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Which is more scandalous? The multitudes of Christians who think they need to earn their salvation by being good? Or the throng of Christians who think that holy living doesn't matter so long as they have prayed the sinner's prayer? Pastors' answers will largely indicate how they feel about the justification debate, even if they haven't fully read the newest books from two of the debate's main players: John Piper's The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright and N. T. Wright's Justification: God's Plan and Paul's Vision.

"Justification is central to what I do," said Ryan Fullerton, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Louisville. "Justification is part of the air we breathe as a ministerial staff." Fullerton says the debate has strengthened his commitment to the traditional Reformed understanding, not only because of his reading of the biblical text but also because of his congregants' struggles.

"I believe that ultimately, the central problem on every human mind is guilt, and this problem is only remedied through justification by faith alone," he said. "I once sat down with our counseling pastor to discuss a number of diverse counseling situations. We found that the root problem in each was a misunderstanding or failure to apply this doctrine. I am trying to help guilty sinners know how they can have a right standing with God."

Unfortunately, "front-loading 100 percent assurance of heaven when you die based on an assent to Reformation doctrine hasn't created a vibrant, revolutionary Christian community," said John Frye, pastor of Fellowship Evangelical Covenant Church in Hudsonville, Michigan. "As a pastor, I believe Wright's perspective puts teeth in the New Testament exhortations to stay true to an authentic following ...

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Not an Academic Question
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June 2009

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