J.V. Fesko. What is Justification by Faith Alone? Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, February 15th, 2008. 32 pp.
This is a booklet in the Basics of the Reformed Faith series. I picked it up out of the curiosity of wanting to see what an example of a short theological summary of the doctrine of justification looks like and also for my spiritual edification and whether this booklet is something I can recommend to others. This booklet is divided into five parts. The first part surveys how God intended to create and judge Adam and His creation. The second part looks at God pointing to His Son as the one who will justify us in the Old Testament with the third looking at how Jesus’ life death and resurrection is the building blocks of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. The fourth survey how this doctrine was expressed historically within the Reformed tradition and lastly the fifth part answers some common questions.
Personally I was a bit disappointed. For starters I felt the author was trying to do too much (with 5 points) with such limited space. I felt he barely scratched the surface and then went on. Please note that I am not complaining about this booklet being a booklet—I thought other booklets by the same publisher (whom I totally love by the way!) really did a good job summarizing and proving the doctrine that was the subject at hand. I’ve had glowing reviews of some of these booklets. I think the author for this particular booklet could have done a better job.
Theologically I also felt the author had the difficulty of trying to justify the Covenant of Works from the beginning of Genesis in the first part of the book. I don’t see anywhere in the passage of Genesis 1-3 that hints that God was sending Adam out to do the work of subduing the earth as the basis for the purpose of then declaring Adam as righteous. I think it’s possible to articulate the doctrine of justification by faith alone without the encumbrance of discussing Covenant of Works.
I wished the booklet could have focused more on the “alone” part in the doctrine of justification “alone.” I sort of expected the booklet to deal more with the objection that justification involves our works, something that is commonly brought up by those who attack this doctrine. I also wished the booklet made a stronger defense of the distinction between being legally declared righteous and that of practical righteousness.
I love the doctrine of justification by faith alone. My criticism of this booklet is not an attack on the doctrine but it is done with an attitude of hoping to see a better presentation of this beautiful truth of the faith.