Thursday, March 26, 2009

Greg L. Bahnsen on Justification

Here is a paper demonstrating that the late Greg L. Bahnsen would not have agreed with the federal visionist and that he held a orthodox view of justification:

There is one quote he cites that is rather controversial and hard for me to deal with, but at the same time I think the author shows pretty clearly that at the end of Bahnsen's life he held a orthodox view of justification, which is something that cannot be said of the federal visionist.

This is the quote that the federal visionist cite from Bahnsen when he was doing a lecture on Calvin and James 2:

"I think (this) is rather convoluted … let me very briefly point
out, some people will say James can’t mean the word justify
in a forensic sense, because then he would contradict Paul.
Paul says we are justified by faith, not works. James says we
are justified by works. So if they both mean “justify” in the
forensic sense, there is a contradiction. Well, I don’t think so,
because in Galatians 5:6 Paul teaches exactly what James
does. Paul says we are justified by faith working by love. We
are justified by working, active, living faith. I think that’s
what James is teaching. They mean exactly the same thing.
But nevertheless some people have insisted- and this has
been a bone of controversy in my denomination even,
because a professor at Westminster Seminary insisted James
means this in the forensic sense.
Now … people who don’t like that say, It is to be taken in the
demonstrative sense. The problem is, the demonstrative
sense of the word justify means “to show someone to be
righteous,” and that doesn’t relieve the contradiction between
James and Paul, because Paul in Romans 4 looks at Abraham
as an example of how God justifies the ungodly. James is saying,
Look at how God justifies someone demonstrated as
godly. The contradiction is not relieved. And so what you
really get – and this is crucial, this is a crucial point- modern
interpreters who don’t like what I am suggesting and what
Professor Shepherd is suggesting end up saying that to justify
in James 2 really means “to demonstrate justification,” not
to “demonstrate righteousness.” That is, they make the word
to justify mean “to justify the fact that I’m justified.” And the
word never means that. That’s utterly contrived. It means
either “to declare righteous” or “to demonstrate righteous” It
does not mean “to justify that one’s justified.”
… Am I making myself clear? I’m suggesting that the reason
Paul and James are not contrary to one another is because the only
kind of faith that will justify us is working faith, and the only kind
of justification ever presented in the Bible after the Fall is a justification
by working faith, a faith that receives its merit from God
and proceeds to work as a regenerated, new person."

This is the statement that he made the end of his life when preaching on Romans:

"Justification is not causing someone to have sanctifying grace
in his heart. The Roman Catholic church is simply wrong
about this. For God to justify the sinner is for God to act as a
judge and to declare the sinner righteous. God will also make
the sinner righteous. You say, “Well then what difference
does it make, Dr. Bahnsen; you admit what the Roman
Catholics do, that those who are going to be saved need to
lead new lives.” Absolutely, But that isn’t what the Roman
Catholic church teaches. It teaches that those who lead new
lives will be saved. Don’t think that I am just drawing a very
minor point in English grammar when I put it to you that way
because on that point rests your salvation. It is a matter of
eternal consequences that you get this right. God does make
saved people to be holy but He does not save them by making
them holy."

I really hope he believe the latter rather than the former.

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