Where's Waldo Wednesday


As part of oldlife’s continuing effort to assist in clarifying the Reformed faith and overcoming unnecessary disagreements, we will be featuring a number of quotations on the application of redemption from noted Reformed theologians. What drives this series is an effort to understand how the doctrine of union with Christ has or has not functioned in discussions of the ordo salutis and the benefits that believers receive through Christ’s mediatorial work. If we feature quotations where the discussion of union is absent, we are confident that others will see union even where we don’t.

The following comes from B. B. Warfield’s article on sanctification:

The evangelical doctrine of salvation common to the Lutheran and Reformed Churches includes the following points: 1) The soul after regeneration continues dependent upon the constant gracious operations of the Holy Spirit, but is through grace, able to co-operate with them. 2) The sanctifying operations of the Spirit are supernatural, and yet effected in connection with and through the instrumentality of means: the means of sanctification being either internal, such as faith and the co-operation of the regenerated will with grace, or external, such as the word of God, sacraments, prayer, Christian fellowship, and the providential discipline of our heavenly Father. 3) In this process the Spirit gradually completes the work of moral purification commenced in regeneration. The works has two sides: a) the cleansing of the soul from sin and emancipation from its power, and b) the development of the implanted principle of spiritual life and infused habits of grace, until the subject comes to the stature of perfect manhood in Christ. Its effect is spiritually and morally to transform the whole man, intellect, affections, and will, soul, and body. 4) The work proceeds with various degrees of thoroughness during life, but is never consummated in absolute moral perfection until the subject passes into glory. (Selected Shorter Writings – II, pp. 327-28)

30 thoughts on “Where's Waldo Wednesday

  1. Darryl

    “If we feature quotations where the discussion of union is absent, we are confident that others will see union even where we don’t. ”

    Who are “we”?

    No union issues here, but then that is not Warfield’s contention – he is simply striving to delineate the Reformation doctrine of sanctification (which he argues rightly is “distinguished from justification and regeneration both of which lie at its root” (p 325) ) from 1. the Pelagian, 2. the Romanist, 3. the Mystical (as in the mystics) views of sanctification. So “our” discussion of the Reformed view of union is really not in view here. So any discussion on this one? Maybe not. 😉

    Matt

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  2. Jeff,

    Do you really see union everywhere? If God is everywhere present (as we both confess), then he is in your heart and my heart and a horse’s heart. So everyone (and everything with a heart) is united to God in that sense. The reformed understanding of union, of course, isn’t about the location of God; it’s about the activity of God.

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  3. I do see the “believer united with Christ” as one legitimate way of expressing the totality of salvation. God has specially granted believers to consider themselves “in Christ” and Him “in them.”

    There are a lot of different aspects of this: being “chosen in Him”; being “clothed with Christ”; having Christ “in you”; being “indwelt with the Spirit.” These are ways that the Scripture speaks about election, justicification, and so on.

    So I’m not particular about whether we talk about election, justification, etc. OR union. Both are legit. The only line I would draw is when someone might separate union from its different aspects.

    So for example, with a Lutheran brother, I might suggest that he move his timeline of union back to before justification, since it is legitimate to say that we have redemption “in Christ.”

    But I regard the fact that he does not do so as a minor failing; when I ask him, “Why are you justified?” And he says, “Because Christ’s alien righteousness is mine” — well, that’s union, even if he doesn’t want to call it that.

    Union means that Christ identifies with His people and indwells them. That’s enough, right?

    JRC

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  4. Jeff,

    Here’s where I have a problem with your logic. If union is to be found wherever a believer is said to be in Christ, then believers have union with Christ since before the foundation of the universe. But you don’t believe that. You believe that union happens when a person is effectually called, right?

    So is being in Christ a necessary, but not a sufficient condition of union? Based on your understanding, must a believer also have Christ in him before we can properly say that he is united to Christ.

    This is why I think that focusing on union language is so unhelpful. It’s vague and imprecise. Consider again your Lutheran friends answer; at the very least, pretty much everyone familiar with the basic tenets of Christianity would know what his answer meant. Not so with an answer framed in terms of unity. More often than not, a focus on unity introduces unnecessary ambiguity. I can’t help but think that some people (not you) who focus on it like this. It allows them to preach and teach in a gray area, but also retreat to orthodox positions when they are under the gun.

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  5. You believe that union happens when a person is effectually called, right?

    I would say that union is *appropriated* when a person is effectually called. Clearly, God identifies Himself with His people in electing them. And Christ identified Himself with His people when He died on the cross (thus, limited atonement is one aspect of our union). These things occurred independent of the moment of faith.

    But, as the Catechism says, we are “united” to him in our effectual calling, appropriating that union for ourselves by faith and thus transitioning from death to life, from children of wrath to children of God.

    I have no doubt that there are wrong ways to think about union, just as there are wrong ways to think about justification by grace through faith alone … for example (as happened to my mother), teaching that one must wait for a sense of election before professing oneself to be saved.

    The remedy is to improve the understanding of union, instead of shunning it.

    If your concern is one-sided union talk, then I agree. On these discussions, I’ve come across as a blazing unionist because I’m pushing back against a tendency to treat union as a secondary or unsightly doctrine. But in explaining salvation, say to a Sunday School class, I would be careful to present both union and ordo approaches.

    JRC

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  6. RL: If union is to be found wherever a believer is said to be in Christ, then believers have union with Christ since before the foundation of the universe. But you don’t believe that. You believe that union happens when a person is effectually called, right?

    There’s a similar mystery that happens with justification proper. On the one hand, Jesus’ death on the cross paid for the sins of His people. We reject the idea that Jesus’ death only paid for the potential to forgive sins and insist instead that actual sins were actually paid for upon the cross.

    At the same time, we reject the idea that the elect are eternally justified; instead, we insist that the payment that Christ made for us is not applied until the moment of faith.

    Union is similar.

    RL: So is being in Christ a necessary, but not a sufficient condition of union? Based on your understanding, must a believer also have Christ in him before we can properly say that he is united to Christ.

    If I understand your question, I would say that being in Christ corresponds to our forensic union; Christ in us, with the experiential. But don’t hold me to that; I haven’t considered that specific angle before.

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  7. As long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us. Therefore, to share with us what he has received from the Father, he had to become ours and to dwell within us.

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  8. Matt, since union has been invoked to show the way that Calvinists appropriate sanctification as much as justification, and since it has also been used to show Lutheranism’s lack of a doctrine of sanctification (i.e. antinomianism), it is an interesting quote from my way of hearing discussions.

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  9. Darryl

    I think “we” who see some difficulties with Lutheranism would want to be, or at least should be more nuanced about the Lutheran doctrine of sanctification. It is wrong to state that Luther didn’t believe in the abiding nature of the ten commandments, and it would be wrong to state that Luther didn’t see the need for holy living. However, as we have seen in contemporary Presbyterianism and evangelicalism, the “I’m under grace not law” approach, when not biblically nuanced leads to antinomianism. Luther “Moses was a jailer” and “Moses was a hangman’s assistant” missed the point by a long way. (The writer to the Hebrews thought that Moses was a “servant, faithful in the household”). When such comments were made of the mediator of the law it is hard not to have a low view of the applicability of the law itself. That’s where the problem lies. Lutheranism’s mixed messages.

    Blessings

    Matt

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  10. Matt:

    Paul said that the Sinaitic covenant was “bearing children for slavery.” And in much closer parallel to Luther’s language, Paul said that “we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.”

    Don’t you think Luther’s language of Moses being a jailer corresponds rather nicely to Paul’s assertion that the law imprisons? Of course, like Luther, Paul was slanderously charged with being an antinomian.

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  11. Camden, but who really reads Lutheranism except to score a point or two, especially when you have Westminster Seminary California to kick around as Lutheran.

    Matt, echoing RL, is Moses the same thing as the Law?

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  12. Darryl and RL

    Paul: “held captive under the law….”. Paul is speaking redemptive historically as a Jew – the “we” of Galatians 3 nicely parallels the “we” of Eph 1:12. He goes on to say that law was a guardian until the coming of Christ, but now that faith has come “we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus YOU are all sons of God through faith”. The change in the pronoun speaks volumes for our interpretation. Luther’s “jailor” and “hangman’s assistant” (I notice neither of you took that one up!) are of the same ilk – nothing to do with redemptive history but a skewed view of law.

    Paul: “bearing children unto slavery” is a reference to “you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?” The law was never designed to offer salvation yet some wanted to make it so combining faith and works. If that’s what you want says Paul, you’ve got bondage, slavery and death. BUT, as the law was never given for the purpose of justification (at least not at Sinai) then once again, Luther’s comments are off the mark.

    Blessings

    Matt

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  13. RL

    One other thing: make sure you read my earlier comments carefully concerning Luther and his view of the Law. Nothing I said could lead you to the conclusion that I think Luther was antinomian. I don’t know if that was your intention or not, but I thought it is worth clearing up.

    Matt

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  14. Matt:

    I didn’t mean to imply that you called Luther an antinomian, though I do see how my comment could be understood as such. I apologize.

    I’m not necessarily troubled by the hangman’s assistant quote either, nor do I think that a hangman’s assistant could not also be reckoned a faithful servant. Paul also speaks of the law killing and the curse of the law (which, of course, is death). Paul says that the law imprisons, and Luther calls Moses a jailer. Paul says that the law kills, and Luther calls Moses an assistant hangman.

    In what work(s) of Luther are those quotes found? You’ve gotten my interest with them, and I’d love to see the context.

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  15. RL

    That’s no problem. I’ll have to do some digging for those quote – give me the weekend and I’ll see what I can do.

    You are using a very literalistic approach to Paul which most don’t use. You need to read these comments you have highlighted in context. That’s what I attempted to do. An approach to Paul’s argument which does not do justice to his intention and the context will have Paul contradicting himself time after time.

    Blessings

    Matt

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  16. Camden, where can I find that church? Wonderful!

    Matt: you wrote: “The law was never designed to offer salvation yet some wanted to make it so combining faith and works. If that’s what you want says Paul, you’ve got bondage, slavery and death. BUT, as the law was never given for the purpose of justification (at least not at Sinai) then once again, Luther’s comments are off the mark.”

    So in what sense is the law not a hangman but a gardener? I don’t understand what you’re saying about the law when Paul is clear in Galatians that the law brings death.

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  17. DGH: So in what sense is the law not a hangman but a gardener?

    Surely this is relevant …

    But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? — 2 Cor 2

    Then follows the discussion of the ministry of death and the ministry of life (ch. 3).

    The hangman is also the gardener. That’s the third use of the Law.

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  18. Well, maybe Jeff, but Paul does go on in ch. 3 to write: “to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the law is, there is freedom.” That doesn’t sound like a defense of Moses or the Law.

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  19. No, it’s an explanation of the function of the Law and the specific failure of the Jews of Paul’s day to receive the gospel (because they clung to the Law and rejected Christ, because their hearts were hard).

    Look, was the Law the ministry of death merely, or was it a tutor also? Clearly both.

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  20. A hangman is always a tutor. The presence of the gallows is an education. That’s why we used to do these things on the public square.

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  21. (I’m just suggesting that the Law’s functioning was complex, which is why there are three uses of it.

    I’m further suggesting that Moses’ role was not one-dimensional in giving the Law. He also functioned as a type of Christ, interceding for the people and obtaining forgiveness for them on more than one occasion; delivering them over to the promised land; and faithfully shepherding them. All of these functions fall well outside of “hangman’s assistant.”)

    JRC

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