Where's Waldo Wednesday: What's At Stake?

The recent show at Reformed Forum on union with Christ has generated a lively exchange (some of which spilled over to Old Life). As he did at Old Life, David has produced a number of quotations from Reformed theologians on the ordo salutis that suggest the unionists have their work cut out for them if they are going to claim that John Murray or Dick Gaffin hung the union moon. For instance (thanks to David):

Berkhof wrote:

The sinner receives the initial grace of regeneration on the basis of the imputed righteousness of Christ. Consequently, the merits of Christ must have been imputed to him before his regeneration. But while this consideration leads to the conclusion that justification logically precedes regeneration, it does not prove the priority of justification in a temporal sense.

A. A. Hodge wrote:

The second characteristic mark of Protestant soteriology is the principle that the change of relation to the law signalized by the term justification, involving remission of penalty and restoration to favor, necessarily precedes and renders possible the real moral change of character signalized by the terms regeneration and sanctification. The continuance of judicial condemnation excludes the exercise of grace in the heart. Remission of punishment must be preceded by remission of guilt, and must itself precede the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Hence it must be entirely unconditioned upon any legal standing, or moral or gracious condition of the subject. We are pardoned in order that we may be good, never made good in order that we may be pardoned. We are freely made co-heirs with Christ in order that we may become willing co-workers with him, but we are never made co-workers in order that we may become co-heirs.

These principles are of the very essence of Protestant soteriology. To modify, and much more, of course, to ignore or to deny them, destroys absolutely the thing known as Protestantism, and ought to incur the forfeiture of all recognized right to wear the name.

And James Buchanan wrote:

It has sometimes been asked—Whether Regeneration or Justification has the precedency in the order of nature? This is a question of some speculative interest, but of little practical importance. It relates to the order of our conceptions, not to the order of time; for it is admitted on all hands that the two blessings are bestowed simultaneously. The difficulties which have suggested it are such as these,—How God can be supposed, on the one hand, to bestow the gift of His Spirit on any one who is still in a state of wrath and condemnation,—and how He can be supposed, on the other hand, to justify any sinner while he is not united to Christ by that living faith which is implanted only by the Spirit of God? But such difficulties will be found to resolve themselves into a more general and profound question; and can only be effectually removed, by falling back on God’s eternal purpose of mercy towards sinners, which included equally their redemption by Christ, and their regeneration by His Spirit. The grand mystery is how God, who hates sin, could ever love any class of sinners,—and so love them, as to give His own Son to die for them, and His Holy Spirit to dwell in them. The relation which subsists, in respect of order, between Regeneration and Justification, is sufficiently determined, for all practical purposes, if neither is held to be prior or posterior to the other, in point of time,—and if it is clearly understood that they are simultaneous gifts of the same free grace; for then it follows,— that no unrenewed sinner is justified,—and that every believer, as soon as he believes, is pardoned and accepted of God.

All of which leads to the point that the Reformed tradition has not been uniform on the ordo salutis. How could it be since the ordo is one of the great mysteries of the faith — the Spirit of God working invisibly in the hidden corners of the human soul?

If the Reformed tradition has witnessed (and by implication tolerated) a variety of views on the ordo salutis, what is so crucial to the unionist position? One answer might be historical. Today’s church has neglected a doctrine that has been central to the Reformed tradition. But is union solely the possession of Reformed Protestantism? Last I checked, Luther believed in and taught union with Christ. And so have various Reformed theologians who then proceeded to situate union in relation to the application of redemption in a variety of ways.

Another answer is that the gospel is at stake in the doctrine of union. I sometimes believe that unionists sound as if getting union right is on the order of fidelity to the gospel.

Or it could simply be a matter of doctrinal fine tuning. If we spend a little more time on union then other matters of the faith become clearer or pastorally beneficial.

But given the decibel level of unionists’ arguments (not to mention the length of their interviews), I am not sure that historical accuracy or a doctrinal tune-up is an adequate explanation. That would leave the gospel as the matter at stake in debates over union.

If anyone can help me understand the union ruckus, I’d be grateful.

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185 thoughts on “Where's Waldo Wednesday: What's At Stake?

  1. If the Reformed tradition has witnessed (and by implication tolerated) a variety of views on the ordo salutis, what is so crucial to the unionist position?

    For my part, here’s my burden: What I see in the JP discussion here is an attempt to re-write the ordo so that Buchanan’s view becomes out of bounds. JP contains the insistent premise that Justification comes first in all ways, including in the ordo. This leaves no room for the view that justification and regeneration (in the Calvinic sense) are simultaneous benefits.

    The end-point of the JP arguments is that justification becomes first before everything — union (Zrim), even faith (David R, RL, and Mark).

    While I greatly appreciate (really, I do!) the notion that justification should hold first place in importance, I think that point needs to be bounded by an acknowledgement that we are justified by being united to Christ.

    If we want to further nuance our union notions with adjectives like forensic and vital, that’s fine. But the basic Reformed soteriology needs to include both elements: the central importance of justification sola fide, and union with Christ as the mechanism, in order to genuinely reflect historical Reformed soteriology.

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  2. Jeff, first I want to thank you for continuing to think about this and your attempts to make some distinctions. Having said that, I want to clarify that I have not been saying that “justification” precedes faith. I have been teaching that the imputation of righteousness precedes faith.

    Of course this is not about me. And what I have been saying is not meant to say that Berkhof or Hodge (or Gill and Kuyper) would say it my way. But I reject any notion of “eternal justification”. With you, I resist any definition of faith that reduces it to consciousness of prior justification. I also resist any definition of justification which leaves out “through faith” as if we could be justified before faith or without faith.

    What I would like to ask you, Jeff, is about your theses (recently posted on “power to confuse’) and specifically about #9. “The atonement is the objective ground of our faith, that which the Spirit uses to creates faith in us.”

    I would like you to explain to us more what you mean by “that which the Spirit uses to create faith”. If the Spirit uses it to create faith, doesn’t it have to be there first?

    Perhaps I should stop there, and not assume that I know what you mean by “uses it”. I know that we agree that atonement and justification are not the same thing. Justification is when the atonement gets legally distributed (“applied”) to the elect.

    But if the “righteousness of Christ” is the legal value (the “merits”) of Christ’s atonement ( the “reconciliation”, wouldn’t you agree that “righteousness” is the ground of our faith, that which the Spirit uses to create faith in us? Is there some distinction in your mind between the atonement and the righteousness?

    And if the righteousness of Christ is the ground of faith, would it not have to be imputed first before the Holy Spirit “uses it to create faith in us”.

    II Peter 1:1–“To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ”.

    One additional question, Jeff. On Romans 5:11 (we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have received reconciliation), do you think that the receiving in that verse is by faith? Or do you agree with John Murray, that the receiving in context is by imputation, because the guilt of Adam is likewise received by imputation, and not by human acting?

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  3. Thanks, Mark.

    I have been teaching that the imputation of righteousness precedes faith.

    I hold that imputation and justification are one and the same. “Those whom God effectually calleth, He also freely justifieth … by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them”

    This must be so, for imputation is, as a theological term, reckoning us righteous on account of the righteousness of Christ; and justification, as a biblical term, is reckoning us as righteous.

    I also resist any definition of justification which leaves out “through faith” as if we could be justified before faith or without faith.

    That’s good to hear. Perhaps the real issue between us lies in the understanding of imputation.

    I would like you to explain to us more what you mean by “that which the Spirit uses to create faith”. If the Spirit uses it to create faith, doesn’t it have to be there first?

    Yes. The atonement precedes faith.

    But if the “righteousness of Christ” is the legal value (the “merits”) of Christ’s atonement ( the “reconciliation”, wouldn’t you agree that “righteousness” is the ground of our faith, that which the Spirit uses to create faith in us?

    Yes.

    Is there some distinction in your mind between the atonement and the righteousness?

    No.

    And if the righteousness of Christ is the ground of faith, would it not have to be imputed first before the Holy Spirit “uses it to create faith in us”.

    I don’t think so. If faith is receiving and resting on Christ alone, then there is no particular reason I can see that God must first impute Christ’s righteousness to us, prior to our receiving it.

    It could just as well be (as per the Peter passage) that faith’s object is the atonement.

    On Romans 5:11 (we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have received reconciliation), do you think that the receiving in that verse is by faith?

    Yes.

    Or do you agree with John Murray, that the receiving in context is by imputation

    Also yes. For if imputation is received by faith, then both are true.

    because the guilt of Adam is likewise received by imputation, and not by human acting?

    It is by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, lest anyone should boast.

    It is, I grant, mysterious that our faith should be the work of God in us — the mystery of effectual calling — but it seems nevertheless so.

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  4. Jeff, I also wanted to say something about why this seems important to me. Not long ago, our host (DGH) said that we wouldn’t want to say that justification is caused by our sanctification. But several versions of “unionism” end up saying something not much different from that.

    Like the Galatian false teachers, those like Norman Shepherd who say sanctification is by instrumental faith that works are not saying that sin causes people to lose their justification. They are not necessarily denying imputation. They are simply saying that other things come first.

    They are merely saying that you need to be sanctified also, and also that sanctification IS by instrumental faith that works. Since both justification and sanctification are the results of “union” with Christ, they remind us, to be saved we need also a “righteousness of Christ” which is now found in us.

    This of course means that salvation takes time. You can’t be justified at once, because you need to be sanctified to be justified, not of course that sanctification is the basis for justification, but “union with Christ” means that you have both, and for both you need time.

    Jeff, I am not trying to associate you with Norman Shepherd. I am trying to get back to McCormack’s concern about Calvin putting regeneration before the imputation. If regeneration comes first, then regeneration becomes the gospel, and justification will have to take a lesser place. And that will mean that the atonement will have to take up less place in the gospel.

    I am certainly not denying that the gospel message includes the message about the work of the Holy Spirit. But if the Holy Spirit is the one who gives you Christ, and only after that does God impute you with the righteousness of Christ, then the focus is no longer going to be on Christ’s work outside us.

    In this alternative gospel, which I reject, the Holy Spirit giving you righteousness on the inside will depend on your working at it, and for that you need the rest of your life. And since you are not on your death bed, you need to know that your judicial success on the last day depends on your working.

    The Galatians parallel is real. Both parties in the dispute are open to the idea that some in the other party are lost, never justified, not even Christians. The “you can be sanctified also (by works)” party is saying sanctification is the evidence of justification. You are not justified by circumcision, but sanctification is by circumcision, and if you won’t get sanctified (more), then that means you were never justified, because both are the results of “real” union with Jesus “the person”.

    Paul is the other person in the Galatians controversy. He also thinks some in the other party may not be Christians. If you get yourself circumcised to get blessing, it doesn’t matter if it’s for justification or sanctification, “Christ will be of no profit to you.”. Don’t do it. I warn you. Don’t attempt to be sanctified by means of “union” with the resurrected power of Jesus so that you will be able to work for it.

    If justification is by grace but sanctification is by “synergism”, then Christ died in vain for sanctification? No, that’s not what Galatians 2:21 says. If any part of the blessing is by works, then Christ died to NO purpose. Paul doesn’t seem to be a balanced “perspectives” kind of guy.

    Paul doesn’t say: well, some of us are just more “gospel awake” than others who tend to be a bit “legalistic”. Paul insists: if the extra stuff (sanctification, rewards, punishments) depends on using our regeneration power to obey the law, then Christ died in vain.

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  5. Jeff,

    I’m not sure what you mean by “justification before everything.” All some of us JPer’s are asking for is the kind of clarity that Murray gave when the talked about the significance of the Reformation. I know you’ve seen this before, but it still has merit.

    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 alone, 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. . .

    This is what JPers (at least myself) are arguing for and with some unionists it is akin to pulling teeth to concede that justification has this kind of import — both for the question of how to be right with God and the kind of comfort that comes from justification by faith alone. As I have said before, union may be an answer to the question of how to be right with God but it only becomes a clear answer when it uses the forensic language of justification by faith and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. As you read those words your eyes may be flashing UNION UNION UNION UNION!!!. But wordsmith that I try to be, union was not a term the Reformers (Reformed and Lutheran — ahem) used to answer the question of how to be right with God. And if you think they should have used union in their answer, then you must take a critical position on the Reformation and say that it was inadequate in some way.

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  6. Mark,

    How you define sanctification? Is it basically “doing good works” as John Fesko presents in his recent book on justification? That’s how I read your last comment. If that is the case, I’d like to understand better your position on Romans 6:1-14, which seems to teach a transformative/renovative breach in the power of sin which occurs at the instant of faith. Chalking it up to justification seems to compromise its forensic nature—something the Reformed tradition is very intent on not doing.

    I’d also be interested in your take on 1 Cor 1:2, which speaks of the sanctified church. I don’t mean to bore people with Greek grammar, but it’s a perfect passive participle, indicating a past, completed activity with present effects.

    The point I’m getting at is simply Calvin’s duplex gratia Dei. Saying that justification and sanctification are distinct, simultaneous, yet inseparable soteric events in no way makes your justification dependent on your definitive sanctification (and most certainly not on your progressive sanctification).

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  7. Jeff, you beg the question when you say that imputation and justification are one and the same. I assume you agree with me that there are three imputations: the imputation of Adam’s sin, the imputation of the elect’s sins to Christ, and the imputation of righteousness. Right now we are talking about the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

    If you say imputation is already justification, and if you say faith is before justification, then of course faith is before imputation. But this is begging the question, and not at all proven by the instrumental nature of faith in justification.

    I asked: And if the righteousness of Christ is the ground of faith, would it not have to be imputed first before the Holy Spirit “uses it to create faith in us”.

    Jeff: I don’t think so. If faith is receiving and resting on Christ alone, then there is no particular reason I can see that God must first impute Christ’s righteousness to us, prior to our receiving it.

    Mark: In your theses, you have reminded us that causes precede effects. On that basis, you have said that faith precedes justification. On that basis, you have said that the atonement precedes the gift of faith. The atonement is the “objective ground, which the Spirit uses to create faith”.

    And you have agreed to the identity of the atonement and the righteousness. But still, you only agree that the atonement is before faith. You don’t agree that the righteousness is imputed before faith. I understand that you can’t do this because you identify imputation and justification. But you should stop doing that, Jeff!

    See, how simple I make it for you! But to be serious,if you agree that the atonement is cause to effect, then why can’t you agree that the imputation of the righteousness (which you agree is the atonement) is cause to effect? Especially when II Peter 1:1 indicates that the righteousness is the cause of the faith?

    Which reminds me. You wrote:”It could just as well be (as per the Peter passage) that faith’s object is the atonement.”

    mark: I want to see the exegesis on II Peter 1:1. Believe it or not, I am willing to learn. Certainly I agree that the atonement is the object of faith, but I don’t see how this verse in context is saying that. And I won’t cop out, as you do on my Romans 5:11 question, and say both. Yes, both are true, but in the context of the verse, which is it?

    On Romans 5:11 (we rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have received reconciliation), do you think that the receiving in that verse is by faith?
    Yes.
    Or do you agree with John Murray, that the receiving in context is by imputation
    Also yes. For if imputation is received by faith, then both are true.

    Mark: You CANNOT agree with Murray and say both. That of course doesn’t prove that Murray is right. Most commentators indeed assume that all receiving is by faith. But Murray’s point is that it can’t be both. Guilt is not received by human act; righteousness is not received (in this Romans 5 two Adams context) by faith.

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  8. Just a quick point on history and Tipton’s interview. Just because Berkhof says something doesn’t make it true. Some are attempting exegetical arguments and while we always ought to compare exegetical findings to the tradition, the tradition is not the norming norm.

    In my understanding, Tipton’s comments did not pertain to those holding the view of the logical priority of justification. I believe he’d like to have that point clarified so that we can understand what a logical priority is (without resorting to causal language) and precisely why justification must logically precede any other work of the Holy Spirit.

    Tipton was asking for clarification from Dr. Horton specifically on how justification can be the forensic origin of regeneration. See Covenant and Salvation p. 129.

    This does not mean, of course, that justification functions as a central dogma from which the entire system may be logically deduced. Nevertheless, it is the forensic basis of union with Christ and is therefore the source of our calling, sanctification, and glorification.

    And also p. 130:

    Furthermore, we never leave the theme of justification when we go on to talk about regeneration, sanctification, and glorification; we are always returning to our justification in Christ as the source.

    I believe Tipton was stating that he hasn’t heard this type of language in the Reformed tradition. If Dr. Horton is simply trying to formulate a version of Berkhof’s logical priority, then I think that should be said.

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  9. Clive, you are asking some big questions, like “what is sanctification”. Like AW Pink, I am not too happy with the “more and more” answer of the Confessions. But I would refer you to sanctification by the Spirit in effectual calling (II Thess 2:13) and sanctification by the blood (Hebrews 10:10-14) and a good book by David Petersen (Possessed by God) challenging Ryle’s ideas on holiness.

    For the purposes of this thread, I think your question about Romans 6 is most relevant, because that chapter is about Christ the forensic representative of the elect first being under condemnation, sin and death.

    Romans 6:7 “For one who has died has been justified from sin. 8 Now since we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death NO LONGER has dominion over him. 10For the death he died HE DIED TO SIN once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.12Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

    Christ was never under grace and is still not under grace. Christ was under the law because of the imputed sins of the elect. Romans 6 is about Christ’s condemnation by the law and His death as satisfaction of that law. Christ after His resurrection is no longer under law.

    The death of the justified elect is that VERY SAME legal death. The resurrection of the justified elect in Romans 6 is the result of that justification from being under law.

    Christ was never under the power of sin in the sense of being unable not to sin. Christ was always unable to sin. The only way Christ was ever under the power of sin is by being under the guilt of sin. The guilt of the elect’s sin was legally transferred by God to Christ.

    Christ’s death to sin was death to the guilt of sin, and since the elect are united with a death like his, the death of the elect is also a death to the guilt of sin. And this is what Romans 6:7 teaches: “For one who has died has been justified from sin.”

    Yet many commentators tell us that “set free from sin” must mean the elect’s transformation by grace and by the Spirit so that the justified elect cannot habitually sin (or that their new nature cannot sin) They tell us that justification was in chapter five and that chapter six must be about something more if it’s to be a “real answer” to the question “why not sin?”.

    But Christ was never under the power of habitual sin or any sin, and the death of the elect is like His death.

    Romans 6:10, “For the death He died He died to sin.” When the elect consider themselves dead to sin and alive to God, they think of themselves as dead to the guilt of sin. Death to the guilt of sin means legal life before God.

    Romans 6:14 does not say, For sin shall not be your master, because the Holy Spirit has changed you so that you cannot habitually sin, but only occasionally and always with repentance. Romans 6:14 says, “For sin shall not by your master, because you are not under law but under grace.”

    Christ also died to purchase every blessing, including the giving of the Spirit and our believing the gospel. But it is not believing which frees the elect from the guilt of sin. It’s being legally joined (Romans 6 says “baptized into” not “baptized by the Spirit into) to Christ’s death.

    Christ died instead of the elect for whom He died. When the elect are legally placed into that death, this legal act by God frees the justified elect from guilt.

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  10. Clive, so if tradition is not the norming norm, why do you think Horton needs to claim Berkhof for support?

    It does seem that unionists are doing more than quibbling with an omission here or an addition there, especially if according to the unionists Lutherans are so wrong. “Fatally compromised” was the language I’ve seen attributed to Lutheranism. That doesn’t sound healthy.

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  11. Dr. Hart,

    Dr. Horton isn’t making an exegetical case either. The question at hand is whether Dr. Horton is simply attempting to restate the view of Berkhof, et al or something else. Regardless of whose views they are, it remains to be seen how justification by faith can precede regeneration without resolving to a position structurally identical to semi-Pelagianism. I don’t think the idea of logical priority has been sufficiently explicated to answer that question. That being said, let me echo humbly your tenor by asking everyone to help me understand.

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  12. Mark,

    The work of Christ in his death and resurrection cannot be exhausted by forensic categories and certainly not by the benefit of justification. Christ’s death and resurrection are his justification (1 Tim 3:16), but also his sanctification (Acts 20:32; 26:18; 1 Cor 1:2; 6:11; my read of Rom 6), adoption (Rom 1:3,4), and glorification (1 Cor 15:42ff; 2 Cor 3:17f; Phil 3:21). We could lost more, but my fingers are tired.

    The Spirit then applies that death and resurrection to the believer in all of its aspects such that the believer dies to sin (both a forensic and renovative problem) and rises to new life in Christ.

    Consequently, I trust you won’t be surprised to hear that I don’t subscribe to your read of Rom 6. But thank you for your detailed response. It was much more attention and care than I thought my comment would receive.

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  13. Clive,

    Who introduced the idea that just. is prior to regeneration. Back in the day, it was a question of the priority of justification to sanctification (which the OPC report answered clearly). But I guess since regeneration is supposed to be a transformative work like sanctification, then I guess the recent iteration of justification priority follows. The question remains whether regeneration is an infusion of righteousness in that sense of moral renovation. It’s hard to find any kind of support for regeneration as infused righteousness in the Reformed creeds of Scotland, Switzerland, France, Germany, or England.

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  14. DGH: All some of us JPer’s are asking for is the kind of clarity that Murray gave when the talked about the significance of the Reformation.

    Have you asked directly for that kind of clarity?

    I would be surprised (and alarmed) if Gaffin & co. were unwilling to give it.

    The current mode of fencing around leaves a very different impression, that you will only be satisfied if people *stop* saying that we are justified by being united with Christ.

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  15. Maybe, Jeff, or perhaps the unionists could simply explain why we need to say it the way you do even when the Reformed confessions do not say it that way (and yes, I am aware of the Larger Catechism which doesn’t seem to have made a dent on the Confession of Faith). So is the unionist stress new and improved? Unionists want to say it’s improved but they don’t want to admit it’s new. Either way, it’s different from the way it had been formulated — faith-union is just one example of the neologism. I’d like someone to admit this.

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  16. DGH: faith-union is just one example of the neologism. I’d like someone to admit this.

    Well, I did. So now … ?

    DGH: Maybe, Jeff, or perhaps the unionists could simply explain why we need to say it the way you do even when the Reformed confessions do not say it that way (and yes, I am aware of the Larger Catechism which doesn’t seem to have made a dent on the Confession of Faith)

    You seem to suggest that if the WLC says it but the Confession doesn’t, then it’s not really a standard?

    But in any event, this is missing the forest for the trees. Why is it that the sacraments symbolize our union with Christ, as all the Reformed confessions attest? Wouldn’t it be fair to say that since communion symbolizes our union with Christ, and since it also symbolizes Christ’s death for us, that Reformed sacramentology puts those two together?

    Union is much more fundamental than you give it credit for.

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  17. Jeff,

    For my part, here’s my burden: What I see in the JP discussion here is an attempt to re-write the ordo so that Buchanan’s view becomes out of bounds.

    Hmm, from my vantage point, it appears that it’s the unionists that want to make Buchanan’s view out of bounds. Buchanan said:

    It has sometimes been asked—Whether Regeneration or Justification has the precedency in the order of nature? This is a question of some speculative interest, but of little practical importance.

    But Tipton said:

    If regeneration does not at least logically precede justification, then we are semi-Pelagians.

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  18. Jeff, so if faith-union is a neo-logism and union is so important to produce such terms, please explain the importance. I’m still not seeing it. Can someone understand the gospel and not understand union? Or is it that the gospel becomes so much more understandable through the lens of union? Either way, I don’t understand the import. Justification appears to be the work of God the father, based on the work of Christ, applied by the Holy Spirit. Union (at least the mystical variety) appears to be the work of the Holy Spirit. Since justification has to do with how we are right with God and union with how we obtain that righteousness, I’m still at a loss over what’s at stake with union.

    BTW, I’m not sure you want to use “symbolize” regarding the sacraments since it is not a word used by our confession and catechisms. And as for union and the sacraments, I have noted many times that the only place where the word “union” is consistently used in the Reformed creeds comes in the discussion of either the two natures of Christ or the union between the elements of the sacraments and what they signify. But actually, communion is the word more often used with the Supper, and ingrafting with baptism.

    It does seem like the difficulty (as you have admitted before) may be that union is not a technical word and justification is. So then why invest so much significance in a word that is not well defined or understood? Put another way, how important can it be if it has not been defined technically?

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  19. DGH: please explain the importance.

    (1) Union acts as a counter-ballast to remind us that, however importance justification may be, it does not happen apart from being connected to Christ. Or put another way: justification is directly connected to federal headship, and cannot be severed from it.

    This helps refute, for example, Arminian theories of atonement.

    (2) Union provides the underlying theory to explain why justification and sanctification are inseparable. Without union, we are left saying “they can’t be separated because … because.”

    In this sense, union is anti-antinomian.

    (3) Union (properly taught) maintains a firewall between the duplex gratia so that, while they come together, they are also distinct benefits that cannot be confused.

    In this sense, union is anti-legalistic.

    That’s enough for me. Again with Calvin: “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.”

    Calvin thought this was important. Oughtn’t you, as a historical theologian, be able to articulate why?

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  20. DGH, there’s an issue that you need to address. You’ve taken a minimalist reading of the Confession wrt union. You say that the doctrine is scarce to be found therein.

    And yet, Chap 26.1 says “All saints, that are united to Jesus Christ their Head, by His Spirit, and by faith, have fellowship with Him in His grace, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory”

    Now: a good reader taking the minimalist approach should say, “Wait a second. Where did it say that we were united to Jesus Christ our Head by His Spirit?”

    Where indeed?

    That suggests that the minimalist reading is failing to pick up some context clues.

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  21. Jeff writes: (1) Union acts as a counter-ballast to remind us that, however importance justification may be, it does not happen apart from being connected to Christ. Or put another way: justification is directly connected to federal headship, and cannot be severed from it.
    This helps refute, for example, Arminian theories of atonement.

    Mark responds: 1. Who ever denied that the justified elect are connected to Christ? Was it the Lutherans? Was is Buchanan? (I agree with David R that what Buchanan says is not good enough for Gaffin and Tipton). Who are we talking about? Name one person who put justification before sanctification who at the same time denied “federal headship”.
    2. If anything, it’s the “union” concept that is being used to deny that the atonement was accomplished only for the elect. I won’t repeat what I have already written in other “Waldo” posts about Letham and the Torrances. But one reason Torrance is so anxious to get to that book 3 quotation from Calvin (as long as we are without…etc) is that Torrance wants to teach an universal atonement which is then distributed by the Holy Spirit. With many others, his idea is to deny “double jeopardy” until the Holy Spirit unites persons to Christ. This unites the atonement with the “faith-union” in such a way that there is no atonement until the “faith-union”..

    3. I know , Jeff, that you can (and do) disagree with Torrance about the incarnation being an union with humanity, and still teach a definite atonement. But that kind of “union” talk (in us before us in Him legally) makes it difficult to speak of the elect in Christ having their sins already imputed to Christ their surety. Jeff, you have given NO evidence that those with justification priority talk less about definite atonement.

    Jeff wrote: (2) Union provides the underlying theory to explain why justification and sanctification are inseparable. Without union, we are left saying “they can’t be separated because … because.”
    In this sense, union is anti-antinomian.

    Mark responds: I do think this is the most important motive for Norman Shepherd and all other “unionists”. Unlike the apostle Paul in Romans 6, who answers the “why not sin” question by continuing to define “union with the death” in forensic terms (Christ was not fallen humanity, but bearing the guilt of the elect), the unionists want to answer the concern of Romanists about justified people being immoral.

    “Unionists” want to say: don’t worry about justification of the ungodly making God looking bad. You can have justification, but along with that, you also have “definite sanctification”. And listen, the unionists explain: not only can you have both, but regeneration is like sanctification, and regeneration is before justification. And that means there’s a (short) step to saying that sanctification is before justification. And another step gets you to a future justification based on God’s in us work. Also of course on imputation. Both, as Gaffin has explained from Romans 2:13.

    The false teachers wanted the Galatians to answer the concern of those in Jerusalem by being circumcised. They don’t deny legal imputation. They just want both.

    Jeff: “(3) Union (properly taught) maintains a firewall between the duplex gratia so that, while they come together, they are also distinct benefits that cannot be confused.
    In this sense, union is anti-legalistic.”

    Mark responds: Oh well, Jeff, this is only you trying to be symmetrical. It’s not how they sound. And you can say, well it depends on who’s reading them. But when you get the double-grace by means of “faith-union”, one result is a “sanctification” defined as grace causing you not to sin as much (less and less), and there is and will be a confusion of faith and works.

    As Gaffin has explained (in by Faith not by Sight), there is (supposedly!) no more law-grace antithesis for the person once they have been united to Christ.

    I must say, Jeff, this is not at all “anti-legalism”. It is an open high-way to including works in the definition of faith. And we are not supposed to care about the “synergism”, because why? Because regeneration came before, and thus it’s ok. And if you disagree with them, they will call you an antinomian “semi-Pelagian”.

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  22. Mark: Who are we talking about? Name one person who put justification before sanctification who at the same time denied “federal headship”.

    Baptists, especially of the Calminian variety.

    Mark: The false teachers wanted the Galatians to answer the concern of those in Jerusalem by being circumcised. They don’t deny legal imputation. They just want both.

    No, actually, they taught, “Unless you are circumcised, you cannot be saved.” That’s a denial of legal imputation.

    Mark: “Unionists” want to say: don’t worry about justification of the ungodly making God looking bad. You can have justification, but along with that, you also have “definite sanctification”.

    Calvin worried about this question. He answered it, too: with union and the duplex gratia: Inst. 3.16.

    Mark: And listen, the unionists explain: not only can you have both, but regeneration is like sanctification, and regeneration is before justification.

    Who says this? You need to be aware that the meaning of the term “regeneration” is not univocal in Reformed theology. In Calvin, regeneration is similar to sanctification. For him, regeneration comes at the same time as justification, but is not before it.

    For later Reformed theologians, regeneration refers to what goes on in effectual calling and is not similar to sanctification.

    Mark: Mark responds: Oh well, Jeff, this is only you trying to be symmetrical. It’s not how they sound. And you can say, well it depends on who’s reading them. But when you get the double-grace by means of “faith-union”, one result is a “sanctification” defined as grace causing you not to sin as much (less and less), and there is and will be a confusion of faith and works.

    As Gaffin has explained (in by Faith not by Sight), there is (supposedly!) no more law-grace antithesis for the person once they have been united to Christ.

    You need broader exposure. Gaffin is not the end-all and be-all of union theology.

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  23. Mark, from earlier:You don’t agree that the righteousness is imputed before faith. I understand that you can’t do this because you identify imputation and justification. But you should stop doing that, Jeff!

    Well, OK, why?

    I think we’ve definitely settled on the point that we disagree on. If I may try to summarize:

    * You believe that imputation precedes faith, and is different from justification. You seem to agree with me that faith precedes justification — which places you at odds with David R and Berkhof et al.
    * I believe that faith precedes imputation, and is synonymous with justification.

    So help me out: why is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us something different from being declared righteous on the basis of Christ’s righteousness?

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  24. Help me here…
    “in Christ”… Isn’t this phrase used with different meanings in different passages of Scripture? e.g. a forensic meaning (Rom. 3-4)… and identification meaning (Rom. 6), an eternal decree meaning (Eph. 1), a creational meaning (Col. 1:17), an economy of God meaning (Col. 1:19-20)… It seems this phrase is used by “unionists(?)” as having always a very well-defined spirit-union-believer meaning that seems content-less apart from applying any of the above (and more) contexts.

    When something which is true (union with Christ) is said to be so key for understanding the faith and yet the implications as to why it requires special emphasis are not easily understood, I begin to wonder what else there is that gives the particular persuasion impetus. Having read any number of threads on this topic here and other places, the answer offered only tends to reinforce my question.

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  25. Mark: You CANNOT agree with Murray and say both. That of course doesn’t prove that Murray is right. Most commentators indeed assume that all receiving is by faith. But Murray’s point is that it can’t be both. Guilt is not received by human act; righteousness is not received (in this Romans 5 two Adams context) by faith.

    I’m sorry, I don’t see the problem. That doesn’t mean there isn’t one; just that I’m not able to see it. Murray’s emphasis as far as I can get seems to be on forensic justification, which he holds to be received by faith. I don’t see what you’re seeing.

    Mark: Which reminds me. You wrote:”It could just as well be (as per the Peter passage) that faith’s object is the atonement.” I want to see the exegesis on II Peter 1:1. Believe it or not, I am willing to learn. Certainly I agree that the atonement is the object of faith, but I don’t see how this verse in context is saying that.

    I don’t have a definitive position on 2 Pet 1.1. There isn’t enough surrounding context to be clear whether Peter means

    (1) By the righteous actions of Christ on the cross, you have received something to be believed that is more precious …

    Here, the “righteousness of Christ” would refer to obedience, and “faith” would refer to the “content of what is believed”, as the word is also used in 1 Pet 5.9 and 1 Tim 3.9.

    OR

    (2) By the righteous work of Christ, you have come to believe …

    which is close to what you want,

    OR

    (3) By trusting in the righteous work of Christ, you have a faith as precious as ours

    Before you dismiss that last option as far-fetched, consider the Greek:

    τοις ισοτιμον ημιν λαχουσιν πιστιν εν δικαιοσυνη του θεου ημων και σωτηρος ημων ιησου χριστου

    “A faith in the righteousness of our God and our saviour Jesus Christ”

    I just don’t know. There isn’t enough context for me to either falsify or to affirm your interpretation. Several issues would have to be nailed down:

    * The specific referent of “righteousness”
    * The specific usage of εν
    * The meaning of πιστιν, whether objective (content of faith) or subjective (actual belief).

    In fact, I’m not sure there’s enough context to be certain whether Peter is referring to “our God [the Father], and our saviour Jesus Christ”, OR “our God-and-our-saviour Jesus Christ.”

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  26. Jeff, Thanks.

    So you’re saying that the 16th c. creeds did not put in the proper firewalls since they don’t discuss union. And yet they avoid all of the problems that you mention. They distinguish the benefits, they are not legalistic, and they are not antinomian. I’d dare say that I was none of those things even before I heard about UNION UNION UNION.

    So I’m not denying what you say. But again, I don’t see union doing all the wonderous work that its advocates say.

    And I have never thought of justification apart from Christ. You’d have to be from Mars to think that Christ’s righteousness imputed to me and received by faith is unrelated to Christ.

    What you fail to see, I think, is that union doesn’t solve the problem of the one and the many. I am united to Christ but I am separated from Christ. I am united to my wife but I am separated from my wife. Failing to take into account the distance between Christ and us makes union seem awfully confusing and sometimes sentimental.

    BTW, I still don’t see union as anti-antinomian. It is as antinomian as justification may appear to be. I get both justification and sanctification with union. So I get imputed and infused righteousness. What more do I need to do except chill and have a good time?

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  27. Jeff, it is not minimalist to see chapters in the confession devoted to effectual calling, saving faith, and repentance but none to union. If Reformed theologians in the seventeenth century believed that union was so crucial to their system or architecture of theology, you’d never know by the breakdown of chapters.

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  28. DGH: Will attempt a non-snarky response, instead of the one I just thought better of.

    I don’t accept your thesis that union is absent in the 16th c creeds. Heidelberg 1 is plainly talking about union. Gallic explicitly mentions union in connection with communion. Riddlebarger finds union in Belgic 22.

    If you want to quibble that the word “union” isn’t used there, then I have to ask where the term “justification priority” is used in any creeds whatsoever in any century.

    But if you want leave to talk about concepts instead of exact words, then I would ask you to do the same with union.

    The bottom line is this: Calvin thought that the fact of union was the first thing to be attended to when discussing our salvation. He didn’t say “the most important thing”, but he thought it was the first thing.

    As one paleoCalvinist to another: don’t you think you have an obligation to figure out why? If you think Gaffin and co. are wrong, shouldn’t you offer up an alternate theory of union of your own? The Where’s Waldo theme is beginning to look like mockery of a Reformed doctrine: “Where’s Union? It’s Not There!” I hope that’s not your intent.

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  29. Clive wrote: “The work of Christ in his death and resurrection cannot be exhausted by forensic categories and certainly not by the benefit of justification.

    mark responds: I agree that the work of Christ cannot be reduced to forensic categories. Christ works in us by the Spirit in the present. But the question was about what Romans 6 teaches. What does “dead to sin” mean in Romans 6?Here’s a case where it can’t mean both. Indeed, most “unionists” would agree that it doesn’t mean both. They say Romans 6 is about a definitive sanctification, and not about “justified from sin”.

    My argument is that 1. we have to interpret the death in terms of Christ’s death. Christ’s death as described in Romans 6 is NOT both forensic and renovative. Therefore being baptised into death is not being baptised with the Spirit or by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is simply not in view in the context.
    2. The legal “death to sin” does “exhaust” the meaning of death in Romans 6. You can’t have it both ways at once. It’s sola. it’s only by the death of Christ not by our renewal. Christ was NOT renewed. Christ did NOT need a renewal. The death means justification, and NOT something else. The reason in the context for “sin shall not have dominion over you” is “no longer under (the condemnation of) the law”. The reason is NOT also an extra infusion of righteousness..

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  30. Jeff asks me: “Who says this? You need to be aware that the meaning of the term “regeneration” is not univocal in Reformed theology. In Calvin, regeneration is similar to sanctification. For him, regeneration comes at the same time as justification, but is not before it.”

    mark answers: I understand that Calvin used the word “regeneration” to describe the entire Christian life, and that later it came to be identified with effectual calling. I understand that some (John Murray) make more of a distinction between regeneration and calling than others. I understand that Gaffin agrees with Horton about the problems with traditional language for regeneration (substance, habits, infusion).

    But my point was that the Holy Spirit regenerates and the Holy Spirit sanctifies, and so there is a tendency to conflate the two. In other words, it was not wrong for Calvin to describe the entire Christian life as a “regeneration”.

    As for your saying that “for Calvin, regeneration comes at the same time as justification but not before it”, that is not helpful because we agreed ( I thought) that time and logical order cannot be so easily divided.

    It has been your point that faith as instrumental cause is “before” imputation. If you want to leave time out of that (since we agree it’s all one time), I am fine with that. But then why are you telling us that Calvin teaches regeneration “at the same time”?

    I sometimes wonder if you have been exposed to Mccormack’s careful discussion of what Calvin wrote about regeneration. McCormack (who is quoted by Horton in his Covenant Union book) suggests that Calvin wants to make imputed righteousness the “ground”, and thus the “more basic” cause of every salvation blessing, but that Calvin undermines this by his thinking about regeneration, sacramental union, and “no benefits as long as Christ is outside us”.

    Jeff: For later Reformed theologians, regeneration refers to what goes on in effectual calling and is not similar to sanctification.

    mark answers: The similarity is that the Spirit calls and that the Spirit works in us to sanctify us. The agent is the same. Also, there is this similarity–neither is “death to sin and the law” by forensic imputation.

    I wrote: When you get the double-grace by means of “faith-union”, one result is a “sanctification” defined as grace causing you not to sin as much (less and less), and there is and will be a confusion of faith and works.As Gaffin has explained (in by Faith not by Sight), there is (supposedly!) no more law-grace antithesis for the person once they have been united to Christ.

    Jeff: You need broader exposure. Gaffin is not the end-all and be-all of union theology.

    mark answers: That’s why I am here. I have read Evans, Billings, Garcia, Ferguson, and Tipton. But all those guys have some kind of connection to Gaffin. Expose me some: tell me who I need to be reading. I already read Calvin backwards, the way Torrance wants Calvin read…..

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  31. Before I venture into the fray, I’d like to quote some of what Tipton said in the Reformed Forum discussion. It think it’s helpful:

    I think we need to feel the weight of this properly…Let me put it this way…If regeneration does not at least logically precede justification, then we are semi-Pelagians…This is where the advocates of the Lutheran view are weak. They’re weak in their theology of sin, just like the New Perpective is weak in its theology of sin…To say that we want justification to precede regeneration is to be semi-Pelagian. At Dordt, it was absolutely, abundantly clear that the necessary and sufficient condition for faith by which a person is justified is found in the sovereign, unilateral, monergistic working of God in regeneration. Why? Because of total inability, and total depravity. Because the sinner has no natural, innate, residual, capacity to cooperate with the overtures of grace and be saved. Regeneration is a necessary entailment of an Augustinian and Calvinist anthropology. Apart from the sovereign, unilateral, monergistic, regeneration of God faith is not possible, and justification is by faith…The point that cannot be lost here…is that the moment someone prioritizes justification as the “uber-benefit”, the omni-benefit, the benefit that causes in someway effectual calling or regeneration. That person is de facto committed to some species, or some permutation of a semi-Pelagian understanding of grace—a semi-Pelagian soteriology.

    I want to be clear to listeners or anyone who hears, I’m not saying that a person who believes justification precedes, and therefore in some way causes, effectual calling or regeneration is sitting there thinking “Hey, I’m a semi-Pelagian.” He is structurally committed to a semi-Pelagian, remonstrant soteriology and underlying anthropology. Now, that being said, that’s how the debate needs to be framed.

    To be frank, I think you all are missing the point. First, the way Tipton lays it out, it seems that any JP is outside of Reformed Orthodoxy. As an order of magnitude, this isn’t old-earth/young-earth, where you can still call the guy a brother even though you think he’s stupid. This for the whole bag of marbles (at least the important ones). I’m curious, do the unionists here agree that JP’s are semi-Pelagian, and if so, what are you willing to do about it? Isn’t espousing a semi-Pelagian theology something that should get you brought forward for discipline?

    Second, do any of the Unionists here find it odd that Tiption heads for Dordt and not the WCF? If the WCF or the WLC held the slam-dunk answer, why didn’t he go there? Why did he go to Dordt? And if he went to Dordt, why are you all arguing about the nuances of the Westminster Standards? I’m totally confused by that.

    Full disclosure: I’m neither Reformed nor Presbyterian, but this conversation has fascinated me as a reader of Oldlife, and I’ve found myself glued to it. And, I wonder if Unionists to have started calling people to the mat on this. If it’s the difference between “by grace alone” and something else, don’t you owe it to the church to start kicking people out who don’t hold to “grace alone”? Is that where this is going? Because that’s what seems to be at stake.

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  32. Honestly, Mark, I was venting a bit. You’re actually quite well-read. However, I would recommend taking a look at pre-Gaffinian theologians: Witsius, Hodges, Hoekema is a good spread.

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  33. I don’t know why Tipton said what he said. I wouldn’t begin to try to defend it. It seems like he’s saying that if we put justification before faith, we’re being semi-Pelagian.

    I agree that putting justification before faith is a problem, but I don’t understand what connection he’s trying to make.

    So no, I don’t agree. I don’t even understand.

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  34. I got stuff to do, so I have to get off here, but two quick comments.

    1. Jeff has one (at least!) good point, which is that Calvin and your confessions say “applied by the Spirit.” No, that’s not the word “union”, but it assumes that regeneration and faith are not merely “along with” imputation. “Applied by the Spirit” denies that the Spirit is given because of prior legal status (like adoption, but see Galatians 3:14, 4:6). “Applied by the Spirit” says that, even if the Spirit is not in Romans 6, the Spirit is the agent who gives us Christ and that this is before we get benefits (like justification).

    Of course I don’t have to agree with Calvin or your confessions about that. We all agree that Christ gives Himself to us. We all agree that the Holy Spirit Himself is a benefit of salvation. But we don’t all agree with Calvin about the Holy Spirit being the agent of union.

    Dr Hart, this doesn’t mean that you need to begin to say that the Holy Spirit justifies (which is where Gaffin and others go with I Cor 6:11). It doesn’t even mean that you need to begin to say that the Holy Spirit imputes the righteousness. But most likely you are going to want to agree with Calvin that the Spirit not only “applies” some of the blessings of salvation, but also that the Spirit applies JUSTIFICATION by giving us Christ Himself present in faith “in order to” justification

    Second comment: Jeff challenges Hart: “If you think Gaffin and co. are wrong, shouldn’t you offer up an alternate theory of union of your own?”

    mark: 1. I do want to be exposed to “union” folks who are not part of the Shepherd/Gaffin/Garcia company. 2. Horton and McCormack (espeically) have offered good alternatives about how God’s declaration performs and has effects. Mostly their proposals have not yet been read. But those who have read them accuse them of mixing justification and regeneration. If imputation results in calling, they think that confuses the two. But if calling results in imputation, they don’t think that confuses the two. The accusation makes no sense.

    3. I reject Jeff’s suggestion that Hart can’t criticise without having an alternative view of “union”. That’s like saying that, if I don’t vote for x, then I need to have a y to vote for instead. No, I don’t vote. That’s like saying to pacifists that, if you won’t kill, then you need to tell us how we can avoid being killed and needing resurrection. No, I don’t need to avoid being dead.

    To get to my point. Hart can say that all “union” theories that he now knows about are not helpful without offering alternatives. He should not be accused of denying the presence of Christ in Him simply because he doesn’t have some “union” theory. Hart does know what justification means..

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  35. I promised to go, but here I am. “Imputation” means two different things in Scripture. God can be imputed (declared) as righteous because God Is righteous. No transfer needed. But many imputations in Scripture involve two aspects, first a transfer and than a declaration. Adam’s guilt is transferred to other humans, and they are declared guilty. Christ’s righteousness is transferred to the elect, and they are declared righteous.

    God counts according to truth. God counts righteousness as righteousness!

    The righteousness counted as righteousness is not our righteousness (not the Spirit’s work in us) but is legally “transferred” to us when Christ marries us, so that what is His is still His but now ours also. Since it still also belongs to Him, perhaps “transfer” is not the right word. What about “legal solidarity”. Marriage to Christ is a legal act.

    Though the original has the same words for both, justification is not the righteousness. Justification is the righteousness imputed to the elect and then, along with Christ and faith in the gospel, the declaration by God that these elect are now justified.

    So Imputation means two different things. One, the transfer, the legal sharing of what belongs to another. Two, the declaration. (God is justified, declared to be just, without transfer. God is counted as just because God is just.)

    Consider a different imputation other than God counting righeousness. Consider God counting Christ to be made sin. II Cor 5:21 has “transfer” on both sides.

    Consider the counting of Adam’s sin to other humans. Romans 5:13-14 God is NOT counting their sins, so why are the people between Adam and Moses dying? They are dying because of Adam’s sin imputed to them (verse 12). They are legally sharing in the guilt (not only the punishment of) Adam’s first act of sin. No sins of their own counted. No matter, Adam’s sin is counted against them.

    The righteousness by which the elect reign (the verse before Romans 6, 5:21) and which leads to life is not what God works in us, but imputed. Like they once legally shared in Adam’s act of sin, now the justified elect legally share in Christ’s one act of righteousness.

    Guilt to Adam, then corruption. Righteousness to the elect, then regeneration. Along with Augustine, Calvin, on the first Adam side of things, put corruption before guilt. In other words, Calvin taught a mediate imputation of guilt.

    But we “federalists” say that it would not be just for God to give us corruption from Adam until first God legally gave us Adam’s guilt. If we don’t get the first Adam side right, it will make it hard to understand the Christ (last Adam) side of things. If we don’t get constituted righteous by imputation (transfer and declaration), we don’t get the Holy Spirit.

    I ramble. Good night.

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  36. Jeff, if there is mockery it comes from those who see union everywhere even when the word is not there — plus the lack of technical usage of the word union — plus the invidious way that some use union. And not to be too precious, but since Calvin doesn’t talk about union until book 3, it is hardly the FIRST thing.

    As for paleo-Calvinist solidarity, has it ever occurred to you that union is not as clear as you think since some paleos don’t get it. Maybe you need to do a better job of explaining it. I do appreciate your last point and the three answers. But to my mind you have invented problems that union solves.

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  37. Mark, I believe my point about Christ and the Holy Spirit regarding justification is that the righteousness imputed is Christ’s. I understand the application of redemption to be the work of the Spirit. But I am trying to point out that debates about justification are all about the sufficiency of Christ. You don’t need to be a UP (union prioritist) to be concerned about Christ.

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  38. Other, it used to be that UP (union prioritists) objected to the priority of just. to sanct. Now, along with turning up the volume, the point has shifted to justification prior to regeneration. I haven’t read Horton yet. But most JP (justification prioritists) see problems of putting just. before regeneration (unless you’re talking about the eternal decree or something).

    Come to think of it, you might put justification before regeneration from a historia salutis perspective, which again make the Vossian nose dive into the details of the ordo ironic at least.

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  39. Dr. Hart,

    The arguments by the unionists seem speculative at best and I cannot understand their fascination with dissecting the order of salvation into what seems to be an attempt to ‘harden the categories(?)’ into stone – is this a case of check list theology that results in perverse systemization? It makes no sense to me. Are we justified by being united to Christ or are we justified by what Christ did for us? Being Lutheran, natch, I believe it’s the latter. For scripture says: …but God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. That statement is objectively true and trying to make union the mechanism God uses to impute justification to us is mere speculation. Why not be content with the solas of “by grace, through faith, for Christ’s sake”and focus on the marvel of who Christ is and what he has done for us? Anywho, It seems best for the unionists to acknowledge that they are engaging in speculation about a mystery we do not and cannot fully understand. The demands to make speculations a part of dogma seems foolish at best or am I missing something?

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  40. Non-confessionalist Bunyan’s piety: “Praise God that the righteousness of Christ which is imputed is not in us but finished, and that Christ now sits in heaven. Praise God that Christ is found in us, but praise God also that the righteousness of Christ is not found in us.”

    “No wonder if such persons look upon imputed righteousness as the shadow of a dream, who esteem those things which evidence its necessity to be but fond imaginations. And small hope is there to bring such men to value the righteousness of Christ, as imputed to them, who are so unacquainted with their own unrighteousness inherent in them. Until men know themselves better, they will care very little to know Christ at all.”
    John Owen

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  41. I just find it humorous that one of the most appealed to doctrines in the New Testament regarding our salvation (being ‘in Christ’) makes you blow a gasket. Sheez.

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  42. To add to the quotes:

    The Heidleberg Disputation: On Being a Theologian of the Cross

    In Thesis 20 Luther argued: “That person deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God through suffering and the cross.” The theologian of the cross was not concerned about brooding over or speculating about the deus nudus, the invisible things of God. Instead, he was constrained by the visible – by God’s acts in Christ – where God had promised to reveal himself.[6] He was willing to meet God on his terms, even if the sight was ghastly. For Luther, in the act of revealing himself God simultaneously hid himself (deus absconditus).[7] Therefore, for the theologian of the cross, this mode of revelation is the wisdom of God, but was foolishness to the speculative philosopher (cf. 1 Cor. 1).

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  43. I blow a gasket when folks displace the “in Christ” with “Christ in me ontologically transforming me”.

    Hey, I can quote Lutherans also. From a sermon entitled “The Death of Self”, Gerhard Forde:

    “At the betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane when the crowd comes out against Jesus with swords and clubs, the disciples want to do something. They still want to do their bit for God. They want to take up the sword and risk their lives, perhaps, and fight. One of them grasps a sword and cuts off the ear of one of the assailants. But Jesus will have none of it: “Put up your sword,” he says, “for there is absolutely nothing you can do!” In Luke’s account, Jesus even stretches out his hand to undo what the disciple had done–he heals the wounded man. At that point, no doubt, everything within us cries out in protest along with the disciples. Is there nothing we can do? Could we not at least perhaps stage a protest march on God’s behalf? Could we not seek, perhaps, an interview with Pilate? Could we not try to influence the “power structures”? Something -however small? But the unrelenting answer comes back, “No, there is nothing you can do, absolutely nothing. If there were something to be done, my Father would send legions of angels to fight!” But there is nothing to be done. And when it finally came to that last and bitter moment, when these good “righteous” men finally realized that there was nothing they could do, they forsook him and fled.

    “Can you see it? Can you see that hidden in these very words, these very events, is that death itself which you fear so much coming to meet you? When they finally saw there was nothing they could do they forsook him and fled before this staggering truth.”

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  44. Daniel, when union becomes in the minds of some the material principle of Reformed Protestantism then we have lost perspective. In case you just woke up, the doctrine of justification has been under assault of late. That would seem to make Lutherans our friends, not our enemies.

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  45. DGH: Jeff, if there is mockery it comes from those who see union everywhere even when the word is not there…

    Since you have frequently charged me with seeing union when it is not there, I have to assume you mean me. But since I haven’t been writing in a mocking tone, I’m a bit surprised.

    Nevertheless, I reject the charge. The places in which I see union are attested by a wealth of Reformed sources, so I certainly have backing for my views. Certainly, my representation of them here has been straightforward and without mockery.

    Now, the reason I see mockery in your treatment of union is that you equate the doctrine of union with a children’s book.

    I’m not saying this to score a point, or out of anger, but to hold up a mirror. I don’t think you see how it comes across when you diminish union so greatly, without some kind of qualification.

    Nor do you see how it comes across when you treat all who hold union in esteem as if they were carrying water for Gaffin.

    In a friendly and direct way, let me encourage you to reflect on your method. Do you really want to encourage people to believe “union == Gaffin”? Or that the doctrine of union is a novelty, absent from 16th century theology?

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  46. Jeff, I don’t get the children’s book analogy.

    Can you please understand that the errors you think union helps us avoid are not errors that have been particularly present among Reformed Protestants?

    Can you also please understand that union was not central to 16th century theology among Protestants (and that if it were you would find it in the confessions)?

    Look for instance at the Confession of Faith that Calvin produced (Geneva 1537);

    Article 6 – Salvation in Jesus
    We confess then that it is Jesus Christ who is given to us by the Father, in order that in him we should recover all of which in ourselves we are deficient. Now all that Jesus Christ has done and suffered for our redemption, we veritably hold without any doubt, as it is contained in the Creed, which is recited in the Church, that is to say: I believe in God the Father Almighty, and so on.
    Article 7 – Righteousness in Jesus
    Therefore we acknowledge the things which are consequently given to us by God in Jesus Christ: first, that being in our own nature enemies of God and subjects of his wrath and judgment, we are reconciled with him and received again in grace through the intercession of Jesus Christ, so that by his righteousness and guiltlessness we have remission of our sins, and by the shedding of his blood we are cleanse and purified from all our stains.
    Article 8 – Regeneration in Jesus
    Second, we acknowledge that by his Spirit we are regenerated into a new spiritual nature. That is to say that the evil desires of our flesh are mortified by grace, so that they rule us no longer. On the contrary, our will is rendered conformable to God’s will, to follow in his way and to seek what is pleasing to him. Therefore we are by him delivered from the servitude of sin, under whose power we were of ourselves held captive, and by this deliverance we are made capable and able to do good works and not otherwise.
    Article 9 – Remission of Sins Always Necessary for the Faithful
    Finally, we acknowledge that this regeneration is so effected in us that, until we slough off this mortal body, there remains always in us much imperfection and infirmity, so that we always remain poor and wretched sinners in the presence of God. And, however much we ought day by day to increase and grow in God’s righteousness, there will never be plenitude or perfection while we live here. Thus we always have need of the mercy of God to obtain the remission of our faults and offences. And so we ought always to look for our righteousness in Jesus Christ and not at all in ourselves, and in him be confident and assured, putting no faith in our works.
    Article 10 – All our Good in the Grace of God
    In order that all glory and praise be rendered to God (as is his due), and that we be able to have true peace and rest of conscience, we understand and confess that we receive all benefits from God, as said above, by his clemency and pity, without any consideration of our worthiness or the merit of our works, to which is due no other retribution than eternal confusion. None the less our Savior in his goodness, having received us into the communion of his son Jesus, regards the works that we have done in faith as pleasing and agreeable; not that they merit it at all, but because, not imputing any of the imperfection that is there, he acknowledges in them nothing but what proceeds from his Spirit.
    Article 11 – Faith
    We confess that the entrance which we have to the great treasures and riches of the goodness of God that is vouchsafed to us is by faith; inasmuch as, in certain confidence and assurance of heart, we believe in the promises of the Gospel, and receive Jesus Christ as he is offered to us by the Father and described to us by the Word of God.

    I see one reference here that might concern union and it concerns how God receives our good works which are polluted. So can you see that some might look at a document like this and wonder where’s union.

    And before you have conceded that union is not a technical term — not so of late. And so if it is not a technical term, or has not entered into the lexicon of technical terms, can you understand that using union as much as you do it hardly answers the questions you think it answers?

    It really does seem that you are saying that I should shut up and stop asking questions because to ask questions is to mock. Did I treat you that way with two-kingdom theology?

    So I’m still asking, what’s at stake? My character?

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  47. I’d just like to say two things:

    First, I have enjoyed listening to the first two podcasts. Presbyterian preaching has been good for my soul lately.

    Second: Jesus lived a life that kept the requirements of the law and atoned for my sin. But these accomplishments are applied to my life by union with him.

    I’m not as concerned about the order of salvation, but how salvation is applied to me is critical, and the vehicle is union.

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  48. It bears repeating:

    WSC Q. 33. What is justification?
    A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.
    WCF XI. I. Those whom God effectually calls, He also freely justifies; 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.
    II. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification…

    This has been a helpful discussion. Thanks, Darryl, for continuing to argue for clarity on this issue.

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  49. Gary H.

    I’m not as concerned about the order of salvation, but how salvation is applied to me is critical, and the vehicle is union.

    I hear you, I am not sure why we put so much stock in Athanasius’ arguments against Arius, since both thought that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were important. Maybe the Union v. JP debates don’t rise to the level of importance of disputations on the Trinity, but they are important. As someone who leans towards JP, but is on the sidelines of most internet discussions on the topic, I certainly hope that both sides can forge a path upon which they agree. It seems as if both doctrines, the Ordo, and Union are of real, vital, and pastoral importance. I am not so sure it’s about “winning” the debate as it is finding out how to agree. However comforting your simplistic approach is to you, which is fine I guess, I am glad the men in this debate are showing some real vigor and exegetical competence in trying to iron out the issue.

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  50. DGH: I’m definitely not trying to impugn your character. Nor to shut you up.

    I just would like for you to play your own union cards. For a long time now, you’ve been asking “Where’s Waldo?” I’ve been rather faithfully pointing to Waldo, only to have you ask where Waldo is again. Perhaps I should order you the Where’s Waldo Complete Collection for Newton’s Birthday.

    If you really don’t think that union was a part of 16th century theology, then it’s time to make that known. Or if, on the other hand, you think it was, then … In what way?

    For my part, I’ve been trying to explain that Union for Calvin and those thereafter refers to belonging: We belong to Christ, and He to us as our Federal head. This is often indicated by the phrase “in Christ” in Calvin, which phrase we see in Geneva 1537 in articles 6, 7, arguably in 9; and by the phrase “receiving Christ”, which we see in article 11.

    You respond by saying that I’m seeing stuff that isn’t there. I respond by saying that Calvin himself *said* he was using these phrases in reference to union (Inst 3.1.3).

    Whom should I believe: your skepticism, or my own lying eyes?

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  51. Jeff, twice today I’ve referred to your previous admission that union is not a technical term. Maybe you have taken that admission back, or I am misremembering. But if it is not a technical term, could it be that this is part of the problem? Since justification was (and remains) crucial to the Protestant doctrine of salvation, it received a lot of definition and contrast with other benefits and clarifications regarding good works and antinomianism. Part of what I am asking in Where’s Waldo is whether union has received that kind of scrutiny and attention. Since you admit that so many words or phrases are interchangeable with “Union,” it would seem that the word does not carry the precision of others in the lexicon. That could or may not suggest importance. But to be told seemingly that union is as important to our understanding of salvation as justification is to say something is confusing since union has at least three senses (and no one ever specifies which they are using) and it goes under different terms.

    Sorry, but I don’t think this is a fair debate since union is such a variable.

    So again, what’s at stake? And what is so crucial if union has not been defined clearly? Shouldn’t the Protestant churches call a synod or something (I’m serious)?

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  52. Gary, is it only union? What about faith and the Holy Spirit? Or effectual calling? As in “we are made partakers of the benefits of the redemption purchased by Christ by the application of it to us by the Holy Spirit.”

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  53. “In Christ” by the Holy Spirit or by imputation?

    And if you want to say “both”, which has the priority? I think practically most of us tend to prioritize one or the other. Regeneration or justification.

    Of course nobody says that “union is regeneration”. Some of us do say that union is justification. When the elect in Christ are legally joined to Christ, they are justified in Christ.

    But what is “union” if not regeneration if “union” is by the Spirit? Is “union” the indwelling of Christ? How could there be indwelling without faith, and how could there be faith without regeneration?
    So it seems that some are acting as if “union” is regeneration. What would a third alternative be?
    Sacramental union?

    Nobody is denying “union”, but some give priority to legal union and others give priority to union by the Holy Spirit. They say that the elect come to belong to Christ (and Christ to them) is because of the work of the Holy Spirit. They don’t deny imputation, but they seem to forget “union by imputation” when they talk about the “union” of the ungodly (who the Holy Spirit has supposedly caused to believe before and apart from “union”).

    To agree, we would need to agree on what the phrases “in Christ” and “Christ in us” mean. And we don’t agree. Some of us define “in Christ” as if it were saying the same thing as “Christ in us”. Others of us don’t. Some of us would agree that Calvin meant something different from the phrases than what we mean. Others of us wouldn’t. Some jump ahead to book 3 in Calvin so they can read what they want from that back into the discussion of election, atonement etc…

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  54. DGH: …I’ve referred to your previous admission that union is not a technical term. Maybe you have taken that admission back, or I am misremembering. But if it is not a technical term, could it be that this is part of the problem?

    Your memory is correct. And it’s a good insight that this is part of the problem. Let me push this one step further: Perhaps you and I are really just having a lumper/splitter debate.

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  55. Jeff,
    I’m just a rookie in the Reformed theological boxing ring, though probably older than most here, so humor me as we go a round.

    Did Calvin define union as you state? My memory’s weak here (though I think yes). You go on to state that “union” is also expressed as “in Christ… receiving Christ…” But who here is arguing against that? From my meager reformed understanding, there are many aspects of God’s purposes and acts of salvation towards His elect (as well as our Spirit gifted reception of His benefits), which are all in Christ. Is union that which encompass all? Well yes, in that all are in Christ – before times eternal, Jesus the Redeemer, and the effectual calling of his people and their Spirit wrought sanctification and ultimate glorification. Yet when reading this and other union threads, I start to get the idea that union, as a believer, is a step or concept I must understand and embrace if I’m to enter into any and all the benefits of salvation… which tends to lead one down the path of a subjective approach to those very benefits (for union as a word sounds so relational).

    Whereas simple faith (that’s all I have) looks away from my failing self to Christ crucified and to the goodness that He in love freely secured for me, a miserable sinner. That leap of faith and trust lifts me up daily and wins me to Christ.

    So, how is this union thing expressed pastorally?

    I’m probably in the wrong blog discussion… 😉

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  56. Jack: From my meager reformed understanding, there are many aspects of God’s purposes and acts of salvation towards His elect (as well as our Spirit gifted reception of His benefits), which are all in Christ. Is union that which encompass all? Well yes, in that all are in Christ – before times eternal, Jesus the Redeemer, and the effectual calling of his people and their Spirit wrought sanctification and ultimate glorification.

    Your understanding is about like mine.

    Jack: Yet when reading this and other union threads, I start to get the idea that union, as a believer, is a step or concept I must understand and embrace if I’m to enter into any and all the benefits of salvation… which tends to lead one down the path of a subjective approach to those very benefits (for union as a word sounds so relational).

    Are you getting that idea from me, or from those who are arguing against a union emphasis?

    Jack: So, how is this union thing expressed pastorally?

    Like this:

    Jack: Whereas simple faith (that’s all I have) looks away from my failing self to Christ crucified and to the goodness that He in love freely secured for me, a miserable sinner. That leap of faith and trust lifts me up daily and wins me to Christ.

    That’s how I teach my kids and my Sunday School.

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  57. Re: …when reading this and other union threads, I start to get the idea that union, as a believer, is a step or concept I must understand and embrace if I’m to enter into any and all the benefits of salvation… which tends to lead one down the path of a subjective approach to those very benefits (for union as a word sounds so relational).

    Jack, if you don’t mind my asking – put this way, it sounds like it’s heading down the pentecostal 2nd blessing and other systems that create 2 tiers/classes of believers and/or a “me and Jesus” individual oriented system. Who needs the means of grace if union is the all in all? Does it ever strike you in this way, also?

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  58. Lily,
    I think that ours is, as you intimate, a life/liturgy of – sin… guilt… gospel… amazing grace that softens my heart… faith and repentance with a grateful renewed and strengthened right-will to believe and to respond to His shepherding and follow in His righteous path. Isn’t this the ordained food of the Church, the means of grace in preaching and sacrament… and our daily food, the remembrance and resting in that declaration of forgiveness and righteousness by faith in Christ’s atonement alone? Isn’t it the good news (a message) that I’m no longer accountable for my sins, past/present/future – the grace of that gospel which my mind now understands and faith apprehends (Rom. 12:2) – that makes the difference?… a sweet exchange indeed. Don’t distract me with a union-base focus of relationship with Christ my Saviour. Yes somehow I, through Christ Jesus, have been grafted into a wonderful, ordained union with God. I know that. It’s a doctrinal fact. But it isn’t the heaven given instrument by which I lay hold of that for which Christ has laid hold of me.

    It’s late, but then again, maybe I’m just a simple cave-man or in the wrong thread…

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  59. [audio src="http://www.calvary-amwell.org/files/47283040.mp3" /]

    Tipton and Gaffin explain that
    1. there is no priority between corruption of the heart and forensic guilt, because they are one “whole”
    2. but if there were priority, then corruption would be before guilt (even though guilt might be more God-ward)

    They assume that Romans 6:7 means regeneration and not justification. They taken it as a given that Romans 8:4 (“requirement of the law fulfilled in us”) refers not to Christ’s bearing guilt and propitiation but to the work of the Spirit in us.

    On the corruption before guilt priority, they refer to Jonathan Edwards. (Of course they could have referred to Calvin and Augustine). On this matter of immediate imputation, they clearly differ from John Murray.

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  60. Mark,

    Thanks for bringing this up. It does seem to be the crux of the issue when it comes to the priority of justification over sanctification. Tipton argues that in Adam’s sin, if anything, the corruption of his nature is logically prior to his guilt. But A.A. Hodge, in the essay I quoted, has it the other way around, and claims to have the whole church on his side. He says:

    However much various schools of theologians may differ as to the grounds and nature of our union with Adam,… the whole Church has always maintained that the depravity of moral nature innate in his posterity is the penal consequence of his first sin. Beza on Rom. v. expresses the faith of the whole church when he says: “As Adam, by the commission of sin, first was made guilty of the wrath of God” (i.e., righteously exposed to that wrath), “then as being guilty underwent as the punishment of his sin the corruption of soul and body, so also he transmitted to his posterity a nature in the first place guilty, and next corrupted.” The imputation of the guilt (just liability to punishment) of Adam’s apostatizing act to his whole race in common leads judicially to the spiritual desertion of each new-born soul in particular, and spiritual desertion involves inherent depravity as a necessary and universal consequence…. By consequence, the imputation of Christ’s righteous to us is the necessary precondition of the restoration to us of the influences of the Holy Ghost, and that restoration leads by necessary consequence to our regeneration and sanctification.

    So who’s correct, Tipton or Hodge? If Hodge is correct here, then justification is indeed the forensic ground of sanctification.

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  61. Jeff, I think this is possible but how do you mean it?

    Also, I wonder if you have considered how much union can sound like a slogan that without precision looks like a theological hobby horse. I’m not trying to dare you, but I am wondering how my understanding of salvation would be improved if I took union more seriously. Given the way the Standards talk about effectual calling, I thought I was doing just fine. But I didn’t talk about union much. Now I’m told I have to talk about union too. Why?

    Did anyone ever think that they were justified and NOT PART of Christ? Did anyone ever think that they were justified and DID NOT BELONG TO CHRIST? This way of putting the problem is precisely what I see going on with much of the unionist position — the creation of problems (that don’t exist) to make union crucial.

    Maybe your own testimony would help. What was your Damascus Road experience with union?

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  62. DGH: Did anyone ever think that they were justified and NOT PART of Christ?

    Zrim does. So does David R. So do Lutherans.

    All of these affirm that justification occurs prior to union; David even affirms that justification precedes faith — and if he’s correct, Horton does also.

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  63. Jeff: Are you getting that idea from me, or from those who are arguing against a union emphasis?

    I think it gets back to what Darryl wrote: if [union] is not a technical term, could it be that this is part of the problem? Since you admit that so many words or phrases are interchangeable with “Union,” it would seem that the word does not carry the precision of others in the lexicon. That could or may not suggest importance. But to be told seemingly that union is as important to our understanding of salvation as justification is to say something is confusing since union has at least three senses (and no one ever specifies which they are using) and it goes under different terms.

    It’s the stressed importance of “union” (beyond what I think is Scripturally/confessionally warranted), yet the lack of precision in how it is defined or operates that I think can lead one to look for clarity and evidence of it in his relationship with Christ (it is such a “relational-type” word). In my view, rather than reinforcing one’s assurance through faith in Christ alone, the focus on union instead can muddy it. I’m not saying you are advocating any of this, rather it seems to be a potential problem with some of the emphasis put on union.

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  64. Jeff,

    You say that I claim to have been justified outside of Christ. Leaving aside for now the question of whether or not I agree with your characterization, I’m curious: would you also say that Ursinus, Owen, A.A. Hodge and Berkhof claimed to have been justified outside of Christ?

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  65. David,

    For Ursinus, no. You are correct that in Comm HC 59.5 he takes a double-application approach: First, God imputes, which creates faith, which we then receive as our justification. I admit, taken alone this gives some credence to the position.

    But he also equates imputation with justification (Comm HC 59.3), which makes it rather confusing; and he further states that we are justified by our ingrafting into Christ, and by receiving his benefits with a true faith (HC 20); and that our righteousness is had “in Christ”

    Hence we have in Christ perfect remission of all our sins in such a way, that we are accounted righteous in the sight of God by his merits alone. (Comm 56.1)

    So whatever Ursinus’ ordo might be — and it is somewhat unclear to me — it is nevertheless clear that he does not *pit* justification by faith against justification in union with Christ, but considers both to be true together.

    The same is true for A.A. Hodge. Notwithstanding his view on logical priority (which seems to track with Ursinus), he nevertheless dedicates an entire chapter to Union with Christ — a whole chapter, DGH! — which precedes the benefits which flow from this union.

    He says,

    The consequences which arise from our union with Christ under this [the forensic] aspect of it are such as the imputation of our sins to him, and his righteousness to us, and of all the forensic benefits of justification and adoption, &c — Hodge, Outlines of Theology, 38

    Berkhof is by memory, but my recollection is that he begins by granting that we are justified in union with Christ, and he then goes on to distinguish union-by-election, forensic, and vital union.

    So no, I don’t think the thrust of these three is the same as the thrust represented here.

    For the discussion here, every statement of justification by faith alone is taken (somehow?) as a refutation of the idea that we are justified in union with Christ. JFBA and union are viewed as if in competition. For Ursinus, Hodge, and I think Berkhof, JFBA and union are in harmony.

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  66. Jeff, isn’t this a little literal now on your part? Do you really mean to tell me that some Christians believe they are justified and STILL DON’T belong to Christ? People may differ on the order of things. But I find it hard to fathom that anyone would say “I am justified and I don’t belong to Christ” (with belong to being synonymous with union, right?). I do believe we need some proof of this.

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  67. Jeff,

    The union brain trust at WTS says things that suggest they are in competition. You say I need to get out more. You may as well.

    That said, justification in union with Christ is not exactly precise since union is not technical. If someone goes on to say that they only mean justification by faith alone. Fine. But why the need to say it another way? What’s at stake if I only say justification by faith alone?

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  68. DGH: But why the need to say it another way? What’s at stake if I only say justification by faith alone?

    And this is where I’m challenging you to answer the question: Why do Calvin (and Ursinus) use this “in Christ” language, if they don’t meaning *something* by it?

    You say union isn’t precisely defined. I agree. But “not precisely defined” does not mean “meaningless.” You’re treating Calvin’s statements about union as if they had no meaning and can therefore be ignored. You, apparently, want to jettison union-speak entirely and only say justification by faith alone.

    DGH: Do you really mean to tell me that some Christians believe they are justified and STILL DON’T belong to Christ?

    Some Christians, apparently, believe that they belong to Christ on the ground of their justification: that J logically precedes U.

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  69. Hmm….

    Jeff, if you would point to union language in Calvin to support your position…. how do explain why Luther used it in his writings and why the Lutherans used it in the Book of Concord?

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  70. Lily, not being Lutheran, I would not put myself forward as an expert on Lutheran doctrine. So if I’m misunderstanding Luther, feel free to correct me.

    From the outside, it appears to me that Luther is using the term “union” in the more restricted sense of being indwelt with the Spirit and being adopted. Since those benefits are post-justification, he therefore takes the order

    justification –> union

    As such, my difference with him would therefore NOT be on justification (by an alien righteousness imputed, received by faith alone), but on union: what does the Scripture mean when it speaks of us “in Christ”?

    What I think he loses is the doctrine of federal headship, and the accompanying doctrine of limited atonement. Since we are justified first, then implanted in Christ, then our justification is accidental to our union.

    And I suspect that for that reason, Lutherans are willing to say that some who are justified can lose their justification if they turn away from it.

    For a Calvinist, this is impossible: He is our head from the foundation of the world.

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  71. DGH: The union brain trust at WTS says things that suggest they are in competition. You say I need to get out more. You may as well.

    Perhaps. Are you really recommending that I read materials coming out of WTS? 🙂

    But mainly, I’m asking you to play your own union cards. So far, the only thing I know is that you think we don’t need to talk about union at all — just justification. And that you see yourself as “not having a problem with union”, even though you write like a man who has a problem with union.

    It’s time for a union card-check. What position are you advocating with all these Waldo posts?

    * Is the doctrine of union entirely jettisonable?
    * Do you, or do you not, believe that justification is a consequence of union, as Hodge would have it?
    * Could you agree that while justification is of central importance, it is also the case that our union with Christ is the hub out of which flow the benefits of salvation, as Fesko put it?

    What’s really going on there behind the keyboard?

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  72. And then there is the receiving of the Spirit (union?) by hearing with faith… logically following?

    Gal.3:2-
    Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?

    Is union a moment in time, an eternal edict (chosen in Him…), an identification with Christ in the likeness of His death and resurrection (buried and risen in Him), regeneration, or receiving the Spirit? Inasmuch as believers are elect in the counsel of God and that salvation of sinners in Christ was in that counsel (the lamb slain before…) it would seem, in that God’s purposes are sure, that our belonging to Christ and our justification were sure even in that pre-time era. In time His purposes are made effectual and received, yet that doesn’t make them more sure or more in Christ. The entire golden chain, isn’t it simply “of God… i.e. in Christ?” Now there’s a broad definition of union.

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  73. Jeff,

    For the discussion here, every statement of justification by faith alone is taken (somehow?) as a refutation of the idea that we are justified in union with Christ. JFBA and union are viewed as if in competition. For Ursinus, Hodge, and I think Berkhof, JFBA and union are in harmony.

    Now, wait a minute. Ursinus, Hodge, et. al. argued that justification is logically prior to faith and even prior to regeneration. Yet none of them understood justification to take place outside of Christ. When did I ever claim anything that those guys don’t?

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  74. David,

    Well, OK, perhaps I’ve misunderstood where you’re going here. Do you agree then with Hodge that justification is a consequence of being united with Christ?

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  75. Re: Lily, not being Lutheran, I would not put myself forward as an expert on Lutheran doctrine. So if I’m misunderstanding Luther, feel free to correct me.

    Very funny – I cannot present myself as an expert. I meant my comment as an observation of how often I listen to Reformed teachers speak of Lutheran theology and get it wrong. I would imagine that a Reformed layman could also hear when the Reformed faith is being misrepresented by others?

    Re: From the outside, it appears to me that Luther is using the term “union” in the more restricted sense of being indwelt with the Spirit and being adopted. Since those benefits are post-justification, he therefore takes the order.

    It’s more involved than that and it involves some of our distinctives, so per usual, I would like to attempt to navigate around our differences and find common ground.

    Re: justification –> union

    Yes, this is true. Perhaps there is common ground that can be discussed here? I would point out the importance of the order since 1) I think it is biblically faithful to the centrality of the Person and work of Christ in salvation and 2) I think getting the order wrong opens the door to error (eg: Osiander) 3) It keep justification central for practical piety and protects one from mysticism 4) It roots the order of salvation in judicial categories and protects us from the pietistic schemes that faith effects justification 5) It distinguishes law and gospel; faith and works 6) It preserves the objective monergistic work of God in salvation from being an RC applied grace scheme (being a believer vs. becoming a believer) 7) Objective justification is a central comfort for the believer (it stops the ladder climbing to reach God through mysticism, pietism, good works, and so forth) so our trust and rest in the the person and work of Christ.

    Putting union first does not offer the clarity that justification does for our lived life in Christ.

    Re: As such, my difference with him would therefore NOT be on justification (by an alien righteousness imputed, received by faith alone), but on union: what does the Scripture mean when it speaks of us “in Christ”?

    Since there are many ways to phrase this (including: Christ for me) wouldn’t it be best to let it be as fluid as it is in the bible and to avoid trying to harden it into stone? And since union with Christ is fairly inexplicable, wouldn’t it be best to try to avoid mishandling / dissecting / atomizing it’s intimacy (for lack of a better word)? And since it is half of the story (eg: God lives in the believer and the believer lives in Christ) it seems way too much for a combox discussion.

    Re: What I think he loses is the doctrine of federal headship, and the accompanying doctrine of limited atonement. Since we are justified first, then implanted in Christ, then our justification is accidental to our union.

    Since these are your distinctives, I will not respond – see above.

    Re: And I suspect that for that reason, Lutherans are willing to say that some who are justified can lose their justification if they turn away from it.

    No, we believe this is what the bible teaches. We don’t try to explain it. Since you are detail oriented, here’s a quick official blurb: The LCMS believes and teaches that it is possible for a true believer to fall from faith, as Scripture itself soberly and repeatedly warns us (1 Cor. 10:12; 1 Pet. 5:8; 2 Pet. 3:17; Heb. 2:1-3; 3:12-19; 6:4-8, etc.). Such warnings are intended for Christians who appear to be lacking a right understanding of the seriousness of their sin and of God’s judgment against sin, and who, therefore, are in danger of developing a false and proud “security” based not on God’s grace, but on their own works, self-righteousness, or freedom to “do as they please.” By the same token, the LCMS affirms and treasures all of the wonderful passages in Scripture in which God promises that He will never forsake those who trust in Christ Jesus alone for salvation (John 10:27-29; Romans 8; Heb. 13: 5-6, etc.). To those who are truly repentant and recognize their need for God’s grace and forgiveness, such passages are powerful reminders of the true security that is ours through sincere and humble faith in Christ alone for our salvation. A person may be restored to faith in the same way he or she came to faith in the first place: by repenting of his or her sin and unbelief and trusting completely in the life, death and resurrection of Christ alone for forgiveness and salvation. Whenever a person does repent and believe, this always takes place by the grace of God alone and by the power of the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word in a person’s heart. Re: For a Calvinist, this is impossible: He is our head from the foundation of the world.

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  76. P.S. The only logical reason I can think to put union first is if one believes that election is the cause of your salvation rather than the person and work of Christ. Another thought is that they are “spiritual not religious” and want to bypass the cross. I’m sure there are other invalid reasons aplenty.

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  77. Jeff, you keep saying that some of us (not only Lutherans) put justification before “union”. But if you look at what you write, every time you say that you are begging the question. You are saying that justification is not the “union”. You are saying that the “union” is not justification. You are denying either that justification is one aspect of the “union”, or else denying that justification is (after election) the first logical aspect of the “union”.

    So without arguing for it, you keep assuming that “union” is not legal, and then when you read older writers about “union”, you assume that they can’t mean something legal by it.

    Talk of priority between justification and “union” assumes that they are different. But this is confusing. Because, like Gaffin and Tipton, you want to reassure us that both are a “whole”, but on the other hand, you want to also say that “union” is not justification and that “union” is prior to justification.

    Forget Gaffin and Tipton (and Edwards) for now. One, you need to define “union”. If it’s not regeneration, and if it’s not the effectual call, and if it’s not the Spirit giving the elect faith, what is “union”? Two, I would like to hear from you if you think that corruption is more basic than guilt. Because if you do think that, most likely you will think that regeneration is more basic than justification, and thus you will put regeneration before justification.

    Notice how those last two sentences don’t use the word “union”. If “union” is not regeneration, what is it? Is it Christ “in us”? Is it Christ indwelling? Is it the elect “indwelling Christ” and that before justification?

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  78. One accusation against those who give priority to legal union is that we are “semi-pelagian”, because we see regeneration as the effect of imputation. Another accusation against those who define union first in terms of justification is that somehow we have less to say about the two federal headships than other folks. But this is not true either.

    David Engelsma writes: “Against the interpretation of Calvin that has him teaching original guilt, stands Calvin’s commentary on Romans 5:12ff. He explains our relation to Adam in terms of Adam’s extending his corruption to us, which corruption constitutes our only guilt in the matter of Adam’s sin. Calvin explicitly rejects the doctrine of original guilt in the sense of our responsibility for Adam’s deed of disobedience.

    Commenting on verse 17, which compares death’s reigning by Adam and our reigning in life by Jesus Christ, Calvin calls attention to a “difference between Christ and Adam”:

    Calvin:’By Adam’s sin we are not condemned through imputation alone, as though we were punished only for the sin of another; but we suffer his punishment, because we also ourselves are guilty; for as our nature is vitiated in him, it is regarded by God as having committed sin. But through the righteousness of Christ we are restored in a different way to salvation.’

    Engelsma comments: “For Calvin, our sinning in Adam, as taught in Romans 5:12, is strictly that “we are all imbued with natural corruption, and so are become sinful and wicked.” The race becomes guilty for Adam’s transgression only by sharing in Adam’s depraved nature. Adam sinned. The punishment for Adam was, in part, the immediate corruption of his nature. But this is the nature of all his posterity (Christ excepted). All of Adam’s posterity are held responsible for the corrupted nature. Not sheer legal representation by a covenant head, but involvement in a corporate nature renders the race guilty before God. I am not responsible for Adam’s disobedience of eating the forbidden fruit. But I am responsible for the sinful nature with which God punished Adam for his act of disobedience.

    This view of original sin leaves Calvin with a huge problem. By what right did God inflict the punishment of a corrupt nature on Adam’s posterity? That the corruption of human nature was divine punishment on Adam, Calvin acknowledges. But it was as well punishment of Adam’s posterity. This, Calvin does not like to acknowledge. Rather, he likes to regard the depraved nature only as the guilt of Adam’s posterity. The question that exposes the weakness — serious weakness — of Calvin’s doctrine here is this: If I am not guilty for Adam’s act of disobedience, with what right does God punish me — not Adam, but me — with a totally depraved nature?

    Calvin’s explanation of the origin of the sin of the human race also has an important implication for the headship of Adam. Adam was head of the race, to be sure. But his headship consisted only of his depraving the human nature of which all partake. His was not the headship of legal representation. Adam did not stand in such a covenantal relation to all men, that, altogether apart from the consequent corrupting of the nature, all are responsible before God for Adam’s act of disobedience.

    In view of the apostle’s comparison between Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12ff. (“as by the offence of one … even so by the righteousness of one,” v. 18), Calvin’s explanation of the headship of Adam would mean that Christ’s headship also consists only of His being the source of righteousness to His people by actually infusing it into them. If Adam’s headship was not legal representation, neither is Christ’s headship legal representation. But this destroys the fundamental gospel-truth of justification as the imputation of Christ’s obedience.

    Calvin recognizes the danger. Therefore, in his commentary on Romans 5:17 Calvin proposes a “difference between Christ and Adam.” “By Adam’s sin we are not condemned through imputation alone,” but “through the righteousness of Christ we are restored in a different way to salvation.”

    The trouble is that Paul does not teach such a “difference between Christ and Adam.” Paul rather declares, “as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life” (Rom. 5:18).
    If our guilt in Adam is not by imputation of a deed of disobedience, neither is our righteousness in Christ by imputation of a deed of obedience. .

    The “difference between Christ and Adam” that Calvin injects into Romans 5:12ff. does not exist. Verse 18 teaches that the transgression of one man — Adam, according to verse 14 — was the condemnation of all men. In verse 19, the apostle states that the disobedience of the one man rendered many people sinners. The verb translated “made” by the King James Version does not mean “made” in the sense of causing people actually to become sinful. Rather, it means “constituted” in the sense of a legal standing of guilt before God the judge.

    One could translate: “By one man’s disobedience many were declared sinners.” Even so, the righteousness of one — Jesus Christ — was the justification of all whom He represented, and His obedience constitutes many people righteous.

    The comparison between the two covenant heads of the human race in history consists exactly of this, that both are legal representatives of others, Adam, of the entire human race, Christ only excepted, and Christ, of the new human race of the elect church. Because Adam was covenant (federal) head of the race, his act of disobedience was imputed to the race as their guilt. Because Christ is covenant (federal) head of the elect church, His obedience is imputed to the church as our righteousness.

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  79. A lot of “anti-federalism” today goes under the name of “federal vision”. But many who would not identify themselves with “federal vision” nevertheless oppose the priority of legal transfer and make imputation depend on corruption or regeneration.

    But John Murray, even though he did not believe in any “covenant of works”, still taught in his book The Imputation of Adam’s Sin the immediate imputation of guilt from Adam to all humans (Jesus Christ Himself excepted.)

    Of course Murray did not teach an immediate imputation of the death of Christ (ie, logically before regeneration, and not because of regeneration) . But Murray did, unlike Calvin, teach the imputation of Adam’s sin .

    Wheaton’s Henri Blocher’s view of original sin is that Adam’s sin opened the door so that the rest of us other sinners COULD BE imputed with OUR OWN SINS, and thus condemned. Thus a mediate imputation. Many others who affirm some sort of “substitutionary atonement” seem to agree with Jonathan Edwards that any “imputation” by God is based at least in part on what God knows He will do (or has done) in the elect.

    Hebrews 10:10 We have been set apart through the offering of the body of Christ once for all.
    Hebrews 10:14 By a single offering He has perfected for all TIME those who are being sanctified. (One exegetical question here is if the “being sanctified” is parallel to “being justifieid” and thus at least in this verse a reference to an one time act of God in regard to an individual elect person. Most everybody seems to ignore that possibility, and thinks of “being sanctified” as “progressive sanctification”.)

    Elect individuals are justified (and sanctified in one important sense) by the imputation of Christ’s bloody death. This is parallel to the direct imputation of Adam’s sin. Romans 5:18’s “one trespass led to condemnation” does not mean “opened the door for the possibility of condemnation” . As John 3:18 explains, ″the one who does not believe is condemned already.”

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  80. Jeff, and could it be that you are treating the in Christ phrases as if they are jam-packed with meaning? I don’t say they are meaningless. What I am doing is questioning the sloganeering.

    And what exactly would be so bad if someone did think that the ground of their belonging to Christ was judicial? It seems like David R. and Mark Mc. have given plenty of examples where Reformed theologians have highly esteemed the forensic ground of all the benefits.

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  81. Jeff, I don’t have union cards. I am asking to see what the other hands have. I call.

    And here’s the thing: in all of my examinations for serving as an elder, being “in Christ,” or “belonging to Christ,” or union with Christ never came up. Justification and sanctification did.

    And so I am trying to find out what is so important. Is union like adding a new room to the house, simply painting the living room, or merely rearranging the furniture? Given the lack of technicality — which seems to be inverse to the import of union — I’m still wondering.

    I don’t thin union should be jettisoned. I am happy where it is in WSC 30, a phrase in a larger point about the Holy Spirit and effectual calling.

    I have not thought that justification is a consequence of union in the mystical sense (again, you ask about union but never specify which variety). I do believe that justification is a consequence of being united to Christ my federal head.

    I am not wild about the hub analogy — too mechanical for the agrarian in me, but especially since effectual calling receives much more attention in the Standards.

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  82. Jeff,

    Big yikes on one comment and an apology for such awful wording when I wrote: “The only logical reason I can think to put union first is if one believes that election is the cause of your salvation rather than the person and work of Christ.”

    That wording makes it appear as though I do not believe the truth about election. Sigh… I’m not sure if this is the best way to put it, but perhaps saying, ” The only logical reason I can think to put union first is if one has put there trust in their election rather than the person and work of Christ for their salvation?” I hope I can express this thought without crossing distinctive lines or mangling election. Do the Reformed put their faith in their election over Christ for their salvation?

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  83. Darryl,

    What “this” is the astute observation by Mark. He made many observations in his last 3 posts. The one that stuck out to me was this:

    “The comparison between the two covenant heads of the human race in history consists exactly of this, that both are legal representatives of others, Adam, of the entire human race, Christ only excepted, and Christ, of the new human race of the elect church. Because Adam was covenant (federal) head of the race, his act of disobedience was imputed to the race as their guilt. Because Christ is covenant (federal) head of the elect church, His obedience is imputed to the church as our righteousness.”

    This whole argument is hard to grasp properly. There are suble shades of meaning which make it difficult to comprehend. The key is in the judicial and forensic, which makes possible the subjective application by the Spirit, which leads to the regeneration, faith and repentance. Without the judicial and forensic imputation the subjective cannot take place logically. The problem lies that after the imputation we are justified which means that justification comes before regeneration which means that faith comes before regeneration to the critics of this view. So, the problem lies when does faith occur? It is hard to see how the temporal and logical fit in this whole scheme.

    It is hard to see what Calvin missed in this discussion of corruption and guilt that Mark elaborated on. What was passed on from Adam to the human race (was it just guilt or corruption or both). I find it hard to see the point Mark was making here. Expect to point out that it the judicial and forensic that is the key to understanding this all. And that the imputation not only takes care of our justification but our sanctification also.

    The problem for us Lutherans is that Luther does not talk about federal headship like the Reformed do from Romans chapter 5. I am not sure if Lutherans after Luther ever confronted this issue head on or just rejected it outright. That is what I would like to find out. Luther does talk about imputation and makes that a key to understanding justification by faith alone but I am not sure if he understands headship the way the Reformed do in regards to Adam and Christ.

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  84. Mark,

    The Reformed formula, which they have always used against Arminians, is that regeneration precedes faith. The Arminians believe that faith precedes regeneration. The problem with forensic imputation (which you are also calling forensic union) is that it seems to say that justification is by the imputation which would mean that faith would have to come before regeneration. Can you please explain how we are still saved by faith alone. That seems to be another key to this whole problem. Everyone seems to be walking on eggshells here for a variety of reasons which I think I am beginning to understand.

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  85. I still think the active and passive justification which Bavinck and Brian talked about does have some insight which might be beneficial but Jeff outright rejected this on the grounds that the scriptures or confessions give no indication of a distiction between a passive and active justification. And Mark did not comment on that. So, that was swept under the carpet.

    And Jeff still needs to address the issues raised by Mark:

    Jeff, you keep saying that some of us (not only Lutherans) put justification before “union”. But if you look at what you write, every time you say that you are begging the question. You are saying that justification is not the “union”. You are saying that the “union” is not justification. You are denying either that justification is one aspect of the “union”, or else denying that justification is (after election) the first logical aspect of the “union”.

    So without arguing for it, you keep assuming that “union” is not legal, and then when you read older writers about “union”, you assume that they can’t mean something legal by it.

    Talk of priority between justification and “union” assumes that they are different. But this is confusing. Because, like Gaffin and Tipton, you want to reassure us that both are a “whole”, but on the other hand, you want to also say that “union” is not justification and that “union” is prior to justification.

    Forget Gaffin and Tipton (and Edwards) for now. One, you need to define “union”. If it’s not regeneration, and if it’s not the effectual call, and if it’s not the Spirit giving the elect faith, what is “union”? Two, I would like to hear from you if you think that corruption is more basic than guilt. Because if you do think that, most likely you will think that regeneration is more basic than justification, and thus you will put regeneration before justification.

    Notice how those last two sentences don’t use the word “union”. If “union” is not regeneration, what is it? Is it Christ “in us”? Is it Christ indwelling? Is it the elect “indwelling Christ” and that before justification?

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  86. DGH: Did anyone ever think that they were justified and NOT PART of Christ?

    Zrim does.

    He does? But I’m pretty sure he has no idea how justification being prior to union means justification is apart from Christ. Does being declared married prior to consummation mean I am married apart from my wife?

    Do the Reformed put their faith in their election over Christ for their salvation?

    Not this one. That sounds like the election version of fideism.

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  87. I just read this from Horton’s new book FOR CALVINISM, where he states the following in chapter 4 (pgs. 82-83), the Atonement: “Especially in the second century theologian Iranaeus (Book 5 of AGAINST HERESIES), we encounter the prominent motif of Christ’s saving work as involving a recapitulation (lit., “re-headshiping- the literal meaning of recapitulation-my addition). In this view, Christ, not only by his death and resurrection, but also by his incarnation and obedient life- undoes the work of the first Adam and fulfills his commission representatively on our behalf. From Adam, we receive death, but from Christ we receive life. This view finds clear parallels in the Reformed emphasis on covenantal headship, including the saving significance of Christ’s life as well as death, which we underscore in the doctrine of Christ’s active obedience.”

    In the chapter, Horton goes through the six different theories of the Atonement: 1) Penal substitution; 2) Recapitulation; 3) Christ’s victory over the powers (Christus Victor); 4) Satisfaction of Divine Honor (Anselm); 5) Moral influence; 6) Governmental

    I am not going to go into the whole chapter (others can read it for themselves) but there are keys in this chapter which help to make sense of this whole JP and UP debate. Of course, some will probably disagree with Horton and we will be back at square one.

    One other comment about good fences make good neighbors. That is true if we are protecting the pure Gospel, however, if we are protecting our own errors it is not so good and we might be better off if we spoke to our neighbors more frequently to get a clear understanding of where they are coming from. None of us are free from the possibility of error.

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  88. As Camden Bucey clearly stated at the Reformed Forum website: “Dr. Tipton’s entire criticism of Dr. Horton’s views was founded upon the ordering of election, regeneration/effectual calling, then union with Christ, then the benefits that manifest union (justification, sanctification and adoption). The noted inconsistency he had with Dr. Horton’s argument in COVENANT AND SALVATION was that justification acts as the forensic basis of calling. For Tipton, if justification somehow precedes effectual calling/regeneration, and justification is still by faith, then faith precedes regeneration. This is structurally akin to the Arminian position. Tipton asked for greater clarity on what it means for justification to be the forensic basis of calling without resolving this problem.”

    Bucey then asks a question to someone who was aggressively opposing Tipton’s inquiries against Horton: “If he (Tipton) holds to the type of view you ascribe to him, why does his criticism take this form? ie., just merely asking for more clarity on the matter- my addition.

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  89. Mark,

    To put it another way, you explained two main accusations against your position in the following:

    One accusation against those who give priority to legal union is that we are “semi-pelagian”, because we see regeneration as the effect of imputation. Another accusation against those who define union first in terms of justification is that somehow we have less to say about the two federal headships than other folks. But this is not true either.

    You gave a long and lengthy argument which explained your problem with Calvin’s view of headship (which I had to read 3 times to get more clearly, but I am sure you will hear more against that argument). You did not address the semi-pelagian accusation about justification preceeding regeneration. Do you have an argument against that accusation?

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  90. John,

    In the chapter, Horton goes through the six different theories of the Atonement: 1) Penal substitution; 2) Recapitulation; 3) Christ’s victory over the powers (Christus Victor); 4) Satisfaction of Divine Honor (Anselm); 5) Moral influence; 6) Governmental

    Interesting. I recall that Gaffin said in one of the Reformed Forum talks something to the effect that Protestants have not emphasized the Christus Victor aspect of the atonement enough. It seems to me to be a lynchpin in the unionists argument that no aspect of the work of Christ is more important that any other aspect of His work—that His freeing us from the guilt of sin has no logical priority over His freeing us from its dominion. But is this really the way Protestants have typically viewed the situation? Not if Warfield is correct.

    Warfield first acknowledges that

    The writers of the New Testament employ many other modes of describing the work of Christ, which, taken together, set it forth as much more than a provision, in His death, for canceling the guilt of man. To mention nothing else at the moment, they set it forth equally as a provision, in His righteousness, for fulfilling the demands of the divine law upon the conduct of men.

    But then he continues:

    But it is undeniable that they enshrine at the center of this work its efficacy as a piacular sacrifice, securing the forgiveness of sins; that is to say, relieving its beneficiaries of “the penal consequences which otherwise the curse of the broken law inevitably entails.” The Lord Himself fastens attention upon this aspect of His work (Matt. xx. 28, xxvi. 28); and it is embedded in every important type of New Testament teaching—as well in the Epistle to the Hebrews (ii. 17), and the Epistles of Peter (I. iii. 18) and John (I. ii. 2), as currently in those of Paul (Rom, viii. 3; I Cor. v. 7; Eph. v. 2) to whom, obviously, “the sacrifice of Christ had the significance of the death of an innocent victim in the room of the guilty” and who therefore “freely employs the category of substitution, involving the conception of imputation or transference” of legal standing (W. P. Paterson, article “Sacrifice” in Hastings, “Dictionary of the Bible,” iv. 1909, pp. 343-345). Looking out from this point of view as from a center, the New Testament writers ascribe the saving efficacy of Christ’s work specifically to His death, or His blood, or His cross (Rom. iii. 25; v. 9; I Cor. x. 16; Eph. i. 7; ii. 13; Col. i. 20; Heb. ix. 12, 14; I Pet. i. 2, 19; I John i. 7; v. 6-8; Rev. i. 5), and this with such predilection and emphasis that the place given to the death of Christ in the several theories which have been framed of the nature of our Lord’s work, may not unfairly be taken as a test of their Scripturalness. All else that Christ does for us in the breadth of His redeeming work is, in their view, conditioned upon His bearing our sins in His own body on the tree; so that “the fundamental characteristic of the New Testament conception of redemption is that deliverance from guilt stands first; emancipation from the power of sin follows upon it; and removal of all the ills of life constitutes its final issue” (O. Kirn, article “Erlösung” in Hauck-Herzog, “Realencyklopadie,” v. p. 464; see “Redemption”).

    So if Warfield is correct that the penal substitutionary aspect of the atonement has priority over the Christus victor aspect, then it would seem that in the ordo, our being set free from the guilt of sin (justification) likewise would have priority over our being set free from its power (sanctification).

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  91. Incidentally, might this not also help to explain why Paul follows the order that he does in Romans, first setting out the basic problem of universal condemnation and God’s righteous wrath and judgment, then setting forth as the solution Christ’s accomplishment of redemption and justification by faith, and then finally dealing with sanctification, and that only in response to an objection that his doctrine would lead to licentiousness?

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  92. Along similar lines, here’s a passage from Hodge specifying that redemption from the power of sin is a consequence of redemption from its guilt:

    As deliverance from the curse of the law secures restoration to the favour of God, and as the love of God is the life of the soul, and restores us to his image, therefore in redeeming us from the curse of the law, Christ redeems us also from the power of sin. “Whosoever committeth sin,” saith our Lord, “is the servant (the slave) of sin.” This is a bondage from which no man can deliver himself. To effect this deliverance was the great object of the mission of Christ. He gave Himself that He might purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works. He died, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us unto God. He loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that He might present it unto Himself a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. This deliverance from sin is a true redemption. A deliverance effected by a ransom, or satisfaction to justice, was the necessary condition of restoration to the favour of God; and restoration to his favour was the necessary condition of holiness.

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  93. Jeff:

    For my part, I’ve been trying to explain that Union for Calvin and those thereafter refers to belonging: We belong to Christ, and He to us as our Federal head.

    There are, by your own words, two components of union.

    First, we belong to Christ. We belong to Christ corporately, by decree in election. He bound Himself to us in the incarnation. He lived and died for the sake of His Church, and in doing so redeemed them for all time. This is historia.

    Second, Christ belongs to us. This happens when the Holy Spirit works faith in us and we apprehend Christ for our salvation as part of effectual calling. This is ordo.

    These two parts of union, taken together, are the substance of the new covenant. God possess His people, and His people possess Him for their God.

    Some of the confusion occurs from a failure to distinguish these aspects of union. Some, rightly or wrongly, have termed the first part justification from eternity. The proponents of union, ironically, minimize union by using language that relegates it to a means of application rather than the Promise of the new covenant.

    Incorporation into Christ is the new covenant promise, and faith, as the proper response to the offer, is reckoned as righteousness. Proclaiming that all the treasures of salvation are in Christ is an exhortation to faith, but not faith in union, but faith in Christ.

    God was reconciling the world in Christ, not so that by union we might be reconciled, but that we might cleave to Christ as our reconciliation, and Christ as our Mediator, would unite us to God.

    In this way of speaking, justification by faith alone seems to be the preferable language as it expresses more thoroughly the nature of the covenant promises. Now by ‘alone’ no one means apart from Christ or union with Him, but apart from works. When I say that I am justified by faith what is said is that I have forgiveness, etc. by embracing Christ as my righteousness. This is the ordo part of union as mentioned above. I fail to see where the the union language as currently employed adds to the discussion and, in fact, muddles the conversation by reducing union to a means and displaces faith from Christ as the object to union as the object.

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  94. All,

    Please forgive me (and nudge me) if I overlook something you deem important here. I feel rather like a Redskins free safety at the moment.

    DGH: I do believe that justification is a consequence of being united to Christ my federal head.

    This is the union card that matters to me. If you can play that one, and if you affirm that justification is by faith alone, then I’m content.

    Mark: If it’s not regeneration, and if it’s not the effectual call, and if it’s not the Spirit giving the elect faith, what is “union”?

    Our union with Christ consists of two aspects: First, legally, that we are identified as His people and He our head. Second, “mystically”, that He indwells us with his Spirit.

    You could reach back as far as election and the atonement and observe that this union has its roots in God’s decision to elect. This is where Berkhof goes. But I would prefer to say (following WSC 30) that our union is effected in our effectual calling.

    I want to be clear, in case it has not been clear, that the legal aspect of union in no way is logically dependent on mystical union. We ARE NOT justified on the basis of anything done in us.

    So I would have reject the notion that you put forward above, that regeneration in the sense of sanctifying influence is somehow logically prior to justification.

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  95. Zrim: But I’m pretty sure he has no idea how justification being prior to union means justification is apart from Christ. Does being declared married prior to consummation mean I am married apart from my wife?

    You’re moving the goalposts, man. I’m pretty sure you considered yourself united to your wife when married, not when consummated. Consummation is an inadequate analogy for union.

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  96. David R: Perhaps you answered and I missed it, but do I understand correctly or not that you would disagree with Hodge that “justification is a consequence of our union with Christ”?

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  97. Thanks to David, Randy, and Jeff for weighing in on a day when it sounds as if the Washington football team is getting its tail kicked. Of course, I like forensic priority for the sake of debate, but I do believe we may have reached some clarity.

    Forgive me, Jeff, if I keep asking about union in future posts. Even wit some answers, I still have questions.

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  98. John, I agree that this crucial question has been lost in the scrum.

    Mark: What distinction are you making between imputation and justification? I understand that you distinguish between God transferring righteousness and making a declaration.

    However, that (to my mind) seems to be a distinction without a difference. If God is legally accounting us righteous — imputation — then is He not also declaring us righteous? Keep in mind that our justification is in God’s sight; the problem to be solved in justification is how to be righteous before God. It seems to me that imputation solves that problem by definition and is therefore analytically identical (i.e., synonymous with) our justification.

    If I’m right, then your ordo would in fact be

    * We are justified
    * Which creates faith
    * By which we receive justification.

    That’s the core issue I have with the view. It seems impossible.

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  99. Lily,

    I share a lot of the goals you outline, but I don’t think it’s necessary to place union after justification to accomplish them. I would point to Calvin, whom I believe you would respect as someone who upheld JFBA without wandering off the reservation into pietism, as an example of one who locates justification within union.

    Given that example, could we find common ground on the goals?

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  100. Jeff, my point was to wonder how you come to think anyone who prioritizes justification thinks he is justified apart from Christ. It seems like a fair bit of calisthenics. I guess I don’t even understand what this means, any more than I understand that he who prioritizes legal declaration of marriage thinks he is married apart from his wife.

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  101. David R.,

    Horton did make the exact point that Warfield made in the quotation you posted. He does put penal substitutionary atonement as the priority in the 6 theories of the atonement. He does make some interesting comments about each of the 6 theories, but like I said, I will let others read that for themselves.

    I do favor your and Mark’s position over Jeff’s and the union prioritist’s but there still is that problem of justification preceding regeneration in your view and how justification then precedes faith. Perhaps that can be explained by differentiating between the analogical language of scripture as opposed to univocal or equivocal language. Also, that God is in eternity but we are in time (which makes the temporal a problem). But since God knows everything you would think He would make clear to us, who are in space and time, the doctrine of justification by faith alone in his inerrant, infallible and inspired Word.

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  102. David R.,

    You quoted this from Charles Hodge:

    “As deliverance from the curse of the law secures restoration to the favour of God, and as the love of God is the life of the soul, and restores us to his image, therefore in redeeming us from the curse of the law, Christ redeems us also from the power of sin. “Whosoever committeth sin,” saith our Lord, “is the servant (the slave) of sin.” This is a bondage from which no man can deliver himself. To effect this deliverance was the great object of the mission of Christ. He gave Himself that He might purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works. He died, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us unto God. He loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that He might present it unto Himself a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. This deliverance from sin is a true redemption. A deliverance effected by a ransom, or satisfaction to justice, was the necessary condition of restoration to the favour of God; and restoration to his favour was the necessary condition of holiness.”

    This sounds to me like we should no longer deeply struggle with our still inherent sin, or fall into sin, if we truly are justified by grace alone through faith alone on the account of Christ alone. I think Hodge believed that we are still simul iestus et pecator (simultaneously justified yet remaining sinful) after our justification but we should have victory over the guilt of sin which produces its power to condemn us. Romans 7 seems to teach that even when we desire to do good evil lies close at hand and prevents us from doing the good we wish to do. And this good we wish to do we continue not to do. So, what is your thinking about Romans 7?

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  103. Jeff,

    I’m thinking we’re gonna have to continue to be happy being dogs and cats (eg: Lutheran and Reformed). 😉

    As I’ve pondered the situation, I realize that about all I care about theologically is 1) keeping the person and work of Christ, the solas, and the means of grace central in all. 2) People being given the opportunity to hear the gospel proclaimed clearly, grow in their faith, and not be led astray. Thus, I would be concerned if you were being subtly led astray by the theory of union first and natch, I think Randy spoke especially well
    about the subject and is right about the priority of justification. 😉

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  104. Oops. I should have said the writing within the article on Predestination and Assurance. Please skip the part on justification since it’s not compatible with Reformed faith. I think/hope the other two will be a blessing.

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  105. Oops. I should have said the writing within the article on Predestination and Assurance. Please skip the part on justification since it’s not compatible with Reformed faith. I think/hope the other two will be a blessing.

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  106. While combing through some reformed confessions it does seem that some have emphasized being united or joined to Christ by faith is the context in which the benefits of redemption become ours. Two examples from Theodore Beza’s Confession (1560): (these are only partial quotes)

    “but we understand that we are justified by faith because it embraces Him who justifies us, i.e., Jesus Christ, in such a way that it unites and knits us together with Him to be partakers of all the goodness which he has- He, who being granted and imputed to us, is fullly sufficient to make us perfect and accepted as righteous before God.” The Fourth Point, Article 7.

    “9. Faith Finds in Jesus Christ All That is Necessary to Salvation
    This word ought to be expounded particularly so that it may be known whether by faith we posess a remedy sufficient to assure us fully of eternal life, according as it is said, “The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:16-17; Gal. 3:11). We say then that all which permits man to have acquaintance with God, who is perfectly just and good, lies in these points in which we find as many remedies readily prepared, not in ourselves, but in Christ Jesus only. So we have nothing else of our own but Jesus Christ and all that He has (John 17:9-11, 20-26), provided always that we are by faith united and joined with Him as partakers of all His goodness. For which reason, the church, i.e., the assembly of the faithful is called the spouse of Jesus Christ, her husband (Rom. 7:2-6). This is to show the conjunction and communion which is between Jesus Christ and those who are joined with Him by faith, He takes all our miseries upon Himself and we recieve all His treasures from Him by His pure goodness and mercy, as follows.” The Fourth Point, Article 9

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  107. Lily,

    There was nothing I disagreed with Randy about but there still are some questions I have which have not been answered. But perhaps I am trying to make this more complicated than it should be. The Lutheran system of theology is quite different than the Reformed system. Sometimes I think they are saying almost the same thing but using different terminology. The Lutheran system has no concept of the covenant of works nor of federal headship. They look at the Gospel as a universal offer of Christ’s work for fallen humanity but look at election as a limited concept as comfort for believing Christians only who were justified before the foundation of the world. The Book of Concord speaks of election in limited terms also. So, again, it is confusing to sort it all out.

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  108. DGH wrote: I do believe that justification is a consequence of being united to Christ my federal head. And Jeff responded: This is the union card that matters to me. If you can play that one, and if you affirm that justification is by faith alone, then I’m content.

    Mark questions Jeff: We agree that justification is a consequence of election and the atonement. We agree that election is not justification, and that justification comes at different times. We agree that the atonement is not justification, and that the elect are not all justified at the cross. We agree on Romans 4:25 (raised because of/ in order to justification).

    But then you make the other necessary point “faith alone” and skip over imputation. Even though Christ as Surety has made reconciliation for the elect, they are not declared righteous by God until God’s act of legally sharing with these elect the legal value of that reconciliation (until God transfers the righteousness to them). Jeff, you can say that you have this “imputation step” in there, but you only have it after the “faith alone”

    I asked: If it’s not regeneration, and if it’s not the effectual call, and if it’s not the Spirit giving the elect faith, what is “union”? Jeff answered: Our union with Christ consists of two aspects: First, legally, that we are identified as His people and He our head. Second, “mystically”, that He indwells us with his Spirit.

    Mark responds: What do you mean by “identified as” His people? Is that something different from “legally becoming” His people? Sure, the elect are chosen in Christ and given to Christ by the Father before the ages, but the elect are justified when God legally places (baptizes) them into Christ’s death. Of course that’s the way I would say it, and I don’t want to “translate” you, Jeff, in such a way that I can only hear you saying what I would say. I hate it when people try to do that to me. So I am sincerely trying to understand what you mean here by “identified”.

    To get to your second point, the “mystical”, I would repeat my questions. Is the “mystical” regeneration? Is the “mystical” the effectual calling? Is the “mystical” the Holy Spirit giving faith? If not these things, what is “mystical union”? It sounds to me like you are making the mystical the result of the “identification”. But again that’s the way I would say it, and you might want to say both are aspects of the one whole, with neither a logical result of the other. Even that sounds different from the idea that justification is a result of “union”.

    (By the way, John Y, I still don’t understand why you think putting regeneration after imputation means putting faith before regeneration. Where faith in the true gospel is, there has been regeneration/effectual calling. I have made it clear that I agree that faith is a result of regeneration. So I can only guess, John, that you keep misunderstanding because you keep assuming that faith is before imputation, even when you hear me saying that regeneration is after imputation. But where faith is, there has already been regeneration. )

    Jeff wrote: “I want to be clear, in case it has not been clear, that the legal aspect of union in no way is logically dependent on mystical union. We ARE NOT justified on the basis of anything done in us.”
    Mark: Amen to that! We talked about this when I gave the Cunha quotation. Wherever you think the faith is, before or after imputation, we need to agree that the imputation is not made on the basis of faith but on the basis of Christ’s finished work outside us. I don’t think Gaffin and Shepherd and Tipton agree with that. They define as “union” with Christ the resurrection power in us in “regenerative sanctification” (monergism) and “progressive sanctification” (they say synergism).And then they say that justification is one benefit of that “union” But it sounds to me, Jeff, like you don’t agree with them about that.

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  109. Jeff wrote to Mark: “I understand that you distinguish between God transferring righteousness and making a declaration. ”

    Mark: If you want to hear me clearly, and have the time, you might want to go back and read the comment. I pointed to the idea of God being “justified” without any transfer. In other words, we declare God to be good because God is good. NO transfer is needed to make that declaration.

    But for the ungodly, there are two senses to “impute” (even though the same word in the original, the same “count” or “reckon”). Before the “transfer”, it would not be just for God to “declare” sinners to be just. After the “transfer”, it is just for God to declare them just. “Declare” is not simply say, but “legal acquittal”, but more, “legal title and right to all the blessings of salvation, access, etc”.

    Jeff: However, that (to my mind) seems to be a distinction without a difference. If God is legally accounting us righteous — imputation — then is He not also declaring us righteous?

    Mark: That to my mind is like asking: if God elected, and Christ atoned, and God justified, then aren’t election and atonement and justification all one thing? No, God is the agent but they are different acts. I agree that “imputation” is different because one word is being used in two senses. But to get that point, you go back to the first point: we can impute an innocent man to be innocent because he is (analytic justification), but the only way God can impute a sinner to be righteous is to first transfer (legally share with her, synthetic) Christ’s righteousness. Then and only then is it just. Socinians say justice is not necessary, but none of us here are Socinians.

    Jeff wrote: If I’m right, then your ordo would in fact be
    * We are justified
    * Which creates faith
    * By which we receive justification.

    mark: I think you have heard me enough to know that I would not agree with the last two. So you are probably saying: given what Mark has said, Mark “should say” ….

    1. I don’t say “we”, because I don’t who the “we” on this group are. I am not an apostle, and this is not an epistle to a church…
    2. I don’t think anybody is ever justified apart from faith or before faith. You know I think that, but you don’t see how I can think that and still agree with Horton (and McCormack and others) and say that God’s legal declaration creates hearing of the gospel.
    3. So I think regeneration and faith are the immediate results of transfer and declaration, which means that there can never be justification apart from faith in the gospel. I deny regeneration apart from the gospel. I deny regeneration apart from imputation. Some in the tradition agree on these two issues and others don’t. My first proof-text on this (as you probably know by now) is Romans 8:10–the Spirit is life BECAUSE OF righteousness.
    4. Christ’s righteousness is “received” by both imputation and by faith. In some texts, it’s received by imputation (Romans 5:11) the way Adam’s sin is received. In other texts, it’s received by faith.
    When we last talked about this, Jeff, you asked:why not both? My answer: yes, and why not make it clear that the imputation-receiving has logical priority over the by faith-receiving?

    And my other answer? Why assume most of the time that “receive” means faith alone? Why not begin saying that “receive” means both, and that faith is Christ’s gift not only based on Christ’s righteousness but also with its object Christ’s righteousness?

    Why assume most of the time that “union” means “faith alone”? Why not begin saying that “union” mean legal imputation in Christ’s atonement for the elect alone? The “new creation” is not first of all about the “mystical” or about regeneration or about the Holy Spirit. The “new creation” is first of all about judicial reality. Check it out in II Cor 5….

    .

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  110. Jeff,

    David R: Perhaps you answered and I missed it, but do I understand correctly or not that you would disagree with Hodge that “justification is a consequence of our union with Christ”?

    Yes, I agree with Hodge.

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  111. Lily, yes, it can be confusing. But I find that the unionists tend to talk about union more or less the same way the evangelicals talk about personal relationship. These are good things, of course, but how they rise to the sort of prominence and function as justification through faith is perplexing. Union or personal relationship don’t save–Christ does, and that through faith.

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  112. Mark says: (By the way, John Y, I still don’t understand why you think putting regeneration after imputation means putting faith before regeneration. Where faith in the true gospel is, there has been regeneration/effectual calling. I have made it clear that I agree that faith is a result of regeneration. So I can only guess, John, that you keep misunderstanding because you keep assuming that faith is before imputation, even when you hear me saying that regeneration is after imputation. But where faith is, there has already been regeneration. )

    John says: huh? I was making the same point Camden Bucey was making:

    As Camden Bucey clearly stated at the Reformed Forum website: “Dr. Tipton’s entire criticism of Dr. Horton’s views was founded upon the ordering of election, regeneration/effectual calling, then union with Christ, then the benefits that manifest union (justification, sanctification and adoption). The noted inconsistency he had with Dr. Horton’s argument in COVENANT AND SALVATION was that justification acts as the forensic basis of calling. For Tipton, if justification somehow precedes effectual calling/regeneration, and justification is still by faith, then faith precedes regeneration. This is structurally akin to the Arminian position. Tipton asked for greater clarity on what it means for justification to be the forensic basis of calling without resolving this problem.”

    Bucey then asks a question to someone who was aggressively opposing Tipton’s inquiries against Horton: “If he (Tipton) holds to the type of view you ascribe to him, why does his criticism take this form? ie., just merely asking for more clarity on the matter- my addition.

    I do not keep assuming that faith is before imputation. So, are you saying imputation, then justification, then regeneration, then faith and repentance? Or, imputation, then regeneration, then faith and repentance then justification?

    Maybe I am getting confused about how everyone is defining effectual calling. It probably includes regeneration, faith, repentance then justification.

    Everyone keeps switich around what union means too. I am assuming legal union is the same as imputation and the other myriad ways of defining union means the whole ordo (justification, sanctificationa and adoption- is the way Bucey put it). No wonder this all gets confusing.

    Mark, I was intrigued how you critiqued Calvins view of the headship of Adam in comparison with the headship of Christ. No one has remarked about that yet.

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  113. Zrim – that’s an astute observation on the fascination with union. It seems best to major in the majors and minor in the minors. The evangelical “personal relationship” with Christ seems to be dominated by humanly contrived notions and pales in comparison to what I see in the bible.

    To grow in the knowledge of Christ, for me, seems to ever expand the fathomless depth and limitless breadth of the indescribable mercy of God for me/us in Christ. Those rare glimpses of his inexplicable mercy is more than I can take in and leaves me stunned. I cannot imagine meeting him face-to-face when he returns and what it will be like when we no longer look in a mirror darkly… all I know is that it is beyond anything we can comprehend in this mortal life.

    Perhaps that’s why I’m content to let union be fluid (since that is the way I think the bible presents it) and not interested in hardening it into stone so it can be appropriated for the order of salvation? I dunno – the exact ordo of how everything happens seems to be a mystery, as far as I can tell, while justification seems to be absolutely clear and vital to our understanding of salvation. It’s my understanding that Christ died for the forgiveness of my sin, was raised for my justification, and I belong to him lock, stock, and barrel. Here I stand or fall.

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  114. John,

    FWIW: It is my understanding that the Lutherans look at covenant theology and federalism as additions that the Reformed made in their theology in order to answer some questions (eg: why are some saved and others are not). Whereas, Lutherans do not see those Reformed distinctives revealed in scripture. The Lutherans are supposed to stop where scripture stops and not try to answer questions that the bible doesn’t. We’re supposed to respect the limits and boundaries God has given us and not try to pull back the curtain on the hidden things of God (eg: explain paradoxes and mysteries). That’s my understanding of why the Reformed have limited atonement (their additions in order to answer questions like why some are saved and others are not) and we see universal atonement (we believe this is what scripture plainly says and don’t try to explain why some are saved and others are not). The difference in understanding the doctrine of atonement sets the stage for our differences in understanding other things, too. Our Christology differs from theirs also.

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  115. After more thinking and trying to understand the debate, I’d like to ask some questions since I’m wondering if you’ve lost your blooming minds:

    1. If the doctrine of justification’s priority is changed, what ramifications are there for the rest of your theology? How will it affect your preaching? I’m not smart enough to understand these things, but the move for the priority of union has the subtle odor of some kind of synergism or is it the odor of forgetting the cost that Christ paid for us – will it subtly downgrade the gospel?

    2. How do you prevent union from sliding into a turned inward focus and a “me and Jesus” thing? Everything I need is inside me and I no longer need the church and the means of grace (they come to us from outside of us)?

    Robert Preus quote:

    The imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer is not a metaphorical motif to Luther but a non-figurative description of what actually takes place when a sinner is justified for Christ’s sake. And there is no other way in which a sinner can be justified and become righteous before God except by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Furthermore, the setting for the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer is not figurative. Sin, God’s judgment, grace, redemption, Christ’s obedience and life and death are not figures of speech. The “blessed exchange” motif, however, while not metaphorical in itself, is set in a metaphorical pattern of thought (marriage, union with Christ, crucifixion of Law, sin, and death, etc.). Therefore we can conclude that Luther is not mixing metaphors or confusing two motifs at all. Rather, he is grounding the blessed exchange whereby the believer receives forgiveness and spiritual blessings from Christ and Christ in turn receives the sinners sin and guilt and punishment in the fact of the believer’s justification before God for Christ’s sake. In other words, God for Christ’s sake, imputes to the believer Christ’s righteousness and imputes to Christ the believer’s sin and guilt.

    Can you see why I’m wondering if you’ve lost your minds?

    O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

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  116. Lily: Can you see why I’m wondering if you’ve lost your minds?

    Only because I think you’re misunderstanding what the term “union” means. The forensic aspect of union does not refer to anything done inside of the individual, but to God’s identifying of the individual as “in Christ” — and thus attributing the alien righteousness of Christ to him. It is external and legal.

    I can’t see why this would be objectionable to a Lutheran.

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  117. David R:

    So now I’m confused about two points:

    (1) I had thought that your mention of Berkhof’s “active and passive” justifications was intended to support the idea that union is a consequence of justification. Is that not so?

    (2) If you hold (seemingly) that faith is a consequence of “active justification”, do you also hold that union is a consequence of faith (WSC 30)? And if so, how do you resolve the logical circle?

    Active justification –> faith –> union –> justification.

    (Same question for Hodge, but he’s dead)

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  118. Paraphrased from Robert Preus:

    God’s grace cannot stand alone, independent of Christ – there can be no justification of the sinner by an absolute decree of God. Even though man is completely and helplessly wicked and cannot effect, contribute, offer non-resistance, or in any other way make his justification by God possible – a righteousness is still required. This requirement of righteousness is not an arbitrary requirement of God’s unknowable will. It is simple justice. God cannot be God, nor can he be trusted if he is not just. Grace has a cost. There is the need for payment. God must be propitiated. The world must be redeemed. Jesus must intervene. Christ and only Christ must be the payment, the cost, the propitiation. There can be no talk of Christ-less grace or justification. There is no love without cost, for God’s love is never abstract, nor is his justification of the sinner merely an idea. It is the chief act of God’s love.

    Question: Since God is just and his grace is not given apart from Christ and the price he paid for us: Is man’s attempts to give union priority over justification an example of man wanting to move subtly towards the Unitarian error (grace without cost)? It sure looks like it to me.

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  119. Of what the paltering world calls love,
    I will not know, I cannot speak;
    I know but His who reigns above,
    And His is neither mild nor weak;
    Hard even unto death is this,
    And smiting with its awful kiss.
    What was the answer of God’s love
    Of old, when in the olive-grove
    In anguish-sweat His own Son lay;
    And prayed, O, Take this cup away?
    Did God take from him then the cup?
    No, child; His Son must drink it up!

    Just as the doctrine of sin requires the justification of the sinner to be grounded in something outside of the sinner himself, so also the doctrine of sin presents us with the enduring reality of God’s wrath. This is the presupposition for the necessity of a cost. The denial of the wrath of God against sinners and the need for a propitiation is a denial of the doctrine of justification.

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  120. How the heck did the Father give you to Christ and put you “in Christ” if Christ didn’t pay for you and satisfy God’s wrath 1st? You can’t bypass justification coming first, Jeff. Christ had to pay for you before union could take place with you. Otherwise you’re one of those illegal aliens who wasn’t dressed right and asked to leave at the wedding feast. I don’t see how you can avoid being clothed with Christ’s righteousness before union with God.

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  121. Re: The forensic aspect of union does not refer to anything done inside of the individual, but to God’s identifying of the individual as “in Christ” — and thus attributing the alien righteousness of Christ to him. It is external and legal.

    I still think you’ve lost your mind. It’s shoplifting if you take something that hasn’t been paid for. At best, it’s a credit card view of salvation that relegates justification to being just another doctrine with payment made at a later time. What has this got to do with what the bible clearly teaches? I see no way for anyone to be a child of God without 1) a propitiation of Christ’s blood made for their sin 2) their crucifixion/death with Christ 3) their being raised/given life with Christ and 4) now live their life in Christ and Christ lives in them. This isn’t rocket science to see the disregard for Christ’s blood and that his blood payment comes first.

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  122. Alright Mark I see it now, Christ’s righteousness is received by both imputation and by faith. I think the problem with everyone who adheres to a traditions confessions is that none of the confessions are clear about this. At least I am not aware of anyone pointing to any confessional statement that makes this clear. You do make the remark that some scripture passages reveal that Christ’s righteousness is received by imputation an some by faith (Rom. 8:10 and Rom. 5:11).

    You also make this statement which I find confusing: Why assume most of the time that “union” means “faith alone?” Why not begin saying that “union” means legal imputation in Christ’s atonement for the elect alone? The “new creation” is not first of all about the “mystical” or about regeneration or about the Holy Spirit. The new creation is first of all about judicial reality. Check it out in 2Cor. chapter 5.

    I am assuming you are using Christ’s atonement in the same way as saying my sin is imputed to Christ and Christ’s righteousness to me. The atonement being the basis for the imputation to take place.

    I think you have gone over this before but I will ask again. Do you see the Old Testament believers receiving the imputation the same way New Testament believers do?

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  123. Lily,

    We went pretty quickly from “finding common ground” to “disregard for Christ’s blood”, notwithstanding your claim to stay away from denominational distinctives. One of those distinctives is that justification is a consequence of being united with Christ.

    Choose one: Either allow Calvinists to be Calvinists, or admit that you believe that Calvinists have a disregard for Christ and have done.

    I don’t know what your aim is in being so deliberately and repeatedly insulting, but the effect is certainly not to make me rethink my views. Rather, it makes me reconsider whether I can trust you enough to engage in conversation.

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  124. Jeff,

    I used to think the Lutherans and Reformed were on the same page on this subject. It is my understanding that the Reformed have differing versions of the ordo and that the ordo is controversial, It appears that some Reformed groups hold a view similar to the Lutherans. As such, union priority doesn’t appear to necessarily be a Reformed distinctive and thus open to debate.

    Re: I don’t know what your aim is in being so deliberately and repeatedly insulting… reconsider whether I can trust you enough to engage in conversation…

    Jeff, you are not made of Dresden China and I did not insult you. If you are uncomfortable with a challenge to your theology in an area open to debate, then it may be good to look at yourself and decide whether you would like to engage or not. Why give me a indirect accusation of being deliberately insulting? Thou doth protest too much, methinks.

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  125. Lily, when you say that I “want to” drift towards Unitarianism, that I have “disregard for Christ’s blood”, you are being insulting. This has nothing to do with challenging theology, which can be carried out by focusing on ideas.

    This has to do with exerting pressure to change by trying to shame me, by pretending to read my motives and publicly “calling me out” on them. It’s bullying behavior, using theology as the medium.

    And it’s frankly ignorant. You have a very limited picture of my theology that is constrained by the fact that this is a discussion about union. You do not have — to be fair, could not have — a complete picture of how justification functions pastorally for me. You’re accusing me without real knowledge.

    We can either agree to not interact in that way, or else not interact at all.

    Your serve.

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  126. Reread my comments Jeff. You seem to have a pattern of taking things personally, miss irony, and so forth – this is no exception. I find your protests rather strange since you have accused me of many things, many times, over the last years and don’t seem to appreciate the double standards you hold. Again, thou dost protest too much, methinks.

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  127. P.S. Jeff – Please note how many comments have nothing to do with you and do not mention your name and are not addressed to you. Please note that you are rarely the center of my attention. Thanks.

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  128. Lily asked: How did the Father give you to Christ and put you “in Christ” if Christ didn’t pay for you and satisfy God’s wrath 1st? You can’t bypass justification coming first, Jeff. Christ had to pay for you before union could take place with you. Otherwise you’re one of those illegal aliens who wasn’t dressed right and asked to leave at the wedding feast. I don’t see how you can avoid being clothed with Christ’s righteousness before union with God.

    mark answers: The Lord Jesus didn’t die on the cross before the ages began. The Lord Jesus didn’t make the atonement before God’s election in Christ of sinners to be saved. Part of the problem here is a confusion between the decree to atone and the actual atonement in the “fullness of time”. The bigger problem is that Lutherans think they can talk about atonement without talking about election.

    Because Lutherans have a so-called “objective universal atonement”, they teach an atonement which does not necessarily atone all for whom it is intended. And with other Calvinists, I would say that this Lutheran atonement does not atone for anybody. At any rate, Christ’s death (as much as Lily make talk about it) is not ever the decisive factor. Instead, Lutherans make the whole thing depend on “faith alone”.

    Sometimes the language sounds very Arminian. It says, IF YOU now believe on Christ, then Christ will now go to the cross and die for you. But even if the language is not that explicitly wrong, the Lutheran assumption is that you can regard election as a hidden thing which has nothing to do with the atonement or with the gospel.

    But God never elected anybody apart from Christ, or apart from the decree for Christ to atone for their sins. Election means that Christ loved and knew those for whom He was dying.

    Even though we cannot know if we ourselves are elect until after we believe the gospel, the gospel itself has the good news that there is an elect and that Christ bore only their sins at the cross and that this imputation of the sins of the elect to Christ before His atonement is not only effective but satisfies justice.

    In John 17, before His death, the Lord Jesus is clear that God the Father had given him an elect group of individuals, not a “team to be decided later by faith alone”. Most of us agree that this election is one aspect of “union”, but it’s not the aspect directly in question on this thread. Even Jeff locates justification “in the union”. The question continues to be about “within the union”. Is imputation before regeneration and faith. (Notice the order, John Y.)

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  129. Ephesians 1:9-11–” making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will…”

    “All things were created for Christ”. (Colossians 1:16) Christ “is before all things” (Colossians 1:17).

    Lutherans (and others who say that Christ died for every sinner) think that they honor Christ by saying that the decree for Christ to die is before the decree to elect some sinners. They claim in this way to put Christ before election.

    Lutherans want to equate election with the means of grace (preaching), and so they teach that the atonement was not restricted to the elect. They think of election as something that causes some to believe, but they will not teach an atonement only for the specific sins of the elect.

    But election in Christ is first! The death of Christ is not the cause of God’s election in love. God’s election in love is the cause of the death of Christ.

    Jesus, the incarnate, the eternal Son of God in the flesh, is the foundation of election by being Himself the object of election. “All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things.” Jesus is not simply the one who makes election work. Jesus Himself is first.

    Jesus Himself is chosen first, before all the other elect. All the other elect were chosen in Jesus Christ, and not apart from Jesus Christ. Those God loves are “chosen in Him”. Ephesians 1:4

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  130. In Taste and See (Multnomah,1999, p325), John Piper endorses a gospel conditioned on “faith alone”. He writes, “Christ died for all sinners, so that IF you will repent and believe in Christ, then the death of Jesus will become effective in your case and will take away your sins. ‘Died for you,’ means that, if you believe, the death of Jesus will cover your sins. Now, as far as it goes, this is biblical teaching.”

    Piper then goes on to add that Christ also died to purchase faith for the elect. But he does not disagree with Lutherans about propitiation and punishment. Piper does not teach that Christ was specifically punished for the elect alone. It still only has a punishment in general, to be assigned later to those who believe.

    But Piper does insist that Christ also died for the elect to give them something extra that He will not be giving the non-elect? I would not be surprised if Lily agreed with Piper on this extra.

    The gospel conditioned on “faith alone” either denies or fails to report that Christ was punished specifically for the elect, and thus it will be heard every time as saying that there was enough punishment done to Christ to save even people who will nevertheless end up being punished.

    Thus, even though it has punishment, this false gospel is not about punishment that REPLACES punishment for all whom Christ intended to save. We might call it “representative” punishment but we cannot call it “substitutionary” punishment. We could call it “penal” justice but with the qualification that no specific person’s sins were ever legally transferred to Christ.

    Indeed, this gospel denies that any specific penality (let alone guilt) for anybody’s sins was transferred to Christ until “faith causes justification”. It says that Christ died for everybody (but the fallen angels?) but it denies that this punishment was for the sins of anybody in particular. So “dead for you” means that now you have an open door, an opportunity to believe something about Christ’s death which will then lead to that death saving you, even though it doesn’t save others for whom Jesus supposedly died..

    This “gospel” identifies “union” with Christ’s death with what the Holy Spirit supposedly does in you to cause to believe so that the universal atonement will work for you.

    My short response. God does not impute faith as righteousness. God imputes the object of faith as the righteousness. And the object of faith is not faith. The object of faith is Christ’s substitutionary death for the elect alone.

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  131. You can say all matter of true things about the difference between law and gospel (and I have no doubt that the false teachers in Galatia did so), but you have no legitimate right to say them, if you avoid the offense of the cross being A. for the elect alone and B. being alone effectual, being the difference, since Christ’s death was not for everybody. And the true things you say about the cross, or about law and gospel, end up not being true things, just like the doctrine of the false teachers in Galatians.

    You can say that Christ died for everybody and not be a “semi-Pelagian” or “soft legalist”. But if Christ’s death was the righteousness intended and obtained for everybody, then it’s not His death but our faith which must make the difference. And if that is so, we need to be very afraid.

    Nobody comes along and says that Jesus didn’t need to die. They just say that Jesus died for everybody but that it doesn’t work unless the Spirit causes you to consent to it. They just say that, even if you are not elect and even if the Spirit doesn’t cause you to consent to it, Jesus loves you and died for you and offers to save you, but His death didn’t take away your guilt and it doesn’t work, because you didn’t have faith in it.

    But if Jesus died for everybody, then the promise of the gospel is not about Christ alone or His death alone; and if it is about your being changed (so that grace is not cheap and Jesus is Lord is your gospel), then salvation is not by Christ’s death. The message of His death plus your not wanting to sin anymore is really at the end a message about your not wanting to sin anymore.

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  132. There is also this from the Book of Concord which seems to imply that the imputation does precede regeneration and faith:

    For faith justifies, not for this cause and reason that it is so good a work and so fair a virtue, but because it lays hold of and accepts the merit of Christ in the promise of the holy Gospel; for this must be applied and appropriated to us by faith, if we are to be justified thereby. 14] Therefore the righteousness which is imputed to faith or to the believer out of pure grace is the obedience, suffering, and resurrection of Christ, since He has made satisfaction for us to the Law, and paid for [expiated] our sins. 15] For since Christ is not man alone, but God and man in one undivided person, He was as little subject to the Law, because He is the Lord of the Law, as He had to suffer and die as far as His person is concerned. For this reason, then, His obedience, not only in suffering and dying, but also in this, that He in our stead was voluntarily made under the Law, and fulfilled it by this obedience, is imputed to us for righteousness, so that, on account of this complete obedience, which He rendered His heavenly Father for us, by doing and suffering, in living and dying, God forgives our sins, regards us as godly and righteous, and eternally saves us

    And this: http://bookofconcord.org/sd-righteousness.php

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  133. Tell me Mark and Jeff if I am misrepresenting either of your views in what follows:

    Mark’s position:

    The Gospel is preached or someone is being taught the Gospel and God causes the elect person to hear the Gospel by imputing the person’s sin to Christ and Christ’s righteousness to the person. Mark calls this the forensic union performed by an act of God. It is also called the justification of the ungodly and is grace without any kind of infusion of righteouness or work of the Holy Spirit. We cannot hear the Gospel without our guilt and condemnation being dealt with from our imputed sin from Adam. So, without this imputation (forensic union) taking place first we cannot hear the Gospel. Some have also called this the “active justification” performed as an act of God. At the same time that this takes place the Holy Spirit regenerates us which produces the faith and repentance and causes us to cling and trust in Christ’s work for us. So, we receive the reconciliation of Christ’s work for us by both imputation and by faith. The scripture by which Mark basis that the imputation has to occur first is Romans 8:10: “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” The Spirit cannot produce the life in us unless we have Christ’s righteousness. He also points to many other scripture verses which show that imputation has to take place before new life can be created. There is more to it than this but that is enough to see how he differs from Jeff. Mark also says that Romans 6:3: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” is not talking about water baptism but the forensic imputation which God baptized us unto Christ with. Mark also says there are many verses which says we are justified by faith but these verses are assuming the imputation too.

    Jeffs position: Jeff claims that faith is what causes the imputation. So, the life of the spirit (regeneration) has to occur before the imputation. Mark keeps on pressing Jeff on his defining union more clearly without making reference to any kind of mystical union (like regeneration) which would nullify God justifying the ungodly (because the Holy Spirit would have to have done a previous work in the person. Do you see what I mean? There can be no justification of the ungodly if there is any kind of work by the Holy Spirit before the imputation. That is what I see as the main issue here. Jeff keeps denying though that he believes that there is any kind of internal work that takes place before we are justified.

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  134. Thanks, John, for the reference to Lutherans on election. I have read it; you sent it to me before.

    My quick conclusion is that the explanation is quite “rationalistic” and that it attempts to suppress by this rationalism the Biblical witness not only about non-election but also about the specific legal nature of Christ’s atonement.

    I quote: “This doctrine has, as we have before pointed out, nothing whatever to do with the non-elect. As God’s ordination to salvation, it extends only over the children of God, who were elected before the foundation of the world was laid. The non-elect are referred to in the Scriptures only as those who do not believe and who are therefore lost. (… Election is everywhere in the Scriptures revealed as a Gospel doctrine, not a legal one.) Their perdition is neither directly nor indirectly attributed in Scripture to any decree of God before the foundation of the world. There is no such thing as an eternal decree of Reprobation. (Any doctrine of Predestination, therefore, which requires a corresponding doctrine of Reprobation is manifestly wrong.)

    Mark: First, two quick notes. One, the writers agree that there are differences between Lutherans on these matters. Some Lutherans do talk about a “foreseen faith”. Two, I appreciate rationalism, at least when you have conclusions like the above: wrong, there is no such thing, not a legal one. We need antithesis if we are going to think straight.

    By way of analysis, I would point out that the statement above ignores what Lutherans refer to as the “hidden God.”.There is internal contradiction in this doctrine of election, not simply because any election is also a non-election. (Any inclusion is already an exclusion also). I mean, many Lutherans like to take the “comforting part” of predestination and say that this has been revealed: after you believe, then you can know that your believing was sourced in God’s election. But then they say that the non-comforting part (some sinners never were elected) is not revealed but is only the “hidden God”. But the statement above does not go there—it seems to say straightforwardly that any idea of non-election is wrong, is “legal”.

    But I want us to think about that “legal”, because we are thinking about justification, about being legally constituted as righteous. And justification is not when God counts faith as our righteousness. Justification is when God counts Christ’s death as the death of the elect. But if these Lutherans are right, then Christ’s death was not only for the elect but for everybody, so God’s justice does not demand that anybody be saved on the basis of Christ’s death. Some for whom He died will be saved, and others won’t, at least this is what we are told.

    John, I don’t want to take too much space on this thread on this, and perhaps we should talk about it privately. But let me make one point. The essay quoted above says:”those who do not believe and therefore are lost” First, Scriptures says more than that. In John 10, Jesus explains why some do not believe. They do not believe because they were never sheep, and Christ never died for any but the sheep. But Second, if you say that people are lost because they don’t believe, then if you are rational, you will say that people are saved because they believe. But when you say that, you have lost sight of a supposedly “objective universal justification” and you are back to what you think the Holy Spirit is doing in you to cause you to believe, so that “faith alone” makes the “objective justification” actually work for you.

    Privately, John?

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  135. John wrote: “The Gospel is preached or someone is being taught the Gospel and God causes the elect person to hear the Gospel by imputing the person’s sin to Christ and Christ’s righteousness to the person.”

    Mark: I have to get to class, and also I want to give others a chance to teach us. But one correction to your above, which is very much related to today’s discussion about election and the atonement.

    You are right to see that imputation is the cause of the hearing. But the imputation does not consist of “imputing the person’s sins to Christ”. A person’s sins have already been imputed to Christ or not. The elect’s sins have been imputed to Christ. The non-elect’s have not.

    The usual reaction to this point is to say: ok, if that’s so, then the elect must be justified already when the atonement is made, and so there is never any need for faith in the gospel. But I have been clear ((unlike Gill and Kuyper and some others who talk of two justifications–one “active”) that I don’t equate atonement and justification.

    But how can this be? If Christ already bore their sins, how can the elect be born condemned and under the wrath of God? First, let me be clear that this is what I am saying. With John Owen and the majority of the Reformed tradition, I deny eternal justification and affirm the need for God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness.

    Second, so when are the elect (whose sins have been borne already) justified from being under the law? Romans 6 does not use the language of “imputed with Christ’s righteousness”, but the logical meaning is the same. “One who has died has been justified from sin”. Do you not know that as many of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?

    Romans 5:19 For as by one one man’s disobedience, the many were (imputed) sinners, so by the one man’s obedience, the many will be (imputed) righteous. The reason Lutherans avoid talk in the gospel of two federal headships is that they want to avoid talk in the gospel of election.

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  136. You seem to be stretching Mark but I will talk to you about this privately. I think I have a better handle on it now. I will make a post to you on a private email.

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  137. Mark,

    You are right that I am a poor specimen of a Lutheran when it comes to explaining Lutheranism. You are misinformed on the law/gospel dynamic for it is a life of daily repentance and faith. Terry Johnson is ill-informed on what Lutherans believe, teach, and confess, and his views express ignorance of the theology of the cross.

    Lutherans in no way make Christ precede election. God is the cause of our salvation and the inexplicable mercy of God begins with the mystery of election. Yet, his mercy cannot be separated from the cost Christ paid to redeem us. It is my understanding that it is being given faith in the truth of the gospel/Christ that salvation is given to us, not faith in election. Election is viewed as a doctrine of comfort, encouragement, and assurance given to the saints and not the message of the gospel that is proclaimed to unbelievers. Please don’t assume that the article John linked will fully explain all that is involved (eg: God both reveals and hides himself).

    As for universal atonement and some of Lutheranism’s other distinctives, your words show that you do not understand Lutheranism and I will not attempt to counter every misunderstanding or caricature. It should be sufficient for both of us to acknowledged that we have different ways of understanding and they do not always harmonize. Here, I do try to respect our differences and not engage in debates over distinctives, but I do not always succeed in avoiding them.

    My best advice for you Mark is to take the time to learn what confessional Lutherans actually believe, teach, and confess not “some” Lutherans and that we are not your enemies. There are too many caricatures on both sides of the fence about each other. I do not believe that we will ever harmonize our theologies, but I do believe that we can be good neighbors and enjoy the areas we are in agreement.

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  138. I don’t think Terry Johnson was addressing Lutherans at all.

    I don’t mean to be talking about “distinctives”. I do aim to talk about Christ’s atonement for the elect.
    I do mean to deny that Christ made an atonement for the non-elect.

    Neither of you, John or Lily, has denied that Lutheran confessions teach an universal atonement. Of course we disagree about the meaning of that for the gospel.

    The problem is not that I need to read more Lutheran stuff. I have read everything Forde has published and a lot of Preus and Rosenblatt etc. ( I would particularly commend to you Forde on the Concord is his book Justification by Faith: A Matter of Life and Death, Fortress, 1982) And the problem is not that you two need to read more of John Murray or Robert Reymond or John Fesko.

    The solution is not one party catching up on its reading.

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  139. Jeff,

    So now I’m confused about two points:

    (1) I had thought that your mention of Berkhof’s “active and passive” justifications was intended to support the idea that union is a consequence of justification. Is that not so?

    I think in that section, Berkhof is arguing for the logical priority of active justification over faith. I admit I’m not completely clear in what sense he speaks of logical priority here, however, I believe his main point is that the role of faith in justification is better termed “appropriating organ” than “instrumental cause.”

    But in the issue of logical priority when it comes to regeneration and justification, I take it that he and A.A. Hodge and the others are wrestling with the question: How can the initial stages of the ordo be consistent with the sinner simultaneously being under God’s wrath and curse? Gaffin and Tipton are content to say that the forensic basis for the application of redemption is the accomplishment of redemption, and that is certainly true, but I’m not sure that it solves the problem. After all, nothing that happens in the accomplishment changes anything until it’s actually applied. So I suppose that Hodge and the others I quoted are positing some sort of judicial change that coincides with the onset of the ordo. Honestly though, I don’t know how successful they are. Buchanan seems content to leave it a mystery and perhaps that’s the wisest course.

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  140. John,

    You quoted this from Charles Hodge:

    “As deliverance from the curse of the law secures restoration to the favour of God, and as the love of God is the life of the soul, and restores us to his image, therefore in redeeming us from the curse of the law, Christ redeems us also from the power of sin. “Whosoever committeth sin,” saith our Lord, “is the servant (the slave) of sin.” This is a bondage from which no man can deliver himself. To effect this deliverance was the great object of the mission of Christ. He gave Himself that He might purify unto Himself a peculiar people zealous of good works. He died, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us unto God. He loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that He might present it unto Himself a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. This deliverance from sin is a true redemption. A deliverance effected by a ransom, or satisfaction to justice, was the necessary condition of restoration to the favour of God; and restoration to his favour was the necessary condition of holiness.”

    This sounds to me like we should no longer deeply struggle with our still inherent sin, or fall into sin, if we truly are justified by grace alone through faith alone on the account of Christ alone. I think Hodge believed that we are still simul iestus et pecator (simultaneously justified yet remaining sinful) after our justification but we should have victory over the guilt of sin which produces its power to condemn us. Romans 7 seems to teach that even when we desire to do good evil lies close at hand and prevents us from doing the good we wish to do. And this good we wish to do we continue not to do.

    I think one has to bear in mind that in this section, Hodge is dealing with the accomplishment of redemption, not its application. I think that what he is saying is that Christ redeemed us from the dominion of sin by redeeming us from the guilt of sin. He’s arguing for the satisfaction theory of the atonement. As I recall, Hodge held to the traditional Protestant interpretation of the latter part of Romans 7, that is, that Paul is speaking autobiographically of his current struggle with sin.

    So, what is your thinking about Romans 7?

    I guess that’s a separate question. But since you asked … I admit I’m still wrestling with the various interpretations of that passage. I’ve become convinced that the major point Paul is making is a redemptive-historical one, not an autobiographical one, though I admit it’s hard not to see autobiographical overtones there, even if his “I” primarily refers to a corporate reality. I also tend to think that his use of the present tense has to be accounted for as well. I’m not really happy with an interpretation that doesn’t address all the elements in the passage.

    But I think it helps to remember that Paul’s expressed purpose in that passage is to elaborate on the question and answer that he had posed in verse 13: “Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.” So primarily, he’s vindicating the law (and the explicit reference is to the Mosaic covenant) while at the same time explaining its powerlessness, on account of the flesh (Romans 8:3) to effect sanctity in those who are under it. I don’t know that the passage should be seen primarily as an account of Paul’s present tense struggle with sin (or that of Christians in general), though it certainly speaks to the futility of seeking to be sanctified by the law. FWIW….

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  141. Dear David R, I think I agree with you about the redemptive-historical being more basic in Romans 7:7 following (more basic than the order of the application of salvation). You might want to check out Mark Karlberg on this topic.

    I used to read Romans 6:14 as being mainly redemptive-historical. No longer.

    I know Reformed confessions use “more and more” in terms of sanctification, but David, can you think of parallels in terms of union. I mean, besides Heidelberg Catechism 76—.

    Question 76. What is it then to eat the crucified body, and drink the shed blood of Christ?
    Answer: It is not only to embrace with believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ and thereby to obtain the pardon of sin, and life eternal; but also, besides that, to become MORE AND MORE UNITED TO HIS SACRED BODY, by the Holy Spirit, who dwells both in Christ and in us; so that we, though Christ is in heaven and we on earth, are notwithstanding “flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone” and that we live, and are governed forever by one Spirit….

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  142. Horton has some more interesting comments in chapter 4 (on the atonement) of his book FOR CALVINISM. He says the following: “The moral influence and governmental views (of the atonement-my addition) are basically subjective theories of the atonement. That is, they focus on the change that the cross effects in us, which moves us to faith and repentance. Our faith and repentance then become the basis of God’s acceptance. The bad news is not as bad (since God’s justice does not require perfect fulfillment of his law) but the good news is not as good. Instead of the announcement that Christ has fulfilled all righteousness and has borne our judgment, the message is that we can be saved by less strenuous obedience. The objective character of Christ’s work as creating a new state of affairs in God’s relation to sinners is diminished to the vanishing point.”

    Horton summarizes the Moral Influence theory as follows: “Reacting against Anselm’s theory, Abelard (1079-1142) defended what has come to be known as the moral influence theory. In this view Christ died to offer a moving example of God’s love for sinners, sufficient to induce them to repentance. Although Abelard included other aspects…..this model has been attractive especially in the trajectory that leads from Socianism (forerunners of the Unitarian-Universalists) through the Enlightenment to liberal Protestantism.”

    And governmental theory thus: “Mediating between Socinian (moral influence theory) and Reformation perspectives, the great Arminian scholar Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) advanced the governmental theory. According to this view, God’s nature does not demand absolute justice and the satisfaction of his righteous purposes. Rather, Christ’s death makes it possible for God to offer salvation on easier terms than those required by the law. Thus Christ’s death is not a real payment of a debt, but is merely the basis on which God’s just rule is exhibited. The basis of salvation is therefore not Christ’s perfect fulfillment of the law and curse-bearing in the place of the sinner, but the imperfect obedience of believers to a relaxed law.”

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  143. My point being that the movement in theology is away from the forensic and judicial to the relational and moral. Therefore what the Holy Spirit does inside of us takes precedence over the scene of the courtroom or accounting ledger. As Horton states: “Our faith and repentance then becomes the basis of God’s acceptance” of us.

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  144. Mark,

    I know Reformed confessions use “more and more” in terms of sanctification, but David, can you think of parallels in terms of union.

    Can you elaborate a little? I’m not quite sure I know what you’re getting at.

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  145. Dear David R, I was asking if you knew of anything else in the Confessions which speaks of more and more “union” like Heidelberg 76 does. I was under the impression that either you were united to Christ or not. I know that I have been married to my wife or not. How does “communion” get anybody more “union” and what do the confessions say about that?

    I am not really asking about “more sanctified”, because I understand the question there is about different definitions of “sanctified”. Yes, we are either born from above or not, but faith in the gospel grows. But how does “union” increase?

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  146. Mark,

    Okay, thanks. I thought your question had been prompted by something I’d written, but couldn’t figure out what. I agree that the “more and more” regarding union in HC 76 sounds strange to our ears. And yes, I also agree that one is either in Christ or not. But it seems Ursinus is referring to the strengthening of the mystical aspect of union (as analogously, a marriage can be strengthened), through the progress of sanctification. The following is from his comment on that Q&A in his HC commentary:

    This Question has respect to the thing which is signified by the Lord’s supper. The eating of the body, and the drinking of the blood of Christ is not corporal, but spiritual, and embraces, 1. Faith in his sufferings and death. 2. The forgiveness of sins, and the gift of eternal life through faith. 3. Our union with Christ through the Holy Spirit, who dwells both in Christ and in us. 4. The quickening influence of the same Spirit. Hence to eat the crucified body and to drink the shed blood of Christ is to believe that God receives us into his favor for the sake of Christ’s merits, that we obtain the remission of our sins, and reconciliation with God by the same faith, and that the Son of God, who having assumed our nature united it personally with himself, dwells in us, and joins us to himself, and the nature which he assumed, by granting unto us his Spirit, through whom he regenerates us, and restores in us light, righteousness, and eternal life such as belongs to the nature which he took upon himself. Or to express it more briefly, it is to believe to obtain the remission of sins by faith to be united with Christ, and to become partakers of his life, or to be made like unto Christ by the Holy Spirit who works the same things both in Christ and in us.

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  147. Dr. Hart,
    Agreed. It seems that A.A. Hodge feels he has to do it in order to maintain the priority of the forensic over the renovative, but I don’t think it’s necessary and I don’t think he makes his case.

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  148. In fairness to Hodge, I think maybe he’s simply trying to clarify the role of faith in justification, IOW, that the requirement for faith doesn’t diminish the graciousness (as in WLC 73). He says:

    The solution of this problem is to be found in the fact … that Christ by his obedience and suffering impetrated for his own people, not only the possibility of salvation, but salvation itself and all it includes, and the certainty and means of its application also. This he did in the execution of the provisions of a covenant engagement with his Father, which provides for the application of the purchased redemption to specific persons at certain times, and under certain conditions, all which conditions are impetrated by Christ, as well as definitely determined by the covenant.

    Nothing wrong with that. But he certainly says some things in that essay that are, at the very least, liable to be misunderstood.

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  149. If we say, as I do, that the incarnation of Jesus Christ is for the purpose of atonement and justification, does that mean we deny the need for the incarnation? If we locate the visibility of the church with individuals’ assent to the revealed doctrines of the gospel, as Charles Hodge does, in contrast with the external symbolic gestures by sanctioned authorities, does that mean we deny the importance of the incarnation? If we refuse the sacramental inheritance of Rome, does that mean that Protestant “minimalism” is “gnostic” and rejects the incarnation?

    I think not. The piety which claims objectivity “from the outside in” continues in many ways to identify the efficacy of the cross with the infusion and impartation of Christ in the sacramental “union”.

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2010/02/anti-incarnational-sacramentalism.html

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  150. Dr. Hart,

    Thanks. Actually, I think it’s my powers of copying and pasting that are unparalleled. Though I would like to transcribe some of the conversation if I can find the time.

    But to attempt to summarize a little: Horton starts out by taking issue with what he sees as Tipton’s emphasis on the radical divergence between Lutheranism and Calvinism. He says the consequence of this exaggeration is to caricature Lutheranism and at the same time create an idiosyncratic Calvinism. Secondly, he responds to Tipton’s labeling of his view as “Lutheran” by asserting that at every point at which the Reformed faith diverges from Lutheranism, he (Horton) follows the Reformed faith and not Lutheranism, and he challenges anyone to demonstrate otherwise. Thirdly, with regard to the charge of implicit semi-Pelagianism, he points out that he devoted thirty plus pages in his systematic theology to arguing that regeneration precedes faith, and that only a highly uncharitable reading could possibly conclude that he thinks the reverse to be true. When questioned about how he can then say that justification is the source or ground of the entire ordo salutis, even effectual calling and regeneration, he responds that he is simply agreeing with Vos, Berkhof and others, and he then quotes some of the numerous passages we’ve already seen in Berkhof, etc. (Incidentally, he says that he disagrees with Berkhof’s distinction between active and passive justification, which is borrowed from the Lutheran tradition. He points out that this actually makes Berkhof more of a “speech act Lutheran” than he is.) He also quotes from Vos’s essay, “The Alleged Legalism in Paul’s Doctrine of Justification,” which I hadn’t yet read, and which is another wonderful demonstration that Reformed theology views forensic benefits as the ground of renovative benefits. For example, Vos says:

    “In our opinion Paul consciously and consistently 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 and of subjective spiritual blessings enjoyed by the believer as the direct outcome of the forensic work of Christ applied in justification.”

    Wow.

    Horton then explains that when he says that justification is the ground of the ordo salutis, he is actually speaking of (if I understand, and I’m not sure I do) the announcement of the gospel, which the Holy Spirit uses to create faith, as stated in HC Q&A 65. There was also some discussion of how Horton thought the conversation could move forward.

    My take-away was that, while I did learn much from Gaffin and Tipton, I would really like to see some interaction from the union emphasis folks with the extensive citations that have been provided which clearly demonstrate that Horton’s view (agree or disagree) is actually Reformed. (I confess I’d also like further clarification on Horton’s view of justification in the announcement of the gospel.)

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  151. Thanks for posting the link and the report, David.

    If you don’t mind, may I ask, as a Lutheran to whom the answer seems obvious (and I’m not being snarky, but truly don’t understand): why would justification in the announcement of the gospel need clarification? Isn’t it self-evident? I’d very much appreciate help here.

    I’m not sure if you caught the very end of the show? In case you did not:

    After Horton’s interview was closed, one of the interviewer’s said they contacted Tipton for a rejoinder. He said he received a written reply and read it. The reply was short and here is a portion. Tipton said he was pleased Horton was willing to change his language in covenant and salvation and that justification is the “source” of effectual calling and regeneration. He does not want to answer Horton’s critiques of his views on Reformed Forum, and so forth, but let the two interviews stand alone.

    My summary of Tipton’s rejoinder: Hard to defend unintelligible straw men that have been knocked down.

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  152. Thinking that imputation of Christ’s righteousness comes before regeneration does not mean that that you think faith comes before regeneration. To assume that is to simply beg the question and continue to think that faith is what unites an elect person to Christ. But the very point Horton is making that union with Christ is by legal adoption. Legal adoption does not eliminate the need for regeneration (or effectual calling). But legal adoption is not the same as regeneration.

    There can be no effectual calling without the gospel, which is a revelation message about the righteousness, and this message is the power unto salvation. The elect at some point in time must not only hear that message and believe it. They need to have been imputed with that righteousness.

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  153. Lily,

    Wow, I feel like the guy who walked out of the movie theater when the credits rolled, only to find later that he missed that final scene afterwards. No, I hadn’t heard the surrejoinder from Tipton, thanks for alerting me to it! But you’re right, he didn’t really say much.

    Regarding what Horton said about justification in the declaration of the gospel, perhaps I need to listen again. But I thought that earlier in the interview, Horton had denied that he thinks justification is prior to faith. As you know, Reformed theology distinguishes between the external call of the gospel, which is universal, and the effectual call which (along with the rest of the ordo, including justification) is particular. But I take it that Horton perhaps meant that through the gospel announcement of justification by faith, the Holy Spirit creates justifying faith. But that still doesn’t seem to me to translate to justification as the forensic ground of calling, so I’m still not sure….

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  154. David R: “Horton perhaps meant that through the gospel announcement of justification by faith, the Holy Spirit creates justifying faith. But that still doesn’t seem to me to translate to justification as the forensic ground of calling.”

    mark: I think there is some ambiguity about this in Horton. And of course, there is even more ambiguity in Calvin, because on the one hand, Calvin rejects Osiander’s account of a “poured in” union, but on the other hand, Calvin wants to keep a distinction between “mere believing in” and “eucharistic nourishment” by mystical comm/union with the humanity of the risen Christ.

    Horton of course subscribes to the Confessions, which are probably correctly read as putting faith before the imputation of righteousness.

    Not to repeat myself, but I think we can get through this by remembering three points.

    1. We all agree that we are talking about logical order and not temporal order. Very few folks (if any) want to say that there are persons “in Christ” who are not also justifed (except being in Christ by election, and nobody much is talking about “the decree” anymore). Only a few teach “eternal justification” who want to say that there are justified persons who do not yet know and believe the gospel. (Horton, btw, in my opinion, is correct not to agree with the active/passive justifications, not only because the distinction is not biblical but also because that it tends to have the same problems as “eternal justification”.)

    2. I think it’s possible to put the imputation of righteousness in priority to effectual calling, without saying that there is “justification before faith”. a. There is the atonement, Christ’s achievement of the righteousness. Cannot we all agree that the righteousness (not “justification”) is the forensic ground of the calling. b. There is the imputation of Christ’s achievement to the elect. c. This imputation does not happen apart from the proclamation and the hearing of the gospel as its result and evidence. This is why I say there is no justification apart from faith.

    3. What are the dangers of such a view? The problem is not that forensic priority denies the need for revelation about the revealed righteousness. Indeed, if anything, the criticism of “gospel regeneration” is that it relies too much on the means of gospel proclaimed. If the imputation is “performative”, then God calls with the gospel, and not without the gospel.

    I Cor 1:16 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

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  155. Darryl, it’s the last few remaining minutes of the broadcast/podcast after the interview with Dr. Horton has ended and the reformed forum hosts are finishing the program.

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  156. I doubt if I will get a response here but I am confused (please no laughter) regarding this issue of passive and active justification. Someone (I think David R>) claimed that Berkhoff and Bavinck “borrowed” this idea from Lutherans but they did not name which Lutheran theologians were advocating this idea. And I do not understand why this idea has the same problems associated with it as eternal justification as advocated by some Reformed Baptists. Is this idea of passive and active justification in the Book of Concord or did it come from certain Lutheran theologians?

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  157. John, if I recall correctly, Horton, in the recent interview on Reformed Forum, said that Berkhof’s distinction between those two spheres justification is Lutheran, but he didn’t elaborate.

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  158. John, Nobody I know who calls themselves “Reformed Baptist” teaches eternal justification. Many of us who are baptists and teach the five points (including an atonement that’s not limited in its power to save all for whom Christ died). would not call ourselves “Reformed”. If we wanted to keep it nice, we would say that we know that being Reformed (or Lutheran) is much more than the five points, because for some it means sacramentalism, for others it means having a “salt and light” worldview, for others it means that all the covenants of the Bible are really one a-historical covenant, etc. And so because of these things, and oh also even though the paedobaptists claim to be credobaptists as well, we don’t agree about what baptism is, we are content not to be called “Reformed”.

    If we wanted to be a little less nice, we would point out that some of those who most want to lecture us about there being more points to being Reformed, and about the great evils of “reducing it all to the five points” (Kenneth Stewart, Todd Billings) are the very ones who seem not to teach the five points, at least not that Christ died for only the elect. To teach that, Boersma explains, would attribute violence to the very heart of God. So some of us baptists would say: if that’s what it means to be Reformed, that you don’t teach definite atonement but you do “covenant baptism”, who needs it?

    But I want to be nice, as always. To answer your question, John, the baptists in this country who teach “eternal justification” are usually “primitive baptists”, who have never called themselves “Reformed”. Also there are some few “strict baptists”, here and in Europe, who teach what John Gill taught, which is “eternal justification”, but with differences from what Kuyper taught.

    John, I think you know that I am neither a Primitive Baptist or a Reformed Baptist (athough I don’t always correct folks when they call me that). I am glad to have learned some things from people who are Reformed and hope to continue to learn, without of course being assimilated. When they patronize me, allowing for my not having read all the books they have (for surely if I had then I would then believe as they did!), I do try to be nice.

    We probably should talk more about exactly was said about “active and passive” justification, and also about Bavnick’s rejection of the “instrumental cause ” notion of faith. Suffice it for now to say that I think it’s dangerous to speak of two justifications. Of course there is the difference between “justifying God” and “justifying the ungodly” and I have written about that. But the Bible itself does not talk about “two justifications” for sinners. There is no “future justification”. Nor is there a “justification of our works”, even though Calvin taught this double justification.

    This is one of the beauties of justification in the Bible, John. It only has the one sense. “In Christ” or “union” does have different senses, and that’s one reason “union” is confusing, even if we don’t leave out the legal aspect of “union”.

    Have some happy holidays, John!

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  159. Thank you David and Mark for your responses.

    Mark- my comment regarding “Reformed Baptists” was referred to simply because I could not think of John Gill’s name when I wrote my last post. It was Mueller, I think, who reffered to Gill as Reformed Baptist (and that is why I referred to the Reformed Baptists in my comment) Gill had the most clear statements of why he believed in “eternal justification.” The reformed who adhere to their confessions of faith rejected the idea of “eternal justification.” I know you know this but I am just repeating things to myself and reviewing. I find that helpful when dialoging about fairly complex theological doctrines. It is always helpful to me to summarize the main points on occasion and review where the discussion has already gone.

    This continuing dialog has been helpful and has helped me see others points of view more clearly. I hope it continues on in the future. I have been so busy at work lately that I have not had time to organize my thoughts more clearly. That is always a continuing and sometimes complicated process.

    Happy holidays to you too Mark.

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  160. Bavinck: “Faith is not even a condition or instrument of justification, for it stands in relation to justification not as, for example, the eye to seeing or the ear to hearing. Faith is not a condition, upon which, nor an instrument or organ, through which we receive this benefit, but it is the acceptance itself of Christ and all his benefits, as He presents Himself to us through word and Spirit, and it includes therefore also the consciousness, that He is my Lord and I am his possession.”

    “Faith is therefore not an instrument in the proper sense, of which man makes use in order to accept Christ, but it is a sure knowledge and a solid confidence which the Holy Spirit works in the heart and through which He persuades and assures man that he, not withstanding all his sins, has part in Christ and in all his benefits.”

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  161. Tim, believe it or not, the question isn’t whether Reformed theologians taught union. The question is whether they gave it the importance that others have.

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  162. It seems to me that C. Hodge is giving it the same priority as L. Tipton, R. Gaffin, M. Garcia, and S. Ferguson. I wasn’t saying Hodge merely “taught union.” I’m saying he stresses (at least in the material that I linked to above) that it is only in our union with Christ that we recieve all the benefits of salvation. I read him as saying union with Christ has the priority over any benefit that comes from that union. Union, by the Spirit through faith, is the source of our justification, sanctification, and adoption because of the One to whom we are being united to. That is what I believe Calvin, Hodge, Gaffin, Ferguson, Tipton, Garcia, and others are saying.

    You don’t think Hodge is giving it same level of importance as the others I mentioned? After reading this material I would have to say he absolutely does.

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  163. Tim, I’m not sure this is a fair comparison since none of the theologians you cite (aside from Hodge) wrote a 3 volume systematics. And in those systematics you will find assertions of justification priority. So are you saying that Hodge is following the unionists or that the unionists are following Hodge?

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  164. “Justification in Galatians”, p 172, Moo’s essay in the Carson f (Understanding the Times)—Nor is there any need to set Paul’s “juridicial” and “participationist” categories in opposition to ibe another (see Gaffin, By Faith Not By Sight, p 35-41). The problem of positing a union with Christ that precedes the erasure of our legal condemnation before God ( eg, making justification the product of union with Christ; see Michael Horton, Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ, Westminster John Knox, 2007, p 147) CAN BE ANSWERED IF WE POSIT, WITHIN THE SINGLE WORK OF CHRIST, TWO STAGES OF “JUSTIFICATION”, one involving Christ’s payment of our legal debt–the basis for our regeneration–and second our actual justification=stemming from our union with Christ.”

    mark: No way! so they don’t deny election or legal atonement or legal imputation, but in the end they continue to make “actual justification” the result of “union” which is for them a “faith-union”. They still get faith first (and not God’s imputation of Christ’s righteousness) in the “real justification” . Calling Christ’s death (and resurrection?) not only “the legal payment” but the “first justification” doesn’t change the fact that they start by saying there is no order of application and then turn around and make the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith first in the order of application.

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