the bigger problem

I think that, lurking under the surface of the massive discussion here, there was a deeper controversy which remained unstated but determined the positions the two sides took.

It became clearer towards the end of that discussion that the different views on how to relate the actions of Christ and the actions of believers were irreconcileable (not just because of a failure on at least one side to acknowledge what the other was saying). Specifically I think there is a fundamental difference of opinion on the question of how God can be pleased with a sinner, or what God will accept from a sinner.

God is pleased with the graces that his Holy Spirit plants in the souls of believers – he is pleased with the righteousness that the Holy Spirit infuses in the soul of each one of his people. He is pleased to accept their works done in faith, their labours of love, their worship of him, their consecration of themselves to him – these are all the outcome of the work of the Holy Spirit in their souls.

But they are all subsequent to, and dependent on, a relationship of reconciliation between God and that sinner who is a believer. The basis of that reconciliation is not, however, the work of the Holy Spirit in them, but the work of Christ for them. This was the point of the original post: that Christ himself alone undertakes on their behalf every thing that is necessary in order for the sinner to be accepted by God.

That includes both making the one-off atonement which reconciles God and sinners in the first place, and also making the ongoing intercession which ensures that that reconciled relationship continues. There is nothing that a sinner can contribute to either of these. Atonement and intercession are made entirely for us and on our behalf by Christ and not on the basis of any thing whatsoever in us or about us. God does not accept a sinner’s works or prayers or self-denials along with Christ’s atonement and intercession. They have entirely different purposes: Christ’s activities are in order to secure the sinner’s pardon and acceptance with God; the sinner’s activities (by the enabling of the Holy Spirit) are their means of honouring a reconciled God.

The scriptures never, ever, mingle the works of the believer with the works of Christ, and neither can we. Rather, according to the scriptures, the immediate and only ground of the sinner’s acceptance with God is the righteousness of Christ imputed to them.

~~~

Or hear James Buchanan: “There is, perhaps, no more subtle or plausible error, on the subject of justification, than that which makes it to rest on the indwelling presence, and the gracious work, of the Holy Spirit in the heart. It is a singularly refined form of opposition to the doctrine of justification by the imputed righteousness of Christ, for it merely substitutes the work of one divine person for that of another; and it is plausible, because it seems to do do homage to the doctrine of grace, by ascribing to the presence and operation of the Holy Spirit the production of faith, and all the effects which are ascribed to it, wehther these belong to our justification or to our sanctification. …

“Yet, subtle and plausible as it is, nothing can be more unscriptural in itself, or more pernicious to the souls of men, than the substitution of the gracious work of the Spirit in us, for the vicarious work of Christ for us, as the ground of our pardon and acceptance with God; for if we are justified solely on account of what Christ did and suffered for us while he was yet on the earth, we may rest, with entire confidence, on a work which has been already finished – on a righteousness which has been already wrought out, and already accepted by God on behalf of all who believe on his name – and we may immediately receive, on the sure warrant of his Word, the privilege of justification as a free gift of God’s grace through Christ, and as the present privilege of every believer, so as at once to have joy and peace in believing.

“Whereas, if we are justified on the ground of the Holy Spirit in us, we are called to rest on a work, which, so far from being finished and accepted, is not even begun in the case of any unrenewed sinner; and which, when it is begun in the case of a believer, is incipient only – often interrupted in its progress by declension and backsliding – marred and defiled by remaining sin – obscured and enveloped in doubt by clouds and thick darkness – and never perfected in this life …

“The mediatorial work of Christ is … clearly distinguished from the internal work of the Spirit. By the former, all the blessings of salvation were procured; by the latter, all these blessings are effectually applied. The work of the Spirit is not the cause, but the consequent, of our redemption; and it forms no part of the ground, although it is the evidence, of our justification. That blessing, like every other which is included in salvation, depends entirely on the sacerdotal work of Christ …”

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109 thoughts on “the bigger problem

  1. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”

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  2. So, we will be brought to glory (the specific meaning here of the word ‘saved’) at last through the sanctifying work of the Spirit in our souls, which work will be a consequence of the justification which is ours by faith in Christ.
    Verses taken out of context, isolated from the scheme of redemption set before us in scripture as a whole, are capable of many false constructions and intepretations. This verse doesn’t contradict anything that either Cath or Buchanan said.
    The apostle goes on to confirm that God called the Thessalonian believers to this ongoing work of sanctification by Paul’s gospel. Clearly, Paul does not want the Thessalonians to think that the sanctifying work of the Spirit within them is what salvation consists of, or the original thing by which they are saved. They would need to pay attention to all of what he terms ‘my gospel’. And that gospel was emphatically the substitutionary death of Christ for sinners, to the exclusion of all else.

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  3. Golly, what would we do without you to tell us what scripture really means when it says something else or to correct each particular passage by your special insight into its general message? What is the context I wonder? Oh Look! “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” Where are they then? Not the despised fathers surely? Not those wicked corrupters of the Gospel? Perhaps he is referring to those traditions later consigned to the innumerable (now lost) Calvinist commentaries of antiquity. Of course there is more than one way of being innumerable…..

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    • The shortest way to ensure that scripture will be made to contradict itself is to take individual verses to prove one’s particular interpretation. Looking at the context does not mean taking another verse further down in the chapter and making it mean what we want it to mean, it means looking for the general message of each passage AND seeking to understand each specific part of the passage in the light of that general message. Your reference to Church Fathers in talking about the traditions Paul mentions here is not really worth responding to.

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  4. To me it seems we agree on what the Holy Spirit and Christ do in their respective roles, so I actually think that the difference is that we believe that a soul may be saved and go to Purgatory to finish sanctification. I think this because all of your quotes about the role of the Spirit make sense to me, rather than being something we disagree on. So I am left to think that the difference is that we, agreeing that the sanctification done by the Spirit is a life-long journey filled with backsliding and problems, and agreeing that it is Christ who justifies us and saves us by our faith, also believe that we must be justified AND sanctified to enter Heaven, whereas justification is sufficient to save us from Hell.

    I agree that Christ has saved us and is the one who continues to intercede for us, and has graced us with his Spirit after that. I am not sure where you got the idea that the Catholic side thinks that the Holy Spirit’s action in our soul is what is redeeming us, rather than Christ. Christ saves us, the Holy Spirit does all the things you list to draw us closer to God. The Holy Spirit is another Advocate, but we do not think he is the Advocate in the sense Christ is, but more that he represents Christ to the soul, that he can bring the soul closer to accepting Christ or to conforming the soul to Christ (sanctification, not justification).

    “By the former, all the blessings of salvation were procured; by the latter, all these blessings are effectually applied. The work of the Spirit is not the cause, but the consequent, of our redemption; and it forms no part of the ground, although it is the evidence, of our justification. ”

    Yes.

    “God does not accept a sinner’s works or prayers or self-denials along with Christ’s atonement and intercession. They have entirely different purposes: Christ’s activities are in order to secure the sinner’s pardon and acceptance with God; the sinner’s activities (by the enabling of the Holy Spirit) are their means of honouring a reconciled God.”

    I do wonder what you make of the prayers “Lord, forgive me?” Is it ever appropriate to stop asking for forgiveness and only do prayers of praise? If we never asked God for forgiveness after “back-sliding,” do you think he would still forgive us anyway? It is at this point I began to think the true difference between the “two sides” was whether we believe sanctification is continued after death if the soul is already saved (justified) by faith in Christ the Redeemer, but is not fully sanctified through full repentance and the full work of the Holy Spirit. Salvation = no damnation and on death immediate or eventual paradise, in our book, whereas in yours I think it means immediate paradise after death, and definitely no damnation. We might find other differences, of course, on how people who have once believed may lose salvation, but I think Purgatory is really the key here since we all agree Christ redeems and the Holy Spirit sanctifies. I should add that I’m not saying that once we’re in Purgatory it’s only the Holy Spirit working; on the off-chance that you actually do believe in Purgatory, but think that there it’s only Christ working, I really wouldn’t have any issue with that.

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  5. I apologise for the sarcasm of that comment. It seems to me inadequate to assume that one is right in advance, award one’s position the palm of being ‘scriptural’ on the strength of that assumption and then announce that the passage under discussion therefore cannot mean what it literally says because scripture does not contradict itself.

    Everything that God does, God does. If you deny that the other two persons of the Trinity do something that is done by the Word then you are introducing Tritheism. Now Christ accomplishes certain things in virtue of His human nature and so they are properly appropriated to Him but not so as to exclude the other two persons of the Trinity. That is said by way of a disclaimer. It seems to me that there are two issues here 1. What is the meritorious cause of our salvation? 2. What must be done to the sinner to make Him acceptable to God? Now the answer to the first question is Christ’s death and it can be appropriated to Him in a unique way because it is in virtue of His human nature which is His and not the Father’s or the Spirit’s that He can suffer and can represent us. I expect we differ over the second question but we do not differ over the fact that something must be done. The merits of Christ’s death cannot be applied to the sinner without living faith (you claim this is the only kind but that is not particularly relevant). I assume you agree that this is the work of the Spirit and thus the Spirit saves, us and I assume you would concede that the infusion of a living faith into the sinner by the Holy Spirit always sanctifies us at least to some degree. I think purgatory has some relevance but is mostly a red herring. The Catholic Church holds that one cannot receive faith without also receiving charity. I think you agree with that. You hold (which we do not) that one can then thereafter never loose either. We hold you can loose charity alone or faith and charity. However if you are later restored to faith it will once again have to be a living faith. If you have a living faith at the movement of death you will be saved. Of course we hold that after the first instance subsequent loss of charity or faith and charity will require penance upon restoration and if this is not accomplished before death purgatory ensues. But this issue is quite distinct from the fact that it seem to me you are not actually denying that the Holy Spirit saves us in the sense just outlined and therefore in the sense taught by the Catholic Church. The reason why the infusion of living faith into the soul is appropriated to the Holy Spirit is related to a very interesting but also not directly relevant point of Trinitarian theology. To put it another way the faith of believers is the work of the Holy Spirit in them and by that work they are saved and were one to deny that one would make it primarily our work and so become Pelagians. Perhaps rather cheap Pelagians but Pelagians none the less.

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11 “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

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  6. Cath, what do you mean by,……………..

    ‘He is pleased with the righteousness that the Holy Spirit infuses in the soul of each one of his people’ (see your third paragraph under ‘The Bigger Problem.’ ?

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    • I just mean that sanctification is as real as justification. God is pleased when he looks at a sinner and sees Christ’s imputed righteousness, and he is pleased when he looks at a sinner and sees the fruit of the Holy Spirit planted and growing in them.

      Infused righteousness is irrelevant when the question is, ‘how shall a man be just with God,’ but the scriptures are full of exhortations to the justified sinner to grow in grace, to die more and more to sin and live more and more to righteousness. He recognises what his Spirit is doing in their souls and acknowledges it and rewards it, as his own workmanship.

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      • Cath,

        That is clearer.

        The Protestant / Reformed understanding would be that the believing sinner has a justifying righteousness imputed to him, i.e. the righteousness of Christ.

        (The idea of an infused righteousness, I think may be Rome’s view of justification – RC Sproul has some interesting material on this which is available on the net.)

        One cannot be justified and there be no measure of sanctification evidenced, however small. This evidence would be ‘the good works which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them’ Eph 2.10

        These good works being the fructifying influence of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit producing to some extent either small or great those friuts mentions as per Galatians 5 etc.

        The believing one is declared righteous – justification. Having been quickened/regenerated/born anew by the Holy Spirit and thus being the possesor of a new heart there will a progression in sanctification.

        Justification and Sanctification go hand in had. On cannot have one without the other. The former is the result of the ‘finished’ work, John 19.30, while the latter is the result of God by His Spirit ‘having begun a good work in you. Phil 1.6

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  7. The problem with the whole concept of purgatory is that it introduces some of our suffering or efforts to the ultimate attainment of heaven. In effect, the time spent, and sufferings endured, in purgatory are ‘payment’ for sins committed. But since they have already been fully paid for, any further payment cannot be demanded in justice.
    Christ in his death merited for his people forgiveness of sin, the gift of the Holy Spirit to work salvation in them and carry on the work of sanctification, all other graces and final salvation and glory. Every one of these gifts were entirely secured for us, and in a sense they are already ours. Nothing we do can procure any part of any of them and neither can any failing of ours cause us to lose them. So our suffering cannot atone for, or otherwise ‘make up for’ our sin. The sin has already been paid for, regardless of when it is committed. The Holy Spirit applies the benefits purchased for us by Christ; he works faith in us, he presents Christ to our soul, he implants all the graces in our souls, he nourishes those graces and makes them grow – not always uniformly, mind you; the graces wax and wane as God sees fit. And he sanctifies us by these and other means. Finally, at the time of death, he completes the work of sanctification and we are changed into perfectly holy and sinless souls, ready and fitted for heaven.
    Like that of purgatory, the doctrine of penance is contradictory to that of salvation based entirely on the merit of Christ’s work. I don’t think purgatory is a red herring in the context of this debate, because it seems to me that our (Protestants’) problem with it is at the crux of the debate.
    The process of sanctification does not need to take as long as it does – God could make us perfect and fit for heaven in any instant. God chooses to leave us in this sinful world while he puts us through the process of sanctification for his own wise and holy purposes. There is no need to do penance after death, because the point of death is synonymous with the point of completion of the process of sanctification. God’s purposes in leaving us here to suffer for his sake are complete, he has fulfilled all the wise and holy purposes he had in his mind for us, and so he takes us away to be with himself.
    It is noteworthy, I think, that Paul frequently refers to the sufferings he endures and acknowledges that God brings these sufferings upon him, but he doesn’t see anything of merit in them. He rather wears them as badges of his calling, marks of his devotion to Christ. He always attributes to Christ alone the merit behind his salvation.
    The reasons why Christians are called upon to suffer and endure a long process of sanctification is worthy of a seperate discussion.

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  8. The Catholic Church does not hold that one can earn one’s passage into heaven either through suffering in purgatory or in any other way. Faith, Hope and Charity in their origin and their increase are the gifts of God merited by Christ’s death on the cross. Insofar as any changes in us or suffering endured by us cause Faith, Hope and Charity to increase in us they do so because God causes them to. “Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” Or, in the words of the Council of Trent, “If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.”

    You say, “The process of sanctification does not need to take as long as it does – God could make us perfect and fit for heaven in any instant. God chooses to leave us in this sinful world while he puts us through the process of sanctification for his own wise and holy purposes.” This statement is quite true. But then you say “There is no need to do penance after death, because the point of death is synonymous with the point of completion of the process of sanctification. God’s purposes in leaving us here to suffer for his sake are complete, he has fulfilled all the wise and holy purposes he had in his mind for us, and so he takes us away to be with himself.” This is not true and you did not provide a justification for it. Jesus clearly foresees the performance of penitential acts after conversion (eg Mtt 6:16-18) purgatory is the fate of those with a living faith who have not completed their penitential discipline. It is notable that Paul makes final glorification dependant upon ‘suffering with Him’ in Romans 8:17. The Catholic Church holds that God can cause the soul to be immediately perfected and fit for heaven by infusing a perfect act of charity into the soul, either at the moment of justification or later, but that He does not normally do this. The consequences of an incomplete penitential discipline at the moment of death are outlined in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 “Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw — each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

    Nevertheless I do think purgatory is a red herring because the question of whether in God’s providence He always ensures penance and sanctification are complete at the moment of death is a question of fact. Presumably you accept that He could complete the process of sanctification post mortem if He wanted to? The important point is that the meriting of our salvation by Christ upon the cross does not affect us unless it is subjectively applied through the gift of a living faith and this infusion (which both cleanses of sin and begins the process of sanctification) is appropriated by scripture to the Holy Spirit thus Paul says “God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”

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    • The wording of the quotation from the Council of Trent seems ambiguous to me – it could easily be taken to mean that works ARE effectual in the work of justifying a sinner provided they are accompanied by/products of grace. That was not Paul’s view.
      Justification is an act. God, being entirely and wholly satisfied with the sacrifice of Christ made on the behalf of a sinner, declares him judicially free from guilt. The sinner is rendered, by that single act, entirely incapable of ever suffering or doing anything else by way of atoning for or as punishment for his sins. Otherwise God would be unjust. It would be comparable to a creditor accepting payment from me on behalf of a brother, and then taking more payment from the brother as well. The debt of sin having been paid in full, there can never be any question of the sufferings of believers having a justifying worth. They procure nothing whatsoever from God.
      Penance, containing as it does the ‘satisfaction’ element, cannot but be intended to give something to God to ‘make up for’ the sin committed. Otherwise, the satisfaction element is meaningless. It would be sufficient to have true contrition and confession. But the Roman Catholic Church teaches that the sacrament includes satisfaction as well.
      Looking at Matthew 6:16 – 18, I’m afraid I don’t follow your argument. Christ is talking about fasting, but there is no disagreement between as to whether Christians can fast. In this passage, Christ is not even laying a duty upon us, but supposing it is our duty to fast in a specfic manner, I don’t see how it proves that there is anything which can be said to contribute to justification or any ‘penitential discipline’. The purpose of a fast is to enable the believer to devote his soul more fully to Christ by denying himself bodily comforts, usually food. The effect hoped for is further sanctifying grace. It doesn’t contribute a jot to ‘making up for’ sin.
      My reason for stating that believers are made perfectly sanctified at the point of death is that scripture does not talk of any continuation of the process after death. Scripture does not mention a place called purgatory, or a place/state where penance is done after death. When Paul speaks of suffering with Christ, he is emphatically referring to the sufferings ‘of this present time’ – the suffering he endured in this life. These sufferings identified him with the one whose sufferings were alone efficacious in the taking away of sin, and no-one who is truly united to Christ, and expects to be glorified with him, can be exempted from the suffering associated with it. God, in his holy and wise providence has ordained suffering as the lot of believers that they might learn in a very small measure what Christ endured on their behalf. They are being taught sympathy with Christ in his suffering as a way of increasing their love and attachment to him. Without this discipline, it is not to be expected that we will share in his glory. I don’t see how you can read any penitential discipline into Paul’s talk of suffering here – I just cannot see it.
      I have no idea what to make of the expression – “infusing a perfect act of charity into the soul”. This does not sum up the process of sanctification very well to my mind. When a soul is fitted for heaven, they don’t have an ‘act’ of charity ‘infused’ into them, they have all trace of sin removed from their soul and all the graces are brought to such a pitch as to fit them for the presence of God. Your expression seems to me to be very deficient, but it is beside the point of discussion.
      In 1 Corinthians 3, it seems from the context that Paul is talking about preachers of the gospel, who he describes as ‘building’ upon the foundation that he had laid (that is, Christ). The edifices built are presumably intended to refer to disciples, those who profess Christianity. The fire would then refer to the trials which all who profess Christ undergo. We know that Paul speaks of his converts as his reward, and so those whose ‘converts’ turn out to be hypocrites and so fail to endure the trial, that ‘builder’ suffers loss. He himself is secure in the state of justification which is derived from Christ alone, and so he shall be saved, though it will be with fiery trial. That is my rough idea of what the passage in question is getting at, thoguh I confess I have not consulted commentaries as yet. It seems far fetched to me to suggest that Paul is talking about purgatory or any other ‘penitential discipline’. The context doesn’t seem to allow for that, and fits the explanation I have given much better. So I’m afraid I can’t see any justification for a ‘penitential discipline’ either before or after death, aside from that of sanctification which has no ‘satisfaction’ element whatever.

      “the question of whether in God’s providence He always ensures penance and sanctification are complete at the moment of death is a question of fact.”
      I’m unsure what to make of this quote. I don’t really know what you mean by it. If you just mean to contradict my assertion that sanctification is completed at the point of death, you have already made that point, and you could have done it here with fewer words. There’s also no need to refer to penance since there is no such thing in scripture (assuming we are taking it in the RC sense. and I don’t know what you want me to take from the phrase ‘a question of fact’. But perhaps you were trying to make a different point?
      As far as asking whether God ‘could’ complete the process of sanctification post-mortem ‘if he wanted to’, that is obvious. It’s beside the point though, because scripture teaches that at death, believers fall asleep in Jesus, a description which is not compatible with the concept of penitential discipline. The thief on the cross, Elijah, Enoch, Lazarus in the parable, Stephen – all went directly to heaven at the end of their lives here on earth. Paul anticipated going directly to be with Christ when he died also. If your quotation from 1 Corinthians 3 refers to purgatory, these men avoided it, yet Paul says that ‘every man’ will have to endure it. was he meaning to exclude himself? There is no suggestion, in the case of any other individual, that they go to anywhere other than either heaven or hell.

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      • My old RE teacher explained it to us like this. If you steal someone’s telly you must say sorry and you must give it back. However, it is the offence against that person which is really bad the actual deprivation of the telly is secondary. You must restore the telly but it is far more important that you restore the broken relationship. The heartfelt apology restores the relationship but if you do not restore the telly as well you have not done enough and if you never intended to restore it then your apology was not heartfelt. The difficulty in restoring the relationship is partly connected to the material gravity of the offense but also to the importance of the relationship itself. To offend against someone to whom you owe a great debt of love and gratitude is much more serious.

        In sin we offend against God and our debt of love and gratitude to Him is infinite and so the gravity of the offense is infinite. We simply cannot restore the relationship. This is why only the sacrifice of the infinite divine person of Christ able to represent us through His assumption of a human nature suffices to save us. But we must want to make amends for our sins in order to receive the imputation of His merits. The actual damage done by our sin to the world, our neighbour and ourselves is finite and in theory could be restored. In fact, we haven’t much chance and by the resources of nature alone no chance but we must want to or we cannot enjoy the forgiveness Christ offers. This desire to make amends does not earn salvation still less the actual making of amends it is just an necessary disposition for salvation. God uses our efforts to make amends as the instrument of our sanctification.

        Matthew 3:2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”

        Matthew 3:8 “Bear fruit that befits repentance”

        Matthew 4:17 “Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

        Luke 10:13 “Woe to you, Chora’zin! woe to you, Beth-sa’ida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.”

        Luke 19:8-10 “And Zacchae’us stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.’”

        Luke 24:47 “…and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

        Acts 26:20 “…they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance”.

        Revelation 3:19 “Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent.”

        What I meant by a question of fact is this: The discussion is about principle what does and does not derogate from the all-sufficiency of the Christ’s sacrifice. If you concede that God does sanctify the faithful through suffering and that He could in theory do so after death then you concede that no derogation from the all sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice is involved even if you hold that as a matter of fact this is not what God does.

        As to 1 Corinthians 3 I take it to mean that the preacher lays the foundation of faith in Christ but each man himself builds upon that foundation (the process of sanctification). In both cases it is God who is working through the preacher and the believer to accomplish whatever they do accomplish. When Paul says ‘each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.’ The ‘Day’ is either the particular Judgement for those who die before the end of the world of the final conflagration for those who reach the end of the world. As Paul says elsewhere ‘our God is a consuming fire’ it is this fire which with leave those who have attained perfect sanctification at death untouched for they built with gold, silver and precious stones those who have not completed the work of sanctification but built with wood, hay and straw will still be saved ‘but only as through fire’. They are still saved because the foundation of living faith is still present. This is the interpretation of the passage taken by all churches claiming direct historic succession from the Apostles.

        “infusing a perfect act of charity into the soul” God removing all trace of sin from the soul and all graces brought to such a pitch as to fit one for the presence of God.

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        • The problem is that justification doesn’t enter into the area of us restoring our relationship with our fellow men. It only enters into our relationship with God. As things stand by nature, we are in a state of condemnation (legally) and in a state of enmity (spiritually). Justification addresses the first problem – it removes the condemnation and makes us legally righteous. Sanctification deals with the second problem – it removes the enmity and puts us in a state of spiritual harmony with God.
          I agree that we must ‘want to “make amends” for our sins’, but only in a conditional sense. I don’t accept that this ‘making amends’ has any merit whatsoever, for then it would be of works, and whatsoever is of works is not of grace. The conflation of the two concepts (grace and works) is directly contradictory to what Paul teaches in his letter to the Romans, by the way. We must have a wish to ‘make amends’ in the sense of living unto Christ – following his laws, submitting to his rule, serving his purposes, suffering for his name’s sake etc etc. If there is any hint of ‘being rewarded for’ or ‘earning’ anything at all by our ‘making amends’ we are mixing works into the domain of grace.
          The crucial point is that everything we receive from God by way of God is 100%, exclusively and entirely due to the merit of Christ. There is absolutely nothing we can do to merit anything whatsoever, ever, from God.

          “…we must want to or we cannot enjoy the forgiveness Christ offers.”
          There is no requirement in scripture that we ‘want to make amends’ *prior* to receiving the forgiveness that Christ offers. No state of mind or soul, or preparation is required to ready us for the special act of God’s grace whereby he regenerates us and cleanses us from our sins. If such a preparation were necessary, it would be antecedent to, and therefore definitely distinct from, the grace of God. In short, it would be works and not grace.

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          • No state of mind or soul, or preparation is required to ready us for the special act of God’s grace whereby he regenerates us and cleanses us from our sins. If such a preparation were necessary, it would be antecedent to, and therefore definitely distinct from, the grace of God. In short, it would be works and not grace.

            Finlay, did you notice this bit?:

            I often .find .. protestants … think the Catholic Church holds that works performed prior to justification earn justification. We definitely do not hold this we anathematise this.

            It’s true. Really. We really really really do hold that faith, justification, is entirely, completely unmerited. There is nothing you can do to get it. It is wholly, radically, entirely, in every way you can think of – gratuitous. This really is what Catholics believe. Honestly. Truly. Cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye. I can tell you where my hamster lives, and you can put him under the carpet and get a plumber to kneel on him if it’s not true.

            It goes like this: your sins are your own, everything else is God’s doing.

            You have to believe, it is God who moves you to believe. You have to repent, it is God who moves you to repent.

            As Aelianus says in that comment, there are Big Disagreements. But structural pelagianism is not one of them.

            All the good stuff is God’s doing: the only stuff that is not God’s doing is the bad stuff. So if there’s any requirement of something good before something else good can be the case, that means God does something before he does something else.

            my godlfish attention span has given out … Good night :)

            Executive summary of the above:
            Catholics hold that no-one can merit or earn justification.

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            • Dear B, we hear you. But: “Yet, … nothing can be more unscriptural in itself, or more pernicious to the souls of men, than the substitution of the gracious work of the Spirit in us, for the vicarious work of Christ for us, as the ground of our pardon and acceptance with God.” Or?

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            • So what does Aelianus mean by “we must want to make amends”? Even if we leave aside whether God makes us ‘want to make amends’, this is mixing the “work” of ‘wanting to make amends’ with the grace of God in justification. Certainly in the way Aelianus has phrased it, ‘wanting to make amends’ is antecedent to justification – a prerequisite on the part of the sinner.

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              • Repentance and faith could come simultaneously but repentance remains logically prior. Usually it is chronologically prior also. One may perceive by natural reason without revelation that our sins are vile and deserving of God’s punishment (as St Paul explains in Romans 2). The desire to sin no more and to seek to reverse the temporal effects of sin is inherent to genuine repentance which is logically bound up with the acceptance of forgiveness in Christ. Everything that prepares us for justification is caused in us by God but not every truth that disposes us to receive revelation is supernatural. For example the eternal power and deity of God may be known from the things that have been made (Romans 1). Repentence prior to justification is not a work in James’s sense nor is it offered by way of justification by the sinner. It is in part a despair of the possibility of self justification.

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                • Not sure where in scripture you get this ‘necessary predisposition’ idea though. To my mind, scripture presents all the graces as gifts which we receive – logically we must repent in order to faith, but really there is no such thing as repentance without faith, because true repentance looks to God. I can go along with the idea (if not the terminology) of ‘despairing’ of the possibility of self justification, but that’s only half the story. Repentance towards God, the only useful sort, has to take cognisance of the mercy of God in Christ, otherwise it is just despair. So the repentant sinner, far from being now’disposed’ to faith/justification, is already acting faith – turning to a God who offers mercy. Anything which is a predisposition or antecedent to justification, and which is an activity on the part of the sinner, must by definition be a work of the sinner – it certainly isn’t grace.

                  We’re in danger of straying into a new discussion of the nature of true repentance here, and I know Cath won’t want that so we’re going to have to kill this sub-thread I’m afraid.

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                • According to St Paul the existence of God and the moral law are knowable without revelation so repentance is also attainable without faith. It is not efficacious for salvation without faith but if it prepares the soul for justification then it will be caused by grace. I note F is invoking ‘scripture’ again without citations or quotes. Just because something is a work of a creature does not mean it is not an effect of grace. Take faith for example.

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                • Yes to (1) the existence of God and the moral law are knowable without revelation
                  No to (2) therefore repentance is attainable without faith
                  Yes to (3) the nature of repentance is off topic

                  => continue this some other time.

                  But if you can talk about predispositions in a way that stays on topic, by all means move to the bottom of the thread (ta).

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        • Your point about sanctification etc would make sense if I had proposed/conceded/otherwise suggested that there was any sense in which santification ‘derogated’ from the all-sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice. You appear to be implying that by all-sufficiency I have to mean that the thing(s) intended were actually and really accomplished in point of fact and history by the death of Christ, without the use of means. Either that, or I cannot make sense of what you’re trying to say at all.
          Christ’s death secured both justification and sanctification for his people (as well as many other benefits and blessings). But all these blessings have to be applied to each individual believer. I suppose that God could have ordained it otherwise, so that every one of the elect was both justified and fully sanctified without any process being needed, but it’s hardly helpful to conjecture about what God could have ordained but didn’t. We both agree that God ordained a certain order of things by which the elect would be both justified and sanctified. In my view, he ordained that justification would take place by the Holy Spirit working faith in the heart, so uniting the soul to Christ. Justification itself would be achieved through this union with Christ. Not that the faith would be the grounds of the justification, but that faith would be the instrument used to bring the sinner into the state of justification. This is so because being united to Christ involves an imputation of his righteousness to us and of our sin to him. Our sins are no longer counted against us and his righteousness is now counted as ours. Legally, the justice of God ceases to have any quarrel with us.
          Sanctification is the immediate and necessary consequence of this union to Christ. We are progressively moulded and shaped into the likeness of Christ so that, when we die, we are made ready to enjoy his presence to all eternity. This involves suffering, compliance with his law, submission to his discipline and correction and the increase of all the graces of the Spirit. All these effets are worked in us by the Holy Spirit, and were secured for us by Christ in his death. So they are all of grace – no ‘works’ in a legal sense at all.

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  9. I have found Cath and Finlay’s contributions extremely revealing, if not also a tad depressing.

    It is seems to me that because they have seperated God the Father and God the Son at Calvary, they are necessarily doing the same with, Passion of God the Son and the Holy Spirit in the life of Faith.

    The real bigger problem is that for them, the mystery of the cross wasn’t essentially an act of love and personal sacrifice on our behalf, but a transaction of wrath and punishment in our place.

    Everything else is made up (literally) around that.

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  10. ‘The love of God is righteous love, Inscribed upon Golgotha’s tree.’

    Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4.10.

    In the death of the Redeemer on the cross, dying in the room and stead of His covenant people, God dealt with their sins in a righteous manner.

    He did not pass by their sins but He judged their sins in the person of their substitute. Whatever wrath and indignation was their due, Christ took it upon Himself.

    Christ having become the propitiation, mercy can flow freely to sinners, as God’s glory with respect to sin has been maintained by the death of His Son on the cross. Thus if God saves a man He does so righteously.

    I see nought that is sad or depressing about the doctrine of the penal substitutiuon of Christ. That He bore the wrath due to His own flowed from the great love of God to them.

    As John himself wrote, ‘Behold what manner of love.’ Such was its nature and character that it astounded the Apostle.

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    • Just to be clear, I never said the doctrine (Penal Substitution) itself was sad and depressing, even though I might think about the classical Calvinist understanding.

      I said the resulting theology as espoused here was.

      That for example the passion of Christ is something quite transcendent to me. It’s merits may flow to me as an imputation of righteousness (something that catholics will also admit) but I can not unite to it anything I do or say, not my weaknesses, not my joys, not my sins, nothing, to its power in any manner. I find that depressing. Or at least I would if I believed it to be the case.

      At least you have quoted scripture, although I am sure even you would admit that beautiful though it is it in no way completely proves your doctrine.

      The absence of any other scriptural quotes from Cath, Buchannan, or Finlay is noted by me and forgive me if I cut through the classical Protestant rhetoric about what scripture emphatically says and does not, how St Paul was such a classic Calvinist, and how ultra-pious you all are about the work of Christ on the Cross, adding or subtracting nothing. Because that’s all it is, rhetoric.

      Except that for me you have added and taken away. You have addded reprobation to the cross, you have added hell, you have added defilement to a pure offering, a clean oblation. You have added emnity between God the Father and God the Son. You have taken away mystery, and the eternal and the infinitely precious to God the Father.

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      • I think you need to be careful, CT, because behind the ultra-pious rhetoric there is at least as much emotional involvement with the doctrine on our side as you imply is on yours. So subjective and personal claims (on either side, actually) about how deep and meaningful the doctrine is are not helpful.

        I am not even sure whether discussing penal substitution is relevant or not. I think for the time being we could perhaps leave it to one side. Like the purgatory question. Related, but not central.

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      • As a small side issue (and not ignoring what Cath says about the Penal Substitution question being not under discussion here), it’s never a very good idea to rely on individual texts, taken out of context, to ‘prove’ a particular doctrinal point of view. The view we take must conform with scripture as a whole, not just have the appearance of backing from individual texts cherry-picked to suit. That is why I don’t, as a rule, quote scripture as if to ‘prove’ my points. Hopefully I am building scriptural arguments – though I recognise that you will disagree.

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        • The problem is that most people calling themselves Christians in the world do not believe that you position corresponds to scripture as a whole so you will have to condescend to prove it with actual verses.

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          • Of course, we all use scripture, at least by referring to it, to support our position. I’m against hanging interpretations on individual texts, as a rule. I’m afraid you’ve done this a few times.
            Also, I hardly think that numerical following for a particular viewpoint is the key to any doctrinal issue. That’s a real red herring, and one I won’t be discussing!

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            • I find that you frequently make comments such as ‘this is quite unscriptural’ or ‘St Paul does not hold this’ and then provide no actual argument or reference. We all agree that the bible is inspired and inerrant so these sorts of comments are just disingenuous ways of saying ‘I don’t agree with you’. The fact that the vast majority of readers of a particular work don’t think it says what you think it says reinforces the fact that the burden of proof is on you to actually engage with scripture to prove your point (were that possible). Your complaints about proof texting seem like an attempt to justify your attempt to use the mere fact of your disagreement (dressed up as ‘this is quite unscriptural’ or ‘St Paul does not hold this’) as an argument in itself. It is not an argument at all. You may think that the fact that 1.5 billion fellow readers of the same text and all recorded readers for fifteen hundred years can’t see your point is a weak argument (most people would think it rather powerful) but it is an argument nonetheless.

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              • I could of course waste a whole lot of time analysing the views of people like Tertullian, Augustine, Aquinas etc and comparing their views to those of the Council of Trent. Or I could counter that if 1.5 billion (a very generous estimate for the size of the ‘Catholic’ Churches) agree with you, it means that perhaps 4 billion+ disagree. Basing your argument on the number of subscribers is a fallacy, not an argument. Or, I could point out that we all, including you make such statements as “This is unscriptural”, “This is the orthodox faith of the Catholic Church” etc without giving chapter and verse. When stating your opinions, it isn’t usually necessary to keep saying “In my opinion…” or restating the evidence every time you make a claim.
                But that’s not what this thread is for, so I’m not going to take the bait. Instead, I’ll just ask you to respond a little more moderately and a little less aggressively to what I write. Trying to bully me into ‘being wrong’ isn’t going to work, though it may well bore me pretty soon.

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                • 1.5 was an estimate for all those churches with apostolic succession not for the Catholic Church. It was presented as the overwhelming proportion of those who read the bible and hold it to be inspired not of the human race as a whole. You do not think my assertion that a certain position is the doctrine of the Catholic Church is probative anyway and it is not presented as such whereas if you were right is saying that a certain position was the position of St Paul I would accept it as probative which is why it is bad form for you to make this assertion without offering any evidence. It is necessary to point out if the form of an argument is invalid if a coherent discussion is to be resumed.

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                • But you do consider the ‘doctrine of the Catholic Church’ to be proof – you’ve been using it as evidence that my interpretations cannot be correct all along. You frequently appeal to what the church ‘has always taught’ without actually proving that even the Church Fathers are agreed on it. Or that they agree with the Council of Trent.

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  11. I agree that the disagreement goes much deeper than purgatory, and would rather not spend too much time on it, except that it does usefully remind me to ask whether you think that justification is something that takes place here and now, or whether it is something that doesn’t happen till the end of a believer’s life.

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    • Fair enough. I don’t really understand your question because I am not so used to figuring out exactly when justification happens, since it is sort of happening all the time. Christ died, allowing salvation for all the world, so that’s step 1. I was baptised and believe in him, and received the Holy Spirit, so that seems to be step 2. Christ is currently interceding on my behalf to the Father, step 3 ongoing. And when I die, the whole question of whether or not I will be ultimately saved is answered, step 4. Then there is also the final, public Judgment at the end of time, step 5, but that gets you the same answer as step 4 anyway.

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  12. Sorry to do the selective quotations thing, but just to grab a couple of the major points –

    – Sciencegirl –
    I do wonder what you make of the prayers “Lord, forgive me?” Is it ever appropriate to stop asking for forgiveness and only do prayers of praise? If we never asked God for forgiveness after “back-sliding,” do you think he would still forgive us anyway?

    Undoubtedly, it is never appropriate to stop asking for forgiveness. Sin clings to every thing we do all the time: we need forgiveness for the sin of our nature and the sins of our practice. The question then is what grounds we have, for asking for forgiveness: whether forgiveness is more likely or easier or more far-reaching when I have something to show for myself, or whether forgiveness is certain wholly for Christ’s sake. It’s not so much, forgive me because I’m {so sorry | determined to compensate | willing to suffer for it | other} but rather, forgive me because Christ is answering for me, and he deserves it although I don’t.

    – Aelianus –
    The merits of Christ’s death cannot be applied to the sinner without living faith (you claim this is the only kind but that is not particularly relevant). I assume you agree that this is the work of the Spirit and thus the Spirit saves, us and I assume you would concede that the infusion of a living faith into the sinner by the Holy Spirit always sanctifies us at least to some degree.

    Well, the work of the Spirit in his people is just as necessary for salvation in its own way as the work of Christ for them: definitely. I do agree that it is the work of the Spirit to work faith in a soul, and I do agree that the Holy Spirit always sanctifies the believing soul. But of course I add (i) that faith is only the instrumental cause of justification, and (ii) that neither this faith nor this sanctification enter into the grounds of justification. God does not accept us on the basis of any inherent, infused, personal righteousness, but only on the grounds of the imputed righteousness of Christ.

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  13. Since all this is about the nature of worship. It occurred to me whilst watching a video on youtube ( Living the Liturgy) …about monks in America.
    Anyway, as we know the monks pray the liturgy of the hours. All these liturgies, Matins, Sext, Vigils etc, are composed of chant, Scripture readings and Psalms. Culminating in the holy Mass.
    It occured to me that reformed worship is really a reflection of the ancient liturgy of the hours. But that the heart of Christian worship for 2000 years, ie The Holy Mass, somehow got missed out by the reformers, probably deliberately.
    So we are left in reformed worship with the periphery of worship, but the heart is missing. Authentic indeed, but very incomplete.

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  14. Justification is caused by the will of God to justify apart from anything in the justified. Anything which conduces towards justification is an effect of that will. Certain of those effects may be effects of earlier effects but all is comprehended in the first, complete and total cause of all supernatural life in the soul which is God’s will to put it there. The comprehensive meritorious cause of God’s election is the death of Christ. Justification is both (i) a decision of God vis-à-vis the justified soul and (ii) a state into which that soul is placed at a moment in time prior to his death. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should (i) be called children of God; (ii) and so we are”. After the separation of soul and body it cannot occur. Sanctification begins at the moment justification occurs because the cause of justification (ii) is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Let us call (i) the imputation of Christ’s merits and (ii) the conformity of the believer to Christ. Justification (ii) can, and should, increase but it is not something that happens at death. Whatever survives the day that dawns in fire is what is left for eternity.

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  15. Ok, hang on. What do you mean by the state of justification? Calling “conformity to Christ” “justification [(ii)]” is a serious conflation of the act of justification with the process of sanctification, in my book.

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  16. Justification means ‘making just’ ergo there is a state of ‘having been made just’ or ‘infused justice’ this is conformity to Christ and it can, and should, increase this increase is usually called sanctification. Sanctification is the element of Justification which increases the other element which does not increase is the forgiveness of sins. (There are more and more sins to forgive but they are not more or less forgiven). As a result the process of increase is usually just called sanctification while the one off event is usually called justification. But it can be called an increase in justification. Otherwise St James’s comment ‘we are justified by works and not by faith alone’ wouldn’t make sense as in the one off moment of justification there are no works involved. The works occur as a result of the infusion of sanctifying grace into the soul. Sanctifying grace causes Faith, Hope and Charity it is the presence and increase of these virtues that renders the recipient just. They immediately establish the love of God and neighbour and an opposition between the believer and the world and his own delinquent nature issuing in suffering and good works. James says justification is ‘by works’ and Paul says is glorification conditional on suffering because these are necessary effects of the presence of Faith, hope and Charity and their increase.

    As I understand it from previous discussions we have had you hold that justification is formally effected only by faith (that is faith is the state necessary in the believer corresponding to the decree of justification by God) but that hope and charity necessarily follows from faith. I do not see that excluding hope and charity from the formal causation of justification helps the exegesis of the New Testament. It renders statements such as “God chose you from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” or “a man is justified by works and not by faith alone” or “If you would enter life, keep the commandments” problematic because it makes them untrue. One wouldn’t actually be saved by sanctification by the Spirit the two would just coincide. One wouldn’t be justified by works they would just be a sign that one had been justified by faith. One wouldn’t enter life by keeping the commandments that would just be a sign one was going to enter life. In fact they are none of these things. Heinous sinners repent and are saved on their death beds and have no obvious works, and precious little time to keep the commandments. Philanthropists burn in hell for all eternity. It was the publican and not the Pharisee that was justified.

    Unfortunately I often find in discussion with protestants that they think the Catholic Church holds that works performed prior to justification earn justification. We definitely do not hold this we anathematise this. Just as you do we hold that justification is an effect of God’s will merited by Christ which can be imputed to men only through faith. We also hold (as I hope you do but protestants seem to be vague on this) that this faith is caused supernaturally in the believer and cannot be arrived at by the natural resources of the believer. The faith then endures as a state of the believer sustained by grace which is the formal cause of justification. We only differ in holding that the faith which is the formal cause of justification is attended by hope and charity and together these constitutes a single formal cause.

    I think the denial that hope and charity formally cause justification is inspired by a desire to avoid the suggestion that salvation can be earned. This is a laudable desire but the claim that faith, hope and charity together constitute the formal cause of justification does not entail the suggestion that salvation can be earned. Nor do I think that it helps your position in fact it makes no real difference to your position. What makes the real difference is your belief that once acquired justification cannot be forfeited for this really does avoid any suggestion that salvation can be earned. A Catholic could be led astray by the fact that if he doesn’t perform good works he may sin mortally by omission and forfeit justification into thinking that his good works earn justification. This is a danger. But I also think that the idea that good works are a sign of justification holds in it the same danger.

    “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, `God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, `God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

    The tax collector need not imagine that he has earned justification through those works he could just as easily be supposing that they are signs that he is justified. In fact, the second option is more dangerous because it sets up a dichotomy between good people and bad people and there are few things more perilous to your salvation than the belief that you are a good person.

    [By ‘formal cause’ I mean the sense in which having four right angles causes a table to be square. This is distinct from the way a carpenter causes a table to be square (efficient causation). God is the efficient cause of justification and faith, hope and charity are the formal cause of justification.]

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  17. Apropos nothing in particular but everything in general: Pianticella bought online a Polish translation of some lectures Gilson gave to a Calvinist seminary in Paris. The original is called Christianisme et Philosophie; there doesn’t seem to be an English translation, and I shouldn’t be reading it right now, but it looks very interesting. He looks at what Catholic and Calvinist theologians say about natural theology, and where and why there are differences and agreements.

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  18. As I recall our previous discussions, we have studiously avoided the connection between justification and faith :-) Actually in any case we believe that the imputed righteousness of Christ is the sole formal cause of justification, not faith. Faith is only the instrument.

    Even though faith/hope/charity are granted or planted or gifted by the Holy spirit, they are not any part of the grounds of justification: the immediate and only ground of justification is the righteousness of Christ imputed.

    Salvation consists both of justification and of sanctification – both are necessary in their own way. We are saved through sanctification of the spirit and beliief of the truth; we are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, Rom 3. We are justified in James’s sense by works; we are justified in Paul’s sense by grace through faith, not of works, Eph 2. If anyone wants to enter life, they do need to keep the commandments, but as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse, for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them; but that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for, the just shall live by faith, and Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, Gal 3. The publican on his appeal to the propitiation went down to his house justified, rather than the other.

    Happy to affirm that faith is caused supernaturally in the believer and cannot be arrived at by the believer’s natural resources.

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    • As to previous discussions I was referring to several years ago on Laodicea. Are you saying that per se justification effects nothing at all in the one justified not even faith? That is the only sense I can make of “we believe that the imputed righteousness of Christ is the sole formal cause of justification, not faith.” But then I can’t make any sense of “Faith is only the instrument” the instrument of what?

      This next comment,

      “Even though Even though faith/hope/charity are granted or planted or gifted by the Holy spirit, they are not any part of the grounds of justification: the immediate and only ground of justification is the righteousness of Christ imputed. are granted or planted or gifted by the Holy spirit, they are not any part of the grounds of justification: the immediate and only ground of justification is the righteousness of Christ imputed.”

      also seems to imply we are talking at cross purposes. I am not saying that the faith/hope/charity of the believer are the meritorious cause (grounds) of justification (this is Christ’s sacrifice) but that they constitute the state of ‘justice’ in which the one justified is established.

      Your position seems to entail that extrinsic justification alone is necessary in order to be saved. What you call sanctification (to which term you seem to confine all effects on the believer of extrinsic justification) does not actually save us it just happens (you suppose) that this process is always concluded at the moment of death but by your logic there is no intrinsic need for it to be so concluded and so it is not in fact a means or a cause of our salvation. That contradicts 2 Thessalonians 2:13.

      You are also compelled by your position to hold that Paul and James are using the word justification to mean two different things. This is less serious than the contradiction of 2 Thessalonians 2:13 but it still requires an additional unproven premise in your argument.

      Perhaps most seriously it seems that you cause Our Lord to be deceiving us when He says “if you would enter life keep the commandments” because according to you this is in fact (a) impossible (b) not the cause of entering life anyway.

      I assume you accept that even if God had never given man any form of supernatural assistance and man had never sinned man would still have been entirely unable to attain to eternal Life by keeping the commandments? Eternal Life is simply not the sort of thing that can be earned but that is not to say that entering into it does not require things to be done to the believer by God. These things are faith/hope/charity which render the believer a child of God.

      In fact, it would seem you also deny that we are justified by faith. You hold that we are justified by extrinsic decree and it happens that God manifests this decree in the one justified by causing faith in them but (on your account) He does not justify them by faith otherwise faith would be the formal cause of justification. Faith cannot on your account be the instrumental cause of justification because then justification would have to be something in the justified one effected through faith but this is precisely what you deny.

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      • Are you saying that per se justification effects nothing at all in the one justified not even faith? Yes! Hooray. Breakthrough. Bog standard Reformation theology. Justification effects nothing *in* the one justified – altogether “on” or “for” them.

        Will come back to the rest later abw

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          • Not exactly. We just have a different understanding of the word ‘by’ in the phrase “justification by faith”. In reformed thought, it means that faith is the device by which we become partakers or recipients of justification. Faith is essential to justification, but it has no justifying power.
            You’ve already explained for the benefit of all of us the difference between different ’causes’, all of which can nevertheless be said to ’cause’ justification. God’s decree, faith, the Holy Spirit working faith – three different causes of justification.
            When a criminal is pardoned by royal decree, the sovereign declares him to be free from judicial guilt. The declaration is brought to the cell by the representative of the sovereign and read or given to the criminal. It is not the coming of the representative, or the criminal’s listening to or taking the declaration which actually makes the criminal a free man. They are essential to the process of freeing the man, but it is the act of the sovereign in making the declaration which actually absolves the man of guilt.

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            • You choose a poor example for yourself. For the formal cause of the man’s freedom is his physical unconstrainedness. Just so the formal cause of justification is faith. Furthermore, while the human sovereign’s decree requires the cooperation of various free intermediaries the decree of God is instantaneously realised.

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              • That’s a bit like saying that the formal cause of a man’s justification is that he is justified – a tautology.
                I didn’t suggest that the man’s physical freedom is analogous to justification. I consider his absolution from judicial guilt to be the correct analogy. (By ‘free’, I meant free from guilt, as I clearly showed at the end of my post). As I said earlier, justification is the opposite of condemnation.
                I don’t agree with your premise that “the decree of God is instantaneously realised” by which you appear to exclude the use of free intermediaries to effect them. God’s decree is invariably realised, but that doesn’t exclude the use of intermediaries – in the case of justification, these intermediaries are the Holy Spirit and faith. They are the means by which God accomplishes the particular decree to justify an individual sinner.

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                • [query from the audience]
                  God’s decree is invariably realised, but that doesn’t exclude the use of intermediaries – in the case of justification, these intermediaries are the Holy Spirit and faith.

                  Doesn’t that not make sense? God is an intermediary in the realisation of His own decree?

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                • Think he means the Holy Spirit is the one who applies what God has purposed and what Christ has purchased. Doubt there is any equivalence intended btwn the Holy Spirit and faith. Intermediary not the best term to use.

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                • Agreed, intermediary is a poor choice of term, but I was trying to accomodate myself to the terminology Aelianus had used. Sorry, I should have changed it.

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  19. I think the crux of the problem here is what we understand by the term ‘justification’.
    To take issue with Aelianus’ division of efficient causation and formal causation: the formal cause of justification is not faith, hope or charity. Christ is the formal cause of our justification, because our justification is a forensic, legal matter – the opposite of condemnation. The Holy Spirit is the efficient cause – he works faith in us which brings us into the relationship to Christ by which justification takes place. Faith may also be called an efficient cause, because it is by faith that justification becomes ours.
    As far as I can make out, Roman Catholics believe that justification involves a man actually becoming intrinsically righteous rather than just extrinsically, or declared to be righteous. The process by which a man becomes intrinsically righteous is what Protestants would call sanctification; it goes on throughout life and is completed at death. The conflation of the two in Roman Catholic thought is what allows ‘works’ to be given a worth and merit in the process of salvation.

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  20. ‘For all men have not faith.’ 2 Thess 3.2. Why is this the case that some come to faith and others do not and live and die in that condition? Faith that lays hold of Christ in a saving sense is not something that a individual can produce in or of himself. It has to be gifted to him. Hence, ‘and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.’ Eph 2.8. If so by whom? By Christ Himself who is said to be ‘the author and finisher of faith.’ Heb 12.2. All those whom Christ died for, i.e. those given to Him by the Father in the everlasting covenant, John 6.37, will in time be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. This new birth is the cause of faith. It is one of the fruits of the Spirit as mentioned in Gal. 5.24. The reality / the litmus test as to whether one’s faith is indeed the ‘the faith of God’s elect,’ Titus 1.1. is that it is evidenced by sanctification of the life, in that they who have it know purification of their hearts. Acts 15.9.

    Finlay’s points as to justification / sanctification – the former being extrinsic and the latter being intrinsic – are correct. The first takes place in point of time, the second is a process.

    Salvation is of the LORD, Jonah 1.9. Justification and Sanctification are both necessities. However, God in the everlasting covenant has provided for His people in that they will be justified and will be sanctified. Small wonder then that the writer to the Hebrews declares His salvation to be, ‘so great salvation,’ Heb 2.3.

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  21. Aelianus, from my recollection we had a self-denying ordinance which forbade us from straying from the topic of the nature of saving faith, but whatever … it was a long time ago :)

    The imputed righteousness of Christ is the sole formal cause of justification. Faith is the instrument by which the soul receives Christ’s imputed righteousness.

    The state of justification is the state of reconciliation with God. It too is objective (- says nothing about the soul’s moral character or degree of holiness). There *are* subjective aspects of salvation, but nothing subjective enters into either the act or the state of being justified.

    But if anyone was to say that this ‘entails that extrinsic justification alone is necessary in order to be saved,’ that would need to be carefully hedged round to make the meaning clear. Sanctification is also necessary for salvation, although it makes a different contribution from justification – sanctification is the purpose of justification, and the process by which a soul is made fit for heaven (nothing that defileth shall enter therein, and many other passages to the same effect). Sanctification begins in the soul in the same moment as the soul is justified. (For completeness’ sake: several things happen simultaneously – the soul is regenerated, the soul exercises faith in Christ, the righteousness of Christ is imputed, the work of sanctification begins. I don’t want to spark a discussion of regneration just right now though.) So saying that ‘justification alone is necesssary for salvation’ is sort of a hypothetical or speculative claim because as a matter of fact salvation includes both justification and sanctification. V important to affirm that the work of the Holy Spirit in us is just as necessary for salvation in its own way as is the work of Christ for us.

    As for Paul and James, the Reformed position is a consequence of the fact that they are using the word justification to mean two different things. In Paul’s writings his theme is always justification in God’s sight, whereas James was addressing himself in his epistle to people who didn’t think they needed to justify their claims to faith in the sight of their fellow men (and women). Or that is roughly speaking and in brief, so as not to recapitulate c500 years of debate on how P and J don’t contradict each other in one minor blog comment.

    As for Matt 19 – again take the passage in context – if the question is, What must I do, to have eternal life? the answer is, Keep the commandments. This is a true response and the best strategic response for anyone who thinks they can obtain life by their doing, because of how precisely it exposes their unawareness of their sinfulness and inability. When the man started explaining how he had certainly kept the law, Jesus observed that he had totally missed the point – he just needed to mention one area where he had already failed. As James says, If you fulfill the law, you do well, but whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. Jas 2. Assuming the rest of us aren’t so deluded as to think we can ‘do, to obtain life’, and fall into the category of self-acknowledged sinners, then our question is rather: What can we do, when we find we can’t keep the commandments? That man went away sorrowful. He never waited for the answer that Jesus gave to another group who asked him pretty much the same question, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. John 6. Never mind your works, but believe.

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    • “As for Paul and James, the Reformed position is a consequence of the fact that they are using the word justification to mean two different things.” Rather, the Reformed position requires one to assert that Paul and James are using the word justification to mean two different things and is that much less probable as a result.

      “As for Matt 19 – again take the passage in context – if the question is, What must I do, to have eternal life? the answer is, Keep the commandments. This is a true response and the best strategic response for anyone who thinks they can obtain life by their doing, because of how precisely it exposes their unawareness of their sinfulness and inability.”

      This comment is, it seems to me, crucial. What you are saying is that Pelagianism (the earning of salvation by one’s own works prior to faith) is theoretically true just unattainable in practice. That is not possible because Eternal Life is an infinite good and it cannot be earned by the deeds of even a sinless creature. If you deny this then you are a Pelagian. If you affirm it then you make Christ’s words (‘strategic’ or not) to be false, because on your account keeping the commandments cannot (even in theory) cause one to enter into life. Now you (if I get it right) hold that one cannot enter into glory without keeping the commandments but Eternal Life begins at the moment of justification itself so if keeping the commandments is necessary to enter into life it must be that the state of justification is formally constituted by living faith (by which alone the commandments are kept) and this state cannot differ in kind from that which constitutes sanctification. Justification is the generation of that state in the soul and sanctification is its increase. Thus no necessity to postulate a different meaning to Justification between James and Paul or to postulate that the Lord is speaking ‘strategically’ and ultimately falsely in Matthew 19.

      I think your exegesis is also lacking here because you imply that the young man has not kept the commandments but not only does Mark 10:21 seems to argue against this but your argument would seem to make the instruction “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor” an exceptionless norm failure to observes which constitutes a violation of the commandments. I assume you don’t want that conclusion?

      The Lord’s comments in John 6 indicate that without the beginning of Eternal Life in the soul no works that we perform can be of any supernatural worth and the beginning of Eternal Life in the soul comes with living faith. Only Christ can of his own nature perform deeds that merit Eternal Life.

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      • Would you mind if I re-posted this at the bottom of the thread? Maybe it’s just me, but the comment threading is making things really messy.

        — My preference would be for as many posts as possible to come in consecutive order, reserving the ‘reply to comment’ option for digressions or very short comments

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        • Actually never mind – I’ll leave it here, but replies will appear at the bottom.

          Special request: Can all replies go at the bottom of the the thread from now on, instead of as a reply to a comment, unless it’s a one-liner. (I’ll try and remember to adhere to this too..)

          I’d just turn off the ‘reply to comment’ option but that would just create an even bigger mess, as i recall from when i tried it some time ago

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  22. I think there is a lot of terminological confusion here. Lets put it another way [caveat I am exclusively talking about living faith],

    1. God forgives sin in us only on account of our having Christ as our representative and substitute.

    2. X cannot have Christ as his representative and substitute unless X believes in Him.

    3. If X is brought by God to believe in Christ, X is ipso facto justified.

    4. Belief in Christ is the formal cause of justification (that is: for the one justified, to be justified is to have living faith in Christ).

    “That’s a bit like saying that the formal cause of a man’s justification is that he is justified”. Yes that is the nature of a formal cause. A formal cause is what it is about X that makes X to be X. If there is no formal cause then saying X is X is meaningless. To put it another way if there is no formal cause of X then X does not exist. If justification were entirely in the divine decree and not at all in the creature then the creature must have always been justified and never in sin because the divine decrees as such are not in time. If the only effect in time inseparable from the divine decree of justification is faith then that is what justification is. If there is no effect in time at all then there is no divine decree. Faith cannot be an instrumental cause of justification unless faith causes something (other than faith) called justification in the one justified. Otherwise there would be nothing effected so no instrument. Unless you think the sinner uses faith to affect God but I assume not (as this is impossible). As to intermediaries, if God causes us to act He does not need intermediaries He causes everything and nothing other than what He causes exists. God causes our free acts and He causes them to be free.

    I do not for a moment suggest that there is no difference between the doctrine you wish to propound and the Catholic doctrine. However, the differences are not quite what either you Cath or you Findlay sometimes seem to imagine they are. You both, if I understand you correctly give your allegiance exclusively to scripture and only describe yourselves as Free Presbyterians because you believe that the doctrine historically associated with Free Presbyterianism is the doctrine contained in scripture. In principle you are open to the possibility that you are wrong in your interpretation of scripture. I do not hold scripture to be the all sufficient norm of doctrine but I do hold it to be inspired and unlimitedly materially inerrant and I do hold it to be more than adequate to show that the doctrine you propound on justification is wrong. So if we are to lay out the principles upon which we agree that the true doctrine of justification may be established it seems there are two remaining: the text of scripture and logic. Any interpretation which makes no sense or is irreconcilable with scripture is out. Every premise which cannot be demonstrated from scripture directly but is necessary for a given interpretation to be true makes that interpretation less likely.

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  23. Belief in Christ is not the formal cause but the instrumental cause of justification. The formal cause of justification is the imputed righteousness of Christ. Faith is the instrument by which the imputed righteousness of Christ is received by the sinner. To be justified is to have the righteousness of Christ imputed to you, and on that basis, to be reconciled to God.

    NB the sinner is not ‘always justified’ – nobody is justified until they believe.

    I entirely concur with the analysis that we still don’t quite understand what the differences are. I’m not sure why the denomination is relevant though. The doctrine which the denomination has historically been associated with is the doctrine of the Westminster confession, which I’m specifically describing that way round because the allegiance is to the doctrine not to the denomination. But please can we not get sidetracked by a discussion of the relation between church and scripture. I wish you hadn’t mentioned this, and I hope it won’t go any further than this. (Finlay, please note.) (Btw he doesn’t have a D in his name.)

    If the point of this was to say let’s look at the scriptural evidence then yes, let’s.

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    • Do you accept the definition of formal cause I gave above? If so how can you say “The formal cause of justification is the imputed righteousness of Christ? Faith is the instrument by which the imputed righteousness of Christ is received by the sinner”. As you rightly insist, imputation as such implies nothing in the one to whom it is directed so it cannot be received by definition for there is nothing to receive (and so no possibility of an instrument for its reception). But if this imputation by definition cannot occur without living faith on the part of the imputee and if this imputation always occurs when living faith is in the imputee then the state of being made just (justification) inherently involves living faith on the part of the justified. And If, as I think we agree, that is the only thing on the part of the justified that it absolutely requires then that is its formal cause. Or to put it another way living faith is the imputed righteousness of Christ.

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  24. Cath / Aelianus,

    Maybe this might help. I’m quoting from Thomas Watson’s ‘Body of Divinity’ which I find to be a great resource.

    It’s the way he puts it that might help get our minds around these matters.

    Under the heading, ‘How does faith justify?’

    ‘Faith justifies as it lays hold of the object, viz. Christ’s merits.’

    ‘Faith saves and justifies, but it is not any inherent virtue in faith, but as it lays hold on Christ it justifies.’

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  25. Still in a mixture of sadness and incredulity at the disconnecting of the crucified Christ with our faith journey here on earth and its power rather than its legal effect alone, on the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers, this one scriptural quotation (rightly or wrongly) came to mind.

    I’m sure you all recognise it, and probably, (sigh!) I have quoted it out of context. I’m sure Finlay will clear that up, but I like it just the way it is.

    “For I through the law I died to the law, that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose.”

    Mmmm..luv it.

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  26. CT,
    No problem with the context since you haven’t really given one!
    I don’t follow your criticism, that our understanding leads to a disconnect (between?) the crucified Christ and our journey of faith. We aren’t arguing for any seperation between the two; we’re arguing against a conflation of justification and sanctification. Interestingly enough, the verses you quote imply that justification is connected with imputed righteousness and not ‘infused’ righteousness. We cannot be dead with Christ in any sense other than by imputation – his death (suffering the just punishment of sin) is made over to our account; hence we are dead to the demands of the law – it is as if we died already and therefore have nothing left to pay. So, the relationship with Christ secured for us in justification is one of imputation, not of infusion. Now, we live with Christ – hs life of righteousness and obedience is made over to us in the same way as his death was made over to our account – we are seen as keepers of the law because his keeping of te law is imputed to us – imputed righteousness again. No infusion involved as far as justification is concerned. The infusion of grace (sanctification) is a seperate, though inextricably linked and consequent, process.

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  27. Ok, if we’re going to get Aristotlean over the ’cause’ issue…

    Material cause of justification – the sinner being free from condemnation in the sight of divine justice.
    Formal cause of justification – God’s decree that the sinner is righteous in Christ
    Efficient causes of justification – (i) Christ’s death making satisfaction for the believer’s sin; (ii) the Holy Spirit working faith in the soul; (iii) the soul believing (acting faith) in Christ as Saviour.
    Final cause of justification – reconciliation between God and the sinner.

    “As to intermediaries, if God causes us to act He does not need intermediaries He causes everything and nothing other than what He causes exists. God causes our free acts and He causes them to be free.”
    I totally disagree. Substituting the word “intermediary” with ‘agent’, God uses agents to accomplish his purposes all the time. It has nothing to do with God ‘needing’ agents, it is a case of him choosing to operate through agents. E.g. when God purposed to bring the Jews into captivity, he used the agency of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar; when he purposed to return the Jews to Jerusalem, he used the agency of Cyrus, Nehemiah etc. That doesn’t conflict with the overarching sovereignty of God’s purposes – what he purposes, is.

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  28. “the state of being made just (justification) inherently involves living faith on the part of the justified.” True.
    “If that is the only thing on the part of the justified that it absolutely requires then that is its formal cause.” Not true. This doesn’t follow. It’s just a logical leap. Involves is a very important word in your first sentence. Faith is bound up with the believer’s being brought into a state of justification, yet it is not the faith itself that is the justification. The justification is a legal thing; the decree of God that the sinner is not liable to punishment for sin – no longer condemned. None can be justified without faith because God has ordained faith as the mode or agent by which all the blessings and benefits of redemption, including justification, come to the sinner – faith is the conduit through which justification, sanctification and grace all flow, if you like.

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  29. On Matt 19 – Your response reminds me that I think we previously discovered a difference of opinion about human nature before the Fall, and what Adam’s original holiness consisted of. Just to address the comment, not to start a new sub-sub-sub-discussion, being able to enter life without faith is something that was possible before the Fall according to the original arrangement with Adam – obey and live – although after sin entered in, and this covenant was broken, it is no longer possible, as we agree. It still doesn’t stop the self-righteous from trying though, either from not realising the extent of the law or the extent of their own sinfulness. Even if you grant that outwardly their lives seem impeccable, to the extent that they are ‘concerning the law, blameless,’ as someone else fancied himself to be, still James says if they offend in one point, they are guilty of all. Mark 10:21 only identifies this young man’s one point – John the Baptist identified different points for the soldiers, tax collectors, and general population, Luke 3. It’s as if to say – fine, you think you can ‘do’ to enter life, then go ahead and try, but don’t forget that it also includes you abandoning your darling sins that you prefer not to even recognise as sinful, and no wonder if people go away sorrowful at such news – they can’t do it, even if they really wanted to.

    Eternal life begins in the moment that the soul is regenerated, as a consequence of their being united to Christ by faith and because, in him, for the sake of his righteousness imputed to them, they are made entitled to it. Your understanding of the state of justification, as being no different in kind from the state of sanctification, is at odds with how the scriptures present it: justification is objective, takes to do with our relation to God, as pardoned vs not pardoned, reconciled vs alienated, accepted vs condemned. Rom 3, esp v25, Rom 4, esp v4-8, Rom 5 throughout, Rom 10 v4, 2 Cor 5, esp last few verses, John 3:16-18, Phil 3 v 9. By contrast, sanctification is subjective and variable – the power of sin is broken, the inner man is renewed, they are made fruitful to every good work, and grow in grace, etc, Col 1 around v10, 2 Pet 1, although I suppose I don’t need to multiply examples here. Both are necessary, but they are different in nature, purpose, and effects.

    But faith is most decidedly necessary as an instrument of justification – by grace through faith, Eph 2, the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ, Rom 3:22, through faith in his blood, Rom 3:25, justified by faith, Rom 3:28, believing on him that justifies the ungodly, Rom 4:5, justified by faith, Rom 5:1, justified by the faith of Jesus Christ, Gal 2:16, righteousness through the faith of Christ, Phil 3:9 – although justification, pardon, reconciliation, acceptance, etc, are noticeably only ‘by’ or ‘through’ faith, and not ‘for the sake of’ or ‘on account of’. The only ground of acceptance with God is the imputed righteousness of Christ, received by faith alone.

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  30. An instrument must effect something in the thing to which it is applied or it is not an instrument. According to your account justification effects nothing in the one justified and so there cannot be an instrument of it. Do you believe that it is inherently possible for God to forgive the sins and receive into glory a person who hates Him and continues to do so? No one denies that scripture teaches that we are justified by faith. It seems however that you do not hold that we are justified by faith you hold that by a positive decree of God faith always happens to coincide with justification but there is no necessary connection.

    We on the other hand hold that living faith is inherently necessary for justification (and so we are justified by faith). Justification (in us) is the state of living faith received by the soul and sanctification is its increase. Thus justification is objective, takes to do with our relation to God, as pardoned vs not pardoned, reconciled vs alienated, accepted vs condemned and is no different in kind from the state of sanctification indeed it is the state of sanctification in its initial degree.

    However, I am quite taken aback by your comments about Adam (genuinely not rhetorically). Are you saying that Adam was able earn eternal life by obedience to the law known to him through nature and reason alone? That does sound rather like pantheism.

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  31. No, there is a necessary connection between faith and justification. If you’ll excuse me resorting to Westminster, not as a substitute for scripture but as a statement of what I/we believe scripture teaches,
    * “faith is a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and word of God, whereby he … receiveth and resteth upon Christ and his righteousness, therein [ie in the gospel] held forth, for pardon of sin, and for the accepting and account of his person righteous in the sight of God for salvation.” This is what faith does, and –
    * “faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces whch do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it, nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification, but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness.” – this is how faith does it.

    On what is/n’t inherently possible – God doesn’t receive into glory anyone who hates him and continues to do so. He receives into glory those who are justified *and* sanctified, ie those who are in a friendly relation with him *and* have a friendly disposition towards him, ie have both imputed and infused righteousness. I suppose for clarity I should say that God justifies sinners as such, ie they continue to hate him right up till the point that he regenerates-which-is-simultaneous-with-giving-faith-which-is-simultaneous-with-justifying them, but I don’t know if that’s what you were getting at.

    Adam, I do think we ran into this before, when I quite unintentionally said something along the lines that Adam before the Fall was as naturally holy as we are now after the Fall naturally sinful. So whatever he might have known by nature and reason, he was in communion with God, he was holy, made in the image of God in ‘knowledge, righteousness and true holiness’, and he was promised life if he would only obey (death for disobedience, and he died, and all his posterity in him). This principle, Obey and live, is what drives all the natural, instinctive religion that people have, in spite of its hopelessness, for ‘the man that doeth them shall live in them,’ was the original promise, Gal 3:12, and is precisely what the gospel provides relief from, for, ‘the just shall live by faith,’ Gal 3:11.

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  32. I don’t see your point. You quotation from the Westminster confession just explains how, as it happens, you believe faith justifies not why (or that) it need not do so. Then you say “God doesn’t receive into glory anyone who hates him and continues to do so” but you don’t say whether He could. This question is vitally important because (unless you think God can do things involving inherent contradiction like three sided squares) your position seems to entail that God could justify someone who hates Him and continues to do so. If you deny this then you must accept that justification inherently requires something in the one justified.

    As to Adam the actual command given to Adam was the specific prohibition of the consumption of the fruit of a particular tree. He could not have gleaned this prohibition from reason so it must have been revealed to him and he must have believed that the revelation was of God. Thus He must have had faith. If one supposes that eternal life is the natural condition of mankind only impeded by sin then one becomes a pantheist because eternal life makes us “partakers of the divine nature” so it can only be supernatural.

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  33. ? I don’t understand either.

    God could justify someone who hates him? Justify in the sense of pardon and accept, yes, God does pardon and accept those who hate him. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us – we believe on ‘him who justifies the ungodly.’ The immediate and only ground of the sinner’s acceptance with God is the righteousness of Christ imputed to them, and nothing whatsoever to do with anything in or infused in them.
    Could God accept into glory anyone who hates him? Separate question, and no, consistent with his holiness, and as a matter of fact, nothing that defiles shall enter therein, and his purpose in accepting a sinner (justification) is to make them holy (sanctification) in order for glorification to be possible.

    Re Adam, you’re awfy free with your diagnoses of heresy, friend. If it’s not Pelagianism it’s Pantheism (…and all we ever wanted to be was Calvinists! joke). Yes, the command was revealed to him, he wasn’t acting from reason and nature – he was a holy being in communion with God. ‘Do this and live’ were the terms of the arrangement – being holy and in communion with God he was fully capable of this ‘doing’, but he was subject to fall, and he did fall, and here we are now. Are we getting side tracked here?

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  34. No, this is definitely not a sidetrack. The crucial question is can God justify someone who hates Him not just before but at the moment of justification and afterwards? Not ‘does He’ but ‘can He’. If Adam assented to truths revealed to him by God then he had faith, which means (though we may have avoided pantheism) we are back to the position where Jesus is (on your account) is speaking falsely to the rich young man by saying ‘if you would enter life keep the commandments’.

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  35. In my opinion you are back-tracking Finlay. You weren’t just arguing against any conflation of Justification and Sanctification. If you think the passage I quote ONLY implies that justification is connected with imputed righteousness then so be it. I think it is obvious you are being blind to the truth.

    In any case I would remind you of where we have been in this thread.

    Cath in opening post
    “The scriptures never, ever, mingle the works of the believer with the works of Christ, and neither can we.”

    I’m sure I could find similar rhetoric from yourself if I took the trouble to look.

    Paul in the scriptures;
    “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”

    and again

    “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also you are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised him from the dead.”

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  36. CT, maybe you could quit needling Finlay and address his actual point:
    We cannot be dead with Christ in any sense other than by imputation – his death (suffering the just punishment of sin) is made over to our account; hence we are dead to the demands of the law – it is as if we died already and therefore have nothing left to pay. So, the relationship with Christ secured for us in justification is one of imputation, not of infusion.

    (Finlay, chill.) :)

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  37. Aelianus – God can and does justify those who hate him at the moment of justification. Justification is a one-off act on God’s part, so it’s not that he continues to justify on an ongoing basis, although the relation of acceptance and pardon continues on an ongoing basis, and in that relation the sinner now believes, now loves, now hopes, according to the life that the Spirit planted in their soul at the time of regeneration.

    If Adam’s assent to revealed truth is to be called faith, then he had faith, but I can’t say I’m accustomed to hearing anything about faith when Adam was in a state of innocence. (Maybe Finlay knows more? Fraid I haven’t always paid much attention to what life was like before the Fall.) Except that in the covenant arrangement, ‘do this and live,’ life was promised on condition of obedience. If he had continued to obey, he would have entered eternal life (i suppose, in the same way that if we continue to disobey we earn death – he was as naturally holy before the fall as we are naturally sinful after the fall). This much is recoverable from how Romans and Galatians discuss the contrasts between Adam’s disobedience as our covenant head and Christ’s obedience as our covenant head.

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  38. I still think there are problems with what you are saying about Adam but I think they are problems of expression rather than content though there is some overlap.

    We have still not reached the crux of the matter on the other point. Let me rephrase the question again. Do you think that God can (‘can’ not ‘does’) maintain the “relation of acceptance and pardon” with someone who hates Him?

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  39. I canny speak for ‘can’ but, all I know is ‘does’. Justification is a one-off, instantaneous act which brings the sinner into that relation of acceptance and pardon, and it coincides precisely in time with regeneration, where the soul is brought from spiritual death to spiritual life and starts loving God in their brand new spiritual life. God maintains the relation of acceptance and pardon with someone who now loves him.

    Or, if I speculate about ‘can’ on the basis of what God has revealed he purposes to do – his purpose in justifying is to make himself worshippers, people who worship him because they love him because he has saved them, so it wouldn’t be consistent with that purpose to justify without sanctifying. ‘Chosen … that ye should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.’

    (I’m pretty much out of here till Mon now btw!)

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  40. CT,
    Nice.
    1) I’m ‘being blind to the truth’ but you don’t tell me what truth I’m being blind to.
    2) I don’t even use the word ‘only’, but you decide to capitalise it in your rehashing of my position.
    3) You quote two scriptures which believe to be true. Presumably you believe them to be true as well. But since you don’t even give us any sense of how you understand them, we’re left with two fairly pointless quotations. Well done.
    You really do need to state your case more explicitly.

    By the way, the argument we’re having does boil down to us objecting to what we see as a conflation of justification with an aspect of sanctification. You and Aelianus have repeatedly implied, if not explicitly asserted, that justification involves an infusion of grace(s) into the soul and that the state of justification inherently involves the possession of these graces and the associated works. You say this is all by grace, of the operation of God, but nevertheless, you suggest that justification is more than pure, legal imputation of Christ’s righteousness, effected (as far as the believer is concerned) by the infusion of faith by the Holy Spirit, but not consisting of that faith. We assert that the infusion of grace, which produces good works, is the process of sanctification, and is in no way, shape or form part of our grounds of justification. We assert that we are fully, totally and irrevocably justified by the decree of God declaring us to be so, based exclusively on the merit of Christ’s death and made our’s by faith. This is distinct from any alteration of the character or state of our spiritual affections – these are changed and turned towards Christ by the process of sanctification, not of justification.
    As I see it, the two main problems arising from your view are:
    1) Works (whether products of the grace of God or not) are made a necessary part of being accepted by God. In our view, they are necessary only as evidence of the reality of our relationship to Christ.
    2) Following on from that, a deficit of good works necessitates the invention of purgatory to deal with the resultant shortfall of ‘penance’. I cannot find purgatory or penance in scripture at all.

    It’s now well past midnight, so I’m out until Monday too.

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  41. The question as to whether God is strictly capable of justifying someone who hates and continues to hate Him uninterruptedly without contradiction is absolutely central. The reason why it is so important is related to the distinction between efficient, final and formal causation. The final cause of justification is God’s will to save the elect. There is a species of final causation called meritorious causation. That for the sake of which the final cause is willed. The meritorious cause of justification is Christ’s sufferings. God wills to save the elect on account of Christ’s suffering. But what is God doing when He justifies? He is abolishing the emnity between the justified and Himself. Why do we say that we are justified ‘by faith’? Because Christ cannot be the meritorious cause of our salvation unless we accept Him as our representative and God does not will to save anyone except on account of Christ’s merits. But does that not mean that we accomplish our own redemption by a purely natural act of ‘taking hold’ of Christ as our representative? No, because we cannot acknowledge Him as God and so take hold of Him as our representative without grace for “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” Thus it belongs to the essence of justification that the justified one has the Divine gift of faith. Only thus may he take hold of Christ. Thus God is also the efficient cause of justification and only thus may faith be the instrumental (a species of efficient) cause of justification. Because it is inherently impossible for anyone to be justified without faith in Jesus Christ. Thus faith is the formal cause of justification ‘to be justified’ is ‘to be the recipient of faith’. This is the Catholic doctrine.

    In order to avoid this position one would need to hold that justification is a decree of God which in itself has no effect at all on the justified not even faith. This would entail that someone who now and still hates God could be now justified while still hating God. This is an extreme (and repellent) view that few people would be happy with but it is strictly necessary if one is to deny that faith is the formal cause of justification. If one denies that someone who hates God may at the same time be justified one has already accepted that there is an alteration to the one justified necessarily effected by God in the justified because inherent to justification itself. Given the words of scripture (and the nature of the case) that alteration is going to be faith. However, even if one is willing to go as far as saying that there is no incompatibility with the justified hating God now and forever, one has then to accept that we are not justified by faith because if justification is absolutely extrinsic in this way then it cannot be effected by any instrument because there is nothing in the justified per se for God to effect.

    But if we agree that we are justified by faith and therefore that faith is the formal cause of justification, as we agree that the faith which justifies is living faith, then we must also agree that there is no essential difference between justification and sanctification for the latter is merely the increase in the former. Consequently there is no reason to postulate a difference in meaning between the word ‘justified’ in Paul and the same word in James. The creation and increase of living faith in the souls of the the justified (i.e. their justification and sanctification) is based exclusively on the merit of Christ’s death made ours by faith. Whether this increase (which all agree much reach the point where the elect are undefiled before they enter heaven) is always concluded before or sometimes after death is a question of fact (turning for our purposes on the interpretation of e.g. 1 Corinthians 3) wholly irrelevant to the substance of this discussion.

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  42. I have never thought of my comments to be part of the infused and, or only imuted justification debate. Although I have been dragged into it somewhat each time i post. What I am claiming is that the works of Christ are meritous to us in our daily Christian walk. We share in them, and unite ourselves to them.

    The fact that you can not decide what is justification and what is sanctification and the relationship between either and faith, and the chronological order is not where i wanted to get involved.

    Maybe because of the intensity of your debate, as well as my poor deliveries, you have missed my point, but my main gripe is with perception of the work of Christ and what it does for believers on their journey, whether that be after initial justification or during sanctification, you decide.

    The emphatic protestant view unless I misunderstand it here is nothing. It is all the work of the Holy Spirit alone.

    As a priesthood of believers, derived from His priesthood, offering spiritual sacrfices, how are the works of Christ meritous to us, as part of the body of Christ of which he is the head, and in whom we should “live and move and have our being”?

    How can the works of Christ be transendent from all this?

    Can they?

    I do not think so.

    According to some of what has been written in the last two Catholic-Protestant threads, Christ rather than permeating the body of Christ, and being one with his bride the Church, and being our head, is just some suspended space shield protecting us from the wrath of God, or a facemask that makes God mistake us for Him.

    Anyway. Thats my last pitch. I hope you get to the bottom of the justification sanctification thingy. I’ll keep an eye out.

    :-)

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  43. Hello,

    The question “whether God is strictly capable of justifying someone who hates and continues to hate Him uninterruptedly…” is actually two separate questions. God is capable of justifying (he does justify) those who hate him up till the point that he justifies them. But the person who is justified is at the same regenerated, which means that from that time onwards they start to love God rather than hate him. The one-off judicial act of justification is simultaneous with the onset of the work of sanctification.

    But justification and sanctification are different in kind. In justification, God imputes the righteousness of Christ; in sanctification the Spirit infuses grace. Justification is objective, sanctification subjective. Justification is all about the sinner’s relationship to God (accepted vs not accepted, pardoned vs not pardoned) and sanctification is all about the moral/spiritual internal character of the sinner, the degree of their conformity to God.

    The reason, i think, why you have to say that they are the same in kind is because you treat faith as the formal cause of justification rather than the imputed righteousness of Christ. I hear what you’re saying about Christ being the meritorious cause and faith being the gift of God, but making faith the ground of justification means that the sinner is justified on account of something inherent in themselves. You say it’s not a natural ability, you say it’s the gift of God, which is all fine, and true of faith, but the possibility of anything *in* the sinner being the ground of their justification, even if it is something gifted by God, is excluded by the terms of the apostles when they describe justification. They constantly affirm that we are saved through or by or by means of faith, but never on account of or for the sake of faith. We are said to be justified rather on the grounds of Christ’s obedience and suffering, imputed – God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in him, 2 Cor 5. The righteousness we need is the righteousness of God, through the faith of Christ, Phil 3. Also Rom 5:18-19, Rom 10:4, 1 Cor 1:30. As our sins and guilt were laid on Christ, Isa 53, Gal 3:13, 1 Pet 2:24, so his righteousness is laid to the charge of his people, Isa 53 et cetera.

    This is why it must be held that justification has no effect on the one justified, in the sense of affecting their moral or spiritual character. When Isaiah says ‘the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all,’ or when Paul says ‘he who knew no sin was made sin for us,’ their statements do not, cannot mean that there was any effect on His moral or spiritual character. Imputation is entirely objective or extrinsic. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness to his people equally involves no change in them (– considering the imputation in itself, not its accompaniments or consequences which do I hastily add have an effect on the justified sinner’s moral/spiritual character). It is entirely objective or extrinsic. Faith is necessary not as a ground of justification but only as the means of uniting the soul to Christ whose righteousness is imputed.

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  44. Would only add, re CT’s last, that someone can hardly reasonably complain about being dragged into a debate on topic X when topic X is the precise issue under discussion.

    Believers on their journey? They walk by faith, looking unto Jesus, trusting in Jesus, loving Jesus, seeking and having communion with Jesus, their Saviour, their Mediator, their Prophet, Priest, and King, their Head, their Lord, their Husband, their Shepherd, their elder brother, their all and in all.

    They are entirely and wholly dependent on the effects of his atonement and on his ongoing intercession, day by day and moment by moment, for the existence and continuance of spiritual life.

    There is no question of separating the work of Christ and the work of the Spirit. The only question is the nature of what each does and how.

    The terminology and tone of your last paragraph, CT, may be more insulting than you intended it to be. I did say previously that you should be careful. I would appreciate it if you were.

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  45. You didn’t answer the question. I have no doubt and I have no doubt that you have no doubt that in this order of providence God never justifies anyone without regenerating them. My question was: Is it possible for Him to do otherwise and to justify someone who hates Him then and thereafter? If it is then living faith (even in this order of providence) does not justify but merely coincides with justification. If it isn’t then living faith is the formal cause of justification and justification differs in degree and not kind from sanctification. Tertium non datur.

    I never used the phrase “the ground of justification” that sounds to me like the meritorious cause and so I would not make faith the ground of justification but Christ’s obedience and suffering.

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  46. I did too! :-) Or i don’t understand the question. Living faith does not justify, except in the sense that it is the instrument by which the soul receives Christ and his benefits.

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  47. No you didn’t! You deny that justification essentially involves receiving anything (so there can’t be an instrument by which it is received).

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  48. I deny that justification essentially involves any inward or moral change. I affirm that justification involves receiving pardon and acceptance as righteous in God’s sight. I affirm that faith is the instrument by which Christ is received, in order for his righteousness to be imputed to the sinner, which is the formal ground of the sinner’s pardon and acceptance as righteous in God’s sight.

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  49. Don’t know. Don’t tend to really go there. It is certainly by divine institution (that’s the way it is), but intrinsic necessities about the scheme of redemption are always tricky to pin down.

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  50. But this is the crux of the entire issue because if it is by intrinsic necessity then we are truly justified by faith and justification and sanctification differ in degree while if it is by divine institution only then faith merely coincides with justification, justification and sanctification differ in kind and in theory God can justify those who hate and continue to hate Him. If you will permit me to quote Mr John Murray “it is not presumptuous for us to say that certain things are inherently necessary or impossible for God. It belongs to our faith in God to avow that he cannot lie and that he cannot deny himself. Such divine ‘cannots’ are his glory and for us to refrain from reckoning with such ‘impossibles’ would be to deny God’s glory and perfection.”

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  51. For sure, some things are inherently necessary, but I don’t want to stick my neck out on this particular one because I don’t know enough about it or the ramifications of one or the other, or, perhaps more worryingly, know where you’re going with it :-)

    where i am sure is that the scriptural data points us in the direction that justification and sanctification differ in kind, and in justification faith is instrumental, and God justifies those who at that point hate him. Necessities and impossibilities need to be deduced from scripture if they need to be deduced at all, but we’re not even agreed on what the scriptures teach.

    (The scriptural data including, as mentioned above, (i) the way that the counter-imputations of the sinner’s sin and Christ’s righteousness are presented in 2 Cor 5, Isa 53, etc, and (ii) the constant references to faith as being that by which but not for the sake of which we are justified (along with what we are agreed on, (iii) the requirement for personal holiness). We can only, in the light of scripture, regard the transaction (i) and the process (iii), as different in kind – imputation vs infusion, remission vs renovation, objective vs subjective, status vs character, for us vs in us.)

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  52. We agree that without any merit on our part Christ died for sinful man and merited the salvation of the elect (and everyone else but I expect we don’t agree on that). We agree that whatever the general course of things God can and does bring sinners immediately from hardened sin and godlessness to justification and saving faith (whatever the distinction between those two is). We agree that the sole meritorious cause of justification is Christ’s sacrifice. You seem to think that I do but I really do not hold that faith is the meritorious cause of justification.

    You use the phrase ‘formal cause’ to mean ‘meritorious cause’ whereas I mean something quite different by it, and this has occasioned some confusion. By formal cause I mean just what it means for x to be y. I think I used the example before that the formal cause of a table being rectangular is its four right angles. The meritorious cause would be the fee paid by the buyer, the efficient cause the carpenter, the instrumental cause his tools etc. When I say that faith is the formal cause I am definitely not saying that it is the meritorious cause of justification, just that that a believer is what a justified person is: someone with a living faith. The passages you cite from scripture all just demonstrate the points I have listed, which constitute our areas of agreement.

    God does not change but is eternal “I am the LORD and I change not” Malachi 3:6; “before Abraham was I AM” John 8:58. If justification was only a decree on the part of God such that it in and of itself effected nothing at all in the one justified then there would never be a moment at which that person was not justified because what God decrees He decrees from all eternity. It must be the case that justification does something to the one justified or the word would mean nothing. You yourself constantly speak of the sinner being justified, receiving justification, having Christ’s merits applied to him. Nor is this just a trick of language because you speak of faith as the instrument by which justification is applied.

    You support your position by saying that scripture distinguishes in kind between justification and sanctification but this is not true. Scripture distinguishes between the sacrifice of Christ meriting our salvation and the effects of that sacrifice. To identify that distinction with the distinction between justification and sanctification is begging the question.

    The essence of the difficulty thus returns to the point of whether God can absolutely speaking justify those who subjectively are and remain at emnity with Him. You cannot answer this question because the entire logic of your position on faith’s instrumental causation of justification requires you to say that faith justifies by intrinsic necessity but if you do say that then the difference between your position and the Catholic doctrine would be entirely semantic and your distinction in kind between justification and sanctification would be abolished. I submit that the impossibility from your position of answering this question reveals that the position is fundamentally incoherent.

    On the positive side I would say that the crucial elements of this position (the all sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice, the necessity of sanctification to enter heaven, the essential identity of growth in living faith with growth in sanctity, the indispensable instrumentality of living faith to justify) are all true it is just that they cannot be reconciled in the manner in which you have attempted and, as they must be reconciled in order to do justice to scripture, the manner you have attempted is unscriptural and so false.

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  53. Ok, but whereas you say ‘to be justified’ is ‘to be the recipient of faith,’ we say, ‘to be justified’ is ‘to have the righteousness of Christ imputed to you’ (and received by faith alone).

    Justification *is* ‘only a decree of God that in and of itself effects nothing at all in the one justified’: justification and its effects are entirely objective. It is just the converse of condemnation, as I should have perhaps emphasised more previously. When God passes a sentence of condemnation on someone, he doesn’t bring about any change in them: they are not made internally sinful due to the fact of their being condemned. So, when he passes a sentence of justification, there is no change internally – their justification does not make them internally spiritually holy.

    This is what we are compelled to hold because of the connection the scriptures make between Christ’s sufferings and death on account of the sinner’s sin, and the sinner’s acceptance with God on account of Christ’s righteousness. When Christ was bearing away the sins of the world, he underwent no internal spiritual moral change, but the sentence of condemnation was real and had real effects in his sufferings and death. So, when the sinner has the righteousness of Christ imputed to him/her, they undergo no internal spiritual or moral change, but the sentence of justification is real and has real effects in their pardon and acceptance as righteous in God’s sight. This is not a connection that random Protestant heretics have made up, but what the Scriptures plainly hold out as the heart of the scheme of redemption. He was wounded for our iniquities, and with his stripes, we are healed. God made him who knew no sin to be made sin for us, that we (who knew no righteousness) might be made the righteousness of God in him. If you don’t take account of the counter-imputations of sin and righteousness in these passages or others, there is no hope of a right understanding of the nature of justification: Isa 53 and 2 Cor 5.

    But that doesn’t mean that a person is justified from all eternity. I don’t know much about ‘eternal justification’, except that it is regarded as a rather objectionable heresy, which not many people seem to have held, and is expressly rejected in the Westminster Confession, just a couple of sections after they state that God justifies, “not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous, not for anything wrought in them or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness, but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ to them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith”:
    “God did, from all eternity, decree to justify all the elect, and Christ did, in the fulness of time, die for their sins, and rise again for their justification: nevertheless, they are not justified, until the Holy Spirit doth, in due time, actually apply Christ unto them.”
    (You might as well say that because God decreed from all eternity that you and I would meet, therefore we must have known each other eternally.)
    If justification has do do something, what it does is to bring about reconciliation, a state of peace, a relation of pardon/acceptance, between God and the sinner, making no reference to the sinner’s internal moral condition but only changing their status or their standing in God’s sight. This means, as I’ve been saying all along, that at the point when a sinner is justified, they *are* subjectively at enmity with God. They do not *remain* at enmity with God because the faith by which they receive Christ’s righteousness for their justification is the first exercise of the spiritual life the Holy Spirit has just planted in their soul in regeneration, and with that new life they love as well as trust God, but neither their faith/trust or love enters into the equation either as what makes them justified or what their justification is based on.

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  54. You say “whereas you say ‘to be justified’ is ‘to be the recipient of faith,’ we say, ‘to be justified’ is ‘to have the righteousness of Christ imputed to you’ (and received by faith alone). I am perfectly happy with the formulation ‘to be justified is to have the righteousness of Christ imputed to you and received by faith alone”. Regardless of everything else you have said above, the issue resolves itself into the bracketed section of your statement: ‘(and received by faith alone)’. If that last section is by divine institution only, then we are not justified by faith. If it is by intrinsic necessity, then your position differs only semantically from that of the Catholic Church. As you will not answer this question it is difficult to progress.

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  55. You know, I’m actually starting to flag a wee bit here, and (feebly) not sure how much longer I can keep going…

    I don’t quite agree that the key disagreement is whether or not faith is intrinsically necessary. It seems more fundamental that we continue to disagree on whether justification and sanctification differ in kind or only in degree. That’s at any rate what we can bring scripture to bear on directly, and has the biggest implications for how the life of faith is lived. It hasn’t been 450 years for the sake of a semantic difference anyway.

    I’m not going to be at the computer much after tomorrow till next week, either, so maybe we should just call a ceasefire.

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  56. Fair enough! Let me try to clarify why I think the question turns on this point and why it relates directly to scripture and then I’ll shut up.

    The question of whether faith is intrinsically necessary for justification or by divine institution only determines the question of whether justification and sanctification differ in degree or in kind. If justification is to be strictly identified with the decree of God that ‘the sins of x shall be forgiven at time y’ then we are faced with two problems. Firstly, as nothing would occur in the one forgiven per se at time y it would be impossible to give any meaning to the words ‘at time y’. What makes it time y at which forgiveness occurs? Secondly, as nothing in the one forgiven happens per se as a result of forgiveness itself, nothing can be the instrument of its application because nothing is applied. Consequently your position cannot be reconciled with the language of scripture in speaking of justification as occurring at a given moment in time and it cannot be reconciled with the conclusion (upon which we agree) that we are justified by faith. In fact your position entails that we are sanctified by faith but not that we are justified by it. If however, justification requires living faith in the one justified by intrinsic necessity, then it differs only in degree from sanctification and we are truly justified by faith and the teaching of scripture is maintained.

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