Note from Tim: Under Pastor David Wegener's prior post concerning Rev. Dr. Alister McGrath, Bill R. asked Pastor Wegener for an evaluation of McGrath's $80 volume titled, Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification. Did I mention this work lists for $80?
Rather than bury Pastor Wegener's response in the comments under his post, it seemed good to put it here on the main page with the hope that many more will read it than otherwise might.
Dear Bill R.: Sorry for the delay in responding to your question about McGrath’s book on justification. I have a copy of Iustitia Dei and have studied parts of it. It is one of the few treatments of the history of the doctrine of justification, so maybe that is why people regard it as seminal.
It is a pretty accurate truism of historical theology that justification by faith alone was one doctrine the Reformers recovered from the Scriptures. Yes, you can find comments in a number of earlier authors that would line up with Protestant doctrine, but by and large, it was a key truth that the patristic (including Augustine) and medieval theologians got wrong.
However, I’m not convinced that McGrath is correct on the Reformed teaching on this topic. He tries to pry apart the unity of the Reformers on justification (p. 188). It is easy to do that with Zwingli and Bucer. Neither were so reliable as theologians. But it is more difficult to do that with Calvin and Luther and the evidence McGrath presents can be used against his attempts to pry them apart.
McGrath’s conclusion to the book is much more troubling...