A Question Concerning Justification


After a conversation with a fellow pastor in my area, I’ve been contemplating a question. It’s one that I have ruminated on, discussed, and investigated for many years.

Can you have a defective theology of justification and still be justified?

Or to put it differently, Can you misapprehend the role of faith in justification, yet place your faith in Christ alone and thus be justified?

I’m interested in hearing your response and discussion before I post.


6 Responses to “A Question Concerning Justification”

  1. bennelson Says:

    If I understand the question then:


    Here’s why

    God is Soverign
    God Justifies (not our own comprehension of justification)
    Therefore if a true faith is placed in Christ and one doesn’t realize the meaning of his justification.

    The thief did not have time to understand what, where, and why he believed he only knew he believed. I venture to say (although I can’t support it scripturally) that many lacked complete knowlege and understanding of how they came to beleive. Many only knew because they were cut to the heart.

    My personal experience, as I am sure others, I have always believed in Christ and most of the time sought to work in God’s will however I never understood that it was Justification that had brought me to believe and not my own choice outside of the Spirit. Now I am comprehending it as I search the scriptures more each day. I believe my salvation was complete through Christ’s death on the cross and therefore whether I had understanding of how I came to that faith or not I was still saved by Grace through faith and not by my own understanding.

    I pray I answered the right question in the context it was asked.

  2. Al Says:

    David, as you flesh this out, I hope you will address the minimalist confessions found in Scripture that testify to saving faith. The external “confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ” may have profound implications but it is not a systematic on justification by faith alone.

    Also, can one be disciplined by the Church for giving a deficient definition of the doctrine? This is a different question than the one you are asking but I think it applies to some of the current controversies brewing out in reformed land.

    Al sends

    Oh and well said Ben…

  3. thanker212 Says:


    Eph 2:8-10 Faith is a gift of God, not something that we achieve through mental gyrations of our own. We don’t understand anything perfectly anyway.

    When can I expect my cookie?

  4. davidbryant Says:

    umm, I think wordpress put one in your computer.

    That’s cheesy, isn’t it?

  5. thanker212 Says:

    Cheesy? I’d call it false advertising. 🙂

  6. ubergoober Says:

    Lesslie Newbigin wrote:
    “It is surely a fact of inexhaustible significance that what our Lord left behind Him was not a book, nor a creed, nor a system of thought, nor a rule of life, but a visible community. He committed the entire work of salvation to that community. It was not that a community gathered round an idea, so that the idea was primary and the community secondary. It was that a community called together by the deliberate choice of the Lord Himself, and re-created in Him, gradually sought – and is seeking – to make explicit who He is and what He has done. The actual community is primary; the understanding of what it is comes second.”

    A quote like this could die the death of a thousand qualifications in sturdy reformed circles, but I find it to be essentially true. And the last statement is helpful in the present discussion if the word “community” is substituted with “justification.”

    If our justification is dependent upon a correct understanding of what that means, doesn’t that apply a precondition (other than faith) on that justification (I use justification in the forensic sense here)?

    What of good Christians that disagree? John Piper and N.T. Wright are, it seems, at odds over just what justification is. Is one (or both) of them incorrect, and therefore going to hell? What of those whom they pastor? Has the learning of an “incorrect doctrine” condemned them?

    It isn’t, clearly, that the doctrine of justification is unimportant, but the doctrine does not justify us. We are (beginning to end) justified by Christ. Jesus chided the Jews, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness of me…” The point of all our doctrine (and Scripture) is to point us to Christ. If we get to Christ before we understand the doctrine(s), we are no less in Christ.

    To insist upon a right understanding is the same as to insist upon circumcision or law-keeping or parting your hair on the right (correct) side or anything else that is not required as a condition of salvation. [Recall the *U* in the beloved TULIP.] Do we not end up with a synergistic soteriology?

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