Paul Helm has posted on his blog an important article entitled “Word and Spirit in Conversion” (incidentally something I have been studying in regards to pneumatological inclusivism). He explains, “In this paper I should like to explore the moral side to conversion and to set out two models of this aspect of conversion which have been widely influential in the history of the Christian church but which, as I shall argue, are at fundamental odds with each other.” What is particularly crucial is how Helm lays out a clear disparity between these two models of justification, viz. justification as inherent righteousness and forensic justification. Here is Helm’s conclusion (emphasis mine):
A widespread current view is that the Reformation conflicts over the nature of justification are now chiefly of historical interest. So Alister McGrath:
On the basis of the above analysis, it will be clear that, there exist real differences between Protestants and Roman Catholics over the matter of justification. The question remains however, as to the significance of these differences. How important, for example, is the distinction between an alien and an intrinsic justifying righteousness? In recent years, there appears to be an increasing sympathy for the view that these differences, although important at the Reformation period, no longer possess the significance they once had.
I happen to think that this view is profoundly wrong. And that, as someone has said, justification is ‘the main hinge on which religion turns’. Important differences about important matters should not be labelled [sic] ‘insignificant’ and then moved off stage. There are still mountains between Geneva and Rome, or rather between the view of justification by an intrinsic righteousness, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, and justification by an alien righteousness. These mountains continue to impede the achieving of a common mind on the fundamentals of the Christian gospel. But even if you do not share this conviction of mine, but rather agree with Alister McGrath, you may nonetheless be persuaded, by what we have discussed, that although such differences may no longer be of much theological significance, they are nevertheless of considerable ethical importance, and that one feature of this importance is that they profoundly influence views of the place and the character of word and spirit in conversion.