I’m currently reading The Divine Conspiracy. I’m not too familiar with Willard. I had read the chapter on Sin Management before, but this caught my eye this time through:
On a recent radio program a prominent minister spent fifteen minutes enforcing the point that ‘justification,’ the forgiveness of sins, involves no change at all in the heart or personality of the one forgiven. It is, he insisted, something entirely external to you, located wholly in God himself. His intent was to emphasize the familiar Protestant point that salvation is by God’s grace only and is totally independent of what we may do. But what in fact he said was that being a Christian has nothing to do with the kind of person you are. The implications of this teaching are stunning.
Okay… First, the minister misunderstands the doctrine of justification. But Willard seems to misunderstand justification, and what the minister said.
He claims the minister said being a Christian has nothing to do with what kind of person you are. False! Becoming a Christian has nothing to do with that. Justification is about becoming a Christian.
The internal changes occur through regeneration and sanctification. It sounds to me like Willard conflates them into one (much like Catholicism does). Justification is only part of salvation (which includes regeneration and sanctification. Or am I missing something?)
I appreciate his call to recognize the present day and daily life relevance of Jesus. I appreciate his call to living out you faith daily. I appreciate his emphasis on the fact that we have been regenerated and the Spirit works in us to produce obedience (Eph. 2:10; Philippians 2:13; Titus 2:12). But in many places he equates salvation with justification, as though they were synonymous. He does not distinguish the aspects of salvation (regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification). He laments that the contemporary evangelical scene is woefully ignorant of the fullness of the Gospel (it is). But he seems woefully ignorant of how the Reformers, and their descendants, saw the richness of salvation, expressing it in such creeds as the Westminster Confession.
As I read this book, he comes off sounding like a New Perspective on Paul. Again, am I missing something? Let’s discuss (no hyperbole or strawmen please).