Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Doctrine of Justification by James Buchanan

For the last few years, I have been avoiding a book that I sense I really wanted to read but just figured it would be a major project that would require more time than I could devote. The book is slightly over 400 pages with a lengthy appendix. The book is also a compilation of lectures given in 1866. As we all know, people that lived that long ago certainly would not be able to speak the same English that we speak today. Yet just moments ago, I finished the third "lecture", which ended at page 100.

The book, The Doctrine of Justification: An Outline of Its History in the Church and of Its Exposition From Scripture by James Buchanan, is a far easier read than I had anticipated. Now on the one hand if a layman is totally unfamiliar with the doctrine of Justification and the Roman Catholic accusation that the Protestant understanding of it is a "novelty" unknown for 1400 years, then perhaps this may not be the best book to start one's study. Yet for the average layman who enjoys studying or reading about these issues, this book is a must.

The first chapter/lecture is a survey of the doctrine of Justification starting from Genesis chapter 1 and Adam's pre-fall state, all the way to the time of the end of the Hebrew Scriptures. The strength of this chapter is that it avoids the Dispensational error of seeing salvation as being radically different in every age based upon man's response to God. Instead it shows the unity of the covenants and the promises of God in every age/dispensation. In a way, the first chapter is a good approach in teaching Covenant Theology without having to even mention the term.

For instance, when discussing the Mosaic Law on page 37, he states,
The next great era in the History of Justification under the Old Testament was that of Moses, and the proclamation of the Law at Sinai. A new economy was now introduced, which differed in many respects from the Patriarchal system, and yet was designed and fitted, in various ways, to develop God's purpose of mercy, and to carry it on to its accomplishment in the fullness of times. That economy cannot be understood, as it is described and commented on in various parts of Scripture, unless it be contemplated in two distinct aspects: first, as a system of religion and government, designed for the immediate use of the Jews during its continuance; and secondly, as a scheme of preparation for another and better economy, by which it was to be superseded when its temporary purpose had been fulfilled.
This form of argument is needed to be demonstrated since the Apostles in the New Testament heavily rely upon upon the consistent doctrine throughout the Old Testament era. For example, the Apostle Paul's argument that Father Abraham was saved by justification through faith alone in Romans 4 would simply make no sense outside of Covenant Theology.

As time allows, I would like to offer some quotations from the book, especially from the third lecture which deals specifically with the argument that Justification through faith alone and the doctrine of Substitutionary atonement and the doctrine of imputation is merely a Protestant novelty.

To get the book, you may click on the image and purchase it from

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