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Is Justification Forensic?

Some opponents of reformation theology attempt to deny that the term justification can be used in the context of declaration of righteousness, as opposed to infusion of righteousness. For those folks, the passages that contrast justification with condemnation should help. Surely none of these people will think that condemnation is the infusion of unrighteousness. Rather, they will recognize that condemnation is a judicial declaration of unrighteousness. By contrast, therefore, it can be seen that justification is a declaration of righteousness. We see this several times in Scripture, both in the English of the KJV, as well as in the Clementine Latin Vulgate, so our Roman Catholic opponents have no room to complain:

1 Kings 8:32
(KJV) Then hear thou in heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, condemning the wicked, to bring his way upon his head; and justifying the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness.
(CLV) tu exaudies in cælo : et facies, et judicabis servos tuos, condemnans impium, et reddens viam suam super caput ejus, justificansque justum, et retribuens ei secundum justitiam suam.
(LXX) καὶ σὺ εἰσακούσει ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ ποιήσεις καὶ κρινεῖς τὸν λαόν σου Ισραηλ ἀνομηθῆναι ἄνομον δοῦναι τὴν ὁδὸν αὐτοῦ εἰς κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῦ δικαιῶσαι δίκαιον δοῦναι αὐτῷ κατὰ τὴν δικαιοσύνην αὐτοῦ.

Job 9:20
(KJV) If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.
(CLV) Si justificare me voluero, os meum condemnabit me ; si innocentem ostendero, pravum me comprobabit.
(LXX) ἐὰν γὰρ ὦ δίκαιος, τὸ στόμα μου ἀσεβήσει· ἐάν τε ὦ ἄμεμπτος, σκολιὸς ἀποβήσομαι.

Proverbs 17:15
(KJV) He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord.
(CLV) Qui justificat impium, et qui condemnat justum, abominabilis est uterque apud Deum.
(LXX) ὃς δίκαιον κρίνει τὸν ἄδικον, ἄδικον δὲ τὸν δίκαιον, ἀκάθαρτος καὶ βδελυκτὸς παρὰ θεῷ.

Matthew 12:37
(KJV) For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
(CLV) Ex verbis enim tuis justificaberis et ex verbis tuis condemnaberis.
(NA28) ἐκ γὰρ τῶν λόγων σου δικαιωθήσῃ, καὶ ἐκ τῶν λόγων σου καταδικασθήσῃ.

Romans 5:16
(KJV) And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.
(CLV) Et non sicut per unum peccatum, ita et donum. Nam judicium quidem ex uno in condemnationem : gratia autem ex multis delictis in justificationem.
(NA28) καὶ οὐχ ὡς δι’ ἑνὸς ἁμαρτήσαντος τὸ δώρημα· τὸ μὲν γὰρ κρίμα ἐξ ἑνὸς εἰς κατάκριμα, τὸ δὲ χάρισμα ἐκ πολλῶν παραπτωμάτων εἰς δικαίωμα.

Romans 5:18
(KJV) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
(CLV) Igitur sicut per unius delictum in omnes homines in condemnationem : sic et per unius justitiam in omnes homines in justificationem vitæ.
(NA28) Ἄρα οὖν ὡς δι’ ἑνὸς παραπτώματος εἰς πάντας ἀνθρώπους εἰς κατάκριμα, οὕτως καὶ δι’ ἑνὸς δικαιώματος εἰς πάντας ἀνθρώπους εἰς δικαίωσιν ζωῆς·

Confucianism, Islam, and Christianity – One Point of Contrast

Qin Shi Huang (260 – 210 BC) is the most prominent of the Chinese emperors. He united China through conquest, began the Great Wall of China, and had the Terra Cotta warriors built. He’s significant to Confucianism – and especially the textual transmission of Confucius’ works – because toward the end of his reign he engaged in a process of burning books and burying scholars. The scholars that were allegedly buried alive were apparently Confucian scholars, and Confucian works were apparently largely destroyed by the Emperor’s decree.

The Qin dynasty ended shortly after Qin’s death, and was replaced by the Han dynasty. In A.D. 9, Wang Mang (45 BC – A.D. 23) usurped the throne from the ruling family and set up his own short-lived dynasty. During Wang Mang’s reign, it was alleged that some of Confucius’ writings had been rediscovered. Wang Mang apparently used these texts in an attempt to support his own reforms.

Robert Greene (in “The 48 Laws of Power,” p. 397) explains it this way:

Reigning from A.D. 8 to A.D. 23, the Chinese emperor Wang Mang emerged from a period of great historical turbulence in which the people yearned for order, an order represented for them by Confucius. Some two hundred years earlier, however, Emperor Ch’in had ordered the writings of Confucius burned. A few years later, word had spread that certain texts had miraculously survived, hidden under the scholar’s house. These texts may not have been genuine, but they gave Wang his opportunity: He first confiscated them, then had his scribes insert passages into them that seemed to support the changes he had been imposing on the country. When he released the texts, it seemed that Confucius sanctioned Wang’s reforms, and the people felt comforted and accepted them more easily.

While there is controversy (apparently to this day) about the nature and extent of Qin’s burning of books, and of Wang Mang’s (or others’) possible editing or forging of Confucian writings, these controversies were all made possible by the fact that Qin had control of the geographic area where Confucius’ works circulated, and the means for effectively destroying those works.

This parallels the history of the transmission of the Qur’an. The first caliph of Islam, Abu Bakr, is said to have collected the Qur’an in A.D. 634. Nevertheless, various versions of the Qur’an were apparently circulating during reign of the third caliph, Uthman (reigned A.D. 644 – 656). Uthman created a standard text of the Qur’an and had the other copies burned. This was possible because Uthman had control of the geographic area where the Qur’an circulated and the means for effectively destroying competing copies.

There is, however, no close parallel in Christianity. Christianity rapidly spread copies of books of the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) beyond the reach of the Roman Empire. Christianity had no centralized earthly ruler and by the time emperors like Constantine or Roman bishops tried to operate in such a capacity, the text of the New Testament was so well established and widespread that any attempt to edit or control the text would have been ineffective. While this uncontrolled transmission of the text may seem messy it is one of the means by which we can have confidence in the text today, without the need for a continued prophetic witness.

Adelphopoiesis – Brother Adoption, not Same-Sex Marriage

Certain movements recycle old, long-debunked arguments, counting on folks not to realize that these arguments have been forgotten because they were without merit. One such argument is the idea that adelphopoiesis was an ancient form of same-sex marriage.

Let’s address the timing issue first. The rite of adelphopoiesis is apparently documented from the ninth to the 15th century among the Byzantines. Thus, this is not “ancient” in the sense of being something from the patristic or early church period. It’s medieval.

Second, we can acknowledge that the rite of adelphopoiesis has some similarities to a Byzantine wedding rite. Nevertheless, those similarities do not mean that the intent of the ceremony was to create a same-sex exclusive sexual union, analogous to the opposite-sex exclusive sexual union formed in a wedding.

The argument comes from John Boswell’s book, “Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe.” However, Patrick Viscuso (in the December 1994 New Oxford Review) debunked Boswell’s theory in a variety of way, primarily by noting the fact that Byzantine marriage process involved a lot more than simply a ceremony in a church.

Instead, as Viscuso explains, the term is best understood to be “brother adoption,” rather than anything analogous to a marriage. I won’t repeat all of his arguments, but hopefully reading the article will prepare you for handling this issue.

Actually, Jesus Did Ask Someone to Write a Book

About 43 minutes into episode #6838 of Catholic Answers Live, Patrick Coffin, the host of the show, stated: “Jesus never wrote a book, didn’t ask anybody to write a book, or you know – put on kind of memo on the fridges of Nazareth, but he did found a church.”

I’ve previously addressed this “Jesus Didn’t Write a Book” Objection (link to previous treatment). While I stand by that response, let me provide some further response Mr. Coffin’s assertions here, since Mr. Coffin is guilty of a redemptive history error, a trinitarian error, and a simple factual error (not even to get into his ecclesiastical error).

1. Redemption History Error

Mr. Coffin’s characterization, by focusing on the form of the revelation of Jesus Christ misses the place of revelation in the history of redemption. It is by revelation that the church was founded. The revelation of Jesus Christ is the foundation of the church that Jesus founded. That’s why Jesus said to Peter:

Matthew 16:17-19
And Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Jesus focuses on the fact that Peter’s confession was something revealed to him by the Father. It is on that confession of faith – revealed by God – that the church was to be founded.
That’s why Irenaeus says: “For we learned the plan of our salvation from no others than from those through whom the gospel came to us. They first preached it abroad, and then later by the will of God handed it down to us in Writings, to be the foundation and pillar of our faith” and again a little later on “the pillar and foundation of the Church is the gospel” (Against Heresies, Book 3, Sections 1 and 8).
And Irenaeus is being Scriptural:

Hebrews 1:1-2, 2:1-4, 4:2
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; … Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? …
For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.

You see the foundation of the church is the revelation of Jesus Christ – not the other way around. Even if the assembly of Jesus’ followers (i.e. the church) can be said to have begun before the writing of the New Testament Scriptures – still they are a record of the revelation that preceded and founded the church. They are the cause of the church – not the effect of the church.

2. Trinitarian Error

Mr. Coffin’s comments invite the listener to divide Jesus from the person of the Spirit, to the extent that one considers the plain and inescapable fact that the Spirit did command people to write a book. Even assuming it were true that Jesus didn’t personally command the writing of Scripture, the Spirit did, and that’s not any more or less authoritative than if Jesus himself did it. The Spirit is not a lesser deity.

Moreover, the Spirit was united in Jesus’ revelatory mission:

John 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

John 16:13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

That leads us to a third category of error:

3. Factual Error

Mr. Coffin has forgotten about the fact that the Bible itself tells us that Jesus commanded John to write a book:

Revelation 1:1-3, 11, 19 and 21:5
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. … Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. … Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; … And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.

I understand that the book of Revelation is excluded from the readings of Scripture in the Roman liturgy, but even Trent had to admit that it is canonical and authoritative Scripture.

I suppose I could add to the above that Mr. Coffin’s conception of Christ founding a church is way off. Mr. Coffin has in mind a hierarchical structure of authority, whereas when Christ talked about founding his church on the rock of Peter’s confession, he was talking about followers united by faith. While God did appoint a structure of authority within the church, that was not the primary sense in which he founded a church. Perhaps we can get into that more in another post.

-TurretinFan