Tuesday, 5 January 2010

justification and the double grace

Previously, I've discussed issues surrounding the controversial doctrine named by John Murray as "definitive sanctification." Well, I've come across a related Calvin quote.

In the latest volume of the, superb, Confessional Presbyterian Journal, Richard B. Gaffin Jr. reviews Cornelius P. Venema's revised/updated doctoral dissertation Accepted and Renewed in Christ. The "Twofold Grace of God" and the Interpretation of Calvin's Theology. On the whole, Gaffin commends the work as an aid to better understanding Calvin. Yet he has some quibbles.

One of his concerns is that Venema is "not entirely clear" (p270) whether Calvin considers "justification to be the cause of sanctification". (p270) Then Gaffin offers the following quote from Calvin's institutes:
Christ was given to us by God's generosity, to be grasped and possessed by us in faith. By partaking of him, we principally receive a double grace: namely, that being reconciled to God through Christ's blamelessness, we may have in heaven instead of a Judge a gracious Father; and secondly, that sanctified by his Spirit we may cultivate blamelessness and purity of life. (Battles translation, 1:725 - quoted p271)
Gaffin notes that in this quote, not only reconciliation (here equivalent to justification) but also sanctification is definitive and settled. While Calvin no doubt regularly treats sanctification (regeneration) as an on-going, life-long process in the believer, here it appears to be otherwise. (p271)

Interesting stuff. Did Calvin articulate "definitive sanctification" before John Murray coined the phrase? Gaffin's argument seems to carry some weight.

Tomorrow I'll post some stuff on justification and union with Christ from the Gaffin review.


Alexander Smith said...

Can't sanctification be both definitive and progressive? We are sanctified in Christ, accepted by God as righteous; we are progressively sanctified in our lives by the work of the Holy Spirit, up to glorification when we are resurrected.

See Sinclair Ferguson "The Holy Spirit", chapter: The Spirit of Holiness.

Alexander Smith said...

P.S. See Piper in "The Future of Justification", where he talks about how in order for God- the righteous, omniscient Judge- to declare someone righteous, they must, indeed, possess righteousness. Otherwise, God has given a verdict which does not conform to reality; He has lied.

John Thomson said...

Here I am harping on again. But do you see how an idea can get embedded that is not an expression of Scripture. I quote:

'namely, that being reconciled to God through Christ's blamelessness'

Reconciled through Christ's blamelessness! Now where does Calvin find this? Where is reconciliation ever put in such terms in Scripture? We are reconciled: 'by the death of his Son' (Roms 5:10);'through the cross to each other' (Eph 2:16);'in his body of flesh through death' (Col:22); but never by his blamelessness.

Nick Mackison said...

Alexander, Gaffin takes for granted that sanctification is progressive. That point is not up for debate; the controversy is over whether one can speak of sanctification in definitive terms.

John, your ax must be pretty sharp by now ;). How would you see Romans 4:25 i.e. raised for our justification? There it seems our justification is also dependant upon his resurrection. Do you think it's possible that Christ's resurrection vindication is what we share in through faith? If so, is Christ vindicated because not only his atoning death was successful, but because his life sinless?

John Thomson said...

I do think we are justified by both death and resurrection.

I see the history of believers as a tale of two creations. In the OC of the flesh we stand condemned. There is no help for this creation - it must be judged and condemned. By law it is cursed and that sentence of curse must be carried out. It was carried out in the death of Christ. There my history in Adam came to an end. There my 'natural' life finished. There my penalty was paid. Thus God is free to forgive me, declare that there is no sin against me. I am now in the right with God. More, God declares me righteous, righteously. Thus I become 'righteousness sourced in God'. Thus the gospel is 'righteousness sourced in God.' But my righteousness is more.

cont next comment.

John Thomson said...

Here my history in new creation begins. I have been joined to a resurrected Christ. I share in,his life,his righteous, and his acceptance. He perfectly glorified God - way beyond the legitimate demands of law - and fully expected a righteous God to glorify him in return (Jn 17). The glory that unrighteous man refused Jesus, a righteous God will lavish upon his son. Thus the gospel that reveals 'righteousness in/of/from God' is revealed too in Christ's resurrection. There God is declared righteous/vindicated, Christ is declared righteous/vindicated and we as united to him have the assurance of being accepted, for Christ has been accepted.

This is however different from me requiring a legal righteousness under law - a blameless life to fulfil a law held to my account. What I needed was a holy sacrifice for sins. I needed a cursebearer. I needed my Adamic self to die. My new life needs a life before God who is fully accepted, loved, glorified, rejoiced in etc by God. That person is of course Jesus. My life is hid with God in Christ. I am accepted in the beloved. As he is (in heaven before God) so am I in this world etc.

Was his obedient life necessary for all of this - of course it was but I believe the contours I have expressed here are truer to how Scripture views the gospel of 'righteousness of God' than notions of a life held to my account to satisfy the demands of a legal covenant.

John Thomson said...

PS These verses from Roms 5 seem to me to illustrate the double aspect of justification: in death and through resurrection.

Rom 5:9-10 (ESV)
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Alexander Smith said...

Nick- I don't think we disagree.

The way your post framed the question was that one must have either definitive or progressive sanctification. I was merely asking why there has to be this either/or.

There seems to be a tendency to reduce terms down to their narrowest definition. Christ's work for us and in us is rich, complex and multi-layered.

R. Scott Clark said...

Hi Nick,

From a historical pov, "definitive sanctification" is problematic. The evidence that Calvin actually meant to teach it is quite thin.


Nick Mackison said...

Alexander, I framed my post to say either you have progressive sanctification grounded in def sanctification, or you have progressive sanctification grounded in justification.

Scott, obviously I'm in the debt of guys like you and Gaffin, so it can get quite confusing! Will read your link.

Nick Mackison said...

Wowzers! Scott, just read the post and realised I've asked you about this before.

Nick Mackison said...

John, so there is an imputation of Christ's obedience (of sorts), i.e. his obedient death, and his resurrection status? How does that square with faith being credited as righteousness? Is faith instrumental, or is faith righteous because it grasps the righteous One?

John Thomson said...

What do we mean by imputation? In Scripture the thing imputed/reckoned/credited does not have the inherent value of righteousness. If it did then we are saying faith is righteousness which is clearly not so. This is why even the language of imputed righteousness of Christ is suspect for here we mean the thing imputed, the life of Christ, does have the value of righteousness.

In the 11 examples of the use of the word 'imputed' in the NT 9 speak of faith imputed for righteousness.

All simply mean that God counts a man as righteous by faith. The faith has no merit. It has no intrinsic value that equals righteousness. Faith is as you say an instrument.

How we are made righteous is not the issue in imputation. And in fact in the biblical use of imputation the thing imputed has not the worth of righteousness. Faith reckoned as righteousness is God justifying the ungodly.