Martin Luther on “Righteousness of God”

The teaching of justification by faith alone stands as one of the five Solas of the Reformation. Sola Fide served as the battle cry for the Reformers who declared that a person is saved or justified by faith alone apart from the works of the law. It was Martin Luther who rediscovered this biblical doctrine during his tenure as a lecturer in biblical studies at the University of Wittenberg. As he studied, he became convinced that the primary source of Christian theology was not the papal traditions but rather the Bible itself, especially interpreted through the lens of Augustine of Hippo.[1] This discovery eventually lead Luther to rebuild the church from the ground up as in an effort to be faithful to the command of Scripture that the believer is simultaneously a righteous person and a sinner (simul justus et peccator). Thus, the foundation laid by Luther may well be the reason he is attributed with the statement, “Justification is the article by which the church stands and falls.”[2]

Martin Luther’s understanding of δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ changed the course of church history, but what preceded the Reformation was a distinctly different understanding of the meaning “righteousness of God.” Luther’s understanding of δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ served as the catalyst that launched the Reformation. In essence, Luther sought to understand how one martin-luther-statueobtained favor before God. In other words, Luther wanted to know how humanity entered into a relationship with God, one that would save from damnation, death, and hell. Of course, the medieval and Catholic answer to this was the sacraments and the need for intermediaries, such as Mary and the saints. Nevertheless, Luther still wrestled with this as the basis, and it was primarily from how Paul used the phrase δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ.

Luther’s vision of God served as the foundation for what he thought about everything else, especially with the notion of sin and the Law.[3] He knew that people stood condemned before a holy God, and he rejected the notion that people could earn their righteousness.[4] Yet upon his reading of Romans, Luther struggled still with δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ.

I had conceived a burning desire to understand what Paul meant in his Letter to the Romans, but thus far there had stood in my way, not the cold blood around my heart but that one word which is in chapter one: “The justice of God is revealed in it.” I hated that word, “justice of God,” which by the use and custom of all my teachers, I had been taught to understand philosophically as referring to formal or active justice, as they call it, i.e., that justice by which God is just and by which he punishes sinners and the unjust.[5]

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ETS 2015 Reflections

ets-logoLast year I was able to attend my first national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society held in Atlanta, Georgia. I have wanted to attend since I was accepted for student membership in 2010, but scheduling conflicts always prohibited my journey. I had to live vicariously through others who attended, listen to their stories about papers presented (and book sales), and follow their journey via Twitter.

I was talking with a friend a few months back who is also attending this year, and he asked about my experience from 2015.

First, it was every theological students dream. There before me on every floor were world-renown scholars in their own discipline. I saw Wayne Grudem, whose Systematic Theology was helpful for me in my early years, from a distance in the book store. I sat a few rows ahead of Bill Mounce who authored the Basics of Biblical Greek textbook that taught me the Greek language. I saw both Stanley Porter and Buist Fanning whose work on Verbal Aspect has dramatically changed how I read the Greek New Testament. I shared an elevator ride with D.A. Carson, saw Doug Moo in the lobby, and watched Tom Schreiner help count votes in the business meeting. I was attending a theological conference with these “heavy-hitters.” Continue reading

MBTS Chapel with Thor Madsen

This past week I was on the campus of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for my most recent PhD seminar, and I had the privilege to, once more, attend chapel. On Tuesday Dr. Madsen, the PhD program director and wearer of many hats, preached from Revelation 14 and did not mince words or soften the message of The Apocalypse.

I encourage you to listen Dr. Madsen expound the entire chapter.

Book Review: A New Testament Biblical Theology by Greg Beale

A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New. By G.K. Beale. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011. 1,072 pp. $54.99, Hardback. ISBN 978-0801026973.

In his Biblical Theology in Crisis, Brevard Childs formally announced the discipline of Biblical Theology as dead in 1970. This premature denouncement was formed through his understanding of scholarly engagement with biblical exegesis and theology and the difficulty in grouping the two disciplines together. However, contrary to Childs’ claim the discipline of Biblical Theology has flourished and currently thrives. A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New (NTBT) by G.K. Beale attests to the flourishing of biblical theology.

Beale, professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, has produced the massive tome of his understanding regarding how biblical theology should be approached. Notable is the subtitle of the book The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New as readers of Beale’s previous works will remember his connection between the Testaments. The structure of the book is meticulously detailed with ten “parts” that are composed of twenty-eight chapters in total.

Beale understands biblical theology as nothing else than “the exhibition of the organic progress of supernatural revelation in its historic continuity and multiformity” (9). His thesis of how biblical theology is presented within the Bible is connected with the “already-not yet” realized eschatology proposed by George Ladd. He rarely deviates from this notion and highlights its connection to either the biblical storyline or theological themes throughout the work. He prefers to examine the Bible as a whole thematically rather than individual works, which provides him the ability to cover more material and to view the storyline of the Testaments. Continue reading