J. V. Fesko, Academic Dean, Professor of Systematic Theology and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California, and Matthew Barrett, Tutor of Systematic Theology and Church History at Oak Hill Theological College in London, are the editors of a new series with Mentor (the academic arm of Christian Focus): Reformed, Exegetical and Dogmatic Studies. REDS presents new studies informed by rigorous exegetical attention to the biblical text, engagement with the history of doctrine, with a goal of refined dogmatic formulation. REDS covers a spectrum of doctrinal topics, addresses contemporary challenges in theological studies, and is driven by the Word of God, seeking to draw theological conclusions based upon the authority and teaching of Scripture itself. Each volume also explores pastoral implications so that they contribute to the church’s theological and practical understanding of God’s word. One of the virtues that sets REDS apart is its ability to apply dogmatics to the Christian life. In doing so, these volumes are characterized by the rare combination of theological weightiness and warm, pastoral application, much in the tradition of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. These volumes do not merely repeat material accessible in other books but retrieve and remind the church of forgotten truths to enrich contemporary discussion.
The first book in the series is Death in Adam, Life in Christ: The Doctrine of Imputation, by J. V. Fesko, and has just released.
About the book:
The doctrine of imputation is the ground in which salvation is rooted. It is often seen as superfluous or splitting hairs, and yet, without it, redemption automatically becomes reliant on our own works and assurance of salvation is suddenly not so sure. J. V. Fesko works through this doctrine looking at its long history in the church, its exegetical foundation, and its dogmatic formulation. In exploring imputed guilt from the First Adam alongside the imputed righteousness from the Second, this volume offers a helpfully well-rounded explanation of the doctrine.
Over at Books at a Glance, Fred Zaspel has interviewed J.V. Fesko to discuss the doctrine of imputation. Members can listen to the audio or anyone can read the transcript. Here is the start of the interview:
“Imputation” may not be a word we use every day, but use the word or not, it’s an essential concept in understanding how we are saved.
Hi, I’m Fred Zaspel, executive editor here at Books At a Glance, and we’re talking today with Dr. John Fesko, author of Death in Adam, Life in Christ: The Doctrine of Imputation – it’s a new book certain to take an important place in the discussion of the doctrine.
Dr. Fesko, congratulations on your new book, and thanks for talking to us today.
Thanks for having me; it’s a pleasure to be here with you today.
Just briefly – because we’ll flesh it out as we go along here – just what is the doctrine of imputation?
That’s an important question. The doctrine of imputation is the teaching in general that when we look at the doctrine of justification, where God declares us righteous in his sight on the basis of Christ’s perfect obedience to the law and his suffering that he accredits or accounts or reckons to the believer, the person who believes in Jesus, Christ’s righteousness and suffering. In very general terms, to impute something is to assign it to somebody or to accredit it. So if we were to talk in accounting terms, we could say that I’m going to impute a $10 credit to your account. But it’s this law-keeping metaphor or this law-keeping term that the Scriptures use at a number of points to talk about how we receive Christ’s righteousness or his obedience in the doctrine of justification. I can think, most famously, in Romans 4:22, in the KJV, where Paul says of Abraham, “and therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness.”
Actually you point to three imputations in your book, right? Can you sketch them out for us?
Sure. When I talk about a threefold imputation, the first is the imputed guilt of Adam’s first sin; and that gets imputed to all human beings. You see that, for example, in Romans chapter 5, where Paul talks about the disobedience of one the man constituting many to be sinners. That’s the first imputation. The second imputation is when God imputes the sin of the believer to Jesus Christ, so that he bears the sin and therefore, not only does he bear the sin, he also bears the penalty for that sin. You see that, for example, in Isaiah chapter 53 when the prophet talks about the Messiah bearing the iniquity of us all. Or, for example, in 2 Corinthians chapter 5:20 – 21 where Paul says, “he who knew no sin became sin for us.” That’s the second imputation. The third imputation is when God imputes or credits to us Christ’s righteousness – his perfect law keeping to the believer. So that when looks to the believer, he does not see the believer’s sin, but rather, instead, sees the perfect law keeping, the perfect righteousness, the perfect obedience of Jesus. And to finish off that thought, in 2 Corinthians 5:20, when Paul says, “he who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God.” Or in Isaiah 53, where he would make many to be accounted as righteous. Or in Romans 5 where it talks about the obedience of the one man as the grounds for constituting many to be righteous. So, those are the three imputations – Adams guilt to us, our sin to Christ, and Christ’s righteousness to us.
Just to clarify, is it just Adam’s sinfulness that is imputed to humanity? Or is it guilt also? Or is there more to the discussion?
In one sense, it certainly is a complex discussion; but the basic idea is that God imputes to us Adam’s guilt, which therefore results in our sinfulness. We could summarize the idea in saying that we are sinners because we are guilty. There was another view in the church that said, “no, we are guilty because we are sinners,” but that view was in large part rejected, certainly within the reformed tradition. But we want to recognize that it’s Adams guilt that is imputed or credited to us; and that’s what I think lies behind Paul’s statement in Romans 5, when he says, “by the disobedience of the one, many were constituted.” It’s a legal term, kathistemi, they are appointed, they’re constituted sinners. There’s no discussion of transmission of sinfulness, but rather the imputation of a status of guilt. …
Read and listen to the rest today at Books at a Glance.