Review of Gospel Truth of Justification by David J. Engelsma

Gospel Truth of Justification, Proclaimed Defended Developed, by David J. Engelsma, Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2017, 510 pp.
My greatest interest in Christianity has long been soteriology, the study of salvation. It was a study of salvation years ago that convinced me of the truth of the Reformed Faith over and above the views of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod in which I was raised. In recent times I’ve been studying those sometimes overlooked soteriological doctrines of sanctification and glorification. But it is always beneficial to get back to studying that centrally important topic of justification.
David Engelma’s Gospel Truth of Justification is a learned defense of the Reformed view of justification by God’s grace alone through faith alone. But this is not your basic outline of the commonly discussed questions of justification. Gospel Truth of Justification wades into deeper waters, answering difficult questions, and driving even a studied reader to consider justification more thoroughly.
Throughout the book Engelsma argues for the Reformed, Confessional view over against the axis of Roman Catholicism, Arminianism, Federal Vision, the New Perspective on Paul, and Evangelicals and Catholics Together. It is seen that these groups each hold essentially the same error on justification. That is, in some way they each sneak works into the equation. Engelsma, who has written against Federal Vision previously (Federal Vision, Heresy at the Root, 2012) has chapters on each of these views well explaining their respective histories and problems.
While the majority of the book puts forward views that shouldn’t be controversial among Reformed and Presbyterian theologians (Federal Visionists aside, who have no honest place teaching in churches in which they disagree with the subscribed confession), there are a few chapters that get into challenging intramural discussions. Two of these are chapter 12 on “Assurance of Justification” where Engelsma holds assurance to be of the essence of faith (rather than a fruit of faith), and chapter 13 “Justified, When” where he supports a view of “eternal justification.” These chapters, and others (like his three chapters on merit and rewards) deserve engagement in their own right. I hope that many will take notice of them and write articles discussing them. But, because Engelsma is in small the Protestant Reformed Church of American (PRCA) which many hypo-Calvinists slander as hyper, and because even the Christian world is sadly disinterested in doctrine, I fear that this book will not get the readership and engagement it deserves.
While there might be some teachings in the book that I’m not fully comfortable with (either because of my previous ignorance of them or because of genuine disagreement) I strongly recommend this book. It will most certainly challenge even Reformed readers to more thoroughly work out their understanding of the doctrine of justification.

4 thoughts on “Review of Gospel Truth of Justification by David J. Engelsma”

  1. Doug, thank you for this excellent review. Your point about the hypo-Calvinist false misconstruction of the PRCA doctrines (that, IMHO, are the same doctrines expressed in the WCF to which I subscribe!) is well taken and spot on. Englesma’s work has been a great source of help to me and I heartily endorse your review.

  2. Eight chapters into it and am most impressed by the simple, straightforward, and well documented way the author is presenting his case against the Reformed Church’s capitulation to justification by works …

    1. But time out I may have hit a snag here:
      Means, Not Condition
      When the 2003 General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church exonerated Kinnaird and approved his teaching of justification grounded in part—the decisive part—in the sinner’s own good works, in defiance of its own creed, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church ceased being a Presbyterian church. A genuinely Presbyterian church is a confessional church. Indeed, by approving the heresy of justification grounded in the sinner’s own good works, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church rejected the fundamental gospel truth of justification by faith alone and thus manifested the dreadful mark of a false church.36
      Checking his take on the OPC action taken on Kinnaird for accuracy …

      1. Finished it, finally, after an extended vacation. My primary criticism is that after beginning well it becomes annoyingly repetitive halfway through and by the end I couldn’t wait to put it away and move on.

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