Friday, June 05, 2009

Carson: Reflections on Salvation and Justification, Evangelicals and Catholics

An outline of D.A. Carson's helpful paper, “Reflections on Salvation and Justification in the New Testament,” JETS 40 (1997): 582–608.

I. Introduction
1. This is not an attempt at a comprehensive and representative treatment of salvation and of justification in the NT. . . .

2. We live and think within a particular historical setting.

3. As there is considerable diversity of opinion among evangelicals, so is there considerable diversity of opinion among Catholics. . . .
II. Some Common Ground
1. We share the Bible’s story line.

2. With that shared worldview comes a shared vision, broadly speaking, of what the Bible holds up as salvation.
III. What Differences in Our Respective Understandings of Scripture Should Not Be About
1. We should not trip over disputes arising from the different intellectual domains of Biblical exegesis and systematic theology.

2. Certain widespread assumptions among evangelical (not least Reformed) preachers are gently challenged by most evangelical (not least Reformed) NT scholars.

3. I suspect that in this discussion we shall not trip over the recent proposals that stem from the seminal work of E. P. Sanders and that are de-veloped in various ways by James D. G. Dunn, N. T. Wright and others.

4. Finally, as helpful as slogans can be to summarize a theological stance, we must recognize that agreeing to a slogan is not necessarily the same thing as achieving substantive agreement.
IV. Some Biblical Strands Regarding Salvation
1. God

2. History and eschatology

3. Christology

4. Christ, the kingdom, and the cross

5. Justification
Some Broader Doctrinal Connections and Practical Reflections

Some helpful lines that stood out to me in this section:
  • "To formulate a shared statement on justication without recognizing that the two sides bring diametrically opposed sets of baggage to the table, with the baggage intact when we walk away from the table, is to construct a chimera."
  • "At the risk of oversimplication, Catholicism elevates ecclesiology over soteriology; evangelicalism does the reverse."
  • ". . . if [as R.J. Neuhaus claimed] the Catechism has taken those [Reformation] concerns into account, and yet come up with its formulations on justification (cited above in extenso), then the official teaching of the Church is that we are as far apart on this doctrine as Protestants and Catholics were at the time of Trent—notwithstanding the formal agreements that can be forged by handfuls of scholars from the two sides meeting in New York."
  • "Although it may be a depressing way to end a paper, I firmly believe that the integrity of dialogue will be much greater if we face the divergences with clear eyes."