Wednesday, August 19, 2009

St. Paul screwing up the Ordo Salutis again...

In Reformed theology justification is officially distinguished from sanctification. The charge is that Catholicism and the Council of Trent especially confuses these clearly divided steps in the 'Ordo Salutis' (order of salvation - Why are the Reformed using Latin anyway? that's what I want to know). But is this "distinction" biblical? I have had a 42 page email debate with one Presbyterian minister about this before so I don't feel like rehashing it all over again, but I want to just point out one of many examples where St. Paul would be - according the Reformed charge - screwing up the ordo salutis. I'll be using the NRSV.

"Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, 10thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers—none of these will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And this is what some of you used to be. 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." - 1 Corinthians 6:9-11


  1. Andrew,

    That was a good discussion we had. You asked some very good questions.

    On this issue, I would point to the two ways the idea of sanctification is used with respect to our salvation. It is sometimes used in a progressive sense (i.e. we are being sancitifed). It is sometimes used in a positional sense (i.e. we are now sanctified). It is in this latter sense that Paul is using the term in the 1 Cor. 6 passage.

    Reformed theologians do acknowledge a positional sense of sanctification, which is immediate and complete upon the new birth. We are happy to confess that we are now sanctified in Christ. But we also confess a progressive sense of sanctification, which begins upon the new birth and is complete at glorification. It is this second sense that we distinguish as logically (i.e. the ordo salutis) following justification.

  2. Hi Andrew,

    I've appreciated your comments on my blog and have been reading yours as well.

    In a somewhat parallel discussion with my Evangelical friend on Baptism, I pointed out the various passages that would seem to indicate Baptism is important to salvation and not merely an external symbol (which is what he believes being a Baptist). "He who believes and is baptized will be saved," etc. But my Baptist friend cannot accept this passage as-is given his theology on Baptism, so he explains it away.

    If I might reply to Mr. Bennett: It is sometimes used in a positional sense (i.e. we are now sanctified). It is in this latter sense that Paul is using the term in the 1 Cor. 6 passage.

    That sounds great and all, but how do you know that St. Paul means "the latter sense" of your Reformed idea of sanctification in this passage?

  3. Jay, I feel like this is trying to have it both ways. Reformed theology as I understood it classically denies the immediate sanctification of the believer as anti-nomianism is condemned in the Westminster Confession of Faith for this reason. As well how could you hold to immediate perfect sanctification if the Reformed confessions also hold that no one - not even 'good' christians can love God because Original Sin remains so prominent within the believer until they die. This confuses me, are you saying that the believer is perfectly sanctified but can show no fruit of sanctification? (sorry that might be a whole other topic).

    Devin you bring to the table of course the Catholic concern, interpretation of scripture as we do not believe in the perspicuity of scripture.

  4. Devin- This is an excellent question. Let's take the two options offered here and see what best fits the passage. But first an aside.

    To speak of "accepting a passage of Scripture as-is" is at best confusing and at worst naive. It assumes that all Scripture passages are equally clear so that if we would just release ourselves from our theological biases and read them "as-is," then all our theological problems would be solved. There is only one tradition that I know of which largely held to that sort of thinking: the anabaptists of the radical reformation. The end of that road is desystematization and, ultimately, confusion.

    Now on the text, first lets consider the word.The word translated "sanctified" means "set apart for holy use." Sometimes it is used in a definitive sense (cf. Rom. 6:2, 6, 18; 7:4-6; 1 Pet. 2:24; 4:1-2; 1 Cor. 6:11) Sometimes it is used in a progressive sense (1 Pet. 1:15-16; 1 Thess. 4:3, 7; 2 Cor. 7:1).

    But beyond the use of the word itself, the Bible clearly teaches the concept that Christians are to grow in holiness (I want reference the plethora of texts on this issue but only mention the war between the flesh and the Spirit Paul lays out in Gal. 5).

    If the second, progressive sense is true (along with the fact that we have indwelling sin until we are glorified, 1 John 1:8), then the first definitive sense cannot mean that we are perfected in holiness definitively. It must mean something else. But what? Let's look at the text.

    What is Paul trying to communicate in 1 Cor. 6:11? The larger thought (i.e. paragraph) begins in verse 9 and goes through verse 11. It reads, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers 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 by the Spirit of our God." Paul is differentiating between two types of people: the righteous and the wicked. Who are the wicked? Those who fit his description above, "the sexually immoral . . . " Who are the righteous? Those who don't do those things. He is differentiating these two groups of people in order to encourage his readers in the church not to be wicked. How does he do that? By reminding them that that is who they once were. They once were wicked, "And such were some of you." "But you were washed, you were sacntified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." Does Paul mean that they were perfected in holiness? If so, why is he warning them against falling away? Instead, Paul means that they were set apart unto holiness. Therefore, having been set apart unto holiness, they should walk in holiness.

    Andrew- Great question. On the WCF. The Confession does not teach against definitive (or immediate) sanctification. It teaches against definitive perfection in holiness prior to glorification.

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  6. Interesting defense, but I think St. Paul's message here is that they were sanctified and justified, they were baptized, they were made holy, they were made just, it's classic parellelism in my exegesis. Just like in Romans 8:30 when he says: "And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified." and in Romans 6:20-23 where St. Paul calls sanctification the gift of eternal life.

    It's his "confusion" of sanctification and justification that is shared by St. Augustine and the Roman Catholic Tradition. So we'll have to (yet again) agree to disagree.

    But thanks for spending the time to try to save this reprobate Romanist again. God Bless.

  7. We are in agreement on the ordering. Definitive sanctification is grounded in our real spiritual union with Christ, which is concurrent with our justification (see Calvin's understanding of the duplex gratia. I believe this sanctification is a "real existential breach with the reign and mastery of sin" (Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith). In this sense we are already holy or sanctified.

    It seems that you are suggesting that we are already perfected in holiness. Is that what you are saying?

  8. Obviously I'm not doing a good job explaining, or you're trying to use a dialectic to get me to contradict myself. As much as I hate writing on Justification and Sanctification, I should do a separate post on the issue to clarify.

  9. I promise I'm not trying to get you to contradict yourself Andrew. My goal is primarily not to win an argument, but to aid in understanding the truth of what Reformed theologians have taught historically. To that end I have tried to point out that 1 Cor. 6:9-11 doesn't contradict the Reformed ordo salutis, because reformed theologians distinguish between two senses of sanctification. One is definite and immediate upon the new birth. The other is progressive, beginning with the new birth and continuing until glorification. According to the Reformed ordo salutis the progress of sanctification follows justification logically. But definitive sanctification actually precedes justification logically. In other words, we understand definitive sanctification to be another way of speaking of the new birth.

  10. Calvinists teach an immediate justification by faith (in faith comes Conviction of sin then repentance of sin and faith in Christ Jesus that He died for us on the cross).

    Justification being a legal term to define our standing before God. The price has been paid for our sin by the work of the cross, now the Father sees us in Christ's righteousness even though all our works are filthy rags. We have been redeemed by our kinsman redeemer and are washed clean by regeneration.

    Sanctification is a process whereby we are continually being refined by The Holy Spirit.

    The ordu salutis is then:
    1. born again
    2. conversion
    3 sanctification
    4 glorification

    By the way Calvinists have always written their creeds in Latin because that was the language of academia during the 16th century. And why not, I wonder.