Articulating Justification Back Then

I hatelove those articles where you have to guess the source of the quote. See, for example, the “Who Said That?” series at The Riddleblog.Riddleblog01 The quotes are either tricky, misleading, or – depending who is writing – completely out of left field.

But that isn’t how this post will go. Spoiler alert: the following quote is from Doug Wilson, in a chapter I’m re-reading for a new initiative I’m helping with. I’m struck by his fairly strong and clear articulation of justification:

The objective reality of our justification is grounded upon the righteousness of Christ. We are put right with God because of the goodness of somebody else. Just as Adam’s sin was imputed to every man, in the same way, Christ’s righteousness was imputed to every saved man. The ground of this justification is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, while the instrument for receiving it is our faith. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that we are not justified on the basis of our faith. We are justified on the basis of Christ’s faith and work. This gospel message of free grace liberates – it liberates from the condemnation of sin once for all, and from the power of sin progressively…
Justification and sanctification are distinct, but they are never separated. They are not the same work, but the one who works in us for His good purposes always accomplishes both…

The centrality of Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us by faith alone, and this provides the only possible foundation for righteous Christian living. Because the rest of this essay is directed at certain standards of personal conduct in a Christian school, I thought it was important to acknowledge the only possible foundation for this personal conduct.

I appreciate the clarity. Detractors might point out he is not clear here on the nature of human faith, but a charitable read notes that he is dealing with the objective nature of justification. (I note, with some glee, a clear forensic priority as well!) There is no sign of the equivocating he was sometimes (justly) accused of. I wish there had been more writing like this after 2002.

Of course, that is the point. Repairing the Ruins, an edited volume on classical education – not soteriology, was published in 1996. Is it too much to wonder if the writing you see above was the kind that got Wilson invited to Ligonier conferences? And the kind of writing he did later brought controversy? The reader must decide if there was a difference.

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