Rick Phillips’ Stand
I am very grateful for Rick Phillips’ continual stand against a confusing and troubling view of the final judgment. He has been doing so for several years. See here and here, which was also delivered at the 2009 Alliance for Confessing Evangelicals Conference. Around the same time (maybe part of the same series) he had an article regarding the Westminster Confession as well, but I remember that article being very quickly pulled following some heated exchange with others, including Mark Jones (sorry, can’t find the discussion – it may have been on Jones’ old blog that was removed years ago).
Just recently Phillips posted another helpful stand for clarity on this issue: Concerns about the “Efficacy” of Works in which he warns Mark Jones to take a firmer stand against neonomianism.
Jones argued that our good works play a role greater than “mere evidence” at the final judgment: “God will not grant eternal life unless there are good works; indeed, these works have a sort of ‘efficacy.'”
I am rather raising concern about the need to be clear in avoiding this kind of implication [of teaching that works are an instrumental condition of the Christian's justification].
If our works play more than an evidentiary role in our salvation and inheritance of eternal life, then what is that role? Stephen Cunha notes in his critique of Richard Gaffin:
Unless there is a new category of description that this writer is not aware of to characterize the relationship between works and justification, we are limited to the categories of ground, instrument, and evidence. If works produced through faith are in the smallest degree beyond purely evidential of justification, it follows that they must be, to some degree, either the ground or instrument of justification.
The Emperor Has No Clothes (on sale right now for $3.98)
But Jones says he’s not talking about justification, he’s talking about salvation. To which Phillips rightly responds:
to see these works as efficacious with any sense of instrumentality requires us to have two doctrines of justification, one present and one future, in such a way that justification through faith alone is simply not conclusive. But this is contrary to Paul’s constant emphasis: “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). That “now” is not provisional, but conclusive and final.
Robert Reymond agrees:
“Justification possesses an eschatological dimension, for it amounts to the divine verdict of the Eschaton being brought forward into the present time and rendered here and now concerning the believing sinner.”
A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, p743
Again, I’m thankful for Phillips’ clear stand against both Tchividjian’s confusion and Jones’.