Imputation: The Sinner’s Only Hope

The Founders Journal Winter 2005
The Founders Journal Winter 2005 issue can now be accessed online. I first started reading the Founders Journal a couple of years ago when I discovered all the back issues available on their web site. The 15 years of reading material provides a wealth of information and insight into reformed Southern Baptist thought.

This issue contains three main articles. Tom Ascol’s cover article highlights “Imputation: The Sinner’s Only Hope.” Amidst the controversy surrounding the New Perspective on Paul and other trends that weaken the reformed view of justification and imputation, Ascol gives no ground. He even takes to task Southern Seminary professor Mark Seifrid as an example of “Christian teachers that are dismissive of imputation or, worse yet, reject it all together.” (Ascol points to James White’s critique of Mark Seifrid for more details on this debate.) “If justification is the heart of the gospel,” insists Ascol, “then imputation is the heart of justification.” This understanding, therefore, makes imputation the “heart of the heart of the gospel.”

The second article, “Recapturing the Complementarity of Law and Gospel,” appears as a chapter from Dr. Tom Nettles forthcoming Broadman Press book, Ready for Reformation? Bringing Authentic Reform to Southern Baptist Churches, to be released in late 2005. The book sounds like an outgrowth of a previous article he published in the Journal a few years ago with the same name, “Ready for Reformation?

The third article, by Peter Yoder tackles “The Moral Silence of Divorce.” Yoder argues that the plague of Christian divorce has left modern churches with spiritual laryngitis, unable to speak to the epidemic of moral ills. For example, he asks how divorced parents can expect to offer healthy relationship council to their children. He observes, “Do as I say, not as I do,” caries no weight in a postmodern culture. Looking for a solution he concludes,

“Are we to once again climb upon our calloused soapboxes and scream out anti-divorce rhetoric? It is too late for that now. We are living in a society in which a large number of the children are growing up with step fathers, step mothers, or single parents.

“If we desire a recovery of individuals, families, churches and a once prosperous culture, where life, marriage and purity are cherished, we must be faithful to preach the gospel, encouraging faith in Christ and repentance of sin in our churches, in our families and in the lives of divorcees. In the midst of our responsibility to live as salt and light, morally challenging our culture, we must be honest with ourselves. We must be honest with others. We are a church that walks with a limp and cannot strut without looking absurd. Once our culture sees the church openly engaging its sin, denouncing its own self-righteousness and fleeing to Christ as its only hope, we may once again see the church address the dire needs of culture with a stronger and clearer voice.”


James White has a knack for picking fights with big names based on a selective and superficial reading of their words. It’s sad to see Ascol misunderstanding Seifrid as well.

Thanks Mark, for that clarification. I agree.

I figured it was either that or Ascol’s thing about Mark Seifrid. I’m thinking Ryan DeBarr might be right, but I didn’t want to comment on that yet until I read a little more of what Seifrid has to say. I will probably post about that later.

I have not studied the issue in depth. I have read just enough that I get what Sefried meant. He’s not denying imputation- he’s just saying that the current conception of it is incomplete, or in his words “deficient.” Really, you don’t have to go beyond White’s own blog to see what Seifrid means- he said it quite clearly.

I think misunderstandings come from being attached to “code words” rather than concepts. Seifrid might have busted on the term “imputation” but he didn’t deny the concept.

I was really surprised to see Ascol fail to understand what was said.