I received this question from an email correspondent on my Fesko review:
> Hi Paul,
> Thanks for the review of the Fesko book.
> I have some questions about it, if
> you have time to answer.
> Does he go into much depth about belief in sola fide
> between the apostolic era and the Reformation?
Depends on what you mean by "in depth," he has about 13 pages on that era, starting from 100 AD. Given what you've studied on this issue, I'm inclined to say that it's not that "in depth" *for you*.
> How would you summarize his
> position on that issue?
On the early Church Fathers (100-600): He agrees with Berkof that the early church fathers are indefinite, incomplete, and sometimes self-contradictory and erroneous wrt their understanding of justification. But he notes that one can find a number of significant statements that show they had a basic understanding of justification by faith. He finds a clear affirmation of the centrality of faith. And he sees a major strand of justification where the meaning is forensic, non-imputation of sin, and imputation of righteousness. He also comments that to criticize them for not using Reformation language is problematic as a critique.
He then spends a few pages on Augustine and Pelagius, discusses that debate briefly, but notes that however helpful Augustine was dealing with Pelagianism, he had his own problems and jumbled justification and sanctification together, mainly due to his realism.
After 600: He then finds this problem, the mixing of justification and sanctification, in many of the statements on justification after Augustine due to nominalism and 5 other features. He discusses Aquinas and Scotus (finding early hints of a use covenantal categories in the later, though still problematic as to the *nature* of justification) specifically in the section after semi-Pelagianism and Later Augustinianism. He finds the beginnings of a more forensic and Reformational understanding in those like Bradwardine and Rimini. That takes him into the section on the Reformation.
> Does he cite many primary documents or scholarship in
> support of his conclusions about sola fide in that timeframe?
Yes he does. He obviously pulls from the usual secondary sources, as well as some lesser known ones, but he cites directly (or refers directly to) primary sources from: Chrysostom, Clkement, Gregory of Nazanzus, Justin, Tertullian, Pelagius, Augustine, Aquinas, Bradwardine and Rimini. He cites the Epistle of Barnabas and the Synod of Orange too.
> My impression is that most books on justification through faith alone
> ignore that issue or don't say enough about it. The chapter titles you
> listed seem promising, since they mention church history, Catholicism, and
> Orthodoxy. But I'm wondering what level of detail he goes into.
Since I think it's somewhat person relative how much "detail" one thinks one has gone into,. I hope the above has been somewhat helpful.
Since you didn't ask me about RCC and EO, I won't spend much time there, but he goes into much more detail in those chapters than he did from 100 - 1500 AD. His chapter on the RCC is over 40 pages I believe. Btw, I found him to be extremely charitable with all of his opponents. He was not given to rhetoric and polemics...well, maybe in one or two places he snuck in a jab, but that's not bad out of 400 pages!
> Just give me your general
> impressions, if you have time to do that.
As I am not nearly as well-read in matters of historical (or early historical to be more precise) theology as you are, I thought the information helpful for the purposes he needed.
Of course, I got the book for more reasons than early church history (!), and to that end my impressions are impressed. :-) I thought his dealings with the NPP particularly helpful and illumination, as well as his use of the to-age construct; but, that goes beyond your questions.