Justification and Atonement

George Lindbeck
Friday, February 27th 2009
Mar/Apr 2009

Most of the many theologies of the cross that proliferate in our day (including those influenced by liberation theology) seem to fit this pattern [moral influence]. In them not only does revelation subsume soteriology but, so the reformers would say, law absorbs gospel. This is what happens when the crucified God is first of all the prototype of authentic human existence so that it is by being prototype that Jesus Christ is Savior. From a traditional perspective, the error here is in the reversal of the order: Jesus is not first Example and then Savior, but the other way around. He is trusted and loved as the one who saves from sin, death, and the devil, and it is from this trust and love that there arises the longing to be like him in his life and death. Theologies of the cross that stress the imitatio Christi [imitation of Christ] have their place, but that place is not with atonement, but with what Calvinists call the third use of the law, and with what Luther, if I may coin a phrase, might call a Christian's use of the first use of the law. Contemporary theologies of the cross remind us of truths much neglected amidst Christendom's triumphalism, but insofar as they make the imitation of Christ primary, they are not the gospel, not that which saves. To suppose that they are turns them despite themselves into theologies of glory….But justification itself is rarely described in accordance with the Reformation pattern even by conservative evangelicals. Most of them, as has already been indicated, are conversionists holding to Arminian versions of the ordo salutis, which are in respect to Pelagianism further from the reformers than is the Council of Trent.

From George Lindbeck, "Justification and Atonement: An Ecumenical Trajectory," in Joseph A. Burgess and Marc Kolden, eds., By Faith Alone: Essays on Justification in Honor of Gerhard O. Forde (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 209.

Friday, February 27th 2009

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

Picture of J. Ligon Duncan, IIIJ. Ligon Duncan, IIISenior Minister, First Presbyterian Church
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