Schreiner Still Running to Win the Prize
Run to Win the Prize, 2010, Crossway, Thomas R. Schreiner
This little book is from lectures given at Oak Hill College in London. It’s a summary of the thinking found in the book Schreiner wrote with Caneday,The Race Set Before Us (2001, IVP). Schreiner again engages in some special pleading for a “paradox” (p73) in which works are necessary but also for not focusing on these works but on Christ.
How it’s possible to rationally live in that paradox is not so clear. Words like “premeditation” and “intention” play a big part in the double talk.
I would NOT say that Schreiner’s thesis comes from the “new perspective” or the “federal vision” There’s no need to go to NT Wright or James Jordan to make his case. Schreiner quotes Jonathan Edwards against John Calvin to argue that works of faith are necessary for justification.
The book Free Justification by Steve Fernandez has mostly been ignored (not heard of) by the Reformed mainstream because it dares to criticize Caneday and Schreiner.
I share the amazement of Don Garlington (who wrote a book on perseverance from the new perspective and got fired for it) that Schreiner seems to be getting a free pass on this. Whether you think Schreiner is right or wrong, it’s difficult to see the big difference between what Schreiner is writing and what Norman Shepherd and Garlington wrote.
Schreiner sees justification as being in two parts of one “whole”: the already and not yet, both the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and also our running to win the prize. All true Christians have transformed hearts, he argues, and thus they also persevere because that is what their new nature does. And “union” with Christ means that we can now focus also on what the Christian does.
Schreiner explains that the biblical warnings ensure that believers will keep running. If they don’t,they will then know that they were not really believers.
Schreiner is denying Calvin’s distinction between law and gospel. Now of course, if you are a Westminster revisionist, you don’t think Calvin has that distinction. But at any rate, Schreiner thinks he is reading the warning texts differently than he thinks Calvin did.
Schreiner does disagree with the federal vision distinction between covenant and election, even though that’s a very old distinction in many Reformed paradigms. But on the question of perseverance as condition (not as evidence alone), Schreiner is on the same page as Garlington.
I read I John 3 in the context of Cain and Abel: two states. I do not buy the “habitual” tenor reading: if we habitually are denying that we are habitual sinners, then we are habitually liars. You see, it’s simple, it’s the verbs! (I think Carson’s commentary on I John 3 will read the text as “ideal” of what should be.)
Habitual failure to do good works is not only evidence of the fact that the justified are sinners. Habitual failure to do good works is also habitual sin. How much is enough?
I think Schreiner’s practical answer is to notice that you are doing as well as the people around you, but stay careful to say that this is mere “byproduct” and that, at the end of the day, the most important place you want to sit is on what Christ’s blood got done.
But You Still Got to Get Running Harder. Than You Are Now.