Thursday, May 12, 2005

Journal Article

I've just finished writing an article titled, Augustine and the Justification Debates: Appropriating Augustine's Doctrine of Culpability for Trinity Journal that will be published sometime this fall. The article is basically a revised and expanded version of the second chapter of my thesis. Though the common man will have to wait till the fall, I have chosen to make it available immediately as a free download to you, my faithful reader (click on title). Below are some titillating excerpts.

From the Introduction...
The following paper, attempts to bring Augustine’s sotieriology to bear on the current justification debate, most notably his doctrine of culpability as it relates to his doctrine of justification. Those embracing newer interpretations of Paul may find this analysis of Augustine helpful in both informing their own sotieriological systems, as well as providing a measure of historical credibility to newer interpretations of Pauline thought that are neither Roman Catholic, Reformed, or favorable toward the New Perspective.

This paper will be divided into two main sections. The first section will discuss Augustine’s doctrine of culpability as seen in his treatment of original sin, and conclude briefly with the impact it has upon his doctrine of justification. The second section of the paper will seek to appropriate Augustine’s sotieriology in light of wider evangelical sotieriology generally and Reformed thought specifically.

And finally, it might be helpful for the reader to note that this paper is driven primarily by pastoral/pietistic concerns. Ultimately I will suggest that the Reformed movement away from Augustine in the area of justification has contributed to a popular level theological environment that often overlooks the necessity of spiritual regeneration and life change, and often minimizes the centrality of the resurrection as a key component of the gospel.
And from the Conclusion...
For Augustine, a change of ontology is not simply necessary as a corollary of salvation (as in Reformed thought), but is necessary as a ground of salvation. When starting from Augustine’s beginning point, we can no longer approach the doctrine of justification from the Reformed presupposition that mere positive legal standing before God is sufficient as the sole basis for meriting eternal life. The imputation of Christ’s mere volitional righteousness, as understood by Reformed thought, cannot be sufficient for satisfying the justice of God and meriting eternal life.

To be sure Augustine understands the need for judicial forgiveness regarding volitional sins, but the foundational element of his doctrine of justification is centered on regeneration. It is through new life (indeed the divine life), poured out through our union with Christ via the Holy Spirit, that we inherit eternal life. It is because “we are by nature objects of wrath,” that it is said, “Unless a man be born again he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

For too long evangelicalism has been versed in a naturalistic, solely legal and largely non-existential gospel. For many Christians, Christ’s work of judicial atonement resolves the issue of one’s standing before God but speaks little to one’s existential experience. Clearly something is missing from the heart of much of evangelicalism. I find Augustine’s emphasis upon regeneration to be more existentially satisfying than that of popular evangelical sotieriology or even the Reformed thought from which it came. Perhaps it is time for Reformed theologians to once again look critically at the legacy of the Reformed doctrine of justification and be open to the suggestion that it retains a measure of culpability for some of the deficiencies in the current state of evangelical piety.
Don't all download it at once, or the traffic may shut down my brother's server. For any that actually read it, your comments and thoughts are welcome.


millinerd said...

Congrats on the publication Gerald.

I agree that purely forensic justification is hollow, signalled byt the fact that almost nobody believes it anymore.

Ontology is the way forward (as you may recall me yammering about), and I applaud you for moving in that direction without just throwing in the towel and becoming Orthodox or Catholic (which is what usually happens when Prots realize the need for theosis).

C.S. Lewis is brilliant on this in the Great Divorce, so it's not to say that Protestants don't have the seeds of divinization, but my question for you is this:

Does a high sacramentology and ecclesiology necessarily accompany your claims here?

You may answer that in the article, but these are initial thoughts.


Gerald said...


I do recall your yammerings. I was one of those didn’t know that ontology was out, so you can imagine my relief to learn that it was back in (that was close).

As to your question, I don’t think that a strong ontological emphasis in justification necessitates a high ecclesiology or sacramentology. Though I am sympathetic with the Catholic understanding of the sacraments—in that they include a strong ontological component— I think that they confuse the type with the anti-type, something that the Church often does. It is the Spirit that brings life. And though the water and the bread and the wine are divinely appointed symbols that reveal how the Spirit brings this life, I find it hard to see them as anything but pictures. But my tradition (evangelical/fundamental) doesn’t often even make any attempt to retain the typology.

And I too am a fan of Lewis in the area of theosis. He has been very helpful for me in this regard, not only in the Great Divorce, but in a number of his essays as well (the titles of which I can’t immediately recall while sitting in the lunch room of a metal finishing shop).

The article doesn’t really touch on Augustine’s theosis directly but is more of a critique of some reformed assumptions regarding culpability. As I argue, ontological culpability demands ontological justification as a matter of justice. If one starts with Augustine’s culpability, ontological justification (or theosis, as you point out) becomes the necessary corollary.

Enjoy reading your stuff. Peace.