19 July 2002

Peter Leithart has an intriguing new essay on the biblical doctrine of justification over on the Theologia website entitled, "'Judge Me, O God': Biblical Perspectives on Justification."

In an e-mail, however, someone asked me whether the article was compromising the Protestant doctrine that justification is "synthetic" rather than "analytic." I think the right answer, in terms of that particular question, is "no." Still, I'm curious how the distinction between analytic and synthetic--with its roots in Hume, its fuller expression in Kant, and its importance in logical positivism--came to be used in the exposition of Protestant dogmatics. Does anyone have any insight on that?

I also think its only fair to point that the whole philosophical distinction between analytic and synthetic has been under fire for more than a century, first in Hegel, but also in Wittgenstein and Quine (see particularly Quine's essay, "Two Dogmas of Empiricism"). Despite my fondness for all things philosophical, I'm not sure we should hang our doctrine of justification on a distinction that is under suspicion and considered by many to be somewhat dubious. I also wonder, given that dispute in philosophy, what implications it might have for how we formulate doctrine? Do the reasons that strike against the distinction shed any light on how we should best think about justification?

Food for thought.