Kevin W. McFadden. Faith in the Son of God: The Place of Christ-orientated Faith within Pauline Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2021. 303 pages. $26.99 (paperback).
It has been said rightly that we are not justified merely by faith alone, but by faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Only having faith is not what saves; faith is the instrument, but Christ is the one who actually saves. Throughout the Scriptures, Paul uses the phrase πίστις Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (pistis Iesou Christou), which may be translated “faith in Jesus Christ” or the “faith of Jesus Christ.” Are we saved by our faith grabbing hold of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, or is it his obedience and trust in God that our faith claims, and we share in his faithfulness? Dr. Kevin McFadden, the associate professor of New Testament at Cairn University in Philadelphia, makes the case that Paul has written to us “faith in Jesus Christ.”
McFadden opens the book discussing the history of this debate, engaging with the published dissertation of Richard Hays in 1983. Hays argues that the phrase πίστις Χριστοῦ should be translated as “faithfulness of Christ,” in passages such as Galatians 2:20 or Philippians 3:9. Hays writes that the person of Christ is not written to be faith’s object, but rather faith that joins the faithfulness of Christ’s faith toward God. McFadden unfolds the arguments of Hays and others who hold to this interpretation.
Like the helpful theologian he is, McFadden takes the reader to text after text and shows the direct statements that Paul makes about Christ-orientated faith, as seen in the faith of Abraham in Romans 4:24–25 — a faith “which believes in the God who has raised our Lord Jesus from the dead…is a type of our Christ-orientated faith,” (133). This defense is remarkably encouraging as a reminder that our faith grasps and embraces Christ as a ring clasps to the diamond. Not only does McFadden show us the consistency of this translation (faith in Jesus Christ) in the Scriptures and the inconsistency of translations that Hays switches between, but he also takes us through church history, engaging the works of John Chrysostom, Origen, Augustine, Luther, and Tyndale.
In this powerful work, McFadden introduces the reader to a topic that may seem too lofty or out of reach to understand for the average Christian, or perhaps even insignificant. However, readers will soon realize the central importance of this topic not only for our theology, but for our faith and practice as well. Although McFadden engages the Greek text in this book, I found that for the average reader his arguments are immensely helpful, clear, and full of assurance. McFadden joins his voice to B.B. Warfield, who once wrote, “It is not, strictly speaking, even faith in Christ that saves, but Christ that saves through faith.”
Cale Fauver is a Master of Divinity Student at MBTS and pastor of Union Baptist Church in Orrick, MO.