Even though we have taught in part how faith possesses Christ, and how through it we enjoy his benefits, this would still remain obscure if we did not add an explanation of the effects we feel. With good reason, the sum of the gospel is held to consist in repentance and forgiveness of sins [Luke 24:47; Acts 5:31]. Any discussion of faith, therefore, that omitted these two topics would be barren and mutilated and well-nigh useless. . . . For when this topic is rightly understood it will better appear how man is justified by faith alone, and simple pardon; nevertheless actual holiness of life, so to speak, is not separated from free imputation of righteousness. Now it ought to be a fact beyond controversy that repentance not only constantly follows faith, but is also born of faith. For since pardon and forgiveness are offered through the preaching of the gospel in order that the sinner, freed from the tyranny of Satan, the yoke of sin, and the miserable bondage of vices, may cross over into the Kingdom of God, surely no one can embrace the grace of the gospel without breaking himself from the errors of his past life into the right way, and applying his whole effort to the practice of repentance. There are some, however, who suppose that repentance precedes faith, rather than flows from it, or is produced by it as fruit from a tree. Such persons have never known the power of repentance, and are moved to feel this way by an unduly slight argument. (Institutes, III.3.1)
123 thoughts on “Forensic Friday: Calvin on Faith and Repentance”
I assume you are continuing in your tradition of offering up historical stumbling blocks to those who hold to the simultaneous reception of justification and sanctification as benefits of union with Christ. Is that correct? If so, I wonder if you would please tell me how you see the relationship between justification and sanctification? I know you see justification as having priority to sanctification…but how? (I apologize if you have already answered this). I read in an earlier posting that you do not want to see a difference between Lutherans and Reformed regarding union (though Vos clearly does) so how do you understand the relationship between justification and sanctification and does that understanding differ from the Lutheran tradition?
Also, how would you handle the following:
“But as the question relates only to justification and sanctification, to them let us confine ourselves. Though we distinguish between them, they are both inseparably comprehended in Christ. Would you then obtain justification in Christ? You must previously possess Christ. But you cannot possess him without being made partaker of his sanctification: for Christ cannot be divided.”
There really isn’t anything to respond to in your citation from the Institutes. It simply needs to be explained and understood in its context.
This is how Calvin described the â€œcalumnyâ€ to which he was responding in the passage you cited: â€œThe allegation is that justification by faith destroys good works.â€ He answers the allegation: â€œWe dream not of a faith which is devoid of good works, nor of a faith which can exist without them: the only difference is, that while we acknowledge that faith and works are necessarily connected, we, however, place justification in faith, not in works.â€
To strengthen his argument he proceeds to explain how it is that faith and works are necessarily connected. The answer is simpleâ€”faith and works cohere in Christ. He explains that we are justified by faith â€œbecause by faith we apprehend [receive] the righteousness of Christ.â€ He then cites 1 Cor 1:30 to show that Christ is the source of not only our righteousness but also our sanctification. â€œChrist, therefore, justifies no man without also sanctifying him.â€
In the lines that you cite, he’s just driving the point home: If you’ve been justified, then you’ve received Christ, and since you’ve received Christ, you’ve received sanctification. All to the point that it’s impossible that one have justifying faith that is not also a sanctifying faith. That’s his point. He’s arguing that our justification and sanctification have the same source. Namely, faith in Christ.
RL: you are right…he is arguing that you have to have justification and sanctification simultaneously but distinctly. You are right. That is the union position as I understand it. The union view does not do away with the forensic nature of justification…it follows Calvin in keeping its distinction but in demanding that, at the same time, a person is also sanctified in Christ. This is why, of course, that Calvin treats sanctification before he treats justification. He and Luther agreed on this. It is in later Lutheran tradition that union with Christ is moved to a position after justification and prior to sanctification. On this view, then, sanctification is a product of our justification. Calvin would deny that, as I understand his argument in Book 3. In receiving Christ, we are justified and sanctified (and adopted and glorified…but that is not the discussion that keeps coming up here).
As Calvin says “We must now see in what way we become possessed of the blessings which God has bestowed on his only-begotten Son, not for private use, but to enrich the poor and needy. And the first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us.”
I am interested in how you are linking sanctification and good works. Do you see them as synonymous? And, since you are taking up the point, could you please explain to me what the relationship is between justification and sanctification as you understand it? Does one come before the other? Are they simultaneous yet distinct benefits that we receive by being united to Christ?
God’s Word accomplishes what it announces. The announcement that sins are forgiven and that people are reconciled to God actually causes sins to be forgiven and people to be reconciled to God. It’s the Spirit’s union with the Word that’s decisive. When the Spirit unites with the preached Word people are justified and united to Christ. So union isn’t subordinated to justification in a temporal sense. That’s not the debate. The question is whether union is subordinated to justification such that union is based on justification. With Vos, Calvin, Luther, and Paul, I affirm that union is based on justification, the mystical is based on the forensic. Hence Vos writes:
â€œPaul consciously subordinated the mystical aspect of the relation to Christ to the forensic one. Paul’s mind was to such an extent forensically oriented that he regarded the entire complex of subjective spiritual changes that take place in the believer as the direct outcome of the forensic work of Christ applied in justification. The mystical is based on the Forensic, not the forensic on the mystical.â€
It’s a legal declaration that makes an orphan an heir in an adoption, and it’s a legal declaration that gives a penniless bride full possession of her husband’s treasure in a marriage. In the same way, it’s God’s forensic act of forgiving my sins and imputing to me Christ’s righteousness in justification that grants me access to all of the other blessings of salvation. There’s no doubt that God’s declarative act is also transformative. The word that justifies also sanctifies, but that sanctification at all times presupposes and is based on justification. Even the very first cry of â€œAbba, fatherâ€ is rooted in our forensic adoption.
Here is how I regard priority. It is from the OPC report on justification. “. . . the idea of the ordo salutis makes clear that justification is prior to sanctification. This is not priority in the sense that one is somehow more important than the other. Neither is it a temporal priority, strictly speaking, for there is no such thing as a justified person who is not also being sanctified. But while justification is the necessary prerequisite of the process of sanctification, that process is not the necessary prerequisite of justification. It is true to say that one must be justified in order to be sanctified; but it is untrue to say that one must be sanctified in order to be justified.”
I really don’t know Lutheran theology well enough to comment on where that tradition places union. But I do know there was a Protestant consensus on justification — the material principle of the Reformation. In my book, that counts for a lot of points from the Lutherans.
I do think it is curious that you use the word “demand” regarding sanctification, as in “it follows Calvin in keeping its distinction but in demanding that, at the same time, a person is also sanctified in Christ.” How do you demand sanctification if it is the word of God? You may demand good works. But good works and sanctification are not the same.
I also wonder how you would argue against the likes of Wilson, Horne, and Shepherd who in trying to coax good works out of justification, wind up with obedient faith? Can’t they run with that quote from Calvin a long way? Isn’t that a good reason for insisting on the priority of the forensic? Or do we simply act as if Shepherd and FV and New Perspective (and Kinnaird) don’t exist?
Thank you for engaging my post. I am still curious on your thoughts regarding Vos’ statement of the difference betwixt the Reformed and Lutheran understandings of union. I only ask because you have used Vos to put forward your thesis…and it seems to me your thesis is that the union view is wrong. But that is Vos’ view so I am confused.
Maybe I misused the word ‘demand’. Sadly, I am not a wordsmith. The public schools (all the way through college) failed me many times over. I suppose what I was trying to say was that God’s word says Christ became for us righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). So, the way I meant ‘demand’ was in the same sense that the OPC report states it, “there is no such thing as a justified person who is not also being sanctified.” It seems to me that a traditional, and Lutheran, view of the ordo makes sanctification a product of justification and I don’t think that this is the case. In fact, I was content with the justification report as it was. I think that more could be said but, what is said, I think, is said very well.
One of the things I would say to Wilson, Horne and Shepherd is that they are blurring several things. Just because all benefits come simultaneously and inseparably…they come distinctly. My understanding of their error is that they are conflating, first sanctification and good works and second, sanctification (with good works) and justification. In conflating the declarative and the transformative benefits of union with Christ they come up with such doctrines as a person being able to lose their once given justification. This is heretical in my understanding of both justification and heresy. They do damage to the covenantal understanding of baptism as well as a host of other doctrines that concern me.
I don’t think that I have seen Gaffin or any of his orthodox followers do this (I am thinking here of another WTS prof, Lane Tipton…who was ordained in your presbytery if I am not mistaken). Union does not necessarily lead one to Wilson, Horne and Shepherd. I think that an in depth study of Book 3 of Calvin’s institutes will bear out the union thesis. I find it curious that anti-union folk go straight to chapter 16 of book 3 without following Calvin’s argument all the way through. If you do so, I don’t know how you could away saying that Calvin is against union as the soteriological structure wherein believers receive all the benefits of their salvation simultaneously, inseparably and distinctly. This follows through in Calvin’s successors and is taken up by the Puritans and comes to be the view of the Westminster Assembly…at least it is the one that made it into the Catechisms. I know we might read those differently but I guess we will have to wait until further scholarly work is done on the topic.
So, all that said, where does a non-FV/NPP/Shepherd view of union as the structure of receiving our salvation benefits (justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification, etc) injure either the doctrine of justification by faith alone, in Christ alone, or the proclamation of the free grace of the gospel? I am a union guy and I have never preached anything but call to repent and believe for salvation.
As always, thank you for the exchange. I am humbled that a scholar such as yourself is willing to interact in a forum such as this.
Sorry, I did not answer your post fully. I do think that we ought to run with the priority of the forensic just as Calvin did…
The answer is very easy: as Christ cannot be divided into parts, so the two things, justification and sanctification, which we perceive to be united together in him, are inseparable. Whomsoever, therefore, God receives into his favor, he presents with the Spirit of adoption, whose agency forms them anew into his image. But if the brightness of the sun cannot be separated from its heat, are we therefore to say, that the earth is warmed by light and illumined by heat? Nothing can be more apposite to the matter in hand than this simile. The sun by its heat quickens and fertilizes the earth; by its rays enlightens and illumines it. Here is a mutual and undivided connection, and yet reason itself prohibits us from transferring the peculiar properties of the one to the other.
Calvin, John: Institutes of the Christian Religion. S. III, xi, 6
“This is why, of course, that Calvin treats sanctification before he treats justification.”
I think you may be making too much of the subject order of Calvin’s Institutes. There is little evidence that Calvin purposely organized the chapter order around the ordo salutis. After all, in Book 3, where he does address sanctification before justification, he does not address eternal election until after both (3:XXI). That would get you in real trouble if you thought Calvin was organizing subjects to match the ordo.
I find it curious that anti-union folk go straight to chapter 16 of book 3 without following Calvin’s argument all the way through.
Just to be clear. Dr. Hart’s blog post is from Book 3 Chapter 3. You responded by dropping in a few lines from Book 3 Chapter 16.
cnh, I am not saying union is wrong. What I am questioning is how important union is in soteriology. Some of this goes back to the issue of benefits and application. It seems that pro-union people use union almost as if it is a benefit when it is not. So to say that union is important to salvation is like saying God is important to salvation. Without God, no salvation. Without union, no salvation. I get it that if I don’t belong to Christ, I belong to Adam.
But union isn’t what Paul was addressing in Romans and Galatians when it came to the question of God’s righteousness, man’s sin, and the remedy. It doesn’t seem to me to make sense to talk about union in asking the question, how am I right with God. Yes, union works, but it’s more an assumption than an answer. Same goes for God. We can’t be righteous without God doing something for us, and so God needs to exist for me to be righteous.
But what is crucial to my standing before God is justification, by which I receive all the righteousness of Christ as my very own. And this righteousness makes up for all the defects in my sanctification (which are partial in this life). For that reason, I find it hard to understand how justification can take a back seat in soteriology to union, or put on the same plain as sanctification (as in distinct but in separable).
Murray renders a pretty good explanation for why justification is so important (i.e. prior): “The basic question is: How can man be just with God? If man had never sinned the all-important question would have been: How can man be right with God? He would continue to be right with God by fulfilling the will of God perfectly. But the question takes on a radically different complexion with the entrance of sin. Man is wrong with God. And the question is: How can man become right with God? This was Luther’s burning question. He found the answer in Paul’s Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, that we are justified by faith along, through grace alone . . . .
“Renovation and sanctification are indispensible elements of the gospel, and justification must never be separated from regeneration and sanctification. But to make justification to consist in renovation and sanctification is to eleiminate from the gospel that which meets our basic need as sinners, and answers the basic question: How can a sinner become just with God? The answer is that which makes the lame man leap as an hart and the tongue of the dumb sing. . . . Why so? It is the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ. This is not God’s attribute of justice, but it is a God-righteousness, a righteousness with divine properties and qualities, contrasted not only with human unrighteousness but with human righteousness. And what his righteousness is, the apostle makes very clear. It is a free gift. . .
“When Paul invokes God’s anathema upon any who would preach a gospel other than that he preached, he used a term which means ‘devoted to destruction’. It is a term weighted with imprecation. . . . To the core of his being he was persuaded that the heresy combated was aimed at the destruction of the gospel. It took the crown from the Redeemer’s head. It is this same passion that must imbue us if we are worthy children of the Reformation. . .”
I guess what I fail to understand is how the union position (not FV, not NPP, not Shepherd) undermines this view of justification. When I was in seminary classes it was both that were spoken of…much the way you are talking about: union is central: am I in Adam or in Christ? And justification is the declarative, once-for-all imputation of Christ’s righteousness. As I understand it, they would say that it is simultaneous with all of the other benefits. I like the OPC report on justification along with the language of Calvin’s understanding of priority.
I think Murray is right on justification…but he is also right on union: “Nothing is more central or basic than union and communion with Christ…union with Christ is in itself a very broad and embracive subject…it underlies every step of the application of redemption…those who will be saved were not even contemplated by the Father in the ultimate counsel of his predestinating love apart from union with Christ – they were chosen in Christ…Hence we may never think of the work of redemption wrought once for all by Christ apart from the union with his people which was effected in the election of the Father before the foundation of the world…It should not surprise us that the beginning of salvation in actual possession should be in union with Christ because we have found already that it is in Christ that salvation had its origin in the eternal election of the Father and that it is in Christ salvation was once for all secured by Jesus’ ransom blood…It is not simply a phase of the application of redemption; it underlies every aspect of redemption both in its accomplishment and in its application. Union with Christ binds all together and insures that to all for whom Christ has purchased redemption he effectively applies and communicates the same.”
It seems to me that Murray, like you, argues for a priority of the forensic (not temporal) and that behind this is union. He doesn’t want to separate it from regeneration and sanctification but he wants to keep them distinct. You seem to be saying the same thing – am I right? This is my understanding of the union position. So, apart from FV, NPP or Shepherd (and Kinnaird) where, in your thinking, does the union position bread down? If priority does not necessarily mean temporal then what does it mean? You keep saying that it has to have priority, but you don’t mean by this an ordo salutis where all of salvation begins with justification. You say it has priority but you don’t mean that it comes before union. So, what does priority mean for you? And, if you would, what is the relationship, as you understand it, between justification and sanctification?
RL: good call, I was reading through Book 3 quickly and miswrote. My point still stands, begin with chapter 1 rather than going to the sections on justification.
Todd: you are right, Calvin is not going for an ordo in that Book. That is a major premise in my understanding of Calvin’s soteriology – indeed reformed soteriology – that it does not argue for an ordo at all but that it has, as central, union with Christ and all of the benefits coming from that union as simultaneous, inseparable and distinct benefits. This is what Calvin is arguing for – you cannot just have a piece of Christ (such as justification) but you have the whole Christ (justification, adoption, sanctification and glorification).
I wasn’t implying that Calvin was not interested in an ordo, but that you cannot use the order of his subjects in the Institutes as insight into his theology, as it seemed you did by noting the importance of him addressing sanctification before justification in Book 3.
Todd: but you are right…I don’t think that we can find an ‘ordo’ in Calvin any more than we can in the Confession. Do you find someplace where he addresses it? I mean, if it’s not under the ‘application’ of redemption section I think that ought to be pretty significant. My point in showing his order was to say that he is operating under a different assumption than a strict ordo…I just don’t think that came to be a question during his time. He is concerned to maintain the distinction between justification and sanctification but to also maintain their inseparability and (I believe) their application to the believer simultaneously.
If you can point out somewhere that he does spell out an ordo then I am all ears.
Well, it depends what you mean. Does he spell out an ordo like Bullinger or the later theologians? No. But can you see in the Institutes that election preceeds conversion, that regeneration preceeds faith, that justification must preceed sanctification, that it all ends in glorification? Yes. But you’ve seen the quotes already.
See, Todd, you are arguing for something more than Dr. Hart. He is speaking of priority, which I can agree with. How do you see that justification precedes sanctification in Calvin? He speaks of the two together – the twofold grace. Where anywhere do you see procession? It seems as thought you are arguing for a priority of a temporal sort…where sanctification is a product of justification. That is certainly a Lutheran view of sanctification…in fact, both union with Christ and sanctification come after, and as a product, of justification. But that is not the view of these benefits coming from Calvin and being set into the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Which quotes speak of justification preceding sanctification? I have posted some that speak of them simultaneously. He argues against transferring properties…but this is nothing more than distinction, not procession.
What am I missing?
Let me answer your question a couple ways. First, the current emphasis on union has lost Murray’s language about the crux of the Reformation. The stress on union has led to criticisms of those, who like the Reformers and the Reformed confessions, made justification central to the gospel — as in the material principle of the Reformation.
Related to this is the question of what the human predicament is. It would appear to be sin, guilt, and death. Is the answer to this problem justification or sanctification or union? If we become righteous in God’s sight only because of Christ’s righteousness, then isn’t justification pretty important to our understanding of the gospel? I can see that union is also an answer to the question. But union by itself won’t answer the question of how I am righteous because the union answer will need to rely on justification to complete the explanation. In which case, union is like the Holy Spirit as an answer to the question. It’s an indirect answer to the problem of sin. It is not a direct one. But I think many union advocates today miss this difference between direct and indirect answers, and so become unclear sometimes about what is really at stake in justification.
The other answer is that I have seen too many times over the last thirty years union advocates fail to defend the doctrine of justification. In fact, I have seen them fault those who are clear about justification for not being truly Reformed. The many fault has been not recognizing the importance of union to justification, and making justification prior to sanctification.
The bottom line: I am concerned that some are more excited by union with Christ as a doctrine and are simultaneously unimpressed by justification. That ho-hum attitude leads to a failure to recognize what was at stake in the Reformation.
VanDrunen put it well when he wrote, the priority of justification “is not a doctrine to be embraced in place of union with Christ, but our theology of union must be compatible with this doctrine. We ought not begin with an abstract doctrine of union, conceived independently of the concrete blessings of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and then deduce from this abstract doctrine the idea that justification, adoption, and sanctification must be received simultaneously through union without a defined relationship to each other. Union with Christ (or any other doctrine) should not become a central dogma from which we derive everything else. . . . If we want to understand union, then, we must look to our justification, adoption, and sanctification. These blessings show us what our union with Christ is.”
So now the question goes back to you. Is union as big a deal as justification? Why?
I don’t see it as an either/or. The way that I view union understands that justification is a big deal, as it deals with the human predicament of sin and guilt. I think that union, though, does de-centralize justification in the the way that it came to be centralized in the Lutheran theology where one prominent Lutheran theologian said that justification is the gospel. I disagree with that. I don’t find that centralization in Calvin or his predecessors (maybe not even in Luther himself). It is a post-reformation shift. That does not make justification by faith alone, in Christ alone, any less the hinge…or, as you say, the material principle of the reformation. I just think that there are theological ramifications to making it equal to the gospel.
As for VanDrunen’s view, where union is compatible to the doctrine of justification, I would agree. I don’t think I heard from any of those teaching union at WTS a lessening of the doctrine of justification. I hear that charge, but I don’t hear it from them. I like VanDrunen’s take on it, to an extent…but I don’t hear that sort of reasonable voice very often…especially not outside of the OPC. I just hear people equate the union doctrine with FV/NPP/Shepherd and then dismiss it. This is uncharitable, in my opinion. Furthermore, if I read VanDrunen correctly in the quote above, Union is the central dogma from which all others flow…but it cannot become the central dogma? I, really, don’t understand that sort of logic outside of the fact that he teaches at WSC. The Reformed view has always had as the fountain of salvation, union with Christ. All the blessing flow from this fountain and, yes, if we want to know what union with Christ is…we look to our justification, adoption and sanctification.
VanDrunen, it seems, sidesteps the question that is at the heart of the debate, though, and that is the simultaneous but distinct reception of the benefits. That is, as I understand it at this time, the “sticking point” in the discussion. Those on one side seem to say that we cannot have part of Christ; we must have him all (justified, adopted, sanctified and glorified…all in union with Christ) while the other side is demanding that the benefits come sequentially, one proceeding from the other, with justification (after regeneration and faith, of course) coming first.
I find the debate as well as the extremes on either side very troubling…like the OPC needs something more to debate over. If someone is denying the doctrine of the imputation of justification by faith alone, in Christ alone, then bring him up on charges. That’s how I see it. But I don’t hear that kind of denial from those holding to union. FV/NPP/Shepherd all denied justification for reasons OTHER than Calvin’s doctrine of union with Christ and the two-fold grace of God. Do they like that language? Sure. But they also like your book, With Reverence and Awe. I have heard some say that liturgical worship is the mark of all of these movements and, therefore, liturgical worship should be out with union. Sometimes logic and argument do not go together.
Union is a big deal because it is in our union that we receive the blessings of our salvation…all of them simultaneously, inseparably and distinctly. Justification is huge because it answers the question of how I can be right with God.
VanDrunen said, “We ought not begin with an abstract doctrine of union, conceived independently of the concrete blessings of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and then deduce from this abstract doctrine the idea that justification, adoption, and sanctification must be received simultaneously through union without a defined relationship to each other.”
I just don’t see that the Union position does this. Is Union the fountain? Yes. Does that make it some abstract idea, independent of justification, adoption and sanctification? No. One cannot be united to Christ without receiving all of these benefits. I wonder about his statement that they cannot be received simultaneously…that is simply contra-Calvin and the Reformed tradition. Furthermore, does he go through and define what the relationship of the benefits to each other is? Depending on where he goes with that, I might have to disagree with him.
Dr. Hart, (sorry for multiple posts…I am trying to understand the positions involved in this debate)
Please help me to understand what you mean by priority. I have the same question of the justification report. We know that it is not necessarily temporal priority. Ok, so simultaneous reception of the benefits is alright. We know that it is not a priority of importance, right? It’s not as though we would say that justification is more important than sanctification? We wouldn’t say you could have justification without sanctification. So, what does priority mean then? (My question could simply be due to my ignorance of the various definitions of a term such as ‘priority’)
When you speak of union are you speaking of mystical union?
If union was so important for the Reformers, why did Rome focus so much attention on attacking the Reformers’ views on justification? It seems to me, that all of the interested parties in the Reformation (both Rome and the Reformers) understood the Reformation to be about justification.
Mr. h, you wrote: “VanDrunen, it seems, sidesteps the question that is at the heart of the debate, though, and that is the simultaneous but distinct reception of the benefits. That is, as I understand it at this time, the â€œsticking pointâ€ in the discussion. Those on one side seem to say that we cannot have part of Christ; we must have him all (justified, adopted, sanctified and glorifiedâ€¦all in union with Christ) while the other side is demanding that the benefits come sequentially, one proceeding from the other, with justification (after regeneration and faith, of course) coming first.”
What exactly is the question at the heart of the debate? Whether or not we receive the benefits simultaneously? Why is that important? How does that relate to “how am I just with God”? How does that answer “what must I do to be saved”? Well, the answer seems to be, whatever you do, make sure you have justification and sanctification, distinctly and simultaneously. Otherwise, you’re in big trouble. What’s the big trouble that follows from sanctification proceeding from justification in the application of redemption, in that I can never possibly obey the law gladly and thankfully unless I have been forensically freed from the claims of the law? That is the point on which Reformed and Lutherans agreed. Following God’s commands without fear of condemnation could never happen unless I was no longer condemned.
This is what frustrates me about union advocates. This is such a basic point of Reformation soteriology but it gets lost in the insistence that just. and sanct. be simultaneous, with the concomitant warning, beware that they are not simultaneous.
I also get the sense that union advocates treat justification as an abstraction, as if it is merely a legal arrangement, unrelated to belonging to Christ. If by faith Christ’s righteousness is now mine, how is that impersonal. And how does this possibly divide Christ? In justification I get all his righteousness, not part. Yes, justification isn’t the only benefit. But when it comes to WSC question 85, every sins the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin, my obtaining Christ’s righteousness is not chopped liver.
As for union being the fount, well is that also a kind of central dogma approach to soteriology. Mind you, justification might have some claim to being central to the Reformation. How many times must it be said that justification is the material principle of the Reformation. Can union come anywhere close to claiming that?
And as for confessional standing, yes there are a few references to union in the Standards. If you examine the sixteenth century creeds, even the ones written and influenced by the union-loving Calvin, you don’t see union mentioned, except in connection to the Lord’s Supper. I know, I know, it’s everywhere that faith or the Spirit or regeneration are mentioned. But it is not mentioned explicitly. Which again leads me to wonder how well union advocates read historical theology before Vos, with a lot of attention to a few pages in Calvin.
Sorry if this sounds snarky. But justification has been on the ropes for thirty years and the union advocates I hear have been more willing to snipe at Lutherans and WSC (for being Lutheran) than at Shepherd or Federal Vision. It is indeed curious that the WTS volume on justification has no references to Shepherd or FV.
I appreciate snarkiness so it’s ok. I guess, at the end of the day, I don’t see how an understanding of union as central somehow robs justification of its place in salvation. On the contrary, I think that taking union out and making justification temporally prior to sanctification leads to theological problems. It makes justification a producing benefit of salvation and that is not Reformed theology as I understand it. I will have more to say on that in a few months. Suffice it to say now, I believe that making sanctification a product of justification endangers the Reformation understanding of justification as imputed righteousness.
Personally, I think that the historical question of union will come out more and more over the next several years. I am currently working on a project that examines the position from Calvin to Beza to Perkins to the Westminster Divines. I believe that they all hold to justification and sanctification being given simultaneously, inseparably and distinctly. Does this make justification “chopped liver”? No. It didn’t for Calvin. It’s the hinge. Does being the hinge mean that it is the be all, end all of salvation? No. That’s union with Christ. The importance is not in unseating justification. There are some who have done that (FV/NPP, etc) and I think they are sorely wrong. But to disconnect justification from sanctification as it seems you want to do (by putting justification on the pedestal all by itself) leads to theological problems.
So, I asked you what priority meant for you. I have been reading your blog for some time and it seems to me that you would say that priority is both temporal (we are justified before we are sanctified) as well as in importance (justification is the material principle of the Reformation…it answers the most important question, etc). But this is exactly what the OPC report says it does not mean by priority, right? Not in importance and not temporal, strictly speaking. Now, I personally don’t know of any other sort of priority than these two…so I eagerly am waiting for someone from the committee to fill me in on another kind of priority.
Coming from WTS I suppose I would say that the reason they are debating with WSC and Lutherans rather than FV and NPP (though I think you are offering a poor caricature…they say plenty in other places against these) is because the former are the ones challenging their view of the gospel. There are some who are questioning whether the Union position is acceptable, biblically and confessionally. That is why they are debating with them. To hear some of these bloggers and authors you would think that FV and Union are synonymous…and they are not. Not a bit. But since FV holds to some form of union the whole position is tainted. Like I said, I have heard the very same arguments regarding Reformed liturgy…but I liked your book.
Now, what we need in Reformed theology is some sort of paradigm for understanding these union benefits in such a way that they can be inseparable, simultaneous and yet distinct. This, it seems to me, is the problem. Where the FV and others err is in losing the distinctions…they blend them together. But where the others err is in losing the simultaneity. If we could somehow maintain both distinction and simultaneous reception then maybe we could understand them the way Calvin and his successors at Geneva did.
Thank you, again, for a great exchange…at least for me. I learn and grow through these posts.
cnh, as I tried to say, the priority stems from the fact that justification frees us from the condemnation of the law so that we can love and serve God and others with a clear conscience, not out of fear. Sanctification doesn’t do that. Union doesn’t do that, again, unless it relies on justification for its explanation.
I still don’t understand what the problem of justification’s priority is. You say: “It makes justification a producing benefit of salvation and that is not Reformed theology as I understand it.” But that isn’t a theological explanation. It’s simply a tautology. It’s wrong because it’s not Reformed and being not Reformed is wrong.
Union clearly has defective proponents. Where are the similar defects among justification’s priority proponents? And while I’m asking questions, when did the folks at WSC critique the WTS view of union? WSC has been critical of Shepherd and WTS has not. But I am hard pressed to think of WSC mentioning WTS.
And please don’t misunderstand. Just because I don’t place the importance on union that you do, doesn’t mean I deny it. I haven’t said you deny justification. What I have tried to say is that you don’t seem to be able to account for its importance, nor for what happens when you make it important. I also think you need to be careful in saying that I think justification produces salvation or sanctification. It actually seems to me that you make this claim about union. In fact, salvation is all of God. What we are discussing is the relationship among those benefits in a God initiated and sustained application of redemption. We are also discussing the importance of the forensic.
As for the historical question, the study of individual authors is fine. But the creedal question is pretty important. After all, it is the confession that determines the corporate witness of the entire church. Systematic theologies don’t function that way.
But the OPC report precludes the sort of priority you are speaking of – the priority of importance, does it not?
As for the creedal question, you are right. And I am looking forward to seeing the upcoming publication of some very important works regarding the divines (minutes and such) that will bear on this question. Why didn’t the Divines spell out an ordo salutis if they were so well taught by Perkins? I think it is because Perkins himself did not hold to an ordo. The chain has a different purpose for him and, if you will, the gold out of which the chain is made is union with Christ.
You keep pushing for importance, which to be honest, is not denied by the union position…at least not the importance of justification in rectifying our lack of righteousness before God. Can’t all the benefits be simultaneous, inseparable and yet, due to their distinctness, each do what God has appointed for that benefit to do? I don’t see how this is impossible or how it hurts the Reformation, the Confession or the OPC. I do see, however, your insistence on pushing justification to the most important position (after God, of course) is not in line with the Reformed view that sees justification and sanctification as equally important. Again, I cite the OPC Report as evidence. I still don’t know if there is a third understanding of priority (other than importance and temporal). Is it a bare priority of order? Must we always talk about justification first? Is that all? If so, then Calvin certainly would be guilty of breaking that rule. Why does not a man like Calvin argue for the *material condition* of the Reformation first?
Let me ask you, Dr. Hart, do you believe – as the Lutherans do – that sanctification is a product of justification? I did not mean to impute to you something that you did not believe – I apologize and I will be more careful. So, please answer my question.
Similar defective people who hold to a priority of justification? How about antinomians? My charismatic past was full of people who did not bother to reform their lives because they were saved by grace. There are defective people on all sides, particularly when you talk about extremes. I don’t think that union does that and, to be honest, I think that those FV/NPP and other proponents have problems long before their union views came in. No one in the OPC, holding to union, is arguing that Luther was wrong on justification (as Wright does) or that one can lose their justification (as Wilson does).
In short, my problem with the priority of justification as you keep putting it is that you seem to do so to the exclusion of the other benefits. Furthermore, I am still fuzzy on what you mean by priority. If you mean that it is the benefit that takes care of the forensic problem – great, we agree! If you mean that it is the first and foremost blessing then I have to disagree. If it is prior to sanctification then what is the relationship between them? Is it an arbitrary relationship or is our sanctification possible because of our justification? Is it the proof of our justification?
Thank you, again.
cnh, justification takes care of the righteousness problem, right? After all, the good works that are part of sanctification are as filthy rags. In which case, sanctification depends on justification. Sanctification is imperfect in this life. Justification is not because the righteousness is from Christ and mine through faith. You make is seem like justification gets only part way there. Well, to be precise, sanctification gets us only part way there unless you are a perfectionist. So where do you get the complete perfection you need to stand uncondemned before God? Justification. Bingo.
That’s why — something you don’t seem to concede — it is the material principle of the Reformation. But as I so often detect, the union advocates won’t concede this. Why? Because union is important. Why is it important? Well, Calvin talked about it in Bk. 3. And then there are a couple of q&a’s in the Standards. And then there are all of those “ins” in Paul. Never mind that Paul went out of his way to talk about justification and didn’t do the same with union, as if he needed to explicate it and defend it from erroneous views, or as if he anathemetized those who preached a different view of union. Come on, what evidence are we looking at?
As for priority, how does this help you?
Article 24: The Sanctification of Sinners Belgic Confession
We believe that this true faith, produced in man by the hearing of God’s Word and by the work of the Holy Spirit, regenerates him and makes him a “new man,” causing him to live the “new life” and freeing him from the slavery of sin.
Therefore, far from making people cold toward living in a pious and holy way, this justifying faith, quite to the contrary, so works within them that apart from it they will never do a thing out of love for God but only out of love for themselves and fear of being condemned.
So then, it is impossible for this holy faith to be unfruitful in a human being, seeing that we do not speak of an empty faith but of what Scripture calls “faith working through love, which leads a man to do by himself the works that God has commanded in his Word.
These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable to God, since they are all sanctified by his grace. Yet they do not count toward our justification– for by faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do good works. Otherwise they could not be good, any more than the fruit of a tree could be good if the tree is not good in the first place.
So then, we do good works, but nor for merit– for what would we merit? Rather, we are indebted to God for the good works we do, and not he to us, since it is he who “works in us both to will and do according to his good pleasure” — thus keeping in mind what is written: “When you have done all that is commanded you, then you shall say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have done what it was our duty to do.’ ”
Yet we do not wish to deny that God rewards good works– but it is by his grace that he crowns his gifts.
Moreover, although we do good works we do not base our salvation on them; for we cannot do any work that is not defiled by our flesh and also worthy of punishment. And even if we could point to one, memory of a single sin is enough for God to reject that work.
So we would always be in doubt, tossed back and forth without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be tormented constantly if they did not rest on the merit of the suffering and death of our Savior. END OF QUOTE
Again, it’s hard to read the Reformation confessions on sanctification and not think that justification was the doctrine that put sanctification in perspective. (BTW, the word union doesn’t even appear in the Belgic.)
As for what Lutherans believe, I do not think that Lutherans differ from Reformed on the relationship between justification and sanctification. Both affirm that good works and obedience flow from justification as evidences and fruit of faith. You keep using the word “product.” That’s not a technical one and I don’t know what you mean by it. We have other words like ground, instrument, and different kinds of causes. I don’t of any one who would say literally that sanctification is the product of justification. I think Reformed and Lutherans teach that sanctification is the work of God, but it is incomplete and perfect in this life and will not make us righteous before God.
You seem to be playing word games. I am sorry, but does it matter that Paul didn’t defend the word union? I mean, he doesn’t defend the word Trinity either, right? He says justification a bunch of times. I get it. Justification is important. I understand that. Is it more important than sanctification? The OPC Justification Report, which you say you like, says no. Is it temporally prior? Again, the same report does not affirm that. You didn’t answer my question regarding priority…what it means exactly. You simply cited a large Confession to which I do not subscribe. I am a Westminster man when it comes to Confessions, sorry. So, yes, the catechisms tell us how it is we receive the twofold grace that Calvin talked about. Union. Other than a few heretics, I don’t understand why you are so up in arms about this. I mean, should I start criticizing your view of justification because Joel Osteen constantly talks about being right before God by grace? He sure doesn’t like to put sanctification simultaneously with justification!
If you affirm that Lutherans and Reformed hold to the same relationship between justification and sanctification then we have to disagree. I don’t know why you will not conceded differences. I love Lutherans; I’ll hug them. But there are some areas where we differ. Does it mean that they get the gospel wrong? No. I don’t think they are condemned for consubstantiation. But, did the presbyteries demand that I know why and where my views are different from the Lutherans? Yes. For Lutherans, sanctification and good works are the same thing. They are not for the Reformed…that’s why we have two different chapters on them in the Westminster Confession. Even VanDrunen and Godfrey, in the article you quoted from before, distance themselves completely from the notion that justification “causes” sanctification, “We do not believe that that language appears anywhere in CPJM, and it is purely gratuitous for Garcia to say that CJPM attributes to justification a generative, transformational quality. That is not the view of any author of CJPM and was never argued by any of them anywhere in the book.”
So, in what way would you differ with them and say that justification causes sanctification? What kind of “cause” do you like in this instance since you do not like the word “produce”?
I like how you simply dismiss the basis of the union argument. Some Calvin, some Paul…forget about it. My position of union does not do away with justification by faith alone by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. But you keep trying to put justification on the pedestal as though it is the most important benefit of salvation. It’s not. Justification, adoptions, sanctification, glorification…all are important! All are given in union with Christ. This was Calvin’s view and, I am now completely convinced, it was also Beza’s view. Look at his Table…justification and sanctification are given simultaneously. I just don’t get what the problem is with that view. What I find is exceptionally interesting is that all of your arguments are historical quotes and yet when I talked about historical work you said only the creedal question would matter…or at least it would have priority. Have you talked personally with Dick Gaffin? Have you engaged his exegetical arguments? Isn’t that where this has to go? It needs to go to Romans 6, Ephesians 1, 1 Corinthians 1, Romans 8, etc.
If it just a historical argument, sorry, but the Reformers (at Geneva, at least) and the Puritans, who wrote the Westminster Confession of Faith, saw justification and sanctification as benefits given simultaneously…they flow from union with Christ.
Justification does not cause, ground or become the instrument of sanctification. I would disagree that sanctification is nothing more or less than the fruit and evidence of justification. But I would just as quickly, or even first, affirm that sanctification does not come before justification neither is it the cause of justification. This is why I use the historic language of the catechisms and the language of Calvin…union language. I don’t think that position makes me deny the place of justification in making one righteous before God anymore than I would deny that adoption makes me a son of God. I still fail to see where the “danger” is that you keep warning us all about.
Sorry for rambling. Thank you for your thoughts.
I was reading some old articles and chuckled because, above you asked, “Union clearly has defective proponents. Where are the similar defects among justification’s priority proponents?”
Answer: John Robbins.
I, at least, thought it was pretty funny. I was reading his article on the relationship between justification and sanctification where he defends J as causing S.
For the record, Dr. Hart, at this point in my studies I am fine saying that justification by faith alone was the “material principle” of the Reformation. The doctrine of scripture was the formal principle. Somewhere in there is the reforming of worship, which I have heard argued, was just as important. That doesn’t answer the question of priority, in importance or temporal. I don’t think that justificaiton as the material principle of the Reformation means justification is prior to nor does it have priority over sanctification. That does not follow. What it means is that you must define justification. Justification, being as important as it was (and is), was seen as the declarative act of God, imputing Christ’s righteousness into his people. This is where the Roman Catholic Church got it wrong. They believed in infusion. They blurred the distinction between justification and sanctification. That is the “what is it” question, which is separate from the “what is its relationship to union” and separate from “what is its relationship to sanctification.”
Whenever the Reformers speak to the “what is it question” they are clear. But they are equally clear when they speak to the “what is its relationship to union” as well as “what is its relationship to sanctification.”
cnh, at one point you said above that the centrality of union was the Reformed view. Did you mean that it was the Westminster view? Or were you speaking for all of the Reformed confessions? You don’t seem to like that I appealed to Belgic. Well, isn’t Belgic Reformed? Or is the doctrine of union going to turn you into a Westminster only man because it’s the only set of standards that mentions (by a smidgeon) union.
As I say, if the question is how am I right with God, union doesn’t answer the question because union is about how the spirit applies to us redemption. So you need to answer the right with God question the way Paul did — justification. Sorry, but it is significant that Paul defends justification and not union. He didn’t defend the trinity because it was at issue. (And if you really want to take the question all the way back, prior to union is the doctrine of the trinity.) So in terms of important doctrines, who’s to say? In terms of the specific question of how am I right with God, justification is the Protestant answer?
And here is where the priority of justification to sanctification comes in. Sanctification doesn’t make me right with God. It is imperfect in this life. So sanctification depends on justification to pick up the pieces — to turn the filthy rags that come with sanctification into pure white. You cannot say the same thing about sanctification — that justification depends on sanctification. If you do, then you’re with Rome.
So even if just. and sanct. might be simultaneous, one is prior in the sense that the one bears a relationship to the other that the other does not. One is dependent on the other. I don’t see how you can read any Reformed confession and not see that. Just look at WCF 20.1:
“The liberty which Christ hath purchased for believers under the gospel consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemning wrath of God, the curse of the moral law; and, in their being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin; from the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grave, and everlasting damnation; as also, in their free access to God, and their yielding obedience unto him, not out of slavish fear, but a childlike love and willing mind.”
Not only does the forensic come before the rennovative, and not only is it set apart by “and,” but the very notion that Christians may obey God without slavish fear is because the law has been subdued and fulfilled by Christ. I understand that sanctification and good works are not the same. Nor are they distinct since the Confession says of sanctification that it works saving graces “to the practice of true holiness.” So in several respects, sanctification involves good works and good works done out of love and gratitude rather than fear can only come from knowing that we are righteous in God’s sight and do not try to live in a holy manner to merit a blessed status before God.
BTW, the Robbins piece starts by saying what you do that sanctification and good works are not the same thing. He also says that sanctification is the work of the Spirit. Yes, he talks about the priority of justification in a lot of ways. But where exactly is the problem in what he says — unless there is a rule that you may never say that justification is prior to sanctification. in which case — oops — the OPC did.
I also don’t know why you say that for Lutherans, good works and sanctification are the same thing. You seem to think this is a big deal. But the creeds of the Reformed churches in the sixteenth century didn’t have separate chapters on good works and sanctification. Is that the litmus test? And what is the colossal error of identifying sanctification and good works?
It does seem that your understanding of Reformed teaching excludes Reformed teaching.
I don’t exclude Reformed teaching. At least, that is not my intention. My intention is to take all of Reformed teaching and to understand it together. You cite the confessions but these are not in a vacuum. You seem to dismiss the small number of times union is used in the catechisms and cite that the word is not in any other confession. Now, you are certainly more qualified than I am to make that determination. I can’t say, at this point, if there is no discussion of being ‘in Christ,’ ‘receiving Christ,’ etc in those confessions. I can say that the WCF, being based as it is on a fairly straight line of teaching from Calvin, does use it. My only point above was that I subscribe to that Confession, which explains my lack of knowing the others. You point out a good weakness in my knowledge and it is one that I hope to be able to study out a bit more. As I have learned, though, from reading your posts is that you pull the passages that are all about justification and, even if they are there, you neglect the passages on union from the same writer (Murray and Vos come to mind on this). This isn’t a bad thing since you are defending the Reformed notion of justification. My question is a different one – one that deals not with definition but, rather, with relationship.
I appreciate your response above. You are reasonable and even allow for the simultaneous reception of justification and sanctification so long as there is the proper relationship between the two understood as dependence. This is good because previously you were referring to words like ‘causal.’ We don’t want to say that the relationship between J & S is a causal one. I think that this is the WSC error though I will have more to say on that when I get to that phase of my research. There are three kinds of dependence – ontological, epistemic and conceptual. I won’t bore you with all that I have been reading over the last few days but I think that we can say sanctification has a conceptual dependence upon justification and, as such, justification has priority over sanctification. I also agree with you regarding the question that justification answers – I certainly hope that it seemed otherwise in the exchange above.
The problem regarding identifying sanctification with good works is that it is imprecise. It is not a litmus test (you certainly seem to be testy about litmus tests…unless they are your own) but it is important, I think, to recognize the development in theological understanding put forth by the Divines. I mean, if I were discussing the Trinity and you kept citing the Apostle’s Creed – I would agree – but there has been more written on it since then that I think can be helpful to the discussion. Furthermore, I think it can lead (at least it does for the Lutherans) to saying that justification is the gospel, which it is not. This is why the Divines separated them. Certainly, good works are part of sanctification, however it is much, much more. It has to do with the renewing of one’s mind and setting one’s priorities right. Now, these might lead to good works but they do not necessarily – hence the distinction.
To reject the distinction, however, is based on an understanding of the relationship between justification and sanctification that you don’t seem to espouse (causal) and that I think would be incorrect. If, as you write, they can be received simultaneously, then it would follow that sanctification and good works are separate things.
Regarding the Robbins citation – that was more funny than anything. Robbins believes that the OPC cannot be saved. For him justification must be so prior (not just priority) that it is separated from sanctification completely. You asked for someone who took the priority of justification to an extreme. Robbins does. And, for the record, the OPC does not say that justification is prior to sanctification. It has priority but is not prior. It might be a quibble but these words and their meanings are important. This is why I have been trying to ask you about how you understand priority. You seem to use the words interchangeably and, I think, this creates confusion. Prior is a kind of priority but it is not the only kind (moreover, it is a kind that the OPC report rejects). This is where I think we need to go back to the three kinds of dependence and a proper understanding of priority. They ruled out two of them in the report (ontological and epistemic) which, as I understand it, only leaves the third option.
So long as you are willing to accept the view that justification and sanctification come to the believer as simultaneous benefits then I don’t think we have much to disagree about. I have learned a great deal from this exchange (as always) and look forward to learning more.
cnh, I guess I should just let this go since we have either run out of gas or have reached a modicum of consensus. But your use of the word, “error,” prompts me to respond. What concerns me probably the most about union advocates is the way they apply that word. They use it with folks who in my judgment are not in error and fail to use it against those who are.
For instance, you say WSC is in error about a causal relationship between just. and sanct. Well, Godfrey and VanDrunen denied that this is a WSC position. Meanwhile, the OPC report on just. was written in part by folks who teach at WSC. Claims about WSC being in error are serious and I believe without substance.
Also, you say Robbins commits an error. You are being somewhat facetious. And I know that appearing to defend Robbins within the OPC is a no no. But I sure wish you could point to a specific place where he claims that just. causes sanct. It does seem that union folks have a certain play book that if others don’t follow they commit the Lutheran error and so are erroneous.
But here is one thing that Robbins says:
“Further on Paul adds to the Colossians, â€œLie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deedsâ€ (Colossians 3:9). Every human religion reverses that order. The best it can tell us is to stop lying and thereby put away the old man and his deeds. But the way of the Gospel is utterly contrary to human devisings. It says, You are already dead; now act like dead men. You are pure; now act like you are pure. You are perfect; now act like you are perfect. You already are; therefore act that way. The New Testament doctrine of sanctification is to get us to realize our legal position and standing, and to act accordingly.
“Here is another example of how the Biblical command to live in holiness is undergirded by justification: â€œHaving therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of Godâ€ (2 Corinthians 7:1). This illustrates how we must grasp the promise of justification before we can obey the command of sanctification. We cannot â€œcleanse ourselves from all filthinessâ€ unless we believe that we are already washed in the blood of the Lamb (1 John 1:9).”
Now I think Robbins was a little screwy with his understanding of cognitive assent to doctrine as the cause of sanctification. That is where the rationalistic side of Robbins comes out and this is in fact a problem in his theology. But his understanding of the priority of just. to sanct. is not the problem. In fact, when he quotes Shedd, he seems to make clear what he is doing, and that his view here is in the Reformed soteriology ballpark:
“The strongest inducement for a Christian to obey the divine law is the fact that he has been graciously pardoned for having broken the law. He follows after sanctification because he has received justification. He obeys the law, not in order to be forgiven, but because he has been forgiven. 2 Corinthians 5:4: â€œThe love of Christ constrains us not to live unto ourselves, but unto him who died for us.â€ And the love meant is Christ’s redeeming love. 2 Corinthians 7:1: â€œHaving these promises [of forgiveness], let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.â€ Because God has blotted out all his past sin, the believer has the most encouraging of all motives to resist all future sin. Had God not pardoned the past, it would be futile to struggle in the future.”
BTW, Robbins also quotes Calvin on not breaking Christ into pieces. Doesn’t that get him any credit?
One last point. The OPC report says just. is a necessary prerequisite of sanct. I don’t know where that fits in your scheme of priority. But I do think it is clear and it is what WSC has affirmed consistently in the book that Garcia refused to commend.
Now you might say that union is the necessary prerequisite for just. I don’t think I’d disagree, though I think the language of the Standards has more to say about effectual calling than union. But couldn’t one also say that the Trinity is the necessary prerequisite for just.? That is, why look to union of all the doctrines that you could point to as the lynch pin of Reformed soteriology. It’s a constellation of doctrines that undergird the Reformed account of salvation and I sometimes think the focus on union is arbitrary, especially when its advocates don’t seem to be that comfortable either with saying what the material principle of the Reformation was, or detecting where union resides in the larger teaching of the Reformed creeds and confessions.
Thank you for interacting. I apologize that I am not always guarded in the use of my words. Is error too strong? I suppose we will have to wait until the dust settles and more is written. I understand that scholars on both sides of the line are getting ready to go to publication with some good stuff. I look forward to reading it one day.
You said, “They use it with folks who in my judgment are not in error and fail to use it against those who are.” I assume the “they” here refers to someone other than me? I have yet to hear someone who holds to union in the way that I was taught turn around and praise those who are in error such as FV/NPP/Shepherd, etc. I mean, you keep bringing this up…and so did Godfrey and VanDrunen. It’s as though every person holding to Union has to start out by bashing those with whom they are not debating even though they disagree with them. It strikes me as smoke that is thrown up to try and draw attention away from the real issue at hand and it is used as something like an ad hominem.
Regarding some of your other points – I still am not certain then what you would argue. Are you saying that justification is the ground for sanctification? Is it the instrument? In what sense is it the cause, then? I suppose I was equating your views as stated above with WSC. It’s weird, because the article I read by Fesko (I think he’s still at WSC) says that the statement “justification causes sanctification” is the popular expression. The denial of this “popular expression” is one the things that he points out as wrong with Garcia’s work. That said, I think we’ll know more after awhile. I hope that no one sees justification as producing sanctification. Or even sanctification being the result of or caused by justification. I think all of those formulations are unnecessary and lead to, yes, error.
It will be interesting to see where this all goes. I mean, your views seem rather tame compared to some that I am hearing from the anti-union camp.
Oh, and to answer your question,
“But couldn’t one also say that the Trinity is the necessary prerequisite for just.? That is, why look to union of all the doctrines that you could point to as the lynch pin of Reformed soteriology.”
I guess it is because the Confessions do (I mean, effectual calling and union are, at least in Perkins works, synonymous) and Calvin does. The exegetical argument is that God does. But, you are right, if we are going to follow it all the way backwards then, yes, we would go to the Triune God and the Pactum Salutis. Sure. But that’s not the question, right? The question has to do with the relationship between justification and sanctification. If they are inseparable, distinct, simultaneous benefits then we have to ask how we receive them…union with Christ. Why are we united? Election. Why are we elect? God’s good pleasure. We can go all the way back. That is, after all, the purpose of the Golden Chain.
You seriously underestimate the centrality of justification in Calvin’s understanding of the gospel, and this mistake skews your entire understanding of his theology. Maybe the following passages will help.
First, simply note Calvin’s definition of justification in Book III:
â€œTherefore, we explain justification simply as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favor as righteous men. And we say that it consists in the remission of sins and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.â€ Institutes 3.6.2.
That’s pretty simple, but he elaborates on this definition a few chapters later, and comes very close to committing what you designates as a Lutheran errorâ€”equating justification with the gospel:
â€œBut the best passage of all on this matter is the one in which he [Paul] teaches that the sum of the gospel embassy is to reconcile us to God, since God is willing to receive us into grace through Christ, not counting our sins against us. Let my readers carefully ponder the whole passage. For a little later Paul adds by way of explanation: â€œChrist, who was without sin, was made sin for us,â€ to designate the means of reconciliation. Doubtless, he means by the word â€œreconciledâ€ nothing but â€œjustified.â€ 3.11.4.
I bet you can guess where I’m headed: If the â€œgospel embassyâ€ is reconciliation, and if reconciliation is nothing but justification; then the â€œgospel embassyâ€ is justification. Isn’t that the implication of Calvin’s reasoning here?
Calvin doesn’t formally and explicitly take up justification till Book III, but that doesn’t mean the concept isn’t in every part of the Institutes. Now that we have his definition of justification, we can look for it in other parts of the Institutes. This, I’m sure, will confirm that justification is the dominant feature of the gospel in Calvin’s thinking.
We find Calvin teaching about justification in Book I. It’s embedded in his reasoning concerning the uselessness of crosses in medieval worship:
â€œPaul declares, that by the true preaching of the gospel Christ is portrayed and in a manner crucified before our eyes. Of what use, then, were the erection in churches of so many crosses of wood and stone, silver and gold, if this doctrine were faithfully and honestly preached, viz., Christ died that he might bear our curse upon the tree, that he might expiate our sins by the sacrifice of his body, wash them in his blood, and, in short, reconcile us to God the Father? From this one doctrine the people would learn more than from a thousand crosses of wood and stone.â€ 1.11.7.
His main teaching is that wooden, stone, and gold crosses are worthless when compared with â€œtrue preaching of the gospel.â€ While making that point, he explicitly identifies the doctrine at the heart of the gospel: â€œChrist died that he might bear our curseâ€¦, that he might expiate our sinsâ€¦, wash them in his bloodâ€¦, and, in short, reconcile us to God.â€ This is the doctrine that he identifies as justification in Book III, and, once again, he is saying that is the heart of the gospel.
In Book II, Calvin is defending the idea that the gospel was available to the OT Jews. Again, the centrality of justification is obvious:
â€œIn the same way we infer that the Old Testament was both established by the free mercy of God and confirmed by the intercession of Christ. For the preaching of the Gospel declares nothing more than that sinners, without any merit of their own, are justified by the paternal indulgence of God. It is wholly summed up in Christ.â€ 2.10.4.
What does the preaching of the Gospel declare? Union? Sanctification? Justification? According to Calvin, it declares â€œnothing more than that sinnersâ€¦are justified by the paternal indulgence of God.â€
Note the connection that Calvin makes between justification and salvation in same book, chapter, and section:
â€œWho, then, will presume to represent the Jews as destitute of Christ, when we know that they were parties to the Gospel covenant, which has its only foundation in Christ? Who will presume to make them aliens to the benefit of gratuitous salvation, when we know that they were instructed in the doctrine of justification by faith?â€ 2.10.4.
The teaching of his last rhetorical question is clear. We know that the Jews were not strangers to salvation by grace because we know that they understood the doctrine of justification by faith. That’s huge, right? Isn’t Calvin teaching that salvation is not alien to those instructed in the doctrine of justification by faith?
Here’s another quote from Book III. Here, Calvin is pointing out the pastoral implications of the doctrine of justification by faith, and, once again, he identifies that doctrine with the gospel:
â€œShould [an] individual lay open the secret wound of his soul to his pastor, and hear these words of the Gospel specially addressed to him, “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee,” (Mat 9: 2), his mind will feel secure, and escape from the trepidation with which it was previously agitated. But when we treat of the keys, we must always beware of dreaming of any power apart from the preaching of the Gospel.â€ 3.4.14.
Again, the gospel is the announcement that sins are forgiven. The gospel is justification, and it’s strong stuff.
Calvin goes even further. He makes the doctrine of justification the very foundation of Christian faith:
â€œTherefore, if we would not have faith to waver and tremble, we must support it with the promise of salvation, which is offered by the Lord spontaneously and freely, from a regard to our misery rather than our worth. Hence the Apostle bears this testimony to the Gospel, that it is the word of faith, (Rom 10: 8). This he concedes not either to the precepts or the promises of the Law, since there is nothing in them which can establish our faith, but that free embassy by which God reconciles the world to himselfâ€¦. Hence he often uses faith and the Gospel as correlative termsâ€¦.No wonder: for seeing that the Gospel is “the ministry of reconciliation,” (2Co 5: 18), there is no other sufficient evidence of the divine favor, such as faith requires to know.â€ 3.2.29.
We’ve almost come full circle. The ministry of justification is the same as the ministry of reconciliation, and it includes the promise of salvation. This is the foundation of saving faith.
A couple more quotes to show the church’s role in propagating this teaching. The emphasis on justification is apparent:
â€œChrist therefore testified, that in the preaching of the gospel the apostles only acted ministerially; that it was he who, by their mouths as organs, spoke and promised all; that, therefore, the forgiveness of sins which they announced was the true promise of God; the condemnation which they pronounced, the certain judgement of God.â€ 4.11.1.
â€œTherefore, in the communion of saints our sins are constantly forgiven by the ministry of the Church, when presbyters or bishops, to whom the office has been committed, confirm pious consciences, in the hope of pardon and forgiveness by the promises of the gospel, and that as well in public as in private, as the case requires.â€ 4.1.22.
If you insist on claiming that Calvin didn’t put â€œjustification on a pedestal,â€ bring some evidence. I’m starting to think that Gaffin and Garcia have magic glasses.
cnh, what is the error that comes from saying just. causes sanct.? I am not taking that view. Nor do I know of anyone who says it unless they are trying to affirm that good works are the evidence and fruit of genuine faith, that which is the instrument of justification and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. But what is the error? What happens when you say that just. causes sanct.? What are the consequences that are so dangerous? Rome certainly saw a danger. But what is the Protestant version of Rome’s warnings?
These questions are ones that union proposals don’t seem to take into account — that is, what was at stake in the debates of the sixteenth century when it was a question of being right with God by our works of love infused with grace, or whether we are right solely on the basis of faith. I don’t see how union resolves that matter or gives a clear answer. The import of union seems to say, yes, we are justified by faith. But don’t miss the bigger picture, the more significant point of union. In the sixteenth century, though, union was not at issue. It was justification and whether we are right with God by faith or works. That seems to me still to be a basic concern of Christian soteriology. Union doesn’t change it. In which case, justification clarifies what the gospel is in a way that union does not.
Ultimately, God is the cause of salvation. But Rome also said this. God infused righteousness to make sinners right. So again, more specificity is necessary.
As for union advocates not distancing themselves from erroneous views of justification, I think it is possible to say that for the last thirty years justification has been up for grabs, from Shepherd to Evangelicals and Catholics Together, to Kinnaird and Federal Vision. It is curious that the most serious proposals for union have not been clear about the errors of those proposals. In fact, sometimes union advocates have defended some of those innovators. That is clearly a problem for “your side.” If you want to set the record straight and distance union from those views, please do so. But it is hard for those of us who have been troubled by Protestant teaching on justification simply to sit back and not notice how silent some of union’s advocates have been.
What happens when you say that just. causes sanct.?
It improperly mingles imputation and infusion. Justification is accomplished by imputation; sanctification by infusion. IF J were to cause S, then the infusion of grace would be “packaged” somehow into the imputation — which is moving towards the Roman position.
The doctrine of duplex gratia keeps these separate, as they should be.
Yes, you would have to start posting on Not-Strictly-Forensic Fridays.
DGH: If you want to set the record straight and distance union from those views, please do so.
There are three differences. First, union as classically taught distinguishes between forensic and experiential; recent “innovators” have not done so. Second, Shepherd’s view of justification explicitly states that the faith that accomplishes justification contains faithfulness — a tendency towards good works — as a component instead of a consequence. Third, the FV has tried to create a “covenantal view” of salvation; and in this view, baptism is the necessary-and-sufficient condition of covenantal union.
If you want a union view that avoids the latter two problems, I recommend Hoekema. If you want a union view that avoids all three problems, I recommend Berkhof.
Jeff, how can saying that just. causes sanct. be Roman? It was Rome that said sanctification causes justification (makes us acceptable). Rome also anathametized the idea that put good works as the outcome of justification.
Again, I’m not saying just. causes sanct. I’m just trying to understand the opposition. I don’t see why the language of causation leads to mixture. Turning on the switch causes the computer to run. It doesn’t make the switch the computer (to use an off the cuff and likely flawed analogy).
I sense that union advocates have certain fears that apparently justify the importance of their view. But I don’t know of anyone who puts it this way — just. causes sanct. — nor do I see how erroneous such a construction is — unless, of course, not to turn union into the center of soteriology is an error.
Yes, I agree that you aren’t saying that justification causes sanctification, and I’m not accusing you of error (except perhaps an overly suspicious view of those who think of salvation in terms of union 🙂 ).
Rome said — says still — that justification was an act of making a person righteous. Forensic declaration and sanctification are all subsumed under one umbrella.
Over against this, the Reformers taught that justification and sanctification are different kinds of grace. The first is imputed, the second infused.
Those who say that “justification causes sanctification” appear to be saying that the forensic contains sanctification subsumed within it. The *order* of Rome is backwards; but the error of placing both under the same umbrella is reintroduced.
Let’s work with the computer analogy for a moment. In your example, the switch is an instrumental cause; electrical energy is the material cause. And Microsoft’s operating system is a positive hindrance at times.
If we want to bring this analogy over, we would say that faith is the instrumental cause of S (and J of course), and the Spirit is the material cause.
So the question is then, Where does justification fit?
So one fear that I might have about a “justification causes sanctification” formula is that it implies that the justified person carries the material cause of sanctification in his own person, rather than acknowledging that it is an additional work of the Spirit to sanctify us.
So one fear that I might have about a â€œjustification causes sanctificationâ€ formula is that it implies that the justified person carries the material cause of sanctification in his own person, rather than acknowledging that it is an additional work of the Spirit to sanctify us.
I suppose I’m not sure why the language of causation is that scary. I’m quite partial to marital analogies. The Bible seems (ahem) pregnant with them and seems fitting to questions of union (better than computers at least).
When a man and woman are declared united can we not say that this declaration in some sense causes not only their union but also the sanctification of their previously un-sanctified relationship? But, while it might be a sort of odd way to speak casually, I find it even more odd to think that when someone says the declaration of marriage caused his union with his wife and the sanctification of their relationship to imply that they somehow had resident within them already union or sanctification. Maybe that is what unionists mean, but then they’d be not too unlike the modernist who thinks of marriage as a relatively negligible instruction (i.e. â€œpiece of paper’) where what really matters is that â€œwe are married in our hearts.â€ Flutter-flutter, be still my beating heart.
DISCLAIMER: I hold to union but I disagree with: Federal Vision, New Perspective on Paul, Norman Shepherd and John Kinnaird…and any other subtle forms of error that have taken the union position over the last 30 years.
I didn’t realize this thread was still going…I am happy that it is. I learn a great deal as I interact with your challenges.
I went looking for some quotes so that I would be prepared when you asked again. So, here: http://www.wscal.edu/clark/covtheses.php R. Scott Clark states that “Sanctity is the second benefit of the covenant of grace and flows from justification.” Also, in the article titled, “Calvin on Justification” Dr. Fesko argues that both sanctification and union with Christ are logically grounded upon justification. If this isn’t putting justification as equivalent with the gospel then I don’t what is.
The problem is just what Garcia points out when both VanDrunen and Godfrey deny that they believe justification causes sanctification: “If we argue that justification is the cause of sanctification, then we attribute to justification a generative, transformational quality.” But, of course, they deny that anyone they know over there would hold to that position. I am reading Fesko’s larger work on justification. They might not know anyone out there that holds to justification causing sanctification…but I think I do.
Saying that it has logical priority in a way that I have defined it above keeps this error from occurring, but saying that J causes S is both theologically wrong and, if claimed as “reformed,” historically inaccurate.
I continue to find it humorous that your strongest argument against non-FV union guys is that somehow they are not hard enough on FV. Should I wear an FV=Heresy t-shirt to get the point across? Again, if I am being attacked from the West, I am not going to explain all the reasons I disagree with the South every time I engage the West. I can start all of my posts as I have done above if that will begin to help the cause.
To say that justification causes sanctification (and, as Fesko does, union) is the post Luther, Lutheran position. The question of the Ordo Salutis wasn’t even raised prior to the 18th century Lutheran-Pietist debates…at least that is what one Reformed scholar has told me recently. So, to push back upon the Reformers and those in the calvinistic tradition some strict ordo salutis is, perhaps, anachronistic.
Finally, I am just about through with my analysis of Perkins. I am still looking for causative language in the relationship between justification and sanctification. It’s not there. In fact, in his “golden chain” he puts repentance after effectual calling (which is for him union), justification and sanctification. That was the first tip-off that he is doing something other than giving a cause and effect relationship between the benefits. But he does speak of a cause for sanctification: the resurrection of Christ.
Also, this isn’t being debated on your blog much (though maybe it ought to be), Perkins also divides sanctification into a twofold benefit – one definitive (mortification) and the other progressive (vivification).
I apologize for not interacting with other posts but my time, at this time of the week, is very limited.
Zrim: I suppose I’m not sure why the language of causation is that scary.
I don’t know about “scary”, but “requires some care and precision.” After all, the question of “what causes what?” is at the heart over debates about justification, both Reformational and current.
I find it interesting that Garcia as cited by cnh (whom I have not yet read … the queue is hopelessly backed up) comes to a similar conclusion that I do: the claim
(1) Justification causes sanctification
(2) Justification contains within it a transformative grace (that is: infusion).
It goes back to what I said to DGH: If faith is the instrumental cause of sanctification, and the Spirit is the material cause, then what role does justification have here?
I share your enthusiasm for marital analogies, and I agree that the union between man and wife is Biblically parallel to the union between Christ and the church.
But after that, I’m lost. You seem to be drawing an analogy between the formal recognition of marriage and the formal recognition of church membership, in contrast to an inner “married in the heart” and invisible church membership, but then you argue that the former is all that matters … and in the case of church membership, I’m pretty sure you don’t think that.
Now, thinking more on causation: there is indeed one sense in which we could say that J causes S.
Recall that Aristotle distinguished four types of causes. One of those was the “final cause”, the aim or purpose for which something is accomplished. So if you ask, “Why did you rent the rototiller?”, the answer is “Because I wanted to get the veggie beds ready.” (today’s activity…)
The end “causes” the means.
This use of the word cause is rather out of fashion because we associate cause with instrumental causes these days.
Nevertheless: our justification is God’s view of us as completely righteous. He sees us without sin — as we indeed will be when our sanctification is complete, when we are glorified in the eschaton.
It is clear, then, that in sanctification the Spirit moves us closer to the goal of being in our behavior as we are in our status. Justification is our destiny; sanctification moves us to that destiny.
In this sense, then, justification is the final cause of sanctification.
But in no other sense.
I think your elaboration of the computer analogy is helpful. My response is that I don’t know of anyone, even in my own fundamentalist background, who would have been tempted to think that by being justified they carried around within the material cause of their sanctification. As impoverished as our theology of the Spirit was, no one would have thought about sanctification apart from God’s work in us.
So I do wonder — I’m not saying this of you — if the union advocates have created gobblins that don’t exist in order to posit the genius of their doctrine.
Meanwhile, I’ve talked to many folks who cannot make sense of what union “does.” Meaning, it seems that simply saying that just. and sanct. are distinct and inseperable benefits that flow from union makes is seem as if union gives to us the material cause within us of our just. and sanct. In other words, I don’t see union supplying the kind of clarity that union folks demand of priority folks.
cnh, I’ve read Garcia. I don’t know why attributing to justification a generative quality is such a problem. Especially when you consider that justification is a forensic act that says we have died to the law. The law no longer has claims on us. And that forensic act in a sense makes us alive to Christ — in other words, we are now free to do the law out of gratitude, not out of fear.
It really does seem to me that the way Paul bangs on the law, as in the law is not of faith, makes the forensic aspect of salvation in a sense transformative. It is not the material cause of sanctification — as Jeff points out. But it is a motivational cause for true good works. That is what I think Clark and Fesko are trying to affirm. And I’m not sure why Garcia wants to make a deal of that aspect of the forensic.
Again, worst case, what is wrong with just. as generative? Even Jeff, a union man, says it isn’t scary. That’s not what you hear in criticisms of WSC.
cnh, by the way, saying that sanctity flows from just. is not the same as just. causes sanct. Also, union and sanct. as logically grounded in just. is not the same as saying just. causes sanct.
I detect this tendency to fine pick statements for not saying exactly the right way, and then concluding that they are saying something that unionists deny — as in, just. causes sanct.
One more thing: I don’t know what is wrong with so identifying justification with the Gospel. Paul seems to do a fair amount of that in Romans and Galatians. It also seems to me that just. comes closer to the issues at stake in the gospel than union.
Just,. is a benefit that guilty sinners need. It is good news (what gospel means). Union is about the way the benefits of redemption are delivered. For union to be good news, it needs the doctrine of justification.
DGH: Even Jeff, a union man, says it isn’t scary.
Quick clarification. I don’t think word “cause” is scary. I do think that “J causes S” is incorrect and improperly combines imputation and infusion (unless meant in the archaic “J is the final cause of S” sense).
DGH: cnh, by the way, saying that sanctity flows from just. is not the same as just. causes sanct. Also, union and sanct. as logically grounded in just. is not the same as saying just. causes sanct.
That’s good to know — it would be helpful to have the differences between them clearly distinguished.
DGH: I detect this tendency to fine pick statements for not saying exactly the right way, and then concluding that they are saying something that unionists deny â€” as in, just. causes sanct.
It’s a fair criticism, and it works both ways. Somehow, East and West have become suspicious of each other and begin with the default stance that “there must be something wrong with what he’s saying.”
It would be helpful for the level of suspicion on both sides to decrease.
DGH: Meanwhile, I’ve talked to many folks who cannot make sense of what union â€œdoes.â€
Ah. In that case, they have not made sense of what union “is.”
Two indications that union is improperly understood are
(1) To think of union as the cause of something, or
(2) To think of union as a benefit of salvation, fitting somewhere into the ordo.
In contrast to both of these, “union” is a description of process.
When I believe, two things happen:
(1) I receive Christ’s righteousness by imputation, and
(2) The Spirit of Christ dwells in me.
We summarize these two things by the phrase “united with Christ.”
So at no point does union cause anything; rather, Christ Himself is the cause. Nor is union a benefit of being saved; it is rather the description of the process of being saved. The term “union” is chosen (by Calvin, picking up from Paul) to indicate the closeness of this relationship: in being justified, I am not justified at a distance, but by being united with Christ in his death.
So the importance of the term union is to emphasize that salvation is all of Christ, and that salvation happens relationally.
I would imagine that no-one would disagree with either of those two emphases, right?
If saying that sanctification flows from justification is not establishing a causal relationship then those authors would need to further define what they mean. To say that the Mississippi river flows from Lake Itasca means that said lake is the source of said river. To say that B flows from A is to say, as I understand it, that B emanates from A as a result. This is a cause and effect relationship. So, to say that sanctification flows from justification is to say that J causes S. Maybe I am just being a stickler for definitions but then let’s be precise about our language. If this is not what they are saying, then what does it mean to say that sanctification flows from justification?
So, are you saying that you are fine with justification generating sanctification? I think that this is a dangerous theological road to go down though I do think that it is consistent with what you have been saying. It removes justification from the declaratory and makes it part declaratory and part transformative. We have lost the distinction between J & S that you have been trying so hard to maintain. We have, then, just reversed Rome’s error (they see that S causes J) but the distinction is lost, nonetheless. This is why I think it is important to maintain simultaneous, inseparable and distinct benefits. This is the view of the Reformers and the Confession.
I stress, again, the fact that I see this as an academic debate. I do not think that either Westminster is denying the gospel. And, again, FV, NPP and all other like-views deny the gospel.
In your response to Jeff you accept his explanation of the error in speaking of J causing S but then, since no one you know holds to it, it seems to be dismissed. This isn’t careful theology. Most arminians don’t truly believe that they save themselves…but it is what their theology leads to. It seems to me that, as confessional folk, we would want to consider the logical outcome of our views. Maybe this is why you bring up FV and such so often – you feel this is the logical outcome of union. Maybe not. I would not brush off that accusation, if made, but answer it.
So, how does J causing S not lead to the individual having, within themselves, the material condition for sanctification?
Sorry the marriage analogy fell flat. Computer analogies just seem inferior compared to familial ones.
But my point was just to suggest that this conversation always seems to be one of priority. And those who would defend the priority of the declarative nature of justification seem to have something in common with those who would champion the priority of the same in marital vows (confessionalists are intuitionalists after all). It’s better to speak of priority to than causation of, but I don’t see that those who might say that justification causes sanctification are meaning to say that â€œjustification contains within it a transformative grace.â€
When I was declared married I didn’t think of that declaration as having resident within it something transformative per se. It simply, but necessarily, put something into motion, made something true that an hour before was not true. The declaration of the minister depended upon the authority vested in him. In the same way, it seems to me that my being declared justified really finds its transformative power in God himself to make true what he has declared, and that by way of sanctification. And, so, if there is any danger in how justification and sanctification are construed, I think the Roman construal that imports sanctification back into justification is a better template than suspecting those who might speak of justification causing sanctification. Saying justification causes sanctification just seems like a less than ideal way of saying justification has priority to sanctification, that’s all.
What do you mean by “material condition”?
RL, I mean what most everyone means when they speak of material condition. Sorry, I don’t have the exact definition in front of me. You can google it. It’s one of Aristotle’s four causes: formal, material, final and one other one that I can’t remember.
Zrim, isn’t the RCC problem that they put justification into sanctification (not S into J)? The problem with causal language is that it is not, in any way, priority language. Priority has to do with dependence while causation is more than that. If we want to say that J has priority over S then we want to define in which way it has priority but causation is much stronger relationship that would make one more important than another.
I am fine with a language of priority so long as it is defined properly. I think that causation (saying that justification is the source of sanctification) takes us back into the errors of mixing the two benefits.
Sorry, RL, I have gotten my terms tangled. Not good for someone who is trying to carefully define things.
I did not mean “material condition(al)” as that has to do with logic. If P then Q is the same as saying not both P and not Q.
I had meant, the first time I used it, to refer to the “material principle” of the Reformation, which is the question of justification. (The Formal Principle is the authority of Scripture.)
The second time I used it I was thinking of causation (as I mentioned above, which also tipped me off to my mix-up). There are four kinds of causation: material, formal, efficient and final. To say that justification causes sanctification you would have to define what you mean by cause. I was thinking about material causation, I think. Certainly it is not the formal or the final. So, it could either be efficient (justification brings sanctification about) or material (justification is the stuff that makes up sanctification). I don’t know that I would be comfortable saying that that sort of relationship is appropriate. So, I don’t know that causal language is proper.
But, my original point was to say that the sentence “sanctification flows from justification” is simply another way of saying “justification is the source of sanctification” or “justification causes sanctification.” I think that it would have to be either MC or EC though I suppose there might be an argument that it is FC…I am just not sure if that would lead to saying S flows from J.
As I said before, I am fine with priority language, rightly defined, but causal language is a direction I would not want to go.
I wasn’t being facetious. I just wasn’t sure.
I was particularly interested in this statement of yours: “So, how does J causing S not lead to the individual having, within themselves, the material condition for sanctification?”
Here, you indicate that it would be a serious error for a person to think that they had within themselves the “material condition” of sanctification. As I understand the term, the material cause is the thing (or substance) out of which something is made. Aristotle used the example of the making of a bronze statue. When compare sanctification to the making of the bronze statue, the Spirit corresponds to the sculptor and the person corresponds to the bronze. The Spirit transforms people the way the sculptor transforms bronze. Isn’t this right?
If my comparison is accurate, then a person is the material cause of sanctification, but that’s no cause of concern is it? I don’t think it would cause anyone to be puffed up to teach them that they are the material cause of sanctification in the same way that bronze is the material cause of a statue. Is this a problem or have I confused the categories?
In Aristotle’s philosophy, the efficient cause is the principle of change. So broadly speaking it is the sculptor and, narrowly speaking, it is the art that the sculptor employs. So in sanctification, the Spirit corresponds to the broad sense and his working through the preached Word corresponds to the narrow sense.
To finish off the comparison, I think that the formal cause is Christ, in the sense that Christ is the pattern of the Spirit’s sanctifying work in the same way that the sculptor’s vision of what he wants his statue to look like is the pattern of his work. The final cause, of course, is the glory of God.
So I don’t think that justification causes sanctification in any Aristotelean sense, but I don’t think Aristotle’s uses exhaust the modern meaning of the term. Sticking with Aristotle’s statue example, I would say that election and justification correspond to the sculptor’s choosing and purchasing the bronze that he would use. The Father’s choosing the elect is election and Christ’s purchasing the elect is justification.
Though we see that choosing and buying bronze didn’t figure into Aristotle’s account of the causes of a statue, most people would see them necessary preliminary steps. Hence, one could say but for the sculptor’s choosing and purchasing of the bronze there would be no statue. In that sense they are causes.
RL, let me think more about it. I like what you are saying and I think that it fits. And now that it’s clear, I don’t think that is what they are saying (since they are speaking of the relationship of J to S, not self to S). Thank you for thinking it through so well, it is very helpful.
Some say that S flows from J. That seems to me to be something different…giving J a generative and transformative aspect that we would not want to give it. J is declarative and S is transformative. I think if we were to see it this way, J causes S, (keeping with Aristotle) we would have to say that Justification is the efficient cause of Sanctification, the source. I think that this is where others were going with it as an error. The justified person then becomes the efficient cause of their own sanctification. I would have to re-read Garcia but it seems that this was his concern.
…isn’t the RCC problem that they put justification into sanctification (not S into J)?
Well, the shorthand from the Catholics I have ever engaged is that “one is only as justified as he is sanctified.” That seems like thinking sanctification when one is saying justification to me, or putting sanctification into justification.
As far as your protestation against causation, again, I remain relatively unpersuaded that it is anything more than shorthand for priority. As you know, there is another Reformed tandum known as the indicative-imperative. I don’t see anything wrong with saying our indicative status “causes” our living out the imperatives. The one is tied to the heel of the other, and when things are so necessarily linked it doesn’t seem problematic to say the one that has priority is causing the animation of the other. And I don’t see how that threatens the understanding that the source of both just. and sanct. is God, nor do I see how that makes just. “more important than” sanct. I mean, couldn’t couldn’t you say the same thing about priority, that it implies that just. is more important than sanct.?
Zrim, so would you reject Murray’s understanding of definitive sanctification? It seems that you are going on about progressive sanctification – it was the indicative and imperative that made me think this. How do you see the relationship between ‘we are sanctified’ and ‘we are being sanctified’? Also, what do you see as the relationship between sanctification and good works?
I am still uncomfortable with causative language. I don’t see it in the reformers or in the Westminster Confession. I don’t see it in Paul. The source of our sanctification is not our justification. If you want to give justification a conceptual priority, then that would be fine (though this would only apply to progressive sanctification).
Yeah, I guess I read the RCC quote you give as putting justification into sanctification but I am sure it is a moot point. I read the Reformers as holding to distinction, inseparability and simultaneous reception of justification and the beginning of sanctification. Beza’s chart has it. Calvin states it as the twofold benefit. I don’t know how to get around that. I don’t see causation language in there except to say, as Perkins does, that the cause of our sanctification is the resurrection of Christ.
Applying Aristotle’s account of causes to justification highlights the priority of justification.
How God justifies sinners is complex, and this makes explaining how it relates to how God sanctifies sinners complex. First, I think we need to recognize that both are acts of which God is the subject and people are the object. We sometimes tend to think of them as things and not acts because we shun the verbs justify and sanctify in favor of nouns like justification and sanctification. We need to keep this in mind, especially when we are trying to apply Aristotle’s notion of causality. For example, the question â€œwhat is the material cause of justification?â€ is vague compared to the question â€œwhat is the material (i.e. thing) that God justifies?â€ The first question seems like one for a philosopher; the second one any catechized child could answer. God justifies the elect. The final cause is just as obvious: the glory of God.
Just like with sanctification, the formal cause of justification is Christ. But whereas Christ was the formal cause of sanctification in a moral sense (i.e. the pattern for how we think, act, and feel), Christ is the formal cause of justification in a legal sense (i.e. the pattern of our legal standing before God). When God justifies us, we acquire the same legal standing before God as the risen Christ. God wipes away our demerits and credits us with Christ’s merits.
That leaves us with the question of the efficient cause of justification. Though, strictly speaking, justification is a single declaratory act, its efficient causes are multiple. Both Christ and the Spirit are agents of our justification.
Christ’s work, as one of the efficient causes of our perfected legal standing, is well known. His passive and active obedience merit for us the remission of sins and the imputation of righteousness. This is the objective aspect of justification. The Spirit’s work is the application of those benefits won for us by Christ. The Spirit, working through the preached Word, accomplishes this by working faith in the heart of the believer. That is, he convinces the elect sinner to believe and rest in the message that because of Christ’s work his sins are forgiven and he is counted righteous before God. This is the subjective aspect of justification.
Comparing just those two aspects of justification, we see that Christ’s work has a priority. Though it’s not a cause of the Spirit’s work (in an Aristotelean sense), it’s a necessary antecedent. For the OT saints, faith looked forward to Christ’s work. For NT church, faith looks backward to Christ’s work. Either way, the faith that the Spirit works has as its object Christ and his work. Without Christ’s work, there would be no object for the faith that the Spirit would work. Further, without Christ’s work, there would be no message that our sins our forgiven and that we are reconciled to God (i.e. there would be no word through which the Spirit could work).
The priority that Christ’s work has within the economy of justification extends to sanctification. Though the Spirit is the only agent of sanctification, he transforms believers the same way that he justifies them: he works through faith in the preached word. As mentioned above, apart from Christ’s work, there is no faith and no word to be preached. Hence, Christ’s work has a priority, and justification has a priority over sanctification.
The message of Christ’s work in justification is the message that we have been forgiven, that we are friends with God, that we have peace with God, that we are reconciled to God. In other words, it’s the gospel. This is why Paul would spend years teaching nothing but Christ and him crucified. May it be so in Christ’s church today!
RL, if you look at the preceding discussion – I don’t deny a priority to justification. What I deny is a temporal separation in receiving justification and sanctification. I deny that justification is the cause of sanctification (because this would create a temporal distinction, however small). The benefits that we receive, in our faith in Christ, is an apprehension of all of the benefits of our salvation. In our union with Christ we are justified, adopted and sanctified. All of it is true simultaneously, inseparably and distinctly.
This doesn’t do away with priority or risk the gospel.
I am not certain that Aristotle’s categories are useful in the discussion – though I am still thinking it through. I was reading Robert Shaw’s exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith and this is how he lays out the causes of sanctification:
“The impulsive or moving cause of sanctification is the free grace of God. The meritorious cause is the blood and righteousness of Christ. The efficient cause is the Holy Spirit. The instrumental cause is faith in Christ.”
Interestingly, he doesn’t get into the “material cause”. I don’t know why, at this point, but I would not be surprised to find a resistance to setting the individual in the causation formula at all. That would be akin to saying, “if I was never born, God couldn’t save me; therefore, God needs me to save me.” I have heard this kind of language used by the Christian Hedonist movement (our salvation adds glory to God) and I am curious why Shaw does not find the individual believer at all in the causation.
Jeff, you write: “The term â€œunionâ€ is chosen (by Calvin, picking up from Paul) to indicate the closeness of this relationship: in being justified, I am not justified at a distance, but by being united with Christ in his death. So the importance of the term union is to emphasize that salvation is all of Christ, and that salvation happens relationally. I would imagine that no-one would disagree with either of those two emphases, right?”
I think you’re right, that no one objects to this. But who ever said that justification happens and yet Christ is still far away from me? It seems that union is a correction to a problem that doesn’t exist.
Meanwhile, some unionists talk about the doctrine as if it were the greatest thing since sliced bread. To say that salvation is all of Christ and that a relationship is part of it (I’m not sure that “salvation happens relationally” is the best construction — that sounds pretty FV) is ho hum. Who doesn’t believe that?
But unionists seem to want to say more.
All of your cautions about j causing s seem to apply equally to union. You have seemed to say a variety of places that j and s flow from union. So how is that not causal language? I don’t quite understand why unionists want a precision from the priority folks that the discussions of union have yet to achieve. Which union are you talking about? Why is “union” used so indiscrimately as if there are not at least three senses of the word (as Gaffin concedes).
And on the apparent error of saying that just. causes sanct. I don’t know what you are talking about. Sorry, but it doesn’t make any sense. The people who are supposedly guilty of this claim are Lutherans. But the apparent error of saying j causes s turns Lutherans into Roman Catholics. But at the same time, leading unionists want to say that Lutherans are guilty of antinomianism. It sure looks like Lutherans are damned if they do and if they don’t. Meanwhile, it looks like unionists keep creating errors that don’t exist in order to vindicate union as the doctrine that solves all problems. Meanwhile, which union?
I also think it is sort of humorous that you say to Zrim you have never denied priority. You have been hanging out here questioning it a lot. Some of those questions seemed to reach the threshold of denial.
I stand by what I wrote about just. and sanct. “It really does seem to me that the way Paul bangs on the law, as in the law is not of faith, makes the forensic aspect of salvation in a sense transformative. It is not the material cause of sanctification â€” as Jeff points out. But it is a motivational cause for true good works. That is what I think Clark and Fesko are trying to affirm. And I’m not sure why Garcia wants to make a deal of that aspect of the forensic.”
The fact that the law no longer has any claims on me, that I am no longer a slave of sin, is indeed transformative, and it sure seems to start with the legal and economic reality of Christ purchasing my redemption and the benefit of justification.
Hope you guys are having a great Sunday.
Here’s the pastoral concern about “J causes S.” Sometimes, sanctification is presented in this way (not by present company):
The error in this teaching is subtle but real: it locates the primary power for sanctification in the individual himself (with God as the obligatory co-pilot). The result of this error is that a believer is taught to turn inward, so that he attempts to complete by the flesh what he began by the Spirit. Completely missing here is an acknowledgment of the Spirit’s “continual supply of sanctifying grace” and the need for faith (not to mention simul peccator et justus).
By contrast, Scripture locates the power for sanctification in the work of the Spirit upon the individual — Gal 3, 5; Rom 8; cf. WCoF 13.
So the pastoral concern is that “J causes S” aids and abets this wrong teaching by obscuring the central role of the Spirit in sanctification. Dr. Hart, I think this answers your question, “But who ever said that justification happens and yet Christ is still far away from me?” The answer is, those who teach about sanctification in such a way as to rely on the flesh. Those whom Jack Miller used to term, “orphans.”
So this goes back to my question, which nobody has addressed:
If the Spirit supplies the energy in sanctification, and if faith is the means, then where is the role of justification in all of this?
It seems to me that by magnifying the role of justification — in whatever sense one means it — we are diminishing the focus on the role of the Spirit. At its worst, the outcome is that sanctification is no longer a separate work of the Spirit, but an effect of having been justified. God launches the ordo through effectual calling, and then the rest operates all on its own.
The Scriptural concern is this: Why are we all rushing to defend language that has no Scriptural warrant? Scripture doesn’t teach that “justification causes sanctification.” So shouldn’t we be a bit cautious about accepting (and defending) that language?
Dr. Hart, you’ve appealed to Rom 6 as evidence that justification is transformative. But here’s Calvin on Rom 6:
The state of the case is really this, â€” that the faithful are never reconciled to God without the gift of regeneration; nay, we are for this end justified, â€” that we may afterwards serve God in holiness of life. Christ indeed does not cleanse us by his blood, nor render God propitious to us by his expiation, in any other way than by making us partakers of his Spirit, who renews us to a holy life.
And again when discussing Rom 6.14:
Hence, not to be under the law means, not only that we are not under the letter which prescribes what involves us in guilt, as we are not able to perform it, but also that we are no longer subject to the law, as requiring perfect righteousness, and pronouncing death on all who deviate from it in any part. In like manner, by the word grace, we are to understand both parts of redemption â€” the remission of sins, by which God imputes righteousness to us, â€” and the sanctification of the Spirit, by whom he forms us anew unto good works.
It is not “J causes S”, but “The Spirit causes both justification and regeneration” (which in Calvin’s parlance refers not to effectual calling, but to transformation — the destroying of the old nature and creation of the new). Here in this very passage, Calvin finds duplex gratia, not “J causes S.”
And specifically, Calvin does not make the forensic transformative. To think this way confuses categories that are positively separated in the Confession:
Those whom God effectually calleth, He also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them…
A justification that transforms is a righteousness that is infused, by definition. To be specific, a justification that transforms would have to be a justification that creates a new nature. And that really is what Rome teaches.
DGH: Meanwhile, some unionists talk about the doctrine as if it were the greatest thing since sliced bread.
OK, but cnh and I are not federal heads of all unionists. It’s not material to argue against the views of others to us, unless you think that we are secretly in agreement with or aiding and abetting them.
But the apparent error of saying j causes s turns Lutherans into Roman Catholics. But at the same time, leading unionists want to say that Lutherans are guilty of antinomianism. It sure looks like Lutherans are damned if they do and if they don’t. Meanwhile, it looks like unionists keep creating errors that don’t exist in order to vindicate union as the doctrine that solves all problems. Meanwhile, which union?
Whatever and whoever leading unionists may be, my thesis is
(1) Union solves the problem of sanctification being decoupled from the work of the Spirit, either doctrinally or practically.
(2) The phrase “J causes S”, unless understood in an obscure Aristotelian fashion, attributes transformative — infused grace — power to justification, which is a big no-no.
Can we at least agree that justification is not caused by infused grace?
DGH: You have seemed to say a variety of places that j and s flow from union.
Don’t know about cnh, but I’ve been very clear that union doesn’t cause anything.
Zrim: As far as your protestation against causation, again, I remain relatively unpersuaded that it is anything more than shorthand for priority. As you know, there is another Reformed tandum known as the indicative-imperative. I don’t see anything wrong with saying our indicative status â€œcausesâ€ our living out the imperatives. The one is tied to the heel of the other, and when things are so necessarily linked it doesn’t seem problematic to say the one that has priority is causing the animation of the other.
Nevertheless, it *is* problematic to say that the indicative causes the imperative, or that justification causes sanctification.
Turn it around:
Is sanctification an effect of justification? Does being made righteous in action occur as a by-product of being declared righteous? OR is being made righteous in action occur as a separate work of the Spirit?
Call it my stubborn inner double English/Lit major, but I am still all right with shorthand language. I see it in the Bible all the time. Just tonight our Psalm selection had to do with “praising the Name of the Lord.” Now, I suppose we could get all pedantic about whether we praise the Lord or the Name of the Lord, but I take the phrase to be figurative, shorthand, manner of speech to be conveying that we are indeed praising the Lord. If you don’t like the suggestion that J causes S, I understand. I just think you’re perhaps being a bit too wooden about it.
Whatever else may be said here, I suppose my concern with Reformed unionism as a former evangelical is that I really don’t see what distinguishes it from broad evangelicalism. In BE’ism what mediates salvation is a relational experience with the risen Christ. And this is also what essentially characterizes Roman piety (which makes evangelical disdain for Romanism soemthing of an oddity, maybe even hypocrisy? After all, pious Romanists also read their Bible daily, relate to Jesus in their hearts, and believe that faith and grace are important). I see the same thing in Federal Visionism. In all these camps the category is some variation or another of relational. But in Reformation Christianity the category is faith; salvation is mediated through faith, not by any relationship or mystical union with the risen Christ. Like dgh keeps suggesting, the question is, How am I right with God? The evangelicals, Romanists and Federal Visionaries all seem to end up saying that I am right with God via my relatively successful relationship to Jesus. But the Reformation said I am right with God through faith in Jesus. Those categories, faith and relationship, are vastly different from each other. I think the Reformation, to put it mildly, got it right, and I don’t really understand the efforts to monkey with it.
I’ve had quite a different experience with Reformed soteriology. The first time that I “got” limited atonement was when I understood how relational it is: that Jesus died for each of His people on the cross.
I think you equate the term “union” to “some kind of experience.” And while I can appreciate your avoidance of the latter, this equation misses the entire point of union.
In fact, part of the problem may be one of pronunciation.
It’s not “UNION with Christ”
“union with CHRIST.”
The point of union is to put Jesus as the center of salvation.
But in Reformation Christianity the category is faith; salvation is mediated through faith, not by any relationship or mystical union with the risen Christ.
I don’t know if you’re placing emphasis on “mystical”, but if you’re saying that in Reformation theology, we are not saved by being in union with Christ, then I’d ask you to reconsider. I would have hoped that my multi-fold citations from bona fide Reformed theologians concerning union would have put that canard to rest.
To recap two of the most important:
WSC 30: Q. 30. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.
Union with Christ, caused by faith, is the way that the Spirit applies redemption to us. There is not some other way.
Calv Inst 3.1: We must now see in what way we become possessed of the blessings which God has bestowed on his only-begotten Son, not for private use, but to enrich the poor and needy. And the first thing to be attended to is, that so long as we are without Christ and separated from him, nothing which he suffered and did for the salvation of the human race is of the least benefit to us. To communicate to us the blessings which he received from the Father, he must become ours and dwell in us. Accordingly, he is called our Head, and the first-born among many brethren, while, on the other hand, we are said to be ingrafted into him and clothed with him, all which he possesses being, as I have said, nothing to us until we become one with him. And although it is true that we obtain this by faith, yet since we see that all do not indiscriminately embrace the offer of Christ which is made by the gospel, the very nature of the case teaches us to ascend higher, and inquire into the secret efficacy of the Spirit, to which it is owing that we enjoy Christ and all his blessings.
This supposed antithesis between union and JFBA is simply incorrect. In reality, the two go hand-in-hand.
In saying this, I’m not staking a position that Westminster Philly is right(er) or wrong(er) than Westminster Escon. I’m saying that in the genuine Reformed teaching, union and JFBA are both affirmed.
If you feel the need to then qualify that this doesn’t entail some kind of emotional experientialism, then I’ll second your motion; but as it is, when you say “salvation is mediated through faith, not by any relationship or mystical union with the risen Christ”, aren’t you running afoul of WSC 30?
“I’m saying that in the genuine Reformed teaching, union and JFBA are both affirmed.”
Right. After all, the title of one of Dr. Horton’s most recent books (he’ll probably finish a couple more while I write this post) is Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ. That’s a pretty emphatic pro-union statement. And anyone who has skimmed Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry knows that WSC also emphatically affirms justification by faith alone.
So since both are taught at Escondido, why all the animosity toward the Escondido faculty? Why all this insinuation that the Escondido faculty teach deficient (or dare I say) Lutheran doctrine? The answer is that Gaffin and his boys think they’ve made a breakthrough. They think that union is more than the things you’ve mentioned. They, in my opinion, view Christ’s work as merely the prologue to a life of maintaining a relationship with him–once one understand’s their justified status, it’s time to move on. For them, justification is only important at the moment of conversion, and there’s no since dwelling on that cold legal language when I have Jesus in my heart.
RL, I have not been particularly in contact with “Gaffin and his boys”, so I cannot affirm or deny the truth of what you say. My studies were at Chesapeake Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary. In neither institute was there any hint or suggestion of “Westminster West teaches a deficient doctrine.”
You’re a careful guy. Those are serious allegations you’re leveling at Gaffin (and I presume, Garcia). They amount to the charge of having abandoned justification. What reason do you have for them?
My first point was that Gaffin thinks of union as something distinct from (and bigger than) justification. If I understand you properly, you are saying that union is shorthand for imputation plus indwelling. Hence you wrote:
“When I believe, two things happen:
(1) I receive Christ’s righteousness by imputation, and
(2) The Spirit of Christ dwells in me.
We summarize these two things by the phrase â€œunited with Christ.â€
But Gaffin says, “Now certainly, it is true to say that for Calvin union with Christ is the “precondition for imputation.”” That’s from his “Justification and Union with Christ” in A Theological Guide to Calvin’s Institutes page 261; he’s citing an unpublished paper by G. Hunsinger the info for which is in note 24 on the same page.
If we limit “union” to your understanding, don’t we have to conclude that the aspect of union that he is speaking of is the Spirit’s indwelling, sanctifying presence. He can’t be speaking of union as imputation because it wouldn’t make sense to say that imputation is the precondition for imputation, would it? So you have to admit that he’s either saying that sanctification is the precondition for imputation or he’s using union in a way that is broader than the one you describe.
He also adds, “For Calvin participatio Christi was prior to imputation, and imputation prior to judgment.” (Italics in the original; page 262). Again, he must be speaking about a participation in Christ that is not imputation or else his sentence is nonsense. So what’s he talking about? Again, I insist that if the two-fold benefit of union with Christ is justification and sanctification, and if there is an aspect of that union that is the precondition of the justifying (forensic) aspect, then the precondition must be sanctification. And that’s not right!
On page 265, he writes “Here [referring to 3.11.10 of the Institutes] justification could not be valued more highly; it is an utterly incomparable good.” Yet it is not that in splendid judicial isolation, as it were, involving a solitary imputative act….In the actual possession of justification this union is deeply and ultimately decisive, and so it has “the highest degree of importance.”” So justification’s prized position isn’t based on a “solitary imputative act”; it’s prized position is based on union. Notice how that subordinates God’s declaration of our righteous standing to union. Notice also (contra to your explanation of union) that imputation is contrasted with and subordinated to union.
To be sure, his aim is historical theology. But you have to admit that the battle for what Calvin teaches is often a battle to vindicate one’s own personal theological convictions.
Jeff, I don’t get it. I attempt to say why j causing s might be plausible and it always comes back to me that I’m saying s causes j, as in s’s infused righteousness causes imputed. Why can’t it be that imputed “causes” (a non-technical term) infused? Why is it heterodox or deficient or erroneous to suggest that infused flows from imputed.
A cause of a thing is not the same thing as the thing. And yet, it always seems to be the case among unionists that any hint of j causing s makes j the thing being caused. Huh?
Sometimes, I wonder where the rule book governing union logic is hidden.
RL: Not having read Gaffin in context, I would tentatively take issue with what he has written as cited here. He appears to thing of union as a “thing” rather than a description of process. The problem with that approach is that union is not an element in the ordo.
DGH: Why can’t it be that imputed â€œcausesâ€ (a non-technical term) infused? Why is it heterodox or deficient or erroneous to suggest that infused flows from imputed.
As I mentioned above, “flows from” needs to be defined clearly first. If it simply means that J is a warranty of or a pattern for our sanctification, then no problem. But if it means that J has some kind of transformative, “effective cause” property to it, then there’s a large problem.
As for using “cause” as a non-technical term, this would be inadvisable given the history of discussions of causation in salvation.
About your gloss: …it always comes back to me that I’m saying s causes j
I’m definitely not attributing that to you! I’m saying that
(1) *if* J were to (efficiently or instrumentally) cause S, then S would be an effect of J.
(2) And since we know that S is an effect of infused righteousness,
(3) it follows that the grace of J is at least in part infused.
(4) And this we know to be contrary to Reformed theology.
So clearly you (well, hypothetical “you”, since you aren’t officially espousing this language) are not saying S causes J. Instead, “you” are implicitly saying that J consists of, in part, infused righteousness.
Is that clear enough?
If not, perhaps you could bounce it off of Bob Godfrey or another Westminster Wester who does not affirm “J causes S” language and simply ask him Why Not? He may well give a different answer, but I would be curious to know his reasons.
The union thing is, for me, not directly connected to the question of “Does J cause S?” Even if were not union-oriented, so to speak, I would still object to “J causes S.”
WSC 30: Q. 30. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.
Union with Christ, caused by faith, is the way that the Spirit applies redemption to us. There is not some other way.
If you feel the need to then qualify that this doesn’t entail some kind of emotional experientialism, then I’ll second your motion; but as it is, when you say â€œsalvation is mediated through faith, not by any relationship or mystical union with the risen Christâ€, aren’t you running afoul of WSC 30?
Jeff, I don’t see how prioritizing faith over union runs afoul of WC 30. It sure seems to me that union (which again, confessionalists have no problem with) depends on faith first, the way marital union depends on forensic declarations. Union, important as it is, turns entirely on faith. How is this not clear from WC 30? And if union saves then shouldn’t the shorthand of the Reformation have been more like we are saved by grace alone, through union alone to Christ alone? (As an aside, if â€œunion is caused by faith,â€ is there really a problem saying that sanctification is caused by justification?) But maybe Belgic 22 has something to add:
â€œWe believe that, to attain the true knowledge of this great mystery, the Holy Ghost kindleth in our hearts an upright faith, which embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, appropriates him, and seeks nothing more besides him. For it must needs follow, either that all things, which are requisite to our salvation, are not in Jesus Christ, or if all things are in him, that then those who possess Jesus Christ through faith, have complete salvation in him. Therefore, for any to assert, that Christ is not sufficient, but that something more is required besides him, would be too gross a blasphemy: for hence it would follow, that Christ was but half a Savior. Therefore we justly say with Paul, that we are justified by faith alone, or by faith without works. However, to speak more clearly, we do not mean, that faith itself justifies us, for it is only an instrument with which we embrace Christ our Righteousness. But Jesus Christ, imputing to us all his merits and so many holy works which he has done for us, and in our stead, is our Righteousness. And faith is an instrument that keeps us in communion with him in all his benefits, which, when become ours, are more than sufficient to acquit us of our sins.â€
Seems like the point is that faith (in Christ) is the instrument of salvation, not union with him. Though to have faith in him is to then have union with him. If union was so instrumental then where is there an article in the Belgic for it?
Jeff, I don’t see how prioritizing faith over union runs afoul of WC 30. It sure seems to me that union (which again, confessionalists have no problem with) depends on faith first, the way marital union depends on forensic declarations. Union, important as it is, turns entirely on faith. How is this not clear from WC 30? And if union saves then shouldn’t the shorthand of the Reformation have been more like we are saved by grace alone, through union alone to Christ alone?
Did you notice that you shifted ground? You went from “faith, not union, mediates salvation” to “faith has a priority over union.”
The first is false; the second is true.
Remember that imputation is one aspect of union. So it is legitimate to test your statements by replacing “union” with “imputation” and seeing what happens.
Faith, not imputation, mediates justification.
Faith has a priority over justification.
And if imputation saves, then shouldn’t the shorthand of the Reformation have been more like we are saved by grace alone, through imputation of Christ’s righteousness alone?
The second is true. The first and third are false, perhaps even nonsensical. And the nonsense turns on continuing to think of union as a means instead of as a description-of-process.
Stop for a moment and contemplate the fact that both of these are true:
(1) We are justified by grace through the sole instrument of faith.
(2) We are justified by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us.
Why doesn’t (1) (“sole instrument”) preclude (2)? That’s the same reason that union is not a competitor with faith for instrumentality.
(As an aside, if â€œunion is caused by faith,â€ is there really a problem saying that sanctification is caused by justification?)
Yes, there is. Sanctification and justification are dual graces, both mediated by faith. But the graces are distinct and of a different nature: infused v. imputed. This distinction was an important facet of the Reformation. Out of all of the different strands in our discussion, the distinction between infused and imputed righteousness is the brightest line I would draw.
Two additional points out of all of this:
(1) Consistent with the citation of Inst 3.1.1, DGH’s citation of Calvin clearly indicates his duplex gratia thinking: repentance and the forgiveness of sins are together the sum of the gospel.
(2) Repentance follows faith and is produced by it; not justification.
Faith, not imputation, mediates justificationâ€¦is false and nonsensicalâ€¦Sanctification and justification are dual graces, both mediated by faith.
Jeff, I guess I’m not sure how you can say that justification coming through faith is false and nonsensical when that’s precisely what Belgic says Paul says, but also when you yourself say justification is mediated by faith. So justification isn’t mediated through faith, but it also is? Speaking of nonsense, how do those two statements co-exist?
Jeff, I guess I’m not sure how you can say that justification coming through faith is false and nonsensical
I didn’t. Here’s what I said:
Faith, not imputation, mediates justification is nonsensical.
Because it pits two unlike things against each other. As in,
“Do you walk to school or take your lunch?”
Go back to the basics. Aren’t these both true:
(1) Faith is the alone instrument of justification
(2) Those whom God effectually calleth, He also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on Him and His righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.
You cannot compare faith and imputation (“this one mediates, that one doesn’t”). Faith is what happens on man’s side of the equation. Imputation is what happens on God’s side.
Jeff, you wrote:
“(1) *if* J were to (efficiently or instrumentally) cause S, then S would be an effect of J.
(2) And since we know that S is an effect of infused righteousness,
(3) it follows that the grace of J is at least in part infused.
(4) And this we know to be contrary to Reformed theology”
Again, I don’t get it. It seems you have attributed attributes to things before the deductive process starts. Let’s try this:
1) if the bat were efficiently to cause the ball to go over the fence, then the homerun would be an effect of the bat hitting the ball.
2) Since we know that baseballs are also made by the woodworkers who make bats
3) it follows that the power of the bat must come from the hide of the baseball
4) and this we know to be contrary to physics.
This all seems pretty arbitrary. The conclusion about physics comes from prior observations about laborers who make bats and balls. It also assumes something about the attributes of balls on the basis of the workers involved.
I guess a question here is about the righteousness. Whether infused or imputed it is the same righteousness — it is Christ’s. This is a different matter of instrumentality or delivery. The problem with infused righteousness is that it is never complete in this life. That’s why Roman Catholics need to go to purgatory for justification. But if I receive Christ’s righteousness by faith, why can’t that righteousness be the “cause” of the righteousness I receive in sanctification where the moral pollution of me begins to match the legal innocence of me.
What’s your take on this description of the relationship between justification and sanctification?
Since the sanctified life is a life of gratitude, justification is its cause because it is the principle event for which the believer is grateful. In other words, the believer’s embrace of the law as the rule to shape his life of gratitude is rooted in the announcement of the end of the law as the means for acquiring righteousness. Thus, I don’t think it’s wrong to describe this relationship as one in which sanctification flows from (is rooted in, feeds on, or is caused by) justification.
Doesn’t Jesus make the same connection in Luke 7:41-43 (ESV): “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Isn’t this enough to justify our use of causal language?
RL: I think there’s a lot of merit in your approach. What I like in particular is the way in which you connect the believer’s motivation for sanctification in his already accomplished justification.
If we were going to use causal language at all, I would be most comfortable with
“J causes S” or “S flows out of J.”
“S is motivated by a recognition of J.”
The obstacle is still, though, that the role of the Spirit is obscured. Is there some way in which you could formulate this so as to make clear that the operation of the Spirit in us is the principle of life at work in us, rather than leaving open the possibility that this gratitude runs along on its own steam?
DGH: Again, I don’t get it. It seems you have attributed attributes to things before the deductive process starts. Let’s try this:
1) if the bat were efficiently to cause the ball to go over the fence, then the homerun would be an effect of the bat hitting the ball.
2) Since we know that baseballs are also made by the woodworkers who make bats
3) it follows that the power of the bat must come from the hide of the baseball
4) and this we know to be contrary to physics.
This all seems pretty arbitrary.
The arbitrariness occurred when you switched symbols in step 2. In step 1, sanctification corresponded to homeruns. In step 2, sanctification all of the sudden corresponds to the ball. If we can be that absurd, then why not run the bases:
1) if the bat were efficiently to cause the ball to go over the fence, then the homerun would be an effect of the bat hitting the ball.
2) Since we know that airplanes are made by Boeing…
That’s a properly tortured argument for ya. 🙂
To use the baseball analogy properly we would have to argue more like this:
1) If the bat were to cause the ball to go over the fence (and inside the foul lines), then the homerun would be an effect of the bat hitting the ball.
2) And since we know that home runs are caused by skilled batters, then it follows that
3) The cause of the bat’s action must be the skilled batter. (unless of course, the bat causes the skill of the batter … one thinks here of The Farmer Giles of Ham)
In other words, my argument is establishing a causal chain. There are two missing premises: First, that causes are transitive (if A causes B and B causes C, then A causes C); second, that each of justification and sanctification has a single cause: the grace of God.
So we have J causes S. We know that S is caused by infused righteousness. So the infused righteousness must be causing the justification; unless of course justification causes the infusion of righteousness.
This mixing of the two is quite at odds with how Calvin argues it, and indeed how the Confession argues it.
And again … “J causes S” obscures the role of the Spirit in sanctification.
Faith, not imputation, mediates justification is nonsensical. Why? Because it pits two unlike things against each other.
Jeff, again, I think this point was made around here in some of these forensic posts: nobody is pitting anything against another thing here; I’m not pitting faith against union (or imputation, etc.), I’m saying union, like justification and sanctification, comes by way of faith. In fact, all things come by way of faith. Sola fide was the material principle of the Reformation. Faith is the controlling category. I don’t see how making this point is the same as pitting faith against anything else.
If I say the benefits of marriage only come by way of a legal declaration of marriage am I pitting the benefits against the declaration, or I am simply pointing out how things work?
If we were going to use causal language at all, I would be most comfortable with â€œJ causes Sâ€ or â€œS flows out of J.â€ meaning â€œS is motivated by a recognition of J.â€
Deal. But I don’t understand your need to explicitly chisel out a place for the role of the Spirit. I mean, isn’t the Spirit at work only in those who look to their justification to motivate their sanctification? When is the last time an unbeliever did that? It’s almost like protesting that the Creed doesn’t delineate anything about faith, but only those with faith can utter the Creed.
“The obstacle is still, though, that the role of the Spirit is obscured. Is there some way in which you could formulate this so as to make clear that the operation of the Spirit in us is the principle of life at work in us, rather than leaving open the possibility that this gratitude runs along on its own steam?”
How about this from Article 24 of the Belgic Confession:
“We believe that this true faith being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God, and the operation of the Holy Ghost, doth regenerate and make him a new man, causing him to live a new life, and freeing him from the bondage of sin. Therefore it is so far from being true, that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life, that on the contrary without it they would never do anything out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation. Therefore it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man: for we do not speak of a vain faith, but of such a faith, which is called in Scripture, a faith that worketh by love, which excites man to the practice of those works, which God has commanded in his Word. ”
The Word of God that the Spirit uses to bring about this justifying faith is the pronouncement of our justification. From the Second Helvetic Confession, XV:
“WHAT IS JUSTIFICATION? According to the apostle in his treatment of justification, to justify means to remit sins, to absolve from guilt and punishment, to receive into favor, and to pronounce a man just. For in his epistle to the Romans the apostle says: “It is God who justifies; who is to condemn?” (Rom. 8:33).”
I had in mind questions 75 & 76 of the Larger Catechism when I made my last post. Question 75 teaches that the principle part of the Spirit’s sanctifying work is the stirring up, increasing, and strengthening of the seeds of repentance unto life (and all other saving graces). Question 76 further explains repentance unto life:
Q. 76. What is repentance unto life?
A. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God, whereby, out of the sight and sense, not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, and upon the apprehension of God’s mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, he so grieves for and hates his sins, as that he turns from them all to God, purposing and endeavoring constantly to walk with him in all the ways of new obedience.
I think this fits nicely with the relationship between justification and sanctification that I described above. In sum, the Spirit sanctifies us by reorienting our hearts through the explanation of the magnitude of the debt we owe God and the announcement that the debt has been paid in full by Christ. He has chosen as his ordinary instrument preaching of the law and gospel.
Zrim: But I don’t understand your need to explicitly chisel out a place for the role of the Spirit.
Perhaps because I’m particularly sensitive to sanctification-by-the-flesh. In this, I take comfort that Paul was also (Gal. 3).
â€œBut I don’t understand your need to explicitly chisel out a place for the role of the Spirit.â€
Perhaps because I’m particularly sensitive to sanctification-by-the-flesh. In this, I take comfort that Paul was also (Gal. 3).
That’s a fair concern. I should have, like Randy, gone with my original intent to quote Belgic 24. But I suppose I didn’t because it feels like the conversation begins to do what the confessions already do; and, for better or worse, I assume you know that the confessions do carve out a role for the Spirit.
Besides, if there is anything one can safely assume about old school Calvinists, who make a big deal about the forensic nature of justification, etc., it’s that sanctification is completely Spirit wrought. Shouldn’t â€œyeah, but where’s the Spirit in all thisâ€ really be a question for new schoolers who seem given to sanctification-by-the-flesh? I mean, asking old schoolers to show that they haven’t forgotten the Spirit is a bit like asking the computer repair man, when he says this switch causes this whackadoo to work, â€œYeah, but are you taking into account electricity has something to do with it?â€ See, I can do computer analogies.
Zrim: I mean, asking old schoolers to show that they haven’t forgotten the Spirit is a bit like asking the computer repair man, when he says this switch causes this whackadoo to work, â€œYeah, but are you taking into account electricity has something to do with it?â€
If the repairman toggled the switch and expected a result, I would feel free to gently point out that the computer wasn’t plugged in.
And that’s the point. You’re asking me to assume that the confessional language is baseline, while at the same time advancing language (“Justification causes sanctification”) that isn’t in the confession.
So it’s hard to know which assumptions still hold.
That said, I’m glad that we’re on the same page with regard to the role of the Spirit. Given that, can you appreciate that I would want to reserve ’cause’ for the role of the Spirit, while allowing terms like ‘motivate’ to express what RL’s getting at?
That said, I’m glad that we’re on the same page with regard to the role of the Spirit. Given that, can you appreciate that I would want to reserve ’cause’ for the role of the Spirit, while allowing terms like â€˜motivate’ to express what RL’s getting at?
I can, which is why earlier I said I understand if you don’t care much for the language of causation. But I also suggested that perhaps you’re being a bit wooden about it.
It could be that causation language obscures the role of the Spirit or otherwise nurtures a sanctification-by-the-flesh. But, by the same token, when Jesus tells the woman at the Pharisee’s house that â€œher faith has healed herâ€ is fideism lurking? But Jesus may use shorthand, why mayn’t we?
Jeff, the homerun in #2 was salvation, not sanctifcation. It’s not a great analogy. But I’m still left puzzled by your logic which says that if justifcation causes sanctification then justification must a form of infused righteouness. I mean, if we can say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and not confuse the persons of the Trinity, why can’t we say sanctification flows from justification and not confuse infused and imputed righteousness. Your logic is not obvious.
As far as leaving out the Holy Spirit, why isn’t that the same problem that afflicts those who say that just. and sanct. flow from union? A lot of the faults that unionists find in forensic firsters are also embedded within union teaching.
DGH: As far as leaving out the Holy Spirit, why isn’t that the same problem that afflicts those who say that just. and sanct. flow from union?
Again, there’s a pronunciation issue here. You keep pronouncing it “UNION with Christ” instead of “union with CHRIST.” The point of union is to emphasize the centrality of Jesus in every aspect of salvation.
Union is not a cause of anything; it is a description of the process. (Once more, with feeling and four-part harmony…)
DGH: Your logic is not obvious.
Well, perhaps I haven’t thought it through enough. I’m working on the assumption that if A causes B which causes C, then the cause of C is implicit in A.
DGH: I mean, if we can say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and not confuse the persons of the Trinity…
We can say it, but I’m not sure we can comprehend it…
It might be helpful to remember that our justification is mediated to us through proclamation. We all agree that there is no justification apart from saving or justifying faith. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to generate that faith when we hear the good news of our reconciliation with God proclaimed to us through the foolishness of preaching. According to Belgic 24 it is just that faith that “doth regenerate and make him a new man, causing him to live a new life.”
From R. Scott Clark’s “Caspar Olevian and the Substance of the Covenant”, pages 193-194:
“Preaching however not only creates faith, but it is the chief means by which God ‘conserves and strengthens’ it and ‘through it not only communicates that substance of the covenant (substantia foederis) to all the elect, but also ‘daily promotes by degrees’ the beginning of the mystical fellowship between Christ and his people. The proclamation of the gospel (praedictatio evagelii) strengthens and confirms faith in the elect by the pronouncement of repentance (poenitentiae) and forgiveness of sins in the name of Christ. Through gospel teaching, Christ is offered to us daily, clothed in the covenant of grace or the promise of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Jeff, no offense, but I think it has less to do with pronunciation that it does with hidden code. If union is all about Jesus, then why is union the work of the Holy Spirit? Which is to say that union is being used to assert a number of things that could be asserted much more clearly and directly.
But the idea that union needs to be asserted in order to claim the centrality of Christ, as opposed to legal conceptions of salvation that emphasize an alien righteousness, is far fetched since the entire point of justification by faith alone was also to assert Christ alone.
No offense taken, but keep in mind that I’m not suggesting “union instead of forensics” but rather “union and forensics go hand-in-hand to give a more complete picture.”
My concern about such a one-sided forensics push, with the centrality of justification proclaimed so forcefully, is that it obscures the dual grace, imputed and infused, structure of salvation that is basic and obvious in both Calvin and the Confession (10.1, 11.1, 13.1 and most especially WLC 77).
The solution, IMO, is not to deny forensics, but to uphold union at the same time as upholding forensics. Wouldn’t you agree?
As far as hidden code goes, I’ve been trying very hard to be as clear as possible …
Just to follow up: Recall that earlier I was “finding union” on your Where’s Waldo posts (thought that was the point … Where’s Waldo? There he is! 🙂 ).
The point in doing so was simple: if indeed forensics and union are complementary, then it ought to be the case that “forensaical” theology should be amenable to “unionistic” accounts and vice-versa.
So, you’re using “union” language to clarify what WLC 77 states clearly? That sounds like the solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Are you sure you don’t work for the federal government?
No, look at it again. WLC 77 is “basic and obvious”, I said. The “one-sided forensics push” obscures this fact.
Speaking of solutions to problems that don’t exist, it seems like you think those who champion forensics are doing so at the expense of union; when you say you’re not pushing â€œunion instead of forensicsâ€ it seems to suggest that the confessionalists are pushing â€œforensics instead of union.â€ But, like I have tried to suggest before, I just don’t see how the confessionalists are dumping union at all.
The thing about prioritizing is that it means, by definition, to put things in proper order. It doesn’t mean something is a one-sided push to run roughshod over another. So, whaddaya mean by a â€œone-sided push that obscures the dual grace, imputed and infused, structure of salvation that is basic and obviousâ€?
Zrim: …it seems to suggest that the confessionalists are pushing â€œforensics instead of union.â€
Well, yes, it appears that this may be the case. I’d like to be wrong, so here’s the opportunity to convince me.
Two pieces of evidence:
(1) We have two weekly features here entitled “Forensic Friday” and “Where’s Waldo?” that are dedicated to promoting the forensic nature of justification. On union, nothing.
(2) Anyone who mentions the word “union” (*coff* yours truly *coff* — but also cnh and a host of others) is forced to defend his Reformed bona fides and explain why he doesn’t agree with Shepherd and Kennaird. Last I checked, I never asked you guys to explain why you aren’t the same as Lee Irons.
(of course, I actually appreciate some of what Lee has to say, so I probably wouldn’t. But others sure would).
So it’s pretty easy to conclude that forensics are in and union is out over in this neck of the woods. Perhaps that’s the wrong conclusion to draw. Dr. Hart has, after all, said that he “has no problem with union.” But I haven’t been able to reconcile that with the other evidences yet.
So, you’re using â€œunionâ€ language to clarify what WLC 77
states clearlymakes obvious? That sounds like the solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. Are you sure you don’t work for the federal government?
I think the point still stands.
I’m using “union” language to clear up what a forensic-heavy focus obscures. I’m surprised that we can’t come to an understanding on this.
Let me restate. You seem to suggest that confessionalists are pushing forensics and dispensing with union. Maybe it would be better to say confessionalism wants to push the priority of justification instead of the priority of union. And you make it sound like justification and union are on equal footing, and all you’re trying to do is give each equal time. Two things: first, union simply isn’t given nearly that sort of space in the confessional formulations, and second, the reason is that it doesn’t make anybody right with God. If that’s the case, I guess I still don’t get why union is so important is the minds of some. And I don’t understand why things deemed secondary are understood to be â€œout.â€ Isn’t that a sort of egalitarian hermeneutic?
Re Irons, I appreciate him as well. But I don’t think he’s quite on board with the thesis that Protestantism divides down confessional and evangelical lines. I’m happy to try and explain how I think Reformed confessionalists differ from Reformed evangelicals:
Zrim: You seem to suggest that confessionalists are pushing forensics and dispensing with union.
The nature of these discussions might be the culprit here, but my outside perception is that present company is pushing forensics and dispensing with union, or perhaps “making union so secondary that it disappears.” It appears that justification and union are, for you, locked in a battle such that one must increase and the other decrease.
Two things: first, union simply isn’t given nearly that sort of space in the confessional formulations, and second, the reason is that it doesn’t make anybody right with God.
By contrast, WSC 30 teaches that justification is a manifestation of our union with Christ. So if being united to Christ (which means that His righteousness covers me) doesn’t make us right with God, then what does, exactly?
How is it that someone like Reymond (not, AFAIK, one of “Gaffin’s boys”) could summarize union thus:
Union with Christ is the fountainhead from which flows the Christian’s every spiritual blessing — repentance and faith, pardon, justification, adoption, sanctification, perseverance, and glorification. (Syst. Theol. 739).
I just don’t think you’ve interacted satisfactorily with the non-Westminster-Philly theologians who speak positively of union. It really seems that “union” has become a political term that is used to identify a party.
Would our union with Christ, or for that matter, any of His work on our behalf, avail anything for us apart from God’s announcement of the verdict from heaven? If God, the judge of mankind, did not declare that He was not counting our sins against us for the sake of His Son, and counting the Son’s righteousness as ours, would there even be saving faith? If there was faith, what would be its content?
I am not dismissive of union, but I fail to see how it benefits unless there is the judicial decree of ‘not guilty’ from heaven. I grant that God could not (would not) give this verdict apart from the work of Christ for us men and for our salvation, but it is this announcement of the good news verdict that the Holy Spirit uses to generate the saving faith that evidences our union with Christ. Does this not give at least some support to the priority of the forensic in our justification? And since justification is the only part of our salvation that is sola fide, doesn’t that also give some support to the idea that sanctification is in some sense grounded in our justification, that is, the announcement of God’s verdict of not guilty.
The judicial decree is part of what it means to be united to Christ. Being covered in His righteousness — imputation — *is* to be righteous in God’s sight.
So our union avails us in our justification.
â€¦my outside perception is that present company is pushing forensics and dispensing with union, or perhaps â€œmaking union so secondary that it disappears.â€ It appears that justification and union are, for you, locked in a battle such that one must increase and the other decrease.
Well, I don’t think that’s really the case. I think you’re taking the push for the priority of justification to be the same as hanging union out to dry. But now I am getting repetitive.
But what I find interesting is that Rome, in some sense, agrees with Geneva (and Wittenberg): justification is so vital that those who construe it in terms of sola fide are to be anathematized. I guess I feel more at home with the presuppositions that inform Rome’s anathema than with fellow Protestants who want union on equal ground with justification. So, Jeff, do you take issue with Trent because it isn’t as positive of union as it is negative on sola fide?
I take issue with Trent because it anathematizes sola fide. That’s enough.
Zrim: Well, I don’t think that’s really the case.
The easiest way to show that it’s not the case is to start writing positive things about union. Start interacting with Reformed exponents of the doctrine. Stop treating pro-union folk with suspicion.
If you don’t want to hang union out to dry, then stop treating it like the ugly stepchild.
Listen to yourself!
I guess I feel more at home with the presuppositions that inform Rome’s anathema than with fellow Protestants who want union on equal ground with justification.
You’re saying that you feel more at home with Rome than Gaffin. How in the world do you get to this point?
Take a breath. What I am saying is that Rome seems to understand the priority of justification. Not in relation to sanctification, of course, but in relation to getting it right, such that strong pronouncement is reserved for those who get it wrong. Isn’t that what Paul says about himself or angels who preach another gospel?
How’s this for positive: union, like marriage, is a very good thing. My only point is that, like marriage, union doesn’t exist without legal, forensic declarations. Why is this treating union like an ugly stepchild? Even good looking stepchildren aren’t legitimate until certain legal declarations are made.
OK, breath taken.
In marriage, the declaration creates the marriage. Alice and Bob walk the aisle as unmarrieds; they take vows and the minister makes a proclamation; they walk back down as a married couple clap clap clap.
If we reason from your analogy, then the declaration (justification) creates the marriage (union).
But this not correct according to the Catechism, which lays things out as
The Holy Spirit unites us in our effectual calling to Christ by faith.
That union is manifested in different ways: justification, sanctification, etc.
To make your analogy Confessionally correct, we would have to say that the Holy Spirit’s effectual calling creates the marriage, which includes the declaration.
Now, you may say, why doesn’t the Confession make this clearer?
Actually, it does:
God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fulness of time, die for their sins, and rise for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.
The union and the justification are simultaneous; not one before the other, either in time, logical priority, or importance.
Zrim: What I am saying is that Rome seems to understand the priority of justification. Not in relation to sanctification, of course, but in relation to getting it right, such that strong pronouncement is reserved for those who get it wrong. Isn’t that what Paul says about himself or angels who preach another gospel?
No, Paul has not a word to say to people who “get the priority of justification” wrong.
What he does have to say is to those who are turning to or preaching another “gospel.” And the chief characteristic of that other “gospel” is that it begins by faith but continues in the power of the flesh (Gal 3.3). It is very true that the Galatians have a defective understanding of justification in relationship to sanctification. But Paul’s solution is not to “get the priority of justification” right; it is to get straight that the Spirit, not the flesh, is the source of godly living; and that justification and covenant membership is by faith and not by works of the law.
Put this another way: the real prize for you is to establish the legitimate priority of justification over sanctification, right?
And if we put it that way, then I agree:
(1) A man is justified entirely prior to his being sanctified.
(2) Our justification is the pattern for our sanctification.
(3) Our sanctification is motivated in part out of gratitude for our justification.
All of these things are true.
My point is, “union” is not a proxy for “sanctification.” You want to establish some kind of priority of justification over union as a way to get at the priority of justification over sanctification, and it just won’t work.
There is no priority of justification over union, any more than there can be a priority of “running” over “taking steps.” How do we run? By taking steps. How are we justified? By Christ’s righteousness applied to us.
I think you’re right so long as a person is thinking of union the way that you are describing it now. I appreciate your definition of union, and I really think that you’ve taken the time to get at what Calvin is trying to say. But I think that you too readily assume that everyone is using it in that way. (The fact that there are so many ways to interpret and employ the term cautions against its overuse). I think your view of the interplay among justification, sanctification, and union is at odds with Gaffin’s view.
Here’s another quote from Gaffin that should convince you that you and he are not speaking about the same thing:
“Calvin destroys Rome’s charge [of antinomianism] by showing that faith, in its Protestant understanding, entails a disposition to holiness without particular reference to justification….Calvin proceeds as he does, and is free to do so, because for him the relative â€œordoâ€ or priority of justification and sanctification is indifferent theologically. Rather, what has controlling soteriological importance is the priority to both of (spiritual, â€œexistential,â€ faith-) to union with Christ.” From Biblical Theology and the Westminster Standards WTJ 65 (2003) 165â€“79.
It seems to me that Gaffin is using union terminology here not to stress the closeness and interrelatedness of justification and sanctification, but to pull them apart. He uses union to speak of a “disposition to holiness without particular reference to justification.” I don’t see that in Calvin, and from our past discussions, I don’t think you see that in Calvin.
I think Gaffin and Garcia’s novel use of union language warrants our skepticism.
RL, thanks for the distinctions. My queue currently has TLNF, Justified in Christ, Shepherd’s Saved By Grace, and van Drunen’s Two Kingdoms on it, so I hope to be able to see things more clearly at the end of all of it.
There are ways that I could make sense of Gaffin’s quote in terms of duplex gratia, but he does seem to have more daylight between the two than I would allow.
Zrim, sorry for the hot-headedness earlier.
Jeff, you think an emphasis on forensics obscures a fuller view of Reformed soteriology. That’s fine. I get it. That’s also the point that Shepherd was trying to make. I’m not using Shepherd as a scare word. That’s simply the case that Shepherd was trying to get the dual aspects of salvation before a crowd that he thought was guilty of antinomianism. So the way to solve antinomianism is bring in the renovative aspects.
The problem though is that the Reformation was forensic happy — that’s why we call justification the material principle of the Reformation and why Rome anathametized Protestants. Justification is also what Murray called the crux of the Reformation. (Are the Philly theologians interacting with the Philly theologians?)
So it is a feature of Reformed Protestantism to stress the forensic, not simply for historical reason but also for pastoral ones, because the work of sanctification is imperfect and imperfect won’t cut it on judgument day. So for sanctification to be effective, it needs justification. And for union to deliver the goods we need for salvation, it needs to rely on the transaction of justification.
That in my view makes forensic pretty darned central, and it is something that the emphasis on union has not admitted. Union has become central to certain formulations for whatever reasons and has decentered justification. What unionist has written what Murray did about the “crux” of the Reformation, and done so without trying to work union into the answer?
BTW, what Protestants have been antinomian? We are legalists through and through (except when it comes to worship and observing the Lord’s Day).
Jeff, one more thing: I’m not sure if you’ve answered this, but I wonder what you make of the idea that union is such a small part of the teaching of the Reformed confessions, and that even in the WCF it fails to generate a chapter. How central is that?
Zrim, sorry for the hot-headedness earlier.
It’s funny how that happens whenever justification gets prioritized. There’s got to be a way to affix an â€œRâ€ to those who do so, as in radical justification prioritizers.
Man has a union problem. As naturally born he is in Adam. The fruits of that union, if one can call them that, are sin, death, bondage, and enmity with God. Man’s only answer is that he must be born again. He must have his union with Adam severed and be united to another. He must be born Spiritually. He must be born again in Christ.
Peter tells us that we are born again by the word of God, and that this word is the word by which the gospel is preached. In the Reformation this gospel was recovered and restored to its apostolic sweetness. Our salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, on the account of Christ’s merits alone. Through the preaching of this apostolic message of free justification the Holy Spirit creates faith in our hearts, giving us new birth in Christ, thus uniting us with Him. It is from this union that all experiential benefits of salvation flow. Having new birth through justification, we now live the new life in our sanctification.
Now it would be difficult to ascribe a priority of birth over life, or life over birth. They are, in normal usage, undivided. One is born to life, and no one lives who has not been born. Yet, there is one aspect in which birth claims its position.
What ordinarily makes one a citizen of the United States is his birth. Living in the country is not enough. I recently went through the process of obtaining a passport. Proof of my birth here was required. No verification of birth in the US meant no US passport. Similarly, when I need verification of my citizenship in heaven, looking to the subjective benefit of the covenant (sanctification and inward renewal) is not enough. I must look to the forensic, objective benefit of the covenant (justification and righteousness sola fide) if I am to assured that I am a citizen of the age to come. Sanctification does give a necessary corroboration to my justification, but is in no way the ground of my citizenship. I need my birth certificate.
This is a summary of my current understanding of the relationship of justification and sanctification. Like birth and life, I do not believe they can be severed. I also believe that this agrees in substance with the historic reformed doctrines. I am willing to be instructed.
Thanks for that God-glorifying summary of the doctrine. The only difference I would draw with you is that the union we have with Christ is not limited to experiential relationship but also includes our forensic, legal declarations. We are justified by being “in Christ.”
This is why the Catechism teaches
Q. 29. How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.
Q. 30. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.
Q. 31. What is effectual calling?
A. Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of Christ, and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel.
Q. 32. What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life?
A. They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.
And the Larger:
Question 66: What is that union which the elect have with Christ?
Answer: The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done in their effectual calling.
Question 67: What is effectual calling?
Answer: Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace, whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto) he does, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his Word and Spirit; savingly enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their wills, so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to
Answer: his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.
Question 68: Are the elect only effectually called?
Answer: All the elect, and they only, are effectually called; although others may be, and often are, outwardly called by the ministry of the Word, and have some common operations of the Spirit; who, for their wilful neglect and contempt of the grace offered to them, being justly left in their unbelief, do never truly come to Jesus Christ.
Question 69: What is the communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
Answer: The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and: Whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.
Question 70: What is justification?
Answer: Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardons all their sins, accepts and accounts their persons righteous in his sight; not for any thing wrought in them, or done by them, but only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.
In other words, justification is a result of redemption applied; we are justified in Christ by His righteousness imputed to us.
So the real issue is not whether justification has priority over sanctification (it does, properly understood), nor whether justification corresponds to a verdict that marks our entrance into spiritual life (it does), but whether “union” properly understood is limited only to experiential and transformative benefits (it isn’t).
Dr. Hart, in case it hasn’t yet become clear: I do not suspect you of antinomianism.
About 9 years ago, after I had moved into my first house but before marriage, a couple of door-to-door evangelists from a local Baptist church came to my door.
I welcomed them, mentioned I was a member of a Presbyterian church, and asked them how their evangelism was going.
They, with friendly but guarded faces, asked me whether I was saved. I replied, Yes. They asked, How did I know?
I replied that Jesus had died on the cross for my sins, and that I was forgiven because of His death on the cross for me.
Yes, they pressed, but had I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior and Lord?
With a small mental *sigh*, I said Yes. Then they relaxed.
What struck me about the encounter was our different understandings of assurance.
In my view, the best way to know that I was saved was to look at Jesus and say, “He died for me!”
In their view, that wasn’t enough. Instead, I was supposed to look at my own faith and say, “See! I have made a personal decision for Christ!”
I consider that a defective soteriology. It moves faith in Christ out of the center and puts faith in faith in its place. Not that I think these folk were unsaved; rather, I was (slightly) disappointed that they didn’t understand that my response *was* a response of faith.
Move forward now to our conversations about union and justification. My understanding of salvation is like this:
God chose you before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. To accomplish this, He at His appointed time effectually called you, creating faith. By that faith, He united you to Christ, applying redemption to you. There are two distinct aspects of this redemption. The first, forensic, consists of a verdict of “Not Guilty!”, flowing out of being clothed with Christ, an act of imputation. The second, experiential, consists of a new nature and the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ, which is called “Christ in me”, an act of infusion. Christ is at the center of redemption, and all of the blessings of redemption flow from Him.
That’s salvation as I see it, as it appears to be in Scripture, the Confession, Calvin, and all of the systematic theologians I know.
But now, along come Justification Priority folk who say, No, no. This picture is all wrong. Justification is at the center of redemption, and all of the blessings of redemption flow out of that verdict. And if you don’t think about it in this way, then you are a closet moralist and Shepherdite.
And in some cases (Zrim, for example), the JP teaching appears to be that being united to Christ occurs after being justified, so that being justified is NOT through being “in Christ”, but in some other way (presumably, a legal transfer of righteousness while still outside of Christ).
So I listen to JP folk, and I hear their concern to not make justification depend on sanctification, and I nod my head and say “Yep. Justification is based on imputation; sanctification on infusion. We don’t want to confuse these”
But then I hear the demand to make justification the center. And I say, “But Christ is the center. Why would I want to make justification the center?”
And to add to it, I read Calvin and the Confessions and it appears to me that my model of salvation is in accord with what they teach; while nary a word do I see in the Confession about the “priority of justification over union.” Instead, in the Catechism, justification is a manifestation of union. Why? Because being in Christ is the source of the verdict of Not Guilty.
Now, I have no idea about Gaffin and Garcia. At some point I’ll read them and decide for myself whether they are confusing justification and sanctification. It may well be that their view of union is different from mine; but I care not. The point is not to pick a team. the point is to get the story straight.
So I don’t see the Priority of Justification as a helpful explanation of salvation. By subordinating union to justification (Zrim’s words), it appears to make union a manifestation of justification instead of the other way round as the Catechism teaches (and the Confession: We are not justified until Christ is applied to us). At best, this is confusing.
Instead, JP appears to me to be an over-correction for the errors of Shepherd.
Why am I not like Shepherd? Simple: justifying faith is purely receptive, containing nothing of itself that tends towards good works. Done.
This is an outcome of my “firewall” between imputed and infused graces.
Why doesn’t the Confession have a separate chapter on union? Because union is not the point; being united with Christ is the point; just as “faith” is not the point, but “faith in Christ” is the point.
And I’m fairly confident that the Confession puts Christ at the center of our salvation. He even gets His own separate chapter.
As usual, there is much with which to agree. I do like your evangelizing example, as it helps us to see the foibles of fideism. But it does seem quite odd to suggest that to prioritize justification is to subordinate Christ.
And if being united with Christ is the point then the next question seems to be, How does that happen? And the answer, at least as I have always understood Reformed Christianity, is in being justified by grace alone, through faith alone on account of Christ alone. Again, the marriage analogy: if being united is the point then it seems natural to ask how does that actually happen? By legal declaration, right? We seem to agree that union is the point. But, to keep the analogy going, your concern seems to be like telling a courting couple not to get too caught up in the formalities of legal declarations, lest they over-react to the errors of some who bypass them in the pursuit of union. Is that really good advice?
Jeff, Thanks for putting your cards on the table.
It’s an interesting story you tell about the evangelism visit. It is also odd that the JP folks are the ones out there being critical of that kind of experiential understanding of faith. I haven’t heard it much from the unionists. So actually, I don’t think the example goes to the heart of the matter.
What comes closer is your assertion that “being in Christ is the source of the verdict, ‘not guilty.'” Actually, that’s not right. Christ’s righteousness is the source of the verdict, technically. Which is why I keep saying that union doesn’t remedy our problem without having to lean on justification. A bare union can’t help without justification. So union can be as abstract as the unionists assert about justification as the hinge — you know, a hinge is not a sky hook.
It’s also odd that you have made salvation dependent on union with Christ. Of course, there is a sense in which that is right. But it is not right unless it also speaks of faith and the imputed righteousness of Christ that comes with it. In other words, union makes no sense without justification. So that makes justification conceptually prior to union.
Here is what the JP folk are trying to say:
“The basic question is: How can man be just with God? If man had never sinned the all-important question would have been: How can man be right with God? He would continue to be right with God by fulfilling the will of God perfectly. But the question takes on a radically different complexion with the entrance of sin. Man is wrong with God. And the question is: How can man become right with God? This was Luther’s burning question. He found the answer in Paul’s Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, that we are justified by faith along, through grace alone . . . .
“It is to be acknowledged and appreciated that theologians of the Roman Catholic Church are giving a great deal of renewed attention to this subject, and there is a gratifying recognition that ‘to justify’ is ‘to declare to be righteous’, that it is a declarative act on God’s part. But the central issue of the Reformation remains. Rome still maintains and declares that justification consists in renovation and sanctification, and the decrees of the Council of Trent have not been retracted or repudiated. . . .
“Renovation and sanctification are indispensible elements of the gospel, and justification must never be separated from regeneration and sanctification. But to make justification to consist in renovation and sanctification is to eleiminate from the gospel that which meets our basic need as sinners, and answers the basic question: How can a sinner become just with God? The answer is that which makes the lame man leap as an hart and the tongue of the dumb sing. . . . Why so? It is the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ. This is not God’s attribute of justice, but it is a God-righteousness, a righteousness with divine properties and qualities, contrasted not only with human unrighteousness but with human righteousness. And what his righteousness is, the apostle makes very clear. It is a free gift. . .
“When Paul invokes God’s anathema upon any who would preach a gospel other than that he preached, he used a term which means ‘devoted to destruction’. It is a term weighted with imprecation. . . . To the core of his being he was persuaded that the heresy combated was aimed at the destruction of the gospel. It took the crown from the Redeemer’s head. It is this same passion that must imbue us if we are worthy children of the Reformation. . . ”
(Collected Writings, vol. 1, 302-304)
If the question is how is man right with God, union is not the answer. Union is an answer to any number of questions. But it doesn’t answer the one put forward by the Reformation. That likely explains why union is not part of the 16th c. creeds and confessions.
DGH: If the question is how is man right with God, union is not the answer. Union is an answer to any number of questions. But it doesn’t answer the one put forward by the Reformation. That likely explains why union is not part of the 16th c. creeds and confessions.
Zrim: And if being united with Christ is the point then the next question seems to be, How does that happen? And the answer, at least as I have always understood Reformed Christianity, is in being justified by grace alone, through faith alone on account of Christ alone.
I think we just have to part company on this question, then. These statements appear to me to be counterfactual. The concept of union is important enough to Calvin that he leads off the discussion of salvation with it. The Catechisms are clear: Redemption is applied to us by uniting us with Christ in our effectual calling. Justification is a manifestation of our union with Christ.
Whatever else might be said about relative importances or key doctrines of the Reformation, these statements from the Catechism just cannot be (or at least have not yet been) reconciled with the proposition that union depends on justification.
So gentlemen, I appreciate your desire to keep sanctification out of justification, and join you in this. I just can’t accept the “priority of justification over union” as genuinely Confessional at this time.
(That doesn’t mean I’m totally immune to persuasion … it just means that I’m stuck on the priority that is apparently clear in the Catechism, which seems to be thoroughly confirmed by a survey of historic and current systematic theologians.)
“So the real issue is not whether justification has priority over sanctification (it does, properly understood), nor whether justification corresponds to a verdict that marks our entrance into spiritual life (it does), but whether â€œunionâ€ properly understood is limited only to experiential and transformative benefits (it isn’t).”
I agree, but I think we might be talking past one another. This is Bierma on Olevianus’s bilateral nature of the covenant (from “German Calvinism in the Confessional Age”):
“The covenant so understood is more than a promise of reconciliation; it is the realization of that promise–reconciliation itself–through a mutual coming to terms. Not only does God bind Himself to us in a pledge that He will be our Father; we also bind ourselves to Him in a pledge of acceptance of His paternal beneficence. Not only does God promise that He will blot out all memory of our sins; we in turn promise that we will walk uprightly before Him. The covenant in this sense includes both God’s ‘promissio’ and our ‘repromissio’.”
Bierma is careful here in noting that even our ‘repromissio’ is an evangelical response. It is God working in us and through us that enables our part of the reconciliation.
I think we can see two aspects of union in this description of the covenant. The first is Christ uniting (binding) Himself to the elect. This He does in eternity in the covenant of redemption and in history in the Incarnation and, of course, in all His subsequent work on our behalf. In this sense God was reconciling Himself to the world in Christ. What remains is for the individual to be united (bound) or reconciled to Christ. This is the experiential, transforming part aspect of the union.This seems to agree with the language in II Cor 5. We have been reconciled, so then let us be reconciled.
Maybe this bilateral notion of the promise and consequent bilateral notion of union may help in our conversation. I believe proponents on both sides love the Lord and are sincerely seeking the truth. When I hear one side I think, “That sounds right.” Then I hear the response and I think, “That sounds good, too.” A coin has two sides, yet it is but one coin. Maybe union can be the same, maybe not. Thoughts?
Jeff, the point wasn’t one about ordo. And this is the incredible irony — noted again and again — that union was supposed to be about the historia not the ordo and yet when someone claims that union depends on justification — that is for an explanation of how we are righteous — you only think in terms of ordo, as in justification precedes union.
My point was this: effectual calling don’t answer how we are right with God. They answer how the spirit applies to us the benefits of redemption. The answer to how I am right comes from justification. So union needs to get to the answer of justification to address the question of how am I right with God, which was, as Murray indicated, the crux of the Reformation. And which explains why union was not in the Reformed creeds of the sixteenth century and why it only makes it into the Standards by the skin of its teeth.
Come on, Jeff, give us more than a paragraph of Calvin and four answers from the Westminster Catechisms. How is it pervasive in the Reformation? And why is it more pervasive in Reformed thought than in Roman Catholic or Lutheran thought?