The focus of the review is Justification Theory. The book asserts that common defenses of this theory are based on mis-readings of Paul. Dr. Beck states that "Justification Theory is, at root, a rhetorical device for evangelism."
Therein is where Justification Theory started to fall apart for me years ago. As I began to see the case for Universalism being made throughout scripture, Justification Theory eroded. In this new context, what was the point of evangelism? For me, Justification Theory and the Christianity it had spawned showed it Achilles's Heel. I have actually heard Christians articulate it "What is the point of telling people about Jesus if there is no Hell?"
What point indeed....
Here is a piece of the review:
Recall, for Justification Theory to work the human person must complete a tortured inward journey culminating in the realization that he stands condemned before God. But if the doctrine of election is operative this introspective and epistemological journey seems to be a bit irrelevant. Further, given the condition of total depravity how could humans even begin or complete the journey? And here's the deal. Most of us are well aware of these problems. Justification Theory is, at root, a rhetorical device for evangelism. Through bible study or preaching you lead the listener through the critical realizations:
- I have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And this includes you! "All" means all.
- The wages of sin is death.
- In light of the aforementioned realizations, you're screwed.
- But you can have grace if you accept, through faith, Jesus as your Savior.
These are very old debates. Witness the tensions between the Calvinistic and Arminian attempts to resolve these questions. The point is, Luther and Calvin were no simple and consistent advocates of Justification Theory. Important aspects of their theology (e.g., their anthropology, the role of God in granting faith) greatly complicated their espousal of Justification Theory, so much so that the children of the Reformation are still debating the issues. The tension between evangelism and election is still very much with us. Consequently, it would be silly to assume that Justification Theory has been handed to us by Luther and Calvin as anything other than a partial and incomplete soteriology.