I was scheduled to be at the church at 7PM, but the pastor asked if I might come an hour earlier. Upon arriving, the pastor explained why he had asked me to come early. He mentioned that he truly does make a concerted effort to keep up with current trends and developments in theology (a fact I had known and appreciated since getting to know him in previous years). But he also said it is very difficult to do so when you are a busy pastor, visiting hospitals, doing marriages, funerals, counseling—all the myriad of things that fall upon the shepherd’s shoulders. And so the busy pastor is often forced to rely upon the recommendations of others so as to read summaries of the issues, not the entire spectrum of published works.
At this point he took down Mark Seifrid’s Christ, our Righteousness from his shelf. He explained that the book was recommended by D.A. Carson as being relevant to the issue of New Perspectivism, hence, he obtained it. But, the reason he had asked me to come in an hour early was to chat with me about the final sections of the book, which he had marked thoroughly. I did not have the book with me (I do not transport my library across the nation when traveling) and so he had kindly photocopied the relevant section. We worked through the same material I have discussed on my blog, and, of course, I expressed the same thoughts in that context, disagreeing strongly with the assertion on Seifrid’s part that to speak of imputation in the way Reformed theologians have presented it for centuries is to go beyond the biblical warrant. The hour passed quickly, and toward the end the pastor seemed thankful that he was not the only one who had found the discussion in Christ, our Righteousness troubling and disturbing, and that someone else agreed with him in the initial reaction he had to the book’s presentation.
When I got back from Long Island I began thinking about the situation. If this pastor, who honors the Lord and His Word by seeking to remain “fresh” and challenged even in the midst of the pressures of the pastorate itself, could encounter Christ, our Righteousness out of a pure desire to remain faithful to the proclamation of the divine truth of justification, view it as presenting a conservative, even Reformed perspective, and then experience fully understandable consternation and concern upon encountering such sentences as “there is no need to multiply entities within ‘justification’, as Protestant orthodoxy did when it added the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the forgiveness of sins”, then perhaps this pastor is not alone? Perhaps I can aid some others through my small little blog to see that they are not alone in finding such language objectionable?
And so I began writing. It has always been the concern of Alpha and Omega Ministries to aid, encourage, and support the men God calls into service in the eldership of the local church. And so the primary motivation of my review of Christ, our Righteousness is transparent and simple. The doctrine under discussion is vital, central, and precious. Serious pastoral practice cannot pass over the debate in silence, for it speaks to the very ground of our peace with God. It impacts the proclamation of the gospel, the message of salvation to be preached by the church. Many have commented that my replies have greatly clarified the issues for them, and for that I am grateful.
At the same time we have heard, through various channels, that for some inexplicable reason, my action in reviewing a book that has been in print for four years—an action taken in defense of the great doctrine of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ as our sole hope and ground of peace—is being considered a personal attack upon Dr. Seifrid by some in academic circles. When we first heard this, we were left dumbfounded, for many, many reasons. First, we were told this on the basis of just the first few articles (those in July), which were relatively short, indicated they were just the beginning of the review, and were, we believe, to any unbiased reader, exceptionally fair and far removed from anything that could be called an “attack.” There was nothing personal in them whatsoever. And so at first I was very hesitant to even believe what we were being told, but as the streams of information have multiplied and come to us from numerous independent sources, we have had to conclude that there is some kind of substance to the issue.
Update 12/30/2014: This review eventually became a major series of posts. For those interested in reading the entire series in order I post the links below. RP
Dr. Seifrid on Imputation July 9, 2004
More in Response to Southern Seminary Professor’s Denial of Imputed Righteousness July 9, 2004
Continuing Review of Mark Seifrid’s Views on the Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness July 11, 2004
An Interesting Expansion in the LBCF, 1689 July 27, 2004
The Abstract of Principles on Justification July 30, 2004
The Imputation Controversy August 25, 2004
Imputation Controversy #2 August 26, 2004
Why I Care About “Christ, our Righteousness” August 28, 2004
Imputation Controversy #3 August 30, 2004
Southern Seminary and Dr. Mark Seifrid September 4, 2004
A Response to Southern Seminary and Dr. Mark Seifrid September 4, 2004
Listen to Today’s DL for a Full Discussion of the SBTS/Seifrid/Imputation Issue September 7, 2004
From the 1994 WTJ September 7, 2004
A Word of Rebuke to the Firebrands September 8, 2004
And Verily It Got Nuttier September 11, 2004
Yes, I Have a Copy, Thank You September 13, 2004
An Open Letter to Dr. Mark Seifrid (Part 1) September 14, 2004
Seifrid Response, Part II September 15, 2004
Seifrid Response, Part III September 18, 2004
Open Letter to Mark Seifrid, Part IV September 21, 2004
Open Letter to Mark Seifrid, Part V October 2, 2004
If I Misrepresented Dr. Seifrid, then…. December 3, 2004