This blog is devoted to discussing the pursuit of eternal life.
Discussion and participation by readers is desired,
but contributions should correlate to the book,
The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology
of Perseverance & Assurance

Thomas R. Schreiner
& Ardel B. Caneday

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Steve Fernandez on The Race Set Before Us: Sixth Installment

This is the sixth installment of what was originally planned to be three parts concerning Steve Fernandez's numerous misquotations and abuses of The Race Set Before Us first in his PDF version of "Free Justification: A Hill to Die On" and then in his published book Free Justification: The Glorification of Christ in the Justification of a Sinner. Find all previous posts in this series here.

In my third and fifth installments I address Steve Fernandez's PDF version of "Free Justification: A Hill to Die On," endnote 12 on page 15 and footnote footnote 12 on pages 19-20 of Free Justification: The Glorification of Christ in the Justification of a Sinner.

I do not reproduce the endnote/footnote here, so please review the note here, if you have not already done so in order that you might understand more clearly what I say in this entry.

In my fifth installment I demonstrate that, without any regard for context, Steve Fernandez cherry-picked quotes from The Race Set Before Us and then wrongly inferred that our discussion of salvation in Matthew 10:22 and Mark 13:13 was about justification.

In the third installment, I reasoned that

Because Steve Fernandez rips our words out of the context of our careful exegetical discussion of Matthew 10:22 and Mark 13:13, he commits the common reductionistic error of presuming that any discussion of salvation is necessarily a discussion of justification. Without any warrant, Fernandez substitutes justification for salvation when he states, "My problem is the word 'attaining.' Persevering is not a necessary evidence of justification, but it actually attains justification."

The strange fact is that in his book, Free Justification, Steve Fernandez does observe this distinction on page 58 as the third of "four biblical truths which demonstrate" his aim for the chapter is "to present the biblical case for a completed once-for-all justification: a justification which has no future aspect" (p. 57). For my purposes, I quote only the third of his four statements because of its pertinence.

Third is the distinction in Scripture between justification and salvation. Justification is narrow and specific in meaning. It is a verdict with a focus on once-for-allness. Salvation, however, is comprehensive and broad in meaning. It means deliverance, and has a not-yet-completed element. In short, salvation has both an already partially accomplished aspect, and a future not-yet-accomplished aspect. Justification, on the other hand, has only an already fully accomplished aspect.

So, Fernandez does recognize that there is a biblical distinction between justification and salvation. I concur with him that such a distinction is biblically warranted. However, I do not agree with Fernandez that unlike salvation, justification "has only an already fully accomplished aspect."

In his excessive anti-Roman Catholic zeal, Steve Fernandez exhibits a non sequitur in his reasoning that renders him incapable of reading accurately anyone who disagrees with his anti-Roman Catholic hermeneutic and seeks to represent accurately the biblical evidence that depicts justification with two aspects, both now and not yet.

Fernandez cites John Owen for support:

I say, therefore, that the evangelical justification, which alone we plead about, is but one, and it is at once completed. . . . Those of the Roman Church do ground their whole doctrine of justification upon a distinction of a double justification; which they call the first and the second (cited on p. 57).

I reiterate, then. As he asserts the purpose of chapter 4 (Once and Forever), Fernandez reasons,

The doctrine of a future or last-day justification, conditioned on the evaluation of the believer's works, undoes the gospel. The gospel of grace is utterly defeated by it. Therefore, in this chapter, my aim is to present the biblical case for a completed once-for-all justification: a justification which has no future aspect (p. 57).

What is Fernandez's non sequitur? He falsely assumes that anyone who contends that the New Testament requires that we acknowledge that justification before God entails a Last Day and therefore future aspect has succumbed to the dreaded doctrine of "double justification" that John Owen and Steve Fernandez find offensive in the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification.

Not anywhere in his book does Steve Fernandez include or discuss Matthew 12:36-37, which should put to rest Fernandez's notion that as for the New Testament it unambiguously speaks of "a justification which has no future aspect." According to Matthew 12:36-37 Jesus unambiguously speaks of justification in the Day of Judgment when he says, "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

I will not presume to defend others, such as N. T. Wright, against Fernandez's charge of advancing the doctrine of "double justification," for on page 56 N. T. Wright falls under his indictment. Elsewhere, such as here and here, I have commented on what I believe entails confusion in how N. T. Wright formulates his understanding of the future aspect of justification. Yet, though I believe that Wright's formulation is confusing and misguiding, I am generous toward him as I give him the benefit of the doubt that his beliefs are more biblically sound than his words may betray.

I will, however, defend myself against Fernandez's allegation that The Race Set Before Us, of which I was a co-author, advances the notion of a "double justification" that is subject to Fernandez's indictment that it is Roman Catholic. Elsewhere on this blog, when discussing Norman Shepherd's views concerning justification, with whom I am in large and substantial agreement, I make the following observations that should put to rest Steve Fernandez's false allegations concerning what Tom and I have published in The Race Set Before Us. Find the following citations here.

Norman Shepherd does not believe in two separate justifications, one now and another on the Last Day. For Shepherd, justification does not consist of two separate parts. To reduce his understanding of justification now and not yet to the notion that justification consists of two separate parts, we have part now and we will receive the other part later, is to fail to do justice to the singularity of justification as Shepherd understands it and explains it.

Replace the word parts with aspects. The word parts, for most people, tends to connote "the idea of division." Thus, they think of justification now as separate from justification not yet. If you will replace the word parts with the word aspects, you will help yourself to avoid the wrong implications concerning what Shepherd is saying and meaning.

The term aspects tends to connote phases of one singular thing, as in aspects or phases of the moon. The not yet justification is of a piece with the already justification. Justification is singular. There is not a past justification that is separate from a future justification. Not yet justification is simply the Last Day phase of what God has already declared over us in and through the gospel in the
present time.

There is no more separateness or division between the now and the not yet phases or aspects of justification than there is between the first quarter and the last quarter aspects or phases of the moon. It is the same and singular moon with distinguishable phases or aspects. It is the same and singular justification with distinguishable aspects or phases, one now and the other not yet.

Can anyone reasonably argue with this expression concerning justification? Justification is singular, just as eternal life and salvation and redemption each are singular, even though each of these expressions biblically portrayed has distinguishable aspects, both now and not yet aspects. Concerning these biblical portrayals and more, all with discernible aspects of both now and not yet, I commend chapter 2 of The Race Set Before Us.

To acknowledge that the Scriptures depict two aspects or two phases concerning justification--both an already aspect and a not yet aspect--is not at all the same as embracing a "double justification," the kind that Fernandez and Owen condemn. As I have contended throughout my adult professional career, justification is singular or unitary with two aspects, both now and not yet. In fact, my teaching and writing record unequivocally shows that, with Owen and Fernandez, I reject a "double justification" that treats the now and the not yet aspects of justification as grounded upon anything other than the substitutionary sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. I affirm that justification now is of a piece with justification in the Last Day. I use the idiom, "of a piece," to mean that the two phases or aspects of justification are of one singular whole. The already verdict of being declared righteous is the not yet verdict of being declared righteous in advance of the Last Day on the basis of Christ's substitutionary sacrificial death announced to us through God's latter day good news, the message of the cross.

Biblically speaking, the not yet aspect of justification is wholly grounded in the sacrificial death of Christ Jesus who endured God's wrath poured out upon him in the place of everyone for whom he was appointed to bear eternal punishment as their substitute. In other words, when we hear God's justifying verdict declared openly and publicly in the Last Day, it will be the same verdict that we already know by faith in the Son of God and it will be on the same basis, Christ's sacrificial death, as the verdict that we already know by belief in Jesus Christ.

The now aspect of justification and the not yet aspect of justification are inseparably bound together as one by virtue of the fact that Christ's first and second advents are inseparably bound together. For on the cross Christ Jesus underwent God's wrathful judgment of sin in advance of the Last Day. In other words, in his first advent, Christ Jesus brought the Day of Judgment, the Last Day, forward so that now, in the gospel, we who believe in Jesus Christ already receive God's Last Day verdict of not only "not condemned" (Roman 8:1) but of "justification" (Romans 5:1).

In my next blog entry I will resume aspects of this entry as I endeavor to pick up the argument in Fernandez's book as he engages The Race Set Before Us.

Edited and Updated 8/08/2008.

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