The reformed tradition always reforming? : a historical-theological study of the doctrine of justification in the works of John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards and N.T. Wright

Huggins, Jonathan Ray (2012-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study examines the work of John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and N.T. Wright on the doctrine of Justification. As a comparative study in theology, this work aims to discover areas of continuity and discontinuity between these three theologians. Since all three are identified, or self-identity, with the Reformed theological tradition, it seeks to discern whether the Reformed tradition has been historically open to change, development and transformation in the articulation of doctrine. An underlying question in the study of Calvin, Edwards, and Wright on Justification is what it means to faithfully embody a theological tradition while standing critically within it. As this pertains to the Reformed tradition, the question is whether this robust theological tradition is in fact a “living tradition,” open to fresh insight and re-articulation from succeeding generations of scholars. In this sense, the study examines whether the Reformed tradition has been generally faithful to the principles of semper reformanda and sola scriptura. The work briefly traces the historical development of the doctrine of Justification through some of the major periods of church history. This is followed by chapters on Calvin, Edwards, and Wright, one chapter each, in order to examine their major works on the subject. This analysis takes note of how each one defines particular subjects related to Justification. These include the notions of “justification” itself, “faith,” “the righteousness of God,” “imputation,” and the place of obedience and good works in relation to justification. The sections on Calvin, Edwards, and Wright also include some discussion of scholarly response, reception, or evaluation of each one’s work. The final chapter discusses the idea of “tradition” as a dynamic, living, and on-going conversation about doctrine. This section also focuses on some of the main areas of agreement and disagreement in the views on Justification between Calvin, Edwards, and Wright. The overall aim is to take one of the principle theologians of the Protestant Reformation, and the Reformed tradition in particular – John Calvin – and to see how later theologians, in different historical contexts, develop, build upon, react to, or contribute to Calvin’s doctrine. Edwards represents 18th century Puritan-influenced American Colonialists and the Reformed theology of their day. N.T. Wright represents 20th and 21st century English Biblical scholarship. Wright approaches the subject of Justification as an Anglican New Testament specialist and historian. Since both Edwards and Wright are associated with the Reformed tradition and have found commentators and respondents within that tradition, they become important voices for discerning the direction this doctrine has taken since the time of the Reformation. Ultimately, one hopes that if a living theological tradition is discernible and demonstrable, this can contribute positively to the current debates on Justification within the Reformed churches, further encouraging the semper reformanda principle. Furthermore, one hopes that a living Reformed tradition will enable improved ecumenical relationships and lead to greater unity in the universal Church which has often been divided over the doctrine of Justification. Perhaps the work of Calvin, Edwards, and Wright can assist today’s Reformed theologians by pointing us in a constructive way forward.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie ondersoek die werk van Johannes Calvyn, Jonathan Edwards, en NT Wright ten opsigte van die leerstelling aangaande die regverdigmaking deur die geloof. As 'n vergelykende studie in die teologie, het hierdie studie ten doel om areas van kontinuïteit en diskontinuïteit tussen hierdie drie teoloë te vind. Aangesien al drie geïdentifiseer word, of self-identifiseer, met die Gereformeerde teologiese tradisie, poog die studie om te onderskei of die Gereformeerde tradisie histories oop was vir verandering, ontwikkeling en transformasie ten opsigte van die artikulasie van hierdie leerstelling. 'n Onderliggende vraag by die studie van Calvyn, Edwards, en Wright aangaande die leer van die regverdigmaking deur die geloof is die vraag wat dit beteken om 'n teologiese tradisie getrou te beliggaam en terselfdertyd krities binne die tradisie te staan. Aangesien hierdie studie verwys na die Gereformeerde tradisie, is die vraag of dié robuuste teologiese tradisie in werklikheid 'n "lewende tradisie" is wat oop is vir vars insigte en re-artikulasies deur opvolgende geslagte van navorsers. In hierdie opsig ondersoek die proefskrif of die Gereformeerde tradisie oor die algemeen getrou was aan die beginsels van semper reformanda en sola Scriptura. Die studie skets kortliks die historiese ontwikkeling van die leer van die regverdigmaking deur die geloof tydens enkele belangrike tydperke in die kerkgeskiedenis. Dan volg hoofstukke oor onderskeidelik Calvyn, Edwards, en Wright, waarin hulle belangrike werke oor die onderwerp ondersoek word. Hierdie analise neem kennis van hoe elkeen van hulle bepaalde onderwerpe definieer wat met die leerstelling oor die regverdiging deur die geloof verband hou. Dit sluit in die begrippe "regverdigmaking", "geloof", “God se geregtigheid", "toerekening", en die posisie van gehoorsaamheid en goeie werke in verhouding tot regverdigmaking. Die gedeeltes oor Calvyn, Edwards, en Wright sluit ook ‘n bespreking van die akademiese resepsie en evaluering van elkeen se werk in. Die laaste hoofstuk bespreek die idee van "tradisie" as 'n dinamiese, lewende, en deurlopende gesprek oor doktriene. Hierdie afdeling fokus ook op 'n paar van die belangrikste ooreenkomste en verskille in Calvyn, Edwards, en Wright se standpunte oor regverdigmaking. Die oorhoofse doel is om te kyk na die werk van een van die vooraanstaande teoloë van die Protestantse Hervorming, spesifiek in die Gereformeerde tradisie - Johannes Calvyn - en te ondersoek hoe latere teoloë, in verskillende historiese kontekste, sy artikulasie van die leerstelling oor regverdigmaking ontwikkel, daarop bou, daarop reageer, of daartoe bydra. Edwards verteenwoordig die 18de eeuse Puriteins-beïnvloede Amerikaanse kolonialiste en die Gereformeerde teologie van hul dag. N.T. Wright is gekies as verteenwoorder uit die 20ste en 21ste eeuse Engelstalige wetenskaplike wereld. Wright benader die onderwerp van regverdigmaking as 'n Anglikaanse Nuwe Testamentiese spesialis en historikus. Aangesien sowel Edwards as Wright verbonde is aan die Gereformeerde tradisie en gespreksgenote binne daardie tradisie gevind het, gee hulle ʼn belangrike aanduiding van die rigting waarin hierdie leerstelling sedert die Reformasie ontwikkel het. Ten slotte, ‘n fokus op 'n lewende teologiese tradisie kan 'n positiewe bydrae lewer tot die huidige debatte oor regverdigmaking in die Gereformeerde kerke, en die beginsel van semper reformanda verder aanmoedig. Die fokus op ʼn 'n lewende Gereformeerde tradisie kan beter ekumeniese verhoudings bevorder en tot groter eenheid in die universele (“katolieke”) kerk lei, wat dikwels oor die leer van die regverdigmaking deur die geloof verdeel is en verdeel word. Miskien kan die werk van Calvyn, Edwards, en Wright vir vandag se Gereformeerde teoloë ʼn konstruktiewe rigting vorentoe aandui.

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