Ten years ago I certainly could not—would not—have written this book. I had been convinced that the Protestant doctrine of justification fared very poorly under the bar of exegetical and historical reason, and I was equally convinced that a dogmatic approach to anything was, well, going nowhere fast. I remember debating with parents, professors, pastors, and friends about these matters. I can completely identify now with the many critics of systematic theology and of the Protestant doctrine of justification; I was among them and zealous about it, spending more than my share of late nights as a student discussing these matters to the wee morning hours.
But now I have written Justification and the Gospel: Understanding the Contexts and Controversies, arguing that the Protestant doctrine of justification is exegetically defensible and theologically essential to filling out catholic teaching on God’s relations to creatures in the gospel of Jesus Christ. This book manifests something of the journey I’ve been on now for a decade. I found that rising familiarity with the exegetical riches of the great teachers of the church (from Irenaeus and Gregory to Thomas and Bonaventure to Luther and Calvin) shows their brilliance as aids and our own limits as modern researchers. I’ve also seen that too often protests regarding the Reformation stem from really bad understandings of what it actually involved, too frequently based in reading of poor secondary sources rather than in careful study of primary texts. I hope this book serves as a useful prompt to further reflection in these two conversations: how do we think well of justification in light of the wider gospel of Jesus? And how do we go about the task of Christian theology and of a faithful Christian reading of the Holy Scriptures today?