This is the seventh 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 installments in this series here.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 24:13 and Mark 13:13 was about justification. I state in the third installment that
Because Steve Fernandez rips our words out of the context of our careful exegetical discussion of Matthew 24:13 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."
As I observe in the sixth installment, on page 58 of Free Justification Steve Fernandez strangely does observe the above distinction 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). Again, 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.
As I indicate in my previous installment, I agree with Steve Fernandez that there is a biblical distinction between justification and salvation. Nevertheless, also as I show in my previous entry, I cannot agree with Fernandez that unlike salvation, justification "has only an already fully accomplished aspect."
Having offered the above as review, now I turn attention to Steve Fernandez's later abuses of his failure to acknowledge that throughout our discussion of Matthew 24:13 and Mark 13:13 on pages 147-160 we maintained a proper biblical distinction between salvation and justification without separating the two. So, now let's reflect upon Fernandez's resumption of engaging the discussion of Matthew 24:13 and Mark 13:13 on the final pages of his book, pages 90-93.
On page 90 Fernandez begins his final segment of the fifth and final chapter of the book. The chapter is "Justification, Works, and the Final Judgment." The final segment is "Enduring to the End Is Not a Condition of Attaining Final Salvation or Justification." Here is what Fernandez writes.
Besides passages in Hebrews, another verse which is interpreted to teach that justification and final salvation are conditioned on perseverance in obedience is Matthew 10:22 (parallel passages are Matthew 24:13, Mark 13:13). In it Christ says,
You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
Christ's words, "but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved" are interpreted to say, 'it is the one who has endured to the end, because he has endured, who will be save.' In other words, endurance or perseverance is seen as a condition, or means, of attaining final salvation and justification. Schreiner and Caneday, for example, commenting on Matthew 10:22 write,
The text says, the one who perseveres to the end will be saved. Jesus' words indicate that perseverance to the end is the necessary condition. Perseverance is a means that God has appointed by which one will be saved.
They do not leave any doubt as to what they have in mind when they say, "perseverance is a means by which one will be saved." For they write in a footnote,
At times we will use the words condition and means interchangeably. When we use the word means, we use it in the sense that perseverance is a necessary means that God has appointed for attaining final salvation.
The authors are to the point: Perseverance is a "condition and means . . . by which" one actually attains final salvation. Their emphasis must not be missed: Perseverance is not merely an evidence of salvation, or that through which we enter into final salvation. It is actually a condition and means of "attaining final salvation." To attain salvation, by perseverance, is to work for it. A primary dictionary definition of attain is, "to achieve, or accomplish; to arrive at, esp. after some labor or tedium." Therefore, to speak of "attaining salvation," is the language of works, whether it is said to be so or not (cited as published; Free Justification, pp. 90-91).
In his engagement of The Race Set Before Us within the above cited material, Fernandez commits several mistakes, not all of them equally fatal. Nevertheless, I will itemize his errors because these errors continue to exhibit his sloppy reading, quotation and use of our book, which, I fear, is indicative of how Fernandez reads, quotes, and uses others also.
- Fernandez, by enclosing the highlighted following words with single quotation marks and by naming Schreiner and Caneday, seems to imply that the words are ours: "but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved" are interpreted to say, 'it is the one who has endured to the end, because he has endured, who will be saved.'
- Even if one generously grants that Fernandez does not intend to suggest that the words are ours, he unambiguously claims that his wording accurately represents our understanding of the passage. Fernandez, however, is wrong. Tom Schreiner and I do not say 'it is the one who has endured to the end, because he has endured, who will be saved.' Nowhere do we make such a claim. Anyone who gives our detailed exegesis of the Matthew 10:22 and Mark 13:13 a reasonable and fair reading will recognize that Fernandez's understanding is badly skewed.
- Though I authored The Race Set Before Us, I could not readily locate Fernandez's quotation of our book from page 151. Why could I not easily locate the quotation? The reason is that once again Fernandez does not correctly cite what he quotes. First, he fails to indicate that his quote breaks into the midst of a sentence. Thus, he should have begun the quotation this way: [T]he text says. . . ." Second, he fails to indicate that there is a paragraph break between the first sentence, "[T]he text says, the one who perseveres to the end will be saved." and the next sentences, "Jesus' words indicate that perseverance to the end is the necessary condition. Perseverance is a means that God has appointed by which one will be saved."
When anyone incorrectly cites another person's writing, published or unpublished, one commits a rather serious error of misrepresentation. One of the reasons reputable publishers hire skilled editors is to check and to correct improperly cited statements that others have made. The numerous citation errors, that I have pointed out, belong to Steve Fernandez, but the reputation of his publisher, Kress Christian Publications, is at stake, for as poorly as the publisher edited Fernandez's book, one has reasonable doubts about all their other books.
- Indeed, Tom Schreiner and I do clarify in footnote 11 on page 151 what we mean by "condition" and "means." Two comments are worth making.
First, again picayunish as it may be to point out, once again Fernandez fails to cite our words with the kind of accuracy authors owe other authors. He fails to italicize our words in the statement, "At times we will use the words condition and means interchangeably. When we use the word means, we use it in the sense that perseverance is a necessary means that God has appointed for attaining final salvation."
Second, if Fernandez had read our book with care and with accurate understanding, he would have realized that we explain what our use of "condition" and "means" with considerable care and length on pages 41-43, a fact that he could have easily located in the index of subjects on page 339.
Third, if Fernandez had read our discussion on pages 41-43, he would also have realized that John Piper, who is Fernandez's contemporary theological champion, shares our usage of the term "condition" as we make clear in footnote 57 on page 42, where we state that "we essentially concur with John Piper's discussion of 'conditional promises.' For his discussion see The Purifying Power of Living by Faith in Future Grace (Sisters, Ore.: Multnomah, 1995), pp. 231-59."
- Instead of accepting our carefully nuanced usage of "condition" and "means," Fernandez imputes to us a meaning that we do not accept. More emphatically stated, he imputes a meaning that we explicitly reject within our exegetical discussion of Matthew 10:22 and Mark 13:13.
Consider the progression of Fernandez's skewed reasoning.
First, he claims, "Their emphasis must not be missed: Perseverance is not merely an evidence of salvation, or that through which we enter into final salvation."
How frustrating! Contrary to Fernandez's claim, on the very page from which he lifts his mangled citation, we state that, though we disagree with John MacArthur's exegesis of of Matthew 10:22 when he converts "the consequence of perseverance (salvation not yet attained) into the cause of perseverance (salvation already possessed)", we agree with his theology that perseverance is an evidence of salvation, and that this "is both biblically and theologically accurate, but the text we are examining does not say that. It is a case of good theology but from the wrong verse" (p. 151).
Likewise, Fernandez claims that we reject the concept that "Perseverance is not . . . that through which we enter into final salvation" (emphasis added). Actually, this is precisely what we do not mean by "means" and "condition." Any fair reading of what we say would readily acknowledge this.
Second, after denying us what we do mean, Fernandez uses the adverb "actually" to emphasize prejudice his readers when he states, "It is actually a condition and means of "attaining final salvation."
Third, to fit his theological biases, Fernandez redefines our use of "attain" in our careful attempt to represent accurately the theological significance of Matthew 10:22. He claims, "To attain salvation, by perseverance, is to work for it." Repeatedly throughout The Race Set Before Us and in our larger discussion of Matthew 10:22 and Mark 13:13, we explicitly identify the notion merit, that Fernandez imputes to us, as a theological error.
Fourth, after he redefines "attain" to suit his theological purposes, then Fernandez appeals to a modern English dictionary as proof that he is right: "A primary dictionary definition of attain is, 'to achieve, or accomplish; to arrive at, esp. after some labor or tedium."
Fifth, Fernandez leads his readers to the false allegation that "Therefore, to speak of 'attaining salvation,' is the language of works, whether it is said to be so or not." In other words, as for Fernandez, it does not matter what we have carefully argued and affirmed concerning "attaining salvation," despite our careful exegetical nuance.
Sixth, it seems evident that Fernandez fails to understand the predicament into which he has placed himself. What will he tell the apostle Paul, or at least the translators of the ESV? Paul says, "that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead." Fernandez's claims concerning the meaning of "attain" are both wrong and silly.
I will post one more entry on Fernandez's comments concerning our exegetical discussion of Matthew 10:22 that will disclose how badly he has failed to understand either our discussion or the biblical text.