Thanks to WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. I was given a review copy of Frank Macchia’s “Justified in the Spirit: Creation, Redemption, and the Triune God.” This book is the second volume of the groundbreaking Pentecostal Manifestos series, which is edited by James K.A. Smith and Amos Yong.
Although I haven’t worked entirely through this book, I have worked through quite a bit of it. Macchia writes in a dense, yet relatively accessible fashion. The book is broken up into three parts. Part one: “Reaching for the Spirit: Contrasting Models of Justification.” Part two: “Justification for Us: The Basis of Justification.” Part three: Justification Among Us: :The Eschatalogical Fulfillment of Justification.”
Review of Part One:
In part one he frames the issue of justification and the Spirit. He argues that the Spirit in theology has been given the role of producing faith and convicting of sin or given the subjective role of producing works and that’s basically all. He contends that we have an underdeveloped penumatology. Macchia writes “Both Catholic and Protestant traditions have been ambivalent about the role of the Spirit in justification” and have kept the Holy Spirit “at arm’s length from the substance of justification.”
From there he frames the issue in light of Catholicism and then Protestantism. Macchia explains that in the Catholic view of Justification the Holy Spirit has been given the subjective role of anthropocentric moral improvement. The view of the impartation of Christ’s righteousness has traditionally been focused on ourselves and our subjective moral achievement rather than on God. Macchia doesn’t throw this all away. To an extent our theology of justification (since we are also being justified) needs to be anthropocentric and experiential.
Where he comes in and critiques Protestantism, he mainly picks on the overemphasis regarding the forensic and legal righteousness of Christ. For Protestants, Christ’s righteousness in which we are justified is an external reality, so where does the power of the Spirit come in to play?
If we take the Pastoral Epistles as useful for developing our theology there is an important text: 1 Timothy 3:16 “Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is great: He was revealed in the flesh, justified by the Spirit.” Macchia writes “Justification…is rather the pardon and liberation experienced in the embrace of the Spirit, which leads to empowered witness, healing, and divine vindication through signs and wonders and, ultimately, resurrection…There is implicit potential here for a theology of justification that involves both the justice of divine communion (mutual indwelling) and the witness of the Spirit to the victory of God’s faithfulness in the world to embrace all flesh. Justification can [be] regenerative without being anthropocentric.” He also says “ This emphasis, for all of its ambiguity as it is developed among Pentecostal writers historically and globally, implies that the justified relationship is not primarily legal or moral but rather involves mutual indwelling and embrace, which is its ecumenical significance.” For Macchia, the same one who declares us righteous is the one who embraces us in the Triune life.
What are your thoughts on Justification in relationship with Pentecostal theology? Do you think we (Pentecostals) should just accept the protestant view of justification with an added charismatic experience? Or do you think there’s substance to what Macchia is proposing?