Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Justification: Understanding the Reformed Doctrine - Part 4 The Ordo Salutis

Still in the prolegomena, Fesko now considers how justification relates to the rest of the ordo salutis (i.e. predestination, regeneration, effectual calling, faith, justification, adoption, sanctification and glorification). Fesko outlines the misguided attempts of some theologians to trash the idea of the ordo salutis. He points out that if you reject the concept of an ordo salutis then you step into the problem of viewing justification as one metaphor for the redemptive act (p82), something that Fesko earlier demonstrated as hogwash.

Further, Fesko demonstrates that the ordo is biblical and essential to the integrity of the gospel. He leaves us with two options, either the Bible presents a coherent understanding of the truths of the gospel or it doesn’t (p86). If we believe the bible to be God’s infallible word then we must believe in an ordo. If careful distinction and logical ordering of the constituent parts of redemption is unbiblical, then it doesn’t matter whether good works follow or precede justification and it doesn’t matter if justification and sanctification are merged in some nebulous way. If we trash the ordo, we trash the gospel. Right on Fesko.

Within the Reformed tradition, Fesko notes that there are tensions as to how we should view the logical ordering of the ordo salutis. On p84 he quotes the conundrums posed by A.A Hodge and Richard Gaffin. Gaffin’s beef is basically: if at the point of entry to salvation union with Christ is prior to the other acts, and if union with Christ means possession of all Christ’s benefits, then what need is there for the other acts of the ordo? On the other hand, if the other acts are prior, then union with Christ is improperly subordinated.

How do we relate union and justification? Which has priority? Though union with Christ undergids the entire ordo salutis, Fesko argues that this does not imply its priority. He points out that although the Holy Spirit is the agent of our regeneration and the one who brings union with Christ, the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon God’s people could not happen until the legal-forensic fulfilling of the law in the work of Christ. Therefore, union with Christ is based upon the justifying work of Christ at Calvary.

PS: For some debate about the relation of justification and union between Fesko and Gaffin, read here and here. HT: Scott Clark

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