Friendly Response to Scott Clark

I do not necessarily speak for the other Christ the Center folks in responding the way I do to Scott Clark’s blog post about our FV discussion. This should be very clearly in mind. If the others decide they agree, fair enough, they can comment on my blog or elsewhere.

The issue with Dr. Gaffin is certainly a WTS versus WSC issue, not just an issue regarding the Federal Vision, or even regarding Norman Shepherd. In my opinion, Dr. Gaffin has sufficiently distanced himself from those problematic formulations in his recent book, in the article in the WTS book on justification, and in his article in the newest Theological Guide to Calvin’s Institutes. This may be a matter of a difference of opinion. However, in talking at length with Dr. Gaffin about these matters, it seems quite clear to me that Dr. Gaffin does in fact uphold the Westminster Standards on these issues. And I am not merely defending my professor on this issue. I think it is true.

The second issue is a point well taken. I think we were more concerned with describing what the Federal Vision is, rather than describing its reception per se in the NAPARC denominations. It certainly cannot be heard too many times that it has been rejected by so many denominations in the NAPARC organization.  

236 Comments

  1. ReformedSinner(DC) said,

    July 1, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    WSC is definitely very suspicious of WTS BT for awhile, and their “concerns” over Dr. Gaffin’s formulations. The recent Enns controversy only gave them more ammunition and confidence that their concern was warranted and correct.

    When I read the “Pattern of Sound Doctrine” I was shock at the way Dr. Hart attacked Dr. Gaffin. While Hart is always fun to read but I think in this particular instance he has gone overboard in his evalutions and conclusions. It is very unfair to Dr. Gaffin.

    Personally, I think Dr. Gaffin should spend his now wonderfully retired time to write more books. I fresh new writes instead of polishing up a thesis or elaborate on a previous articles.

  2. July 1, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    Lane,

    I was a little surprised at how strongly Dr. Clark responded to this particular CTC program. We didn’t even mention Gaffin in the talk on the FV and I believe we would have come to the same conclusions as Clark (at least I would) as to the deviation of the FV theology from the historic, Reformed (and I would argue, “biblical”) Gospel.

    I do appreciate his concern over our failure to mention the ecclesiastical statements concerning the unbiblical nature of the FV theology. We should always appeal to the papers produced by solid Reformed denominations on issues like this. Of course, the FV men would jump in and say “We should appeal to the Bible.” And so, in order to answer the objection in advance, ‘We should always go to Scripture to show in what ways the FV theology is a deviation from truth.”

  3. July 1, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    This may be just me, but, if Dr. Clark criticizes Dr. Gaffin’s view of union with Christ, doesn’t he inevitably have to critique Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Derek Thomas, and many others? It appears to me that the majority of Reformed systematic theologians would agree with Gaffin/Murray on the issue of mystical union (not to mention most of those who were Reformed throughout church history.) I know that when I had a conversation (on my blog) with Dr. Clark, he continually stated that Dr. Gaffin believes that union with Christ is the “central dogma” from which all of systematics flows, which in my reading (basically everything that Gaffin has written) is simply inaccurate! It (union) may be architectonic with respect to applied soteriology, but certainly not systematics as a whole. I think concerning that point, Gaffin might be inclined to agree with Dr. VanDrunen with respect to the covenant as being foundational to all systematics.

    Just some thoughts.

  4. David Gray said,

    July 1, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    >It certainly cannot be heard too many times that it has been rejected by so many denominations in the NAPARC organization.

    When do you think the OPC will reject it?

  5. July 1, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Hi Lane,

    I have no interest in making disagreements where they aren’t. This isn’t a partisan issue for me. I don’t believe that WSC has a distinctive doctrine of union with Christ. I think we are all committed to teaching what the Reformed have always taught and what the Reformed churches confess. I have a lot of affinity with the theological studies dept at WTS. Carl and I are dear friends. Lane was a student as was Jeff Jue and I’m friendly with Scott Oliphant and Dick Gaffin. I’ve been at and spoken at conferences with Scott and Dick. Jeff was just out here this year and we had a great time together. I really don’t want people to think that there’s some great tension between WSC and the theological/historical studies guys at WTS/P. There isn’t.

    I think we need, however, to reckon honestly with the dogmatic relations between Dick’s earlier formulation of the nature and role of union with Christ, in The Centrality of the Resurrection, where, as I recall, he did use the central dogma method, and his strong and long-standing support for Norm Shepherd and even his support for John Kinnaird’s indefensible views. Some of this stuff wasn’t very long ago. Indeed, as I recall, one of his supporters asked him on the floor of GA how he relates his support for the OPC report and his (just then) published book on justification so it’s not as if I’m dredging up ancient history here.

    This is not a personal thing. This is about what constitutes Reformed theology. There’s no question that union with Christ is an important doctrine. The question is whether it has such a central role that the rest of Reformed theology somehow flows from it or whether there is any central doctrine to Reformed theology.

    I think I saw a post on GB a while back on union and I thought, well, there’s nothing wrong with that. I wish you (and maybe the Castle Church guys) would read my book on Olevianus and tell me how you think Olevian’s and Calvin’s doctrine of the duplex beneficium and duplex gratia relate to Dick’s views? I did an essay on double justification for a festschrift where I connected Luther’s early doctrine of double justification with Calvin’s doctrine of duplex gratia and Olevian’s doctrine of duplex beneficium. I would be glad to have some feedback on those two.

  6. Camden Bucey said,

    July 1, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    @David Gray – the OPC rejected the FV two years ago

    http://www.opc.org/GA/JustificationBook.pdf

  7. Darryl Hart said,

    July 1, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Reformed Sinner: if you thought my reference to Dick Gaffin in the Strimple festschrift was an attack, then please stay away from my wife who thinks I’m an attack machine. She didn’t object, however, to what I wrote about Dick, or Frame or Trumper in that piece. She thought I was nice. Nor did she object to the way I cited Carl Trueman for support. In a Themelios editorial he made a point similar to mine about the relationship between BT and ST getting out of alignment.

    I am curious though how you thought my piece constituted an attack. I was trying to contrast Old Princeton’s rhetoric of simply handing on what they had received (possibly naively) from seventeenth Reformed orthodoxy with WTS’ rhetoric of theological creativity. Maybe you think theological creativity is a good thing. WTS’ recent experience with Enns may suggest otherwise.

  8. Thomas keene said,

    July 1, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    With Michael Lynch, I would like to know here Gaffin claims that Union with Christ is central to systematic theology as a whole. I have seen such a claim for soteriology, but not all of systematics.

  9. Thomas keene said,

    July 1, 2008 at 4:09 pm

    Sorry, I mean “where.”

  10. David Gray said,

    July 1, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    >@David Gray – the OPC rejected the FV two years ago

    As I read the General Assembly minutes the report was not approved by the GA.

  11. David Gray said,

    July 1, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    Actually on re-reading the minutes I am mistaken. Apologies.

  12. July 1, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Let me urge everyone to digest Gaffin’s recent little book *By Faith, Not By Sight.*, as fine a work as he’s ever written. His construction on the relationship between union with Christ and justification on the one hand and faith and works on the other (not to mention his overarching critique of of the NPP from the standpoint of Rom. 5, *not* Rom. 4) is in striking harmony with his views expressed in *Resurrection and Redemption.* If there is a “new” Gaffin, he is not evident in his recent published writings.

    I am sorry if my public endorsement (which I have communicated to him privately) is a kiss of death, but Gaffin’s views (in line with those of Vos, Ridderbos, and even Cullmann at points) are part of the solution, not the problem.

    I’m afraid that Gaffin’s critics from “The Right” may well end up surrendering the hard-won gains of Biblical theology on the grounds of “innovation” before it’s all over.

    And that would be a pity.

  13. Thomas Keene said,

    July 1, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    @Sandlin: The was a refreshingly wonderful comment. Balanced. Nuanced. Wonderful.

  14. Vern Crisler said,

    July 1, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    The FV stuff has convinced me that the Lutherans were right in seeing justification by faith as the “central dogma” from which everything else flows.

    The Reformed emphasis on covenant and/or union appears to shift the focus away from what St. Paul thought was central — man’s legal standing before God. Focusing on man’s ontological relation to God (union with Christ) opens the door to ecclesiasticism once union is reductionistically associated with the visible church.

    I wonder if Scott Clark or Andrew or some others would agree or disagee, and if so, why or why not?

    Curious,

    Vern
    vcrisler3@cox.net
    http://vernerable.tripod.com

  15. Jim Cassidy said,

    July 1, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    Remember that NAPARC itself has rejected the FV when it denied the CREC membership!

  16. ReformedSinner(DC) said,

    July 1, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    #7 Dr. Hart:

    Sorry, nice try, but no I do not think theological creativity is a good thing and I’ve never said that. Also, while I don’t have an issue with your critiques of Enns and by implication the direction of some in the BT department; however, I DO take issue with your lumping Gaffin in your critiques. I stand by my assessment, you’re unfair in your treatment of Gaffin’s work and his achievements at WTS.

  17. July 2, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Vern,

    In general the CD approach to theology is unnecessary. It certainly is a useless way to try to account for the past. You should take a look at David VanDrunen’s esay and Mike Horton’s essay in the Strimple Festschrift. They address this question. The historic Reformed approach is to call the doctrine of justification the article of the standing or falling of the church. We used covenant theology and the three covenant scheme (pactum salutis, covenant of works, and covenant of grace) to account for our doctrine of justification. We don’t need a central dogma. Please note that I avoided the temptation to make yet another reference to the Treasure of the Sierra Madre. I really wanted to use that line, but I didn’t.

  18. Darryl Hart said,

    July 2, 2008 at 10:56 am

    ReformedSinner: In the interest of fairness, could you connect the dots between my reference to Gaffin in the essay you mentioned above and your understanding of unfairness? Here is the lone citation I made of Gaffin in that essay:

    “Whatever the consequence, by the next generation Westminster Seminary theologians would be hard pressed to summon up the language of science once Murray and Van Til had begun to dissent from it. For instance, in his inaugural address as Professor of New Testament, Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., who would follow in the path of Charles Hodge and Warfield to move from biblical studies to systematic theology, made the ‘not entirely modest proposal’ of discontinuing the designation of ‘systematic theology.’ Instead, he suggests using ‘biblical theology’ to refer to ‘the comprehensive statement of what Scripture teaches (dogmatics), always insuring that its topical divisions remain sufficiently broad and flexible to accommodate the results of the redemptive-historically regulated exegesis on which it is based.’

    You will notice that I did not single Gaffin out, that I even mentioned the OP untouchables of Murray and Van Til. I could be wrong about the contrast between PTS and WTS, but how is interpreting a historical development unfair? You seem to question motives where reasoning may be more at issue.

  19. July 2, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Vern,

    You got Scott’s take.

    Now you might want to investigate H. Bullinger and “The Other Reformed Tradition” about which Scott et al. are almost always strangely, but not surprisingly, silent. See HB’s *The One Eternal Covenant* (Louisville: John Knox Press). The early Swiss Reformers were almost untouched by Lutheranizing soteriology.

    They were “monergistic sola fide bilateral covenantalists” all the way down.

    Biblically, there is no central dogma, only a central Person.

  20. July 2, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    # 8

    For Gaffin, union with Christ is central to soteriology/eschatology (basically the same thing for the BT guys), not central to the entire theological enterprise. I suspect Gaffin would agree with CVT in finding the latter in “the self-contained Triune God.”

  21. Darryl Hart said,

    July 2, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Andrew: is the SCOT central, or is Christ? Or are both one person?

  22. ReformedSinner(DC) said,

    July 2, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    I suspect Dr. Hart, Dr. Scott, and Dr. Gaffin are communicating already on this regard in the past, and if they can’t convince each other face to face I doubt I can do a much better job. Therefore I will let the case rest, but I do enjoy the conversations that’s still going on here.

  23. Vern Crisler said,

    July 2, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    Re: 17 & 19
    Hi Scott and Andrew,

    Andrew, your statement makes not sense to me: “The early Swiss Reformers were almost untouched by Lutheranizing soteriology.” Also, Scott, I don’t understand the reference to the “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” Is it supposed to be like the Holy Grail?

    Please forgive my dullness.

    I’ve been reading about Thomas, Scotus, and Ockham for the last few months, so my mind is a bit fried. That’s why the points you made did not make much sense to me.

    As far as central dogma goes, it’s hard to read (say) Romans and not come away with the view that justification by faith alone is the DOGMA of all DOGMAS in Paul’s thought. (As compared to the other New Testament writers.) Romans chapters 1 thru 7 are almost exclusively about the topic, and they serve as the foundation of 8 thru 16. Galatians 1 thru 5 is all about justification by faith alone, and it’s the foundation for 5 thru 6. We see it again in Ephesians 2:8, 2 Timothy 1: 9, and Hebrews 11.

    Paul does discuss election, various ethical matters, conduct in the churches, etc, but nothing comes close to justification by faith alone as Paul’s central concern. I think the Lutherans are right that it’s central, definitely more so than covenant or union.

    Compare with James who emphasizes ethics so much so that some (early Luther) thought he was in conflict with Paul’s teaching on justification. (He was not, as Berkouwer noted, since James was only opposed to justification by words alone.) Compare Peter’s epistles, where the focus is also largely on ethics and Christ’s redemptive work. Compare also with John, who focuses on ethics and the dangers of heresy.

    And yet, where is there much of a discussion of covenant in the New Testament? Gal. 4:21 is about the only place, aside from the institution of communion by Jesus.

    I guess I just don’t understand the Reformed opposition to the central dogma motif in light of all of the scriptural data. BTW, any good online sources on this topic?

    Vern

  24. Thomas Keene said,

    July 2, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Gaffin is his nuance. He always tells you what he means. It might be helpful to define “central” here. For Gaffin, I don’t think it is simplistically identified with “most important.” Rather, Union with Christ is central in the sense of centrifugal, it gives motion and impetus to all the benefits of redemption. The importance of this formulation is that, in centering Union, you do not sublimate the other benefits to one another (sanctification as “remembering one’s justification,” for example). I think this is what Andrew means by “lutheranizing”–making all the other benefits of redemption footnotes to Justification.

  25. Darryl Hart said,

    July 2, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    Mr. Keene, I’m not sure what you mean by the importance of making union with Christ central so that, for instance, you don’t sublimate sanctification to justification. Would you agree that one needs to be justified in order to be justified, and that it would be improper to say one needs to be sanctified in order to be justified? If that’s so, then how does union alter that relationship between justification and sanctification?

  26. July 2, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    Darryl,

    I was expressing my own view and also CVT’s view (= his language).

    I think Cullman’s probably right: for the NT church, Trinitarianism grew out of Christology.

  27. July 2, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Vern, I just don’t think there’s *A* central dogma in the Bible. Frame’s right about this. RJR termed this quest a “lust for a master principle.” It afflicts “us smart people,” the “deep thinkers,” who prefer tidy, coherent explanations.

    God doesn’t oblige us.

    Justification by faith alone IS a crucial Pauline (and Abrahamic and Mosaic and Jesusian!) teaching for some of the reasons you give, but not the “central dogma” in terms of which all else must be understood.

  28. July 2, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Vern, by the way, it’s hard to refute Barth that the actual *Reformed* soteric distinctive was predestination, not justification (as the Lutherans would say) or covenant (as many of the modern Reformed would say). See KB’s *The Theology of the Reformed Confessions.*

  29. Vern Crisler said,

    July 2, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    No online resources? Ah! You guys are going to make me spend my money, yes?

    Vern

  30. chaos said,

    July 2, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    8. In “By Faith, Not By Sight” p.43 (my Christmas present from Thomasgoodwin) Gaffin states: “The central soteriological reality is union with the exalted Christ…” under the subheading “The Center of Paul’s Theology and the Order of Salvation.”
    1. Sinning Reformer, you’re wrong and uninformed and your comment is needlessly divisive. As far as there being an East side vs. West side skirmish, I experienced no such thing while studying at WSC. Gaffin was held in very high regard during my classes. We read him favorably for several classes. There were a few disagreements regarding Gaffin’s concern over Murray’s presentation of the ordo. Van Drunen told us that Gaffin and he were having friendly discussions concerning that topic.
    There might be a rumor of hostility probably fueled by one of Dr. Gaffin’s fan’s ‘spitting the dummy’ (as my Australian friends call it) at a very helpful book by WSC’s faculty titled ‘Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry’ in the editorial section of the OPC’s ‘Ordained Servant.’ And there was little more than a tremor on WSC’s campus afterward.

    Gaffin states at least part of his concern on p. 128 of Resurrection and Redemption. He dislikes using the traditional ‘ordo salutis’ because it does not allow us to state what was central: our union with the resurrected Christ.

    For a more intense discussion than this concerning Gaffin, Union, and Horton’s Covenant theology search Thomasgoodwin.wordpress.com for the discussion including Brannan Ellis, Matt Morgan, and Mark Jones….careful of Brannan.
    13. Carpenters call that slurping for goodness sake.

  31. ReformedSinner(DC) said,

    July 3, 2008 at 1:18 am

    #30 Chaos:

    Sorry Chaos but I don’t know how you get the idea I’m trying to flame WSC vs. WTS. I also do not see that, I am strictly talking about the unfair treatment Gaffin gets from Hart (in his chapter in “Pattern of Sound Doctrine”), and to a lesser extent Clark’s understanding of Gaffin’s Union with Christ formulation. Funny since both Hart and Clark in this forum have not hide the fact of their “concerns” over what’s going on in the BT area at WTS. Perhaps you should scroll up and read and re-read Clark’s critique of Gaffin’s support of Shepherd (as late as 2000) and Kinnaird. And his concern over Gaffin’s Union with Christ. Also scroll up and read Hart’s unrepentant rhetoric in grouping Gaffin and “creative theology” together.

    Maybe you know something more about WSC that Hart and Clark don’t. I actually agree (in other thrends) that SOME in WTS BT have deviated from the Reformed Faith, however, if you read me carefully I am defending Gaffin, not critiquing WSC nor Hart nor Clark’s views of WTS BT in general.

    Once again I have not mention any skimish. As Clark has wrote many faculty on both sides are great friends. I have no doubt even in their critique of each other Gaffin-Clark-Hart are good friends. Critique does not = attack nor does it = insult. Critique is a good thing if one’s able to sharpen each other in the faith and in the truth. So read me right before you shoot ammunition my way.

    So Chaos, once again, I am not suggesting by far any WSC vs. WTS. I don’t know how can anyone read what I wrote and get that sense. I AM having an issue with chapter 1 of “Pattern of Sound Doctrine” when Dr. Hart group Gaffin into the “creativeness” of WTS BT, and by implication the argument that WTS BT (including Gaffin) falls outside of bound of Confession and possibly the orthodoxy Reformed trajectory. THAT I DO HAVE A PROBLEM.

  32. ReformedSinner(DC) said,

    July 3, 2008 at 1:29 am

    Also, I don’t know how one can critique Gaffin without putting in view Gaffin’s exegesis and interaction with Calvin in his formulation of Union with Christ. Gaffin, unlike most ST theologians, grounds his conclusions heavily in the former (exegesis) and interaction with the latter (Calvin.) Many times Gaffin will say something or draw a conclusion that if taken at face value without any consideration of the two factors mentioned will lead to a misunderstanding.

    I will try to end half of my blog arguments elsewhere so I can hopefully make a contribution in this thrend, if anything else for my beloved professor.

  33. Darryl Hart said,

    July 3, 2008 at 5:07 am

    Reformed Sinner: I thought you said you were through calling me unfair. Since you’re not, maybe you’d do me the courtesy of being fair and responding to #18.

  34. Tommy Keene said,

    July 3, 2008 at 8:02 am

    Dr. Hart, First, I assume you mean “justified in order to be sanctified” and “sanctified in order to be justified.” I’m not sure I’m perfectly comfortable with either formulation, though I prefer the former to the latter. I wouldn’t want to make sanctification attendant upon justification (Lutheranism) any more than justification on sanctification (Catholicism). I would prefer to say that both are distinct and inseparable aspects of Union with Christ enjoyed by the believer at the time of faith.

  35. sean said,

    July 3, 2008 at 8:14 am

    Tommy, greenbaggins, and whoever else; what is your reaction to this article in ordained servant. It seems to speak to the issues being bandied about.

    http://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=80

  36. Thomas Keene said,

    July 3, 2008 at 8:27 am

    Chaos, #30. Your quotation supports my point in #8: Gaffin’s comments assert that Union with Christ is central (1) in soteriology and (2) for Paul. This does not mean central for all of dogmatics, and it certainly would not support the assertion that Union with Christ is a kind of master concept. I’m with Van Til on this one:

    “If God really is man’s creator then man’s thinking must be thought of as being analogical. And therefore his concepts cannot rightly be employed as the instruments of a deductive system. The concepts must be employed as means by which to display the richness of God’s revelation” (IST, 257).

    “A Christian will engage in no speculation…. He does not even start his thinking with God as his master-concept in order to deduce his ‘system’ of truth from this master concept. His thinking is always and only an attempt to integrate the various aspects of biblical teaching. In doing so he is deeply conscious of the fact that every ‘concept’ he employs must be limited by every other ‘concept’ he employs, and that therefore his ‘system’ is an effort to restate in his confession the truth as it is in Jesus” (CE, 20).

  37. chaos said,

    July 3, 2008 at 9:04 am

    #36 TK: I know. That’s why I wrote it. I just like to see specific quotes. Clark would (and has) put red ink all over my paper if I left that out. I’m sure RG would appreciat that as well. I thought the quote would be nice to see for some of us who are less in the know (which includes me). I wasn’t taking a side…yet.

    CVT’s (and Calvin’s) analogy (over univocal or equivocal epistimology) is taught in our first sememster. Good stuff.
    TK–“WSC is definitely very suspicious of WTS BT” just sounds silly and overgeneralized. We’ve been taught that Gaffin is a BT stud but that doesn’t mean he can’t be questioned. Even CVT said some things worth questioning.

  38. ReformedSinner(DC) said,

    July 3, 2008 at 9:14 am

    #37 Chaos:

    The only silliness if your refusal to distinguish categorical differences between general human flaw “everyone can be question” and specific challenges. I stand by my assessment that, yes in general, WSC has been suscpicious to what’s going on in WTS BT. It’s really not that hard to figure out when you read what they wrote in public either in books: for example “Pattern of Sound Doctrine” or in blogs, for example Clark and Hart’s posts here.

    Also, the only silliness here is your backtracing. First your post claims there’s no love loss between WSC and WTS and it’s one big happy family. Now you claim everyone can be question, even Gaffin and just to add credibility you throw in CVT.

    Since you like to picked on little comments let me play your game and pick on yours. WHAT did CVT said that is worth questioning? If you can’t prove your statement than you are silly in overgeneralizing your assessment of CVT.

  39. ReformedSinner(DC) said,

    July 3, 2008 at 9:17 am

    I apologize Dr. Hart, I did not read your response of #18, I will do that now and digest it and give a “fair response”

    Thanks for reminding me of what I missed.

  40. chaos said,

    July 3, 2008 at 9:25 am

    27. The Bible begins at the outset with the Fall of God’s privileged viceroy. He who was to be exalted is now cursed as a turn-coat. That’s the great problem of the story which urgently needs to be solved. How now can man (you shall surely die!) be justified? The answer comes as quickly as Gen 3:15 and begins to unfold more and more (Gen 15, 17, 22…) until the great climax when the 2nd Adam holds up the cup and spills his innocent blood fulfilling all the demands of the law in his active and passive obedience then declaring “It is finished!” Perhaps CD isn’t the best way to describe the drama of SS but I wouldn’t want to take away from SS’s revelation of God merciful to covenant breakers which centers in the person and work of Christ.
    Some (not implicating A.S.) seem to view SS as containing a bunch of disconnected doctrines (universal principles) floating around in space with no direction or drive toward an eschatological end.

    “I will be your God and you will be my people.”

  41. chaos said,

    July 3, 2008 at 9:40 am

    I think (as I rush my wife and daughter out the door with coffee in hand and off to work) I’m just saying that you come across as very belligerent and as the very essence of why we only get to debate amongst a very small few. Everyone else thinks we’re needlessly divisive and have no good news at all to offer. You come across as very pouty. Otherwise I love this discussion. As my landlord loves to say, any distortions, errors, confusion, etc. should be seen as opportunities (foils or backdrops) for presenting the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ …who saves even belligerent b…st…rds such as you and I.
    Gotta work and babysit…see ya.

  42. ReformedSinner(DC) said,

    July 3, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Dear Mr. Hart:

    Yes you only mentioned Gaffin in one paragraph. However you cite him as another exihibit, another proof, of WTS being different than Old PTS in their handling of ST and by implication Gaffin is also guilty as one of the member of “creative theologian” at WTS. Your argument between pages 22-24 goes:

    Hodge/Warfield did things one way (the Old PTS way of ST) –> Murray/CVT shifted the focus to another direction –> Gaffin/Frame has continue the deviant route of “high regard for BT” and in Frame’s case “Biblicism” –> and finally, you slip in the conclusion on page 24 which reads:

    “What is interesting to note is how the shift away from Princeton’s scientific conception of theology in the Westminster tradition also occasioned a change in rhetoric. Where the Princetonians were proud of their unoriginality, subsequent theologians at Westminster took delight in theological creativity.”

    Therefore, may I humbly ask you to clarify.

    1) Did I read you right when you group Gaffin into the group of “theological creativity?” If I have not read you right let me be the first to sincerely apologize.

    2) Yes I know you also mentioned Murray/CVT. I wasn’t meant to be exhaustive. This is a Gaffin thrend and I made it my point from my first post that my purpose here is to defend Gaffin, not to pick on Hart. I have too much respect for you to be coming after you, and why I left out Murray/CVT.

    3) Yes I do not believe all of WTS is being “theologically creative” – the way I understand it is that you mean some in WTS (Murray, CVT, Gaffin, Frame, and by implication others) are teaching something that is foreign to Old PTS, and by implication foreign to the orthodoxy of the Reformed Faith. Here I disagree again. To put it simply I firmly believe Murray-Gaffin are true disciples of Vos/Warfield. I am one of the few that agrees with Oliphint that CVT is consistently Reformed through and through.

    4) Perhaps it would be helpful, Dr. Hart, if you have the time, to make one or two specific points on where Gaffin has been “creative.”

    5) Also, perhaps it’s helpful you can define your phrase “creative” versus “unoriginality.” Old PTS is not just a bastion of people that repeats what was said in the 18th century Reformed. They also made advancements that further enriched the Reformed Faith. One example that easily pops out is Vos’ “Biblical Theology.” Now I do not consider Vos to be “creative” nor is he “original” – Vos is simply expressing something anew what has always been within the Reformed Tradition, perhaps not strongly enough. It seems “new” but it’s not.

    Thanks Dr. Hart for your interaction and wisdom. For what it’s worth I am considering myself arguing with you as equals, but I’m learning from you through questioning.

  43. ReformedSinner(DC) said,

    July 3, 2008 at 9:52 am

    #41 Chaos,

    If I should dial down my tone then it’s a good critique. However, this is an argument blog. People come here to argue with one another. Again argument does not = hate, does not = distaste. I know in today’s world any kind of disagreement is considered to be negative.

    I mean seriously Chaos. This is not a place for Christians seeking to hold hands with one another. I mean no disrespect by this but this is a blog where people argue theologically not to prove how smart we are, but to help each other sharpen. I learned so much here from people differing with my view that’s the only reason I stick around. Not to just hang out with people I am alike, but to read people that are dislike me.

  44. ReformedSinner(DC) said,

    July 3, 2008 at 9:56 am

    #42: correction on my part

    I meant to say in conclusion, “I am NOT considering myself to be arguing with you as equals but I am learning from you through questions.”

    Sorry somehow the NOT fell out. This is why I do not like wireless keyboards. I type really fast and many times the words just got skipped.

  45. sean said,

    July 3, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Not to beat a dead horse, maybe you guys have already addressed this article. VanDrunnen and Godfrey tackle Garcia’s issue with their “Lutheranism” in this ordained servant article and further question the whole Union construct as well, though not exhaustively. If you haven’t read it, you really owe it to yourself to do so.

    http://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=80

  46. chaos said,

    July 3, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    46. Don’t worry…I’m pretty sure I’m not much of a hand-holder. Just have your wife read your stuff. It’s a fair rebuke. Mine reads mine and sharpens me. Many people,even those who disagree with him, cite Horton as a good example of godly engagement over controversies. No one needs to follow his example more than me.

  47. Vern Crisler said,

    July 3, 2008 at 3:46 pm

    Re: #5
    Sean, this was an excellent review. The idea of justification flowing from union is a terrible idea. It’s in fact the other way around — union flows from justification. Godfrey and VanDrunen get to the heart of the issue:

    “Hence, it is only a justified person, never a condemned person, who is sanctified. People progress in their Christian lives as those who are justified. But the reverse is not the case. People are not justified as those who are sanctified—instead, Scripture is clear that it is the ungodly who are justified (e.g., Rom. 4:5). There is a relationship between the blessings of justification and sanctification. This relationship cannot be reversed. Justification has priority to sanctification in this sense.”

    Vern

  48. Vern Crisler said,

    July 3, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    s/b #45

  49. Darryl Hart said,

    July 3, 2008 at 4:48 pm

    Reformed Sinner: thanks for the clarification. I think the source of tension here for you in the Strimple festschrift piece concerns the import of theological creativity. You seem to think that my argument about such creativity leads to the view that creativity is the same as outside the confession. Obviously, it could mean that, and creativity may inevitably lead there, though I’m not fan of historical laws.

    What I was trying to highlight was a theological creativity at WTS that related BT to ST differently. At Old Princeton, ST was the queen of the theological sciences. You see this especially in Warfield’s essay, “The Right of ST.” There he has this memorable passage:

    “Systematic Theology may look on with an amused tolerance and a certain older-sister’s pleased recognition of powers just now perhaps a little too conscious of themselves, when the new discipline of Biblical Theology, for example, tosses her fine young head and announces of her more settled sister that her day is over. But these words have a more ominous ring in them when the lips that frame them speak no longer as a sister’s but as an enemy’s, and the meaning injected into them threatens not merely dethronement but destruction.”

    That was written at a time when BT was in the hands of Vos, Warfield and Vos were buds, and the relationship between BT and ST was kopacetic at Old Princeton. But Warfield sensed where BT in the wider theological world was going and I find it somewhat naive for folks today, over a century later, to act as if his fears were not valid.

    Another factor in understanding theological creativity involves WTS’s relationship to Old Princeton. Machen intended WTS to perpetuate Old PTS. He also received from Warfield and Hodge what he believed to be the proper relationship between ST and BT. Machen articulated that relationship in his convocation address of 1929 when he asserted that in contrast to BT, ST “will be at the very center of the seminary’s course,” and then goes on to assert that WTS’ system of theology is Reformed and embodied in the Westminster Standards.

    One aspect of theological creativity, then, after Machen has to do with whether ST is at the center of WTS. That was primarily what I was addressing. Related to this was the idea of ST as a science and the absence of references to the language of theological science in the rhetoric of WTS theologians.

  50. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    July 3, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Thanks Dr. Hart, very helpful answer.

  51. GLW Johnson said,

    July 4, 2008 at 5:27 am

    I could not have said it better myself Darryl! When everything comes out in the wash the very thing that concerned Warfield about BT-and he saw it manifested in C.B.Briggs-is at the heart of the conflict whirling around WTS. It is striking that despite his otherwise valuable contributions, this also appears to be the major concern many of us have with N.T. Wright.

  52. Darryl Hart said,

    July 4, 2008 at 8:43 am

    Mr. Keene, Thanks for your answer and sorry about the confusion in my comment. So do you think justification and sanctification are two benefits of salvation that exist somewhat independently only to be related by union? The way you replied it sounds that way, or at least like you don’t want to explore any relationship between just. and sanct.

    But the way I read the 16th c. creeds and Reformed theologians they were not so hesitant. In order to be righteous before God, sinners need an alien righteousness that they receive in justification. And also in order to be wholly sanctified they still need an alien righteousness. The reason is that the good works of believers are still tainted with sin and still not good enough to withstand God’s judgment. If you look at Calvin’s Geneva Catechism you see him explicitly teach — though I’m sure said much better — that justification makes up for the defects of sanctification (which is our defect, not God’s).

    So I still wonder about the resistance to affirm we need justification in order to be sanctified (I think I got it right that time). Given the realities of human sinfulness and the ongoing residue of sin in the believer, as well as God’s holiness and his demand for perfect obedience, I can’t understand any timidity about making justification central to soteriology (as Calvin’s analogy of the hinge shows).

    Nor can I understand how given the disparity between God’s righteousness and our sinfulness the doctrine of union makes sense of our forensic predicament. Not to get too pietistic, but boy does the doctrine of justification give comfort to sinners like me. Union only yields confusion.

  53. ReformedSinner(DC) said,

    July 4, 2008 at 11:00 am

    #51,

    It’s amazing how fast Princeton changed after the “Lion” is taken by the LORD. It’s amazing how an institution like WTS meant to carry on the tradition of the “Lion” has completely abandoned the Lion’s legacy specifically in the BT area where the Lion should have the most influence.

    Over the last 30 years there have been 3 attempts to build a Chinese Reformed Theological institution in Hong Kong-Taiwan area. All 3 attempts the schools are Reformed at first, but very soon they turned into either broad Evangelical or neo-Orthodox.

    Is there no way to preserve a Reformed Confessional School?

  54. Thomas keene said,

    July 4, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Dr. Hart, #52. Well said, and I don’t think I would oppose anything you argue here. I would never want to deny, as you put it, that justification is necessary for sanctification, nor do I have a problem discussing the relationship between justification and sanctification, nor would I deny that Justification is the hinge on which the gospel turns, or that justification requires an imputed alien righteousness. What I would deny, or at least feel some “timidity” about, is asserting that our sanctification is somehow the causal/temporal result of our justification. Rather, both are the causal result of Union with Christ.

    Or, with John Murray: “Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation not only in its application but also in its once-for-all accomplishment in the finished work of Christ. Indeed the whole process of salvation has its origin in one phase of union with Christ and salvation has in view the realization of other phases of union with Christ.” (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 161).

  55. Darryl Hart said,

    July 5, 2008 at 8:42 am

    Mr. Keene, I’m glad you find nothing objectionable in my comment. If you don’t mind, let me push you a little farther (and anyone else who thinks union with Christ is such a significant teaching.

    I was surprised though that you said with so little qualification that union is the cause of justification and sanctification (“both are the causal result of Union with Christ”).

    On the one hand, this would seem to deny the work of the Holy Spirit in applying the redemption purchased by Christ. I’m sure you don’t deny this. But “cause” is a pretty strong word to leave divine work out.

    On the other hand, the language of cause with respect to justification has typically been used to describe faith. For instance, Berkhof and Ursinus both speak of faith as the instrumental cause of justification. This is because the object in faith’s view is the imputed righteousness of Christ. This also has implications for sanctification since in this aspect of salvation Christ’s imputed righteousness is not what we “put on.”

    So to speak of causes of justification and sanctification, whatever the relationship to union, by not mentioning faith as the instrumental cause, you could give the impression that we acquire just. and sanct. in the same way. But you really wouldn’t want to say that we are sanctified by faith, would you? WLC is pretty clear on the difference between imputed and infused righteousness, and how we acquire these benefits.

    I’m concerned that the language of union with Christ can obscure these important differences, especially if it is so emphasized to forget categories that are crucial to the way Protestants articulated the material principle of the Reformation.

  56. Thomas Keene said,

    July 5, 2008 at 9:16 am

    Dr. Hart, #55. My comments should be taken in the context of the present discussion, which deals with Gaffin’s teaching on Union with Christ, as opposed to similar treatments by other scholars, such as the NPP crowd. In Gaffin’s definition, Union with Christ is established and mediated by the Holy Spirit, and therefore each element of the ordo is applied by the Spirit. So far from denying the work of the Spirit, it establishes and grounds it in Jesus.

    I have no problem saying that faith is the instrumental cause of justification. But faith is also a blessing that we receive by Union with Christ. I do have a problem with your comment that the “object of faith” is the imputation of righteousness. I think I know what you mean, but its sounds like “faith in a doctrine,” rather than “faith in a person.”

    The heart of the matter is your second to last paragraph: do we receive Justification and Sanctification the same way. Well, it depends. We receive both by Union with Christ, so in that sense yes, and a wholehearted one. Our Sanctification flows from the past and present work of Christ just as much as our Justification. In that sense I think we can say we are sanctified by faith. In fact, I find your denial of this a little odd. The following does not solve every problem, and requires more exegesis than a blog comment permits, but Gal. 3:2-3 seems at the very least to establish a connection between the Christian life, the Holy Spirit, and faith. “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”

    Of course, there is a difference; the source is the same, but the mechanism is different. In a previous post (#34) I stated that there was a difference, if only obliquely. The elements of the ordo are “distinct and inseparable” aspects of Union. And you put the difference well, Justification is imputed righteousness, Sanctification infused. But, and this is for me the key point, both have the righteousness of Christ in view. The different mechanisms involved have a profound impact on how we treat these two doctrines (and by extension, each element of the ordo), but that should not negate the centrality of Christ’s person and work, past and present, in their accomplishment and their application to the believer.

    In short, I get to have my cake and eat it too. I get to maintain everything the confessions say about the various elements of the ordo, and also maintain their organic relationship to the person and work of Christ.

  57. July 5, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Tommy,

    While I agree with most of what you have said above, I just spoke with Dr. Gaffin about these things this week and he acknowledged the difficulty involved in these issues. While Gaffin would say most of what you have said above, he acknowledges some of what Darryl has said about the eternity-time issue. We spoke about the difficulty of saying on the one hand that we have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, and therefore loved by God from all eternity, and yet, in time, we were hated by God before we were regenerate. There is mystery here. The way that union with Christ in the decree works out in time also may include a level of mystery. You are correct to say, “in Gaffin’s definition, Union with Christ is established and mediated by the Holy Spirit, and therefore each element of the ordo is applied by the Spirit. So far from denying the work of the Spirit, it establishes and grounds it in Jesus.” But I would caution, with Darryl Hart, against a rejection of the way in which SPIRIT wrought faith unites us to Jesus in time, giving us faith that both justifies and sanctifies.

    So I guess I see Darryl’s concern, but I do want to affirm the eternal union we have with Christ (Ephesians 1:4). It seems to be that the relationship between historio and ordo is a fairly difficult subject. You do not want to downplay the application of redemption in favor of the accomplishment, not do you want to downplay the accomplishment in favor of the application.

    Whether Gaffin would agree with this or not, I believe that we can speak about union in a broader sense (including the decree) and union in a narrow sense (as we are united to Christ in time). If I am wrong I would honestly like to be brought to a better understanding of these things.

  58. Thomas Keene said,

    July 5, 2008 at 9:53 am

    Good points Nick, thanks. I looked over my comments, and I’m not sure where I deny eternal union, or the application of redemption in time, however. In terms of ordo in time issue, I would say that the elements of the ordo have an eternal, a past/historical, a present/existential, and a future/eschatological aspect, each focused on Christ. To my knowledge, I am just blatantly stealing from Gaffin/Tipton here, and from their published works, but I would delight in correction if my perceptions of their teaching is off.

    I appreciate your emphasis on mystery. Who here can plumb the depths of the richness of God’s salvation in Christ!

  59. Thomas Keene said,

    July 5, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Nick, #57. You also say “I would caution, with Darryl Hart, against a rejection of the way in which SPIRIT wrought faith unites us to Jesus in time, giving us faith that both justifies and sanctifies.” I guess I’m not sure where I rejected this. In fact, it is precisely this issue that I want to protect, that faith in Christ establishes union that both justifies and sanctifies, that our sanctification as much as our justification is the result of faith-wrought union.

  60. Vern Crisler said,

    July 5, 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Given his view of union with Christ as having a certain priority to justification by faith alone, it’s easy to see why Gaffin supported the NPP or FV position for so long.

    In Rom. 5:1, Paul says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    It seems that in Paul’s thought, the blessings of union with God or Christ are a result of justification, whereas the Gaffin theory turns it around, justification is a blessing of union with Christ.

    In Romans 6 thru 8, union with Christ is related to sanctification not justification, and it’s a response to the antinomian view that we should sin that grace may abound, or that we should sin because we’re under grace not law. Union has nothing to do with justification, but everything to do with sanctification.

    Subsuming justification under union comes dangerously close to an analytic view of justification, whereas the testimony of the Bible is clear that God does not justify the godly, but rather the ungodly; that He does not justify those who are united with Christ but rather those who are His enemies (Rom. 4:5; 5:6).

    I think this is why Paul emphasizes that Abraham was justified by faith BEFORE he was circumcised, i.e., before he was symbolically brought under the covenant, or in New Testament terms, union with Christ. Paul wants to make it perfectly clear that our MEANS of obtaining union is through justification. So we are justified IN ORDER TO BE in union with Christ, to be sanctified, to be in covenant. It cannot be the other way around without sacrificing the heart of the gospel. What was Gaffin thinking?

    Vern

  61. Thomas Keene said,

    July 5, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Vern, How can one be justified apart from Union with Christ?

  62. sean said,

    July 5, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Thomas,

    I think this is where a number of us just say, huh? I understand the distinction between the historia and ordo. However, there seems to be this latent desire to fundamentally change either the character of our union on this side of history that would subjugate faith to mysterious union in such a way that justification no longer has relational priority sanctification and somehow you want to elevate sanctification to simultaneous reality with justification so that justification and adoption and forensic freedom are NOT drivers of sanctification. As a former roman catholic, I can tell u I’ve been to this dance, and no matter your intentions, forensic realities are made subservient to infused grace transformation without the relational priority of justification to sanctification. Besides the inevitable practical implications, I just don’t see the exegetical ground in the NT for this centrality of union that subjugates justifying faith to this organizing wheel of union that changes both the way we talk about union sans faith/justification/imputation/freedom and adoption(please someone describe to me union outside of these theological categories without bumping their head on the ceiling of mystery), and “levels” the playing field between sanctification and justification such that at least relationally sanctification doesn’t follow on the heels of justification.

  63. Thomas Keene said,

    July 5, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Sean, #62. I can tell you are very passionate about this, and would never want the doctrine of Union with Christ to cause practical or theological confusion, or to make “forensic realities subservient to grace transformation.” So let me just say this, in terms of one’s standing before the judgment seat of God, justification has “relational priority” to sanctification.

  64. Darryl Hart said,

    July 5, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Mr. Keene, #61 — It seems to me that the question can be just as easily turned around on you. How can someone be united to Christ while a sinner, while dead in trespasses and sins? {This echoes Vern’s concern in #60.] That’s what has some of us scratching our heads. Given the realities of human depravity, the T in TULIP, to speak of being united to Christ in ordo rather than historia categories, makes for theological gibberish and seems to confuse what’s at stake in Protestant and Roman Catholic understandings of the gospel. And it would explain why, recent efforts to parse Calvin notwithstanding, you see almost nothing on union in the 16th century creeds and confessions where the real problem was justification in distinction from sanctification, and the efficacy of faith as opposed to works. When I’ve seen union thrown into those categorical distinctions I’ve seen a lot of confusion come out the other side.

    Also, #63 — what is “relational priority”? In what way would justification not have priority to sanctification at that very forensic moment of the judgment seat? Why do you seem to be so reluctant to admit the priority of justification to sanctification?

    It seems to me that the guy who gets to have his cake and eat it is Berkhof who wrote: “Justification precedes and is basic to sanctification in the covenant of grace. In the covenant of works the order of righteousness and holiness was just the reverse. Adam was created with a holy disposition and inclination to serve God, but on the basis of this holiness he had to work out the righteousness that would entitle him to eternal life. Justification is the judicial basis for sanctification. God has the right to demand of us holiness of life, but because we cannot work out this holiness for ourselves, He freely works it within us through the Holy Spirit on the basis of the righteousness of Jesus Christ, which is imputed to us in justification.” [ST, 536]

    Lest anyone think that this quotation is a rebuke to the importance of union, Berkhof goes on to write: “Faith is the mediate or instrumental cause of sanctification as well as justification. It does not merit sanctification any more than it does justification, but it unites us to Christ and keeps us in touch with Him as the Head of the new humanity, who is the source of the new life within us, and also of our progressive sanctification, through the operation of the Holy Spirit.” [537]

    Even so, the consideration of faith clarifies an important difference between just. and sanct. and once again points to the priotity (not to mention the comfort) of justification. Berkhof adds, “while even the weakest faith mediates a perfect justification, the degree of sanctification is commensurate with the strength of the Christian’s faith and the persistence with which he apprehends Christ.” [537]

  65. Thomas Keene said,

    July 5, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    This debate is becoming long, and more nuanced than I think the medium of a blog can handle, and my original intent in posting was not polemical. So let me respond to your two points raised in #64. (1) Someone cannot be united to Christ while yet a sinner, but I do not see this in conflict with the centrality of union, as I have defined both “central” and “union. (2) I think you my post #63. I affirmed that, as far as the forensic issue is concerned, Justification has priority to sanctification. Of course, our salvation is more than forensic.

    And my question was left unanswered, so let me put it another way: how are we to understand the mechanism of imputation if it is wholly disconnected from union?

  66. Thomas Keene said,

    July 5, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    Sorry, I should proof-read: I meant “(2) I think you MISREAD my post #63.”

  67. July 5, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    #5 “John Kinnaird’s indefensible views.”

    Would someone bring forth a quote from the trial that was indefensible? I’m not here to defend JK, nor to accuse him.

    Ron

  68. Darryl Hart said,

    July 6, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    Mr. Keene, I would have thought the instrument (mechanism?) by which we receive the righteousness of Christ is faith. But I can understand how that might be confusing to you since you also want to say that we are united to Christ by faith. Faith is doing a lot of work there. But then again so is union for you.

    At the same time, why would you conclude that making justification prior to sanctification is to understand salvationi “wholly apart from union” ? Don’t the quotations from Berkhof reveal that union was very much an integral part of a conception that puts justification prior to sanctification?

  69. Thomas Keene said,

    July 6, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Dr. Hart, #68. I’m not sure who you’re talking to, or about. Your post bears little to no relation to anything I or anyone else has said, nor have you responded to any of my questions. So while hitherto I found this dialogue helpful and enlightening, and while I have appreciated hearing your perspective and have personally benefited from your insights, the recent tone is less encouraging. I think I will cash in my chips and call it a night. Thanks again for your interaction.

  70. Darryl Hart said,

    July 6, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Mr. Keene, I’m actually talking to you, a real life union w/Christ advocate (who has yet to brand me a Lutheran for stressing justification). So if you have the time, I’d appreciate if you not leave the game yet. At least, could you respond to the question about why you think putting justification prior to sanctification leaves union “wholly apart”?

    I also wonder what you think of faith as the instrument/mechanism of imputation.

  71. July 6, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Thomas, RE #65

    how are we to understand the mechanism of imputation if it is wholly disconnected from union?

    I believe that imputation and union are intimately connected in this way: union depends on and follows imputation. Imputation grants Christ’s active and passive obedience, henceforth called His righteousness, to us. Without His righteousness, we cannot hope to be united with a perfectly holy God. We are justified materially because of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness graciously provided to us. Upon justification, we are then united to Him.

    Perhaps it is not best to think of things in this temporal manner, as God exists outside of time and the detailed workings are His, not ours. However, such constructions help us understand the magnitude of the great work which He has done for us in that our justification is a monergistic work of God by grace through faith (the instrument). Union is achieved as a result of this justification, along with sanctification.

    I apologize if I’ve stated something imprecisely, as I’m in a hurry at the moment.

  72. July 6, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2006/04/sanctification-justification-and-order.html

    Some are quick to argue that justification must necessarily precede sanctification, not temporally but logically. Such Reformed folk do acknowledge, of course, that there is no such thing as a justified person who is not also being sanctified. Consequently, whenever justification is present, so is sanctification. The reverse they would say, also, holds true; that whenever sanctification is present, so is justification. It is the logical relationship between the two that is considered irreversible – as it is contended by these Reformed thinkers that justification is logically prerequisite to sanctification. But is this in fact true? Or is the reverse actually the case?

    In justification God first constitutes a sinner righteous logically-prior to declaring him as such. In other words, God declares a sinner righteous (for the sake of Christ alone) only when it is first true that the sinner can been constituted as such. The reverse is not true, however. God does not constitute a sinner as righteous on the basis or grounds of a more primitive declaration of righteousness. Accordingly, the logical order is first constituent-righteousness and then the declaration of what that fact contemplates.

    God never constitutes a sinner righteous who is not first (again, logically speaking) buried and raised with Christ unto newness of life. In other words, sinners can be constituted as righteous and, consequently, declared as such only after they have been buried with Christ in baptism and raised with him unto newness of life (pictured, signed and sealed in the rite of water baptism). This is not to say that sanctification is the grounds for justification or that justification is caused by sanctification. The sole grounds for justification is the imputed righteousness of Christ alone, which occurs at the same logical moment that sanctifying grace is infused (otherwise men are raised with Christ without justification or justified without being raised with Christ). Although the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and our resurrected life share the same logical moment, infused grace must not be confounded with imputed righteousness; for sinners are not constituted as righteous for anything that resides within them but rather because of an “alien” righteousness, which is more near than far!

    Justification and sanctification differ in that in sanctification the Holy Spirit infuses grace, subdues the sin nature and enables the regenerate sinner to believe and perform good works pleasing to God. Whereas in justification, the sinner is pardoned – not because he has a new nature or has been infused with grace, but because Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to the sinner by grace alone. We might say in sanctification God takes up residence in the sinner, whereas in justification the sinner is hidden in Christ: http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2006/04/another-kind-of-mutual-indwelling.html.

    It presents no problem that a sinner is sanctified prior to the declaration of pardon, since at the logical moment of definitive sanctification the sinner would be imputed with Christ’s righteous since imputation and resurrection share the same logical moment. Accordingly, in the logical moments that follow, God would constitute the sinner as righteous and, thereby, declare him so. The four logical moments may be viewed as: Regeneration –> Definitive Sanctification & Imputation –> Constituitive Righteousness –> Declaration of Righteous Verdict. One is delcared righteous because he is constituted as such; and one is constituted as such because he has been imputed with Christ’s righteousness (at the very same logical moment he is raised to newness of life).

    One must ask, since sanctification is concerned not with the legal but with the ontological, must the inception of infused grace and the enabling of the sinner to respond to the warnings and command of Christ, which enabling is entailed in the definitive act of sanctification, flow from the declaration of pardon? If not, then why must the definitive act of sanctification, which begins the process of sanctification, come logically after the declaration of pardon, justification!

    Prior to being declared righteous for the sake of Christ an ontological reality has already occurred, namely regeneration and, thereby, union with the risen Christ, which in and of itself is sanctification of the most definite sort. Moreover, justification would be non-existent apart from Christ’s resurrection, and our resurrection is predicated upon Christ’s resurrection, the first fruits whereby he was openly justified as the Second Adam – after He was raised from the dead. Consequently, without partaking of the first resurrection – the definitive act of our sanctification – there can be no justification! Resurrection, the definitive act of sanctification, must therefore precede justification.

    Ron

  73. sean said,

    July 6, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Thomas #63,

    I guess you’re imbibing the already/not yet of Gaffin’s justification.

    If I follow union correctly the whole point of using union as a soteriological umbrella category is to secure justification within the pactum salutis, this should in turn guarantee eschatological blessing(righteousness) via Christ’s merit and earned standing(2nd Adam). Therefore the surety of our eschatological blessing(righteousness) is grounded in Christ’s earned standing via his fulfillment and our subsequent union with Him. I could probably use some precision in this formulation, but basically over against the lutheran’s, we’re trying to ground our justification both in Christ’s merit and subsequent eschatological standing. I get this, want I don’t get is how this then spills out into justification losing priority “relationally” to sanctification a la Garcia and others. I fail to see how the transformative and forensic aspects should get flattened out, or made simultaneous by such a category. It seems to me grounding justification in union SHOULD emphasize justification’s priority to sanctification not even them out. As Godfrey points out there is such a thing as the “moral life” for the non-justified. Our pursuit of holiness, unlike the non-justified, is grounded in our justification.

  74. Darryl Hart said,

    July 6, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Ron: could you explain what a logical moment is? My read of your post #72 is that you sound much more mechanical and definitive about the application of redemption by the work of the Spirit that either exegesis or theological common sense would allow.

    But on the question of the relationship between just. and sanct., again I wonder if you miss something of the insight and import of the Reformation when the Reformers placed just. before sanctification in the experience of the redeemed sinner. This was a revolutionary breakthrough to say that faith, not works, justifies, and to separate just. from sanct. so that the good fruit of works proceed from the good root of faith. The Belgic Confession puts it well when it says (Art. 24): “These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable to God, since they are all sanctified by his grace. Yet they do not count toward our justification — for by faith in Christ we are justified, EVEN BEFORE WE DO GOOD WORKS. Otherwise, they could not be good, any more than the fruit of a tree could be good if the tree is not good in the first place” [caps mine]

    Later in that same article, the BC says something that I think is too often lost when trying to make the Protestant doctrine of salvation new and improved: “although we do good works we do not base our salvation on them; for we cannot do any work that is not defiled by our flesh and also worthy of punishment. And even if we could point to one, memory of a single sin is enough for God to reject that work. So we would always be in doubt, tossed back and forth, without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be tormented constantly if they did not rest on the merit of the suffering and death of our Savior.”

    By trying to put sanct. before just, I am worried about at least my own poor conscience.

  75. Vern Crisler said,

    July 6, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Re: #72
    Ron,

    I don’t see where you have proven that the “declaration” of justification can be separated from the fact of justification. You said:

    “In justification God first constitutes a sinner righteous logically-prior to declaring him as such. In other words, God declares a sinner righteous (for the sake of Christ alone) only when it is first true that the sinner can been constituted as such.”

    But in fact this is analytic-justification. On the contrary, the whole point in Romans is how can God justify the ungodly. Answer, by imputing the righteousness of Christ to the ungodly, not by a process of transformation, or union, or works, or sanctification.

    Vern

  76. July 6, 2008 at 11:03 pm

    Ron: could you explain what a logical moment is?

    Excuse me, Darryl, but maybe I have dealt too much with Molinists who speak of God’s eternal knowledge in three logical moments. Aside from my experience with high-Arminianism, I sincerely thought that logical moments are appreciated by most Reformed theologians, even those who do their systematic theology in an historical mode. :) As I believe you know, related occurrences that are not chronological can often be regarded in logical order or moments if you will. For instance, there is no time sequence between faith and justification yet faith precedes justification logically speaking. We are justified through faith; we do not have faith as a result of justification.

    Your position of placing justification prior to definitive sanctification implies a logical moment wherein one is regenerate, has faith, and is justified all while being in a state of definitively unsanctified since definitive sanctification in your ordo comes after justification. Accordingly, you are left with the following:

    Faith precedes justification

    If regeneration precedes faith, then regeneration precedes justification

    If justification precedes definitive sanctification (as you suggest), then definitive sanctification follows faith

    The only problem with your schema is as I said above, regeneration and faith would be logically compatible with a state of definitively unsanctified. You would have regeneration not yielding definitive sanctification, but what does it mean that regeneration does not bring forth definitive sanctification?

    This dilemma becomes exceedingly glaring when we consider justification in lives of adults not raised in covenant homes for instance. The exercising of faith would come from a posture of one who was definitively unsanctified since definitive sanctification follows faith in your ordo. If you deny this, then you’ll be constrained to conclude that there is no direct relationship between regeneration, which precedes faith, and definitive sanctification; whereas I am saying regeneration brings definitive sanctification and definitive sanctification does not come as a result of pardon.

    If you simply ignore logical order, then we can only speak of temporal order or chronological order. At which point you’d have to say that there are chronological moments wherein men are regenerate, yet without faith, justification and definitive sanctification, which is a move I doubt you’ll make.

    Finally, there is no doubt that progressive sanctification, which is over time, follows justification. We are progressively sanctified as we reckon ourselves dead in Christ to the penalty of sin. But is that what this is all about?

    Ron

    p.s., BTW, Stott is I believe magnificent on Romans 6.

  77. July 6, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    I don’t see where you have proven that the “declaration” of justification can be separated from the fact of justification.

    Vern,

    I never separated declaration of pardon from imputation in any temporal sense. So let’s deal w/ the logical. Do you deny that God declares as just those he first (logically speaking) constitutes as just by way of imputation? If you allow for God constituting sinners as just and declaring them just, then I trust you would agree that the declaration must logically occur after God regards one as just, which he can do because of imputation. He must regard them as just prior to saying so, for he cannot say so without first regarding them so. I think you misunderstood me, which I’m happy to own.

    But in fact this is analytic-justification. On the contrary, the whole point in Romans is how can God justify the ungodly. Answer, by imputing the righteousness of Christ to the ungodly, not by a process of transformation, or union, or works, or sanctification.

    Correct, and as I noted: “The sole grounds for justification is the imputed righteousness of Christ alone, which occurs at the same logical moment that sanctifying grace is infused (otherwise men are raised with Christ without justification or justified without being raised with Christ). Although the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and our resurrected life share the same logical moment, infused grace must not be confounded with imputed righteousness; for sinners are not constituted as righteous for anything that resides within them but rather because of an “alien” righteousness, which is more near than far!”

    Ron

  78. sean said,

    July 7, 2008 at 8:37 am

    “One must ask, since sanctification is concerned not with the legal but with the ontological, must the inception of infused grace and the enabling of the sinner to respond to the warnings and command of Christ, which enabling is entailed in the definitive act of sanctification, flow from the declaration of pardon? If not, then why must the definitive act of sanctification, which begins the process of sanctification, come logically after the declaration of pardon, justification!”

    I understood the first gift of regeneration to be faith, otherwise all the benefits of Christ still would lay outside of me, and less I respond to the warnings and commands like the unregenerate, I’m laying hold of Christ and His benefits before I “do” anything. Isn’t this how Paul argues for progressive sanct. from the indicative to the imperative?

  79. July 7, 2008 at 8:39 am

    I have no problem saying that faith is the instrumental cause of justification. But faith is also a blessing that we receive by Union with Christ. I do have a problem with your comment that the ‘object of faith’ is the imputation of righteousness. I think I know what you mean, but its sounds like “faith in a doctrine,” rather than ‘faith in a person.’

    Hi Thomas,

    Please consider looking at this another way. I think your quote above demonstrates the weakness of union with Christ language. God calls; God regenerates; God justifies; etc., yet w/ respect to union with Christ, we should not see it as an action that causes anything but rather as a result of an action. If it’s an action that causes, then we must revise the language that has been used for years to describe the action that brings forth faith, namely regeneration. The action of God the Holy Spirit in regenerating us results in our union w/ Christ. Because we are baptized into union with Christ, we must therefore place regeneration prior to union with Christ because the latter results from the former. Moreover, we do not have faith because we are united to Christ; we have faith because we are regenerate, which implants the seed of faith. Accordingly, the monergistic work of regeneration brings faith and union. Union does not bring faith, it is simply part-and-parcel with faith through the regenerating work of the Spirit.

    Thoughts?

    Ron

  80. July 7, 2008 at 8:56 am

    I understood the first gift of regeneration to be faith, otherwise all the benefits of Christ still would lay outside of me, and less I respond to the warnings and commands like the unregenerate, I’m laying hold of Christ and His benefits before I “do” anything. Isn’t this how Paul argues for progressive sanct. from the indicative to the imperative?

    Sean,

    Yes, regeneration immediately effects faith, the propensity believe all the Bible teaches etc. With respect to progressive sanctification, yes we can be progressively become more and more like how we are accounted for Christ’s sake because of the verdict. Notwithstanding, progressive sanctification begins with definitive sanctification. Now regeneration causes faith and justification follows faith; whereas regeneration is the act of definitive sanctification. It is precisely because regeneration precedes faith (and justification) that definitive sanctification must also precede justification.

    Ron

  81. sean said,

    July 7, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Ron,

    Ok but that doesn’t then ground our justification in our definitive sanctification nor does it alter the manner by which faith lays hold off it’s object and move forward subjectively. I mean if we follow the 2nd adam motif, our merit is secured before definitive sanctification ever takes place. In fact that 2nd adam merit/righteousness in fact secures the definitive sanctification, right?

  82. July 7, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Ok but that doesn’t then ground our justification in our definitive sanctification

    Sean,

    Correct – if what you mean is that our justification is not based upon definitive sanctification but rather on the merits of Christ imputed to us and appropriated by the instrumentality of faith.

    I mean if we follow the 2nd adam motif, our merit is secured before definitive sanctification ever takes place.

    I’m not sure what you mean here. Our merit was secured in one sense 2000 years ago upon the second Adam’s completion of his work on this earth; and in another sense before the foundation the world.

    It might be easier, therefore, if we look at faith not as the seed of faith but rather the act of believing, which is the exercise of faith upon the hearing of the word. Does a convert on the mission field exercise faith from a state of definitively unsanctified? If so, then it’s false that the flesh profits nothing. The flesh would profit much if such were the case. Make sense?

    Ron

  83. sean said,

    July 7, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Ron,

    I’m tracking on regeneration(defiinitive sanct) act, I’m trying to make sure you’re grounding def. sanct. in Christ’s successful fulfillment of the pactum salutis. And you answered my other question of you, by affirming that faith acts upon the word. I can then move along a law/gospel herm. and indic.-imp. structure.

  84. sean said,

    July 7, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Purely from a perspective of succession and consequence, if we’re grounding Def. sanct. in pactum salutis, haven’t we re-established justification’s (in this case christ’s) by election mine, priority to sanctification regardless of scheme?

  85. July 7, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Sean,

    Whether one takes the pactum salutis as being identical with the Covenant of Redemption or takes the CoR as being part of the pactum salutis, of course the fulfillment of the compact by Christ is necessary for one to be definitively sanctified, for one is definitively sanctified in the Christ who fulfills the pactum salutis. But I’m not sure what that gets us relative to this discussion. Everything we are talking about is ultimately grounded in the decree of God and also grounded in the work of Christ, but I think folks are trying to parse things out a little finer than that as it relates to redemption applied.

    We’re probably beating this thing more than what is profitable, but I’m not sure.

    Best,

    Ron

  86. Darryl Hart said,

    July 7, 2008 at 11:46 am

    Ron, #76: Thanks for the reference to the Molinists (I think). Since I still don’t know what a logical moment is, maybe that is the source of my discomfort with your earlier comments. I have been thinking of a logical as opposed to a temporal relationship between just. and sanct. Frankly, though, to go into too much detail on the ordo seems to be a highly speculative enterprise, and I’m not sure of its profit. I’d never want to isolate saving faith from repentance, regeneration from effectual calling, justificaiton from sanctification. The creeds and confessions seem to treat these matters differently. It does seem helpful to keep in mind the problem of human sinfulness and how it is overcome. From that perspective justification looks pretty darned central, as in the hinge . . .

    But you did mention a concrete example. Historians like concrete examples. You wrote: “This dilemma becomes exceedingly glaring when we consider justification in lives of adults not raised in covenant homes for instance. The exercising of faith would come from a posture of one who was definitively unsanctified since definitive sanctification follows faith in your ordo. If you deny this, then you’ll be constrained to conclude that there is no direct relationship between regeneration, which precedes faith, and definitive sanctification; whereas I am saying regeneration brings definitive sanctification and definitive sanctification does not come as a result of pardon.”

    Alot seems to hang on definitive sanctification here, and that may not be the most helpful since the old creeds and confesssions only spoke of vanilla sanctification. But even so, are you suggesting that covenant children prior to profession of faith are definitively sanctified, and that this happens in baptism? Also, is it possible to be definitively sanctified and not justified (ever)? One last question, was Luther definitively sanctified prior to his understanding of justification by faith alone?

    This isn’t a test. Just curious.

  87. July 7, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    “…are you suggesting that covenant children prior to profession of faith are definitively sanctified

    Darryl,

    That would depend. They’d be definitively sanctified only if they were truly regenerate. God may, if he so chooses, regenerate a covenant child at the font, in the womb or never for that matter. Notwithstanding, aren’t all people regenerate prior to making a true profession of faith. One can become regenerate, then weeks later profess it. If you meant possess faith as opposed to profess faith, then I would say that the possession of both happens at the same temporal moment. {Obviously those who make false professions are not regenerate.)

    Also, is it possible to be definitively sanctified and not justified (ever)?

    I would say ‘no’, or better yet ‘NO!’ At the moment in time one is regenerate, he is justified, definitely sanctified and has faith. In the case of infants who are regenerate, that faith would be the seed of faith.

    One last question, was Luther definitively sanctified prior to his understanding of justification by faith alone?

    I would say yes, if he was indeed regenerate. Do you know whether he was? This is not a test – I’m just curious. Dr. Clark knows I bet. :-)

    This isn’t a test. Just curious.

    Thanks, I was getting worried there for a moment.

    BTW, my wife Lisa (formerly King) and I had the pleasure of sitting across from you (and I believe your bride) at, if memory serves, Paul Wolf’s ordination reception. It wasn’t until years later I bought a bow tie, but I have not yet worn it! I wonder whether you inspired the purchase. Or was it Pewee Herman?

    Peace,

    Ron

    p.s. Wives are often right about when we’re behaving as “attack machines.”

  88. July 7, 2008 at 4:42 pm

    “One last question, was Luther definitively sanctified prior to his understanding of justification by faith alone?”

    Maybe I should clarify my last answer to that question, which was: “I would say yes, if he was indeed regenerate.”

    That would also means that I would say “no” if he was not regenerate. In those answers I’m simply offering the logical possibilities. With respect to the actual truth, I’d say that given the drama of Luther’s life as I understand it, he was trusting in his works and not Christ alone prior to his understanding of the doctrine. Accordingly, at the very least, his profession of faith would not have been credible. That’s as far as I can take it not being omniscient.

    Ron

  89. July 7, 2008 at 6:19 pm

    Darryl,

    I think the following quote from Calvin is so great on this issue. I would point out though that it seems that for Calvin, at least in this quote, a sense of union is necessary for justification. Noticed the section below that I have put in bold print.

    Calvin:
    We dream not of a faith which is devoid of good works, nor of a justification which can exist without them: the only difference is, that while we acknowledge that faith and works are necessarily connected, we, however, place justification in faith, not in works. How this is done is easily explained, if we turn to Christ only, to whom our faith is directed and from whom it derives all its power. Why, then, are we justified by faith? Because by faith we apprehend the righteousness of Christ, which alone reconciles us to God. This faith, however, you cannot apprehend without at the same time apprehending sanctification; for Christ “is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption,” (1 Cor. 1:30). Christ, therefore, justifies no man without also sanctifying him. These blessings are conjoined by a perpetual and inseparable tie. Those whom he enlightens by his wisdom he redeems; whom he redeems he justifies; whom he justifies he sanctifies. But as the question relates only to justification and sanctification,
    to them let us confine ourselves. Though we distinguish between them, they are both inseparably comprehended in Christ. Would ye then obtain justification in Christ? You must previously possess Christ. But you cannot possess him without being made a partaker of his sanctification: for Christ
    cannot be divided.
    Since the Lord, therefore, does not grant us the enjoyment of these blessings without bestowing himself, he bestows both at once but never the one without the other. Thus it appears how true it is that we are justified not without, and yet not by works, since in the participation
    of Christ, by which we are justified, is contained not less sanctification than justification.

    John Calvin (A.D. 1509-1564) – From INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, Book 3, Chapter 16, Section 1

    Blessings,
    Terry

  90. Darryl Hart said,

    July 7, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    Ron, sorry to hear that I ruined your wardrobe.

    If by sanctification you mean regeneration, then you’d have a point about sanctification preceding justification. But the Westminster Standards, at least, distinguish regeneration from sanctification. “They, who are effectually called, and regenerated, having a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection.” (WCF 13.1)

    My concern is that the categories of union have either made wobbly or obscured categories that our churches confess.

  91. Darryl Hart said,

    July 7, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Mr. West: of course, you would not be the first person to use this quotation from Calvin. But does it really settle the matter? Is this the lodestar of Calvin’s thought? If so, then why did he write his 1536 Catechism this way?

    M. This then is your meaning — that as righteousness is offered to us by the gospel, so we receive it by faith?
    S. It is so.
    M. But after we have once been embraced by God, are not the works which we do under the direction of his Holy Spirit accepted by him?
    S. They please him, not however in virtue of their own worthiness, but as he liberally honors them with his favor.
    M. But seeing they proceed from the Holy Spirit, do they not merit favor?
    S. They are always mixed up with some defilement from the weakness of the flesh, and thereby vitiated.
    M. Whence then or how can it be that they please God?
    S. It is faith alone which procures favor for them, as we rest with assured confidence on this — that God wills not to try them by his strict rule, but covering their defects and impurities as buried in the purity of Christ, he regards them in the same light as if they’ were absolutely perfect.

    That construction of justification and good works (i.e. sanctification) would clearly indicated that sanctification depends on justification — our defiled good works still need the perfect righteousness of Christ to make up for their defects. You may not call that temporally or logically prior, but justification is not some loiterer hanging around for the real action.

    Then there is Bavinck from the fourth volume of his dogmatics: “Logically, justification, which clears our guilt, precedes sanctification, which cleanses us from our pollution.” (230)

    And then there is Gaffin himself who co-wrote the OPC’s report on justification: “the idea of the ordo salutis makes clear that justification is prior to sanctification. This is not priority in the sense that one is somehow more important than the other. Neither is it temporal priority, strictly speaking, for there is no such thing as a justified person who is not also being sanctified. But while justification is the necessary prerequisite of the process of sanctification, that process is not the necessary prerequisite of justification. It is true to say that one must be justified in order to be sanctified; but it is untrue to say that one must be sanctified in order to be justified. Justification and sanctification bear a relationship to each other that cannot be reversed.” [60-61]

    So in addition to these other authorities that might qualify your invoking of Calvin, I’m left wondering why the assertion of justification’s priority to sanctification is a problem. Why wouldn’t you want it to be true? Is Christ’s imputed righteousness received by faith alone in justification somehow insufficient form my salvation?

  92. July 8, 2008 at 9:26 am

    Ron, sorry to hear that I ruined your wardrobe.

    Daryll, actually, I love the tie. I only wish I could tie the crazy thing!

    If by sanctification you mean regeneration, then you’d have a point about sanctification preceding justification.

    O.K. I think you’re talking about progressive whereas I’m talking about definitive, the beginning of progressive.

    But the Westminster Standards, at least, distinguish regeneration from sanctification. “They, who are effectually called, and regenerated, having a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection.” (WCF 13.1)

    Yes, it speaks of progressive sanctification. However, I would also suggest that the WLC (and WSC) also speaks of definitive sanctification. First the shorter: “Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God [that Renewal is definitive], [and begins the progressive] are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”

    The larger I belive better supports this view even more since it places both the renewal of the whole man and the seeds of repentance and faith prior to addressing progressive aspect of sanctification: “renewed in their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.” Also, the proof texts in include Ezekiel 36, which speaks of the initial removing of the stony heart (definitive sanctification) and the walking in God’s statues (progressive sanctification). Likewise, another proof-text is Romans six where it speaks of being baptized into Christ (clearly initial, and definitive); so that we might be raised to walk in newness of life (in union with Christ). In a word, I think our standards distinguish both the definitive and progressive aspects of sanctification without separating the two. The progressive in linked to as well as presupposes the initial definitive-sanctification. (BTW, I love that it speaks of seeds of repentance and faith, for this doctrine applies to those infants too, whom God is pleased to unite to Christ in infancy.)

    My concern is that the categories of union have either made wobbly or obscured categories that our churches confess.

    There’s no question that such has occurred. And I share your concern. Some who are adverse to systematic theology (e.g. Schlissel, though he’s an extreme example and not to be lumped in with others all others who bear the reproach of the label FV) have employed such language, seemingly in an effort to get out from under precise doctrine. I also recoil from Lusk’s initial remark, for which I understand he withdrew, that union with Christ and imputation are redundant. Union is broader and more encompassing, but most useful just the same as is imputation.
    In the final analyses, I’m not prepared for a moment to give up thanking and praising God in corporate worship with such language as “Our great God of Heaven – Father, Son and Holy Ghost, we thank you for having baptized us into the finished work of Christ and raising us up in him to walk in newness of life…” I don’t think it needs to be qualified (all the time) that one is not talking about an ex opere operato baptism. (In fact, the debate is raging so much that there are some who won’t accept at face value one’s clear position on the Reformed doctrine of baptism; so why elaborate?!)Yet, as we prayed this Sunday, it’s also edifying and I believe pleasing to God to thank him for our sin being imputed to Christ, for God placating His unmixed wrath, satisfying His justice, and removing the middle ground of enmity between us, which of course is more of a systematic language. There’s a place for “systematic” language and “biblical” language both in common discourse and worship I think. The solution is not to abandon one for the other. Certainly Calvin didn’t overreact to the abuses of Rome. Even Luther didn’t with respect to many things. Fundamentalists do though, and I believe that Escondido is (at least) running the same risk, branding everyone in sight and showing an unwillingness to listen and draw finer distinctions.

    My brother, I don’t think we’re too far apart, if at all.

    Yours,

    p.s. – I wonder what you would think of this:
    http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2008/01/resurrection-or-conversion.html

  93. David Gadbois said,

    July 8, 2008 at 11:55 am

    I think it is unwise in the extreme to try to get Calvin to answer these sorts of highly-technical questions for us regarding the ordo salutis. Like the infra/supralapsarian debate and, indeed, even covenant theology itself (in its bi/tri-covenantal formulation), this is a discussion that more explicitly developed in the decades and centuries after Calvin. The 3FU and WS are far more reliable guides, which is why we subscribe to them.

    And I’d say that folks like Berkhof, Bavinck, and the Old Princeton guys were *far* more systematic and precise in addressing these issues, having the benefit of the intervening centuries.

  94. Darryl Hart said,

    July 8, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Ron, I think we are on the same page but it’s hard to tell without a thesaurus. While I generally agree with your point about the place of systematic and biblical language in worship, that’s not what’s going on in the blogosphere or in articles and books. There a precision of language has become harder to maintain because of a lack of common use. Not to pick on you, but your ability to discern the ideas of progressive and definitive sanctification in the words of the WCF is certainly more than I can muster.

    And this is a large part of my concern about the current relationshnip between BT and ST. It seems to me that often idiosyncratic readings of specific and sometimes arbitrarily chosen passages in the Bible, given license by developments in 20th c. biblical theology, are then downloaded into the Reformed past as if those readings and meanings of words had been there all along. As I historian I know anachronism when I see it. The better way to trace a tradition is from the old to the more recent. So instead of finding Murray in the WCF, I wonder if it would be better and more helpful for the maintenance of our tradition and the real authority of our churches’ confession of faith to go in the other direction, from the teaching of the Westminster Divines to that of the Westminster faculty.

  95. July 8, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    David,

    You continue to amaze me with your comments concerning Calvin :). I find you answers both refreshing and astounding at the same time. Refreshing in the sense that it is hard to get many to admit to the differences between Calvin and some later reformed thought that developed after Calvin’s generation. Astounding in the sense that one can speak as Calvin did on some of these issues and be considered outside of reformed orthodoxy, but almost every reformed seminary requires the study of Calvin as a main portion of getting a degree, lol. I mean, from where I am sitting I could easily imagine graduating from seminary with theological views that mirror Calvin very closely in some areas and actually be refused ordination in some reformed circles. (I remember you making the statement to me many months back, on Doug Wilson’s blog I believe, that I shouldn’t be surprised if Calvin couldn’t pass an ordination examine today in many reformed churches.)

    There certainly has been development since Calvin, some good, some bad. How much is good or bad is a matter of opinion that will no doubt be debated for quite a long time to come, but surely we can all agree that if someone holds to Calvin’s theology that such a person should be considered well within reformed orthodoxy, no?

    Blessings,
    Terry

  96. July 8, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Re #91

    Darryl,

    I don’t see anything in Calvin’s Catechism that in any way takes away from the quote from his Institutes. In the catechism he is dealing with works and answering whether they should be considered to have merit, to which he rightly answers no. He makes this very same thing clear in the portion of the Institutes I cited. But in the Institues Calvin is considering the relationship between justification and sanctification, and I find his comments in the Institutes very clear, well reasoned and balanced (as I do with most of what Calvin has to say on almost every doctrine that I have read him on).

    Blessings,
    Terry

  97. July 8, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    “Not to pick on you, but your ability to discern the ideas of progressive and definitive sanctification in the words of the WCF is certainly more than I can muster.

    Hi Darryl,

    Pick away if you must.

    First off, I used the WLC and WSC, not the WCF. My rendering is not only perfectly intelligible; it does justice to the proof-texts that include not only the progressive but the definitive aspects of sanctification. Your rendering of the WLC and WSC requires that we utterly ignore the reference to Romans six regarding our being baptized into Christ – a one time event that is not progressive(!) – as well as the Ezek. 36 reference to God implanting in us a heart of flesh – also a one time event that is not progressive(!). Why these proof-texts that go well beyond progressive sanctification in their address of definitive sanctification when there are so many that only deal with progressive sanctification? Moreover, you wish to jump right over the wording of the Catechisms as they pertain to the whole man being renewed in the image of Christ, which occurs at the inception of effectual grace when God baptizes us into Christ and implants in us a heart of flesh and the seeds of repentance and faith? Progressive sanctification pertains to the stirring up, increasing and strengthening of those graces, which the Catechism addresses, but only after it speaks to those things God accomplishes in our definitive sanctification. Accordingly, the WLC address both aspects of sanctification and not just the progressive aspect. To deny this is to argue (unwittingly) that being baptized into Christ and being granted the seeds of faith and repentance pertains to progressive sanctification, which it doesn’t for those graces are granted when God definitively sanctifies a sinner. God causing us to will and to do of His good favor, and the confidence we have in him to perform a work in us until the day of Jesus Christ pertains to progressive sanctification but that only comes after our being baptized into Christ and having our stony heart replaced with a heart of flesh.

    My brother, I’m crystal clear that you don’t like this exegesis of the Catechism as well as the proof-texts that speak of definitive sanctification, but we need to put preferences and pre-commitments aside for a moment, if not also allegiances, if we’re to get anywhere. Your pre-commitment would seem to be causing you to ignore the point of the proof-texts that compliment a most intelligible rendering of the standards. I’m not sure how much more clearly the Divines could have put it. At the end of the day, it would seem that you require separate catechism questions and answers on definitive sanctification but that would be to put asunder the one, single doctrine of sanctification; not to mention, it would be an arbitrary stricture.

    Blessings my brother,

    Ron

  98. David Gadbois said,

    July 8, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    Astounding in the sense that one can speak as Calvin did on some of these issues and be considered outside of reformed orthodoxy, but almost every reformed seminary requires the study of Calvin as a main portion of getting a degree, lol.

    Since no one has proposed defrocking anyone else for holding to the double benefit/union model vs. a justification priority model, your comments are off-mark.

    Specifically, I said that this is a *technical* discussion, not a vital one, and that Calvin was not reliable on this one.

    Also, you should grow up and stop being so shocked about the fact that Calvin may not be ordained by some modern reformed denominations. Denominations don’t ordain people on the basis of a generic Reformed theology or Calvinism, but on the basis of specific confessional standards. This often eliminates even other wings of the Reformed sphere. The Reformed of Zwingli and Bullinger, for example. Sometimes the differences prevent even the Continental Reformed from crossing over to the Presbyterian side because of the differences between the 3 Forms of Unity and the Westminster Standards.

  99. Vern Crisler said,

    July 8, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    Please delete first post: it posted before I was finished. Thanks!

    Re: #97, etc.

    I think you Unionists are not paying attention to the progression of Paul’s argument in Romans. Please, for a moment, stop reading Gaffin or the FVists, and just open your Bible and read it.

    What does Paul say just before the union chapter (Rom. 6)? He says “having been justified by faith,” we have x, y, or z (Rom. 5:1). It is be-CAUSE of justification by faith, that is, faith is the instrumental CAUSE of justification, that we have x, y, or z. It is our MEANS of obtaining peace and grace.

    Notice further Paul’s discussion of our STATUS when Christ died for us: “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die…” (Rom. 5:7). Indeed, Christ died for us “while we were still sinners” (Rom. 5:8).

    Now then comes the crucial point:

    “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:9).

    Having been justified by faith, having now been justified by His blood, there follows x, y, and z.

    God reconciled us while we were ENEMIES (Rom. 5:10), justifying us by his blood. And BECAUSE of this, we shall be saved by His life.

    Then, Paul says that those who receive the “gift of righteousness” will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17). In other words, not by earning righteousness, but by receiving it as a gift, will we have union with Christ.

    Paul then explains in Romans 6 why we are not to use the free gift as an excuse for sin. THAT is the context of the union with Christ concept. Paul points to our baptism as symbolic. When we were baptized, our sinful nature died and was buried with Christ, but then our ethical walk should be as though we had been resurrected with Christ.

    This union language comes AFTER the chapter on justification. It is a defense against the charge that Paul’s doctrine would lead to antinomianism. Paul is teaching that justification leads to life, not death, to union with Christ, not slavery to sin.

    “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law, through the body of Christ…that we should bear fruit to God” (Rom. 7:4).

    The progression is: justified by faith, justified by His blood, have become dead to the law through Christ in order to bear fruit to God. If Paul had thought union with Christ were the primary basis of our justification, he would have started the book of Romans with chapter 6, but he didn’t.

    Paul’s great aim in Romans is stated in Chapter 3, verse 24: “being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

    Christ’s work of redemption (his life and death) is the ground of our justification, while faith is the means of freely obtaining it. It is not our union with Christ, or relation to Christ, that is the ground of justification, but Christ’s work itself (redemption that is in Christ Jesus).

    Our union with Christ is the result of justification and the basis for our sanctification. It should not be seen as an overarching category that flattens out the steps in Paul’s doctrine of salvation.

    Vern

  100. July 9, 2008 at 7:26 am

    Vern,

    First off, I don’t believe that justification comes from union. My position includes that justification comes from imputation. With that aside…

    One is not justified or progressively sanctified because he is union with Christ. One is justified and progressively sanctified while in union with Christ. I believe that is something “unionists” need to lay hold of. Union is a catch-all phrase that describes a reality that causes or results in nothing that is not more precisely indexed to that which union contemplates in its constituent parts. We receive justifying faith while in union with Christ but not because we’re in union with Christ. Yet even that you won’t accept because you believe that one is not united to Christ until he is justified; or at least that is what you said.

    What I believe you need to hold of is that although justification occurs through the faith that follows regeneration, union occurs immediately through regeneration. Accordingly, union precedes justification because it is the direct result of regeneration whereas justification is not the direct result of regeneration because rather it is separated from regeneration by the faith regeneration creates. Consequently, union precedes justification but not because union causes justification or anything else for that matter. It causes nothing. Are you willing to say that union with Christ and consequently definitive sanctification are not the immediate result of the regeneration that precedes both faith and justification?

    Finally, it’s a rather odd hermeneutic that would require that one diagram the logical order of the application of redemption based upon the chapter orders in Romans.

    Ron

  101. July 9, 2008 at 7:35 am

    I should probably make one large qualifier. I was speaking of the mechanics of sanctification when I said that one is not progressively sanctified because he is in union with Christ. Yet nothwithstanding, that does not mean union plays no part in our sanctification. It most certainly does because God causes us to will and to do of his good pleasure in conjunction with our faith that we are truly in Him and He is in us.

    Ron

  102. sean said,

    July 9, 2008 at 8:10 am

    “that although justification occurs through the faith that follows regeneration, union occurs immediately through regeneration.”

    Again this brings up the whole question of union as “cd”. Divorcing or rather distinguishing union from faith and it’s accompanying benefits is I believe an un-helpful development. I’m forced to ask, as it regards union as existential union, so what? The romans chain is in my mind very helpful because it’s a biblical way of discussing historia and ordo that is much more familiar to my ears and the traditions we embrace. Plus, existential union seems to diminish, in my mind, election in christ and thus overshadow, justification as grounded in christ’s work in the COR. As someone else has argued, particularly as it regards rom 5, is union ground or context for redemption applied.

  103. ReformedSinner said,

    July 9, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Vern,

    “The progression is: justified by faith, justified by His blood, have become dead to the law through Christ in order to bear fruit to God. If Paul had thought union with Christ were the primary basis of our justification, he would have started the book of Romans with chapter 6, but he didn’t.”

    This argument will only work if you can prove that when Paul writes Romans his primary concern is to give us a full blown Doctrine of Justication vis-a-vis Union with Christ. Paul did not write Romans to solve the argument between Ron and you, while you may cite these passages but making the most of your argument on the order that Paul wrote is hardly any knock down proof. There are other epistles of Paul when he begins by Sanctificational languages and then goes on to Justificational languages. Surely we are not suggesting there that Paul changed his mind about the order of Soteriological core.

    Becareful to make argument based solely on the order of presentation.

  104. Kyle said,

    July 9, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Vern, re :99,

    Our union with Christ is the result of justification and the basis for our sanctification. It should not be seen as an overarching category that flattens out the steps in Paul’s doctrine of salvation.

    It seems to me that Ron is being consistent with the formulation of the doctrine in the Westminster Larger Catechism:

    Question 66: What is that union which the elect have with Christ?

    Answer: The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done in their effectual calling.

    Question 67: What is effectual calling?

    Answer: Effectual calling is the work of God’s almighty power and grace, whereby (out of his free and special love to his elect, and from nothing in them moving him thereunto) he does, in his accepted time, invite and draw them to Jesus Christ, by his Word and Spirit; savingly enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their wills, so as they (although in themselves dead in sin) are hereby made willing and able freely to answer his call, and to accept and embrace the grace offered and conveyed therein.

    Here union is the result of effectual calling, i.e., regeneration, not the result of justification.

  105. July 9, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Wooshhhhhhhhh – all net Kyle, all net.

    Ron

  106. its.reed said,

    July 9, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    ref. 105:

    LOL :)

  107. July 9, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Word on the street is that you have two pulpit options, yes?

    Ron

  108. sean said,

    July 9, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Vern,

    Don’t let ’em sweat ya. Imputation is still the grounds for existential union anyway you wanna dice it. The forensic/legal drives the “real”

  109. sean said,

    July 9, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    prob better to say the forensic/legal is real.

  110. Kyle said,

    July 9, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    Sean, re: 108,

    Don’t let ‘em sweat ya. Imputation is still the grounds for existential union anyway you wanna dice it. The forensic/legal drives the “real”

    Justification relies on Christ’s federal headship over us: as our federal head, his obedience is imputed to us. So, here’s my question: In terms of logical priority, if we are not first joined to Christ, how can He be our federal head?

    Please don’t mistake me for an FV sympathizer for I am most certainly NOT one. But I think the Larger Catechism is correct that union with Christ is manifested in, rather than predicated on, our justification:

    Q. 69. What is the communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
    A. The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.

  111. sean said,

    July 9, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Kyle,

    Taking the 2nd Adam motif, I’m elect IN Christ before I’m united to Christ. I wasn’t “united” to the 1st adam before I was imputed with his corruption. So, too with the elect in Christ.

  112. July 9, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Kyle,

    And a motorcycle has no doors. Don’t forget that one. Wake me up when it’s over.

    Ron

  113. sean said,

    July 9, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Ron,

    Be nice I’m not trying to lay traps or obfuscate. I appreciate that you want to take about applied in distinction from accomplished. I just want to make sure we’re at least grounding the former in the later.

  114. July 9, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Sean,

    I’ll be nice, even if you don’t interact with what we’re pointing out. :)

    I’ll give you an opportunity to atone, and to expedite matters I’ll even ask diagnostic questions. All you need to do is tell me precisely where you disagree. Please, stick to the issue – that’s all I ask.

    1. Does effectualy calling and regeneration precede faith? YES (EC, R, F)

    2. Does faith precede justification? YES (F, J)

    3. Therefore, does effectual calling and regeneration precede faith and justification? YES (EC,R, F, J)

    4. Is the Catechism correct when it states that our union with Christ comes through effectual calling? YES

    5. Although union with Christ does not cause our justification, don’t we become united to Christ prior to being justified?

    Cheers,

    Ron

  115. sean said,

    July 9, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Ron,

    I’ll ignore your passive-aggressiveness, that you pass off as niceness, and look past your school marminess or rc priest tendencies (take your pick) in prescribing penance(take a test) in assuming I need to atone for anything, and finally your proclivity to set yourself up as arbiter of blog truth(congrats by the way) and wish you well in your participatory union.

    Sean

  116. July 9, 2008 at 4:04 pm

    Hmmmm, sounds like you want to hold to a conclusion that conflicts with your premises. :)

    Yours,

    Ron

  117. sean said,

    July 9, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Ron,

    If it warms your pedantic heart……………..

  118. Andrew Duggan said,

    July 9, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Mr DiGiacomo,

    In #72 you wrote:

    The four logical moments may be viewed as: Regeneration –> Definitive Sanctification & Imputation –> Constituitive Righteousness –> Declaration of Righteous Verdict.

    and in #80 you wrote:

    Now regeneration causes faith and justification follows faith; whereas regeneration is the act of definitive sanctification

    Emphasis mine.

    Can you reconcile your later statement of equating (or should I assume a Clintonian use of is) regeneration with what you call definitive sanctification, and your earlier use where it is quite distinct?

    In any case the recent comments seem much further off-topic of the original posting that what is normally seen as in bounds.

  119. July 9, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    Good catch, and thanks for the chance to clear that up. Regeneration is distinguished from definitive sanctification, which is very clear in #72. So, I would ask that we interpret #80 in such a way as to not contradict #72, which I believe you are trying to do. God acts in regenerating us, which is pretty acceptable. The result of the action of regeneration is definitive sanctification. That is what I meant when I wrote: “regeneration is the act of definitive sanctification. You are absolutely correct though. I should have not written that in such shorthand. I should have written #80 in perhaps this way: “regeneration is the act by which we are definitively sanctified, as opposed to “regeneration is the act of definitive sanctification.” Better?

    Ron

  120. July 9, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    It wouldn’t hurt to add (though it might not help either) that those logical moments can be made even finer. I didn’t include faith in those moments either. The reason being, Post #72 was lifted from another post of mine, which was merely aimed at showing that definitive sanctification precedes the declaration of pardon. Accordingly, I wasn’t interested in showing all the logical moments or even where faith fell into the scheme. Larger groupings and skipping over faith served the intended purpose well enough.

    We could slice the moments even finer for a more “pedantic” discussion such as this: God acts monergistically when he regenerates us, which is called Regeneration –> the immediate results of regeneration in us are the position of Definitive Sanctification in Christ and the gift Faith –> God then credits Christ to us through the instrumentality of the faith we have upon being recreated in the whole man, which is called Imputation –> God can then constitute us as righteous because we have been imputed with Christ, which is called Constituitive Righteousness –> Having been constituted as righteous, God can now declare us to be so, through the imputation that we were granted through the faith that was acquired through God’s monergistic act of regeneration, which is called the Declaration of a Righteous Verdict or justification.

    I really don’t think this is all that esoteric.

    Ron

  121. Patrick Ramsey said,

    July 9, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    Here are two interesting quotes from John Ball (1585-1640):

    “This is the order of spiritual blessings conferred upon us in Christ, faith is the band whereby we are united unto Christ; after union follows communion with him; justification, adoption, sanctification be the benefits and fruits of communion.”

    “By faith we are engrafted into Christ, and made one with him, flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, lively members of that body, whereof he is the head: and by Christ we are united unto God. In Scripture to be in Christ and to be in Faith are put indifferently. By faith we are married unto Christ and have communion with him in his death and resurrection, he and all his benefits are truly and verily made ours; his name is put upon us, we are justified from the guilt and punishment of sin, we are clothed with his righteousness, we are sanctified against the power of sin, having our nature healed and our hearts purified: we draw virtue from him to die to sin, and live to righteousness.”

  122. Andrew Duggan said,

    July 9, 2008 at 8:34 pm

    Mr, DiGiacomo, thanks, but I think that then raises a question when in #92 you wrote:

    However, I would also suggest that the WLC (and WSC) also speaks of definitive sanctification…“Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God [that Renewal is definitive], [and begins the progressive] are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”

    where you tie (in your editorial insertion to the answer of WSC35) the progressive to the definitive.

    Now, if we plug that back into your progression from #72, it places the progressive sanctification prior to justification and even ahead of the “Constituitive Righteousness” on which justification is based.

    Now when one considers you in your progression in #72 you link definitive sanctification and imputation*, it really comes across as though you are making both the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and definitive sanctification together with the progressive sanctification you’ve tied to it by finding the definitive** in the progressive the source of and the prerequisite of the “Constituitive Righteousness” on which the declaration of righteous is based.

    Your #92 makes your progression from #72 read like

    Regeneration –> Definitive Sanctification (as the beginning of progressive sanctification) & Imputation –> Constituitive Righteousness –> Declaration of Righteous Verdict

    Can you see how that might make some very uncomfortable with your formulation? Please take note of my use of the phrase “comes across as”. You probably don’t mean all of that, (especially since you’ve written elsewhere in clearer terms about justification) but it really does come across that way. What that does is makes those who read you wonder if you’re not taking way with the left hand what you gave with the right.

    It seems to me, the issue with your use of the word sanctification in definitive sanctification, is that the sanctification in WLC75 (and WSC35) speaks of is limited to the use of the word as found in the answer to WLC69 (and WSC32). Let’s not forget these questions about sanctification are fleshing out The special benefits which the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ.(WLC65)

    I think you are reading too much in WSC35 to find what you call definitive sanctification. The use of “more and more” in WSC35 and WLC75 and the existence WLC 77 seems to me to refute your finding of definitive sanctification in WSC 35 and WLC75.

    While I agree there is a definitive act of renewal in God’s grace (which I’ve always known as regeneration) that is in effectual calling, not sanctification as dealt with in WLC and WSC. WLC/WSC make a distinction between those two subject if in no other way than be virtue of the fact they enumerate them separately, and then dealt with them independently of each other.

    What would be helpful is if you could have bound your progression originally #72 in terms of the language as found in WLC65-76, using the terms “effectual calling, union and communion with Christ, justification, adoption, and sanctification”, and the language in WLC used to define those terms.

    Something like this [a->b->c]=effectual calling [c->d->e->f] = justification, etc.

    Of course, if your intent was to be more specific and technical than the WLC/WSC, then perhaps that might be difficult to do.

    I have no desire to open a debate with you on the subject, my reason for the reply was only to make you aware of how you were coming across to at least one reader.

    ———
    * we know that the imputation Christ’s righteousness is the ground of justification (WLC70, WSC33)

    ** which you identify as “Renewal” in #92

  123. Andrew Duggan said,

    July 9, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    For the record I didn’t see Mr. DiGiacomo’s #120 until after my #122. Nevertheless, I think I still prefer WLC65-77.

  124. July 9, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Mr, DiGiacomo, thanks, but I think that then raises a question when in #92 you wrote:

    However, I would also suggest that the WLC (and WSC) also speaks of definitive sanctification… “Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God [that Renewal is definitive], [and begins the progressive] are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.”

    where you tie (in your editorial insertion to the answer of WSC35) the progressive to the definitive.

    Now, if we plug that back into your progression from #72, it places the progressive sanctification prior to justification and even ahead of the “Constituitive Righteousness” on which justification is based.

    Dear Andrew,

    Let’s go slowly here. I believe you are trying to understand me and interact fairly. Please consider that definitive sanctification begins the process of all that is contained in the whole of sanctification, which includes definitive and progressive sanctification. Yet the only part of sanctification that is in the first logical moment we’ve been discussing is definitive sanctification. I thought I’ve been pretty clear on that. Although definitive sanctification begins the process of sanctification, it is not part of progressive sanctification and has been consistently distinguished from it. We might liken this language to creation and providence. Creation can be said to be the beginning of providence, but it is not providence and must be distinguished from providence. The analogy is not perfect, so I’m hesitant to include it. In the end, although definitive sanctification begins the process, all of the process less the definitive portion comes after justification.

    Now when one considers you in your progression in #72 you link definitive sanctification and imputation*, it really comes across as though you are making both the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and definitive sanctification together with the progressive sanctification you’ve tied to it by finding the definitive** in the progressive the source of and the prerequisite of the “Constituitive Righteousness” on which the declaration of righteous is based.

    IMHO, and please don’t take offense for none is intended – I think that’s a somewhat (for lack of a better word) uncritical reading of what I’ve gone to great pains to maintain; that being definitive is not progressive. I’d like a little leniency here if you must take my words that way. I spoke of the implantation of the seeds of faith, the removal of the stony heart and being baptized into Christ, and distinguished those one time aspects of salvation from the exercise of faith, walking in God’s statues and being raised to walk in newness of life – all in an effort to maintain a clear distinction between the progressive and the definitive. I’m not sure what more I might have done, but let’s move on if you can appreciate what I am desperately trying to communicate.

    I’m going to go with #92 for that is a more detailed enunciation of the moments:

    My progression is as follows: God acts monergistically when he regenerates us, which is called Regeneration –> the immediate results of regeneration in us are the position of Definitive Sanctification in Christ and the gift Faith –> God then credits Christ to us through the instrumentality of the faith we have upon being recreated in the whole man, which is called Imputation –> God can then constitute us as righteous because we have been imputed with Christ, which is called Constituitive Righteousness –> Having been constituted as righteous, God can now declare us to be so, through the imputation that we were granted through the faith that was acquired through God’s monergistic act of regeneration, which is called the Declaration of a Righteous Verdict or justification.

    I think you are reading too much in WSC35 to find what you call definitive sanctification. The use of “more and more” in WSC35 and WLC75 and the existence WLC 77 seems to me to refute your finding of definitive sanctification in WSC 35 and WLC75.

    From post #92, which pertains to WLC Q&A 75 “The larger I believe better supports this view even more since it places both the renewal of the whole man and the seeds of repentance and faith prior to addressing progressive aspect of sanctification: “renewed in their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.” Also, the proof texts in include Ezekiel 36, which speaks of the initial removing of the stony heart (definitive sanctification) and the walking in God’s statues (progressive sanctification). Likewise, another proof-text is Romans six where it speaks of being baptized into Christ (clearly initial, and definitive); so that we might be raised to walk in newness of life (in union with Christ). In a word, I think our standards distinguish both the definitive and progressive aspects of sanctification without separating the two. The progressive in linked to as well as presupposes the initial definitive-sanctification. (BTW, I love that it speaks of seeds of repentance and faith, for this doctrine applies to those infants too, whom God is pleased to unite to Christ in infancy.)”

    New stuff:

    I’m not sure how you get around the proof-texts and the strength of the wording. Moreover, WLC 77 buys you nothing as I see it: “Although sanctification be inseparably joined with justification, [i.e. none who are forgiven won’t be sanctified – faith w/o works is dead; and none who are sanctified aren’t forgiven…], yet they differ, in that God in justification imputes the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification his Spirit infuses grace, and enables to the exercise thereof; [Ah, the answer distinguishes the grace infused and the exercise thereof. What does this sanctifying grace that is infused prior to the exercise thereof bring forth – but that which we call definitive sanctification, is it not?]; in the former, sin is pardoned; in the other, it is *subdued*[could be a reference to definitive sanctification, or a constant ongoing subduing, though it doesn’t say a constant ongoing subduing]: the one does equally free all believers from the revenging wrath of God, and that perfectly in this life, that they never fall into condemnation; the other is neither equal in all, nor in this life perfect in any, but growing up to perfection.”[clearly progressive there]
    I see nothing that is at odds with definitive sanctification and I see it being spoken of. Keep in mind that neither do you see the words “progressive sanctification”. We’re talking about whether the doctrines we call progressive and definitive are being articulate, which they clearly are.

    While I agree there is a definitive act of renewal in God’s grace (which I’ve always known as regeneration) that is in effectual calling, not sanctification as dealt with in WLC and WSC.

    That definite act of renewal that comes by God’s regeneration is in fact definitive sanctification. Dear brother, are we now quibbling over the words we use to tag the result of effectual calling / regeneration? Added to that, the WLC speaks about the initial implantation of the seeds of faith and repentance and the exercising of those gifts in its questions on Sanctification. The proof-texts speak of the removal of the heart of stone and being baptized into Christ, which is not progressive sanctification – yet it’s in the section on Sanctification. And for some reason, you don’t think they’re talking about sanctification (of the definitive sort) and we both agree that they’re not talking about progressive sanctification by those references. I believe your solution is that they must be talking about a definitive act of renewal. Again, it seems to me that you agree that their talking about what I say they’re talking about. You just want to call it something other than definitive sanctification; yet the questions are about sanctification and not “renewal.”

    I will say one thing. I believe you are very sincere and for that I am exceedingly grateful. I also think that we share the same theology – certainly on the major points.

    Grace and peace,

    Ron

  125. July 9, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    Post Script:

    Andrew, you wrote: “While I agree there is a definitive act of renewal in God’s grace (which I’ve always known as regeneration) that is in effectual calling, not sanctification as dealt with in WLC and WSC.”

    To which I replied: “That definite act of renewal that comes by God’s regeneration is in fact definitive sanctification.”

    Let me qualify this. In fact, strike it. In my initial read I thought what you meant by renewal was the same thing I would call definitive sanctification, but now I question that since you are willing to call renewal an “act’ whereas I don’t think of definitive sanctification as an act but rather a setting apart once and for all. The actions of God are effectual calling that brings for the Spirit’s work of regeneration, which I guess you call renewal. But, are we set-apart as a result of that renewal or are we just Spirit indwelt? What do you call the new state of the soul as it pertains our being set-apart in Christ? It’s not regeneration / renewal. Is sanctification definite prior to being progressive? Is one set-apart, sanctified or raised with Christ, in other words, upon receiving the Holy Ghost, the seeds of faith and repentance, and a heart of flesh – before they act in accordance with that new recreated nature? Obviously, the receiving of those graces is not progressive, but rather inceptive and definitive. But is the soul set apart, or yet sanctified in any way, prior to being progressively made holy? Are we holy in Christ as a result of regeneration?

    Thanks,

    Ron

  126. Kyle said,

    July 9, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    Sean, re: 111,

    Taking the 2nd Adam motif, I’m elect IN Christ before I’m united to Christ. I wasn’t “united” to the 1st adam before I was imputed with his corruption. So, too with the elect in Christ.

    Yes, you were in union with Adam: he was your federal head. Thus his guilt was imputed to you. So, too, with Christ. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness relies on His federal headship over us. He is not our federal head if we are not united to Him. Thus union is prerequisite for imputation.

  127. Andrew Duggan said,

    July 10, 2008 at 7:47 am

    Mr. DiGiacomo,

    WLC67 on effectual calling, says “savingly enlightening their minds, renewing and powerfully determining their wills…”, so they talk about renewing in both effectual calling and sanctification. So, I am well within the bounds of the WLC to stick with the transition of death in sin to life Christ in effectual calling.

    I think you also need deal with the fact that WLC places sanctification under the head of “communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ”, WLC69 cf WLC65, while in the WLC66 union with Christ is done in effectual calling. In WLC69, the communion in grace with Christ (justification, adoption and sanctification) is dealt with, and then those are further explained in subsequent questions.

    It seems to me you are missing the distinction that the WLC makes between effectual calling and sanctification. Effectual calling is bigger than just regeneration, which is why I used the preposition “in”. I just think that the WLC 64-78 (esp effectual calling) is more succinct, and clearer to what you have.

  128. July 10, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Andrew,

    Are we holy in Christ (set apart; definitively sanctified) upon regeneration or are we not? Is there even such a thing as definitive sanctification?

    Thanks,

    Ron

  129. sean said,

    July 10, 2008 at 8:16 am

    Kyle,

    My point was imputation was immediate in adam through union by covenantal descent, whereas in Christ it is by election. Union seems to allow a pretemporal aspect as well ala eph1/ rom 5. This aspect argues for a forensic ground for later “participatory union”. If you buy Horton in this scheme; God’s declarative in Christ creates the ground for participatory union (redemption applied) and argues for this participatory union as context or milieu for the unfolding of the redemptive benefits. Look I’m not any expert on Horton’s development, and you might want to peruse his C&S for a much better detailing. The discussion for me isn’t one of parsing out logical or temporal benefits of applied redemption but of understanding the covenantal nature of the benefits and how they come to us. I think the COR-COG link is a better way to talk of union and does a better job of taking into account or keeping in the picture our election in Christ and thus the forensic ground for participatory union. Ron, sees this as me getting of topic (at least as best as I can tell) I on the other hand find his sharp distinguishing as an unhelpful and less than holistic way of viewing the enterprise. Dr. Clark alluded to the three covenant scheme as a better structure for talking about the enterprise, I have drank deeply from that batch of kool-aid if you will.

  130. July 10, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Sean,

    1. If the imputation of Christ to us is through election, then eternal justification obtains, which I don’t think you believe.

    2. That we mysteriously died in Christ must be maintained, which I think you want to do. Yet when we were in Christ as God was reconciling the world in Christ, we were not imputed with any righteousness. We were identified in Christ but not partakers of his life and accomplishment. We had to be baptized into him to become partakers.

    3. Do you think the CoG and CoR fleshes out the application of redemption well?

    4. I find it ironic that you would suggest that the “unionists” are guilty of being less than holistic. They’re actually more holistic, not less. In fact, they’re so holistic that they open themselves up to the charge of eclipsing the components of redemption applied by bundling them all within union, something I try to be careful not to do. We’re simply trying to maintain what Lane Tipton would call the analogical relationship between the death and resurrection of Christ and that of the believer, both in structure and reality.

    We are more holistic by arguing that there are no saving benefits outside of union with Christ. Union in Christ is the location of these salvific benefits that I believe Escondido prefers to look atomistically, not holistically. The question is when that union occurs. We’re quick to argue that it occurs when one is existentially united to Christ, which is not merely our election in him. I find this all very basic, very Pauline – and very WTS.

    Best,

    Ron

  131. sean said,

    July 10, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Ron,

    I don’t believe WSC is developing a different doctrine of union, they’re simply not convinced of union as central dogma. They seem to prefer, and I happen to agree, that the discussion is best had within the context of a three covenant scheme. Horton has developed a declarative-imputative/forensic structure which he thinks best accounts for the exegetical material and emphasizes the forensic/legal at least as ground for the participatory. It’s at least as much a matter of development and emphasis as well as some difference in execution, at least as best as I can tell. I find the arguments for this development helpful particularly as I consider Rom 4-6 and eph 1. Blogs are not great places to hash out these details, particularly when you’ve got R&R and C&S available for more scholarly treatments. So, I resist your notion that yours is more Pauline while affirming that yours is more WTS (I guess). By the way I wasn’t impuning all “unionists” as you term it, but rather your particular bent on this blog. I think the focus on what I’m terming the existential union maybe better said as def. sanct. is tending to eclipse not only it’s forensic grounding but also the train of benefits. Not the least of which would be faith.

  132. Kyle said,

    July 10, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Sean, re: 129,

    My point was imputation was immediate in adam through union by covenantal descent, whereas in Christ it is by election.

    We are elect from eternity; by logical extension, your scheme would result in eternal justification. Perhaps we’re talking past each other. I don’t disagree that election is the ultimate ground of union. However, union with Christ logically precedes justification, especially in these regards: 1) faith is the instrumental means of justification, by which alone we receive and rest on the finished work of Christ, and faith is only possible for the regenerate; 2) regeneration binds us to Christ in a covenant relationship (union!) with Him as our representative head, thus making imputation possible.

  133. Darryl Hart said,

    July 10, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Ron, you referred in #130 to “the analogical relationship between the death and resurrection of Christ and that of the believer, both in structure and reality.” I’ve always been puzzled by this construction. One of the comforts of the gospel was that Christ died in my stead. But the deeper we go into the union teaching, I”m told that I died and was raised with Christ, and I need to dwell upon that reality. Here I’d been comforted all along that I didn’t have to die for my sins because Christ already did.

    Perhaps the clarification is that the rising and dying of the believer you mention has more to do with sanctification — as in mortification and vivification. I see no problem with appealing to that analogy for understanding the Christian life. But to tell someone that the comfort of the gospel is that they have died with Christ and they’ve been raised with Christ makes singing the hymn “Jesus Paid It All” sort of pointless.

  134. Darryl Hart said,

    July 10, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Way back in #110, Kyle wrote: “Justification relies on Christ’s federal headship over us: as our federal head, his obedience is imputed to us. So, here’s my question: In terms of logical priority, if we are not first joined to Christ, how can He be our federal head?”

    This question gets at another problem I see with the stress upon union. Are we talking about union as part of federal headship, which points in the direction of election and the decree, or are we talking about union as part of the application of redemption? (Gaffin in BFNBS actually mentions three different senses of union.) The irony is that union was originally supposed to move the discussion of salvation away from the ordo to the historia. But most of the discusion of union here has moved us into the smallest details of the ordo. I don’t get that one at all.

    Still, my sense is that some who raise questions about union are doing so because of an over scrupulosity to discern every nook and cranny of what is a very mysterious reality — the application of redemption. But within the tradition, Reformed theologians have never been hesitant to talk about the mystical union that comes through federal headship.

  135. Andrew Duggan said,

    July 10, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    Mr DiGiacomo,

    Re: #128, I don’t think we’ve achieved an agreement on terminology, without which I will not answer your question other than to say I continue to receive and adopt the WCF/WLC/WSC as not only containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures, but also as my personal confession.

  136. Manlius said,

    July 10, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Darryl,

    re: 133 – Christ’s death is for sin (Rom. 6:10 and other places), but our death is so that we can be raised with him (Rom.6&7 and other places). Our death is to the Law, and our resurrection is with Christ (Rom 6:4; 7:4). Seeing ourselves as dying and rising with Christ in baptism and faith is absolutely essential to the gospel, but it in no way diminishes Christ’s unique death on our behalf. Otherwise Paul would constantly be speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

    DH: “Still, my sense is that some who raise questions about union are doing so because of an over scrupulosity to discern every nook and cranny of what is a very mysterious reality — the application of redemption. But within the tradition, Reformed theologians have never been hesitant to talk about the mystical union that comes through federal headship.”

    I think what these folks are trying to do is deal with the various perpectives from which the Bible presents redemption. It may be complicated if we think of the Holy Spirit as sort of going through a process of applying redemption in a piecemeal way to us, but it’s simpler if we think instead of the Spirit joining (applying?) us to Christ and all his redemptive benefits.

    These redemptive benefits include all sorts of interesting varieties (some imputative and some not, some monergistic and others synergistic, some definitive and some progressive, some individual and some corporate, etc.) The key matter, though, is that all of that richness and variety of redemption is not sorted out within our own pious hearts, but in the heart of Christ himself. As I tell my people, it’s not a matter of Christ being in your heart, but you being in His.

    If dwelling on the parts of redemption that are imputative and definitive is a comfort to you, that’s terrific! We should all medidate on the same. (And thanks to Martin Luther for making the needed correction.) However, we still have to do business with the entirety of the biblical witness, and union with Christ is what best comprises all of the material.

  137. sean said,

    July 10, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Kyle, #132

    I’m stumbling over your meaning of eternal justification, as it regards 1st and 2nd adam headship. I was corrupt/guilty in adam representatively before I was born in time and space, so also I was justified in christ representatively before participatory union in time and space. In using the 3 cov scheme and trying to do justice to union both participatorally and pretemporally (rom 4-6 and partic. eph1 and rom 8) we have to in some way speak like this, at least collectively as the elect. I’m not trying to elucidate some notion of eternal justification that makes inconsequential or unnececessary participatory union.

    If I follow Horton, to the best I understand, God’s declarative word of our justification pretemporally in Christ “creates” the reality of the participatory context (existential union) in which I’m united by faith and the redemptive realities are made mine in time and space. So, in that scheme, God’s declarative word brings about “participation” not “participation” bringing about the declarative-imputative word.

    I’m not however disagreeing with your 1) and 2) except maybe to take a little exception to existential union making imputation possible. I’m trying on Horton’s emphasis on God’s declaration in Christ as making imputation possible through union by faith. Boy, that’s really splitting hairs, in one regard, but in another it’s trying to not only keep in mind the pretemporal ground but make sure we keep in mind the legal as real as opposed to just an emphasis on the participatory as real that in turn causes the legal to be true.

    Boy that’s wordy, and prob not really helpful. I’m still mulling over Horton’s formulation so give me some room, if you would. I “feel” his emphasis when I read the pertinent texts more than I understand how to articulate them in my own words.

    By the way, I certainly don’t know, but I don’t think Horton or WSC is trying to argue a distinct union mutually exclusive of Gaffin’s or Murray’s formulation.

  138. Kyle said,

    July 10, 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Sean, re: 137,

    I’m stumbling over your meaning of eternal justification, as it regards 1st and 2nd adam headship. I was corrupt/guilty in adam representatively before I was born in time and space, so also I was justified in christ representatively before participatory union in time and space.

    But you weren’t guilty before you existed. You were guilty from the moment you first came into existence because you came into existence by ordinary generation from Adam, thus he was your federal head, thus his guilt was imputed to you. Likewise, the Spirit gave you new life in Christ (so you believed on Him), thus He is your federal head, thus his righteousness is imputed to you.

    If I follow Horton, to the best I understand, God’s declarative word of our justification pretemporally in Christ “creates” the reality of the participatory context (existential union) in which I’m united by faith and the redemptive realities are made mine in time and space. So, in that scheme, God’s declarative word brings about “participation” not “participation” bringing about the declarative-imputative word.

    Not having read Horton, I can’t comment on your understanding of the scheme he presents. However, from where I stand, it is God’s eternal decree of election that grounds the application of redemption. We are elected, thus we are called; being called, we are united; being united, we are justified; being justified, we are adopted & sanctified; etc.

    I’m not trying to drive a wedge between participatory/”real” and forensic/”unreal.” God’s forensic declation of righteousness in our justification is quite real. But this is on the prior basis of our being united to Him by faith as our federal head. If we are not united to Him, He is not our head; if He is not our head, His righteousness cannot be ours. We must be united to Him if we are to have His righteousness. Therefore, union is the ground of imputation.

  139. sean said,

    July 10, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Kyle 138#

    “But you weren’t guilty before you existed. You were guilty from the moment you first came into existence because you came into existence by ordinary generation from Adam, thus he was your federal head, thus his guilt was imputed to you. Likewise, the Spirit gave you new life in Christ (so you believed on Him), thus He is your federal head, thus his righteousness is imputed to you.”

    Wait a minute, they both functioned as my federal heads before I existed in history, right? I’m not denying, through federal headship, redemption applied.

    “God’s forensic declation of righteousness in our justification is quite real. But this is on the prior basis of our being united to Him by faith as our federal head.”

    Yeah we’re still speaking past each other here. Declaration first takes place in the pactum salutis, Horton would say this declaration creates the covenantal context (participatory union) for my receiving of salvation (redemptive benefits). In this way participatory union isn’t the ground but rather the context, I would term it the vehicle, for receiving those benefits.

  140. July 10, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Dear Darryl,

    If commend to you Manlius’s post #136, which I will merely piggyback upon.

    One of the comforts of the gospel was that Christ died in my stead. But the deeper we go into the union teaching, I”m told that I died and was raised with Christ and I need to dwell upon that reality.”

    Yes, you have died and been raised with Christ and you should dwell on that reality – meditate on it if you will – if for no other reason than because God’s word teaches that you have been crucified with Christ. “Or are you ignorant that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” This message of Paul’s is profound, even life giving; yet you would seem to suggest that you find little or no comfort in it because Jesus died for your sins.

    Here I’d been comforted all along that I didn’t have to die for my sins because Christ already did.

    Has anyone said that you died for your sins when you died in Christ? What doctrine is it that you think you would like to mark and avoid for it supposed uselessness?

    Let me try to at least touch on some of the usefulness of the doctrine. There are two ways in which Scripture speaks of dying to sin. The first is death through union with Christ and the second has to do with the putting to death, or the mortification, of the flesh as we strive by the Spirit to be like Christ. I suspect that most Christians after they trust that Jesus died for their sins endeavor to pick up their cross and follow him. Not a bad life but it misses so much, including the very reality that enables us more fully to die to self and live to Christ. What it misses is the absolute reality of our death, burial and resurrection in Christ, signed and sealed to us in Baptism. Not only did Jesus die for our sins, we died with him! Either that adds something to the reality of “Jesus died for my sins” or it doesn’t. I say it does.

    You die to sin daily, but you also died to the penalty of sin once and for all but only in union with Christ, signed and sealed to you in baptism. Not only did Jesus die for your sins; you died in him, which does not translate to, as you seem to suggest in your quote above, that you had to die for your sins. Death to sin in Christ is the very basis for our living out our dying to self, like Christ. The point is spiritual, not carnal. It is by reckoning as fact the legal aspect of that past union that enables us to die to self daily in the future. So, in Romans six our sanctification is indeed correlated to our faith – the faith that requires that we not only reckon that Christ died for us (which you dwell on, and that is good) but also that we were crucified with him, having been baptized into his death. But for some reason, most Christians see Jesus, out their two thousand years ago, as dying for their sins – end of story; but do not see that they were actually crucified with Christ and been raised with him to walk in newness of life. What does this mean? Is Paul just uttering nonsense? You recoil at Lane Tipton’s verbiage but it must be because you have not yet grasped his meaning, or Paul’s. In the final analyses, either our union in Christ’s crucifixion is superfluous or it’s profound, Darryl. Either it’s indeed worthy of your meditation and awe, and should bring you comfort, or you should just blow it off because [in your words] “the doctrine of justification gives comfort to sinners like me. Union only yields confusion.” Mercy, what a statement!

    Perhaps the clarification is that the rising and dying of the believer you mention has more to do with sanctification — as in mortification and vivification. I see no problem with appealing to that analogy for understanding the Christian life. But to tell someone that the comfort of the gospel is that they have died with Christ and they’ve been raised with Christ makes singing the hymn “Jesus Paid It All” sort of pointless.

    Yes, Jesus paid it all – and we have been baptized once and for all into all he is, did and does. This union, that you seem to think has “either made wobbly or obscured categories that our churches confess,” is part-and-parcel of Paul’s message to the New Testament church. Glory be to God for the reality and revelation of our union with Christ – for it pertains to the penal and the progressive, for Christ is our justification and our sanctification.

    In Union with Him,

    Ron

  141. July 10, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    “Regeneration, or the new birth, is the commencement of this union. God brings this connection and baptism even before there is any sign of life—‘while you were dead…he made you alive’’ (Eph.2:1). The first gift of this union is faith, the sole instrument through which we live and remain on this vine. But this is a rich vine, pregnant with nourishing sap to produce an abundance of fruit. Though we are not attached to nor remain attached to this vine by the fruit (what branch depends on the fruit?), those who are truly members of Christ inevitably produce fruit. Through union with Christ, we receive his righteousness imputed (justification) as well as his righteousness imparted (sanctification).” Dr. Michael S. Horton 1992

    Mike Horton says much here, including that the gift of union brings the faith by which we live and remain attached to the vine. Yet is was commented earlier that it would be strange to say that we’re sanctified through faith. Mike also notes that through union with Christ we receive justification and our progressive sanctification. As Gaffin has noted, we’re justified by an alien righteousness that is more near than far.

    Ron

  142. Kyle said,

    July 10, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    Sean, re: 139,

    Wait a minute, they both functioned as my federal heads before I existed in history, right? I’m not denying, through federal headship, redemption applied.

    Okay, what ARE we talking about? I’ve lost it.

    Yeah we’re still speaking past each other here. Declaration first takes place in the pactum salutis, Horton would say this declaration creates the covenantal context (participatory union) for my receiving of salvation (redemptive benefits). In this way participatory union isn’t the ground but rather the context, I would term it the vehicle, for receiving those benefits.

    You’re saying that Horton says that an eternal declaration of forensic righteousness in the Covenant of Redemption creates the covenantal context for receiving salvation? If I’m understanding you, and you’ve describe Horton’s position accurately, I can’t make head nor tails of it. In the CoR, the Father promises to save the elect by appointing the Son to complete the work of Redeemer on their behalf.

  143. Kyle said,

    July 10, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    Ron, re: 141,

    Here is a link to the work you quote: “Union with Christ,” by Michael Horton.

  144. its.reed said,

    July 10, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    Friends:

    I’ve read with quite some fascination the back and forth on this thread. If I might, I have a question for those of you who seem to be opposed to the idea of union being, not the pivotal blessing of the ordo salutis, but in some sense the foundational aspect.

    What is, or what are, the fears you have, with such a construction? I recognize that most (all?) of you recognize union as a proper aspect of the ordo salutis. Yet there seems to be something about the Gaffin-WTS construction that you find seriously troubling.

    At times it seems like such opposition is afraid of a works infestation sneaking in under cover of union. Yet I’m not sure.

    Can you clarify for me what is the nature of the problem?

  145. July 10, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    […] Gaffin Question Lane Keister recently issued a “friendly response” in order to gently rebuke Dr. R. Scott Clark for providing some very pointed, much needed and […]

  146. ReformedSinner (DC) said,

    July 10, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    #144,

    Excellent way of putting it. I also hesistant to join this thread, well, partly because of my last bout with someone apparently from WSC that take offense into my “accusation” that they have concerns over the Gaffin-WTS formulation of the Union with Christ. But you hit it right on the money Reed. I’m puzzle by that as well.

  147. Manlius said,

    July 10, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Good point (144), its.reed. It is a bit puzzling.

    I believe that in Lutheran history there has been some significant tension between the forensic understanding of justification and union with Christ, particularly the confessional Lutheran rejection of Andreas Osiander and his followers. Osiander seemed to take union with Christ in an almost Eastern, theosis-like, direction, and that bothered more than a few. (The modern Lutheran expression of Osiander’s union with Christ is known as Finnish theology, I believe, and it is now being used as a point of ecumenicity between Lutheran and EO churches.)

    In Reformed history, however, I don’t believe there has been such a tension (though admittedly, union with Christ has not always been greatly emphasized). The historic Reformed point of tension, of course, has been on the role of the Law in the life of the Christian, and perhaps that debate is somehow being projected onto this one. Just a thought. I could be way off.

  148. July 10, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Kyle,

    Yes,that’s the article I grabbed it from. It was funny but right before I found the article I was saying to my wife Lisa that I wonder whether those who oppose union language and are married only focus on the the legal aspect of their marriage as opposed to delighting in the reality of the union of marriage. I think MH touches on that in some respect in the piece. I only had time to skim it though. In that same vein I was wondering whether we as Christians delight that our hearts are lifted up to the Lord as we spiritually, not carnally, feed on Christ in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving. I guess sitting under Dr. Lethamfor ten years changed my thinking about a few things.

    And thanks Reed for weighing in with those “fair and balanced” thoughts.

    Ron

  149. July 10, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Manlius, who are you? :)

  150. Vern Crisler said,

    July 10, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    Re: #100 & 101 and others

    Ron said: First off, I don’t believe that justification comes from union. My position includes that justification comes from imputation. With that aside…

    Vern: Then you are not in accord with other Unionists. Notice what Don Garlington says in his review, “Imputation or Union with Christ? A Response to John Piper”:

    “It is the contention of this paper that the free gift of righteousness comes our way by virtue of union with Christ, not imputation as classically defined.” Moreover, “Paul’s purpose is not to articulate a dogma of imputation, but to demonstrate that faith is the great equalizer of nations.”

    See: http://www.thepaulpage.com/Imputation.pdf

    Thus, in Garlington’s theory, like those of NPP and FV advocates, Paul’s doctrine of justification is arrayed against racism rather than legalism. This interpretation of Paul’s teaching has a peculiarly post-1960’s ring about it.

    Notice also Gaffin’s outrageous statement in his book, Resurrection and Redemption, p. 132: “Not justification by faith but union with the resurrected Christ by faith (of which union, to be sure, the justifying aspect stands out perhaps the most prominently) is the central motif of Paul’s applied soteriology.”

    Hopefully, Ron, you eschew this sort of Unionism.

    Ron said: One is not justified or progressively sanctified because he is union with Christ. One is justified and progressively sanctified while in union with Christ. I believe that is something “unionists” need to lay hold of.”

    Vern: I agree that one is not justified because he is in union with Christ, but I believe that Paul’s whole point is that we are sanctified because we are in union with Christ. You corrected this in your next post, #101.

    Ron said: We receive justifying faith while in union with Christ but not because we’re in union with Christ. Yet even that you won’t accept because you believe that one is not united to Christ until he is justified; or at least that is what you said.

    Vern: It’s because, as a Separatist, I’m paying attention to what Paul said about status. He said, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die…” (Rom. 5:7). Christ died for us “while we were still sinners” (Rom. 5:8), while we were still “enemies” (Rom. 5:10). God justifies the “ungodly” (Rom. 4:5). On your Unionist premises, Ron, God justifies us not as ungodly (i.e., while ungodly), but while we are godly (i.e., in union with Christ). Your argument does not take sufficient account of our STATUS at the point of our justification. As Godfrey and Van Drunen said: “Hence, it is only a justified person, never a condemned person, who is sanctified….People are not justified as those who are sanctified—instead, Scripture is clear that it is the ungodly who are justified (e.g., Rom. 4:5).” (See, quote in #47.)

    Ron said: What I believe you need to [take] hold of is that although justification occurs through the faith that follows regeneration, union occurs immediately through regeneration….Are you willing to say that union with Christ and consequently definitive sanctification are not the immediate result of the regeneration that precedes both faith and justification?

    Vern: When I say that union with Christ is a result of justification, I’m not talking about chronological order. Effectual calling, union, faith, justification — these things are like lights on a Christmas tree. When you plug it in, everything lights up at once. What I’m talking about is logical priority. For the view that justification is the antecedent condition for regeneration and faith, see A. A. Hodge:

    http://www.lgmarshall.org/Reformed/hodge_ordo.html

    Note: I believe Darryl in #133 touched on the problem many of us have with the Unionist viewpoint. He said, “But the deeper we go into the union teaching, I’m told that I died and was raised with Christ, and I need to dwell upon that reality. Here I’d been comforted all along that I didn’t have to die for my sins because Christ already did.”

    The problem is that the union spoken of by Paul in sanctification is a participatory union. We die with Christ and are resurrected to walk in newness of life. But the relation we have with Christ in justification is not a participatory union. We don’t participate in Christ’s righteousness (his active and passive obedience) or merit eternal life as He did. Rather the relationship with Christ in justification is purely representative and forensic. If one wants to call this a “union” fine. Just about any relationship (e.g., Comparatives or Cambridge relations) could be called a union, but one shouldn’t confuse Christ’s federal headship with our union with Him in sanctification.

    Ron said: Finally, it’s a rather odd hermeneutic that would require that one diagram the logical order of the application of redemption based upon the chapter orders in Romans.

    Vern: My argument was that both form and content demonstrate the importance of justification in Paul’s argument. I did not isolate structure as the only element.

    Re: #103

    ReformedSinner said: Be careful to make argument based solely on the order of presentation.

    Vern: Of course, I did not base the argument solely on the order of presentation.

    Re: #104

    Kyle said: It seems to me that Ron is being consistent with the formulation of the doctrine in the Westminster Larger Catechism [quoting 66, 67]….Here union is the result of effectual calling, i.e., regeneration, not the result of justification.

    Vern: This does not follow all, as you are confusing temporal with logical order. Here is what Berkhof said: “It is sometimes said that the merits of Christ cannot be imputed to us as long as we are not in Christ [NOTE: in union with Christ—VC], since it is only on the basis of our oneness with Him that such an imputation could be reasonable. But this view fails to distinguish between our legal unity with Christ and our spiritual oneness with Him, and is a falsification of the fundamental element in the doctrine of redemption, namely, of the doctrine of justification.” (Systematic Theology, p. 452.)

    Vern

  151. July 11, 2008 at 12:15 am

    Hopefully, Ron, you eschew this sort of Unionism.

    Vern,

    Which sort? You spoke of more than one I believe.

    As for the Gaffin quote, at the top of the page you referenced you’ll find that Dr. Gaffin remarks that justification comes by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. In the quote, it would seem that Dr. Gaffin’s intention was to demonstrate that “being joined to Christ is conceived of imputatively.” That’s a wonderful insight, which does not deny the forensic aspect of justification or the imputation of an alien righteousness. The imputation occurs in union with Christ, as does the legal declaration. Such union language brings out the parallel of Christ’s justification in resurrection with our justification in our resurrection in Christ. Moreover, it places our justification, sanctification and adoption in the resurrected Christ, where these simultaneous aspects of the one act belong. Where would you have these aspects belong, outside of Christ in the covenant of grace, or maybe in our eternal election? Existential union should be sweet to you, for it is in that you union you were justified. Here’s where my emphasis lies: http://reformedapologist.blogspot.com/2008/01/resurrection-or-conversion.html

    Ron said: One is not justified or progressively sanctified because he is union with Christ. One is justified and progressively sanctified while in union with Christ. I believe that is something “unionists” need to lay hold of.”

    Vern, my point in that quote is that it’s in Christ that we receive these causal graces. It is in Christ we receive the instrumental cause of our justification and the saving faith that causes us to will and to do of God’s good pleasure, which is the faith that causes us to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive in Christ, believing that we’ve been buried with him in baptism.

    On your Unionist premises, Ron, God justifies us not as ungodly (i.e., while ungodly), but while we are godly (i.e., in union with Christ).

    God declares as righteous those who have been effectually called, regenerated, been definitively united to Christ (i.e. sanctified) through regeneration, granted justifying faith, been credited with the righteousness of Christ and constituted as righteous for Christ’s sake. There is no chronological order in those aspects of the one event of being united to Christ. That’s my theology. If you want to make that out to be at odds with God’s salvation that justifies the ungodly, then tell me – Does God declare as righteous those he does not first reckon as righteous, or does he declare as righteous those who have no alien righteousness? God does not lie, and God does not declare as righteous those who are lacking the righteousness of Christ. So, there’s no avoiding the fact that one must first be constituted as righteous in order for the verdict of righteous to be declared. And one cannot be constituted as righteous without being imputed with righteousness. And one cannot be imputed with righteousness without the seed of faith. And one cannot have the seed of faith without being regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Consequently, your only alternative to God declaring men righteous after he reckons them as such is to say that God imputes Christ’s righteousness to sinners only after he declares them righteous, but that would make God out to be a liar. Your dilemma is that you are not interpreting Romans 4:5 correctly. Romans 4:5 is not addressing the ordo salutis, just as Romans seven is not affirming libertarian freedom when it talks about one choosing that which he does not want to choose. The Bible is not a systematic theology, nor a philosophy text book.

    Ron

  152. ReformedSinner said,

    July 11, 2008 at 12:33 am

    #146,

    It’s interesting that you emphasize the Lutheran take. Michael Horton has been cited often here as someone that expresses concerns and points out the lackings of Gaffin-WTS formulation of Union with Christ. I wonder how much of “Lutheranism” has Horton inherited from his early days before he becomes a committed Reformed theologian. Now let me elaborate on this before WSC gang/Horton disciples jump all over me. I am not suggesting Horton is Lutheran in Reformed clothing, I respect him very much as a Reformed theologian and appreciates his books. But we all came from a background and that background may still influence us. For example I grew up in Conservative Baptist church and till today I still don’t drink alcohol or smoke, and I probably will teach my children to not drink and smoke either.

  153. Vern Crisler said,

    July 11, 2008 at 12:54 am

    Re: #150
    Ron said: “If you want to make that out to be at odds with God’s salvation that justifies the ungodly, then tell me – Does God declare as righteous those he does not first reckon as righteous, or does he declare as righteous those who have no alien righteousness? God does not lie, and God does not declare as righteous those who are.”

    Vern: Ron, I’m not sure I understand your question. I don’t separate the declaration from the reckoning. In any case, I think I’ve said just about all I can think of to say about this, so I give it a rest. Only, I’d just like to end with that quotation from Berkhof, which I don’t think should be ignored:

    “It is sometimes said that the merits of Christ cannot be imputed to us as long as we are not in Christ, since it is only on the basis of our oneness with Him that such an imputation could be reasonable. But this view fails to distinguish between our legal unity with Christ and our spiritual oneness with Him, and is a falsification of the fundamental element in the doctrine of redemption, namely, of the doctrine of justification.” (L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 452.)

    Vern

  154. Kyle said,

    July 11, 2008 at 3:55 am

    All,

    Good discussion on this topic here.

    Vern, re: 149,

    I’m not entirely sure what to make of Bekhof’s statement. He doesn’t elsewhere much expand on imputation that I can see. On the other hand, I’m not saying that union is the judicial ground of justification. I’ll say as clearly as I can what I think: the ground of justification is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us; imputation is grounded in our union with Christ (we are one with Him, therefore we are counted as righteous in Him – if we are not one with Him, how do we receive His righteousness?); our union with Christ (the Spirit’s application of it to us temporally) is effected in our being called & regenerated.

    Calvin himself said, “First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us. Therefore, to share with us what he has received from the Father, he had to become ours and to dwell within us. For this reason, he is called ‘our Head,’ and ‘the first-born among many brethren.’ We also, in turn, are said to be ‘engrafted into him,’ and ‘to put on Christ;’ for, as I have said, all that he possesses is nothing to us until we grow into one body with him” (Institutes 3.1.1).

    Or, “Therefore, that joining together of Head and members, that indwelling of Christ in our hearts – in short, that mystical union – are accorded by us the highest degree of importance, so that Christ, having been made ours, makes us sharers with him in the gifts with whih he has been endowed. We do not, therefore, contemplate him outside ourselves from afar in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into his body – in short, because he deigns to make us one with him” (Institutes 3.11.10).

    Or even, “Do you wish, then, to attain righteousness in Christ? You must first possess Christ; but you cannot possess him without being made partaker in his sanctification, because he cannot be divided into pieces. Since, therefore, it is solely by expending himself that the Lord gives us these benefits to enjoy, he bestows both of them at the same time, the one never without the other. Thus it is clear how true it is that we are justified not without works yet not through works, since in our sharing in Christ, which justifies us, sanctification is just as much included as righteousness” (Institutes 3.16.1).

    And, again, the Larger Catechism regards justification as manifesting our union with Christ (Q&A 69).

    I just don’t see where justification is the ground of union. I have wondered if there isn’t this precommitment in back of it: union with Christ is impossible apart from reconciliation with God (reconciliation being effected by justification). However, biblically the matter is quite the reverse: reconciliation with God is impossible apart from being found in Christ, our Mediator.

    But I am ready to receive correction if indeed I am wrong on this and misunderstanding the proper, biblical relation between union and justification.

  155. sean said,

    July 11, 2008 at 7:54 am

    Kyle :142#

    Don’t impune Horton’s understanding on my misrepresentation. I’m still working through his formulation. If he posits a moment for declaration I’m sure it’s upon christ’s fulfillment of the pactum salutis. It’s obviously a 2nd adam consideration. Beyond that I’m not sure how much he’s arguing for temporal ordering.

  156. Darryl Hart said,

    July 11, 2008 at 7:56 am

    Reformed Sinner, you might have a point about Horton’s Lutheran if he actually grew up Lutheran. He’s a So. Cal. evangelical by birth. He went to Biola, not Concordia. I find the effort to paint WSC into a Lutheran corner to be extremely odd. For one, Horton et al are much more in touch with 16th and 17th c. Reformed sources than many east of the Mississippi are willing to admit. Second, when did Lutheranism ever become an epithet? It may say something about WSC that they like Lutherans. So did Calvin.

  157. Manlius said,

    July 11, 2008 at 8:52 am

    Just for the record, I was not thinking of WSC at all when I mentioned Lutheranism in comment 147. I was merely citing an example of a theological context where there has been tension between justification and union. If WSC has any connection to what I said, it might be in the second paragraph where I offered the possibility that concerns over the doctrine of union may be arising from the historic Reformed debate over the role of the law.

    Ron: I am Alexander Burgess (Manlius is my middle name), a Congregational minister in Massachusetts and ’97 M.Div. graduate of WTS. I am no scholar, but I like to follow interesting discussions.

  158. July 11, 2008 at 9:23 am

    “Ron: I am Alexander Burgess (Manlius is my middle name), a Congregational minister in Massachusetts and ‘97 M.Div. graduate of WTS. I am no scholar, but I like to follow interesting discussions.

    Manlius,

    I’d like to now know where your church is. If you post it on my blog w/ your email, I won’t publish your post. The reason I’d like to know is I have friends in Mass., and one attends a congregational church that he is finding a bit unnaceptable due to it’s liberal tendencies. Also, there’s a need for a sound church on MV! I’ve talked to many about that need. I’d like to run a thing or two by you on that front too, if you wouldn’t mind.

    Thanks,

    Ron

  159. Zrim said,

    July 11, 2008 at 10:42 am

    Darryl,

    RS may have a point. After all, I can’t rule out my secular upbringing to make “Christian secularism” so attractive.

    Anyway, I count at least one who is at once east of the Mississippi and as in touch as you indicate. In “The Confessional Presbyterian,” Volume 3, 2007 Fesko does a fairly nice job of helping to put to bed the Lutheran epithet (one I myself actually revel in).

    Luther on the Law:

    “…as long as we live in a flesh that is not free of sin, so long as the Law keeps coming back and performing its function, more on one person and less in another, not to harm but to save. This discipline of the Law is the daily mortification of the flesh, the reason, an dour powers and the renewal of our mind (2 Cor 4:16)…There is still need for a custodian to discipline and torment the flesh, that powerful jackass, so that by this discipline sins may be diminished and the way prepared for Christ…Thus, we have the Ten Commandments, a compend of divine doctrine, as to what we are to do in order that our whole life may be pleasing to God, and the true fountain and channel from and in which everything must arise and flow that is to be a good work, so that outside the Ten Commandments, no work or thing can be good or pleasing to God, however great or precious it be in the yes of the world…The matter of the Law must be considered carefully, both as to what and as how we ought to think about the Law; otherwise we shall either reject it altogether, after the fashion of the fanatical spirits who prompted the peasant’s revolt a decade ago by saying that the freedom of the Gospel absolves men from all laws, or we shall attribute to the law the power to justify. Both groups sin against the Law: those on the right, who want to be justified through the Law, and those on the left, who want to be altogether free of the Law. Therefore we must travel the royal road, so that we neither reject the law altogether not attribute more to it than we should.”

    Fesko thus says, “Luther saw a place for the law in the life of the believer. When he was explaining the doctrine of justification he said that there was no place for works or the law. In relationship, though, to one’s sanctification and the knowledge of what is pleasing to God, the Decalogue served as guide as well as a tool in the hand of God to confront the remaining sin in the believer. This careful fencing of justification from works, yet at the same time connecting justification to sanctification, is especially evident in the Lutheran confessions.” [23-24].

  160. ReformedSinner said,

    July 11, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    #156,

    Darryl:

    1) I am not painting a broad brush on WSC, as I wished my post was clear but apparently not enough. I’m speaking strictly to one particular individual, Mr. Horton.

    2) Even speaking about Mr. Horton I wish I was not painting a broad brush, but rather try to understand where he’s coming from and if there are any possible explanations to why he prefers one over the other. This, I hope, does not deny that Mr. Horton carefully studies the Bible, studies the Reformed theologians of the past, and reach a decision that can be argue more orthodoxy and alternative to the discussion of Soteriology vis-a-vis Gaffin-WTS formulation.

  161. Darryl Hart said,

    July 11, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Ron, thanks for trying to explain the pastoral usefulness of your thinking about union. In #140 you wrote: “Let me try to at least touch on some of the usefulness of the doctrine. There are two ways in which Scripture speaks of dying to sin. The first is death through union with Christ and the second has to do with the putting to death, or the mortification, of the flesh as we strive by the Spirit to be like Christ. I suspect that most Christians after they trust that Jesus died for their sins endeavor to pick up their cross and follow him. Not a bad life but it misses so much, including the very reality that enables us more fully to die to self and live to Christ. What it misses is the absolute reality of our death, burial and resurrection in Christ, signed and sealed to us in Baptism.”

    Your comment suggests that union not only helps with my justification, but also with my sanctification. Not to put too fine a point on it, living in the reality of justification is merely “not a bad life.” But with union I get so much more. The more seems to be the reality that catapults me into holy living.

    There may be a bit of caricature in that rendition, but it does seem to be implicit in what you say. And yet what you say leaves me scratching my head. It seems to be that if I read a lot of BT on union, and ponder those spiritual and redemptive realities harder or longer or more intensely, I’ll get the victory over sin.

    I’m not sure how ideas produce sanctification. I know they have consequences, but doesn’t sanctification depend again on the mysterious work of the spirit.

    But I also wonder about what your post implies about the nature of the Christian life. Are you suggesting that “getting the victory over sin” is possible? Aren’t the Reformers and our creeds clear that we will always be beset by sin, not just when we sin but also when we do good works (WCF ch. 16). Does union remove more of lingering sin than only contemplating justification?

    It seems to be that we battle with the devil, the world and the flesh — at least I do — our entire time in these bodies. That’s why my great comfort is that Jesus has paid it all. It leads to the sort of fearless good works that Luther tried to capture when he said, sin boldly. Because the entire debt has been removed, both for what I did and what I will do, I have a different outlook on acting. I don’t need to fear condemnation. And I love my savior and want to please him. This seems to me is a real break through for Christian living. I’m afraid that if I try union, I’ll still be beset by sin. In fact, I know I will. And then what? Forty days of purpose driven living?

    While I have you, maybe you could explain another riddle I sense when reading about union. Why is Paul so important? What about Luke? Is he chopped liver? He wrote more of the NT than Paul. But folks aren’t worked up about a Lukan eschatology. Don’t get me wrong. I like Paul. Some of my best friends are Pauline. But sometimes the discussion of union seems to exhibit a different version of the red-letter edition of the Bible — in this case, the union-edition.

  162. Darryl Hart said,

    July 11, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Its.Reed: in #144 you asked a useful question. In #161 I voiced some of my concerns about the pastoral usefulness of union. I’ll add here that I’m concerned that with union some folks (not necessarily Ron, mind you) end up trying to work works back into the basic categories of salvation. (I’m still convinced that the basic structure of Heidelberg — guilt, grace, gratitude is the real genius of the Reformation — Reformed and Lutheran; the 39 Articles also weren’t bad).

    Maybe I’m paranoid, but when folks say there’s no priority between justification and sanctification, or even assert that sanctification precedes justification, they end up giving shelter to Shepherd’s obedient faith which struck me as a move toward neo-nomianism. His proposal was designed at least partly to get believers not to be slackers, to sit up fly right, and mind their manners. I was always a little surprised by his fears of antinomianism because Protestants are among the most moralistic of all people. It’s Roman Catholics who are the antinomians — think whiskey priests, mafia dons, and Evelyn Waugh.

  163. July 11, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    I’m not sure how ideas produce sanctification. I know they have consequences, but doesn’t sanctification depend again on the mysterious work of the spirit.
    Darryl, does the spirit ever work in conjunction with what we reckon as true? If not, then it really doesn’t matter what you believe about union.
    But I also wonder about what your post implies about the nature of the Christian life. Are you suggesting that “getting the victory over sin” is possible? Aren’t the Reformers and our creeds clear that we will always be beset by sin, not just when we sin but also when we do good works (WCF ch. 16). Does union remove more of lingering sin than only contemplating justification?
    Besides the sins you are referring to (whatever they might be), there’s the sin of not thinking Christ’s thoughts after him with respect our being baptized into his death, burial and resurrection. And of course you’d be better off if you appreciated more, even anything it would seem, about your union with Christ.
    While I have you, maybe you could explain another riddle I sense when reading about union. Why is Paul so important? What about Luke? Is he chopped liver? He wrote more of the NT than Paul. But folks aren’t worked up about a Lukan eschatology. Don’t get me wrong. I like Paul. Some of my best friends are Pauline. But sometimes the discussion of union seems to exhibit a different version of the red-letter edition of the Bible — in this case, the union-edition.

    We’re talking about union. If we were talking about the perfect humanity of Jesus, then maybe we’d refer more to Luke.

    Darryl, I think you are coming off as a mocker and a scoffer, but maybe it’s just your writing style. How ’bout discussing this over a beer on the Avenue?

    Ron

  164. Darryl Hart said,

    July 12, 2008 at 8:41 am

    Ron, come on, don’t pull a Gilbert Tennent on me. It’s not a question of thinking Christ’s thoughts. It’s one of whether your thoughts are Christ’s.

    I regret if my comments seem mocking, truly. But the union rhetoric has kicked up a lot of dust, none of it really settled because no one has yet to put union in a satisfactory place, either for the unionists or the secessionists, and so questions are fair game.

    But what has me really concerned is that I consider the Reformation doctrine of justification to be hands down brilliant and unbelievably consoling. (Why the entire Reformed communinty was not upset when Shepherd began to tinker I’ll never know.) But advocates of union don’t think the Reformers went far enough (except for Calvin on three pages of the Institutes — never mind what he said about justification throughout the rest of his work, including his catechesis of church members). So they think they’ve come up with a new and improved doctrine of salvation — justification still there, but not in center stage the way it used to be.

    So I ask about the pastoral benefit. I cannot fathom why anyone would want to take justification out of the limelight. It seems to me the equivalent of moving Carlos Ruiz up to clean up, and moving Ryan Howard down to #8. But I’m willing to listen if it will help the team. And if union is going to provide me with more comfort for my sinful ways, then sure, let’s hear it.

    But I haven’t seen a good answer and the one’s I’ve seen don’t appear to go to the root of the matter (my corruption vs. God’s holiness) the way justification does.

    Mind you, this in no way denies union, though why unionists think union is denied when union isn’t center stage is a mystery. Plenty of theologians and creeds have given union a good part. Bur for some reason that’s not good enough.

    So this is why I ask in the way that I do. I am not sure that unionists understand how they come across — somewhat superior to Luther and those who stress justification, somewhat patronizing to those still clinging to the old ordo (whatever it was), better exegetes than most, and here’s the kicker — their views are not only new and improved but they are old and were always there in the tradition. (They know Paul better than everyone else, and they know Calvin, Ursinus, Bucer, Bullinger, Turretin, Owen better than everyone else. In an age of academic specialist, that’s the triple crown — mastering NT, HT, and ST, not to mention BT.) So there are lots of questions, in addition the big one of why justification doesn’t move you the way it moves me.

    Sorry about the Gilbert Tennent remark. Of course, he wouldn’t drink. But I’m always available for one — it is not one of my sins.

  165. July 12, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Darryl has a good point about the centrality and comfort of justification. I mean, this is what Romans and Galatians are all about. I also resonate with a need to emphasis union with Christ but the two are not mutually exclusive. It seems that the “preeminently union” guys, within the historic Reformed sola fide camp, and the “preeminently justification” guys, within the same camp, are not trying to understand one another. In as much as I would have great sympathy for those who show allegiance to Dr. Gaffin on this point, I also believe that WTS California and GPTS are right in focusing on the preeminence of justification. If we downplay the significance of justification (and I would add adoption) we are left trying to establish an ordo, or downplaying and ordo, that has already been established. When the “preeminently union” guys say they believe in an ordo salutus, one wonders if they really do. But there can also be a reductionist approach coming from the “preeminently justification” camp. I did not see this at Greenville Seminary but I know that it exists and inevitably leads to antinomianism. The guys who are almost exclusively “justification” men, will affirm sanctification, but one is sometimes left to wonder if they really believe it.

    I suppose the issues raised by Mark Garcia in regard to the role of good works in the life of the believer also play into this in a considerable way. Garcia says that “Good works are not simply the evidence of our having justifying faith.” It seems that perhaps this is where the issue really comes to bear between WTS California and WTS Philadelphia on the issue of union.

    I would love to hear Darryl’s thougths on this if I have not thoroughly confused everyone.

  166. July 12, 2008 at 12:03 pm

    I’m out.

    Thanks Guys

  167. greenbaggins said,

    July 12, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    Darryl, this is what I’d say on the matter: I would not by any means deny that justification is central. And I certainly do not wish to smuggle works into salvation, if by salvation one means the time point at which one is converted from darkness to light. Calvin clearly believes, however, in a simul, that simul being justification and sanctification. They are given simul. One cannot rend Christ in pieces, as he would say. The doctrine of union, then, does two things: it holds the two together, while allowing us to distinguish them. And secondly, it protects imputation from the charge of legal fiction. Imputation from Groom to bride is not a legal fiction. By no means does this even begin to smash justification and sanctification into one undifferentiated soup. But it does hold them together. We are united with the whole Christ, not merely part of Him. This, I believe, provides us the resources to avoid both antinomianism and legalism. It helps us avoid the former because it prevents us from saying that one can ever be justified without being sanctified (the simul is a union simul. That is why it is simul). It helps us avoid the latter again because of the simul. We are never sanctified at any point without being justified. At the same time that God imputes, He also imparts. He imputes in justification, and imparts in sanctification, and while the two must never be confused, they must also never be separated.

  168. Kyle said,

    July 12, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Darryl,

    So they think they’ve come up with a new and improved doctrine of salvation — justification still there, but not in center stage the way it used to be.

    As one of the “unionists” (at least in this thread), I would never deny the absolute centrality of justification to the Gospel. It is because of justification, where God imputes the righteousness of Christ (yes, both His active & passive obedience) to us who have nothing in ourselves to offer, that we are reconciled to God and adopted as His children: that is at the very heart of the Gospel. Yet the overarching rubric in which all of the benefits of Christ’s mediation are related to one another is union with Him: and here we see that all of the graces of salvation – justification, adoption, santification, perseverence, glory – flow to us from His very Person. It is all tied together in Him, and we have it all in being joined to Him, as a branch to the vine. That’s what union with Christ is about. I don’t think this is an “improvement” over the Reformers, but rather what they also taught.

    I know of late we’ve had certain characters who mingle works into justification, because they like to make obedience a constitutive element of faith itself rather than a work flowing from faith. And these same characters also emphasize union with Christ (especially by external membership in the covenant of grace), to the extent that some see the imputation of Christ’s obedience to us as “redundant.” But please rest assured that I have no sympathy with their errors.

  169. Vern Crisler said,

    July 12, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Re: 167

    Lane, if you believe in imputation, then you must regard justification as a legal fiction. I think you are interpreting the term in a pejorative sense, probably because ignorant Romanists have used it as an accusation, and easily-spooked Protestants have accepted their premises. But see,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_fiction

    “The term ‘legal fiction’ is not usually used in a pejorative way in spite of the negative connotation of the phrase, and has been likened to scaffolding around a building under construction.”

    http://law.jrank.org/pages/8149/Legal-Fiction.html

    “An assumption that something occurred or someone or something exists which, in fact, is not the case, but that is made in the law to enable a court to equitably resolve a matter before it.”

    Adoption is the most recognizable form of legal fiction:

    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/1911_Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica/Adoption

    “The part played by the legal fiction of adoption in the constitution of primitive society and the civilization of the race is so important, that Sir Henry S. Maine, in his Ancient Law, expresses the opinion that, had it never existed, the primitive groups of mankind could not have coalesced except on terms of absolute superiority on the one side and absolute subjection on the other. With the institution of adoption, however, one people might feign itself as descended from the same stock as the people to whose sacra gentilicia it was admitted; and amicable relations were thus established between stocks which, but for this expedient, must have submitted to the arbitrament of the sword with all its consequences.”

    Vern
    P.S.

    Re: Calvin:
    Personally, I do no see a deemphasis on justification in Calvin; quite the opposite. He does not subsume justification and sanctification under some overarching category that ends up relativizing justification’s preeminence. I doubt seriously that he would have agreed with Gaffin, much less Garlington.

  170. greenbaggins said,

    July 12, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Vern, you seriously need to read Mark Garcia’s book, which, in my mind, proves precisely the point that you dispute.

  171. Vern Crisler said,

    July 12, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    Re: #170

    Lane, which point? About legal fiction or Calvin? BTW, didn’t you read Robert Godfrey and David VanDrunen’s criticism of Garcia’s views?

    http://www.opc.org/os.html?article_id=80

  172. Elder Hoss said,

    July 12, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Darryl Hart – Prof. Gaffin gave a somewhat controversial (though, many would argue, thoroughly salutary) address at MAR Seminary a few years ago, entitled, “Has the Reformation Misunderstood Paul?”

    I understand Prof. Venema and others were not a little discomforted (if not discomfited) by the matter.

    Nonetheless, in the lectures (2 en toto), Prof. Gaffin stated that it is misguided to speak about a central motif to Paul’s theology (ergo, it is not an accurate representation of the matter for one to argue that justification is the key to understanding Paul’s thought).

    Going further, he went on to argue that it is simply wrong to argue that Paul’s theology must have a center, and that to argue such is to enforce an alien grid upon the interpretative task.

    Finally, Prof. Gaffin went on to state that, IF one were to locate a “center” in Paul’s theology, it would rather be “union with the crucified, risen, and exalted Lord Christ, by faith.”

    Here, Gaffin seemed to be following in the line of the late Prof. Murray, who stated in REDEMPTION ACCOMPLISHED & APPLIED:

    “Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation, not only in its application but also in its once-for-all accomplishment in the finished work of Christ. Indeed the whole process of salvation has its origin in one phase of union with Christ and salvation has in view the realization of other phases of union with Christ….Union with Christ is the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation.”

    Now, I do understand that you find this is not conducive to your/our “comfort.” Perhaps also, Prof. Gaffin’s (and Murray’s) formulation seemingly irks Lutheran and (some) Reformed Christians, granted. But since when is our subjective comfort as determined by you, or any of us, the sine qua non, or rather, the touchstone to determining the answer to such an important question as “What’s the central message of the Bible” or – more specifically to Prof. Gaffin’s point – “If one may even speak of a center in Paul’s thought, what’s it all about, Alfie?”

    And, as one compares the standard verses cited from Romans 3-4, and Galatians 2, with ENTIRE CORPUS of Paul’s thought, do not the “en Christoi” or “toi Christoi” references predominate beyond peradventure of doubt??

    From such a careful, clear, and non-pietistic thinker as yourself, it is rather astounding that “this reading of Paul best suits my personal subjective comfort” appears to have gained the upper hand in your reasoning process on this matter..

    I would suggest that what you have put forth is impossible to maintain on the supposition that Ephesians, Colossians, and for that matter, the apostolic kerygma contained in Acts are WITH ROMANS & GALATIANS inspired revelation (notice again, the ubiquity of Paul’s “en Christoi” and “toi Christoi” references, particular in comparison with his speaking about justification by faith alone. Heck, one can just do the math and map out the textual predominance of the former vs. the latter.

    It would seem here that Prof. Gaffin was on to something wholly in sync with the manner in which Paul unpacks and unfolds the salvation that is ours in Christ Jesus, which is another way of saying he most certainly was NOT from Mars, when giving these lectures at MARS, viz. stressing the somewhat misguided nature of attempting to cast Paul in the mold of the Wittenberg Tower experience, important as that experience was/is for the Christian…..

  173. Roger Mann said,

    July 13, 2008 at 1:13 am

    It seems to me that the confusion in this whole discussion stems from a failure to distinguish between the twofold nature of our “justification” in Christ. As John Gill observes:

    Justification is by many divines distinguished into active and passive. Active justification is the act of God; it is God that justifies. Passive justification is the act of God, terminating on the conscience of a believer, commonly called a transient act, passing upon an external object… Now, as before observed, as God’s will to elect, is the election of his people, so his will to [actively] justify them, is the justification of them; as it is an immanent act in God, it is an act of his grace towards them, is wholly without them, entirely resides in the divine mind, and lies in his estimating, accounting, and constituting them righteous, through the righteousness of his Son; and, as such, did not first commence in time, but from eternity.

    In this sense we are clearly justified prior to our temporal/existential union with Christ through faith. In other words, God’s “active” justification of His elect is ad infra or “entirely resides in the divine mind” — that is, through our eternal/legal/covenantal union “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3-4; 2 Timothy 1:9).

    Yet, in another respect, “passive” justification is an act of God ad extra, “terminating on the conscience of a believer, commonly called a transient act, passing upon an external object.” In this sense we are clearly justified upon the act of believing or through our temporal/existential union with Christ by faith. Gill explains further:

    It is affirmed [in objection to this doctrine], that those various passages of scripture, where we are said to be justified through faith, and by fairly, have no other tendency than to show that faith is something prerequisite to justification, which cannot be said if justification was from eternity. To which the answer is, that those scriptures which speak of justification, through and by faith, do not militate against, nor disprove [active] justification before faith; for though justification by and before faith differ, yet they are not opposite and contradictory. They differ, the one being an immanent act in God; all which sort of acts are eternal, and so before faith; the other being a transient declarative act, terminating on the conscience of the believer; and so is by and through faith, and follows it. But then these do not contradict each other, the one being a declaration and manifestation of the other. 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 [active] justification; 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.

    And, to sum the whole matter up:

    In a word, the sentence of justification pronounced on Christ, the representative of his people, when he rose from the dead, and that which is pronounced by the Spirit of God in the consciences of believers, and that which will be pronounced before men and angels at the general judgment, are only so many repetitions, or renewed declarations, of that grand original sentence of it, conceived in the mind of God from all eternity; which is the eternal justification pleaded for; and is no other than what many eminent divines of the highest character for learning and judgment, have asserted, as before observed; and it is to such as these Dr. Owen (Doctrine of Justification vindicated from the animadversions of R. B. p. 9.) refers, when he replied to Mr. Baxter, who charged him with holding eternal justification; “I neither am, nor ever was of that judgement; though as it may be explained, I know better, wiser, and more learned men than myself, (and he might have added, than Mr. Baxter,) that have been, and are.”

    Most, if not all, of the confusion in this discussion is eliminated when these careful distinctions between the twofold nature of our “union” and “justification” in Christ are maintained. We are “actively” justified by God ad infra (as an internal and eternal act in the mind of God) both logically and temporally prior to our existential union with Christ by faith. But we are not “passively” justified by God ad extra (as a transient and temporal act terminating upon our conscience) until we are reborn by the Spirit of God and personally believe the gospel message.

  174. Darryl Hart said,

    July 13, 2008 at 8:06 am

    Lane: in #167 you talk about all the things that union does, especially keeping just. and sanct. together. Is it your estimation that prior to or without union just. and sanct. just fly apart, the way the universe is purportedly expanding? I don’t see that in the 16th c. sources. Why? Because Protestants had to answer the charge constantly that they were anti-nomians. So in came sanctification, the third use of the law, etc. So again I’m left wondering if union offers itself as a solution to a problem that never existed, unless of course one gets uncomfortable with leaning entirely on the imputed righteousness of Christ both for justification and the defects of our good works.

    That last point seems to me to be the one that unionists and definitive sanctificationists have not wrestled with sufficiently. Sin remains even in the sanctified person. As odd as it sounds, our good works, done for all the right motives and in conformity to God’s law, in some way the fruit of sanctification, are still tainted with sin. (WCF 16) So we even need the forgiveness of justification for our sanctification.

  175. Darryl Hart said,

    July 13, 2008 at 8:11 am

    Kyle: in #168 you say that the overarching rubric for the benefits of salvation is union. I don’t see that in the Westminster Standards. No chapter on union in the confession. And when the catechisms introduce the application of salvation they use effectual calling as the overarching rubric. “What benefities do they which are effectually called partake of in this life?” (Q32) Not only is justification getting knocked off center stage, but in unionists hands effectual calling is rendered chopped liver.

  176. Darryl Hart said,

    July 13, 2008 at 8:24 am

    Elder Hoss, in #172 you ask since when is our comfort the criterion by which we evaluate the center of the Bible’s teaching? I’d say that at least since the Reformation. The Roman Catholic view of salvation didn’t offer comfort. But a Lutheran or Reformed Christian taking comfort in the gospel is no evidence of pietism. A pietist is generally someone who takes comfort in the subjectivity, in the experience, who trusts that because of the experience I’m right, saved, blessed, whatever. The confessionalist is the one who takes comfort — yes, we actually feel — in a truth or reality outside us. Your summary of Gaffin’s lecture is fine, but I still don’t see the comfort there.

    As for centrality, in point of fact in By Faith Not by Sight Gaffin says that 1 Cor. 15:1-2 is the center of Paul’s teaching. And where is union there? Well, it turns out its more complicated than simply looking at those verses.

    Anyway, it sure looks like the forensic is central to Paul’s consolation of the Romans in chapter eight of that epistle. The bulk of the discussion there is about the law and being freed from it. That is why he can conclude that comforting chapter with the reassurance that we no longer face condemnation. I understand union is in the background and depending on how you conceive of it, either as federal theology or as part of the ordo, you can’t seperate justification from union. The same could be said for the Trinity. But I still think that something else is going on when Reformed folks are ambivalent about justification.

  177. ReformedSinner said,

    July 13, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    #176:

    “The Roman Catholic view of salvation didn’t offer comfort.” – for Luther (and I’m sure there are many others), however, I wonder if that is true as a whole. Many Christians have no problem staying with the Catholic faith and be comforted. It’s not like when Luther’s soteriology spread around the people are converting in masses and the Catholic Church simply collapse in membership. In fact, isn’t it one of the Reformers biggest challenges to sell the Biblical truth of soteriology when they took away their idols, but as a result the new converts’ hearts are left empty because they are so used to idol worshipping, that so many new converts are having trouble to be comforted by Justification?

    Also, I don’t deny the Biblical truth of Reformation, but I don’t see how “comfort” has anything to do with truth. Many people despise the Reformed faith preciously because they think it’s too dry and not comforting enough. I suppose it’s easy to just call them a bunch of pietists and dismiss them, but that is the problem isn’t it? Your formulation is hardly comforting outside the Confessionalism Reformed circle, and even within the circle I really wonder how “comforting” it is for them all and if there isn’t legalism sneaking in.

    “But I still think that something else is going on when Reformed folks are ambivalent about justification.”

    Here is the true problem. You have a bias against any union talk because “something else is going on.” But I have to give it to you for straight talk and honesty, you lay it all on the table and challenge others to responds.

  178. Kyle said,

    July 13, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Darryl, re: 175,

    Kyle: in #168 you say that the overarching rubric for the benefits of salvation is union. I don’t see that in the Westminster Standards. No chapter on union in the confession. And when the catechisms introduce the application of salvation they use effectual calling as the overarching rubric. “What benefities do they which are effectually called partake of in this life?” (Q32)

    Please read the Larger Catechism more closely:

    Q65: What special benefits do the members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ?
    A65: The members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion with him in grace and glory.

    Q66: What is that union which the elect have with Christ?
    A66: The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done in their effectual calling.

    Q69: What is the communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
    A69: The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.

    To sum up: The members of the invisible church enjoy union & communion with Christ (Q&A 65). Union with Christ consists in being mystically & spiritual united to Christ as our head and husband, and is accomplished in effectual calling (Q&A 66). Communion with Christ consists (in one part) of justification, which manifests our union with Christ (Q&A 69). Very clear, very simple.

    Not only is justification getting knocked off center stage, but in unionists hands effectual calling is rendered chopped liver.

    This is an unacceptable misreading of everything that I’ve said in this thread, Darryl. I don’t think I’ve been unclear or equivocating. What I’ve said is this: in our effectual call we are united to Christ; having been, by the power of the Holy Spirit, united to Christ as our federal head, God justifies us by imputing Christ’s righteousness to us. This hardly renders effectual calling as “chopped liver.” Indeed, it is rather ESSENTIAL to the whole formula! Do you think it’d be accurate if I characterized your position as one that renders union & sanctification to be chopped liver? I don’t think you would. So please, stop REACTING to what you perceive as Shepherdism & start RESPONDING to what’s actually being said. I am no Shepherdite. For that matter, I’m not really even a Gaffinite.

  179. Darryl Hart said,

    July 13, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    RS (and footnote to Elder Hoss #172): since when did comfort get such a bad reputation? (Oh, that’s right, we’re Calvinists.) It might be useful here to recall the very first question of the Heidelberg Catechism: “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” a question affirmed for close to 450 years by Calvinist communions all over the world.

  180. Darryl Hart said,

    July 13, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Kyle: lighten up and pass the geffilta fish. Chopped liver was an attempt at humor mixed with a call for clarity. I still think that the inability to see what is so precious and comforting about justification, not to mention the historical record of the sixteenth century and the debates between Rome and Protestants leaves me thinking that justification for some is to union what filet is to chopped liver. I think justification is a gem. You don’t seem to think it really glitters compared to the shine of union. I also like chopped liver.

    As for the Larger Catechism. I have read it and thought about it. I still think that if union were as important as you allege, then why didn’t the divines devote a chapter to it in the confession? They did to adoption, a small one, but still a chapter. But for some reason, union wasn’t sufficiently in need of attention to give a separate heading. Odd for a doctrine that is claimed to be so central.

    And if you look carefully at the WLC, communion is actually more central for justification, adoption and sanctification than union. 66 treats union and proceeds to effectual calling, the work that unites believers to Christ. 69 treats communion, the work by which believers partake of Christ’s mediation in just., adopt, and sanct.

    So if you really want to go by the WLC, communion is the aspect of the application of redemption that keeps justification and sanctification together — not union.

  181. Kyle said,

    July 13, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Darryl,

    I think justification is a gem. You don’t seem to think it really glitters compared to the shine of union.

    And where are you getting that idea from, Darryl, that I don’t think justification is a gem? I can’t imagine anyone who has followed my participation on Green Baggins and debates with FVers here would come away with that impression. Of course, I don’t expect you to have followed all of the discussions I’ve been involved in here. I also don’t expect you to have read my blog, where I say something like justification is the “lynchpin of salvation” (and, I might add, I’ve not even devoted a single post to the doctrine of union with Christ-perhaps I should). But even above in #168 I described justification as being “at the very heart of the Gospel.” Because I think the doctrine of union with Christ deserves a place in our discourse about salvation, because I think all of the graces of Christ’s mediation on our behalf hang together in our union with Him, therefore somehow I just don’t see beauty and comfort and essentiality of justification? You’re really barking up the wrong tree, and I don’t find it humorous.

    And if you look carefully at the WLC, communion is actually more central for justification, adoption and sanctification than union. 66 treats union and proceeds to effectual calling, the work that unites believers to Christ. 69 treats communion, the work by which believers partake of Christ’s mediation in just., adopt, and sanct.

    So if you really want to go by the WLC, communion is the aspect of the application of redemption that keeps justification and sanctification together — not union.

    Read it again, Darryl. How do you suppose it is that we have communion with Christ? Because we have been united to Him as husband and head in our effectual calling. Because we are made one with Him, therefore we share with Him in all things. And, again, Q&A 69 very clearly has justification, adoption, and sanctification as manifestations of union. To take it back one step, communion is a manifestion of our union with Him. Which is again to say, because we are made one with Him, therefore we share with Him in all things.

    But, to quote myself again, since you need the reassurance:

    It is because of justification, where God imputes the righteousness of Christ (yes, both His active & passive obedience) to us who have nothing in ourselves to offer, that we are reconciled to God and adopted as His children: that is at the very heart of the Gospel.

    And let me add, to be extra clear: union with Christ doesn’t reconcile us to God. It makes our reconciliation to God possible, because it puts us under the headship of Christ, that God may impute to us His righteousness. It is justification that reconciles us to God.

  182. Elder Hoss said,

    July 13, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    Darryl – I think you erroneously assume that if one somehow believes that our personal comfort is NOT the hermeneutical key by which to read the Bible, we somehow think such is unimportant.

    For example, and in a related area, talk to the average confessional Calvinist who rightly would argue (as I’m sure you would) that TULIP is not, strictly speaking, the leitmotif of the Bible either.

    Does this then mean that the Calvinist is somehow “ambivalent” (your term) about Dordtrecht and its important soteriological assertions.

    This is a rather weak line of argumentation.

    You make the same assertion about forensic justification, which assertion frankly, is a canard. In other words, one (many here I presume) can confess in lockstep with Gaffin that if one were to speak of a locus classicus in Paul’s thought, he should speak eflexively of “union with the cruficied and risen Lord by faith” as Gaffin terms it, WHILE AT THE SAME TIME, affiriming that forensic justification is vital to both Paul, and a proper representation of the kerygma.

    I’m not a betting man, but were I, I would bet the Coltrane collection that Richard Gaffin would affirm forensice justification and the necessary existential passing from wrath to grace experienced by Luther in the tower, as absolutely vital, non-negotiable realities.

    That affirmation however, is a far cry from saying that such is therefore the the central key to Paul’s theology, or the wider message of Scripture for that matter.

    “I will be your God, you shall be my people” is about as union-centric a promise as can be imagined, and bless God that it appears in the first and last books of canonical revelation. That frankly, DOES give great comfort.

    But of course, more sagacious minds than mine have already noted this, to wit, the introduction to Ridderbos’s: PAUL, AN OUTLINE, or C. Van der Waal’s COVENANTAL GOSPEL, or De Graaf’s panoramic series as well, FROM PROMISE TO DELIVERANCE.

  183. Darryl Hart said,

    July 13, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Kyle and EH: let’s keep it real here. What got this long series of posts started (and yes, EH, you’re a little late to this conversation to be kicking up dirt but after rounds with you at Reformedcatholicism I know your tactics) was an assertion that justification is logically prior to sanctification. The response from the unionists was no, no, no. That’s the wrong way of putting the question because union is prior and it keeps just. and sanctification together, as if one was going to run away from the other. So my questions about the large amount of significance attached to union followed, among them allusions to chopped liver, jewelry, and a hermeneutic that reads all of Scripture through the lens of Paul’s use of one preposition. When I bring up comfort from an old Reformed source, EH kicks more dust. (EH, I never said comfort was the hermeneutical key to reading the Bible. But then you don’t seem to think the words ‘charitable’ and “reading’ go together. Nor for that matter do “responsible” and “reading.’)

    So let’s play a game. Can you identify the author of the following quotation and do you think union needs to be added to it?

    “It may be safe to say that the greatest event for Christendom in the last 1500 years was the Protestant Reformation. What was the spark that lit the flame of evangelical passion? It was, by the grace of God, the discovery on the part of Luther, stricken with a sense of his estrangement from God and feeling in his inmost soul the stings of his wrath and the remores of a terrified conscience, of the true and only way whereby a man can be just with God. To him the truth of justification by free grace through faith lifted him from the depths of the forebodings of hell to the estasy of peace with God and the hope of glory. If there is one thing the Church needs today it is the republication with faith and passion of the presuppositions of the doctrine of justification and the re-application of this, the article of a standing or falling Church.”

    Would anyone here want to make such an assertion about union?

  184. Darryl Hart said,

    July 13, 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Kyle, your comment at for instance at #126 is one reason why I don’t detect your affirmation of justification is as robust as you think. You seem there, and other places, to want to attribute to union the sorts of benefits usually assigned to justification. That kind of assertion makes me wonder.

    And as for the benefits of just., adopt., and sanct. coming from union, the WLC is clear in 69 that it is through communion that believers partake of these benefits. 69 does not say union once. But I understand that some people tend to read union everywhere. 66 says union is being spiritually and mystically joined to Christ as their head. 69 says that communion is partaking in the virtue of Christ’s work as mediator. Union seems to apply to federal headship. Communion refers to Christ’s mediation.

    So again, why no hub bub over communion?

  185. Elder Hoss said,

    July 13, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Darryl – I would think it best to lay aside ad hominems and deal with facts. In fact, let’s lay aside romanticized readings of Scripture as well, uncomfortable as that may be for us.

    Lay out the keyrgma in Acts 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, 16, 17, then digest Paul’s indicative/imperative approach to gospel preaching which is mirrored after the covenant law-suit entreaty of the prophets, and you will not be able, after doing so, to press this “justification is the key to understanding Paul”
    I realize that is not popular with folks at, say, Modern Reformation, or other movements present hour whenever a voice like a Cullman, or Ridderbos, or Murray, or Gaffin, may say things that challenge our beloved mantras.

    Eklessia reformada reformanda est is not a convenient moniker or aphorism to be trotted out like an exotic zoo animal or rare museum piece for this or that Calvinistic conference. Rather, it actually means something.

    I would simply suggest that the direction Gaffin, for example, is taking things viz. his “Has the Reformation Misunderstood Paul”, masticating the meat and expectorating the bone, is salutary in the highest degree. In fact, a most judicious and balanced approach which steers a helpful middleground between the excesses of Westminster West on the one hand, or Auburn Avenue on the other…..

  186. Kyle said,

    July 14, 2008 at 1:44 am

    Darryl, re: 183,

    Kyle and EH: let’s keep it real here. What got this long series of posts started … was an assertion that justification is logically prior to sanctification. The response from the unionists was no, no, no.

    Technically, the discussion started with Dr. Clark’s criticism of the Castle Church PodCast members for being beholden to Dr. Gaffin’s views on union, who for his views on union was presumably not able to see the FV menace as soon as he ought. The discussion has progressed since then. Thomas Keene, way up in the 20’s or 30’s, mentioned something about not sublimating sanctification to justification, as if all of the benefits were “footnotes” to justification. His point was not well-taken by you. (The interesting – or ironic – thing is that while you’re concerned that all this “union talk” will obscure the differences between justification and sanctification, Mr. Keene’s concerned that sanctification as a distinct benefit of salvation will be obscured WITHOUT the “union talk.”) Vern Crisler and Sean preferred to say that justification is the cause of union with Christ, Ron DiGiacomo wanted to show that “definitive sanctification” (i.e., union with Christ) precedes justification because such is necessary for imputation. I commented that it seemed to me that Mr. DiGiacomo’s program was in line with the Larger Catechism’s teaching, in contradistinction to Mr. Crisler’s. I have since maintained the same position, and have said explicitly that union with Christ must precede justification because we cannot have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us unless He is our federal head; furthermore, that union is the rubric in which all of the benefits of Christ’s mediation hold together, again consonant with the Larger Catechism. You obviously don’t take kindly to my position, and think that I must certainly not be robust enough on justification, thus the current stage in this discussion.

    On to #184:

    Kyle, your comment at for instance at #126 is one reason why I don’t detect your affirmation of justification is as robust as you think. You seem there, and other places, to want to attribute to union the sorts of benefits usually assigned to justification. That kind of assertion makes me wonder.

    You wonder a lot of things, Darryl. I haven’t found your wonderings to be terribly impressive in this thread, primarily because I know my own mind a heck of a lot better than you do, and I do think that I’ve been very clear about what I mean and believe. Forgive me if I don’t go tilting after windmills because they happen to be the same size as giants. Saying that union with Christ is prerequisite to justification IS NOT “Shepherdism/FV/NPP.” Here’s what I said in #126:

    Yes, you were in union with Adam: he was your federal head. Thus his guilt was imputed to you. So, too, with Christ. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness relies on His federal headship over us. He is not our federal head if we are not united to Him. Thus union is prerequisite for imputation.

    Now, exactly WHERE do I “seem to want to attribute to union the sorts of benefits usually assigned to justification”? Because I simply don’t see it. And did I not say explicitly above in #181, in my evidently vain attempt to assuage your fears about my position, that “union with Christ doesn’t reconcile us to God … It is justification that reconciles us to God”? Do I still “seem to want to attribute” the benefits of justification directly to union?

    And as for the benefits of just., adopt., and sanct. coming from union, the WLC is clear in 69 that it is through communion that believers partake of these benefits. 69 does not say union once.

    How many times am I going to need to quote and highlight Q&A 69 to get through? Yes, it does in fact say “union” once:

    Q69: What is the communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
    A69: The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their UNION with him.

    Is that clear enough, or should I start fooling around with font sizes it my HTML coding as well? Our communion with Christ is partaking of His mediation in justification, adoption, sanctification, etc. These mediatorial benefits manifest our union with Him; which is to say that our communion (fellowship/sharing) with Christ is predicated on our union with Christ. We cannot share in His mediation without being joined (united!) to Him. And we are so joined when we are effectually called, and the Spirit quickens us from spiritual death to spiritual life (Q&A 66!).

    66 says union is being spiritually and mystically joined to Christ as their head. 69 says that communion is partaking in the virtue of Christ’s work as mediator. Union seems to apply to federal headship. Communion refers to Christ’s mediation.

    So, in what other case do we have something imputed to us on the basis of federal headship? (HINT: Read Rom. 5; maybe Murray’s The Imputation of Adam’s Sin as well … oops, I’ve given away the farm!)

  187. GLW Johnson said,

    July 14, 2008 at 7:04 am

    Kyle
    To say, as you do, that our union with Adam preceded imputation and thus parallels our union with Christ and thus imputation follows in the exact same fashion is an obvivious non sequitur.Union with Christ is a redemptive benefit and how we got it must, absolutely must ,be preceded by God’s act of joining us to Christ which presupposes God’s act of fitting us for union by clothing us in Christ’s righteousness.Are we joined to Christ in our unrighteousness? Do we become righteous by virtue of our union? Wouldn’t that make imputation ‘redundant’?

  188. Andrew Duggan said,

    July 14, 2008 at 9:06 am

    Re: 186, it seems though you want to totally discount the fact that WLC has made a prior distinction between union and communion in grace in 65 and 66 and in the question of 69 and most of the answer, and the distinction they continue to develop from 70 to 86. It also appears you define “manifests” very differently than how WLC69 is using it, when read in the light of 65.

    What I find really lacking in all the union talk is that you all seem to ignore the fact that union with is only dealt with in the context of membership in the invisible church, which is why they are careful to include “husband”. Our federal relationship to Adam is one of federal head only, our relationship to Christ as husband as well is therefore qualitatively different such that to use the word union with respect to Adam’s federal relationship to his posterity descending from him by ordinary generation makes the word “union” incomprehensible.

    Instead what I see from you, et al, is an attempt to move beyond the WCF/WLC descriptions of the what God does in applying salvation to us, to the how. I think the one of the things that WLC is stating is the uselessness of investigating the how in their use of the word mystically, in WLC 66.

    You come across as so desperate to champion your “union, nothing but union” (UNBU) doctrine, and yes, that is really how you come across, you are unwilling to read WLC 64 to 86 (yeah that large a section) for what it is trying to teach, but instead insist on reading your UNBU doctrine into it. There is hardly any focus on union, rather the focus is on the benefits of distinct communion in grace and glory with Christ. Consider they layout of WLC from 64 to 86.

    WLC 65 A:The members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union and communion in grace and glory.
    WLC 66: Q What is that union…
    WLC 69: Q What is that communion in grace
    WLC 70-81 expands on the communion in grace (justification, adoption, sanctification and assurance)
    WLC 82: Q What is that communion in glory …
    WLC 83: Q What is that communion in glory .. in this life
    WLC 86: Q What is that communion in glory .. after death.

    If the WLC was not intending to make the distinction between union and communion in grace and glory, WLC 65 would read: “The members of the invisible church by Christ enjoy union with him.” WLC 66 would read: “The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace where by they are spiritually and mystically, yet really joined to Christ as their head and husband, which is done in their effectual calling, and communion with him in grace in glory”. If communion in grace and glory with Christ was to be either a component of, or the same as, union with Christ, it would have been introduced in the answer to WLC66 instead of WLC65.

    However, that’s not what they wrote. What they wrote says that union and communion in grace and glory are the two special benefits that members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ, that the WLC is going to deal with, not that union is the one benefit they are going to explain. Their use of the word union in WLC69 is much more reasonably understood to communicate that the two special benefits of union and communion in grace are inseparable, rather than as you argue indistinct.

  189. its.reed said,

    July 14, 2008 at 10:00 am

    Andrew:

    I think you are way over reading what Kyle has said. Your distinction between communion-union in WLC may be valid. Yet the UNBU characterization of Kyle’s comments is way over board.

    Darryl:

    Likewise, I think you are over-reacting to the discussion here. Your points have been helpful to me in nuancing my understanding of union. Yet it sounds to me like you are trying to use the arguments here as your springboard to attack arguments and holders of those arguments that are not in view in this discussion.

    E.g., demonstrate a necessary connection between Gaffin’s view of union and Shepherd’s, and then demonstrate how this necessitates the back-dooring through union of works into justification. Please, however, don’t offer arguments filled more with rhetorical wit than substantive argument.

    Andrew and Darryl, please don’t be offended at my chiding. Take it as a brother who respects the significance and seriousness of your concern, who nevertheless believes you are reacting to something that is not here.

  190. Andrew Duggan said,

    July 14, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Reed,

    To those who took offence at the use my acronym and the phrase for which it stands, I apologize. However, I think you are significantly under reading what Kyle and others have written, and so have failed to take proper note of an issue that really is there — on that, we will have to agree to disagree.

    Thanks

  191. its.reed said,

    July 14, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    Ref. 190:

    Andrew, fair enough.

  192. Roger Mann said,

    July 14, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    186. Kyle wrote,

    Yes, you were in union with Adam: he was your federal head. Thus his guilt was imputed to you. So, too, with Christ. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness relies on His federal headship over us. He is not our federal head if we are not united to Him. Thus union is prerequisite for imputation.

    Since our federal union with Adam is purely a mental act within the eternal divine mind, the imputation of Adam’s guilt to us is likewise a purely mental act within the eternal divine mind. They are acts of God ad infra wholly outside of us, and therefore conceived in the mind of God from all eternity.

    The same holds true in our relation to Christ. Since our federal union with Christ is purely a mental act within the eternal divine mind, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us is likewise a purely mental act within the eternal divine mind. They are acts of God ad infra wholly outside of us, and therefore conceived in the mind of God from all eternity.

    Moreover, as John Gill points out, our federal union with Christ relies upon God considering us as “righteous” in Him not as “unrighteous.” Therefore, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us logically and temporally precedes our existential union with Christ in time:

    By electing grace men were put into Christ, and were considered as in him before the foundation of the world; and if they were considered as in him, they must be considered as righteous or unrighteous; not surely as unrighteous, unjustified, and in a state of condemnation; for “there is no condemnation to them which are in Christ”, (Rom. 8:1) and therefore must be considered as righteous, and so justified: “Justified then we were,” says Dr. Goodwin “when first elected, though not in our own persons, yet in our Head, as he had our persons then given him, and we came to have a being and an interest in him.”

    Or, again:

    In a word, the sentence of justification pronounced on Christ, the representative of his people, when he rose from the dead, and that which is pronounced by the Spirit of God in the consciences of believers, and that which will be pronounced before men and angels at the general judgment, are only so many repetitions, or renewed declarations, of that grand original sentence of it, conceived in the mind of God from all eternity

  193. Kyle said,

    July 14, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Gary, re: 187,

    To say, as you do, that our union with Adam preceded imputation and thus parallels our union with Christ and thus imputation follows in the exact same fashion is an obvivious non sequitur.

    How it is an “obvious non sequitur”? Do you think we would have had the sin of Adam imputed to us if we had not been joined to him as our federal head? How can we have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us if we are not joined to Him as our federal head? The fact of the matter is that the imputation of Adam’s sin corresponds to the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, necessarily following Rom. 5. If imputation is NOT by virtue of our relation to either as federal head, then what?

    Union with Christ is a redemptive benefit and how we got it must, absolutely must ,be preceded by God’s act of joining us to Christ which presupposes God’s act of fitting us for union by clothing us in Christ’s righteousness.

    Are you saying that justification precedes union with Christ? That we must be declared righteous apart from Christ before we can be joined to Him? Is this even coherent?

    Are we joined to Christ in our unrighteousness?

    We are joined to Christ in our effectual calling. Does the effectual call pardon our sins or make us perfectly righteous?

    Do we become righteous by virtue of our union? Wouldn’t that make imputation ‘redundant’?

    No, we do not become righteous by virtue of our union. We have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us by virtue of our union with Him as our head. It is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness that gives us the forensic declaration of “righteous.” How does this make imputation “redundant”? Where have I ever suggested or implied that imputation is rendered “redundant” because of union with Christ? On the contrary, imputation is rendered possible, and indeed necessary, because of union with Christ as our head!

  194. Kyle said,

    July 14, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    Andrew & Roger,

    I hope to address your comments at a later time.

  195. Roger Mann said,

    July 14, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Sorry, the statement in my third paragraph above should have said:

    “Therefore, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us logically precedes our existential union with Christ in time.”

  196. Darryl Hart said,

    July 14, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Kyle: I appreciate your efforts to summarize the discussions and disagreements to this point. I’d also say that I need to think more about what WLC 69 says about justification in relation to communion and union. According to Murray, union is everywhere in soteriology. So it is clearly important. But it was Murray who also wrote what I quoted in #183. I’m still curious if you would ever want to attribute such importance to union. And since I wonder a lot, I wonder if Murray ever said such of union. My sense is that he wouldn’t because he didn’t think the Reformers (including Luther) misread Paul. I also wonder if you are troubled, given your reading of the Westminster Divines and what for you is the clear importance of union, that an argument about the Reformation misreading Paul would suggest that the Westminster Assembly also misread Paul. But if they didn’t misread Paul because they understood the importance of union, then why ask if the Reformation got Paul wrong.

    I do think Andrew is right to see more of a distinction between union and communion than you do.

  197. Darryl Hart said,

    July 14, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    Elder H.: did the quotation from Murray in #183 trouble you with its assertion of the importance of justification? Murray was a union guy. You are a union guy. Will you give the Reformation its justification chops?

    Could you also specify, briefly of course, what the midlde ground between Westminster California and Auburn Avenue is? Would that be Andrew Sandlin? In #12 he also cites Ridderbos and Cullman as I seem to recall. I assume that this middle ground would also reject law-gospel as a short-hand for covenant of works-covenant of grace.

  198. Darryl Hart said,

    July 14, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    its.reed, no offense taken. (Elder Hoss and I have a history.)

    Does it trouble you the way that the pro-union position finds much support from advocates of FV, and that FV has been partial to Shepherd? I know this sounds like either conspiratorial thinking or simply guilt by association. But I myself do worry about the appeal of certain views. (Yes, I worry and wonder a lot.) If someone is a Cowboys fan it’s safe to assume he’s not a friend of the Eagles (the team, not the band). So what I am also concerned about is a good and valuable use of union (or any doctrine for that matter) that doesn’t see the danger of abuse and then adds qualifications to avoid that abuse.

    But at the end of the day, I don’t see how the Protestant doctrine of justification can be abused. It was always the clearing ground for good works, as in taking away the wrong motives for serving God and yielding the proper ones. In that sense, I don’t see what was broken that union needed to fix, as if the Reformers got so preoccupied with justification that they lost sight of sanctification.

  199. Kyle said,

    July 14, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Andrew, re: 188,

    Re: 186, it seems though you want to totally discount the fact that WLC has made a prior distinction between union and communion in grace in 65 and 66 and in the question of 69 and most of the answer, and the distinction they continue to develop from 70 to 86. It also appears you define “manifests” very differently than how WLC69 is using it, when read in the light of 65.

    You’re going to have to explain to me what you think Q&A 69 means by “manifests.” Also, I’m not denying that there is a distinction between union and communion, anymore than I’ve denied that there is a distinction between justification and sanctification. What I’m saying is that our communion with Christ, our sharing in all of the benefits of His mediation, is predicated on our union with Him. But communion has not been the major topic of controversy in this discussion.

    What I find really lacking in all the union talk is that you all seem to ignore the fact that union with is only dealt with in the context of membership in the invisible church, which is why they are careful to include “husband”. Our federal relationship to Adam is one of federal head only, our relationship to Christ as husband as well is therefore qualitatively different such that to use the word union with respect to Adam’s federal relationship to his posterity descending from him by ordinary generation makes the word “union” incomprehensible.

    I certainly concede that the standards don’t speak of union with Adam as such. However, how affirming that there exists a union between Adam and his posterity, and also a union between Christ and His bride, makes the word “union” incomprehensible is beyond me. The union we have with Adam is the union of child to parent – a union established by our being descended from him. The union we have with Christ is the union of wife to husband – a union established by our being joined to Him in our effectual calling. The unions differ qualitatively in that respect; nevertheless, they are both unions, and in both there this the legal relationship of federal headship. Imputation is a legal act predicated on the legal relationship of federal headship.

    You come across as so desperate to champion your “union, nothing but union” (UNBU) doctrine, and yes, that is really how you come across,

    Perhaps in the twisted minds of desperately rabid neo-Lutherans like you and Dr. Hart. (Yes, that is really how you come across.)

    It’s too bad there’s not a smiley for eye-rolling. Can we please dispense with the over-the-top rhetoric? Reed is quite right that your characterization of my position as “UNBU” is a massive overreading of what I’ve said. I have certainly placed an emphasis on the doctrine of union in this thread – because I find it being impugned by men who really ought to know better. Is the idea of union at the absolute center of my piety or doctrinal thought-life or gospel presentation? No, not really. Nevertheless, it does have its place. And when justification is made out to be the foundation of union, I find that to be biblically unfeasible and confessionally unfounded.

    you are unwilling to read WLC 64 to 86 (yeah that large a section) for what it is trying to teach, but instead insist on reading your UNBU doctrine into it. There is hardly any focus on union, rather the focus is on the benefits of distinct communion in grace and glory with Christ.

    I am not unwilling the read the all of those Q&A for what the Larger Catechism is teaching. But I AM unwilling to set aside what it DOES teach about union with Christ simply because that is not the major focus. Have I honestly said or implied that union is the major focus? Have I ever maintained that union is the central dogma? No. I’m simply saying what I believe union to be and to entail. I am not reading “UNBU” into it; rather, you are reading “UNBU” into what I have said.

    Their use of the word union in WLC69 is much more reasonably understood to communicate that the two special benefits of union and communion in grace are inseparable, rather than as you argue indistinct.

    Show me where and how I’ve argued that union and communion are indistinct. This is just like the nonsense from others earlier that affirming justification and sanctification are both predicated on our union with Christ necessarily makes them indistinct.

  200. Elder Hoss said,

    July 14, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Reed – I’m not sure how Norman Shepherd relates to anything I’ve written here, or why a connection between Norman Shepherd and Richard Gaffin is in the interests of the discussion on the priority of union with Christ as the overarching category UNDER WHICH justification has a vital place.

    Where have I mentioned Shepherd in this thread, and where have I offered any kind of assessment of his (rather insignificant in the total scheme of Christian history) thought?

    Now, as it happens, I have spent several hours face-to-face with Norman Shepherd and expressed to him areas where I disagree with his construal of things. In like manner, I have done so with those on the other side of the barbed wire fence who go so far as to injudiciously refer to him as a “heretic” worthy of the fires of Gehenna.

    The problem however, I see with Darryl’s consistent approach in this discussion (as well as others) is his trying to extrapolate, rather wildly, from the position that one’s refusing to identify justification by faith alone as the central message of the Bible” to the following unwarranted conclusion:

    “If you don’t confess that is so, you either deny the doctrine or are at best ambivalent about it.”

    This is tantamount to saying, “If you deny TULIP is the central message of the Bible, you are either hostile toward or at best ambivalent concerning, sovereign grace.”

    That ought be seen for the phantasmagorical canard that it really is, for should one conclude that a number of the respondents here who have more affinity with Murray than say Kline, are somehow “ambivalent” about justification by faith alone?

    Darryl, I’m trying to answer your questions/barbs, even though (since you referenced our former interactions….) you never explained to us at reformedcatholicism.com (either Escalante or me) how presbyterian and reformed are necessarily synonymous, in the light of say, the work of Hesselink, the presence of Hungarian Reformed (non-Presbyterian) communions, and – perhaps most of all – Reformed Anglicanism. I won’t hazzard a guess as to why that was, but it is worth mentioning since you referenced my “kicking up dust.”

    So, here goes: You asked me what a good example of a via media between Westminster West and Auburn Avenue would be.

    I’ve already given you two – RICHARD GAFFIN & JOHN MURRAY.

    If you think the work of M.S. Horton or R.S. Clark is a more faithful representation of the Reformed tradition, you are certainly welcome to that perspective. Time will certainly tell in terms of the footprints of these various Christian thinkers.

    You ask me about Sandlin, though I am not sure what his immediate relevance is to this thread.

    Nonetheless, I am happy to comment on him.

    With regard to Andrew Sandlin’s work, I believe his recent article on the non-intellectualization of the Reformed, wherein he points to Thomas Kuhn’s insights on those who do “normal” vs. “paradigmatic” science is, regrettably, painstakingly accurate as a matter of fact. Whereas other generations of Reformed Christians could look to true intellectuals the caliber of Ridderbos, Van Til, Kuyper – men whose work in light of Scripture literally changed the way men read the Bible, our generation is plagued either with theological repristinators who simply wish to go back behind/before a Van Til or Kuyper and simply parrot their particular understanding of what they believe the Confessions teach on the one hand, or reactionary theologizers (and here, I think the FV deserves a healthy dose of criticism for being such) who seem to glide by BOTH 17th century scholasticism AND to some extent, 16th century Magisterial Reformed thought.

    A last thought about Sandlin – I know from extensive personal correspondence with him that there about 3-4 MAJOR areas where he (and I) take serious issue with what we consider to be a reactionary theologizing in and among some of those connected with the FV.

    That being said, he and I would no more consider a Wilkins, or Barach, or Wilkins heretical than we would the decidedly non-sovereign-grace-esque worthies that, er, have fruitfully dotted the landscape of church history (in some cases with their blood, a privilege you and I probably will never have) from the East, Latin Christians, the nascent charismatic Tertullian, and on it goes.

    Totalistic lines of argumentation which in a very puerile fashion want to argue that “you cannot disagree with other Christians without their simultaneously being heretics” is something I gave up about 10 yrs ago after I put away the A.W. Pink and Lorraine Boettner books, sorry to say.

    Back to via-media between say, Monroe and Escondido, I mentioned John Murray, and I praise the main corpus of his thought almost without reserve. It should be noted that some of the leading (and more vociferous) voices at Westminster West are not pleased with John Murray in many respects, one of them having referred, if I recall, to Murray having a very “mixed” legacy.

    I don’t believe that for a moment. But then again, that is because I believe eklessia reformada reformanda est is not a cute aphorism, or an exotic french poodle to be trotted out on select occasions. Rather, it ought be our passion. It certainly was Murray’s, and that is why for example, Murray could warn in that very prescient quote to the effect that as soon as a generation refuses to test its time-honored traditions afresh and anew, in the face of Scripture, heterodoxy is the lot of the next generation.

    Others you can throw in there for careful consideration would be in backwards chronology, C. Van Til, Herman Ridderbos, Abraham Kuyper, and Groen Van Prinsterer. With Murray, each of these engaged in “paradigmatic” science, literally altering the way men approach the Scriptures.

    So yeah – Would that young men preparing for the ministry cut their teeth on all of these guys, along with a line-by-line reading of the Institutes, Hooker’s Laws, and the short stories of Jonathan Winters, when their minds are on overload and they need a sanity check.

    I’ll let you have the last word here as I am raising 5 covenant kiddos and egregiously behind with our Heidelberg catechesis (we are using Van Dyken with great profit, thank the Lord).

  201. Elder Hoss said,

    July 14, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    Two errata – Reed, please pardon, as I re-read the entire thread, and realize your comment re Gaffin/Shepherd was in the first para. directed to Darryl, not me. Although, hopefully what I have stated in regard to Shepherd may be useful to some.

    Last para should read “we are using Visscher with great profit, on the Heidelberg. The Van Dyken catechism is what he calls a “covenant-historical” or “narrative” catechism, and we utilized that last year with great profit.

    I don’t wish to mis-state even incidental comments such as that.

    Blessings

    Hoss

  202. Kyle said,

    July 14, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Roger, re: 192,

    Since our federal union with Adam is purely a mental act within the eternal divine mind, the imputation of Adam’s guilt to us is likewise a purely mental act within the eternal divine mind. They are acts of God ad infra wholly outside of us, and therefore conceived in the mind of God from all eternity.

    The same holds true in our relation to Christ. Since our federal union with Christ is purely a mental act within the eternal divine mind, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us is likewise a purely mental act within the eternal divine mind. They are acts of God ad infra wholly outside of us, and therefore conceived in the mind of God from all eternity.

    I see what you’re getting at, but I’m not certain how much I agree. I do certainly affirm that there is an eternal character to the entire plan of redemption. However, justification, “by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ,” occurs in time (WCF 11.4). It does not seem to be a purely mental act of God conceived from all eternity, other than as something which He decreed would be accomplished for those whom He elected in Christ. The idea you espouse here would seem to imply that we are already justified and in time we simply come to the subjective realization of the same. I don’t think that’s adequate. But please do clarify if I’m misunderstanding.

    Moreover, as John Gill points out, our federal union with Christ relies upon God considering us as “righteous” in Him not as “unrighteous.” Therefore, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us logically … precedes our existential union with Christ in time:

    The Gill quotes are interesting, however, you’ll notice that we are considered justified because we are considered in Him as our Head (and what other head can that be but federal?), so in Gill’s scheme there is as much an idea of eternal union as there is of eternal justification, and the latter is predicated on the former. We must be considered as IN Christ as our Head, and not apart from Him, for His righteousness to be imputed to us. While the temporal application of justification is predicated on the eternal mental act of God, yet even the eternal mental act is predicated on another eternal mental act wherein we are considered as elect in Christ. Obviously, the two cannot be separated; but the logical priority is election in Christ. This doesn’t really support the position that justification is the ground of existential union. Rather, what Gill is arguing is that eternal justification is the ground of existential justification; and that eternal justification is necessary, because we are considered “elect in Him” as our Head from all eternity.

  203. Kyle said,

    July 14, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    Darryl, re: 196,

    According to Murray, union is everywhere in soteriology. So it is clearly important. But it was Murray who also wrote what I quoted in #183. I’m still curious if you would ever want to attribute such importance to union. And since I wonder a lot, I wonder if Murray ever said such of union. My sense is that he wouldn’t because he didn’t think the Reformers (including Luther) misread Paul. I also wonder if you are troubled, given your reading of the Westminster Divines and what for you is the clear importance of union, that an argument about the Reformation misreading Paul would suggest that the Westminster Assembly also misread Paul. But if they didn’t misread Paul because they understood the importance of union, then why ask if the Reformation got Paul wrong.

    No, I don’t attribute such importance to the doctrine of union with Christ; and no, I don’t think the Reformation misread Paul (although, to be honest, I do think Geneva read more thoroughly than Wittenberg). And I haven’t asked if the Reformation got Paul wrong, because I don’t believe they did. Heck, if I thought they had, I wouldn’t have survived obtaining my bachelor’s in religion as a young Christian. Again, I think you’re still tilting at windmills. Are you troubled with Murray’s position on union? Evidently not enough to accuse him of not having a robust enough understanding of justification.

    I do think Andrew is right to see more of a distinction between union and communion than you do.

    What Mr. Duggan sees is apparently a different relationship between the two altogether. I have never argued (or meant to argue) that these are indistinct; anymore than I’m sure you believe justification and sanctification to be indistinct because you say the latter is predicated on the former.

  204. its.reed said,

    July 14, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Ref 198:

    Darryl:

    Yes, I am concerned by what appears to me to be the abuse of biblical doctrine by NPP/FV/Sheperdites – be that doctrine Union, Baptism, Election, Works, etc.

    I just don’t think that the discussion here has gone in any of those directions. This is at least from the perspective of intentionality. I cannot speak for the convictions of all the posters on this thread. But I can say the “usual suspects” espousing any of these views do not seem to be commenting here. I can also say that folks like Kyle and Ron D. have a demonstrated opposition to these erroneous views.

    Now, it may be that the “pro” union arguments presented here have not been as nuanced as should be. I for one appreciate your insightfulness in helping to bring about such clarifying nuancing.

    I will admit I am one who has found Gaffin’s nuancing of union to be helpful. I am aware of the thread of concern about his arguments. Yet, as I’ve both studied those concerns and have seen Dr. Gaffin further nuance his arguments, I find the concerns to not have weight in my convictions.

    I admit I may be blind. Likewise I recognize that you may be over-reacting. :) Regardless, thanks for the cordial response.

  205. Darryl Hart said,

    July 14, 2008 at 9:23 pm

    Elder H.: You say Murray is the via media between Monroe and Escondido. But the quotation I gave in #183 suggests much more of a WSC sympathy, then one questioning whether the Reformers misinterpreted Paul.

    As for Sandlin, you don’t really say he’s a via media. Nor do you raise significant objections. You might understand why some in Escondido might regard the editor of a book whose design is apparently to criticize the WSC book on justification would not be much of a via media.

  206. Darryl Hart said,

    July 14, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Kyle and its.Reed, yes you may think that I am overreacting. But then again, I don’t think the Reformed world has been the same since Shepherd’s views and the questions about justification that surfaced then and that have continued to be raised, whether in relation to union, sanctification, or obedience, covenant faithfulness, etc. — if you look closely you might see at least a common thread that implies that the Reformation view of justification is in need of improvement, and you might also detect views that diminish the kind of singularity of vision that Murray articulated in the quotation above regarding justification and the revolutionary significance of the Reformation.

    For instance, the Shepherd controversy upended the Old School ethos at WTS by dividing those faculty who were generally on the same page about ecclesiology and worship. (It didn’t help that WSC further diminished the Old School ethos in Philly.) The Shepherd controversy also sent ripples through the OPC and BT circles. Not to make this about me, but I was involved with Jeff Taylor in efforts to try to heal some of those suspicions in the mid-1990s but they came to naught for a variety of reasons.

    Now I may overestimate or idealize a Reformed consensus before the Shepherd controversy. But I think a lot of Reformed Christians would have read Machen’s dying words to Murray for instance, “the active obedience of Christ, no hope without it” and agreed agreeably. I’d be glad to be wrong, but I don’t think that consensus exists any more.

    In this context, I think it behooves anyone who is going to venture into Reformed teaching related to justification to try to clarify our understandings of the material principle of the Reformation and its importance, and to avoid contributing to even greater balkanization. Is that too much to ask?

  207. its.reed said,

    July 14, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    No, its not.

  208. Vern Crisler said,

    July 14, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Re: #202

    Kyle said: “We must be considered as IN Christ as our Head, and not apart from Him, for His righteousness to be imputed to us.”

    Hmm, Berkhof called this view a falsification of the gospel!

    “It is sometimes said that the merits of Christ cannot be imputed to us as long as we are not in Christ, since it is only on the basis of our oneness with Him that such an imputation could be reasonable. But this view fails to distinguish between our legal unity with Christ and our spiritual oneness with Him, and is a falsification of the fundamental element in the doctrine of redemption, namely, of the doctrine of justification.” (L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 452.)

    In addition, I really haven’t heard any good arguments from Unionists about how the ungodly could be in union with Christ. Did not Paul say that God justifies the ungodly? Why is this being ignored?

    I think one reason some are suspicious of Gaffin, as they were suspicious of FV, is that both Gaffin and FV are attacking traditional Reformed positions. Gaffin is less bold about it, but anyone who denies justification by faith in favor of some other formulation (e.g., justification by union) is asking for it — even though they may mean it in a qualified sense. Isn’t that what got everyone in suspect mode with respect to Doug Wilson’s (Reformational) orthodoxy? (E.g., ‘Reformed’ is Not Enough.) Or why people are suspicious of Andrew Sandlin?

    Why are Unionists surprised when some suspect they are denying the ordo salutis? Or trying to justify it with what somebody has called The New Perspective on Calvin? (We’ve already had the New Perspective on Luther in the Finnish school.)

    And the hostility to Luther manifested by some sparks even further suspicion. (If you want to know whether your theology of justification has gone bad, just ask yourself What Would Luther Say?)

    Personally, I don’t think the word heresy is appropriate for either the Federal Vision or the Union Vision (sorry) but it is possible to be sub-Reformed, and I think Unionists should not close their Calvinist minds to the worries of their critics.

    Just my opinion,

    Vern

  209. Kyle said,

    July 14, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Darryl, re: 206,

    Thanks for this. I can certainly understand the concerns you express with Shepherdism and related theological “conversations.” I do not believe the Reformed understanding of justification is in need of “improvement.” But I am also concerned not to lose to them the doctrine of union with Christ. The truth of our union with Him is still precious, if not as centrally important; and, rightly understood, the doctrine of union exalts Christ as our incomparable Savior in all things. And that’s all I’m really defending.

  210. Kyle said,

    July 14, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    Vern, re: 208,

    First, I was explaining Gill’s argument, which is not precisely my own.

    Second, you quoted the same passage from Berkhof above. I read through his chapter on mystical union, but if I read him correctly, he wants to make our union with Christ as head an eternal thing and not something that takes place in time:

    In doing so it [Reformed theology] employs the term ‘mystical union’ in a broad sense as a designation not only of the subjective union of Christ and believers, but also of the union that lies back of it, that is basic to it, and of which it is only the culminating expression, namely, the federal union of Christ and those who are His in the counsel of redemption, the mystical union ideally established in that eternal counsel, and the union as it is objectively effected in the incarnation and the redemptive work of Christ (p. 447).

    However (here I go again), the WLC has union with Christ as our head occuring in time at our effectual calling, which would seem to make Berkhof at odds with the WLC. I’ll admit of an amount of ignorance in the matter, but I’d like someone to reconcile Berkhof with WLC Q&A 66 on this point.

    Futhermore, as I said in response way up in #154,

    On the other hand, I’m not saying that union is the judicial ground of justification. I’ll say as clearly as I can what I think: the ground of justification is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us; imputation is grounded in our union with Christ (we are one with Him, therefore we are counted as righteous in Him – if we are not one with Him, how do we receive His righteousness?); our union with Christ (the Spirit’s application of it to us temporally) is effected in our being called & regenerated.

    And, even for Berkhof, there is a sense in which union with Christ as our federal head (in eternity) precedes justification:

    Calvin repeatedly expresses the idea that the sinner cannot share in the saving benefits of Christ’s redemptive work, unless he be in union with Him, and thus emphasizes a very important truth. As Adam was the representative head of the old humanity, so Christ is the representative head of the new humanity. All the blessings of the covenant of grace flow from Him who is the Mediator of the covenant. Even the very first blessing of the saving grace of God which we receive already presupposes a union with the Person of the Mediator. It is exactly at this point that we find one of the most characteristic differences between the operations and blessings of special and those of common grace. The former can be received and enjoyed only by those who are in union with Christ (p. 447).

    So, someone will need to clarify Berkhof for me.

    In addition, I really haven’t heard any good arguments from Unionists about how the ungodly could be in union with Christ. Did not Paul say that God justifies the ungodly? Why is this being ignored?

    Well, Vern, I still haven’t heard any good arguments from you or anyone else how we can have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us if we are not united to Him as our federal head. But in answer to your question: Christ is the Mediator. It is precisely His role to go between the all-holy God and sinful man. No mediator would be required if we were godly. If we do not have to be united to Christ in order to have His righteousness imputed to us, we do not need to be united to Christ in order to have the rewards of godliness, either, since they follow necessarily upon justification. In short, your view makes union with Christ, dare I say it?, redundant. You only need His righteousness, and not His Person.

  211. Vern Crisler said,

    July 15, 2008 at 3:05 am

    Hi Kyle,

    I think the union that Berkhof is talking about is what he called a legal union. This is where Christ is our federal representative. Perhaps it would be a good idea to call this the formal union with Christ in that it involves our justification. The other union Berkhof talks about is what he calls spiritual union. We might call this the material union with Christ. In any case, Berkhof does not want these two types of union to be confused.

    On the question of our status at justification, Gaffin denies that his Union idea means he’s teaching an analytic view of justification, but the main question is how does his view of Union guard against it? If God justifies the ungodly, and justification is based on union, then it means the ungodly are united with Christ. How do you or Gaffin avoid this problem? All you really do is restate your conclusion, instead of providing good reasons for it.

    If you’ll accept the terminology, I think we need formal union for justification, and material union for sanctification. So we do have formally to be united to Christ in order to have His righteousness imputed to us. But godliness or transformation are part of material union. It seems to me that Unionists are confusing these, something Berkhof warned against.

    Vern

  212. GLW Johnson said,

    July 15, 2008 at 9:37 am

    Kyle
    I agree with Vern. I think you are confusing Federal Headship with Union and lapsing into the error that Berhof warned about.By the way, Berkhof is simply following Bavinck on this.

  213. Andrew Duggan said,

    July 15, 2008 at 11:27 am

    Re: #212
    Which is taught in WLC 66 in answer to what is that union, says “…joined to Christ as their head and husband…”

    Kyle,

    I think you argued against the distinction between union and communion in grace in how you argue for subsuming communion in grace into union in #181 when you wrote:

    How do you suppose it is that we have communion with Christ? Because we have been united to Him as husband and head in our effectual calling. Because we are made one with Him, therefore we share with Him in all things. And, again, Q&A 69 very clearly has justification, adoption, and sanctification as manifestations of union. To take it back one step, communion is a manifestion of our union with Him. Which is again to say, because we are made one with Him, therefore we share with Him in all things.

    Further your use of the word predicate communicates subsuming to me as well.

    The very use of the plural “benefits” in the question of WLC65 prohibits your subsuming. The fact they use the plural means that union is different from communion in grace and glory. WLC65 already put them on the same level. You have to overcome that before you can do anything else, short of rewriting the WLC I don’t think you can.

    Before the conversation can continue, you need to explain the need to delve into the how God applies salvation, rather than sticking to the what God does in apply salvation to the elect.

    At the end of the day, IMO, your emphasis on union actually diminishes the doctrine, like too many coats of white paint obscure the detail on a building with fine architectural details, and is very unedifying at least to me. It just seems odd to me that the church has been misreading WLC64-86 for the 350+ years since it was written, not until you came along do we have a theology available that enables us to understand WLC64-86 to teach as you wrote in #181 “…justification, adoption, and sanctification as manifestations of union.”

  214. Roger Mann said,

    July 15, 2008 at 2:03 pm

    202. Kyle wrote,

    It does not seem to be a purely mental act of God conceived from all eternity, other than as something which He decreed would be accomplished for those whom He elected in Christ.

    Justification 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. On this point, Gill carefully points out the distinction between justification, which is an eternal act of God ad infra, and sanctification, which is a temporal act of God ad extra:

    “It is urged, that strictly and accurately speaking, it cannot be said that justification is eternal, because the decree of justification is one thing, and justification itself another; even as God’s will of sanctifying is one thing, and sanctification itself another; wherefore, though the decree of justification is eternal, and precedes faith, that itself is in time, and follows it. To which it may be answered, that as God’s decree and will to elect men to everlasting life and salvation, is his election of them; and his will not to impute sin to them, is the non-imputation of it; and his will to impute the righteousness of Christ unto them, is the imputation of it to them; so his decree, or will to justify them, is the justification of them, as that is an immanent act in God; which has its complete essence in his will, as election has; is entirely within himself, and not transient on an external subject, producing any real, physical, inherent change in it, as sanctification is and does; and therefore the case is not alike: it is one thing for God to will to act an act of grace concerning men, another thing to will to work a work of grace in them; in the former case, the will of God is his act of justification; in the latter it is not his act of sanctification; wherefore, though the will of God to justify, is justification itself, that being a complete act in his eternal mind, without men; yet his will to sanctify, is not sanctification, because that is a work wrought in men, and not only requires the actual existence of them but an exertion of powerful and efficacious grace upon them: was justification, as the papists say, by an infusion of inherent righteousness in men, there would be some strength in the objection; but this is not the case, and therefore there is none in it.”

    Abraham Kuyper likewise writes:

    “It is also evident that the sinner’s justification need not wait until he is converted, nor until he has become conscious, nor even until he is born. This could not be so if justification depended upon something within him. Then he could not be justified before he existed and had done something. But if justification is not bound to anything in him, then this whole limitation must disappear, and the Lord our God be sovereignly free to render this justification at any moment that He pleases. Hence the Sacred Scripture reveals justification as an eternal act of God, ie., an act which is not limited by any moment in the human existence. It is for this reason that the child of God, seeking to penetrate into that glorious and delightful reality of his justification, does not feel himself limited to the moment of his conversion, but feels that this blessedness flows to him from the eternal depths of the hidden life of God. It should therefore openly be confessed, and without any abbreviation, that justification does not occur when we become conscious of it, but that, on the contrary, our justification was decided from eternity in the holy judgment-seat of our God.”

    The idea you espouse here would seem to imply that we are already justified and in time we simply come to the subjective realization of the same. I don’t think that’s adequate.

    Gill answers this objection by writing:

    “Those scriptures which speak of justification, through and by faith, do not militate against, nor disprove justification before faith; for though justification by and before faith differ, yet they are not opposite and contradictory. They differ, the one being an immanent act in God; all which sort of acts are eternal, and so before faith; the other being a transient declarative act, terminating on the conscience of the believer; and so is by and through faith, and follows it. But then these do not contradict each other, the one being a declaration and manifestation of the other. 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; 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.”

    “Faith adds nothing to the ‘esse’ only to the ‘bene esse’ of justification; it is no part of, nor any ingredient in it; it is a complete act in the eternal mind of God, without the being or consideration of faith, or any foresight of it; a man is as much justified before as after it, in the account of God; and after he does believe, his justification does not depend on his acts of faith; for though ‘we believe not, yet he abides faithful’; that is, God is faithful to his covenant engagements with his Son, as their Surety, by whose suretyship righteousness they are justified; but by faith men have a comfortable sense, perception and apprehension of their justification, and enjoy that peace of soul which results from it; it is by that only, under the testimony of the divine Spirit, that they know their interest in it, and can claim it, and so have the comfort of it.

    And Kuyper adds:

    “There is undoubtedly a moment in our life when for the first time justification is published to our consciousness; but let us be careful to distinguish justification itself from its publication. Our Christian name was selected for and applied to us long before we, with clear consciousness, knew it as our name; and although there was a moment in which it became a living reality to us and was called out for the first time in the ear of our consciousness, yet no man will be so foolish as to imagine that it was then that he actually received that name. And so it is here. There is a certain moment wherein that justification becomes to our consciousness a living fact; but in order to become a living fact, it must have existed before. It does not spring from our consciousness, but it is mirrored in it, and hence must have being and stature in itself. Even an elect infant which dies in the cradle is declared just, though the knowledge or consciousness of its justification never penetrated its soul. And elect persons, converted, like the thief on the cross, with their last breath, can scarcely be sensible of their justification, and yet enter eternal life exclusively on the ground of their justification. Taking an analogy from daily life, a man condemned during his absence in foreign lands was granted pardon through the intercession of his friends, wholly without his knowledge. Does this pardon take effect when long afterward the good news reaches him, or when the king signs his pardon? Of course the latter. Even so does the justification of God’s children take effect, not on the day when for the first time it is published to their consciousness, but at the moment that God in His holy judgment-seat declares them just.”

    I agree with Gill and Kuyper here, so if this formulation of justification is not “adequate” in your estimation, then I’m guilty as charged. Not only do I find this formulation adequate, but logically necessary.

    We must be considered as IN Christ as our Head, and not apart from Him, for His righteousness to be imputed to us.

    Let me see if I’m understanding you correctly here. Are you saying that God considers us “IN Christ as our Head” logically prior to imputing His righteousness to us? That we are federally “united to Christ” as unrighteous, unjustified, and in a state of condemnation? If so, wouldn’t that be contrary to God’s absolute purity and holiness? That ungodly sinners as sinners are united to Christ? I’m not sure that is what Gill was getting at. Saying that God “considers us righteous in Christ” from eternity doesn’t mean that our federal union logically precedes the imputation of Christ’s righteousness anymore than saying God “chose us in Christ” (Eph. 1:4) from eternity means that our federal union logically precedes our election. Quite the opposite would seem to be the case — that election and justification logically precedes our being federally united to Christ.

  215. July 15, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    “If God justifies the ungodly, and justification is based on union, then it means the ungodly are united with Christ.”

    I’m back in, but only for a bit for I’m heading on vacation soon. Kyle, I couldn’t sit idle as you try to war off attacks on union. I’ll get to Berkhof in a moment (scroll down if you must) but first a word or two about the manner in which we should protect precious doctrine. My fear is that the non-unionists are building a fence around the wall in order to protect the forensic implications of justification as they pertain to the grounds for the judicial declaration and the means by which we appropriate Christ. All that is well and good! Notwithstanding, it’s not well and good if what lies between the fence and the wall is sound theology, which is also precious. To assert that this doctrine is more precious than that one is not an argument to rid ourselves of the language pertaining to the lesser of the two, which ever the lesser is or is perceived to be.

    I hope we can all agree with the following: Regeneration is necessary and sufficient to unite one to Christ (lest one can be united to Christ apart from the Spirit and have the Spirit apart from being united to Christ). Regeneration is necessary and sufficient for faith (lest one can have faith apart from regeneration and be regenerate without the consequence of faith). Faith is necessary and sufficient for justification (lest justification can occur from works (i.e. not faith), and some with faith might not be in a state of justification). None of that means that union causes justification, let alone that union and imputation are redundant or that they are not distinguishable within such a construct.

    Moving on, the instrumental cause of justification is faith alone. Notwithstanding, faith (the instrumental cause) is not effected outside of union with Christ since both faith and union come through regeneration, whereas justification does not come immediately through regeneration but rather through that which regeneration brings forth, namely faith. Consequently, if faith and union come by way of regeneration and justification by way of faith, then it stands to reason that justification follows for those in Christ with faith. Therefore, that “God justifies the ungodly” cannot mean that union follows justification through faith. Accordingly, that God justifies the ungodly is not addressing the ordo salutis at all. It’s simply shorthand for “justification is of faith not works”, as the context of Romans four clearly demands.

    Regarding Berkhof:

    Berkhof is indeed guarding against attributing imputation to union. Through a careful reading (even not so careful), he may not be impugned with owning the idea that imputation ever occurs outside of union. He begins his discourse by noting that the mystical union is not the judicial ground (i.e. legal basis) by which we partake of the riches of Christ. He then immediately goes on to criticize the following view, that imputation must occur when one is united to Christ since union is the only basis that imputation is reasonable. In logic and common discourse, the rejecting of any proposition does not require the rejection of all the proposition contemplates. Accordingly, his criticism that union with Christ is not the basis (or judicial ground) of imputation does not imply that imputation does not occur within the orbit of union. As Berkhof rightly observes, the basis of our imputation is not our “existing condition” [which can only imply existing union], but rather Christ’s righteousness alone. Therefore, his concern is certainly to distinguish the ground of union (which he does later) from the ground of imputation, Christ’s righteousness. In doing so he does not reject that justification occurs in Christ, rather he actually affirms it:

    It is no secret that Berhkof’s theology was that conversion takes place after a cognizant faith and the exercise of repentance, as he thought justification does as well. With that in mind, Berhkof notes that the sinner’s spiritual bankruptcy “must be reflected in the consciousness of the sinner. And this takes place through the mediation of the mystical union. While the union is effected when the sinner is renewed by the operation of the Holy Spirit, he does not become cognizant of it and does not actively cultivate it until the conscious operation of faith begins. Then he becomes aware of the fact that he has no righteousness of his own, and the righteousness by which he appears just in the sight of God is imputed to him. [Berkof then asserts the sinner must find his dependence on Christ… before closing with:] Hence he is incorporated into Christ, and as a result experiences that all the grace which he receives flows from Christ. ….” So, after being incorporate into Christ, the sinner experiences all the grace, including Christ’s righteousness, “from Christ.” It’s in union with Christ that imputation occurs, but the basis for that imputation is not union with Christ but rather Christ alone, which Berkhof is jealous to protect.

    For Berhkof, union is effected in the sinner upon the renewing of the Holy Spirit. The sinner then reflects upon his need for Christ “through the mediation of the mystical union.” After becoming aware of his lack of righteousness – the righteousness by which he appears just in the sight of God is then imputed to the sinner’s account. Berhkof goes on to note that this union is not only useful in conversion, but that it “also secures the continuously transforming power of Christ” implying (by the word “also) that there is some other usefulness of union, aside from progressive sanctification.

    All of this is found in Michael Horton’s quote: “Regeneration, or the new birth, is the commencement of this union. God brings this connection and baptism even before there is any sign of life—‘while you were dead…he made you alive’’ (Eph.2:1). The first gift of this union is faith, the sole instrument through which we live and remain on this vine. But this is a rich vine, pregnant with nourishing sap to produce an abundance of fruit. Though we are not attached to nor remain attached to this vine by the fruit (what branch depends on the fruit?), those who are truly members of Christ inevitably produce fruit. Through union with Christ, we receive his righteousness imputed (justification) as well as his righteousness imparted.

    Justified in Him,

    Ron

  216. Kyle said,

    July 15, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    Vern, re: 211,

    It seems to me that this separates our union with Christ “as head” (federal) from our union with Christ “as husband” (personal), and makes the former eternal and the latter temporal. If justification itself is indexed exclusively to formal union (in eternity), then it seems the position is not in agreement with WCF 11.4.

    If God justifies the ungodly, and justification is based on union, then it means the ungodly are united with Christ.

    I guess I’m not sure why this is a problem. We need to approach God through a mediator precisely because we are ungodly. We are united with Christ unto godliness, rather than because we are previously declared to be godly. Effectual calling -> faith -> union with Christ as head and husband -> declaration of righteousness in Christ -> reconciliation to God. (Of course, this is not a temporal but logical succession.)

    Gary, re: 212,

    I agree with Vern. I think you are confusing Federal Headship with Union and lapsing into the error that Berhof warned about.By the way, Berkhof is simply following Bavinck on this.

    Does WLC Q&A 66 confuse federal headship and union? Can you please expand this for me and show me how Berkhof is in agreement with the LC here?

  217. Kyle said,

    July 15, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Andrew, re: 213,

    I think you argued against the distinction between union and communion in grace in how you argue for subsuming communion in grace into union in #181

    Mr. Crisler somewhere above said, “It’s in fact the other way around — union flows from justification.” Does he argue against their distinction, or subsume the former into the latter? All I mean in #181 is that communion flows from union. That is not to make say that they are the same thing.

    The very use of the plural “benefits” in the question of WLC65 prohibits your subsuming. The fact they use the plural means that union is different from communion in grace and glory. WLC65 already put them on the same level. You have to overcome that before you can do anything else, short of rewriting the WLC I don’t think you can.

    YOU need to explain what the LC means in Q&A 69 by “manifests their union with him.” You said I didn’t understand the divines’ usage of “manifests,” but you have not offered an explanation.

    Doing a little bit of cross-referrencing to the SC:

    LC: Q57: What benefits hath Christ procured by his mediation?
    A57: Christ, by his mediation, hath procured redemption, with all other benefits of the covenant of grace.

    Q58: How do we come to be made partakers of the benefits which Christ hath procured?
    A58: We are made partakers of the benefits which Christ hath procured, by the application of them unto us, which is the work especially of God the Holy Ghost.

    SC: Q29: How are we made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ?
    A29: We are made partakers of the redemption purchased by Christ, by the effectual application of it to us by his Holy Spirit.

    Q30: How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
    A30: The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.

    LC: Q66: What is that union which the elect have with Christ?
    A66: The union which the elect have with Christ is the work of God’s grace, whereby they are spiritually and mystically, yet really and inseparably, joined to Christ as their head and husband; which is done in their effectual calling.

    Q69: What is the communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ?
    A69: The communion in grace which the members of the invisible church have with Christ, is their partaking of the virtue of his mediation, in their justification, adoption, sanctification, and whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him.

    SC: Q32: What benefits do they that are effectually called [n.b.: and thereby united] partake of in this life?
    A32: They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification, adoption, and sanctification, and the several benefits which, in this life, do either accompany or flow from them.

    Note the use of “partake” and its forms.

    It just seems odd to me that the church has been misreading WLC64-86 for the 350+ years since it was written, not until you came along do we have a theology available that enables us to understand WLC64-86 to teach as you wrote in #181 “…justification, adoption, and sanctification as manifestations of union.”

    Fisher’s Catechism on WSC Q&A 32:

    Q. 4. What is the connexion between effectual calling and justification?
    A. In effectual calling, sinners, being united to Christ by faith, have thereby communion with him in his righteousness, for justification, Phil. 3:9.

    And imagine, all that was 255 years ago!

  218. Kyle said,

    July 15, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    Roger, re: 214,

    I’ll try to get back to you on this one!

  219. Andrew Duggan said,

    July 15, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    Kyle, when you ask in #217,

    YOU need to explain what the LC means in Q&A 69 by “manifests their union with him.” You said I didn’t understand the divines’ usage of “manifests,” but you have not offered an explanation.

    I’m sorry you say still don’t understand what manifest means, but it seems to me that you are saying that manifests, as used in WLC69 means flows from when you wrote in #217:

    All I mean in #181 is that communion flows from union. That is not to make say that they are the same thing.

    [So that everyone can have the context for what Kyle’s reference to his own #181 ]

    And, again, Q&A 69 very clearly has justification, adoption, and sanctification as manifestations of union

    which demonstrates the trouble, since manifests does not mean flows from.

    I did, however, give you a hint in #188 when I wrote:

    Their use of the word union in WLC69 is much more reasonably understood to communicate that the two special benefits of union and communion in grace are inseparable…

    What it being said, in WLC 69 in the phrase “whatever else, in this life, manifests their union with him” is that the whatever else in this life gives evidence of the effectually called elect’s union in Christ. The whatever else is one more thing (as a catch-all) among those previously mentioned items (J,A & S) that comprise our communion with Christ in grace. (J,A, & S and whatever else in this life comprise communion in grace) “X” giving evidence of “Y” does mean that “X” flows from “Y”. The act of a witness giving evidence to the guilt of a defendant does not mean that either the witness or his testimony flows from the guilt of the defendant. So, the fact that something that comprises the communion in grace with Christ and gives evidence of union with Christ does not mean that that something or communion in grace itself flows from union with Christ.

    If you recall I introduced the problem (for you) of plurality of the benefits in my #188 when I wrote:

    What they wrote says that union and communion in grace and glory are the two special benefits that members of the invisible church enjoy by Christ, that the WLC is going to deal with, not that union is the one benefit they are going to explain.

    So, since I had asked you first, it would have been polite of you to answer first, however, that opportunity is now lost to you. Also, it would have been polite for you to not shout when addressing me as you did.

    I think you are misreading Fisher the same way as you misread WLC and WSC, the focus is on by faith, not union.

    So, now, it’s past time for you to come to grips with the fact WLC65 uses plural benefits.

  220. Kyle said,

    July 15, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    Andrew, re: 219,

    Of course “manifests” does not simply equate to “flows from.” Nevertheless, “manifests” does not exclude “flows from”; and, in fact, that which manifests bears a much more intimate relationship to that which is manifested than you suggest. For example, good works both manifest (evidences) and flow from (fruits) a lively faith. (Cf. WCF 16.2. Although good works are not said to “manifest” a lively faith with the use of that specific word, I don’t think you can argue that “manifest” is inappropriate. Additionally, it does say that “believers manifest their thankfulness” by good works, and it cannot be argued that the good works of believers do not flow from thankfulness to God.)

    Your illustration of the witness is infelicitous. First, “manifests” does not mean, “gives evidence of.” “Manifests” means “makes evident.” The difference being this: that which gives evidence of something is not, in itself, evidence; that which manifests something is, in itself, evidence – and evidence of a very direct and definite sort, i.e., it does not merely tend to support, unlike much evidence in a court of law. Let’s say a witness in court testifies truly, “John told me that he killed Jane,” and John did in fact kill Jane: it is the evidence which manifests the guilt of John, not the witness who gives the evidence. Second, if John is in fact guilty, the direct evidence of his guilt does flow from his guilt, i.e., the evidence of his having committed the offense would not be there had he not, in fact, committed the offense. (Of course, much more than direct evidence may used in arguing that a man is guilty. One may indirectly argue that a man is guilty of an offense by presenting evidence of his intent to commit said offense, for example. In this case, strictly speaking, the evidence manifests intent, and not guilt.)

    If you recall I introduced the problem (for you) of plurality of the benefits in my #188 … So, since I had asked you first, it would have been polite of you to answer first, however, that opportunity is now lost to you. Also, it would have been polite for you to not shout when addressing me as you did.

    If you recall, I responded that I didn’t view them as indistinct, and I asked you to demonstrate your assertion regarding my position. You have not done so as yet; your attempts have been fallacious because by the same arguments from you, when Mr. Crisler said that sanctification flows from justification, he must also have been making these two things indistinct. Furthermore, I never shouted at you. As far as I can tell, I capitalized a total of two words in #199 for emphasis. Is that what you consider “shouting”? And while we’re on the subject of politeness, were you being “polite” when you said the following in #188:

    You come across as so desperate to champion your “union, nothing but union” (UNBU) doctrine, and yes, that is really how you come across, you are unwilling to read WLC 64 to 86 (yeah that large a section) for what it is trying to teach, but instead insist on reading your UNBU doctrine into it.

    Or how about in #213 when you said this:

    It just seems odd to me that the church has been misreading WLC64-86 for the 350+ years since it was written, not until you came along do we have a theology available that enables us to understand WLC64-86 to teach as you wrote in #181 “…justification, adoption, and sanctification as manifestations of union.”

    Look out for the polite police, eh?

    I think you are misreading Fisher the same way as you misread WLC and WSC, the focus is on by faith, not union.

    As I said before, I’m not disputing what the focus is. That doesn’t change the fact that something is, in fact, being taught about union and its relationship to justification.

  221. Roger Mann said,

    July 15, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Lane, when you get the chance, will you please fix the tags on the last sentence of my first paragraph on post # 214, and then delete this post? Thanks. It should read:

    On this point, Gill carefully points out the distinction between justification, which is an eternal act of God ad infra, and sanctification, which is a temporal act of God ad extra:

  222. Vern Crisler said,

    July 15, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    #218
    Kyle, I think the catechism is talking about the order of application rather than the logical order.

    Vern

  223. Andrew Duggan said,

    July 16, 2008 at 7:27 am

    Kyle:

    You were operating as though manifest mean flows from. I’m glad to see that you aren’t quite so tied to flows from. Although your back-tracking later on is worrisome.

    It would have been helpful if you had consulted the dictionary for the word evidence before writing this:

    Your illustration of the witness is infelicitous. First, “manifests” does not mean, “gives evidence of.” “Manifests” means “makes evident.”

    Webster’s 1913 disagrees with you.

    Evidence, n
    1. That which makes evident or manifest; that which
    furnishes, or tends to furnish, proof; any mode of proof;
    the ground of belief or judgement; as, the evidence of our
    senses; evidence of the truth or falsehood of a statement.
    [1913 Webster]

    So now I am left to wonder if you know what infelicitous means. It doesn’t mean correct.

    In #220 when you wrote

    If you recall, I responded that I didn’t view them as indistinct, and I asked you to demonstrate your assertion regarding my position. You have not done so as yet;

    To bad for you I did, in #213

    I think you argued against the distinction between union and communion…

    I went on to quote your #181 comment. I’m sure you’ll respond with the appropriately masked did-not retort. I grew weary of playing the did-to, did-not game 30 years ago, but I’ll let you have the last word if you want it.

    In response to your remarks about ‘Netiquette, I’ll just say that
    acronyms (even the one’s you don’t like) are properly put in all caps, that’s standard usage. Putting a word into all-caps is shouting. You have HTML tagging available to you for emphasis, all-caps means shouting, even for one word. If the medium in which we were conversing didn’t have the capability to render bold or italics, then the occasional all-caps word for emphasis would be OK.

    I was only really poking fun with regard to the politeness stuff, but you seem to angry and frustrated, so I’ll leave you alone.

  224. Kyle said,

    July 16, 2008 at 10:04 am

    ref #198

    By far, the most insightful, spot-on comment in this thread that I think summarizes perfectly my thinking, was made by Darryl. A Cowboys fan is not a true fan if he ever, ever, ever roots for the Eagles.

  225. ReformedSinner said,

    July 16, 2008 at 11:02 am

    #224,

    Sorry Kyle, I see #198 as Darryl’s weaker moments. First, he IS making guilty by association which is one of the worst way to argue. Citing the fact that FV and Shepherd somehow also talk about union of Christ, and then somehow that makes Gaffin-WTS union of Christ less Biblical, is mind-boggling (and more for some readers to actually think this is a good argument.)

    Then he jumps the gun to reaffirm Reformation’s Justification and presents a case that Gaffin-WTS’s Union with Christ and Reformational treatment of Justification are somehow mutually exclusive. All in awhile I wonder if he really know Gaffin’s formulations (which is why I think it would be helpful if Gaffin can write a whole book dedicated to the topic at hand). Gaffin AFFIRMS Reformation’s formulation of Justification through and through, but at the same time highlights something that was foundational to the Reformers that actually lay the path and allows the Reformers to work out the full blown doctrine of Justification that people like Dr. Hart holds so dear in his heart.

    Some might argue if Union with Christ is such fundmental and foundational why the Reformer didn’t major on it, but instead wrote in prolific on the doctrine of Justification? Well, the same way 18th century Reformers wrote in prolific on Predestination – it is the major doctrine of the day that are being challenged, needs to be defended, and the main battle ground. The battle between Reformers and Romanism is and foremost Justification.

    I am still not convinced that Gaffin-WTS somehow altered the Reformed Doctrine of Justification to force fed union with Christ into it.

  226. Kyle said,

    July 16, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    ReformedSinner,

    re: #224
    I don’t know about all that GAFFIN-SHEPHERD-WTS-WCS-FV-NPP-DOUGWILSON-SCOTTCLARK-PCA-CRES-OPC-CVT-DGHART gobbledy-gook. I simply think he nailed it when he said a Dallas Cowboy’s fan is not a true Dallas Cowboy’s fan if they ever, ever root for the Philadelphia Eagles. His wisdom, in that one comment, was remarkable. :-)

  227. July 16, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    “GAFFIN-SHEPHERD-WTS-WCS-FV-NPP-DOUGWILSON-SCOTTCLARK-PCA-CRES-OPC-CVT-DGHART

    Kyle,

    Is that logical or temporal order?

    Ron

  228. Kyle said,

    July 16, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Oh man, now there’s another “Kyle”?

    Andrew, re: 223,

    It would have been helpful if you had consulted the dictionary for the word evidence before writing this:

    Your illustration of the witness is infelicitous. First, “manifests” does not mean, “gives evidence of.” “Manifests” means “makes evident.”

    Webster’s 1913 disagrees with you.

    I have to wonder, Andrew, if you read the next sentence in my comment:

    The difference being this: that which gives evidence of something is not, in itself, evidence; that which manifests something is, in itself, evidence – and evidence of a very direct and definite sort, i.e., it does not merely tend to support, unlike much evidence in a court of law.

    So, no, I do not disagree with Webster’s 1913. And yes, your witness illustration was an “unhappy” one for your purposes.

    In #220 when you wrote

    If you recall, I responded that I didn’t view them as indistinct, and I asked you to demonstrate your assertion regarding my position. You have not done so as yet;

    To bad for you I did, in #213

    I think you argued against the distinction between union and communion…

    I went on to quote your #181 comment. I’m sure you’ll respond with the appropriately masked did-not retort. I grew weary of playing the did-to, did-not game 30 years ago, but I’ll let you have the last word if you want it.

    Oh, spare me. Your assertion is that, because I say that communion flows from union, I therefore argue that these two things are indistinct. My response is thus: If your assertion is true, then Mr. Crisler was also arguing that justification and sanctification are indistinct because he said that sanctification flows from justification (see #47). Do you think that Mr. Crisler was arguing that sanctification and justification are indistinct? If not, your assertion remains undemonstrated, thank-you-very-much.

    In response to your remarks about ‘Netiquette, I’ll just say that
    acronyms (even the one’s you don’t like) are properly put in all caps, that’s standard usage. Putting a word into all-caps is shouting. You have HTML tagging available to you for emphasis, all-caps means shouting, even for one word. If the medium in which we were conversing didn’t have the capability to render bold or italics, then the occasional all-caps word for emphasis would be OK.

    There’s no need to yell! It’s perfectly acceptable to write “okay,” Andrew.(Another situation in which I wish there was a roll-eyes smiley.) As for the netiquette shouting, see here:

    Caps may be used sparingly to emphasize a word or phrase.

    So, yes, it’s okay on OCCASION to use caps for emphasis.

  229. Darryl Hart said,

    July 16, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    Reformed Sinner: aren’t you united to Christ? Then why don’t you die to twisting my words and live to be exact? In #198 I did not mention Gaffin or WTS on union. There has been plenty on this post with which to interact. In fact, I have tried to keep my views of Prof. Gaffin’s views as hidden as possible in this conversation because when I have voiced even the mildest of criticism I have been treated as if I took the Lord’s name in vain (e.g. I am no longer welcome to teach at WTS). You yourself exhibited a degree of this kind of reaction right out of the blocks on this post when you singled me out for seemingly tormenting Prof. Gaffin in a piece that was vetted by responsible editors and deemed to be plausible in its argument even if not persuasive. Why single me out for criticism when Scott Clark’s blog was the basis for Lane’s post?

    So I would appreciate if you not respond to my arguments as if it were inconceivable that anyone would challenge published writings of a specific person. I thought that iron-sharpening-iron was what the academy was for. I didn’t get the memo that listed which persons were above criticism. Clearly I didn’t make the list.

    I also wonder if it gives your united heart pause that certain folks who fudge justification take solace from an emphasis on union. Sure, you could say that any doctrine is capable of abuse. I’m not sure what the abuse of justification would look like since it was always intended to put good works on the right footing. But union has thrived over the last 30 years if only because of perceived problems with justification. Could it be that the doctrine of justification didn’t need to be fixed?

  230. Kyle said,

    July 16, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    Ron

    re: #227. :-)

  231. Kyle said,

    July 16, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    Andrew,

    I’ll just say that acronyms (even the one’s you don’t like) are properly put in all caps, that’s standard usage.

    I glossed over this. I should point out that I wasn’t criticizing your capitalization of acronyms. It just happened to be that you had some acronyms in the quotes I was pointing to.

  232. Tom Wenger said,

    July 18, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Reformed Sinner,

    I think that what Hart and others have been critical of is, in part, the incautious language used by some in the Union camp that can lead to dangerous conclusions. For instance when Gaffin argues that Calvin was “indifferent” about the order of justification and sanctification in the ordo salutis because what has prior significance was union with Christ, it really muddies the waters and seriously misrepresents Calvin. People are right to respond critically to this because it is based on rather sloppy and anachronistic interpretation of Calvin.

    I dealt with this at length in a JETS article entitled “The New Perspective on Calvin” last summer and most likely have another coming out this fall. When union is permitted to blur the distinctions that are crucial to Reformed theology, like the relationship of justification and sanctification, it causes serious problems. Now I believe that Gaffin’s actual theology of justification and sanctification is sound, but his arguments about the centrality of union especially as it related to Calvin have been utilized by many others in a very sloppy fashion. Craig Carpenter, Mark Garcia and especially Tim Trumper have really drawn some poor conclusions based to some degree on Gaffin’s anachronistic portrait of Calvin.

  233. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    July 18, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Tom,

    I’d be interested to hear some ellaboration on the charge that Gaffin’s (et al.) presentation of Calvin on union is “anachronistic.” I could see how you might argue that it is mistaken and doesn’t quite grasp what Calvin has to say, but I don’t see how it can be labelled anachronistic.

    And for full disclosure: yes, I am in agreement with the presentation of Gaffin, Garcia, et al. on the centrality of union in Calvin’s thought. It’s clear that he does not by any means take union to the extreme of conflating justification and sanctification. He always holds them as distinct (in a fashion analogous to, as Garcia rightly notes, the distinction between signum and res in the sacraments, and divinity and humanity in Christ’s person) but nevertheless as flowing from the same root, that is, our union with Christ himself.

    I don’t see how else Calvin can be understood in those many places where he speaks of our the life of Christ communicated to us by the Spirit whereby we receive the risen Lord himself with all his benefits. He seems to me to always be clear that we receive Christ’s benefits by virtue of our union with his person, and not the other way around. As, for instance, when he states in his final response to Heshuss:

    “I define the mode of communication without ambiguity, by saying that Christ by his boundless and wondrous powers unites us into the same life with himself, and not only applies the fruit of his passion to us, but becomes truly ours by communicating his blessings to us, and accordingly joins us to himself, as head and members unite to form one body.”

    And in the “Summary of the Gospel Ministry”:

    “The end of the whole Gospel ministry is that God, the fountain of all felicity, communicate Christ to us who are disunited by sin and hence ruined, that we might from him enjoy eternal life; that in a word all heavenly treasures be so applied to us that they be no less ours than Christ himself. We believe this communication to be a) mystical, and incomprehensible to human reason, and b) spiritual, since it is effected by the Holy Spirit; to whom, since he is the virtue of the living God, proceeding from the Father and the Son, we ascribe omnipotence, by which he joins us to Christ our Head, not in an imaginary way, but most powerfully and truly, so that we become flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, and from his vivifying flesh he transfuses eternal life into us.”

    Peace,

    Jonathan

  234. Tom Wenger said,

    July 18, 2008 at 11:06 pm

    Jonathan,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response here. What is anachronistic is the entire notion that anyone pre-Enlightenment organized their theology according to central dogmas or architectonic principles. So while those in the union camp often assume that their opponents will argue for justification as Calvin’s central dogma, it is crucial to see that Calvin had NO central dogma or architectonic principle, and instead, organized his theology in the Institutes according to Melanchthon’s suggested ordo docendi (order of teaching) of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.

    Here are Gaffin’s words which are an ample summary of the arguments used by the New Perspective on Calvin:

    “Calvin destroys Rome’s charge [of antinomianism] by showing that faith, in its Protestant understanding, entails a disposition to holiness without particular reference to justification, a concern for Godliness that is not to be understood only as a consequence of justification. Calvin proceeds as he does, and is free to do so, because for him the relative “ordo” or priority of justification and sanctification is indifferent theologically. Rather, what has controlling soteriological importance is the priority to both of (spiritual, “existential,” faith-) to union with Christ.” [Richard B. Gaffin Jr., “Biblical Theology and the Westminster Standards,” WTJ 65 (2003), 176-177]

    Gaffin’s argument is based upon what he assumes in Calvin’s “ordo salutis” in Book 3 of the Institutes. However, this is also anachronistic to assume that Calvin was attempting to craft such a thing. The development of formal ordo saluti didn’t occur until well after Calvin and to read those concerns back into his work is improper. Calvin’s ordo docendi is based not on the order in which he actually thinks these things occur, but rather followed the ordo docendi of Romans, as well as his opinion of the most expeditious means of explanation.

    Of course Calvin argued that justification and sanctification are both benefits simultaneously bestowed via union with Christ, and of course he viewed them as distinct but inseparable. But that does not mean that, as Gaffin argued, Calvin was “indifferent” about the priority of justification and sanctification. Making this move causes one to fall in to the central dogma fallacy which Richard Muller and others have definitively put to rest.

    Union does not have to be “central” and then used to blur the distinctions that Calvin made clear between justification and sanctification, in order to do justice to his emphasis on it. Clearly union is important to Calvin, but not in an Enlightenment sense where it becomes the lens through which all things must be interpreted.

    When Calvin is permitted to speak for himself, he makes it clear that there is an organic relationship between justification and sanctification that cannot be blurred without serious consequences. For instance, when introducing his chapter on justification Calvin explained why he dealt with it in the order he chose, and then illustrates just how far from “indifferent” he is about its relationship to sanctification:

    “The theme of justification was therefore more lightly touched upon because it was more to the point to understand first how little devoid of good works is the faith, through which alone we obtain free righteousness by the mercy of God; and what is the nature of the good works of the saints, with which part of this question is concerned. Therefore we must now discuss these matters thoroughly. And we must so discuss them as to bear in mind that THIS IS THE MAIN HINGE ON WHICH RELIGION TURNS, so that we devote the greater attention and care to it. For unless you FIRST of all grasp what your relationship to God is, and the nature of his judgment concerning you, you have neither a FOUNDATION on which to establish your salvation NOR ONE ON WHICH TO BUILD PIETY TOWARD GOD.” [Calvin, Institutes, 3.11.1]

    Just to be clear, this is NOT an argument for Calvin making justification his “central” principle, nor is it an attempt to marginalize union in Calvin’s theology; it is simply to show that Calvin must be interpret properly.

    Hope this helps.

  235. Jonathan Bonomo said,

    July 19, 2008 at 7:26 am

    Tom,

    That was quite helpful, thanks. I understand you much better now, and your caution against thrusting the notion of a “central dogma” on the Reformation theologians is well taken. Given what you’ve said above, I don’t think there’s much we’d disagree on re. Calvin’s understanding of union and the relationship between justification and sanctification. I’m going to try to read your article in JETS which you mentioned in #232 sometime next week.

    Peace,

    Jonathan

  236. Tim J R Trumper said,

    October 24, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    I have belatedly come across this whole discussion (July 2 -19). At one level it is very interesting, at another level I’m left wondering to what degree the reformers would appeciate us hammering out what they said, when their interest evidently lay ultimately in what the Scriptures teach. I’m also wondering what store they would put on discussions of this sort when the world needs Christ as much as it does. I’m reminded of James Denney’s concern: “I don’t care anything for a theology that does not help a man to preach.” Hopefully this discussion helps us preach better.

    Re Thomas Wenger’s comment 232: I am certainly willing to learn from whoever about Scripture and Calvin (in that order!), including Thomas Wenger. But I note from Thomas’ first piece in JETS his criticisms of both Dr. Gaffin and myself fed off an inadequate representation of our published writings. In my view,had he read us more widely he may have been less hostile to our positions. I address this in the opening pages of my book “When History Teaches Us Nothing.” So I am surprised to find Thomas again making bold claims, which, in my view, are not true to the facts. For instance, I, like many others have enjoyed fellowship and discussion with Dr. Gaffin, but we have come to our views of Calvin independently, and have spoken more about issues of theological methodology from Scripture than from Calvin.

    All this to say:

    1. If, Thomas, your chief concerns are to do with my doctoral dissertation,please recall that my persistent focus was the tracing of the neglected history of the doctrine of adoption. This meant the traversing of around 400 years of history. If others have done better with some of the details, I look forward to incorporating these into what I hope will be the eventual publication of that history.

    2. Feel free to e-mail me your thoughts. I will be glad to incorporate any I can in any future publication, especially as it pertains to the improved exposition of Calvin. All I ask ~ and am sure the others you mention would ask likewise ~ is that you do not criticize us for anachronistic and perhaps incomplete readings of Calvin on the basis of incomplete and perhaps even anachronistic readings of us!

    I realize you wish to uphold your thesis concerning the “New Perspective on Calvin” ~ a Calvin “made in our image,” but this description not only impunes motives, it is far removed from the intent of any you mention (so far as I now). Speaking personally, my concern has been chiefly the recovery of the doctrine of adoption. Please start taking that into account. The rest we can discuss without the battle mode that feeds academia but dries the soul.

    Your brother in Christ, Tim J R Trumper


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