreiner on this.

  13. Jack Miller says:

    According to Machen, for the justified ‘it is finished.’

    “Those who have been saved by the Lord Jesus Christ not only are righteous in the sight of God but they are beyond the possibility of becoming unrighteous. In their case, the probation is over. It is not over because they have stood it successfully. It is not over because they have themselves earned the reward of assured blessedness which God promised on condition of perfect obedience. But it is over because Christ has stood it for them; it is over because Christ has merited for them the reward by His perfect obedience to God’s law.”
    The Doctrine of the Atonement: Three Lectures by J. Gresham Machen

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      Amen!

  14. steve hays says:

    I think there are two or three problems here:

    i) A number of commenters seem to have an antinomian understanding of sola fide. They suffer from a very truncated, reductionistic view of salvation by grace, as if justification by faith is all there is to saving grace.

    The grace of justification is objective. Something God does to us and for us. But that’s complemented by the grace of regeneration and sanctification, which are subjective. Something God does with us and in us. Both are Biblical essentials. Both are Reformed essentials.

    Sin has two aspects: corruption and guilt. Salvation fixes both.

    Justification, which is an antidote to guilt, creates a changed relation. Spiritual renewal, which is an antidote to corruption, creates a changed character.

    ii) I suspect some commenters are either Lutheran or are influenced by Lutheranism. If that’s your frame of reference, then you will naturally find the theology of Piper and Schreiner unacceptable. That’s because Piper and Schreiner are Reformed Baptists rather than Lutherans.

    iii) One or more commenters may be followers of Gordon Clark. I believe Hugh McCann is in that category. Their position reflects the rationalism of Clark, as if correct belief is all that matters.

    1. Hugh McCann says:

      Mr Hays, FWIW:

      i) A number of commenters seem to have an antinomian understanding of sola fide. They suffer from a very truncated, reductionistic view of salvation by grace, as if justification by faith is all there is to saving grace.

      The pejoratives are not clarifying, but if they make you feel better, oh well.

      Salvation/ attaining of heaven is by faith alone.

      We who deny Piper’s crude folly (including his horrendous “future justification”) are neither antinomian, nor suffering from truncation, or committing reductionism.

      But just as justification by faith alone is not “all there is to saving grace” (who’s been saying THAT?), justification by faith alone IS sufficient to save/ attain heaven.

      # 2? The grace of justification is objective. Something God does to us and for us. But that’s complemented by the grace of regeneration and sanctification, which are subjective. Something God does with us and in us. Both are Biblical essentials. Both are Reformed essentials.

      Sin has two aspects: corruption and guilt. Salvation fixes both.

      I hope that no one here would contest these statements.

      Justification, which is an antidote to guilt, creates a changed relation. Spiritual renewal, which is an antidote to corruption, creates a changed character.

      And that “changed relation” means one is an adopted son of God, redeemed, forgiven, saved, seated with Christ in heavenly places. Ephesians 1 & 2.

      “Spiritual renewal,” or “a changed character” or the new birth, is not what changes one’s relationship to God.

      ii) I suspect some commenters are either Lutheran or are influenced by Lutheranism. If that’s your frame of reference, then you will naturally find the theology of Piper and Schreiner unacceptable. That’s because Piper and Schreiner are Reformed Baptists rather than Lutherans.

      > Others will have to speak for themselves, but many of us here are Reformed and Baptistic.

      iii) One or more commenters may be followers of Gordon Clark. I believe Hugh McCann is in that category. Their position reflects the rationalism of Clark, as if correct belief is all that matters.

      > An attempt at abusive ad hominem? But such poisoning of the well will be seen by sound thinkers as being an irrelevant red herring at best. Bad show, Steve.

      We’ll add from the Cambridge Declaration:

      Sola Fide: The Erosion of The Chief Article

      Justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. This is the article by which the church stands or falls. Today this article is often ignored, distorted or sometimes even denied by leaders, scholars and pastors who claim to be evangelical… There is no gospel except that of Christ’s substitution in our place whereby God imputed to him our sin and imputed to us his righteousness. Because he bore our judgment, we now walk in his grace as those who are forever pardoned, accepted and adopted as God’s children. There is no basis for our acceptance before God except in Christ’s saving work, not in our patriotism, churchly devotion or moral decency. The gospel declares what God has done for us in Christ. It is not about what we can do to reach him.

      Thesis Four: Sola Fide

      We reaffirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. In justification Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God’s perfect justice.

      We deny that justification rests on any merit to be found in us, or upon the grounds of an infusion of Christ’s righteousness in us, or that an institution claiming to be a church that denies or condemns sola fide can be recognized as a legitimate church.

      1. Hugh McCann says:

        Bonus quotes from TGC’s confessional statement:

        6. The Gospel We believe that the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ—God’s very wisdom. Utter folly to the world, even though it is the power of God to those who are being saved, this good news is christological, centering on the cross and resurrection: the gospel is not proclaimed if Christ is not proclaimed, and the authentic Christ has not been proclaimed if his death and resurrection are not central (the message is: “Christ died for our sins . . . [and] was raised”). This good news is biblical (his death and resurrection are according to the Scriptures), theological and salvific (Christ died for our sins, to reconcile us to God), historical (if the saving events did not happen, our faith is worthless, we are still in our sins, and we are to be pitied more than all others), apostolic (the message was entrusted to and transmitted by the apostles, who were witnesses of these saving events), and intensely personal (where it is received, believed, and held firmly, individual persons are saved).

        10. The Kingdom of God We believe that those who have been saved by the grace of God through union with Christ by faith and through regeneration by the Holy Spirit enter the kingdom of God and delight in the blessings of the new covenant: the forgiveness of sins, the inward transformation that awakens a desire to glorify, trust, and obey God, and the prospect of the glory yet to be revealed.

    2. Hugh McCann says:

      Bonus quotes from TGC’s confessional statement:

      6. The Gospel We believe that the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ—God’s very wisdom. Utter folly to the world, even though it is the power of God to those who are being saved, this good news is christological, centering on the cross and resurrection: the gospel is not proclaimed if Christ is not proclaimed, and the authentic Christ has not been proclaimed if his death and resurrection are not central (the message is: “Christ died for our sins . . . [and] was raised”). This good news is biblical (his death and resurrection are according to the Scriptures), theological and salvific (Christ died for our sins, to reconcile us to God), historical (if the saving events did not happen, our faith is worthless, we are still in our sins, and we are to be pitied more than all others), apostolic (the message was entrusted to and transmitted by the apostles, who were witnesses of these saving events), and intensely personal (where it is received, believed, and held firmly, individual persons are saved).

      10. The Kingdom of God We believe that those who have been saved by the grace of God through union with Christ by faith and through regeneration by the Holy Spirit enter the kingdom of God and delight in the blessings of the new covenant: the forgiveness of sins, the inward transformation that awakens a desire to glorify, trust, and obey God, and the prospect of the glory yet to be revealed. Good works constitute indispensable evidence of saving grace. Living as salt in a world that is decaying and light in a world that is dark, believers should neither withdraw into seclusion from the world, nor become indistinguishable from it: rather, we are to do good to the city, for all the glory and honor of the nations is to be offered up to the living God. Recognizing whose created order this is, and because we are citizens of God’s kingdom, we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, doing good to all, especially to those who belong to the household of God. The kingdom of God, already present but not fully realized, is the exercise of God’s sovereignty in the world toward the eventual redemption of all creation. The kingdom of God is an invasive power that plunders Satan’s dark kingdom and regenerates and renovates through repentance and faith the lives of individuals rescued from that kingdom. It therefore inevitably establishes a new community of human life together under God.

  15. steve hays says:

    Biblical salvation is Trinitarian. We are saved by the united work of the Father, Son, and Spirit. We are not saved by the work of Christ alone.

    i) Consider the work of the Father. Unconditional election is a necessary precondition of salvation. All and only the elect will be saved. The Father chose who those will be saved. Christ died for the all and only elect.

    Likewise, the Father is the agent of justification. The Father justifies the elect on the basis of the Son’s atonement.

    ii) Consider the work of the Son. We are redeemed by Christ alone. Justification is based on the atoning merit of Christ alone.

    Moreover, the resurrection of Christ is the template for the future glorification of Christians.

    Furthermore, Christ rules the world from heaven.

    iii) Consider the work of the Spirit. We are renewed by the monergistic regeneration of the Spirit and the cooperative grace of sanctification. Likewise, the elect are preserved from apostasy by the Spirit’s sustaining grace.

    And these elements are coordinated. The Father justifies, but he can only justify those who’ve been redeemed by the Son. The atoning merit of Christ is what the Father imputes to the elect.

    Justifying faith depends on the regenerating grace of the Spirit.

    iv) Christians aren’t saved by the Cross alone. To say so denigrates the work of the Father and the Spirit.

    iv) This also reflects stages of salvation. Election takes place in eternity, before the world began. Christ died in history. That’s temporal, but past. The Spirit renews the elect during their lifetimes. Depending on when they lived, that’s past, present, or future. And salvation culminates in glorification, at the resurrection of the just. That’s future.

    So salvation has stages, from eternity past (election), through history past (crucifixion), through past, present, or future (regeneration, sanctification), to eternity future (the life everlasting of the glorified saints).

    You can’t just nail it down to a single event in the past. That’s contrary to Scripture.

  16. steve hays says:

    The Christian faith is Christocentric, not Christomonistic. We’re not Jesus-only/Oneness Pentecostals. The plan of salvation is thoroughly Trinitarian. All three Persons have essential roles to play in our salvation.

  17. Jack Miller says:

    A relevant blog post by Scott Clark, not because of the mention of Federal Vision but because of the doctrines under discussion.

    http://heidelblog.net/2013/08/justification-and-vindication/

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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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