Where’s Waldo Wednesday: No Getting Around Antinomianism (if you are monergistic)

Some union advocates don’t like the theological approach of asking what problem a specific doctrine solves (sorry Matt). But since we are in the arena of salvation, which is supposed to be a remedy for sin, inquiries about effects of certain doctrines, whether doctrinal or personal, seems fair.

So as near as I can tell, one of union’s greatest benefits is that it solves the Roman Catholic charge against Protestants of antinomianism, with added benefit of leaving Lutherans alone to bear the charge. (Why we don’t want to stand by our Lutheran brothers and offer aid and encouragement in a time of need is perhaps an indication of the failed Calvinist battle with spitefulness.) With union we receive justification and sanctification simultaneously, distinctly, without confusion or sequence. This means that we receive both the imputed righteousness and the infused righteousness of Christ. Which also means that we are both legally righteous and personally holy. It’s a win-win, again with the added benefit of leaving Lutherans in the dust of antinomianism since they allegedly don’t configure union this way, don’t receive sanctification at the same time, and so really are antinomian.

The added appeal of the union scheme has to do with the synecdoches of justification and sanctification, namely, faith and works (sorry cnh, whoever you are). If justification is used interchangeably with faith and sanctification with good works, which is a common usage both in the creeds and in the experience of believers, then union would appear to solve the antinomian problem, again by insuring that good works accompany justification and faith. In other words, via union, voila, I can look a Roman Catholic in the eye and tell him, when he accuses me of lacking virtue, “pound sand.” I mean to say, warm and fuzzy Calvinist that I am, “Listen fellow, I’m united to Christ. I’m both righteous in God’s sight and I have good works steaming off my body. Go find a Lutheran.”

Where this scheme breaks down, of course, is that justification and sanctification are both by faith alone. We are not justified by faith and sanctified by good works. In point of fact, justification and sanctification are acts, works of God. He is the one who declares a believer righteous. He is the one who quickens so that the believer lives to Christ.

Instead of solving the antinomian problem, then, union only makes the matter worse. By saying that I am both justified and sanctified simultaneously through union with Christ, the incentives for living a holy life virtually disappear. With the justification priority scheme, good works were a fruit and evidence of saving faith, in which case the believer would examine himself to see if he showed signs of grace. But with union, it’s all good – I am both righteous in God’s sight and I am infused with Christ’s righteousness, so conceivably I don’t need to lift a good works finger.

Now to union’s credit, it does help us see more clearly that justification and sanctification are both equally by faith. It also clarifies that sanctification is as gracious as justification because it is all of God through the application of Christ’s redemption by the Holy Spirit.

But I don’t see how it solves the antinomian problem. Justification, sanctification, and union are all about God’s good works. They are not about mine. So how am I, united to Christ, still not standing there next to my Lutheran friend, just as vulnerable to the Roman Catholic kvetch about antinomianism?

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61 thoughts on “Where’s Waldo Wednesday: No Getting Around Antinomianism (if you are monergistic)

  1. dgh, well said. For starters, I don’t think that the union doctrine was designed to completely alleviate the charge of antinomianism. I believe that if you are going to truly preach the gospel then you will be open to that charge from those who see salvation by works. I think I heard Lloyd-Jones say something to that effect once.

    To answer your question, which is a good one, I think that the incentive to do good works on a union scheme (as you call it) is…sing it with me…”be-do-be-do-be-do”. That is, because you ARE perfectly righteous (justified) AND perfectly holy (definitively sanctified) so you OUGHT to walk that way (progressive sanctification). This is why, going back to my old drum, I think that the real debate between the JP and Union camps needs to be over the doctrine of definitive sanctification.

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  2. DGH: By saying that I am both justified and sanctified simultaneously through union with Christ, the incentives for living a holy life virtually disappear. With the justification priority scheme, good works were a fruit and evidence of saving faith, in which case the believer would examine himself to see if he showed signs of grace. But with union, it’s all good – I am both righteous in God’s sight and I am infused with Christ’s righteousness, so conceivably I don’t need to lift a good works finger.

    That’s a reeeaaalll stretch. My incentive for doing good works isn’t so that I can provide for myself fruit and evidence of saving faith. We’re not covenantal nomists, after all.

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  3. CNH:

    I like your approach. I think Paul used it, and I think Calvin used it. Our justification motivates our sanctification. But this is part of the debate because a prominent union-centered theologian has rejected this approach. Dr. Richard Gaffin says, that “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….”

    Gaffin isn’t simply rephrasing the standard Protestant argument that though we are justified by faith alone that faith is not alone. To Dr. Gaffin’s mind, that’s an inferior argument. Gaffin says that what he sees in Calvin is “different” and “much more effective.”

    Here are the quotes in context:

    “The constantly echoing charge from Rome at that time (and ever since) is that the Protestant doctrine of justification, of a graciously imputed righteousness received by faith alone, ministers spiritual slothfulness and indifference to holy living. In responding to this charge, subsequent Reformed and Lutheran theology, concerned at the same time to safeguard the priority of justification to sanctification, especially against Rome’s reversal in suspending justification on an ongoing process of sanctification, has asserted, more or less adequately, that justifying faith is never alone in the person justified; as the alone instrument of justification it is a working, obedient faith, in the sense that it is “ever accompanied with all other saving graces” (Westminster Confession 11:2).”

    “Calvin’s approach is different. He counters Rome’s charge, masterfully and, in my opinion, much more effectively, by dwelling at great length (133 pages) on the nature of faith, particularly its inherent disposition and concern for holiness, distinct from the issue of justification and before beginning to discuss justification. He concerns himself extensively with sanctification and faith in its sanctified expressions, largely bypassing justification and without having yet said virtually anything about the role of faith in justification. He has taken this approach, he says in a transitional passage right at the beginning of chapter 11 (the first on justification), because “It was more to the point to understand first how little devoid of good works is the faith, through which alone we obtain free righteousness by the mercy of God.” Calvin destroys Rome’s charge by showing that faith, in its Protestant understanding, entails a disposition to holiness without particular reference to justification, a concern for Godliness that is not to be understood only as a consequence of justification.”

    Those are unaltered quotes from his article “Biblical Theology and the Westminster Standards.”

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  4. CNH:

    How do you reconcile it with what he said in those quotes? I can’t do it, but there are a lot of things that I can’t do, so maybe you can help me. Perhaps, he’s retracted those statements. That would be welcome news.

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  5. Actually, after looking at your “song” once more (be-do-be-do-be-do), I see that your song fits with what Gaffin says, but your explanation of the “song” doesn’t. Happily, your explanation changes “be” to “are.” Maybe, the song needs rethought or reworded. There’s no gospel in it. “Be” and “do” are both imperatives, as in “be holy” and “do good works.”

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  6. I think the “be” and “do” are supposed to be infinitives, not imperatives (the indicatives are changed to infinitives mainly for poetic license purposes)

    RL: While we’re thinking about puzzlers, your quote from Gaffin got me thinking about effectual calling.

    The Confession says that effectual calling includes “…taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills…”

    Clearly, these are more transformative actions.

    Logically speaking, does this make certain kinds of transformation logically prior to justification? This is an open-ended question, and just something I’ve been chewing on.

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  7. Jeff:

    Here’s another puzzle. Look how union plays out immediately after death.

    Q. 86. What is the communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death?

    A. The communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death is, in that their souls are then made perfect in holiness, and received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies, which even in death continue united to Christ, and rest in their graves as in their beds, till at the last day they be again united to their souls. Whereas the souls of the wicked are at their death cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, and their bodies kept in their graves, as in their prisons, till the resurrection and judgment of the great day.

    Our dead bodies continue united to Christ. Doesn’t that seem inconsistent with how union is described in the other questions? In death, our bodies are separated from our souls, but our bodies remain united to Christ. Doesn’t this ad another dimension to union?

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  8. Jeff, and that’s a stretch right back at you. Where in my comment did I talk about incentive to do good works. I said what good works are — fruits and evidence of saving faith, which may (if you read chapter 19 on assurance) become a reassurance that genuine faith is present. Sorry, but sometimes I’m amazed what you read into things.

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  9. DGH (in the post): By saying that I am both justified and sanctified simultaneously through union with Christ, the incentives for living a holy life virtually disappear. With the justification priority scheme, good works were a fruit and evidence of saving faith, in which case the believer would examine himself to see if he showed signs of grace. But with union, it’s all good…

    DGH: Where in my comment did I talk about incentive to do good works.

    Sorry, I wasn’t clued in to the fact that “living a holy life” and “doing good works” are supposed to be completely different things, despite the fact that they are used interchangeably in your two sentences. Sheesh.

    Splitting hairs aside, my comment stands: the “incentive to live a holy life” is not to provide evidence to myself of justification.

    DGH: Sorry, but sometimes I’m amazed what you read into things.

    I think my reading was entirely reasonable.

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  10. That reading was:

    DGH:

    (1) The proposition that J and S come simultaneously through union removes the incentives for holy living.
    (2) That incentive was, that since good works were a fruit and evidence of saving faith, the believer would examine himself for signs of grace.
    (3) But under “union” this no longer happens.

    It seems fairly plain that you were alleging that the incentive to do good works was to provide evidence of grace.

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  11. Jeff, your mistake, which is common to those who are wary of justification priority, is to equate the two phrase in the two sentences. The first sentence is the charge of Roman Catholics, as in “now you guys say you’re not only justified but also sanctified. Sheesh, you have no incentive for good works.” The second statement and phrase is the classic position that good works are the evidence and fruit of saving faith, and that holy living may in times of doubt be a reassurance that real faith is alive in the doubter (as in chap. 19 of WCF).

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  12. I think it odd that a charge of antinomianism could be leveled at Luther, especially since he framed his “Treatise on Good Works” on the Decalogue. Here are two excerpts:

    ” The first and highest, the most precious of all good
    works is faith in Christ, as He says, John vi. When the
    Jews asked Him: “What shall we do that we may work the
    works of God?” He answered: “This is the work of God,
    that ye believe on Him Whom He hath sent.” When we hear
    or preach this word, we hasten over it and deem it a very
    little thing and easy to do, whereas we ought here to
    pause a long time and to ponder it well. For in this work
    all good works must be done and receive from it the
    inflow of their goodness, like a loan. This we must put
    bluntly, that men may understand it.”

    ” In this faith all works become equal, and one is like
    the other; all distinctions between works fall away,
    whether they be great, small, short, long, few or many.
    For the works are acceptable not for their own sake, but
    because of the faith which alone is, works and lives in
    each and every work without distinction, however numerous
    and various they are, just as all the members of the body
    live, work and have their name from the head, and without
    the head no member can live, work and have a name.”

    The second quote shows why the works-righteousness crowd doesn’t care for sola gratia. It destroys all pretense of pride. As Paul says in Romans, “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.”

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  13. Pardon the length (it’s well worth it), but in “The Confessional Presbyterian,” Volume 3, 2007 J.V. Fesko does a fairly nice job of helping to put to bed the Lutheran epithet:

    “In turning to the second half of our investigation, we must explore the question of whether the Lutheran commitment to sola fide is such that they make absolutely no place for the necessity of good works, in some sense, in the broader category of their soteriology. In other words, is Lutheran soteriology antinomian? There have been those in both the distant and recent past who have argued that Luther and Lutheranism only hold to two uses of the law: the political or civil, in retraining evil, and the elentic or pedagogic, in leading people to a knowledge of sin and the need of redemption. Yet, at the same time a perusal of primary sources, including Luther’s writings, Lutheran confessions, and other Lutheran theologians evidences that Luther and Lutheranism hold to the third use of the law in some form, the didactic or normative use, regulating the life of the regenerate. One may begin with Luther’s own writings, as his writings are incorporated in the confessional corpus of the Lutheran church.

    “While Luther certainly divided the scriptures into the categories of law and gospel, commands and promise, just because a person became a Christian did not mean that he was now suddenly free from the demands of the law. Luther, for example, writes that

    ‘…as long as we live in a flesh that is not free of sin, so long as the Law keeps coming back and performing its function, more on one person and less in another, not to harm but to save. This discipline of the Law is the daily mortification of the flesh, the reason, an dour powers and the renewal of our mind (2 Cor 4:16)…There is still need for a custodian to discipline and torment the flesh, that powerful jackass, so that by this discipline sins may be diminished and the way prepared for Christ.’

    “So long as the Christian is simil iustus et peccator, there is always a need for the law in the life of the believer. Luther’s use of the law in the life of the believer is further evidenced from his catechisms.

    “Luther’s Small Catechism begins with an exposition of the Decalogue. At the close of the exposition of the Decalogue in Luther’s Large catechism, Luther explains the importance of the law in the life of the believer:

    ‘Thus, we have the Ten Commandments, a compend of divine doctrine, as to what we are to do in order that our whole life may be pleasing to God, and the true fountain and channel from and in which everything must arise and flow that is to be a good work, so that outside the Ten Commandments, no work or thing can be good or pleasing to God, however great or precious it be in the yes of the world.’

    “Luther saw a need for good works, but was careful, like the Reformed tradition, to teach about the proper relationship between good works and justification. Luther addresses the proper place of the law as it relates to justification when he writes:

    ‘The matter of the Law must be considered carefully, both as to what and as how we ought to think about the Law; otherwise we shall either reject it altogether, after the fashion of the fanatical spirits who prompted the peasant’s revolt a decade ago by saying that the freedom of the Gospel absolves men from all laws, or we shall attribute to the law the power to justify. Both groups sin against the Law: those on the right, who want to be justified through the Law, and those on the left, who want to be altogether free of the Law. Therefore we must travel the royal road, so that we neither reject the law altogether not attribute more to it than we should.’

    Luther saw a place for the law in the life of the believer. When he was explaining the doctrine of justification he said that there was no place for works or the law. In relationship, though, to one’s sanctification and the knowledge of what is pleasing to God, the Decalogue served as guide as well as a tool in the hand of God to confront the remaining sin in the believer. This careful fencing of justification from works, yet at the same time connecting justification to sanctification, is especially evident in the Lutheran confessions.

    “The Augsburg Confession is the first official Lutheran confession, and was largely written by Luther’s lieutenant, Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560). The Augsburg Confession carefully explains that justification is by faith alone: ‘Our works can not reconcile God, or deserve remission of sins, grace, and justification at his hands, but that these we obtain by faith only, when we believe that we are received into favor for Christ’s sake, who alone is appointed the Mediator and Propitiatory, by whom the Father is reconciled.’ Yet, at the same time the confession gives an apology against antinomianism: ‘Ours are falsely accused of forbidding good works. For their writings extant upon the Ten Commandments, and others of the like argument, do bear witness that they have to good purpose taught concerning every kind of life, and its duties; what kinds of life, and what works in every calling, do please God.’

    “The confession even goes so far as to say that Lutherans “teach that it is necessary to do good works,” but it specifies that “not that we may trust that we deserve grace by them, but because it is the will of God that we should do them. By faith alone is apprehended remission of sins and grace. And because the Holy Spirit is received by faith, our hearts are now renewed, and so put on new affections, so that they are able to bring forth good works” (Augsburg Conf., ¶ 20, in Schaff, Creeds, 3.24-25). So, here, in this Lutheran confession we see the emphasis upon justification by faith alone but also the need for good works, informed by the law. While this is not precisely the same nomenclature that one finds in the Westminster Standards [it] is nonetheless parallel to the Standards’ emphasis on the third use of the law (WLC qq. 95-97; WCF 19.6; cf. Belgic Conf., ¶ 25; Heidelberg Cat., q. 93). What we find in inchoate forms in the Augsburg Confessions, however, emerges quite clearly in the formula of Concord.

    “…It is in the Formula of Concord that the Lutherans, legendary for their insistence upon justification by faith alone, also state that “good works must certainly and without all doubt follow a true faith (provided only it be not a dead faith but a living faith), as fruits of a good tree” (Formula of Concord, ¶ 4, in Shaff, Creeds, 3.122.). It is in article six, “Of the third use of the law,” where the document makes its most pronounced statement about the importance of the law and good works: “We believe, teach, and confess that although they who truly believe in Christ, and are sincerely converted to God, are through Christ set free from the curse and constraint of the Law, they are not, nevertheless, on that account without the Law (Formula of Concord, ¶6, in Schaff, Creeds, 3.131.). The document goes on to state that “the preaching of the Law should be urged not only upon those who have not faith in Christ, and do not yet repent, but also upon those who truly believe in Christ, are truly converted to God, and regenerated and are justified by faith” (Formula of Concord, ¶6, in Schaff, Creeds, 3.132.). So, then, it appears from primary sources such as Luther, the Augsburg Confession, and the Formula [of] Concord that Luther and Lutheranism places a heavy emphasis upon justification by faith alone but not to the exclusion of the importance and necessity of good works or the third use of the law. This is not a unique conclusion.”

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  14. Jeff, my point is that union doesn’t fix the charge of antinomianism. Union only makes the charge more plausible.

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  15. I think the discussion is becoming more real in regards to how we face these issues in our everyday lives. The order of salvation language becomes somewhat abstract and difficult for layman who do not have the time to devour and consume the technical theological “shop talk.” Pactum salutis?- what’s up with that? You guys abbreviate lots of issues in your comments too which drives me nuts. I know the clergy and the professional scholar need to know this stuff and I probably spend more time trying to understand it then I should. It seems that the biblical language differs from some of the more abstract theologyspeak. I am not speaking about a more practical theology either. Just something a bit more palatable to the average layman. The Law and Gospel language seems to do this quite nicely.

    It certainly was an eye-opener for me to read the Lutheran confessions and see how strongly and forcefully Luther used the Law in his writing- especially in the large catechism. I came from an evangelical and charismatic backround and then dabbled in the reconstruction movement for a while before becoming aware of reformational theology through R.C. Sproul, Francis Schaeffer and then Michael Horton’s Putting Amazing Back into Grace back in the early 90’s. It is then that I started reading Luther and finally joined the Lutheran Church 2 years ago. With some issues in my backround I found the Lutheran pastors most willing to help me through them. Some of the charismatic, arminian and reconstructionist theology really had me convinced that I would never make it in the Christian life and I bowed out of Christian Church life for about 10 years while reading reformational theology the whole time I had departed. I really did not trust any Church with its confused teaching and theology and also my issues. You cannot say it is easy to join a Church in the reformational heritage either. First of all, they are not easy to find and secondly I felt very much like an outsider in some of the Church’s I tried to get involved with (you have to get used to how they think). I am beginning to come out “from under the rubble” so to speak. There certainly are issues the Lutherans have to deal with too but I hear the Law and Gospel accurately at the Church I attend now and have developed a bond with the Pastor and the congregation so I am becoming a happy camper once again. I think I understand now what Paul meant when he stated he now completed the sufferings of Christ in his body. The forgiveness of his great sins is what motivated him to suffer for Christ’s sake in this life and made him spurn the adoration and recognition of worldly “success” in this life too. This is what brought him great joy. And he felt he was doing it for those whom he bonded with in Christ. Paul probably did it better than anyone who has walked the face of the earth with Luther and Calvin a close second.

    There not only has to be reform in our understanding of the Gospel but reform in the the use of the Law too. How to use the law properly to discipline people in the Church is a very prickly issue. Some Lutherans decided to hand that responsibility totally over to the state while the Reformed kept some of the responsibility within the Church.

    From some secondary sources about Luther you would think he was a flaming antinomian. That is really not so. Some current day Lutherans do not preach and write about the Law as forcefully as Luther did and that can cause problems with antinomianism in Lutheran circles- hence the reputation about Lutherans. Thanks for the comments Zrim and Randy. It is sad to me that Lutherans and the Reformed never settled their differences appropriately. They probably need each other now more than ever. Their combined efforts would be helpful in regards to theological issues at large within the Church’s of America and they are certainly a needed voice to hear. When taught properly the Law and Gospel can bring reform- even to Church’s in America.

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  16. But I don’t see how it solves the antinomian problem. Justification, sanctification, and union are all about God’s good works. They are not about mine. So how am I, united to Christ, still not standing there next to my Lutheran friend, just as vulnerable to the Roman Catholic kvetch about antinomianism?

    I really did not address this issue directly in my last post but I think I have in other ones. How the Catholics came to the conclusion that they were actually called to keep the Law in order to get finally justified and how us Protestants play semantic games with the law to nullify what it is supposed to do in our lives, which to my understanding, is to break us of our self-righteousness and moralism, is still a mystery to me. I guess it is part of the “jack-ass” role that sin still plays in our lives. Only a hard-core preaching of the Law reveals to us God’s standard of righteousness and knocks some sense into us. It takes a lot of courage to do this in the environment we live in today-both in the culture and in the Church. Paul, Luther and Calvin reeked of this courage and were buffeted and scorned because of it. How to do it without developing a martyr complex or the other myriad of difficulties which seem to follow can only be accomplished by our reliance on the means of grace. This is what it drives us to.

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  17. I believe the argument runs like this:

    An argument derived from what is of an opposite character. “He who sins certainly lives to sin; we have died to sin through the grace of Christ; then it is false, that what abolishes sin gives vigor to it.” The state of the case is really this, — that the faithful are never reconciled to God without the gift of regeneration; nay, we are for this end justified, — 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. — Calv Comm 6.2.

    Thus, the simultaneous declaration of righteousness and giving of regeneration puts the lie to the charge of antinomianism.

    Whether this comes through “union” as an absolutely simultaneous duplex gratia or through a causal chain with a sequential duplex gratia, one right after the other, probably doesn’t matter in re: antinomianism.

    On a separate note, I had a conversation today with a former student, now at Wheaton, who is encountering a lot of genuine antinomianism. Any interest in running a couple of threads on the real deal?

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  18. Jeff, I don’t see how this answers the charge. You seem to be saying, “see, this justified person is also regenerate, so good works follow.” Or, “see this justified person God is also sanctifying.” But what do you say when that regenerate or sanctified person sins? Aren’t they still justified, or regenerated, or sanctified? Is it not the case that God is saving them, not whether or not they sin or do good works? To a Roman Catholic this makes no sense — it is all antinomian because anyone who sins needs to pay for it. That’s why there’s purgatory.

    So to say that just. is always accompanied by moral renovation does not answer antinomianism because it places salvation entirely in God’s hands and changes the motivation for good works.

    BTW, I have written about real antinomianism here — it’s called Quakerism.

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  19. It may not satisfy a Roman Catholic, but it answers him. The reason we do not continue to live in sin is because of the ongoing work of the Spirit, who wars against the flesh. The guarantee of holy living is not the change itself, grace-as-a-substance changing us, but the supernatural work of the Spirit who seals us as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.

    In other words — yes, predestination is the key here, as Augustine realized. And Luther also: he recognized the way in which Catholic “free will” (as expressed by Erasmus) functioned as a hook to put people under the law.

    So the charge is, JFBA eliminates the motivation for good works.

    The response is, The motivation for good works comes not of ourselves but of the Spirit.

    Union is particularly effective at emphasizing this, although JP also does in its own way.

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  20. The reason we do not continue to live in sin is because of the ongoing work of the Spirit, who wars against the flesh. The guarantee of holy living is not the change itself, grace-as-a-substance changing us, but the supernatural work of the Spirit who seals us as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.

    But we do continue to sin, Jeff. The response to charges of antinomianism isn’t to suggest that we live above the fray thanks to the Spirit. That’s pretty Gnostic. The question is, What do we do when we sin? And the answer is we flee to Christ. And, of course, we may only do that by the power of the indwelling Spirit.

    It seems to me that the problem of the unionists when it comes to clinging sin is that they appeal to the Spirit (pneuma-centric) and seem to suggest that sin doesn’t cling quite as much, while JPers appeal to the Son (Christo-centric) and fully admit that sin clings pretty heavily.

    The motivation for good works comes not of ourselves but of the Spirit.</i.

    No, the motivation for good works is the work of the Son on our behalf. That's what the whole point of the "gratitude" part is in the "guilt, grace, gratitude" formula. The Spirit is the power by which we do good works, not the motivation.

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  21. Zrim: But we do continue to sin, Jeff. The response to charges of antinomianism isn’t to suggest that we live above the fray thanks to the Spirit.

    Do you really think I said that, or are you just yanking my chain?

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  22. Jeff,

    I think you know that sin still abides and that Jesus covers it, but your words here make very little room for abiding sin and suggest something less than Christocentric in relation to that problem.

    If you think that is debatable I’d point out again your more telling statement that “the motivation for good works comes not of ourselves but of the Spirit.” Pardon the bluntness, but that simply isn’t Reformed. I understand that you have WCF XVI in mind when you say the motivation comes not from ourselves but from the Spirit. But what it actually says is “Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ.” The power, or ability, does indeed come from the Spirit, but the motivation is the Son.

    The Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 86 begins the third section (of thankfulness) thus:

    Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?

    Answer: Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for his blessings, (a) and that he may be praised by us; (b) also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, (c) by the fruits thereof; and that, by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ.

    Again, Christ is the motivation and the Spirit is the power. Or, what is a better answer to why you do good works? Is it because the Spirit is inside you doing what you cannot for yourself, or because Jesus is outside you doing what you cannot for yourself? I say it’s because Jesus is outside me doing for me what I cannot do for myself. And the answer to how I do good works is that the Spirit is inside me doing what I cannot for myself.

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  23. If I understand, you are using “motivation” to mean the ground, and “power” to mean the cause. As in the primary definition here:

    # the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and …
    # the condition of being motivated; “his motivation was at a high level”
    # the act of motivating; providing incentive

    Whereas I was using “motivation” more in the third sense: the Spirit is He who motivates us.

    If I’m tracking with you, then I would agree that the Spirit is not the ground, but the cause. We don’t obey and produce good works out of a recognition of the Spirit’s work; but rather because (efficient cause) of the Spirit’s work.

    That said, gratitude is not the only proper ground or motivation. Scripture also identifies “love” as one; and “fear of the Lord” as one; and “obedience” as one; and a recognition of our freedom in Christ as one; and the hope of the world to come as one. Jesus even speaks of rewards.

    Following this, the Confession identifies fear of the Lord (13.3) and obedience (16.2) and speaks also of rewards (16.6), in addition of course to gratitude or thankfulness.

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  24. JRC: The reason we do not continue to live in sin is because of the ongoing work of the Spirit, who wars against the flesh. The guarantee of holy living is not the change itself, grace-as-a-substance changing us, but the supernatural work of the Spirit who seals us as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.

    Zrim: I think you know that sin still abides and that Jesus covers it, but your words here make very little room for abiding sin and suggest something less than Christocentric in relation to that problem.

    Read a little more closely. I’m saying that because sin still abides, it requires the ongoing work of the Spirit for sanctification. My comments are directed in opposition to the idea that the transformation of regeneration operates automatically.

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  25. Jeff, “regeneration operates automatically”? Automatic may not be the best word, but are you trying to say that regeneration depends on something we do so it is not automatic? Or is it that it depends on God’s grace? In that case, it may not be automatic but it still doesn’t answer the antinomian charge, as if our doing something affects sanctification. (BTW, are you using regeneration and sanctification interchangeably? If so, why?)

    On the matter of fear and motivation, the standards seem to be clearer than the phrase you quote in chapter 13 when they ask in the Larger Catechism:

    “Q. 97. What special use is there of the moral law to the regenerate?
    “A. Although they that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from the moral law as a covenant of works, so as thereby they are neither justified nor condemned; yet besides the general uses thereof common to them with all men, it is of special use, to show them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good; and thereby to provoke them to more thankfulness, and to express the same in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of their obedience.”

    From a Roman Catholic, merit based perspective, that won’t cut it.

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  26. That said, gratitude is not the only proper ground or motivation. Scripture also identifies “love” as one; and “fear of the Lord” as one; and “obedience” as one; and a recognition of our freedom in Christ as one; and the hope of the world to come as one. Jesus even speaks of rewards.

    Following this, the Confession identifies fear of the Lord (13.3) and obedience (16.2) and speaks also of rewards (16.6), in addition of course to gratitude or thankfulness.

    True enough. But, I suppose it’s the prioritizer within, it seems necessary to say that only those who have been regenerated to see Christ as the ground for their good works can then also be motivated by love, fear, obedience and rewards. In other words, without gratitude for Christ there can be no love, fear, obedience or rewards. It seems to me that the authors of the HB understood this, as the entire third section is framed primarily in terms of gratitude (not love, etc.).

    Read a little more closely. I’m saying that because sin still abides, it requires the ongoing work of the Spirit for sanctification. My comments are directed in opposition to the idea that the transformation of regeneration operates automatically.

    I understand that. But that’s the problem: the question wasn’t how abiding sin is dealt with by God; the question was how to answer the charge of antinomianism by detractors. So what you sound like is, “We aren’t antinomian because the Spirit dwells within.” But do you see how that doesn’t really answer the question, “What reason do you have to do good works?” The reason is the work of Christ without, not the Spirit within.

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  27. Zrim: But that’s the problem: the question wasn’t how abiding sin is dealt with by God; the question was how to answer the charge of antinomianism by detractors.

    Both of you are missing the forest for the trees here. The charge of antinomianism is not simply, “What reason do you have to do good works?” (to which the answer is, “plenty: gratitude, obedience, fear of the Lord, hope of reward, hope of the eschaton, etc.”).

    Rather, the charge of antinomianism is a larger charge of teaching, “We may sin, since we are under grace and not the law.”

    And the answer to that charge is provided by Paul in Rom 6 – 8. We do not persevere in sin because the law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the Law of sin and death.

    The RC charge of antinomianism rests upon a false assumption, that the Christian is on his own and will not obey God unless properly motivated (by the fear of loss of justification).

    The Reformed response is not to accept the “on his own” assumption and simply replace one motive with another. Instead, the Reformed response rejects the assumption. We are not on our own; the Spirit strives within us, wars against the flesh, causes us to persevere.

    This response is not satisfying to the RC, because it overturns a whole constellation of assumptions about free-will, about the continuing need for sacraments to maintain a state of grace, and so on. But it *is* the answer to the charge.

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  28. Jeff,

    I don’t know how you get that the answer to the charge of antinomianism is to appeal to the Spirit when, up one side and down the other, Paul appeals to the Son in Romans 6-8 (especially 6).

    I agree that it is a war of presuppositions, but when it is suggested that Protestantism leaves us on our own does not HBC 1 answer that, as in we are not our own but belong in body and in soul, in life and in death to (whom?) the Son? I may be missing forest for trees, but you’ve just revised HBC 1 from being Christocentric to Pneumacentric:

    We are not on our own; the Spirit strives within us, wars against the flesh, causes us to persevere.

    To borrow from the courtroom analogy we JPers love so much, do people who want to prove their innocence/disprove their guilt point to something inside them or something outside them?

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  29. Jeff, it seems to me you’re missing an important part of that Reformed response, which is, because I am justified I have confidence that no matter how bloody that Spirit-led battle with sin is, I get the victory. I may be dinged up because of ongoing sin, but I have the righteousness of Christ as my very own.

    I think that has a lot to do with motivation. But even more basic is what it says about me and my dependence on Christ.

    BTW, I don’t see union as essential to your response to the RC. In fact, much of what you say was said historically by Reformed on the nature of the Christian life before union became the alleged solution to antinomianism.

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  30. Zrim,

    I think you’re dividing the work of the Spirit and the Son too sharply. Paul does not do this:

    You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

    For Paul, having the Spirit of Christ indwelling is synonymous with having Christ indwelling.

    DGH: Jeff, it seems to me you’re missing an important part of that Reformed response, which is, because I am justified I have confidence that no matter how bloody that Spirit-led battle with sin is, I get the victory. I may be dinged up because of ongoing sin, but I have the righteousness of Christ as my very own.

    I think you’re combining two concepts here. Both are true, but I don’t see them tied together in the same way.

    (1) I have the righteousness of Christ as my own because I am justified.

    Absolutely, fundamentally true.

    (2) No matter how bloody the ongoing battle is, the outcome of that battle is assured.

    Also fundamentally true.

    But the ground of (2) is only partially (1). The additional ground is the fact that the Spirit of Christ dwells within. He is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.

    Does the fact of my justification guarantee my glorification? Not by itself. It is the power of Christ, not our verdict, that transforms our bodies.

    The Confession says this about our perseverance (which is what you are speaking of in reference to bloody battles):

    2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

    It is not justification alone, but the duplex gratia upon which our perseverance depends.

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  31. For Paul, having the Spirit of Christ indwelling is synonymous with having Christ indwelling.

    Jeff,

    Again, I think you’re moving away from the question at hand and answering something else. The question isn’t “Is the indwelling of the Spirit the same as having union with Christ?” Of course it is. But the question at hand is what keeps us from antinomianism, what motivates us to do good works?

    It’s interesting. The question before was how are we right with God? Your answer was by justification AND union, and you seemed to suggest that those who prioritize justification and say that union is more implicit than instrumental have something against union (which was denied). Now the question is what motivates us to do good works, and your answer is the Spirit AND the Son, and you seem close to suggesting that those who would say the Son motivates and the Spirit empowers might have something against the Spirit. But, yes, to have the Spirit is to belong to the Son, but having the Spirit doesn’t do a thing to quell fears about antinomianism anymore than union makes us right with God.

    Does the fact of my justification guarantee my glorification? Not by itself. It is the power of Christ, not our verdict, that transforms our bodies.

    The only way this makes sense is to presume that justification somehow doesn’t include the power of Christ to transform us, that a verdict doesn’t entail a sure outcome. But the same one who justifies also glorifies. If you’re right then those who are justified have reason to doubt they will also be glorified. I thought Christianity was supposed to be comforting.

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  32. But the question at hand is what keeps us from antinomianism, what motivates us to do good works?

    Those are two different questions, with two different-but-related answers. As you pointed out, motivation is not the same as cause. Gratitude (motivation) is not the same as the Spirit (who writes the Law of God on our hearts and causes us to obey it).

    The question before was how are we right with God? Your answer was by justification AND union

    Not quite. It was “by justification, which is a manifestation of union.”

    …but having the Spirit doesn’t do a thing to quell fears about antinomianism anymore than union makes us right with God.

    Then why does Paul appeal to being united with Christ to answer the question, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”

    The only way this makes sense is to presume that justification somehow doesn’t include the power of Christ to transform us…

    Exactly, because justification is judicial and not transformative.

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  33. “…but having the Spirit doesn’t do a thing to quell fears about antinomianism anymore than union makes us right with God.”

    Then why does Paul appeal to being united with Christ to answer the question, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?”

    You’ve lost me. I thought you were defending the appeal to having the Spirit, instead of belonging to the Son, to refute the charge of antinomianism? I’m saying that Jesus is the answer to both how we are right with God and why we do good works.

    “The only way this makes sense is to presume that justification somehow doesn’t include the power of Christ to transform us…”

    Exactly, because justification is judicial and not transformative.

    But that doesn’t mean that those who are justified have reason to doubt their being glorified. That’s like saying, “Yeah, the judge declares me innocent, but he has no power to actually make me a free man.” Yes, justification is judicial and not transformative, but Jesus will necessarily glorify those whom he declares righteous.

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  34. I thought you were defending the appeal to having the Spirit, instead of belonging to the Son, to refute the charge of antinomianism?

    You’re the one who’s been separating the work of the Spirit and of the Son into two neat little bins.

    The charge of antinomianism is refuted, as Paul refutes it also, by observing that those who are justified are not solely judicially declared righteous (though indeed they are!), but also that they are united with Christ. He doesn’t discuss issues of priority, as we have done; we cannot read out J –> U or U –> J from this. Rather, both are true: all who have been declared righteous Christ have also been united with Christ. That’s Romans 6.

    And in fact, being united with Christ entails being led by the Spirit. Being indwellt with Christ is synonymous with being indwellt by the Spirit of Christ.

    And it is His work that guarantees our continued perseverance. It is His work that assures us of our coming glorification, by Whom we cry “Father.” It is He who is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. It is He who writes God’s law on our hearts.

    Why are we not antinomian? Because God doesn’t allow His children to become (remain) antinomians. The supernatural work of the Spirit prevents this.

    This is the work of the Spirit of Christ — and thus, the work of Christ himself. Away with this “Not the Spirit, but the Son” dichotomy!

    …but Jesus will necessarily glorify those whom he declares righteous.

    Sure. But it is equally true that Jesus will necessarily declare righteous all whom He glorifies. Viewed in terms of logical necessity, every aspect of salvation is logically necessary for the rest. You can’t have a man who is being sanctified who is not justified. You can’t have a justified man who will not be glorified, or who has not been regenerated, or who has not been elect from before the foundation of the world.

    So observing that glorification will certainly come to those who are justified is true, but unenlightening. We could equally say that glorification will certainly come to those who are being sanctified. Do we want to say that?!

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  35. Jeff,

    I understand that it may seem like it to one who pooh-poohs priority, but instead of putting them into neat little bins, I’d rather say that I’ve been trying to distinguish the roles of the Son and the Spirit. It’s not a Spirit/Son dichotomy, it’s a distinction. I don’t see why that’s such a problem.

    Yes, I know that both are true [all who have been declared righteous Christ have also been united with Christ]. I’ve been saying that as well. But what you have been saying, it seems to me, is that those who are justified aren’t necessarily on the road to glorification unless they also have the power of Christ (“Does the fact of my justification guarantee my glorification? Not by itself. It is the power of Christ, not our verdict, that transforms our bodies”). This suggests that the power that justifies isn’t the same power that glorifies (which may explain why you think there are two different kinds of grace). I confess that I just don’t understand how that can be. And, in point of fact, it seems to suggest that if anyone is compartmentalizing it’s you. I see the program as at once organic and prioritized, where you seem to see it as at once mechanical and equalized.

    Why are we not antinomian? Because God doesn’t allow His children to become (remain) antinomians. The supernatural work of the Spirit prevents this.

    This sort of answer should sound pretty suspect to the one who is serious about making sure we live pious lives. It’s like a man on trial whose only defense is to point to an invisible, internal sense of virtue instead of mounting a defense based on external realities: “I’m innocent because I know right from wrong,” instead of “I’m innocent because I didn’t do it.”

    You can’t have a justified man who will not be glorified…

    Agreed. But how does this co-exist with, “Does the fact of my justification guarantee my glorification? Not by itself”? On the one hand you seem to suggest something organic and relational about justification and glorification. But on the other, you seem to set them in opposition.

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  36. Why are we not antinomian? Because God doesn’t allow His children to become (remain) antinomians. The supernatural work of the Spirit prevents this.

    Sorry, I didn’t finish my thought here. If this were true, how do you explain something like the Corinthian church? I’m not sure that sinners are the same thing as antinomians since antinomians are kinds of sinners, but not only would those concerned with antinomianism point to Corinth to prove Paul’s gospel dangerous, but Corinth seems like the perfect example to undo your apparent theory that God prevents sinners from sinning. And if you are equating sinners with antinomians, are you saying that God doesn’t allow sinners to remain sinners? Luther said we are at once saints and sinners, and Calvin said we are all partly unbelievers.

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  37. Jeff, why do you resist the doctrine of justification? Sorry to be so blunt, but I am bewildered at your efforts to continue to bring it down a notch or two.

    Have you considered that were it not for the doctrine of justification, Roman Catholics would not charge Protestants with antinomianism?

    Also, have you considered what the doctrine of justification says — that our entire debt with God is paid and that we now are righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ, received by faith alone.

    What more is necessary on judgment day? Did the thief on the cross need more? You do make it seem like justification only takes you so far, and then the other graces need to kick in or else you don’t get salvation. I am not denying those other graces. What I am having trouble understanding is that for you justification doesn’t seem to be the crown jewel of those blessings. Why?

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  38. BTW, Jeff, what stands out is when you say that the ground of our assurance for ultimate victory is only partly justification. Ground is a pretty loaded word. Berkhof writes this on the ground of justification:

    “Positively, that the ground of justification can be found only in the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, which is imputed to the sinner in justification. This is plainly taught in several passages of Scripture, such as Rom. 3:24; 5:9,19; 8:1; 10:4; 1 Cor. 1:30; 6:11, 11Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9. In the passive obedience of Christ, who became a curse for us (Gal. 3:13) we find the ground for the forgiveness of sins; and in His active obedience, by which He merited all the gifts of grace, including eternal life, the ground for the adoption of children, by which sinners are constituted heirs of life eternal. The Arminian goes contrary to Scripture when he maintains that we are accepted in favor by God only on the ground of our faith or evangelical obedience. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 523.”

    But whatever point you may or may not be making by using “ground,” are you really saying that come judgment day Christ’s righteousness won’t be enough? It’s only partially enough?

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  39. Martin Luther Geerhardus Vos teaches not just that endless life is grounded in justification but also that endless life is a consequence of justification. It’s a life-giving justification:

    “The language of Rom. viii. 33, 34: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is he that condemns” could not be more absolute than the sentence rendered in the last judgment; in fact it is so absolute to be indifferent to the categories of present, past or future. In this respect the fact of justification is only the reverse side of the facts of prognosis and predestination and it would be out of place in the catena salutis of vs. 29, if its scope were less unlimited and unconditional than that of other conceptions enumerated. Justification is a “dikaiōsin zōēs” (justification of life), and the “life” thus declared to be its consequent is the endless life, that of which it is promised that the saints “shall reign” in it, Rom. v. 18-21.” Page 57 of The Pauline Eschatology.

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  40. Zrim: But what you have been saying, it seems to me, is that those who are justified aren’t necessarily on the road to glorification unless they also have the power of Christ.

    There are no people who are justified but do not also have the power of Christ. So those who are justified are of course necessarily on the road to justification.

    JRC: Why are we not antinomian? Because God doesn’t allow His children to become (remain) antinomians. The supernatural work of the Spirit prevents this.

    Zrim: This sort of answer should sound pretty suspect to the one who is serious about making sure we live pious lives. It’s like a man on trial whose only defense is to point to an invisible, internal sense of virtue instead of mounting a defense based on external realities

    Do you really believe that the work of the Spirit is an invisible, internal sense of virtue instead of an objective reality? And I’m not particularly interested in making sure you live a pious life, anyways.

    JRC: You can’t have a justified man who will not be glorified…

    Zrim: Agreed. But how does this co-exist with, “Does the fact of my justification guarantee my glorification? Not by itself”?

    I think a lot of the confusion you have about what I say comes down to failing to carefully, clearly distinguish between logical implication and causation.

    The two statements are fully compatible. As to the first, there is a logical relationship between each of the parts of salvation: the existence of any one of them automatically implies the existence of all of them. All those who are justified, will be glorified.

    As to the second, there is a causal relationship between justification and glorification. And that relationship is, that justification is one of several joint causes of our perseverance leading to glorification.

    WCoF 17.2: 2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

    Zrim, you’ve spoken of an organic-but-prioritized view of salvation, in contrast with my supposed mechanical-but-equalized view of salvation.

    I have no idea what you mean by “mechanical”, but I would say that my view of salvation is much less prioritized than yours. I just don’t see the need for making “justification priority” into a shibboleth. And I don’t think JP is a useful antidote against Shepherd et al. There are medicines with fewer side effects.

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  41. DGH: But whatever point you may or may not be making by using “ground,” are you really saying that come judgment day Christ’s righteousness won’t be enough? It’s only partially enough?

    Sure. What I’ve been saying all along is that we need something extra besides Christ. Perhaps an iPhone. Or Teen Spirit.

    OR maybe, I’ve been saying that Christ’s righteousness comes to us in two forms: imputed and infused. And that both forms are applied to us by uniting us to Christ in faith. And that both forms are jointly the cause of the rest of our Christian life.

    Which, funny enough, is what the Confession says also.

    Somehow, you’ve made “Christ’s righteousness” and “justification” to be synonyms. So when I say “justification is not the sole cause”, then you read me as saying “Christ’s righteousness is not enough.”

    This is one of the unfortunate side-effects of Justification Priority. It elevates justification so highly that it becomes a synonym for Christ’s righteousness.

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  42. DGH: Jeff, why do you resist the doctrine of justification? Sorry to be so blunt, but I am bewildered at your efforts to continue to bring it down a notch or two.

    I have no problem with the doctrine of justification. I have an increasing concern that “justification priority” is code for “if you don’t say justification all the time, every time, we will accuse you of moralism.”

    The doctrine of justification NOT the same as the doctrine of Justification Priority.

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  43. Jeff,

    I have no problem with the doctrine of justification. I have an increasing concern that “justification priority” is code for “if you don’t say justification all the time, every time, we will accuse you of moralism.”

    It just seems to me that if a Protestant should be worried about anything it’s the danger of being moralist, not antinomian. Paul was never accused of the former but was the latter, so to be so accused is to keep stellar company. Whatever else is involved, downplaying the priority of justification seems to make things easier on those who would that we are antinomian. Are you familiar with the term “friendly fire”?

    And whatever else may be said in response to the charge of antinomianism, it strikes me as something of urban legend. To the extent that we are wired for law, does such a creature even exist? We are by nature legalists, not antinomians.

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  44. Zrim: Are you familiar with the term “friendly fire”?

    Quite. stares hard across the table

    It just seems to me that if a Protestant should be worried about anything it’s the danger of being moralist, not antinomian.

    If we’re only allowed to worry about one thing, then I agree with you.

    But actually, Paul worries about the flesh concerning both the Corinthians and Galatians.

    And his analysis of the flesh in Galatians is very interesting. In Galatians 1 – 3, Paul develops the argument that the Galatians have departed from the Gospel. He culminates this with the central question: having begun with the Spirit (oh look, he can’t keep the roles of Son and Spirit distinct, either…), are they now going to continue in the flesh?

    There is a chiastic structure that clearly identifies works of the Law as continuing in the flesh:

    Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law,
    … or by hearing with faith?
    … … Are you so foolish?
    … Having begun by the Spirit,
    are you now being perfected by the flesh?

    Over against this Paul raises the clear principle that being justified, belonging to Christ, belonging to Abraham’s people, and receiving the Spirit are all accomplished by faith.

    As he develops this in ch. 4 – 5, he explains that submitting to the Law is slavery, and that the Galatians should resist this yoke.

    And then he pulls the rug out. Life in the Spirit, says he is opposed to the deeds of the flesh. What are those deeds? Sexual immorality, witchcraft, hatred, etc. We had expected, based on previous development, that the deeds of the flesh would be law-keeping kinds of deeds. Instead, they are lawless deeds.

    And the point is that the same principle of the flesh that is at work in law-keepers is also at work in antinomians. Moralism and antinomianism are simply two sides of the same coin; “law-keeping” as a means of righteousness is a misuse of the law and is therefore a subtle species of lawlessness.

    With that in mind, I would suggest that Protestants have a more basic concern than avoiding moralism or avoiding antinomianism, and that is to avoid power-of-the-fleshism.

    Two of the unfortunate side-effects I perceive in JP is that it (a) misdiagnoses “moralism”, putting people in that net who don’t belong, and (b) fails to be radical enough in going to the heart of the matter. If we want an antidote to the flesh, that antidote is not to see justification everywhere, but rather to pursue the whole of the Christian life by faith; to continue as we have begun.

    It is Faith Priority, not Justification Priority.

    Wasn’t that the material principle of the Reformation? Faith alone, not justification alone.

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  45. Jeff, but when you said that justification is not the sole ground of our assurance of a not-guilty verdict you seriously misjudged both the priority and the doctrine of justification. Since sanctification in this life will be imperfect, the infused right. we have is not sufficient for God’s holy verdict of not guilty. That leaves justification as the sole ground of our assurance and confidence. It is Christ’s perfect righteousness, after all, right?

    So you misstate the problem if you don’t see that justification also involves justification priority. If you don’t see that, then I wonder if you understand justification or the amazing extent of what Christ accomplished that we receive by faith alone apart from our own righteousness, whether Spirit wrought or human engineered.

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  46. Jeff,

    The material principle of the Reformation, stated a little more completely, is that justification is through faith alone. You still seem to think that to prioritize is to exclusivize. But nobody is saying justification to the exclusion of everything else.

    And I sure wish you’d worry at least as much about putting people in the net of antinomianism as you do about netting moralists. You say you want this to be an equal opportunity thing (I’m good with taking sides), but so far, I must say, you seem to help those netted as soteriological antinomians about as much as you help those netted as public square antinomians. But maybe that does help to show more evidence of the link between soteriology and ecclesiology.

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  47. DGH: Jeff, but when you said that justification is not the sole ground of our assurance of a not-guilty verdict…

    I don’t remember saying that at all. What do you have in mind? I would absolutely affirm that our justification is the sole ground of our not-guilty verdict; and our assurance of that verdict is found by looking to Christ’s work on the cross.

    Zrim: And I sure wish you’d worry at least as much about putting people in the net of antinomianism…

    Dear Zrim,

    If someone wanders over here and accuses you of being antinomian, I’ll be glad to set him straight.

    Meanwhile, I think it’s best to just drop the whole topic. I don’t think we’re communicating in the slightest. My first version of this response was peevish, and I’d rather not get that way.

    I do not view the current iteration of “justification priority” as a healthy development. It appears to draw battle lines and shibboleths.

    My intent in speaking about union is really to limit myself to what the Standards teach, with reference to other theologians for confirmation of my reading. What I *do* see in the Standards is that (a) justification manifests our union with Christ, and that (b) redemption is applied to us by creating faith in us, thus uniting us to Christ. What I *do not* see in the Standards is that justification is the primary source of all other spiritual blessings.

    If that de-centers justification too much for your taste, then I’m sorry to disappoint you.

    But you’ll just have to take my word for it that this entails

    * NEITHER a resistance to JFBA,
    * NOR a belief that Christ’s righteousness is not enough for us at judgment day,
    * NOR a belief that our justification is not the sole ground for our not-guilty verdict at the judgment.

    None of these things are my beliefs, but all of them have been placed in my mouth in this thread. I can’t reasonably see how someone could conclude that these are my beliefs.

    Unless his or her vision is strongly colored by a filter.

    And that’s my concern. I don’t worry one bit about you going all antinomian. I do worry that you would replace the Standards with your own justification-priority standard, and begin to measure orthodoxy according as to whether people say it just like you do.

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  48. Jeff,

    Here is what you said:

    “I think you’re combining two concepts here. Both are true, but I don’t see them tied together in the same way.

    “(1) I have the righteousness of Christ as my own because I am justified.

    “Absolutely, fundamentally true.

    “(2) No matter how bloody the ongoing battle is, the outcome of that battle is assured.

    “Also fundamentally true.

    “But the ground of (2) is only partially (1). The additional ground is the fact that the Spirit of Christ dwells within. He is the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.”

    So it sounds to me like you are saying justification only gets us part way there. Now, of course, most of this is hypothetical since justification is never alone in a person. It’s a fiction to speak of a justified only person — the other graces are there always. (Though I think it is curious that unionists act as if JPer’s are denying those other benefits are there.)

    Both sides say it’s a package. But unionists seem to be uncomfortable with the claim about the priority, centrality, importance of justification. I don’t get that at all. And the reason has to do with our standing before God and the judgment that awaits us on the Last Day. Without the perfect righteousness of Christ, which I receive completely and perfectly in justification, I am toast. The infused righteousness of Christ, while good, won’t stand on judgment day. Nor will the presence of the HS in me. I need perfection. And I get that with justification. And that is why justification is such a comfort to all wasted sinners, and why it is so incredible and sound antinomian. But without out it, I have no hope. I don’t see union, definitive sanctification, progressive sanctification, or mystical union capable of generating that hope and assurance.

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  49. Dr. Hart, the topic under discussion was glorification. You morphed that into a question of a not-guilty verdict.

    I need perfection. And I get that with justification. And that is why justification is such a comfort to all wasted sinners, and why it is so incredible and sound antinomian. But without out it, I have no hope.

    I agree with all this (except for the “sounds antinomian” part — justification doesn’t sound antinomian to me).

    I don’t see union, definitive sanctification, progressive sanctification, or mystical union capable of generating that hope and assurance.

    Being united to Christ is how redemption is applied to us. Being in Christ is how we are justified.

    So saying that “being justified generates hope and assurance, but union doesn’t” is like saying “food satiates me, but eating doesn’t.”

    Are you sure that you understand what union means?

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  50. Being in Christ is how we are justified.

    Yeow. This is the sort of statement that I just find so utterly confusing. The Reformation, following Paul, said that the instrumentality of our justification is by grace alone, through faith alone on account of Christ alone—not union.

    I know you don’t like it said that union flows from justification, but I am mystified as to how you can re-write the material principle of the Reformation like this (and with such ease, no less), and it’s what worries me so much about what is afoot in all this Reformed unionism.

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  51. Zrim: The Reformation, following Paul, said that the instrumentality of our justification is by grace alone, through faith alone on account of Christ alone.

    JRC: The Reformation, following Paul, said that the instrumentality of our justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

    The “in” subsumes “on account of.”

    So the question now is, which of these accounts better expresses the Reformation teaching?

    I would suggest that the Institutes, Fisher’s comm. on WSC 30, Owen’s Catechism are all early sources that bolster my view. As do WLC 66 – 69 and WSC 30. And the later systematics, like Hodge, Berkhof, and Reymond also bolster my view.

    Which Reformers or systematics would you cite that says we are forgiven “on account of Christ, but not in union with Christ”?

    As for Paul:

    In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

    In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

    Two things leap out:

    First, for Paul, there are two senses of “in Christ.” On the one hand, we are chosen “in Christ.” On the other, we are “included in Christ” when we believe.

    Second, our forgiveness of sins is “in Christ.”

    In general this is the case: to the extent that Paul speaks of being “in Christ”, he thinks of our forgiveness as being “in Christ.”

    NOT “on account of, but not in” Christ.

    I’m sorry to say that you have a high burden of proof here, because the concept of “in” includes the concept of “on account of.” So to establish your position of “on account, not in union” needs not merely to show “on account of” — to which we agree — but you have to specifically exclude in the “in union with.”

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  52. Once again, this substance of this debate is a moving target. Can’t I say that I believe in one union with two aspects: legal (forensic) and vital (transformative) and still hold that the latter is the fruit of the former? Does that violate the Standards?

    Faith unites us to Christ. The first benefit of this union is forensic. The second benefit is transformative. The relationship between the two aspects is organic. Thus, the latter is the fruit of the former. Or, one could say, the former blossoms into the latter. Why is this a problem?

    Hodge: “The proximate effect of this union, and, consequently, the second effect of faith, is justification.” [The first effect of faith was union, broadly speaking].

    After the legal, comes the vital. Hodge again: “The third effect of faith, or of union with Christ, is a participation of his life. Those united with Christ, the Apostle teaches (Rom. vi. 4-10), so as to be partakers of his death, are partakers also of his life. “Because I live, ye shall live also.” (John xiv. 19.) Christ dwells in our hearts by faith. (Eph. iii. 17.) Christ is in us. (Rom. viii. 10.) It is not we that live, but Christ liveth in us. (Gal. ii. 20.) Our Lord’s illustration of this vital union is derived from a vine and its branches. (John xv. 1-6.) As the life of the vine is diffused through the branches, and as they live only as connected with the vine, so the life of Christ is diffused through his people, and they are partakers of spiritual and eternal life, only in virtue of their union with Him.”

    Here’s Hodge explaining how sanctification is effected:

    “The soul by this act of faith becomes united to Christ. We are in Him by faith. The consequences of this union are:

    “(a.) Participation in his merits. His perfect righteousness, agreeably to the stipulations of the covenant of redemption, is imputed to the believer. He is thereby justified. He is introduced into a state of favour or grace, and rejoices in hope of the glory of God. (Rom. v. 1-3.) This is, as the Bible teaches, the essential preliminary condition of sanctification. While under the law we are under the curse. While under the curse we are the enemies of God and bring forth fruit unto death. It is only when delivered from the law by the body or death of Christ, and united to Him, that we bring forth fruit unto God. (Rom. vi. 8; vii. 4-6.) Sin, therefore, says the Apostle, shall not reign over us, because we are not under the law. (Rom. vi. 14.) Deliverance from the law is the necessary condition of deliverance from sin. All the relations of the believer are thus changed. He is translated from the kingdom of darkness and introduced into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. Instead of an outcast, a slave under condemnation, he becomes a child of God, assured of his love, of his tenderness, and of his care. He may come to Him with confidence. He is brought under all the influences which in their full effect constitute heaven. He therefore becomes a new creature. He has passed from death to life; from darkness to light, from hell (the kingdom of Satan) to heaven. He sits with Christ in heavenly places. (Eph. ii. 6.)”

    “(b.) Another consequence of the union with Christ effected by faith, is the indwelling of the Spirit. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us, in order that we might receive the promise of the Holy Ghost. (Gal. iii. 13, 14.)”

    This distinction is essential to Berkhof’s analysis, and he everywhere (like Paul, Vos, and Calvin) subordinates the vital to the legal. That the Standards don’t teach an ordo doesn’t mean that they teach that all benefits of salvation are simultaneous.

    The legal union effected through faith blossoms into the vital union because it is on the basis of the Christ’s merit imputed to the believer that he is immediately rewarded by with the gift of the Spirit.

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  53. RL: Can’t I say that I believe in one union with two aspects: legal (forensic) and vital (transformative) and still hold that the latter is the fruit of the former? Does that violate the Standards?

    Yes, I’m fine with that. It was the undifferentiated use of “union” that had me bloviating. That, and being grumpy this morning (no connection to present company).

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  54. Which Reformers or systematics would you cite that says we are forgiven “on account of Christ, but not in union with Christ”?… In general this is the case: to the extent that Paul speaks of being “in Christ”, he thinks of our forgiveness as being “in Christ.”

    Jeff,

    I’ve no problem with interchanging “in Christ” with “on account of Christ.” Justification is by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. Fine.

    But I take “in Christ alone” to mean “faith in,” not “union with,” which is to say Christ is the object of faith and thus the ground of our justification. The instrument is faith, not union. And I don’t see how that is a problem, since to have faith in Christ is to then have union with Christ, to be found in him, etc.

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  55. Zrim: But I take “in Christ alone” to mean “faith in,” not “union with,”

    I don’t follow the re-wording. The word “union” is defined as, I am in Christ and He in me. So “in Christ alone” is axiomatically linked to union.

    To be (forensically) in union with Christ means having him as federal head. You don’t dispute that we are justified by having Jesus as our federal head, right? If you grant that, then granting that we are justified in union with Christ is a simple matter of definition.

    I think you think of “union” as something weird and esoteric, a kind of subjective experience, instead of in terms of its basic meaning.

    The origin of the term is the “in Christ” language of Paul. Union with Christ is an objective reality, a description of the believer’s status and state: reckoned in Christ legally, indwellt with Christ experientially.

    Have you read Fisher on WSC 30 yet?

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  56. Jeff, can you hang all the weight of union on a preposition? “In Christ” is hardly a precise phrase and can be used in a variety of ways. For instance, here are ways that Calvin uses the phrase in his catechism.

    “In short, he alone makes room in us for them. He regenerates us and makes us to be new creatures. Accordingly, whatever gifts are offered us IN CHRIST, we receive by the agency of the Spirit.”

    “I understand so; and therefore mere mercy, without any respect to works, (Titus iii. 5,) embraces and accepts us freely IN CHRIST, by attributing his righteousness to us as if it were our own, and not imputing our sins to us.”

    “In regard to the ceremony, I hold that it was abolished, as the reality existed IN CHRIST. (Col. ii. 17.) ”

    “First, while they learn from it that they cannot obtain righteousness by works, they are trained to humility, which is the true preparation for seeking salvation IN CHRIST. Secondly, inasmuch as it requires of them much more than they are able to perform, it urges them to seek strength from the Lord, and at the same time reminds them of their perpetual guilt, that they may not presume to be proud.”

    Not every time that Calvin uses the phrase is he talking about union. The point of this exercise is that the phrase, which seems decisive to unionists, is one that can be used in a variety of theological contexts. In which case, I do wonder if unionists need to think about why Paul explains what he does in his epistles and what he doesn’t explain. And then a further calculation needs to happen — why put so much weight on something that Paul doesn’t elaborate, especially when the less explained parts begin to become as important as the explained bits.

    To make this concrete, you seem to want to say that we are “justified by union with Christ.” That may be true but it is not the way that Paul or our tradition has spoken, as in “justified by faith alone in Christ alone.” (Interesting here that the “in” is not indicating union but pointing toward the object of faith.) So again, the point isn’t to deny union. It is to show the way that unionists speak in a new and different way. The cause of that newness is the doctrine of union. And that suggests to me an effort to make union central, which would mean de-centering justification.

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  57. Jeff,

    No, I don’t think of “union as something weird and esoteric.” I’m not sure how you’ve construed that since I think I’ve been pretty clear on the importance of union.

    I do think, however, that to de-center justification by making union at least as important as justification does begin to make union lean in a direction that is pietistic. I think there may be good reason that unionism appeals to evangelicals (read: pietists), who glaze over whenever justification is hammered and cue the dead orthodoxy mantra. So it just isn’t at all clear to me what is to be gained by tinkering with justification by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone and surfacing with justification by union (alone?) with Christ, unless one wants to make peace with the descendants of that second battle front of the Protestant Reformation known as the Radical Reformation.

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  58. DGH: To make this concrete, you seem to want to say that we are “justified by union with Christ.” That may be true but it is not the way that Paul or our tradition has spoken, as in “justified by faith alone in Christ alone.” (Interesting here that the “in” is not indicating union but pointing toward the object of faith.) So again, the point isn’t to deny union. It is to show the way that unionists speak in a new and different way.

    So your concern is that the preposition “in” in Eph. 1 might not refer to “union”; that is, I might have been over-reading. And in so doing, I (and “unionists”) have come up with a new and different way of speaking. Certainly, prepositions are notoriously multi-vocal, so you suggest that perhaps I’ve been wandering too far unanchored.

    It’s a fair question. But we actually consider the way Paul speaks and the way the tradition reads Paul, it turns out that there is an ample tradition of reading “in Christ” as a reference to union; and in saying that we are “justified in union with Christ.”

    Rather than clutter up the discussion with full cites, I’ll throw these out there for your own perusal.

    (1) The proof-texts for WLC 69 and WSC 30 demonstrate that the Westminster divines read the Pauline “in Christ” as an expression of union. Of note is 1 Cor 1.30, with content quite similar to Eph 1.

    (2) The same clearly show that union is the way that redemption is applied to us.

    (3) Calvin’s discussion in Inst 3.1.1-4 show clearly that he thought of “union” (he uses the term in 3.1.3) as that which makes Jesus profitable to us. Until we are united to Him, His work on the cross does not avail us.

    (4) Fisher’s commentary on WSC 30 is plain and clear: justification occurs by us being united to Christ, by faith.

    (5) Hodge’s discussion of the union and its benefits (Outlines, 376ff) are precise and clear: justification is a consequence of union. Significantly, Hodge cites Eph 1 as a prooftext for this point (379).

    (6) Berkhof is likewise clear:

    Calvin repeatedly expresses the idea that the sinner cannot share in the saving benefits of Christ’s redemptive work, unless he be in union with Him, and thus emphasizes a very important truth. As Adam was the representative head of the old humanity, so Christ is the representative head of the new humanity. All the blessings of the covenant of grace flow from Him who is the Mediator of the covenant. Even the very first blessing of the saving grace of God which we receive already presupposes a union with the Person of the Mediator. — ST, 447.

    From all these, I conclude that the proposition, “We are justified in union with Christ” is genuinely Pauline and genuinely a part of the Reformed tradition.

    What evidence do you have to the contrary?

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