Skip to main content

Book Review: Christian Theologies of Salvation

Christian Theologies of Salvation: A Comparative Introduction, edited by Justin Holcomb, is comprised of a collection covering the theories of salvation of significant theologians in church history. As stated by Holcomb in the introduction, the role of soteriology is to show how and why Jesus was and continues to be significant. Throughout Christian history there have been a variety of viewpoints and debates. This book will provide one with insight into those debates. Chapters fall into two categories. The book is arranged (mostly) chronologically, and as you reach each era of Christian history a brief treatment of that era is presented. Then you get a series of essays on major figures of that time period. Each of these essays contain some basic historical background on the subject to provide context for the summary of various key themes in their views regarding salvation. The individual essays are descriptive and contain very little evaluation of the viewpoints of the subject (with the exception of the chapter on Rahner and Balthasar). All of the heavy hitters are covered including, but not limited to, Irenaeus, Origen, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Wesley, Barth, and Gutierrez. In the remainder of this review I will provide an overview of one of the essays to give you a better sense of what to expect from the book.

R. Jared Staudt is the author of the chapter on Aquinas. He begins his essay with a brief overview of Aquinas' life before moving into a discussion of his soteriology. Staudt begins by stating that for Aquinas, "Salvation has a twofold aspect: the internal liberation from sin by which the soul is renewed and justified (that is, made just by grace), and the cause of that justification which is participation in the justice of Christ's own soul, effected by his work of salvation" (p. 144). Then he moves into specifics. Justification means causing justice, both in the interior state of the soul and in ones actions (p. 145). Another way to put it is a moving of man from a state of sin and bringing rectitude. Injustice is removed as the power of sin is broken (p. 147). This process culminates in deification, our union into the very life of God (p. 147). This deification effects worthiness, or enables us to merit eternal life (p. 149). The source of all of this is, of course, Christ. His mediation via his divine and human nature enables our justification and deification (p. 150). This mediation has five components, satisfaction, merit, atonement, sacrifice, and redemption and is necessitated by our bondage to sin (p. 152). In a nutshell, salvation for Aquinas is a necessarily cooperative effort between God and humanity (p. 153). Without grace, we cannot be saved, but we must cooperate and the new life of justice we live is our own (while again still being dependent upon grace).

Staudt's chapter is typical for what one can expect in this book. Chapters are well organized and highly synthetic, written by scholars who know the whole range of each theologian's writings well. They also are very even in quality with only one which I thought was a bit substandard. Overall, I think this is an excellent book and would be a great textbook in a college or seminary classroom for a class on salvation or in historical theology. I'd highly recommend picking it up.


Popular posts from this blog

Paul's Argument in Galatians 3:15-29

15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. 19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. 21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! Fo…

Commentary Series Overview

When I write commentary reviews, one of my main goals is to assess how well the commentator hit the intended audience of the commentary and utilized the format of the commentary. This often necessitates cluttering up the post discussing issues of format. To eliminate that, I thought that I would make some general remarks about the format and audience of each of the series that appear in my reviews. Terms like liberal, conservative, etc. are not used pejoratively but simply as descriptors. Many of you are familiar with Jeremy Pierce's commentary series overview. If you don't see a particular series covered here, check out his post to see if it's reviewed there. I am making no attempt at covering every series, just the series that I use. Additionally, new series (such as the NCCS) have been started in the five years since he wrote his very helpful guide, so I thought that it might not be completely out of order to have another person tackle commentary series overviews. This…

Commentary Review: Daniel

In my opinion, Daniel is not the best covered Old Testament book as far as commentaries go. This isn't an uncommon phenomenon among Old Testament books. Though I've looked at them, I'm not going to review some of the older Evangelical Daniel commentaries (like e.g., Baldwin). They don't provide much that you can't get in either Longman or Lucas. If you're unfamiliar with the series that one or more of these commentaries are in check out my commentary series overview.

It was a very close call but my favorite commentary on Daniel is Goldingay's. While there were a few places where I disagreed with his interpretation, I found the commentary to be exemplary. If you're going to teach Daniel, especially the apocalyptic portions, you need a commentary that provides you with a lot of background material. Goldingay, while not as broad as Collins, certainly provides you with quite a bit. His exploration of the background to the apocalyptic symbolism is very helpfu…