[K:NWTS 9/3 (Dec 1994) 42-43]
Right With God: Justification in the Bible and the World is not a book to be readat least not all at once. It is a book to be referred to. A collection of monographs, each demanding the closest attention in itself, and for the most part written in spare academic prose (but not without the mandatory Hebrew and Greek word studies), Right With God is not for idling away the hours in front of a log fireunless, of course, such happens to be your log fire reading of choice.
Edited by D. A. Carson of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and published on behalf of the World Evangelical Fellowship, the book has, as the subtitle suggests, a universal scope, a scope reflected in both its contributors and the topics it covers. "The Biblical Doctrine of Justification by Faith" by Edmund Clowney, Emeritus at Westminster in Philadelphia, begins the discussion with a broad overview of justification by faith as found throughout Scripture. The discussion ends with "Justification by Faith: Its Relevance in Buddhist Context," by Masao Uenuma, Bible Seminary, Tokyo. In between are "Justification in Pauline Thought," "Justification in the Epistle of James" and "Justification in Roman Catholicism," as well as "Justification in Personal Christian Living" and others, submitted by scholars from Australia to Norway.
The point of the articles on justification and Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism is of course evangelistic and apologetic: how can similarities and dissimilarities between Christianity and other religions on this issue be used in missionary preaching? (In Hinduism, for instance, the Christian idea of justification by faith contrasts dramatically with belief in justification as duty; similarly, the Quran makes it clear that "justification by faith through grace in the death of Christ is an absolute contradiction;" and in Buddhism, except in one of its sects, which the essay here analyzes, "there is certainly nothing akin to Christian justification.")
The point of the rest of the articles, except perhaps those on justification in personal Christian living, justification and social justice, and justification in Roman Catholicism, is to argue that justification by faith is a biblical, as opposed to a merely New Testament or (especially) purely Pauline conception. The essays on justification in the Gospel of John (is justification even mentioned in John?) and the Epistle of James (doesn't James contradict Paul on this issue?), make the point emphatically. Likewise those on Matthew and Luke-Acts.
Related and of equal importance is of course the issue of Scripture's integrity. If justification by faith is found nowhere in Scripture but in Paul, or indeed is contradicted elsewhere in Scripture, where then is our doctrine and where the Bible's uniform witness? Right With God's witness is itself uniform: justification by faith belongs to the whole of Scripture. And because it offers us this conclusion from a variety of points of view, each interesting and important in its own right (though not all delivered with equal felicity), and because it lets us see this conclusion juxtaposed with the beliefs of other major religions, the book is worth having whether we read it snuggled up by the fire or not.
Richard A. Riesen