Monday, August 14, 2006

On the Doctrine of Justification, Part I: Introduction

Part I: Introduction to the doctrine of justification in the theology of Eberhard Jüngel

Over the next week, I will post my expositions on Eberhard Jüngel's doctrine of justification, which were originally published as part of a series on universalism at my blog. These posts follow the trajectory of Jüngel's thought in his most recent major publication, Das Evangelium von der Rechtfertigung des Gottlosen als Zentrum des christlichen Glaubens, translated into English by Jeffrey Cayzer as Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith. Along the way, I also quote from God as the Mystery of the World, where most of his best work is on display. This first post is an introduction to the series and to the contours of Jüngel's thought on the subject.

The doctrine of justification, made prominent in the theology of Martin Luther, is in many respects the “heart of the Christian faith.” Justification is the hermeneutical category through which we grasp the significance of Jesus Christ and the meaning of the Christian gospel. Jesus apart from justification can be interpreted in any number of ways. There is a lot of textual support from the sayings of Jesus in the gospel accounts for a version of Christianity as a purely moral religion—i.e., how we live our lives, whether for good or evil, determines whether we are accepted by God or not. A strong case could be made, divorced of course from the rest of the New Testament, that Jesus brings to the world a message of how to live one’s life in a holy and righteous way. We see this, for example, in the Mormon church. Any interpretation of Jesus along these lines is an interpretation devoid of justification, because justification asserts that Jesus, the Christ of God, came to make righteous those who were otherwise unrighteous and would remain so regardless of how well they lived their lives before God. Justification is the negation of our human efforts at pleasing God for the sake of a greater affirmation brought about by the Son of God incarnate, who lived, died, and rose again for our justification.

Eberhard Jüngel qualifies the doctrine of justification with the four Reformation particles: Christ alone (solus Christus), by grace alone (sola gratia), by the word alone (solo verbo), and by faith alone (sola fide). As Jüngel points out, the sum effect of these four phrases is the single assertion: solus deus—God alone. “Humans are indeed excluded with the aim of properly including them in their justification” (Jüngel 148). What I will do next is provide an overview of Eberhard Jüngel's doctrine of justification according to each of the particles. I will close with some reflections on Jüngel's significance for contemporary theology.

NB: All cititations are from Justification: The Heart of the Christian Faith, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous said...

I have just come accross your blogpost on Eberhard Jungel's Justification. It is gold dust to me as I am writing a book review on this book as a College assignment (not to be published). Would you be happy for me to refer to your blog?

David W. Congdon said...

Sure, that's fine. Best wishes on the review. Glad to hear this book is being read.