Friday, August 21, 2009


I'm tired of constantly fighting about this issue so I'm just going to post what I *THINK* are the differences between our 2 traditions.


God predestines from eternity past the elect and the reprobate. All men are trapped in total depravity unable to commit any good act without the irresistible grace of God. By this irresistible grace the elect have faith alone in Christ alone and Christ's perfect active obedience and righteousness is imputed to their souls. The faithful then know they are God's elect and are eternally secure (unless they fall away and the show that they weren't eternally secure - this is what I don't understand) This is justification. THEN Sanctification is the process where their actual lives/souls become righteous and holy, they turn from sin and towards God. BUT this process is not what God considers when evaluating their holiness so that in the eyes of God the thief on the Cross and St. Paul are equally righteous. Nevertheless the believer does become holy and this intrinsic personal holiness will be perfected instantly at death when all sin is killed with the body and in the instant process of glorification when the soul reaches heaven. But again, this intrinsic holiness is not what matters in terms of salvation, only Christ's extrinsic righteousness.


God predestines the elect to receive the grace sufficient for salvation. They are (ordinarily) baptized and washed of their original sin and receive the supernatural virtues of faith, hope, and charity which works with the grace of baptism to make them holy. The elect are given grace which they cooperate with and become more just and holy. On the basis of their faith they are declared just by God and made just intrinsically by being in a state of grace and by receiving the sacraments they receive more grace. If and when they fall into wilful grave sin (mortal sin) or apostasy the grace at work in their souls making them both holy and just is killed, they are no longer in a state of grace. But this grace can sacramentally be regained through Confession/Reconcilliation. To die in a state of grace means that God will put the soul (if necessary) through purgatory where they will be perfected in holiness. This is justification and/or sanctification. On judgment day they will be judged righteous based on the intrinsic righteousness God has wrought within their souls.

"...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"

REFORMED Exegesis:
In the moment of new birth and justification there is in some sense a real sanctification that occurs in the believer.

CATHOLIC Exegesis:
Paul is here showing that being made holy and being made just are not two separated processes but the same indivisible process. So the verse is a useful prooftext to show not only the interchangabiity of the terms sanctification and justification, but also the way in which Catholic theology speaks of multiple justifications, or an increase of justification, or a regaining of justification.

There is a "distinction" between justification and sanctification but not a division.

CATHOLIC response:
This is a division not a distinction because you believe sanctification is a superfluous process. The thief on the cross was justified and barely - if at all- sanctified, and St. Paul was justified and extremely sanctified, and the Reformed Tradition would have us believe that God views them identically in terms of righteousness and holiness.


Now. If I screwed this up significantly on the Reformed or Catholic side, please let me know.


  1. I think you've done well here. I would only suggest these correctives:

    To speak of men being trapped in total depravity is equivalent to saying men are trapped in their own sin. But what kind of men are we talking about? Sinners. Therefore, we could rephrase what you've written to read, "Sinners are trapped in their own sin," which is a bit tautological for Reformed theologians since we would understand a sinner to be by definition one who is trapped in his own sin. In other words, it would be more accurate to say we believe sinners are totally depraved, which means they have no willingness (i.e. moral ability) to be saved.

    Also, we would say that Christ's righteousness has been imputed to our whole person, not just our souls. Even our bodies are united to Christ and thereby counted as righteous. Therefore, the Westminster Shorter Catechism question 37 teaches, "What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?
    The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united in Christ, do rest in their graves, till the resurrection" (emphasis added).

    Assurance of salvation is available to all who are saved, but it is not guaranteed and can be false. This would fall into the realm of the mysteries of the human heart. Assurance, while not based solely on subjective experience, is based in part on it and is manifested as it. Therefore, for fallen creatures it is inherently unstable. We would say there are three bases for assurance. They are arranged in order of priority as: (1) The promises of God in Scripture, (2) The testimony of the indwelling Spirit, and (3) The perception of our perseverance in the faith, which is marked by bearing the fruit of the Spirit (i.e. a changed life). These three bases are the means by which the grace of assurance may or may not be ours at any given moment.

  2. continued . . .

    You wrote: "THEN Sanctification is the process where their actual lives/souls become righteous and holy, they turn from sin and towards God."

    I would insert the word "more" between "become" and "righteous." We become more righteous in the sense that we are caused by the Spirit to be conformed to God's image more and more over time, on the whole. Also, we would say this righteousness is not righteousness in an absolute sense, as if we become fundamentally less and less depraved. It is righteousness in a relative sense, based on a comparison of the expression of righteousness in our lives from the time of the new birth forward.

    You wrote: "BUT this process is not what God considers when evaluating their holiness so that in the eyes of God the thief on the Cross and St. Paul are equally righteous."

    Again, this is a true statement in two senses (1) if we are understanding righteousness in an absolute sense and (2) if we are understanding the righteousness by which God evaluates his people ultimately as the righteousness of Christ credited to us. This would be considered a false statement if you are thinking in terms of the relative righteousness of the thief and Paul (i.e. their growth in the expression of righteousness in their lives from the time of the new birth forward).

    On your last point, we would say that sanctification is by no means superfluous. It is an aspect of the gracious salvation purchased for us by our Savior. It is a benefit we receive from him. One practical way it is shown to be non-superfluous is that it is an aspect of the means by which we may be assured of our salvation, not because our salvation is based on it, but because it only happens to those who are saved. This is one reason why the Bible speaks of the Spirit's indwelling as a seal. "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory" (Eph. 1:13-14). Interesting that Paul would say the indwelling Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it. In other words, we are given something definitive, the Spirit which is our holiness, the life of Christ that has resurrected our sin-dead souls. But we are not yet perfected since we await the possession of our inheritance. What is our inheritance? Perfection (i.e. completeness) in holiness, glorification, the resurrection, eternal life with God through Christ.