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Michael Horton, Justification 2 vols. New Studies in Dogmatics
In his first volume Horton undertakes a historical survey of the doctrine from the church fathers through the Reformation. However, Horton is not merely surveying history; he is mounting an argument against the claim by Roman Catholic and Radical Orthodox theologians that the Reformation was suffused with nominalism and that this shift from realism to nominalism accounts for the rise of secularism. In general, I think Horton provides a sound refutation of this thesis while also effectively documenting patristic, medieval, and Reformation views of justification.
In this second volume Horton provides and exegetically-grounded defense and formulation of the Reformation doctrine of justification. He meets the challenges posed by the New Perspective on Paul, particularly the version advanced by N. T. Wright, the apocalyptic reading of Paul championed by J. Louis Martyn, and the radical reading of Douglas Campbell.
Often it seems as though exegesis, church history, and theology are held apart, with different theologians emphasizing one of these three disciplines in their approach to theologizing. Horton brings all three together masterfully. Volume 2 in particular is one of the best books I’ve read this year.
Ryan McGraw reviewed these volumes in the Westminster Theological Journal 81 (2019): 321-32, and a summary of his assessment may also be useful.
McGraw’s overall assessment of Horton’s work is positive. He notes that some problematic areas in Horton’s work—reliance on speech-act theory, openness to theosis, and citations of Barth are either “absent” or “subdued” in this work.
McGraw provides these critiques:
- Does not define nominalism clearly enough, equivocates on the term real, and ascribes to post-Reformation Roman Catholicism Biel’s views.
- Continues to be confusing in his statements about Union with Christ, sometimes making union the ground of justification and others making justification the ground of union. McGraw cannot completely make sense of the contradiction, but he notes there may be a confusion between redemption accomplished and applied.
- Makes anachronistic statements about historical figures and makes some overstated claims.
- Identifies the Sinai covenant as a law covenant in contrast with the gracious Abrahamic covenant. McGraw notes, “The only other place that this author has encountered this kind of reasoning historically is in classic Baptist covenant theologies, which sought to drive a similar wedge between the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants.”
I found McGraw’s overall positive and selectively critical review helpful. I too have been puzzled by Horton’s seemingly conflicting statements regarding union with Christ. However, when it comes to the covenants, I find Horton’s exegetical and theological arguments more compelling that McGraw’s objections. Further, as a Baptist, I find the fact that Horton’s view is found most prominently among early Baptists a recommendation of the view!
Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? – In combination I found that Gaffin and Saucy make a compelling case for cessationism. Sam Storms provides a thoughtful continuationist position, but I don’t think it holds up to the much deeper view of redemptive history presented by Gaffin (who is steeped in the theology of Geerhardus Vos) or to the cogent biblical observations of Robert Saucy.
Five Views on Law and Gospel – Douglas Moo’s article in this volume is worth the price of the book.
Four Views on Moving Beyond the Bible to Theology – Some helpful (and not do helpful) articles in this volume, but the one I keep coming back to is a response essay by Al Wolters. Careful and wise.
Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism – Worth the price of the book for Kevin Bauder’s cogent defense of separatism.
Three Views on the Rapture, 2nd edition – The essay by Craig Blaising in defense of a pre-Day of the Lord rapture is the best defense of that position that I’ve read. Though a progressive dispensationalist, Blaising’s argument is framed in such a way as to be acceptable to non-dispensationalists. He has jettisoned many of the weaker dispensational arguments. No one has reckoned with the pre-tribulation position unless he has reckoned with Blaising’s treatment. Moo’s defense of the post-tribulation position was the strongest of the essays in the first edition. However, due to the strength of the replacement essays, I’d judge it the weakest of the 2nd edition.
Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond – Blaising contributed an excellent defense of premillennialism. Strimple also provides a competent amillennial argument. Gentry’s entry on postmillennialism is sorely lacking in both cogency and historical accuracy.
Three Views on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament – Lunde provides a very helpful introductory essay. The essays by Kaiser and Bock are both well done.
Word Biblical Commentary
These volumes are all selling for $19.99. Here is my assessment of each volume that I think is worth having.
Genesis by Gordon Wenham (2 vols.) – One of the best literary treatments of the book, though concedes too much about the historicity of the opening chapters. Nevertheless, one of the most helpful commentaries on the book.
Leviticus by John E. Hartley – A helpful, detailed look at Leviticus. I have not worked through this volume in depth, but I’ve found it helpful each time I’ve used it.
Ruth, Esther by Fredercik W. Bush – I’ve also not used these in depth, but I’ve found both helpful in occasional use.
Ezra-Nehemiah by H. G. M. Williamson – Not as conservative as Andrew Steinmann’s outstanding commentary, but still very helpful when used with discernment. I’ve read through the entire Ezra portion.
Job by D. J. A. Clines (3 vols.) – I’ve heard good things about Clines’s detailed work, though I’ve not gotten to use this one yet. I have purchased it.
Song of Songs, Lamentations by Duane Garret and Paul House respectively is an excellent commentary. I’ve referenced House’s commentary on Lamentations with profit. I’ve read Garret on Song of Songs in its entirety, and it is excellent.
Hosea-Jonah by Douglas Stuart – Excellent treatment of these Minor Prophets. I find valuable insights every time I consult this volume. His chart at the beginning of the book categorizing the covenant curses and blessings found in the Pentateuch is valuable for study of all the prophets.
Matthew by Donald A. Hagner (2 vols.) – I’ve found this volume helpful when I’ve used it; but I’ve not purchased it personally, prioritizing other volumes over it.
Luke by John Nolland (3 vols.) – I’ve not purchased these volumes yet, but given how helpful I’ve found Nolland’s commentary on Matthew, I’m considering it.
Galatians by Richard Longenecker – I would not rank ahead of Moo (BECNT) or Schreiner (ZECNT), but still helpful when consulted.
Ephesians by Andrew T. Lincoln – Not the first Ephesians commentary I would buy (I would get Thielman [BECNT], Baugh [EEC], and Hoehner first). He unaccountably denies Pauline authorship. Nonetheless, he is attuned to the eschatological aspects of Ephesians, and useful on that point.
1 & 2 Thessalonians by F. F. Bruce – I confess that I’ve not purchased this volume. It is, however, by F. F. Bruce, and he is uniformly helpful.
Pastoral Epistles by William Mounce – Outstanding, conservative commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. I highly commend.
Hebrews by William Lane (2 vols.) – Helpful treatment especially of the Greek. On theology I’d value Hughes and O’Brien (PNTC) more.
2 Peter and Jude by Richard Bauckham – Despite his denial of Peter’s authorship (tied to his infeasible view of the 2 Peter’s genre), Bauckham’s exegetical treatment is helpful. I would, however, pair it with Schreiner’s (NAC) more conservative treatment
The IVP New Testament Commentary Series
This set is easily readable. Someone without seminary training would benefit from these volumes. Some of the authors of these volumes have written more comprehensive commentaries on the same books elsewhere (e.g., Keener on Matthew, Bock on Luke, Fee on Philippians, Towner on the Pastorals). As in any set some volumes will be better than others.
Black’s New Testament Commentary
The one must get volume from this series is Markus Bockmuehl on Philippians.
There are some weaknesses to this approach to commentary writing, so I’d use these alongside other commentaries. However, I’ve found Craig Keener on the Gospel of Matthew and Ben Witherington on Acts to be very helpful. I’ve also picked up a couple of the others, but these are the standouts, in my opinion.
Lectio Continua Expository Commentary
This as a sermon-oriented commentary series put out by Reformation Heritage Press. The only volume which I’ve looked into has been Beeke on Revelation (it’s written from an idealist perspective that I find untenable). However, I expect them overall to be warm, helpful commentaries. I would thing the 1 Corinthians volume would take a cessationist perspective.
The Works of Charles Hodge
I think that Hodge is valued less these days than he ought to be. I value what I read from Hodge every time I turn to him.
David Wells Collection
This is comprised by Wells’s famous series: No Place for Truth, God in the Wasteland, Losing Our Virtue, Above All Earthly Pow’rs, and The Courage to Be Protestant.
Gordon D. Fee New Testament Studies Collection
This includes several of Fee’s works, including his commentaries in the NICNT set. Price it out. It may be worth it for those commentaries, if you don’t have them. Fee has written the best commentary on Philippians, in my estimation. His commentary on 1 Corinthians is very helpful despite its continuationist approach.