Further Response to Dr. Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Response to Dr. Clark

Many thanks to Dr. Clark for taking the time to respond to me. There are some very helpful clarifications there of what he was trying to accomplish in writing his book. I am still left with a few questions that I would like to lay out there.

1. I agree that there is very little substantive difference between Calvin’s duplex gratia and Olevian’s duplex beneficium. This is not all that surprising, since, as Dr. Clark notes in his book, Olevian was Calvin’s student.

2. What is Dr. Clark’s definition of “substantive interaction?” He makes the claim that Garcia did not substantively interact with Cornelis Venema’s thesis. At the very end of page 11, and going through page 14, Garcia at least interacts with Venema’s thesis. The question is: does this qualify as “substantive?” Added to these pages, the footnote on page 34 may be added, which clarifies for us the relationship of Venema’s thesis to Garcia’s thesis. Given the crowded nature of theses on Calvin, my impression was that Garcia gave as much time to Venema as to anyone else. Not even Lillback or Armstrong receive more attention than Venema. Garcia was generally favorable to Venema’s thesis, while allowing that further development of various aspects of Venema’s thesis was possible.

3. I do not think that my question concerning union with Christ, justification, and sanctification is anachronistic. I think it genuinely is something that Calvin was dealing with. And in saying this, my motivation is to ask what Calvin believed, not to try to find some antecedent for my favorite theologians. Instead, I am asking the question in this way: is Gaffin correctly understanding Calvin? Is Garcia correctly understanding Calvin?

4. I am not so sure that it is a good idea to separate historical inquiry from systematic theology. We can distinguish them. However, compartmentalization of the two is not healthy, in my mind. This is the field of my thesis, by the way. The separation of the two enterprizes is not something that the Reformers would have done. They dance happily among the various theological disciplines (which only we, in our post-Enlightenment state, have separated) with almost no awareness that they have crossed the boundaries of disciplines. They engaged in historical theology in order to prove their systematic theses. Their systematic theses were historically conditioned. Both were grounded in exegesis and used in polemics against Rome, the Anabaptists, the Lutherans, and later on, the Socinians. All of this had profound practical ramifications for the Christian life. Why is it a good thing to cordon off historical theology from systematic theology? I know that this is how historical theology is done today. But should it be done this way?

5. What places in Calvin support the claim that union is an a posteriori explanation of how one comes to faith in Christ? My original question was whether justification and sanctification can be considered temporally distinct in view of the simul in Calvin’s Romans commentary. I do not feel that this question has been answered.

6. I would agree that the structure and doctrine of justification itself in the Reformed world of the 16th and 17th centuries is precisely the same as the Lutherans. It is in this sense that we can speak of a pan-Protestant doctrine of justification. However, it seems to me that the relationship of justification to other doctrines (like covenant and union with Christ) is where there are differences between the Reformed and the Lutherans. Would Dr. Clark agree with this assessment?

7. Why did Calvin treat sanctification before justification?