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The Justification of God

Justification of God (The)

P.T. Forysth

by P.T. Forysth

Subject: Theodicy

Book Code: 209

Pages: 224 pp, Book

Pub. Date: 1988

ISBN: 0 86408 099 9

PDF Download  524kb

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Justification of God (The)


While others were searching for the elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, Peter Taylor Forsyth (1848-1921) considered such a venture vain. For him, the only answer to the question of the justice and goodness of God lay elsewhere.

Kenneth Surin tackled the urgent discussion of theodicy (the justice of God) in his recent book Theology and the Problem of Evil (Blackwell: 1986). He sought to find sense in the face of confusion, comfort in disturbance, triumph over tragedy. He was convinced that God decisively acts against evil. This truth Forsyth also asserted.

Forsyth's insistence on the holiness of God, and his refusal to deviate from the crucial issue, brought him into conflict with the Church. He was not deceived by the pretence, optimism and satisfaction of the current theologies and philosophies. To him, they were shallow and naive. The Church had disowned its moral conspectus, and built on a foundation of quicksand. Sooner or later, either a bomb, or even a mere toothache, would expose the real situation. It was a bomb. The 'war to end all wars' confirmed the validity of Forsyth's stance, as the grim events exposed human depravity, and the horrific force of evil. Into this situation, Forsyth spoke as a prophet-he wrote The Justification of God. The answer was not the 'pot of gold' but the rainbow, the covenant battle-bow laid aside, yet significantly aimed at God. This Old Testament sign was fulfilled at the Cross.

Forsyth's book is not easy reading, but it is worth reading. The thrust of his argument is as follows. After showing that popular Christianity poorly treated the calamity of the war (it was either paralysed or muttered platitudes), he argued that the crux to any theodicy is the Cross and Resurrection. Rejecting any idea of the creation having self-ameliorating powers, Forsyth affirmed that the world would not recover from its mortal wounds: it needed to be rescued. Not progress, but redemption alone could-and would-evoke faith. However, the Church had been inept or inert in bringing this gospel to the nations. Like the nations, it too was culpable in the crisis.

But this crisis was minor compared to the real crisis of humanity. That was the Cross. God is justified in and by the crucified Christ. While philosophers offer us theories (in Forsyth's day they were idealism, evolution and liberalism), God has acted. When 'wise men' trivialised or rationalised (by the magician's sleight of hand!), God interrupted. His sovereign holiness, through the suffering of the elect one, secured release for the race. Again, through the Cross, faith is assured that nothing is out of control, nothing is exempt from being used for the purposes of God. By grace, the greatest crime became the most wondrous boon. One act of holiness encapsulated all human malevolence: in its qualities of purity and love, it extinguished the frenzied fervour of the abyss, and bore the righteous wrath of God. Here God is revealed as both justified, and the justifier of the ungodly.

Since this is so, judgment is both saving and sure. The final answer is that a new state of affairs has been established by the crucified and risen Christ. Faith now has a vantage point-the Cross. While it does not see all things, it does see Jesus, who assures us that He has overcome the world, and that the judgment of the world has already taken place.

Forsyth's book, released in 1917, handles the nettles of God's wrath, and maws guilt (after all, theodicy is only an issue where there is a rejection of the light). But further, he exhorts the Church to engage in worship and doxology. For while Psalm 22 commences with the cry of dereliction, it continues and concludes with praise. 'Yet thou art holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.' The Church knows God's throne is the throne of grace, and worships the Lamb.

Critics have called this Forsyth's 'greatest' writing, as giving full rein to his 'nimbleness of intellect,' and his 'most powerful.'

Like the 1948 edition, this one omits Forsyth's preface, which sought to justify his employment of technical theological terms. As you read this work, you will find that he, like God, now needs no justification.

Rev. Dean J. Carter