Matthew Thomas recently published a new article on the doctrine of justification for the St. Andrews Encyclopaedia of Theology. You can read it here. Thomas offers a well-rounded overview of all the important questions (and controversies) that have accompanied the doctrine through the years. I’m fascinated by the subject.
It’s interesting to reflect upon not just the historical disputes between Protestants and Roman Catholics regarding justification, but also to consider the variety of views that exist among even Protestants (e.g., Luther would not agree with most evangelical Baptists about their view of sola fide and its relationship to, say, baptism). In the end, I think it’s important to reflect upon how the church catholic can continue ecumenical dialogue and—in good faith working through a spirit of love—prayerfully explore avenues of common ground for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
At any rate, I highly recommend checking out the article. It’s super helpful. Here’s a fun snippet from the introduction:
“…readers discouraged by historic disagreements on the doctrine of justification may draw solace from C. S. Lewis’ observations regarding the related doctrine of the atonement. As Lewis writes: ‘A good many different theories have been held as to how it works; what all Christians are agreed on is that it does work’ (Lewis 1952: 42). To adapt and paraphrase Lewis, a precise understanding of how justification works is not a prerequisite for being justified, just as one can benefit from a meal without a precise theory of how digestion works. Indeed, even those historic interpreters most committed to a specific conception of justification have generally refrained from claiming that their understanding of justification – however essential for rightly understanding the gospel – is necessary for one to be justified (so rightly Heckel 2004).”