Articulating Justification Back Then

I hatelove those articles where you have to guess the source of the quote. See, for example, the “Who Said That?” series at The Riddleblog.Riddleblog01 The quotes are either tricky, misleading, or – depending who is writing – completely out of left field.

But that isn’t how this post will go. Spoiler alert: the following quote is from Doug Wilson, in a chapter I’m re-reading for a new initiative I’m helping with. I’m struck by his fairly strong and clear articulation of justification:

The objective reality of our justification is grounded upon the righteousness of Christ. We are put right with God because of the goodness of somebody else. Just as Adam’s sin was imputed to every man, in the same way, Christ’s righteousness was imputed to every saved man. The ground of this justification is the righteousness of Jesus Christ, while the instrument for receiving it is our faith. It cannot be emphasized too strongly that we are not justified on the basis of our faith. We are justified on the basis of Christ’s faith and work. This gospel message of free grace liberates – it liberates from the condemnation of sin once for all, and from the power of sin progressively…
RepairingRuins_Wilson
Justification and sanctification are distinct, but they are never separated. They are not the same work, but the one who works in us for His good purposes always accomplishes both…

The centrality of Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us by faith alone, and this provides the only possible foundation for righteous Christian living. Because the rest of this essay is directed at certain standards of personal conduct in a Christian school, I thought it was important to acknowledge the only possible foundation for this personal conduct.

I appreciate the clarity. Detractors might point out he is not clear here on the nature of human faith, but a charitable read notes that he is dealing with the objective nature of justification. (I note, with some glee, a clear forensic priority as well!) There is no sign of the equivocating he was sometimes (justly) accused of. I wish there had been more writing like this after 2002.

Of course, that is the point. Repairing the Ruins, an edited volume on classical education – not soteriology, was published in 1996. Is it too much to wonder if the writing you see above was the kind that got Wilson invited to Ligonier conferences? And the kind of writing he did later brought controversy? The reader must decide if there was a difference.

Schreiner: Doctrine Is For Discipleship

Titus_Sermons_800I’ve been working through the Pastoral epistle Titus on Sunday mornings at Zion, and one of the key things we’ve been trying to emphasize is that what you believe about God (doctrine) will of necessity impact your life for God (discipleship).

This can be a hard teaching to swallow: is it really that simple? Can leveraging the Gospel truth in my life really make that big of a transformation? And yet when we remember that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16), we are reminded that all of God’s saving work – from the new birth to growing in grace to final perseverance – is grounded in the Gospel. So many texts in Titus have been jumping off the page at me with this idea of Gospel grace bringing godliness to my life, and yet one that really sticks out to me in this sense is Titus 2:11 – 12: “For the grace of God has appeared… training us to renounce ungodliness… and to live godly lives…” As those verses show, God’s grace does more than this, but certainly not less! Continue reading

Happy Birthday, John Calvin

But with the immediate (helpful and true) caveat:

In his own words, don’t celebrate the birthday boy unless he helps lead you deeper into a Gospel-soaked piety.

Is Calvin, the man born this day in 1509 in Noyon, France, still relevant? Fortunately, Pope Francis is helping keep Calvin’s ideas current by issuing a new indulgence today:

Pope Francis will grant a plenary indulgence – a remission of all temporal punishment due to sin – to World Youth Day Catholic participants, the Vatican announced July 9…

They will also need to invoke “the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Brazil (with the title Nossa Senhora da Conceicao Aparecida) as well as other patrons and intercessors of the same meeting, that they may encourage the young to reinforce their faith and lead a holy life.”

The granting of indulgences by the Pope comes from Jesus’ response to Peter, the first Pope, when he proclaimed that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” in Matthew 16.

Scott Clark points out that Calvin (like Luther) had quite a bit to say about indulgences:

Now very many persons see the base tricks, deceits, thefts, and greediness with which the indulgence traffickers have heretofore mocked and beguiled us, and yet they do not see the very fountain of the impiety itself. Continue reading

Ten Propositions from Christ the Lord

After the Lordship-Salvation controversy between John MacArthur and Zane Hodges in the 1980’s, the White Horse Inn crew released Christ the Lord: The Reformation and Lordship Salvation (Baker, 1992). At the end of their collection of essays, ten propositions are put forward. Here they are for you to chew on. Thoughts?

  1. It is impossible that saving faith can exist without a new nature and thereby new affections (love, a desire for holiness, and so on).
  2. Saving faith is nevertheless not the same thing as such affections or desires and does not include in its definition the effects of which the new birth is the cause.
  3. It is not enough to say that we are justified and accepted by grace alone, for even Rome has agreed that is is only by God’s grace that we can become transformed in holiness. We must add that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone, and it is a great error to change the meaning of faith to include acts of obedience and repentance in an effort to make a disposition other than knowledge, assent, and trust a condition of justification.
  4. The definition of saving faith is: Knowledge, which we take to mean the intellectual grasp of the relevant historical and doctrinal facts concerning Christ’s person and work and our misery; Assent, or the volitional agreement of our hearts and minds that these facts are true; and Trust, which is the assurance that these facts that are true are not only true generally, but true in my own case. In this way I abandon all hope for acceptance with God besides the holiness and righteousness of Christ.
  5. Continue reading

John Calvin’s Birthday

July 10 is the 503rd anniversary of John Calvin’s (1509 – 64) birthday. Many blame Calvin for coming up with a novel and unbiblical theology that centered on predestination. I think that, not only was Calvin’s theology eminently biblical, but it wasn’t novel either. I’ve looked before at similarities between Calvin and Thomas Aquinas. On this his birthday, consider a few quotes comparing Calvin’s so-called “5 Points” with select quotes from the early Church Fathers.

TOTAL DEPRAVITY
Justin Martyr (A.D. 150): “Mankind by Adam fell under death, and the deception of the serpent; we are born sinners…No good thing dwells in us…For neither by nature, nor by human understanding is it possible for me to acquire the knowledge of things so great and so divine, but by the energy of the Divine Spirit…Of ourselves it is impossible to enter the kingdom of God…He has convicted us of the impossibility of our nature to obtain life…Free will has destroyed us; we who were free are become slaves and for our sin are sold…Being pressed down by our sins, we cannot move upward toward God; we are like birds who have wings, but are unable to fly.”

Origen (A.D. 185): “Our free will…or human nature is not sufficient to seek God in any manner.”

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION
Irenaeus (A.D. 198): “God hath completed the number which He before determined with Himself, all those who are written, or ordained unto eternal life…Being predestined indeed according to the love of the Father that we would belong to Him forever.” Continue reading

Simeon’s Account of His Conversion

I hope you share my feeling of being encouraged to read of how God’s arresting grace breaks in on peoples’ souls. Charles Simeon (1759 – 1836) was an Anglican vicar and professor who beautifully recorded his own experience of God’s rescue in his life. Going from a life of outward religion and lavish extravagance to a vital trust in Christ and self-denial, Simeon shared the experience of change in his own life.

The following quote is taken from John Piper’s The Roots of Endurance (Crossway, 2002) p. 82.

In Passion Week, as I was reading Bishop Wilson on the Lord’s Supper, I met with an expression to this effect – “That the Jews knew what they did, when they transferred their sin to the head of their offering.” The thought came into my mind, What, may I transfer all my guilt to another? Has God provided an Offering for me, that I may lay my sins on His head? Then, God willing, I will not bear them on my own soul one moment longer. Accordingly I sought to lay my sins upon the sacred head of Jesus; and on the Wednesday began to have a hope of mercy; on the Thursday that hope increased; on the Friday and Saturday it became more strong; and on the Sunday morning, Easter-day, April 4, I awoke early with those words upon my heart and lips, “Jesus Christ is risen to-day! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” From that hour peace flowed in rich abundance into my soul; and at the Lord’s Table in our Chapel I had the sweetest access to God through my blessed Savior.

Amen and amen. May every tribe, tongue and nation come to know that peace and access through Christ alone.

A Concise Argument for Definite Atonement

The following is a summary of the classic argument put forward by John Owen in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ

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The Father imposed His wrath due unto, and the Son underwent punishment for, either:

  1. All the sins of all men.
  2. All the sins of some men, or
  3. Some of the sins of all men.

In which case it may be said:

  1. That if the last be true, all men have some sins to answer for, and so, none are saved.
  2. That if the second be true, then Christ, in their stead suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the whole world, and this is the truth.
  3. But if the first be the case, why are not all men free from the punishment due unto their sins?

You answer, “Because of unbelief.”

I ask, Is this unbelief a sin, or is it not? If it be, then Christ suffered the punishment due unto it, or He did not. If He did, why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which He died? If He did not, He did not die for all their sins!”

Edwards’ Resolutions

Of all things penned by the inestimable Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758), his “Resolutions” is one of the more widely known works alongside “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God.” As we come into a new year (2012), it is helpful to revisit his ideas, his zeal, and his resolutions for considering how we will conduct our own lives in the time God grants to us.
Penned in a span of two years, when Edwards was himself barely out of the teenage years and just embarking on adulthood, these words stir our souls and challenge us to behold God’s grace work powerfully in our own lives.

Briefly, Desiring God lists the Resolutions according to topic and with subheadings. Steve Camp gives us a good perspective on how Edwards viewed these Resolutions as a mature man and seasoned Christian later in life.  Without any further ado, the Resolutions.

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Edwards’ Resolutions (1722 – 23)
Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.

Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week.

1. Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence. Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

2. Resolved, to be continually endeavoring to find out some new invention and contrivance to promote the aforementioned things.

3. Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

4. Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it. Continue reading

Aquinas and Calvinism

I once remember hearing that not only was the predestination of John Calvin not unique, it wasn’t even controversial among the deeper thinkers in Christian history. In fact, no less than Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) could said to be something of a “5 Point Calvinist!”

The idea that Aquinas had a clear and strong view of predestination should be beyond dispute. No only does Aquinas’ masterpiece, Summa Theologica, contain several pertinent sections related to predestination, but Robert Mulligan translates several other relevant sections from his writings in Thomas Aquinas: Providence and Predestination (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1953). He can say things like, “Clearly predestination is like the plan, existing in God’s mind, for the ordering of some persons to salvation. The carrying out of this is passively as it were in the persons predestined, though actively in God. When considered executively in this way, predestination is spoken of as a ‘calling’ and a ‘glorifying’, thus St. Paul says, ‘Whom he predestinated, them also he called and glorified.'” (Mulligan, 164).

But can Aquinas account as a 5 Point Calvinist? I rooted around for some quotes, and all of the following come from the Summa unless otherwise noted. Any emphasis is added by myself.

Total Depravity

“I answer that: Man’s nature may be looked at in two ways: first, in its integrity, as it was in our first parent before sin; secondly, as it is corrupted in us after the sin of our first parent. Now in both states human nature needs the help of God as First Mover, to do or wish any good whatsoever, as stated above. Continue reading