Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Infinite Merit of Christ: The Glory of Christ's Obedience in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards

Though Jonathan Edwards's works on justification contains some unclear (at least to me!) statements on the role of "evangelical obedience" in justification, I've found that his writings on the imputation of Christ's obedience to be profoundly insightful and helpful--surprisingly relevant to many of today's objections. I'm tempted to say that if more evangelical objectors to imputation were to read Edwards, they would see that they have failed to deal with the best articulations of this view and would see that it is indeed a biblical teaching.

So I was very glad recently to receive a copy of Craig Biehl's WTS dissertation-turned-book, published by Reformed Academic Press: The Infinite Merit of Christ: The Glory of Christ's Obedience in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards.

The table of contents reproduces Edwards's argument:
  1. God's ultimate purpose is to display and communicate his glory through Christ's perfect obedience to God's rule of righteousness.
  2. Christ accomplishes God's ultimate purpose according to the terms of the pre-temporal covenant of redemption.
  3. Adam's sin makes Christ's perfect obedience the only basis of salvation.
  4. Christ infinitely satisfies God's unalterable rule of righteousness on behalf of the elect.
Here are the endorsements:
"Among its other strengths this book is helpful in questioning the view that Edwards has compromised the Reformation doctrine of justification with legalistic accents and by basing it in part on the change that takes place within the believer. Biehl's love is as evident as Edwards' for the subject matter he considers in Edwards. A welcome read for anyone wanting to grow in understanding and appreciation of this remarkable thinker."
--Richard Gaffin, Westminster Theological Seminary

"Craig Biehl provides a thorough, detailed, and well written treatment of Edwards' view of divine merit. He places Edwards convincingly within the theocentric metaphysical tradition, emphasizing his trinitarianism and christocentrism, as well as his biblically based exclusivism, weighing in on the current interpretive struggle against those who wish to portray Edwards as inclusivistic, philosophical, and proto-transcendental. His reading of the role of Christ in Edwards's thought as the typological, experiential, and salvific hinge on which telos depends presents an important counterbalance."
-- Ken Minkema, Yale University

"Craig Biehl shows persuasively that Jonathan Edwards was thoroughly Reformed in his understanding of covenant theology and of the imputation of Christ's perfect obedience. The Infinite Merit of Christ particularly highlights Edwards' emphasis that the infinite guilt of Adam and mankind's sin demands an infinite remedy through the obedience of the God-man Savior who alone can meet the demands of God's infinitely perfect righteousness. While setting the record straight on Edwards' theology through leaning heavily on his own writings (800 quotes from Edwards!), Biehl's work is also a tour de force for the confirmation of Reformed orthodoxy in the midst of ongoing debates about justification today."
— Joel R. Beeke, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary

"Craig Biehl's work offers just what is needed today--a comprehensive treatment of Edwards' understanding of Christ and His saving work of redemption. Few of the leading Edwards scholars know Reformed theology well, or understand the significance of Edwards' soteriology."
Doug Sweeney, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Biehl's careful hand skillfully guides us through these writings, even leading us to offer words of praise for what Christ has done for us--a rare and admirable feat for a piece of scholarship."
Stephen J. Nichols, Lancaster Bible College