An Answer to TE Rayburn, part 3

The next point at issue here is whether the SJC was wrong in attributing to TE Leithart confusion of justification and sanctification. TE Rayburn argues that TE Leithart is not doing this, but is merely positing a joining of justification and definitive sanctification. Definitive sanctification here is defined by John Murray. TE Rayburn’s point is that TE Leithart was not confusing progressive sanctification and justification, but was merely seeking to combine definitive sanctification and justification under one act. That TE Leithart does the latter can hardly be denied. It is his explicit program in his article “Judge Me, O God” in The Federal Vision. On this article, see my critique of TE Leithart here.  With regard to the SJC’s point, one could definitely wish that the distinction between the two aspects of sanctification had been clarified a bit more in their critique. However, the SJC’s point is still valid, when one digs a little deeper.

The first point to realize here is that John Murray, in his explication of definitive sanctification, did not consider it as completely separated from progressive sanctification. Note that he says, “It would be, therefore, a deflection from biblical patterns of language and conception to think of sanctification exclusively in terms of a progressive work.” This indicates that under the rubric of sanctification, one can consider two aspects: definitive and progressive. In fact, as WTS professors typically formulate it, the definitive and progressive aspects of sanctification can be analogous to the already/not yet aspects of salvation that one finds elsewhere in the ordo salutis. Definitive is already, progressive is not yet. The point here is that definitive and progressive cannot be so easily severed. And they would have to be severed completely for there to be no confusion on the issue of justification and sanctification. One may simply ask this question: on what biblical basis would TE Leithart and/or TE Rayburn yank definitive sanctification away from its organically connected progressive other half? Presumably, TE’s Rayburn and Leithart both would agree that progressive sanctification cannot be included under the rubric of justification, which is explicitly Rome’s position. But on what basis can one exclude progressive sanctification from justification if one has already included definitive sanctification?

The second point to realize here is that John Murray never included definitive sanctification under the rubric of justification. The language of “justified from sin” was not speaking at all about justification, according to Murray. He did not argue as TE Leithart does, in other words. As I argued in response to Leithart, and as the WTJ also noted (70.1, Spring 2008, pp. 105-110), you cannot simply add up all the occurrences of the word “justification” and say that the doctrine of justification has to include all the uses of that word. It is odd here, because I feel like I’m arguing like the FV does. It is usually the FV who is claiming that words are used in a broader sense in Scripture than they are in the confessions. Here, TE Leithart is arguing the reverse: according to him, our doctrine of justification has to account for all the uses of the word “justify” in Scripture.


  1. J.Kru said,

    January 28, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    1: I don’t follow how TE Leithart is arguing the reverse. If TE Leithart is arguing that our doctrine of justification has to account for all the uses of the word in Scripture, isn’t that an implication that the word is being used in a broader sense in Scripture than in the confession? It seems like the same thing.

    2: Where do you see TE Rayburn arguing that TE Leithart “but was merely seeking to combine definitive sanctification and justification under one act.” I’m not challenging that it is there, I just can’t find it.

    3: TE Rayburn writes that “sanctification as a life-process of renovation in righteousness does not appear in the Standards and that definitive sanctification is a dimension of the Biblical doctrine that is not clearly represented in their definitions.” I’m wondering if you would agree with that statement.

    4. You wrote, “But on what basis can one exclude progressive sanctification from justification if one has already included definitive sanctification?” I think you logic is: justification is inherently connected with difinitive sanctification, which is inherently connected with progressive sanct. Ergo, if you’re justified, you will be progressively sanctified. Do I have that right?

    Thanks, I’m a touch slow on this.

  2. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 28, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Lane, there is a larger issue raised by the SJC. The discussion of sanctification and definitive sanctification occurs on p. 17 of the SJC decision in the context of a larger discussion of union with Christ.

    The panel declares,

    SJC p. 17: Leithart subsumes all of Christ’s benefits (including justification) under “union with Christ” and therefore renders justification “redundant”.

    [Leithart’s infamous “justification is redundant” quote follows — which was retracted by Leithart IIRC?]

    The Standards, however, view justification to be a distinct act of imputation

    [then follows WLC 70] — emph add

    And then the discussion of justification and sanctification follows, in which it is argued (p. 17) that Leithart’s “flattening out” of justification and sanctification is of a piece with (“made more problematic by”) his view on union.

    I’m not in favor at all of flattening out justification and sanctification. Not for an instant. But I have to say, there are a whole lot of orthodox folk out there who view justification as a consequence of our union with Christ. I would lean that way myself. Hoekema’s book Saved By Grace teaches this. And Calvin also appears to teach this in Inst. 3.11. For example,

    “Christ given to us by the kindness of God is apprehended and possessed by faith, by means of which we obtain in particular a twofold benefit; first, being reconciled by the righteousness of Christ, God becomes, instead of a judge, an indulgent Father; and, secondly, being sanctified by his Spirit, we aspire to integrity and purity of life.”

    That is to say, Christ is first given to us, and then we are reconciled. This idea is repeated in his discussion of the error of Osiander in which Calvin distinguishes between a union of reception of Christ’s person by the agency of the Spirit and Osiander’s union of reception of divine essence.

    Calvin again:

    “Hence I infer, first, that Christ was made righteousness when he assumed the form of a servant; secondly, that he justified us by his obedience to the Father; and, accordingly that he does not perform this for us in respect of his divine nature, but according to the nature of the dispensation laid upon him. For though God alone is the fountain of righteousness, and the only way in which we are righteous is by participation with him, yet, as by our unhappy revolt we are alienated from his righteousness, it is necessary to descend to this lower remedy, that Christ may justify us by the power of his death and resurrection.”

    It may be the case that the panel simply means that justification is distinct from sanctification. But in context, the words lead to the conclusion that justification is an act distinct from our union with Christ.

    And in so doing, they appear to

    (1) Be taking sides in the WTSCal / WTSPhil debate over priority of union v. justification, and
    (2) Be requiring the view that justification is distinct from, instead of a fruit of, our union with Christ.
    (3) Require that WLC 70 be read in support of (2).

    I’m guessing that this is *not* the intent of the panel, since such a move would be far-reaching. Nevertheless, I’m concerned that they have not more carefully guarded their language here.

    It is by no means a settled thing that justification is distinct from or prior to union, as opposed to a fruit of union. And WLC 70 most certainly does not provide evidence to distinguish between these two views. In fact, WLC 69 is reasonable evidence to the contrary.

    If this is not their intent, I would urge that this section be made more clear. That is, if the real issue is the flattening of justification and sanctification, then perhaps union could be left out of the picture.

    If it is their intent to affirm (1) – (3), I would plead for reconsideration, keeping in mind that they are potentially setting precedent with regard to the interpretation of the Standards.

    Jeff Cagle

    (Fair warning: you’ll get another one of these when we get to the Rom 6 section)

  3. tim prussic said,

    January 28, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    This is a good assessment, Pr. Lane. One of my main issues with the FV is this very verbal problem you’ve identified, that is, trying to read all lexical possibilities into the doctrine bearing the name of the lexical entry. It’s foolishness and every educated pastor/elder ought to know better.

  4. January 28, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    […] Lane Keister has offered some a very insightful examination of Robert Rayburn’s public letter to the SJC of the PCA.  He very graciously answers some of Pastor Rayburn’s ecclesiastical and theological concerns, particularly, the claim made by some scholars (not mentioning any in particular by the way) that a temporary forgiveness can be granted apart from the reality of justification.  Lane’s blog is one of my favorites, and you’d be wise to read it regularly. […]

  5. Andy Gilman said,

    January 28, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Hi Jeff,

    I haven’t heard that Leithart retracted his “imputation is redundant” statement. You may be confusing him with Rich Lusk on that point. In Leithart’s response to the nine declarations made by the PCA GA, in answer to the fifth declaration:

    The view that ‘union with Christ’ renders imputation redundant because it subsumes all of Christ’s benefits (including justification) under this doctrinal heading is contrary to the Westminster Standards.

    Leithart said:

    I do believe that all of Christ’s benefits are ‘subsumed’ under the heading of union with Christ. This renders imputation ‘redundant’ if imputation is seen as a separate moment of justification, parallel to but distinct from union with Christ. We are united with Christ; Christ is righteous; therefore, God regards us (considers us, counts us) as righteous. This is imputation, but it is not a distinct act of imputation.

    That quote makes no sense to me. First, I would like to know in whose eyes “imputation is seen as a seperate moment of justification?” The WCF says that Justification consists of “pardoning their sins” and “accounting and accepting their persons as righteous…by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them.” Imputation is not a “seperate moment of justification,” but justification does have at least two component parts. Is the “pardoning of sins” also redundant because of union with Christ? If we are united to Christ who bore our sins, then what need is there for a seperate act of pardon?

    Doesn’t it follow from Leithart’s logic that justification itself is redundant, and therefore shouldn’t be seen as a seperate act distinct from union with Christ? Why do we talk about “justification by faith” at all? Why not just say “union by faith” or, for the FV folks, “union by baptism,” and declare the rest of the ordo salutis to be redundant? The doctrine of “Justification by faith alone” can then replaced by “union with Christ by faith (or baptism) alone.”

  6. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 28, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    I haven’t heard that Leithart retracted his “imputation is redundant” statement. You may be confusing him with Rich Lusk on that point.

    You may well be right. My memory doesn’t always fire correctly.

  7. pduggie said,

    January 29, 2010 at 9:34 am

    If you look at, say, Fisher’s Catechism, and all the ways that Fisher says Sanctification is to be distinguished from Justification, it seems to me that almost none of them are things that distinguish Definitive Sanctification from Justification. Its just an observation of mine, not an argument.

    Also, what if we ask the question “when does God cease his wrath towards the sinner” we’d probably say in justification, (right?)

    But in Romans, the wrath is revealed by people being deluded further in their initial idolatry, being given over to a reprobate mind. If justification includes the stop of the wrath of God, then it also includes the stop of the reprobate mind (the mind that is given over to sin). In romans, that seems to be the release from sins dominion in a definitive way.

    If that isn’t part of justification in Romans, (and maybe it isn’t) then somehow it would seem that justification isn’t the transition from wrath to acceptance. But thats how its been defined. So it seems like we’re stuck. I’m sure someone can straighten this out.

    in response to Lane: even if Leithart is wrong to add up all uses of justify, its pretty strange to say he can’t ask for a use of “justify” IN ROMANS to be examined.

  8. greenbaggins said,

    January 29, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Paul, you’re assuming that Romans is ALL about justification, aren’t you? But in Romans 6, he has shifted from justification to sanctification, as the question in verse 1 rather clearly indicates. So no, not even all the uses in Romans of the dikai* word group have to be included in one’s definition of justification.

  9. pduggie said,

    January 29, 2010 at 10:21 am

    Maybe, but the discussion in the rest of romans 6 is about a bunch of status changes and realm changes, not intrinsic nature changes.

  10. pduggie said,

    January 29, 2010 at 10:22 am

    I pity the Presbyterian Church of Greece

  11. Jeff Cagle said,

    January 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    PDuggie (#7): If justification includes the stop of the wrath of God, then it also includes the stop of the reprobate mind (the mind that is given over to sin). In romans, that seems to be the release from sins dominion in a definitive way.

    Or how about this: justification and the stop of the reprobate mind always occur in the same people.

    They aren’t the same thing, they just logically imply each other (like “being saved” and “being glorified” imply one another, or “being justified” and “being in Christ” imply one another).

    So the two aren’t the same thing; they are simply two inevitable effects of the same cause.

    Does that work?

  12. pduggie said,

    January 29, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Yeah, I have no problem with, and think its important to say that Justification and Sanctification are separated “logically” but are both simultaneous results of Union with Christ.

    But I think its odd not to think that the “therefore” there is “no condemnation” embraces what Paul said Romans 3 AND Romans 6.

    “no condemnation” is correlative with justification right? if the ‘condemnation’ for sin was the ‘more sin’ of Romans 1, then the ‘justification’ would needs be include a removal of that bondage to sin that was the ‘condemnation’. Its a mater of forensic realm transfer, not inner transformation. Its a reflex of union with Jesus’ Death. If you’re forensically dead, (not judged by the law anymore), you’re also forensically dead to sin’s thralldom. Its only one forensic death that gets both aspects.

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