The Ordained Servant, a publication connected to the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, has postedÂ Mark A. Garcia’s review article: “No Reformed Theology of Justification?” Garcia is theÂ pastor of Immanuel Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Oakdale, Pennsylvania, and this article isÂ reprinted from theÂ October 2007 edition of the Ordained Servant. This is a must read article for those interested in the present controversy concerning justification within the Reformed tradition.
Garcia reviews two books: The Way of Salvation: The Role of Christian Obedience in Justification, by Paul A. Rainbow; and Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry: Essays by the Faculty of Westminster Seminary California, ed. by R. Scott Clark [abbreviated CJPM]. Although the books are very different, Garcia argues that they both start with a wrong assumption by highlightingÂ the areas of agreement between different branches of the Reformation [such as Lutheran and Reformed theologies] and minimizing the areas of disagreement.
Garcia says thatÂ CJPM isÂ particularly confusing in regard to this. He says,
Despite the clear witness in the texts of the tradition, especially but far from exclusively in Calvin (see especially his commentary on 1 Cor. 1:30), that justification, sanctification, and any other graces of salvation are distinct, inseparable, and simultaneously bestowed aspects of union with Christ, the contributors to CJPM argue otherwise, and do so with evident passion. They prefer instead the classical Lutheran construct in which sanctification flows from justification, and to identify the Reformed tradition wholly with it.
Garcia argues that the heart of the Reformed theological perspective on justification is the issue of union with Christ: â€œPut most concisely, appreciating the biblical truth that sanctification does not result from justification, but is an aspect, like justification, of our union with Christ, alone safeguards the doctrine of justification against the Roman Catholic error. If we argue, with CJPM, that justification is the cause of sanctification, then we attribute to justification a generative, transformational quality (in that sanctification is generated or produced by justification) and thus, ironically in view of the driving concern in CJPM, compromise the purely forensic character of justification, its nature as a declarative act rather than the beginning of a work.”
Garcia does note that the issue is not whether theologians in the Reformed tradition have held to the type of theology found in the book from WTS-CA.Â The problem is the way the book frames the debate, arguing that those who disagree with their “pan-confessional” position are not Reformed. Garcia says, “I am aware of no extant evidence that requires our sympathy with such a suggestion.” He then encourages ministers in his denomination, the OPC, to realize that the theological perspective found inÂ CJPMis notÂ the only way to wrestle withÂ our current controversies [such as NPP and FV issues].
Please read his article here. His historical discussion concerning why the Reformed tradition is different from the Lutheran tradition is very helpful. I have wrestled with some of these issues myself, concerned about the present climate concerning the appropriate “Reformed” position on justification and union with Christ.Â Pastor Garcia’s article is a helpful resource for thinking through these issues.