Zondervan is publishing a new 5-part series as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is just a couple of years away. Edited by Matthew Barrett, each sola of the Reformation will get its own accessible treatment:
- Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification, by Thomas Schreiner (September, 2015)
- God’s Glory Alone: The Majestic Heart of the Christian Faith and Life, by David VanDrunen (December, 2015)
- God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture, by Matthew Barrett (September, 2016)
- Grace Alone: Salvation as a Gift of God, by Carl Trueman (December, 2016)
- Christ Alone: The Uniqueness of Jesus as Savior, by Stephen Wellum (2017)
Here is John Piper’s foreword for Schreiner’s volume, followed by some endorsements.
Knowing from James 2:26 that there is such a thing as dead faith; and from James 2:19 that there is such a thing as demonic faith; and from 1 Corinthians 15:2 that it is possible to believe in vain; and from Luke8:13 that one can “believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away;” and knowing that it is through faith that we are born again (1 John 5:1) and have eternal life (John 3:16, 36), therefore, surely we must conclude that the nature of faith, and its relationship to salvation, is of infinite importance.
I use the word infinite carefully. I mean that, if we don’t have such faith, the consequences have infinite significance. Eternal life is an infinite thing. And thus the loss of it is an infinite thing. Therefore, any human concern that has only to do with this world, no matter how global, no matter how painful, no matter how enduring—if it has only to do with this world—compares to the importance of saving faith as a thimble to the ocean.
Which means, this book is dealing with treasures of immeasurable importance. Infinity cannot be measured. And infinite things are at stake. As Tom Schreiner says, the book “tackles one of the fundamental questions of our human condition: how can a person be right with God?”
The stunning Christian answer is: sola fide—faith alone. But be sure you hear this carefully and precisely: He says right with God by faith alone, not attain heaven by faith alone. There are other conditions for attaining heaven, but no others for entering a right relationship to God. In fact, one must already be in a right relationship with God by faith alone in order to meet the other conditions.
“We are justified by faith alone, but not by faith that is alone.” Faith that is alone is not faith in union with Christ. Union with Christ makes his perfection and power ours through faith. And in union with Christ, faith is living and active with Christ’s power.
Such faith always “works by love” and produces the “obedience of faith.” And that obedience— imperfect as it is till the day we die—is not the “basis of justification, but . . . a necessary evidence and fruit of justification.” In this sense, love and obedience—inherent righteousness—is “required of believers, but not for justification”—that is, required for heaven, not for entering a right-standing with God.
Everything in this book is measured by the Scriptures. “We should hold to the tradition of sola fide because it accords with the Word of God.” Therefore, thematically and structurally, the center of the book is biblical exegesis. “In this book I attempt to tour the historical teaching of the church, explain the scriptural teaching on justification, and provide some sense of contemporary relevance” (emphasis added).
But even in the historical and contemporary sections, Scripture remains the lodestar, guiding the ship of Schreiner‘s analysis. Thus the book is overwhelmingly constructive rather than merely polemical—and always careful, for when handling the most volatile issues, one must handle with care.
Schreiner is unusually careful in handling viewpoints that are different from his own. I have never read another author who states his challenger’s viewpoint so fully and persuasively, that it seems so compelling, and then turns around and demolishes it one piece at a time with careful biblical observation and argumentation. It is a trait that awakens trust.
Schreiner does not play God. He does not render judgments about men’s souls, only their doctrines. He follows John Owen in the gracious position that “men may be really saved by that grace which doctrinally they do deny; and they may be justified by the imputation of that righteousness, which, in opinion, they deny to be imputed.”
His aim is not to defeat others or merely win arguments; his aim is the glory of God and the everlasting joy of people. “Sola fide gives all the glory to God, so that no one will boast in human beings (1 Cor. 1:31).” This is true not only because Christ is the sole ground of our right standing with God, but also because faith itself is a gift: “No one can boast about faith, for faith itself is a gift of God.” Moreover, faith, by its very nature, “glorifies and honors God, for it confesses that God can do what he has promised.”
And this faith is no mere mental assent, but a heartfelt embrace of Jesus Christ as its all-satisfying treasure. “Justification is by faith alone, for faith finds its joy in Christ alone, seeing him as the pearl of great price, the one who is more desirable than anything or anyone else” (emphasis added).
Thus Schreiner closes his book with a joyful testimony—and I rejoice to join him in it: ”My confidence on the last day . . . will not rest on my transformation. I have too far to go to put any confidence in what I have accomplished. Instead, I rest on Jesus Christ. He is my righteousness. He is the guarantor of my salvation. I am justified by faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.”
“Dr. Schriener has done a magnificent job of expounding the key doctrine of the Protestant Reformation, which remains as vital for us today as when Martin Luther first proclaimed it. His clear explanation of justification by faith alone will do much to strengthen the faith of a new generation and its witness to this timeless truth.”
— Gerald Bray, Research Professor of Divinity, Beeson Divinity School
“The doctrine by which the church stands or falls—that’s how Luther described the importance of justification by faith alone. Without the imputed righteousness of Christ received by faith alone, we are truly without hope before a holy God. Thomas Schreiner, one of the most clear-headed and biblically faithful New Testament scholars of our generation, has produced a compelling and careful defense of the doctrine of justification that readers will find both exegetically faithful and theologically enriching. This book will help the church in this generation to stand on solid ground.”
— R. Albert Mohler Jr, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“As new ideas about justification have proliferated in recent years, the need for clear analysis of these ideas and better understanding of the traditional Reformation view has grown. Tom Schreiner’s Faith Alone accomplishes both tasks admirably. Schreiner anchors his exposition of the key biblical themes in the history of the doctrine, and defends the Reformation view in light of the many current challenges. Comprehensive, readable, persuasive.”
— Douglas J. Moo, , Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies, Wheaton College; Chair, Committee on Bible Translation
“The Protestant Reformation was driven by a renewed appreciation of the singular fullness of the triune God and his unique sovereignty in all of human life. But that profound reality expressed itself with regard to many questions and in a number of forms, ranging from facets of the liturgy to soteriological tenets and back again. I’m delighted to see this new series expositing the five most influential expressions of that God-centeredness, the pivotal Solas of the Protestant Reformation. By expounding the biblical reasoning behind them, I hope these volumes will invigorate a more profoundly theological vision of our lives and callings as Christians and churches.”
— Michael Allen, Associate Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary
“The Reformation’s 500th Anniversary will be celebrated as a significant historical event. However, The Five Solas series explores the contemporary relevance of this legacy for the global church. Superb evangelical scholars have been enlisted not only to summarize the ‘solas,’ but to engage each from historical, exegetical, and constructive perspectives. These volumes demonstrate that, far from being exhausted slogans, the Reformation’s key themes need to be rediscovered for the church’s very existence and mission in the world.”
— Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California
“A timely project, and not simply because the 500th anniversary of the Reformation will soon be upon us. Much of ‘who we are’ is determined by ‘where we have come from’; at a time when even so significant a part of our past as the Reformation is, for many, little more than a name, informed, accessible treatments of its basic principles are welcome indeed.
— Stephen Westerholm, Professor of Early Christianity, McMaster University
Thomas Schreiner. Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015. 288 pp. $19.99. Posted with permission.