Further Response to Dr. Clark

I will respond to Dr. Clark’s post seriatim.

1. This qualification is well-taken. Olevian is his own man, and has many things in his background influencing his theology, of which one of the more important influences is Calvin’s teaching. This seems nuanced enough for anyone.

2. My argument is not really taking this form. I certainly do not mean to imply in the slightest that Clark has misread Olevian, as I am in no position whatsoever to judge on the matter, as Clark points out. All I really want to ask is this question: given Gaffin’s and Garcia’s interpretation of Calvin (not implying that it is true, merely positing that it is out there) as teaching union with Christ containing the duplex gratia, would Dr. Clark say that Olevian’s doctrine of the covenant functions for Olevian in the same way that Gaffin/Garcia say that union functions for Calvin?

3. It might be that Garcia’s answer to this question (and he would be in a better position to answer it: I have not read Venema’s thesis) would be that the entire thesis is really his justification of his differences with Venema’s analysis. I just throw it out there as something I could imagine Garcia saying. I am not implying that he would say it, or that it is necessarily a logical answer to the question.

4. I agree with Clark’s examples that they are examples of anachronism. However, is asking Calvin (historically speaking) about union with Christ and its relationship to justification and sanctification anachronistic? To me, it does not seem so.

5. I can affirm almost everything in what Dr. Clark says here in relationship to the distinction of historical theology and systematic theology. And I am also grateful that he addressed my concern regarding separating the two. I don’t have any problem with saying that HT and ST have distinct methodologies. My concern is that, ultimately speaking, truth is one. And I am (and I think Dr. Clark is also) seeking to honor that. That being said, the goal of HT, that of accurately describing the theology under examination, is not separated from describing any theology accurately, including Scripture’s theology. Is there such a distinction between HT and ST that there is not some overlap? When we come to Scripture, for instance, are we not engaged in accurately describing the theology of Scripture? When it comes to Scripture, HT and ST are both seeking accurately to describe Scripture’s truth. The problem here is that accurate description of a theologian (who is accurate to Scripture!) will also be an accurate description of Scripture. Of course, the methodologies of HT and ST differ. I do not mean to confuse the two. However, value judgments are inevitable. I do not believe that there is such a thing as complete objectivity. Of course there is absolute truth. However, our appropriation of it must be biased, hopefully by the biblical bias. We want to think God’s thoughts after Him, and His thoughts are the only true ones.

6. I don’t believe that I am transmuting “logically” into “temporally.” Let me explain what I mean: it seems to me that justification is grounded on the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. Sanctification is grounded on the righteousness of Christ infused into us. It is the same righteousness, but appropriated differently (although faith is the instrument in both). This is part of the reason why I want to say that they are simul (does Clark agree that Calvin is saying simul?). The infusion is not based on the imputation. Rather, they are simultaneously given (justification in its punctiliar manner, sanctification in its progressive manner). This preserves the distinction between them without saying that they are separated. Now, I would never accuse any of the WSC profs of saying that justification and sanctification are separated (contra the writers of A Faith That Is Never Alone). But it seems to me easier to hold them together if they are given simul. This is not the reason why I hold this belief, but rather a practical ramification of it.

7. In phone conversations with Dr. Gaffin, the way he put it to me was that the doctrine of justification itself is the same among the Reformed and the Lutherans, but that the context of that doctrine in the loci is distinct. I still wonder if rapprochement between WTS and WSC is not possible exactly here: covenant functions for WSC the way union functions for WTS. Both seminaries seem to agree that something holds justification and sanctification together. One says union and the other says covenant. I bet almost anything there is a way to come together on this.

8. Pedagogy does not define the ordo salutis. I agree with that. And it is important to remember. My point is this: if sanctification is logically dependent on justification, then why not treat justification first? Is it not good pedagogy to make the ordo docendi follow the ordo salutis? Does this not happen in almost every systematic theology which we possess? In a sense, we are talking about form and meaning. The form that Calvin’s Institutes takes means something. We know that the final edition of the Institutes was the result of great wrestling in the mind of Calvin to get the order and arrangement correct. That means, that in the mind of Calvin, treating sanctification first was the correct order for pedagogical purposes. Why? It seems to me that the Gaffin/Garcia model here can explain that. I would very much like to see Clark give an explanation for why this is.

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10 Comments

  1. Wes White said,

    July 31, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Lane, Calvin explains his reason for the order in the first chapter on justification. “Because it seemed of more consequence first to explain that the faith by which alone, through the mercy of God, we obtain free justification, is not destitute of good works; and also to show the true nature of these good works on which this question partly turns.” In other words, his purpose was polemical in order to shore up his arguments for justification by faith alone.

    He then goes on to say, “The doctrine of justification is now to be fully discussed, and discussed under the conviction, that as it is the principal ground on which religion must be supported, so it requires greater care and attention. For unless you understand first of all what your position is before God, and what the judgement which he passes upon you, you have no foundation on which your salvation can be laid, or on which piety towards God can be reared.”

  2. greenbaggins said,

    July 31, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    Right. Gaffin and Garcia argue that the polemical purpose stems from Calvin’s belief that it really doesn’t matter what order you put them in, since neither is dependent on the other.

  3. Wes White said,

    July 31, 2008 at 5:41 pm

    Do you think there is any correlation of the two benefits at all? Or would you say that they are absolutely independent and correlated only with union with Christ?

    If so, what do you think the relationship is between the two?

  4. greenbaggins said,

    July 31, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Well, they are both acts of God’s grace, they both deal with sin (one dealing with sin’s guilt, and the other with sin’s power), they are given inseparably, one never without the other, and justification is a key aspect of assurance, which is part and parcel of sanctification. So there is a very tight connection between the two. What I am saying is that the mechanism by which we obtain each is different, the one by imputation, and the other by infusion. Neither imputation nor infusion depends on the other. That is what I mean.

  5. Wes White said,

    July 31, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    When is the first infusion of new characteristics? Is not the infusion of new characteristics the basis by which someone is able to exercise faith? In this sense, the first infusion of new characteristics would actually be both logically and temporally prior to imputation, if imputation follows faith.

    By this I do not mean that our faith or the new characteristics are imputed as our righteousness before God. All I am saying is that the new characteristics must be present in order for the instrument (of faith) to be present. This seems to be what is in mind in WCF 13:1.

  6. July 31, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    [...] this response I focus only on Lane’s points 5 and 6, because those are ones about which I’m most [...]

  7. July 31, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    This may not be material to this discussion so if it is not please ignore it but in John Murray’s introduction to his Commentary on Romans he says this:

    “…And our death to sin is guaranteed by our union with Christ in his death and resurrection (6:3-5). The strength of sin is the law and if we have been put to death to the law by the body of Christ (7:4), we have died to sin. Furthermore, by union with Christ we have come under the reign of grace and sin can no longer exercise dominion (6:14). This is the basis and assurance of sanctification. Christ died for us-this is our justification. But if he died for us, we who also died with him-is the guarantee of sanctification.”

  8. July 31, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Ben,

    That is exactly the point Garcia/Gaffin have been making all along! That’s also why Calvin expresses the duplex gratia the way that he does (distinct but simul).

    Suprise. Gaffin following Murray…I can’t believe it ;)

  9. Roger Mann said,

    August 1, 2008 at 9:51 am

    5. Wes White wrote,

    When is the first infusion of new characteristics? Is not the infusion of new characteristics the basis by which someone is able to exercise faith? In this sense, the first infusion of new characteristics would actually be both logically and temporally prior to imputation, if imputation follows faith.

    This whole discussion is confused by the notion that “imputation” is a temporal act of God ad extra — that is, something external to God that we “obtain” or “appropriate” or “receive” within us, as sanctification is. But that is hardly the case. Imputation is a purely mental act wherein God accounts, credits, or reckons a sinner to be righteous in Christ. It is something that takes place within the mind of God and is wholly outside of us. And if it is an internal act of God’s mind, then it must be an eternal act of God’s mind, as God is not subject to a temporal succession of thoughts as we are — He is immutable.

    There’s no doubt that the Spirit of God pronounces the sentence of justification within the consciences of believers through the instrumentality of faith. But that is a temporal act of God outside of Himself and is quite distinct from “imputation,” which is an immanent act that resides entirely within the eternal mind of God. As John Gill points out:

    “What scriptures may be thought to speak of faith, as a prerequisite to justification, cannot be understood as speaking of it as a prerequisite to the being of justification [which is an eternal act of God’s mind]; for faith has no causal influence upon it, it adds nothing to its being, it is no ingredient in it, it is not the cause nor matter of it; at most, they can only be understood as speaking of faith as a prerequisite to the knowledge and comfort of it, and to a claim of interest in it; and this is readily allowed, that no man is evidentially and declaratively justified until he believes; that is, he cannot have the knowledge of it, nor any comfort from it; nor can he claim his interest in it, without faith; and this being observed, obviates another objection, that if justification is before faith, then faith is needless and useless. It is not so; it is not of use to justify men, which it is never said to do; but it is of use to receive the blessing of justification, and to enjoy the comfort of it.” (A Body of Doctrinal Divinity, II, V, 2b7e.)

  10. fws said,

    August 13, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    I am coming late into this conversation.

    the two lutheran sources that are the definitive and official lutheran positions on sanctification are article VI of the formula of concord. http://www.thirduse.com and the small and large catechism of dr martin luther. 3rd article of the apostles creed. period. forde and others are not the official word that would bind the conscience of any Lutheran. the lutheran confessions are.


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