“That’s just the funny thing about it, sir,” said Peter. “Up till now, I’d have said Lucy every time.” (Lewis: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)
In the last decade, a tragic conversation has taken place between people in the evangelical world over the meaning of the word “justification.” Part of the reason that the conversation has been tragic is because of the quick assumption by so many that grown pastors lie through their teeth when carefully and consistently reiterating their own theology. But it has also been tragic because the accusation has never been about the meaning of the word “justification” in the BIBLE. Rather, it has basically assumed that the biblical definition is the same as the definition in the Westminster Standards, and that if you talk about distinctions in the Bible, you must be denying the content of the Standards.
Now before I say too much more, I want to state on the record that I believe we enter into salvation by faith alone (not works) in Christ alone. It is all of grace.
I also want to point out that what has happened in the great debates on justification is in large part due to confusing the definition of two real things, a trap that means an attempt at fixing either definition sounds like the denial of the other. How does this work?
Imagine that there are people living in India. They are called Indians. And imagine you are traveling westward from Europe, instead of south and around Africa to get to the land of the Indians. You believe that the earth is round and small, and that you will get there quickly. When you do get to these Indies, lands of the Indians, lo and behold: you find Indians!