I know that Lane will have much more to say by means of following up his opening shot in Reponse to Jason Stellman, Part 1, but I wanted to open up a new thread so that those who want to focus on the issue of Galatians, especially chapters 5-6, in relation to justification can continue the debate in the combox. Since the comments are about to break the 500 comment barrier under Lane’s post, it is probably useful to focus in on the most relevant issues being discussed. Jeff Cagle has been good enough to respond to some of Jason Stellman’s arguments from Galatians, and I wanted to highlight these issues amidst the rest of the cluttered and often irrelevant back-and-forth.
I did want to give a few brief thoughts of my own.
1. The pivotal issue being discussed is what “faith working through love” actually counts for in Galatians 5:6. Does it count for justification, or for the Christian life (sanctification)? Horton is not the only person to say that justification is not in view here. Luther wrote:
Therefore no one with any sense can take this passage to refer to the business of justification in the sight of God; for it is speaking of the total life of Christians, and it is faulty dialectic or the fallacy of composition and division to attribute to one part what is said of the whole.
With respect to the present passage, Paul enters into no dispute whether love cooperates with faith in justification; but, in order to avoid the appearance of representing Christians as idle and as resembling blocks of wood, he points out what are the true exercises of believers….Paul does not here treat of justification, or assign any part of the praise of it to love. Had he done so, the same argument would prove that circumcision and ceremonies, at a former period, had some share in justifying a sinner. As in Christ Jesus he commends faith accompanied by love, so before the coming of Christ ceremonies were required. But this has nothing to do with obtaining righteousness, as the Papists themselves allow; and neither must it be supposed that love possesses any such influence.
Note that Calvin mentions that even Romanist theologians admit that justification is not in view here. As far as I can tell, much (most? all?) of the debate surrounding this verse during the Reformation period was not over whether this was the case, but whether this verse established that faith is *constitued* by love, that is to say either “formed by love” or “wrought by love” as opposed to love being a description of what faith does or fruit of faith. That debate is largely dead in our time, at least as far as serious commentators are concerned.
Jason Stellman has objected:
The immediate context of the FWTL is Paul’s question to those “who would be justified by the law” (v. 4). He then insists that circumcision avails nothing (v. 6). The only reasonable answer to the question “avails nothing for what?” is “avails nothing for justification.”
One should note that Paul is concerned throughout his letter to the Galatians with the antithesis of circumcision/law/flesh in relation to both justification and the Christian life. At least as early as 3:3 he expresses that the Christian life is incompatible with it: ”Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” It should be no surprise that, at various points in the letter, justification or sanctification come to the forefront respectively or, indeed are present side-by-side in some cases.
Strictly speaking, 5:6 grounds or somehow explains 5:5, and 5:5 grounds or explains 5:4 (“gar” is present in 5:5 and 5:6). 5:4 explicitly refers to justification, but 5:5 refers to eagerly awaiting the hope of righteousness, an apt description of the Christian life. And 5:6 starts with “in Christ…”, a strong indication that “what doesn’t [or does] matter/count” is in reference to those already in union with Christ. I know that Romanists will simply answer that justification and the Christian life/sanctification are co-mingled, but in any case it cannot be said that Paul has no concern with the Christian life in relation to the faith vs. circumcision/law antithesis.
There is also an exegetical matter that is not often discussed, and that is the significance of the parallels that 5:6 has with 6:15: ”For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” Paul omits the “in Christ” clause here, but in 6:16 he pronounces blessing on all those who “walk by this rule.” Again we find here a reference to the Christian life, a principle by which the Christian “walks.” And in I Corinthians 7:19, the expression appears again: “For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.” This immediately follows on Paul’s admonition in 7:17: ”Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.” Here neither circumcision nor uncircumcision “count” for the life in Christ that the Lord has assigned us.
2. Jeff Cagle rightly points out that 3:27 does not establish a causal link between baptism and “putting on Christ”. I think the lack of attention to the actual grammar and logic of texts such as these is a habitual fallacy made by Romanists. ”As many as X, have done Y” only establishes that the same group of people who have undergone X have also undergone Y. It does not say nor imply that X causes Y. This is to be contrasted with the way Paul speaks about faith, the prepositions in the “by faith” clauses indicate that faith is an instrumental cause of justification. No such construction exists for either baptism or good works.
Jeff is also right to point out that Abraham’s justification came before the sacrament of the faith, circumcision, and is held up by Paul as the exemplar and archetype of our own salvation in both Galatians and Romans. We are familiar with the problem baptismal justification and/or regeneration poses to various Protestant sacramentalists and moralists, such as the Federal Visionists, as it shatters the unity of the covenant of grace. And with Roman theology, too, one is forced to conclude that one is justified by different means than was Abraham when one adopts a scheme like this.
It will not do to simply object that Abraham had demonstrated faith before Genesis 15, especially in leaving his homeland in Ur to follow God’s leading. Most (all?) Protestant commentators admit that Abraham had saving faith before Genesis 15:6 and that this was not the moment he went from a state of wrath to a state of justification before God. But both Moses and Paul pick out this instance of faith in the life of Abraham for good reason, it articulates, specifically, the promises and messianic hope that he was to trust God for and, strikingly, the fact that Abraham performed no good work in response. He was passive, he simply believed and trusted. Sure, when we finally get around to 15:10 Abraham arranges the animals for God as commanded, but this was provided as a help to Abraham to assure him of God’s promises. And even then, God puts Abraham to sleep and God is the one active in the ceremony. You couldn’t ask for a better picture.
3. This is a somewhat tangential point, but I will say that I would find no intellectual attraction to Rome even if the Protestant doctrine of sola fide were not biblical and, indeed, even if sola scriptura were unbiblical or untrue. The claims of Rome go far, far beyond a mere denial of sola fide (as they will freely admit) and, in fact, if I had to earn my own salvation I would avoid their medieval, man-made, labyrinthian system of works in favor of the piety that the Bible actually promotes.