Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Series of Questions on Soteriology

I have a question that I would like to ask, what is the relationship between justification, salvation, and judgment? Are justification and salvation coterminous, do they occur at the same time, can one be justified and ultimately not saved, does justification affect judgment and if so how? On a related note, what are the grounds of judgment, on what basis (or bases) does (do) one survive the judgment and experience salvation?

I ask these questions because I truly think they're difficult to answer. How does judgment on the basis of works mesh with justification by faith? I think that if we can get clarity on the relationship between justification, salvation, and judgment then this latter question becomes easier to answer (I also ask them because I'm working on a paper on judgment for my biblical theology class).


  1. interesting questions. I think I remember N T Wright describing justification as being God's future verdict brought forward into the present (i.e. declaring now what he will declare over us on the final judgment).

    I also think that James' maxim "faith without works is dead" also helps make sense of the many passages that imply judgment according to works. The point is not that faith is not enough on its own and needs to be complemented with some works, but that faith is non-existent if it does not result in works.

    But a different way of looking at it is to tie the believer's judgment according to works as purely determining the level of "reward" and having no bearing whatsoever on the ultimate "salvation" question. I think there is some truth in this, but I'm not sure its the whole picture.

    Do let us know your conclusions.

  2. Hi Mark, Thanks for your response.

    NT Wright has confused me (granted I have not read 'Justification' yet - have you?). I definitely recall him saying that, but I also recall him saying that justification is on the basis of a total life lived. Maybe for him justification is a declaration now of what God knows will happen (i.e., that we will be saved)?

    I definitely agree with you on the James exegesis. The new 'troublemaker' for me is Romans 2, where there is no discussion of faith when discussing judgment. Perhaps thinking about the relationship between Romans 2 and James 2 would be helpful. How do you see Romans 2? Are those who do the law Christians? Is Paul speaking hypothetically? Do we take what he's saying at face value (i.e., we can be saved by works)?

    I actually hadn't thought at all about reward in relation to judgment, so that's something that's good to keep in mind as I go forward. I do agree though, it's definitely not the whole picture.

    My paper isn't due for a little more than a month, so after that I'll discuss my conclusions. Maybe I'll do a series on it. I'm glad that judgment was one of our topics to choose from because I am very interested in it.

  3. Hi Marcus,
    I haven't really thought more about Rom 2 since reading Schreiner's take on it. I also haven't read Wright's Justification book yet. I'm doing a talk on perseverance in a couple of weeks, and am trying to work out how that relates to final judgment.

  4. I'm curious to hear what you have to say on the relationship between perseverance and final judgment. I don't think I'll be able to get into that point much in my paper as I only have 10 pages to work with, but it is integrally related to the questions above.

  5. Often overlooked in the discussion of the relationship between salvation and justification is Romans 8:30. There, justification comes after (though it could perhaps be logically rather than temporally) "calling." Calling, in Paul (in my opinion), refers to that time of "salvation," as we normally term it. If that is how Paul is using it here, then it seems to me that justification can't be coterminous (nice word) with salvation, or at least not the entry point in salvation. I'd be happy to hear other points, however.

  6. Hmmm...that's an interesting thought. I'll have to spend some time exploring that as I hadn't thought about it before.

    Thanks Danny!

    On a side note, Romans 8:30 seems to militate against Gorman (and others) who conflate justification and sanctification into one reality.