Friday, November 19, 2010

The New Modern Reformation Work on “Justification”

Take a few minutes and watch this little video introduction by Michael Horton to MR's new book "Justification". It's a great introduction to all of the many issues that are surrounding the topic of justification these days.

In an incredibly easy manner, Horton discusses all of these challenges to justification and really puts the whole topic back into perspective. And yes, he says, we have more "justification" for believing the Reformers' doctrine of justification, than even the Reformers themselves did.

This video is actually a commercial for Modern Reformation's new work "Justification", which is a compilation of articles from the last 20 years or so on the topic of justification.

In this brief 10 minute introduction, Horton first places "justification by grace alone through faith alone through Christ alone" in the context of the Reformation Solas, as it leads to Soli Deo Gloria.

Then in short order, he introduces and discusses each of the following (beginning at about 2:35 of this video):

Lutheran World Federation 1999 "Joint Declaration" on Justification
"Evangelicals and Catholics Together"
The New Perspective on Paul
The New Finnish Interpretation of Luther
The Federal Vision
N.T. Wright's "inadequate" covenant of theology

All of these challenges to justification "collapse" sanctification into justification. That's the common element of theories of justification that don't hold to the Biblical norm.

In this new book, Horton says that the authors look at the doctrine of justification both historically and exegetically, and asking, "does the Reformation interpretation of these passages still holdl water?

And his answer is yes, unequivocally, we are more justified than we ever imagined in holding to the Reformers' doctrine of justification.

But don't just imagine.

Learn.

60 comments:

The 27th Comrade said...

I really, really like Dr. Horton’s stuff. I’ve never once listened to him and not been happy about it.
In the last few years he has been on a bit of a roll with this particular issue, and I feel that it could not possibly be more timely.
I just wish you Reformers would just stop understanding yourselves in terms of Roman Catholicism! It is doing so much damage to everything. You are dealing with weasely lies that should not be anywhere on your radar. What does Christ have in common with Belial? You make me very angry!

steelikat said...

In the paragraphs beginning "Lutherans believe.." the joint declaration makes clear that the Lutheran members of the commission assert that it is an error to collapse sancitification into justification.

It puzzles me, therefore, that Horton considers the document "a challenge" to the reformation doctrine. The only conclusion I can come up with is that he did not read it carefully or well. What it is is a compare and contrast essay, presented in a very orderly way and attempting to be comprehensive. For every aspect of justification it has three paragraphs, one describing the points RCs and Lutherans agree on (these points are more general, and are things for the most part all Chalcedonian Christians will agree on) a second describing the Lutheran doctrine (for the most part these are things all bible Christians will agree on) and the third describing the Roman doctrines (these are things that for the most part the readers of this blog will rightly consider to be erroneous and anti evangelical). The actual order of the paragraphs vary.

Nick said...

I don't believe Horton or anyone else can refute this article on Sola Fide.

There's really nothing new in these debates, only a failure to address certain issues/arguments. For example, I doubt Horton's book addresses the Greek word for "impute" (logizomai) beyond a sentence or two.

I can say, without hesitation, that it's the Catholic view that's the truly Biblical one and gives the greater Glory to God.

steelikat said...

Nick,

In the context of the article that this combox is responding to, I think the most important and relevant questions for you, (if you are a Roman Catholic) are "Do the the Joint Declaration and the ECT fairly and accurately represent Roman Catholic doctrine?" and "Do you agree with the conclusions?"

That would be more interesting than any Protestant's answer, since it is a question about R.C. doctrine.

Your opinion on whether those documents fairly and accurately represent Reformation doctrine, on the other hand, would not be very interesting. Protestants need to answer that question.

You see? I think a lot of the criticism of those two documents stem from a misunderstanding of what they are, their overall context and what they are attempting to accomplish.

Are they sermons? No. Are they catechisms, are they trying to teach doctrine? No. Are they trying to highlight and emphasize the differences between modern RCism and modern Protestantism in order to encourage people to pick one over the other? No. Those are all good things to do but they just don't happen to be what those particular documents are attempting to do.

Reading well is a sophisticated activity. It doesn't consist of simply picking up the document beginning at page 1 and simply reading the symbols and understanding what they mean--outside of the larger context of what the work essentially is, what it intends to do, who wrote it, what its intended audience is, etc.

Nick said...

steelikat,

The Joint Declaration and ECT are not official teachings of the Catholic Church, they are merely intended to show there is unity and not just disunity. When it comes to certain parts of those documents, they are deliberately phrased vaguely enough as to be either no help or gloss over the real differences. In that regard, they are not helpful, even if not overtly heretical. For example, both Catholics and Protestants believe we are "justified by faith," but to mutually affirm that without getting into deeper issues does nobody any good and gives off the appearance of unity (or non-essential) when in fact the details are what make all the difference.

John Bugay said...

hi 27th, I understand your desire for us to just stop understanding yourselves in terms of Roman Catholicism, I really do -- on my other blog, I have this posted prominently:

"The Reformers' forensic understanding of justification ... the idea of an immediate divine imputation [of righteousness] renders superfluous the entire Catholic system of the priestly mediation of grace by the Church." (Bruce McCormack, What's at Stake in the Current Debates over Justification, from Husbands and Treier's Justification, pg 82.)

The whole Roman hierarchy and sacramental understanding needs to be chucked in the trash.

But as Tim Enloe has said, history favors the Reformers, if they'd just understand this. When the Reformers genuinely looked ad fontes, they found that "the Church" of their day looked only superficially like what they were reading in the early church fathers. Rome had changed so many things over the years.

Ryan said...

"I don't believe Horton or anyone else can refute this article on Sola Fide."

Nick, I read your essay. It was inept. I hardly know how one would begin to disillusion you.

John Bugay said...

Be careful Ryan, Nick has, in the recent past, written things that will persuade even Pope James White to convert to Catholicism while forcing Triablogue to shut down in humiliation.

Imagine what he could do to mere mortals like you and me.

Ryan said...

"Imagine what he could do to mere mortals like you and me."

Make us LOL to death?

John Bugay said...

Make us LOL to death?

You know, I just found out that he doesn't read my stuff. So I was surprised to see him here.

steelikat said...

Nick,

"The Joint Declaration and ECT are not official teachings of the Catholic Church..."

Indeed, they cannot be. It demonstrates poor reading ability and the inability to understand the very purpose of the document in question to even suggest they might be, in some overall sense. They aim to describe the things 1. that Roman Catholics have in common with Protestant, 2. the things that Roman Catholics believe that Protestants disagree with, and 3. the things that Protestants believe that Roman Catholics disagree with. In the process of attempting to accurately describe these beliefs, the authors of both documents, to various degrees, reached the vague conclusion that the things we have in common are more significant and substantial than the things that divide us.

The documents succeed and are accurate to the extent that when they say "Catholics believe..." they do accurately and fairly state the official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, when they say "Protestants believe..." they do accurately and fairly state Reformation doctrine, and when they state "Catholics and Protestants agree..." they do accurately and fairly state things that are in accordance with both RC doctrine and Reformation doctrine.

The vague conclusion of the two documents is something that people will tend to disagree on, depending on where they are personally "coming from," so to speak. This is to be expected. The more specific conclusion of the Joint Declaration is something that the RC church is being charged to respond in the affirmative to and something that Lutherans have been saying ever since Luther was excommunicated and Lutherans were anathematized (i.e. it was wrong of y'all to do it and y'all oughta take it back).

John Bugay said...

Steelikat, I posted this in the other thread as well:

Steelikat, I'm not sure if you've seen these comments from leading theologians in both the (conservative) Lutheran and Reformed traditions:

Paul McCain, a LCMS pastor who blogs a lot, commented on that document 10 years after the fact, in an article entitled "Betrayal".

Here's what McCain said:

Ten years after it appeared, we still continue to hear that the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification was a “breakthrough” between the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church. The media loves to perpetuate this myth. In fact, the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is a fraud. It was a sell-out by revisionist Lutherans to Rome.

What follows is a fairly thorough analysis (and several comments from "Truth Unites ... and Divides").

John Fesko, a Reformed writer and WSCal professor writes in his work on "Justification":

The Declaration suffers from the same maladies as other similar ecumenical documents--a lack of theological precision. Apart from precise formulations, one can easily house a number of views on justification. ... It is probably safer to say that the Lutheran World Federation has abandoned its theological heritage and is no longer concerned with the theology of its historic confessions and catechisms (365-367).

"Fuzzy language" is the bane of theological studies. There is a reason why theological language needs to be precise. The language of creeds and confessions has always been precise.

Of course, it's easy for "Lutherans" who had no stake in the historical struggle to give away "the doctrine on which the church stands or falls." Not so sure Luther or the early Lutherans would have sanctioned this.

Nick said...

Ryan,

I was hoping you would address that essay, since I originally was asking you to have that debate with me.

Feel free to call it "inept," but please back up your assertions with some specific examples.

As for John B, from reading his work, he (like Tim E and James) is more into the historical side of things and not so much into the Biblical/Exegetical side of apologetics. The issue with James White that he's speaking of can be found here, any honest look at the evidence will see that White either dodged some of the arguments or actually put himself in a more dubious position in affirming other points. The issue at Triablogue arose when Steve went around making absurd claims in regards to Penal Subsitution (e.g. the Levitical Sacrifices were done vial Psub), which I challenged, and he basically did everything he could to avoid looking at the biblical evidence I presented.

Nick said...

To add the the above, I cannot emphasize enough how much I wanted Ryan to debate me on Sola Fide and address the article I wrote. I know that he's one of the more able and knowledgeable apologists out there, and that if I could stump him with my essay, I'd be on very solid grounds when confronting others.

Andrew said...

Nick,
The only thing your interaction with James White proved was that you were out of your league in taking on James White. I know you don't think so; but it was a little bit like a fight between a snowball and the sun.

Nick said...

Andrew,

That's not true nor fair. Most of his "response" was nothing but talking down on me, and that since I'm Catholic I must be utterly confused and not know Scripture.

The truth is, he made some absolutely astonishing claims that had no basis in Scripture or logic. For example, White strongly maintained that Abraham's walk with God from Gen 12-14 had nothing soteric about it and was akin to "a lot of people who obey general things in this life," totally ignoring the fact God was making and confirming promises from the opening verses of Gen 12. And White never even touches Galatians 3:8 which explicitly refutes his claim.

The problem in these types of debates is that the Protestants are usually too scared to take an objective look at the facts and not even read what the Catholic really has to say.

Ryan said...

Nick,

I wish I had the time to engage you more fully, but I grant that my above comments do require some sort of explanation.

In section (3f), wherein you discuss the meaning of justification, you demonstrate a correlation between justification and several soteric "components... so closely related that one cannot happen without the rest." But while this is true, to assert that this implies the RC "capstone" position suggests you think that God's forensic declaration of the righteousness of the believer cannot be otherwise connected to soteric acts which are transformative, a proposition Reformers I have read would deny (Horton included).

For instance, I have no problems with the idea regeneration causes the faith by which we are justified, and so I have no problems with texts like Ephesians 2:8 and Titus 3:5-7. The fact is, the passages you cite can easily be understood from the Reformed perspective, as none of the contexts you cite ground justification on sanctification.

That this is one of your presuppositions is evident in your conflation of salvation with justification in your second paragraph, especially with regards to Acts 15:9,11, which is clearly a reference to progressive sanctification. It can only be a reference to justification if you presuppose sanctification grounds justification. In fact, your citation of Philippians 3:9-11 implies a telos of justification is sanctification.

Unfortunately, as an introductory essay, most of your citations were only citations, with very little commentary added so that I might understand how you believed the passages function as examples of justification which do not admit a forensic meaning. Your citation of Romans 8:29-30 was especially curious, as, in context, justification is opposed to condemnation, a contrast I know I have highlighted to you in the past, especially in Romans (5:16-19, 8:1, 34). If condemnation cannot mean to "make unrighteous," I do not see how justification can mean to "make righteous," yet that is what you must argue to avoid the import of Romans 4:5.

Anyways, I do not want my comment to be too long or to unduly shift the focus of this topic, so I consider my obligation to substantiate my comments satisfied.

steelikat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ryan said...

To anyone interested, Nick and I informally discussed justification some time ago. I believe Piper's book Counted Righteous in Christ ably defends the Protestant understanding of imputation and refutes the idea faith itself is credited as the righteousness by which a believer is justified.

steelikat said...

John,

Even very intelligent people, even theologians, have seemingly misread the Joint Declaration, as far as I can tell.

Anyway, this: "It was a sell-out by revisionist Lutherans to Rome." is vague. Unless McCain can specify how exactly, the document fails (in the RELEVANT PARAGRAPHS--the paragraphs describing R.C. doctrine are not relevant in this regard) to accurately describe what Justification is according to scripture and Reformed doctrine, it would be impossible to evaluate or comment on that quote.

As for Fesko, his criticism is itself fuzzy, vague, as you've presented it. Of course I don't doubt that it is a quote taken out of a larger article that may not be vague at all. Unless I see precisely how and where he thinks the declaration is fuzzy, I cannot comment or even take notice.

All I know is as far as I can tell, the document is not problematic in its descriptions of Lutheran doctrine (I acknowledge that I may be wrong but you have to show me, I won't take your word for it because "theologians said so") and its conclusions are exactly what the Lutheran reformers were demanding and courageous traditional Lutherans continue to demand today. There are some Lutherans who effectively say "we are glad to be excommunicated and we think that Rome did the right thing in attempting to anathematize the gospel at Trent so as to give us an eternal enemy church to rail against" but any sensible person recognizes that it is those people who are the historical revisionists.

Nick said...

Ryan,

I respect the fact you don't have time now, but here are my comments on some of what you wrote.

You said: to assert that this implies the RC "capstone" position suggests you think that God's forensic declaration of the righteousness of the believer cannot be otherwise connected to soteric acts which are transformative, a proposition Reformers I have read would deny (Horton included).

I understand your point, but my point was to make the case that the classical Protestant notion of dikaioo strictly means "declare righteous" fails, and to suggest it's an imputed alien righteousness betrays the fact those texts I quoted are speaking in terms of a transformation. So while the classical Reformed position wouldn't deny those other components, they're building on a huge (and very unwarranted) presupposition that justification is independent of things like sanctification and adoption. The RC "capstone" take is perfectly viable and leaves the Protestant with the burden of making dikaioo strictly forensic and based on alien righteousness. For example, Galatians 3 is speaking on justification, but look how Paul phrases it in 3:2,
"Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?"
Paul could just has easily have said, "were you *justified* by works of the law or by faith?" with the same *meaning*.

You said: "I have no problems with the idea regeneration causes the faith by which we are justified, and so I have no problems with texts like Ephesians 2:8 and Titus 3:5-7. The fact is, the passages you cite can easily be understood from the Reformed perspective, as none of the contexts you cite ground justification on sanctification."

Note that I was connecting Eph 2:8 with Eph 2:5. When Paul says "by grace you have been saved" in each, he's speaking on justification...yet 2:5 clearly shows "saved" here means an inner transformation by God's power working in one's soul. That's strong grounds for linking justification to inner transformation. Titus 3:5-7 is equally as strong, equating "saved by washing of regeneration and renewal" to "justified by his grace," and to say that's not grounding justification on inner transformation (sanctification) is begging the question and betraying the plain reading.

You said: That this is one of your presuppositions is evident in your conflation of salvation with justification in your second paragraph, especially with regards to Acts 15:9,11, which is clearly a reference to progressive sanctification. It can only be a reference to justification if you presuppose sanctification grounds justification.

Here is where I believe your argument really hits a brick wall. You're forced to say Acts 15:9 is clearly about sanctification - presupposing the strict justification/sanctification dichotomy - since if otherwise your position would fail. But the fact is, Acts 15:9-11 is about the issue of whether circumcision is required to be saved, and that can only mean (and most especially means) justification by faith.
This is a text where the Protestant side will have serious difficulties exegeting. (cont)

Nick said...

(2 of 2)

You said: "your citation of Philippians 3:9-11 implies a telos of justification is sanctification."

Not at all, one is describing the other, there is no "implying" or a telos here. Paul is explaining a continuous thought, where as Protestant exegesis puts a full stop at the end of v9.

You said: "Unfortunately, as an introductory essay, most of your citations were only citations, with very little commentary added"

It was a debate essay, so I was limited in my number of words and was expecting to respond to any questions in future parts of the debate.

You said: "Your citation of Romans 8:29-30 was especially curious, as, in context, justification is opposed to condemnation, a contrast I know I have highlighted to you in the past, especially in Romans (5:16-19, 8:1, 34)."

I don't agree with your reasoning for two reasons: first, you claim "context," yet jump to v34 rather than immediate context ("being conformed to His image"); second, "condemn" need not be strictly forensic or declaration, since 8:1-2 says there is "no condemnation BECAUSE the believer has the Spirit of Adoption indwelling (i.e. inner transformation).


You said: "If condemnation cannot mean to "make unrighteous," I do not see how justification can mean to "make righteous," yet that is what you must argue to avoid the import of Romans 4:5."

Here's a case where I believe the Protestant makes a serious leap of logic. Rom 4:5 is a different context, you can't just lift a justify/condemn dichotomy and inject it where you please. In context, Rom 4:5 "justifies the ungodly" is plainly defined in the next verse as "blessed is he whos sins are forgiven" which means justify is not being used as a forensic declaration in opposition to "declare condemned".
Further, the Protestant reading of Rom 4:5 is impossible, for it says God "justifies *the* ungodly," where as Protestantism teaches God justifies the righteous, even though this righteousness is alien and comes from Christ.

John Bugay said...

Ryan, feel free to address as much or as little of this as you want here. Thanks for what you've done so far. I just don't have the time to spend on it.

Ryan said...

I disagree with your assessment of Galatians 3:2. You have to show that adoption and justification are equivalent soteric acts before you can say they are interchangeable, and none of those texts you cited in your essay imply that. For one soteric event to be connected to another does not mean they are interchangeable. That regeneration and faith are connected in 1 John 5:1 does not mean they are interchangeable.

With regards to Ephesians 2, I already said “regeneration causes the faith by which we are justified.” Again, that justification is connected to the transformative does not imply justification means “to make righteous.” It is not question-begging to note Paul is asserting that because regeneration is unto faith (2:1-5) and faith is unto justification (2:8), we are saved (justified=declared righteous) by [regenerative] grace through [which one comes to possess] faith (2:8). Regeneration -> faith -> justification. Recall that you are the one attempting to demonstrate justify does not necessarily bear a forensic connotation. If I provide an alternative interpretation harmonious with the citation in question, as I just have, your goal is not met.

Obviously, if salvation can “only” mean justification by faith, it “especially” means justification by faith. But I do not see why Acts 15:9,11 can “only” mean justification by faith. You do not explain why it can’t refer to progressive sanctification, you only assert it can’t. This is nothing more than a re-assertion of your "sanctification grounds justification" presupposition I pointed out earlier.

Philippians 3:8 I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ
9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,

The “that” in the beginning of verse 10 indicates a telos of the righteousness which is from God by faith. It’s pretty obvious. In fact, the same thing can be said about the "that" at the end of verse 8. A telos for Paul's suffering is "that" he may gain Christ.

Romans 8:30 can be stated as follows: “those whom God predestined [to be conformed to the image of His Son] He also called, and those He called He also justified, and those He justified He also glorified.” It is a complete mystery to me how you can seriously argue that conformity to the image of God’s Son is necessarily being put in apposition to calling, justification, and glorification. Just because He called, justified, and glorified the same persons He conforms to His image does not imply the conformity is equivalent to the call, justification, and glorification. This is yet another instance in which you argue correlation suggests equivalence, which is fallacious.

Even if your interpretation of Romans 8:1-2 was correct – and it is not – “condemnation” would still be forensic, viz. one would be “declared not guilty” by having been adopted.

With regards to Romans 4:5, one is declared righteous in part because he nothing (i.e. sin) against which one can charge him with guilt. The non-imputation of our sin is necessary for God to declare us righteous (justify us).

Furthermore, Paul is speaking in the same terms as did the prophets (e.g. Proverbs 17:15): with reference to one’s own righteousness (or lack thereof). It is as you say: we are justified by Christ’s righteousness, not our own, and that is Paul’s point when he writes God justifies the ungodly. Obviously, we cannot be justified by our ungodliness – our justification must be due to Christ’s righteousness. You still have yet to cite a passage in which justification cannot be a forensic declaration of righteousness.

Ryan said...
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Ryan said...
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Ryan said...

"Ryan, feel free to address as much or as little of this as you want here."

Thanks John. Unfortunately, I think you may have to check the spam filter to release my recent response to Nick. This happens on TF's blog from time to time when I write longer posts. I don't like posting in shorter pieces, because I tend to think of that as filibuster, but in order to avoid the spam filter in the future, I may need to start doing that.

Constantine said...

James White "interacted" with Nick?

Anybody got a link for that?

Peace.

steelikat said...

John,

I looked at the McCain article. Did you read it? I don't think so because if you had read it you would surely have noticed that except for one small "ambiguity" in the use of the preposition "in" where a different preposition would normally be used, mccain does not actually discover any examples of Lutheran doctrine being described inaccurately in the joint declaration.

His objection seems mainly to be that it is a betrayal in the general impression the joint declaration gives, rather than any specific examples of inaccurately-described doctrine.

McCain's article, therefore, does not address let alone refute any of the points I carefully made. I remain open to being corrected, however, if Lutheran doctrine was inaccurately or unfairly described by the declaration. If you do discover any examples of that, please let me know.

It detracts from McCain's credibility that he treated canons 12 and 14 as if they were actually anathematizing Lutheran doctrine. Of course what they are anathematizing are crude semi-pelagian parodies of Lutheran doctrine. Canon 9 otoh may have hit it's target, so he McCain may have a point there. It really doesn't matter, though, whether McCain is right or wrong about canon 9, what matters is how Roman Catholics in authority interpret canon 9, as it was those people who excommunicated Luther and drove Luther out of communion with them and it is only those people (well, their 21st century successors) who can reverse that decision.

John Bugay said...

Ryan posted this earlier:

***

I disagree with your assessment of Galatians 3:2. You have to show that adoption and justification are equivalent soteric acts before you can say they are interchangeable, and none of those texts you cited in your essay imply that. For one soteric event to be connected to another does not mean they are interchangeable. That regeneration and faith are connected in 1 John 5:1 does not mean they are interchangeable.

With regards to Ephesians 2, I already said “regeneration causes the faith by which we are justified.” Again, that justification is connected to the transformative does not imply justification means “to make righteous.” It is not question-begging to note Paul is asserting that because regeneration is unto faith (2:1-5) and faith is unto justification (2:8), we are saved (justified=declared righteous) by [regenerative] grace through [which one comes to possess] faith (2:8). Regeneration -> faith -> justification. Recall that you are the one attempting to demonstrate justify does not necessarily bear a forensic connotation. If I provide an alternative interpretation harmonious with the citation in question, as I just have, your goal is not met.

Obviously, if salvation can “only” mean justification by faith, it “especially” means justification by faith. But I do not see why Acts 15:9,11 can “only” mean justification by faith. You do not explain why it can’t refer to progressive sanctification, you only assert it can’t. This is nothing more than a re-assertion of your "sanctification grounds justification" presupposition I pointed out earlier.

Philippians 3:8 I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ
9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,

The “that” in the beginning of verse 10 indicates a telos of the righteousness which is from God by faith. It’s pretty obvious. In fact, the same thing can be said about the "that" at the end of verse 8. A telos for Paul's suffering is "that" he may gain Christ.

Romans 8:30 can be stated as follows: “those whom God predestined [to be conformed to the image of His Son] He also called, and those He called He also justified, and those He justified He also glorified.” It is a complete mystery to me how you can seriously argue that conformity to the image of God’s Son is necessarily being put in apposition to calling, justification, and glorification. Just because He called, justified, and glorified the same persons He conforms to His image does not imply the conformity is equivalent to the call, justification, and glorification. This is yet another instance in which you argue correlation suggests equivalence, which is fallacious.

Even if your interpretation of Romans 8:1-2 was correct – and it is not – “condemnation” would still be forensic, viz. one would be “declared not guilty” by having been adopted.

With regards to Romans 4:5, one is declared righteous in part because he nothing (i.e. sin) against which one can charge him with guilt. The non-imputation of our sin is necessary for God to declare us righteous (justify us).

Furthermore, Paul is speaking in the same terms as did the prophets (e.g. Proverbs 17:15): with reference to one’s own righteousness (or lack thereof). It is as you say: we are justified by Christ’s righteousness, not our own, and that is Paul’s point when he writes God justifies the ungodly. Obviously, we cannot be justified by our ungodliness – our justification must be due to Christ’s righteousness. You still have yet to cite a passage in which justification cannot be a forensic declaration of righteousness.

Nick said...

Ryan,

I appreciate your willingness to hash these things out.

You said: "I disagree with your assessment of Galatians 3:2. You have to show that adoption and justification are equivalent soteric acts before you can say they are interchangeable..."

Here is the logic behind my claim:

1) Galatians 3 is clearly speaking on justification - and from the Reformed angle, other categories like sanctification and adoption cannot be confused with justification.

2) Paul asks if they received the Spirit by works of the law or by faith. The issue of works of the law versus faith is a justification issue, and receiving the Spirit is an Adoption issue. Is Paul confusing categories, or does the Reformed side err in splitting up those categories? I say the latter.

3) In 3:5-6, again Paul links receiving the Spirit by faith and not works of the law, and to confirm this he quotes Genesis 15:6. In 3:7-9 he concludes: "those who have faith are children of Abraham." He is focused on adoption here but using the term justify as well in becoming a child of Abraham. This is not the way we'd be expecting Paul to talk if the Reformed view of Justification as a purely forensic event were accurate.

4) In 3:14 (4:4-5), he sums up his thesis by saying Christ died so that "by faith we might receive" the Spirit of adoption. Again, this is odd if adoption is a separate event from justification.


You said: "With regards to Ephesians 2, I already said “regeneration causes the faith by which we are justified.”

My objection here is twofold: first, you're inventing/presupposing the category of "regeneration" here and injecting it into the text; second, exegetically, you cannot say "by grace you have been saved" means one thing (regeneration) in verse 5 and then when it's used again a few verses later means another (justified).


You said: "I do not see why Acts 15:9,11 can “only” mean justification by faith. You do not explain why it can’t refer to progressive sanctification"

The context is justification, and I don't see anyway you could deny that. The Council of Jerusalem wasn't about how men are sanctified, it's about how man is justified, particularly how circumcision and works of the law relate to justification. It doesn't make sense Peter would inject a comment on progressive sanctification right in the middle of this manifestly justification context.


You said: The “that” in the beginning of verse 10 indicates a telos of the righteousness which is from God by faith.

It need not be a telos, but rather a description of what he was just speaking about. The sharp termination after v9 is the product of presuming a justification-sanctification ordo that really isn't established in Scripture, much less Phil. It should be taken as a single thought.

Nick said...

2 of 2

Romans 8:30 can be stated as follows: “those whom God predestined [to be conformed to the image of His Son] He also called, and those He called He also justified, and those He justified He also glorified."

Phrasing it the way you do means neither calling, justify, nor glorify has any bearing on conformed to Christ's image. That's a dubious rendering. Much better is that the conforming of v29 is restated in v30 in terms of call, justify, glorify.


You said: "Even if your interpretation of Romans 8:1-2 was correct – and it is not – “condemnation” would still be forensic, viz. one would be “declared not guilty” by having been adopted."

A forensic component never was the issue, the issue never was to say there is nothing forensic about justification. The point was to say there's no evidence of a strictly forensic set up, and if this involves receiving the Spirit then it certainly cannot be said to be such.


You said: "With regards to Romans 4:5, one is declared righteous in part because he nothing (i.e. sin) against which one can charge him with guilt. The non-imputation of our sin is necessary for God to declare us righteous (justify us)."

And this contradicts the notion God is declaring righteous an ungodly man. If non-imputation of sin is happening here, then God is either declaring righteous a legally 'neutral' man (e.g. pre-laps Adam), or a man with a positive righteousness imputed to his account. Never is God declaring righteous "the ungodly" in your scheme.

You said: Obviously, we cannot be justified by our ungodliness – our justification must be due to Christ’s righteousness.

Is God ever declaring righteous the unrighteous (ungodly)? No. That's a manifest abomination. Rather, the term justify here must mean "forgive," as the next verse shows.


You said: "You still have yet to cite a passage in which justification cannot be a forensic declaration of righteousness."

I'm not sure what you're getting at. My goal never was to say justification cannot ever be a forensic declaration - and I've never denied there is a forensic component. My goal was to show the Protestant approach is a truncated view of the Biblical teaching on justification. For example, the notion of a forensic or courtroom context or mention of God as "judge" doesn't appear in places like Romans 4 and Galatians 3 - which is odd if justification is *strictly* a forensic and declaratory event.

The Catholic view takes into consideration the context and doesn't try to project foreign concepts onto the doctrine nor inject presupposed ordos/distinctions such as regeneration and sanctificaition.

Nick said...

Constantine,

Here is the link you're looking for; it's my response to White's radio comments, in which he was responding on air to an earlier article I wrote.

Ryan said...

Nick,

Galatians 3-4 is a protracted argument for the necessity of faith over against the works of the law. It is not surprising that we find Paul writing about the numerous promises given to Abraham and his [spiritual] seed (3:9, 16): adoption, miracles, and justification are all explicitly mentioned in chapter 3, while sanctification is an implied blessing. As I said earlier, you were right to say that there exists "components... so closely related [with justification] that one cannot happen without the rest." By faith we become heirs to the Abrahamic promises. Insofar as miracles, sanctification, justification, and adoption represent these blessings, they are not separate but rather distinct. You seem to be collapsing “every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3, Romans 8:32) into “one spiritual blessing.” Every spiritual blessing is given to us by the Father, through the Spirit, in Christ. The blessings are unified but plural.

I think you misunderstood what I said about Ephesians 2:5. I said “regeneration causes the faith by which we are justified.” Regeneration is the grace. I never said salvation means regeneration in 2:5 and justification in 2:8. What I said can be seen as follows:

2:5 It is by [regenerative] grace you have been [justified].
2:8 For it is by [regenerative] grace you have been [justified] through faith.

Also, I do not know what you think being “made alive with Christ while dead in our transgressions” can possibly refer to if not regeneration, but it is abundantly clear Paul understands it as such (cf. Colossians 2:11-12).

I find it ironic that after chastising me for an appeal to Romans 8:33-34 as a “jump [from] the immediate context” of Romans 8:29-30, you think you can get away with a jump from the “immediate context” of the citation from your essay, Acts 15:9-11. Nevertheless, after further reflection, I agree that Acts 15:9-11 refers to justification; purification from sin is indeed necessary for God to justly justify the believer. The aorist threw me, I apologize. I still maintain that salvation bears more than one meaning, and that passages which speak of believers who “are being saved” indicate that progressive sanctification falls within the semantic domain of salvation.

I cannot understand how you think the “that” in Philippians 3:10 functions. Daniel Wallace translates the beginning of the passage as “My aim is to know him” because “The articular infinitive τοῦ γνῶναι (tou gnwnai, “to know”) here expresses purpose.” Now while that is a bit above my pay grade, even in plain English I cannot recall a sentence in which “that” is used as a synonym for “in other words,” and like I said, I think the use of “that” in 3:8 (cf. 2:27, 30, etc.) shows that the normative understanding of “that” when it is intended to connect two clauses is as purposive.

Ryan said...

Nick: “Phrasing it the way you do means neither calling, justify, nor glorify has any bearing on conformed to Christ's image.”

Well, yeah. That was the point. Reasserting your interpretation of Romans 8:29-32 without explaining why mine is dubious is not constructive.

Nick: “A forensic component never was the issue, the issue never was to say there is nothing forensic about justification. The point was to say there's no evidence of a strictly forensic set up, and if this involves receiving the Spirit then it certainly cannot be said to be such.”

“Involves” is ambiguous. I have already explained a way in which regeneration and justification can be connected without grounding the latter (the forensic) upon the former (the change): regeneration effects the faith by which we are instrumentally justified, since the faith unites us to the Redeemer who is the ground of justification. And I do think that regeneration is what Paul is referring to in Romans 8:1-2 (cf. 8:9-11). Adoption isn’t introduced until verse 14, and even there we see that it is predicated upon regeneration.

With regards to Romans 4, you are clearly projecting ontological presuppositions onto what is being said. We are ungodly. That is a fact. People still sin after having been converted (1 John 2:1). You can’t be suggesting one who is a sinner is godly. Now, that doesn’t mean God’s declaration of righteousness (justification) of the believer is a legal fiction, as RCs attest, it means he is covenantally united to one the federal head who is righteous, and so being seen in Him, the righteousness of the federal head grounds the justification of the believer. God, then, justifies those who are inherently ungodly. To say that this never enters my “scheme” is blatantly false. Romans 4:6 says righteousness is imputed. Presumably you meant to refer to 4:7-8, wherein forgiveness and imputation form the bases of the reason God is able to justify us, not a definition of justification. Justification always refers to a declaration of righteousness – clearly so in Romans – and so what I’m “getting at” is that neither you nor any other RC can explain Romans 4:5, in which God declares righteous the ungodly. That decidedly refutes the concept of infused righteousness.

Nick: “For example, the notion of a forensic or courtroom context or mention of God as "judge" doesn't appear in places like Romans 4 and Galatians 3 - which is odd if justification is *strictly* a forensic and declaratory event.”

The “judge” illustration appears in Romans 3, actually, and in any case, that is either an argument from silence or your opinion.

Nick: “The Catholic view takes into consideration the context and doesn't try to project foreign concepts onto the doctrine nor inject presupposed ordos/distinctions such as regeneration and sanctificaition.”

Unfortunately, try as you might, that is what you end up doing.

Ryan said...

And please excuse the two or three typos as well as the tardiness of my response. I am not feeling very well.

Nick said...

Hi Ryan,

You said: "Galatians 3-4 is a protracted argument for the necessity of faith over against the works of the law. It is not surprising that we find Paul writing about the numerous promises given to Abraham and his [spiritual] seed (3:9, 16): adoption, miracles, and justification are all explicitly mentioned in chapter 3, while sanctification is an implied blessing."

I think the deeper problem is that you're operating with the notion of an ordo salutis that isn't actually Scriptural. Justification is dependent on the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and not something that comes along with it but still incidental. For example, the Reformed camp teaches "man is saved by faith alone, but faith is never alone," meaning Hope and Love are given along with Faith by God to the believer. However, Faith doesn't depend on Love for it's efficacy, it's only present incidentally. On the flip side, the Catholic position teaches Love animates Faith to make it saving faith, just as the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit of Adoption makes the individual capable of being declared righteous.

You said: What I said can be seen as follows:
2:5 It is by [regenerative] grace you have been [justified].
2:8 For it is by [regenerative] grace you have been [justified] through faith.

This seems to vindicate the Catholic position, since this grace here is a transforming grace. While the Reformed notion of "regeneration" is not a category I believe is Scriptural, the notion that the grace Paul is speaking of is transformative is clear, and corresponds far more closely to an 'infusion' rather than an 'imputation'.

You said: "I do not know what you think being “made alive with Christ while dead in our transgressions” can possibly refer to if not regeneration"

It refers to the infusion of new life into the formerly dead soul (i.e. lacking that divine life). The Reformed notion of "regeneration" is an incomplete and truncated notion of the Biblical description.


You said: "I find it ironic that after chastising me for an appeal to Romans 8:33-34 as a “jump [from] the immediate context” of Romans 8:29-30, you think you can get away with a jump from the “immediate context” of the citation from your essay, Acts 15:9-11."

I'm not sure I follow. Where did I ignore the immediate context of Acts 15:9? I distinctly remember appealing to the very immediate context as well as the proximate.


You said: "after further reflection, I agree that Acts 15:9-11 refers to justification; purification from sin is indeed necessary for God to justly justify the believer."

Amen! But how in the world does this help the notion that justification does not involve and is not dependent on an inner tranformation? If anything, this strongly vindicates the Catholic claim.

My argument is simply that of taking the "plain reading" of the text and seeing whether, on it's face, whether it conforms more closely to a Catholic or Protestant view of justification.

Nick said...

You said: "I think the use of “that” in 3:8 (cf. 2:27, 30, etc.) shows that the normative understanding of “that” when it is intended to connect two clauses is as purposive."

Barring some stronger proof for the Protestant making a sharp distinction between justification and sanctification, as well as the idea the "righteousness of God" is an imputed alien righteousness, I have little reason to think Paul is making such a sharp transition here. I also notice Paul speaks of "knowing Christ" in v8 and "knowing Christ" again in v10, which would indicate a direct link.


You said: "Well, yeah. That was the point. Reasserting your interpretation of Romans 8:29-32 without explaining why mine is dubious is not constructive."

My explanation for why it was dubious was that it makes call, justify, and glorify have no bearing on being "conformed to His image".


You said: "I have already explained a way in which regeneration and justification can be connected without grounding the latter (the forensic) upon the former (the change): regeneration effects the faith by which we are instrumentally justified, since the faith unites us to the Redeemer who is the ground of justification."

First, I deny your notion of Regeneration is biblical. Second, I believe you're begging the question when making justification independent of the inner change. My reading of passages like "by grace you've been saved" flows much more naturally and fits the plain reading, where as you're injecting the "regeneration causes the faith" into it.


You said: "And I do think that regeneration is what Paul is referring to in Romans 8:1-2 (cf. 8:9-11). Adoption isn’t introduced until verse 14, and even there we see that it is predicated upon regeneration."

Again, I deny your notion of Regeneration is even Biblical. Paul speaking of living by the Spirit and the Spirit dwelling in us is precisely what Paul speaks of when he means Adoption (grounding Justification).


You said: "With regards to Romans 4, you are clearly projecting ontological presuppositions onto what is being said. We are ungodly. That is a fact. People still sin after having been converted (1 John 2:1). You can’t be suggesting one who is a sinner is godly."

Your comments betray the fact we're forgiven upon repentance. You can't say a forgiven person is ungodly. 1 Jn 2:1 says if we sin, we have an Advocate to get us forgivenss. 1 Jn 1:9 says if we repent He will "cleanse us of all unrighteousness."


You said: Now, that doesn’t mean God’s declaration of righteousness (justification) of the believer is a legal fiction, as RCs attest, it means he is covenantally united to one the federal head who is righteous, and so being seen in Him, the righteousness of the federal head grounds the justification of the believer.

I believe you're reading that into the passage, and I don't believe the passage comes anywhere close to saying that :-)

The 'legal fiction' charge stands if at any time you're suggesting God is declaring an unrighteous individual to be righteous. If my bank account is in the negative, for God to look at me and declare my account to be "financially well off" is a legal fiction.

Nick said...

(3 of 3)
You said: "God, then, justifies those who are inherently ungodly."

Are you saying God justifies the unsanctified? If so, I believe you're injecting your justification-sanctification distinction into a context not dealing with that. Paul would be changing contexts mid thought.


You said: "Romans 4:6 says righteousness is imputed. Presumably you meant to refer to 4:7-8, wherein forgiveness and imputation form the bases of the reason God is able to justify us, not a definition of justification."

Yes, that's what I meant, but I'd say 4:6 is inseparable from 4:7f. I maintain Paul/David is giving a definition of justification in 4:6-8, and even folks like Calvin agree:
"[Paul] first terms it [justification] the imputation of righteousness, and hesitates not to place it in forgiveness of sins: “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven,” &c. (Rom. 4:6-8). There, indeed, he is not speaking of a part of justification, but of the whole. He declares, moreover, that a definition of it was given by David, when he pronounced him blessed who has obtained the free pardon of his sins. Whence it appears that this righteousness of which he speaks is simply opposed to judicial guilt."
(Institutes 3:11:4)

Exegetically, the case that "justify" means "forgive sins" in this context is very strong.


You said: "Justification always refers to a declaration of righteousness – clearly so in Romans – and so what I’m “getting at” is that neither you nor any other RC can explain Romans 4:5, in which God declares righteous the ungodly. That decidedly refutes the concept of infused righteousness."

I deny "justification *always* refers to a declaration of righteousness," and this specific case of Rom 4:5-8 is a strong proof against your claim since "justifies the ungodly" is plainly said to mean "forgives the sinner" in Psalm 32. And, more importantly, the fact you admit forgiveness of sins is involved leaves you no grounds to suggest an ungodly person is being declared righteous.


You said: "The “judge” illustration appears in Romans 3, actually, and in any case, that is either an argument from silence or your opinion."

The only place I see the mention of 'judge' is in 3:5, in the context of God proving Himself faithful in light of sinners opposing His plans. This is in contrast to the various final judgment texts where God is clearly said to be acting as judge, and that us standing before God's judgment seat is something that is future and not past in the Christian's life (Rom 14:10; 2 Tim 4:6-8).

You said: "Unfortunately, try as you might, that is what you end up doing."

I'm speaking from the perspective of one who has yet to see a compelling case for the justification-sanctification ordo Protestants suggest.

Ryan said...

Nick,

We receive a multiplicity of blessings by faith. These blessings are given to every child of Abraham. You don’t avoid my point that you are collapsing all the spiritual blessings into one blessing by appealing to a contextually irrelevant difference between my understanding of the nature of saving faith and your own. Also, since I have already explained in what manner regeneration can be said to be not merely incidental to justification but rather an instrumental cause of it and in such a way that is fully consistent with the Reformed position, to be honest, I think your first paragraph was a swing and a miss. It didn’t really address any of the points it should have and seemed to have been intended to take us away from exegesis.

I think the same can be said in response to my understanding of Ephesians 2. It is obvious neither of us denies the transformative nature of the grace to which Paul refers. It is rather a matter of how that grace relates to faith and justification. If I can provide a scenario in which the Reformed understanding is compatible with the text – as I have, and quite easily at that – then what I said at the beginning of this line of interchange is true: “the passages you cite can easily be understood from the Reformed perspective, as none of the contexts you cite ground justification on sanctification.” Forasmuch as you have protested you are not interposing your set dogmas onto Scripture, Ephesians 2 is as clear a case as any that you are indeed doing just that, until and unless you can show that the Reformed understanding of the relation between regenerative grace and justification is incompatible with Ephesians 2. You can claim your reading is more natural until the cows come home, but Paul expands on what he means when he says “by grace you have been saved” in verse 5 when he includes “through faith” in verse 8, and in the full context of Paul’s line of reasoning, I can fully account for that.

You deny that my understanding of regeneration is biblical three times, yet I am a little put at how little you seem to understand the Reformed position, as you seem to suggest we believe regeneration refers to something other than “the infusion of new life into the formerly dead soul.” What (or more precisely, who) exactly has given you a different impression? Compare that to this and then explain precisely how my notion of regeneration is unbiblical.

Ryan said...

After thinking about it, I suspect your pneumatological confusion probably contributes to your seemingly erroneous understanding of what I believe regeneration entails. I gather that you mean to write that my understanding of adoption is unbiblical (rather than my understanding of regeneration), since I distinguish between it and regeneration. I get this impression from your statement that “Paul speaking of living by the Spirit and the Spirit dwelling in us is precisely what Paul speaks of when he means Adoption (grounding Justification).” That is not what Paul means. You haven’t even attempted to show that is what he means. Noting that regeneration and adoption occur in the same chapter is not a very good argument that regeneration is adoption, especially since I already have noted the same thing yet dissimilarly proceeded to note that Paul predicates adoption upon regeneration in Romans 8:14, a point you ignored. As for what adoption means, we are getting rather farther from the parameters of (3f) than I should like, but I will say that adoption is forensic whereas regeneration is transformative. Adoption refers to the point at which one possesses the legal right to be called a son of God (John 1:12), whereas regeneration references the monergistic and subjective new birth (John 1:13) by which one is given the Holy Spirit who leads one to the faith by which he is given the right to become an adopted son of God (John 1:12, Romans 8:9-11, 14). Regeneration is unto adoption.

A “plain reading” of Acts 15 explains that we are cleansed by faith [in Christ’s blood] (cf. Hebrews 9-10). No Protestant denies that.

Your interpretation of Philippians 3 continues to perplex me. You still ignore the parallel, teleological function of “that” in the surrounding context of the passage. Three times in the span of 15 verses “that” means what I argue it means in 3:10 (2:27-28, 3:8). Also, I don’t consider Paul to be making a sharp transition. It seems quite natural that recognition of the Christological ground of justification would lead Paul to “know [Christ] and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”

Your interpretation of Romans 8:29-30 is just as mysterious to me. The same people who are called, justified and glorified are the same people who are being conformed to His image, because both are predestined unto such. Paul is not writing an excursus on sanctification or justification, he is supporting his assertion that all things work together for good to those who are called according to God’s purpose. To say that the meaning of Romans 8:30 hinges on an alleged interchangeableness between conformity to Christ’s image and justification is nonsense.

Ryan said...

Even if we ignore the fact that you have yet to present a passage which clearly depicts justification as entailing more than a forensic declaration, it is my understanding that from a RC standpoint, venial sins do not affect a believer’s “state of grace” (justification); a believer who has yet to repent of such sin has not lost his justification. On the other hand, sin is sin, the antithesis of ungodliness. If a believer can remain in a “state of grace” even when he sins, then even on your own grounds you would have to admit that God is justifying one who is inherently ungodly. Since you have already said you do not deny the fact justification is forensic (only whether or not it is strictly so), you are still proposing a system in which God declares righteous one who is inherently not. Furthermore, that a believer’s sin has been forgiven does not mean he is no longer a sinner; it means he is no longer constituted as such. For one whose mind has an ontological turn, that is a curious thing to have said.

I think Romans 5:12-21 provides clear support for my position that a believer “is covenantally united to one the federal head who is righteous, and so being seen in Him, the righteousness of the federal head grounds the justification of the believer.” However, pursuing this line of thought would inevitably lead to a discussion on covenant theology, which would take more time than I am want to spare and is not in keeping with the present subject, the meaning of justification. However, I repeat that the charge of a “legal fiction” presupposes an ontological rather than a covenantal framework, and I think it is clear the authors of Scripture have in mind the latter throughout their writings. The imputation of the guilt of the sin of Adam to mankind is a parallel which I would at another time be inclined to highlight, but I have no problems letting the readers decide who is fairing better in this discussion, as I am myself quite satisfied.

Ryan said...

John, if you wouldn't mind, please check the filter for 3 of my comments. Thank you.

John Bugay said...

Ryan, you should be out of spam.

steelikat said...

Ryan,

I'm sorry. It must be horrible to be out of spam. I hope you can get to a market soon.

John Bugay said...

a little light-hearted Beggars All spam humor courtesy of Steelikat :-)

Nick said...

Hi Ryan,

I don't believe I'm collapsing all blessings into one, but rather making justification be grounded on the various blessings. (e.g. justification requires the forgiveness of sins, indwelling of the Holy Spirit of Adoption, etc).

You said: "I have already explained in what manner regeneration can be said to be not merely incidental to justification but rather an instrumental cause of it"

I don't recall where I spoke of regeneration as incidental, but since you've mentioned it, it's incidental in so far as justification doesn't depend on the regeneration of the individual in so far as it isn't grounded upon regeneration but rather an alien righteousness. Further, the only immediate instrumental cause of justification in the Reformed position is faith, which is instrumental in that it receives Christ's Righteousness. Regeneration in your view merely "triggers" faith.

You said: It is obvious neither of us denies the transformative nature of the grace to which Paul refers. It is rather a matter of how that grace relates to faith and justification.

Agreed. Is the justification Paul is explaining in Eph 2 based on an inner transformation, or is this inner transformation the cause of faith which then effects justification. The latter point is what I don't believe is Scriptural and doesn't fit the flow of Eph 2:1-8.

You said: "If I can provide a scenario in which the Reformed understanding is compatible with the text – as I have, and quite easily at that – then what I said at the beginning of this line of interchange is true: the passages you cite can easily be understood from the Reformed perspective, as none of the contexts you cite ground justification on sanctification."

My point was that you were reading your understanding into the text, not exegeting it from the text. Secondly, I pointed out that the Reformed Ordo was not one I believed could be derived from Scripture, which only compounded the issue. When Paul speaks of justification occurring, and is using the language of inner transformation, then the Catholic notion of justification being grounded on an inner transformation fits far better than justification being grounded on an alien righteousness.

Also, at the end of the day, at most, you'd be arguing your interpretation is merely one of two possible interpretations, which is fatal to the Reformation cause.

You said: "Ephesians 2 is as clear a case as any that you are indeed doing just that, until and unless you can show that the Reformed understanding of the relation between regenerative grace and justification is incompatible with Ephesians 2."

See my above point. Your claim faces the twofold dilemma of (1) reading all this extra stuff into the text (e.g. Reformed regeneration) and (2) presupposing the Reformed view of regeneration is Scriptural in the first place.

You said: "You can claim your reading is more natural until the cows come home, but Paul expands on what he means when he says “by grace you have been saved” in verse 5 when he includes “through faith” in verse 8, and in the full context of Paul’s line of reasoning, I can fully account for that."

I'd be glad to dedicate a new post on this very issue, and I believe my reading is by far the more natural. And as I've repeatedly said, the trouble with the Reformed take is only magnified when one takes into consideration the Reformed view of imputation of alien righteousness is itself yet to be proven.

Nick said...

You said: "What (or more precisely, who) exactly has given you a different impression?"

I wasn't denying the concept of making a soul alive is the Reformed view of Regeneration. The part I take issue with is that the Reformed notion of regeneration is distinct from that of inner sanctification, and that justification is grounded upon neither - that's my objection. I deny such a concept of Regeneration in that sense.
This notion of Regeneration is built from the lynchpin called imputation of alien righteousness, and that's why I spend just as much time refuting imputation in my essay, since it's all tied together.

You said: "Noting that regeneration and adoption occur in the same chapter is not a very good argument that regeneration is adoption, especially since I already have noted the same thing yet dissimilarly proceeded to note that Paul predicates adoption upon regeneration in Romans 8:14, a point you ignored."

Here is where our different angles are really beginning to show. I do not "note that regeneration and adoption occur in the same chapter," as if two distinct things were happening. Romans 8:1-14 is about the same subject: receiving the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which is the ground of justification.

In other words, there is no and never is an alien righteousness by which man is saved, and in denying that, my position makes sense. If alien righteousness is true, my position makes no sense and is false.

You said: I will say that adoption is forensic whereas regeneration is transformative.

This is something I strongly deny, at least in the sense it's strictly forensic. Adoption comes in virtue of having the Spirit indwelling. The mark of Adoption is ontological first and for.
Romans 8:15, "you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, Abba! Father!" This is not principally forensic at all.

You said: "A “plain reading” of Acts 15 explains that we are cleansed by faith [in Christ’s blood] (cf. Hebrews 9-10). No Protestant denies that."

They deny this cleansing by faith is speaking of justification, since justification is purely forensic and grounded on an alien righteousness.

You said: "Your interpretation of Philippians 3 continues to perplex me. You still ignore the parallel, teleological function of “that” in the surrounding context of the passage. Three times in the span of 15 verses “that” means what I argue it means in 3:10 (2:27-28, 3:8). Also, I don’t consider Paul to be making a sharp transition."

I don't see how a span of 15 verses helps your case since 2:27f is a different context. The term "that" can mean a wide range of things, so context must be the deciding factor. I didn't see you even address my point that Paul links his "knowing" Christ of v8 with that of v10. Your claim really only can have merit if it can be demonstrated "righteousness of God" is speaking of an alien righteousness, including Christ's active obedience especially.
It's also interesting to note many translations end verse 9 with either a colon or comma, indicating a further elaboration.

You said: "The same people who are called, justified and glorified are the same people who are being conformed to His image, because both are predestined unto such. ... To say that the meaning of Romans 8:30 hinges on an alleged interchangeableness between conformity to Christ’s image and justification is nonsense."

I guess my argument hangs on this question: Does being "conformed to Christ's image" not grounded on calling, justifying or glorifying? If no, then I don't see any grounds to object.

Nick said...

You said: "Even if we ignore the fact that you have yet to present a passage which clearly depicts justification as entailing more than a forensic declaration"

It depends on how you're using the phrase "more than a forensic declaration." Unless I missed it, I don't see you comment upon my appeal to Rom 4:7 in showing justify primarily means "forgive" in that case, along with Calvin's confirming comments. Further, the issue is really what is the declaration being based on, an inner transformation or alien righteousness? In all my examples, I believe inner transformation is far more preferable in terms of taking the plainest meaning than your take. In my article I also mentioned other passages such as Titus 3:4-7, which you'd no doubt interpret along the lines of Eph 2:5, but I'd respond with my twofold objection I made earlier.

My article against Sola Fide went into very important and closely related concepts such as the nature of faith, imputation, and passive and active obedience...all things that stand or fall together. When looking at the bigger body of evidence (i.e. more than just the term justify), a more decisive picture emerges.

You said: "it is my understanding that from a RC standpoint, venial sins do not affect a believer’s “state of grace” (justification); a believer who has yet to repent of such sin has not lost his justification."

Think of the venial/mortal sin distinction as akin to a child who disobeys his parents versus a child who disowns his parents. Minor disobedience doesn't sever the family ties. An even better analogy is that of a Jew who commits various sins that require repentance and a sacrifices versus those grave sins which totally cut him off from membership in the Jewish Nation.

You said: "On the other hand, sin is sin, the antithesis of ungodliness."

Two points: First, texts like Matthew 5:19 indicate various levels of glory in Heaven dependent upon how well one kept the least of the commandments. This is in contrast to the sins that wont let one enter Heaven at all (e.g. Mat 5:27-30).
Second, you're approaching the issue as if entering Heaven is based on a "perfect report card," and thus anything less than 100% perfection is ultimately a Failed grade. That's not biblical.

You said: "If a believer can remain in a “state of grace” even when he sins, then even on your own grounds you would have to admit that God is justifying one who is inherently ungodly."

Note the analogy I gave above with the child disobeying versus disowning. More importantly, justifying the ungodly in that case is primarily focused on forgiving, and thus when one is forgiven their slate is wiped clean.

You said: "that a believer’s sin has been forgiven does not mean he is no longer a sinner; it means he is no longer constituted as such."

It depends on how you're speaking when you say "no longer a sinner." If you mean the individual can still fall into sin, that's fine but doesn't have any bearing here since repentance and forgiveness can restore them to a clean state again. If you mean the individual remains a sinner ontologically, I'd say that's a form of Manicheanism, since sin has no ontological existance.


You said: "I think Romans 5:12-21 provides clear support for my position that a believer “is covenantally united to one the federal head who is righteous, and so being seen in Him, the righteousness of the federal head grounds the justification of the believer."

If taken in the sense of Jesus being a Vine and we being branches ingrafted into Him, receiving his nourishing life in us, then I agree, but that's basing justification on our inner being, not alien righteousness.

When you say Federal Head is righteous, that "righteousness" must be defined. I see no proof this "righteousness" consists of a record of perfect obedience, nor that it is the Righteousness of God.

Nick said...

(4 of 4)
You said: "I repeat that the charge of a “legal fiction” presupposes an ontological rather than a covenantal framework"

I don't agree. The legal fiction applies to both an ontological and covenantal/forensic set up, depending on which you go with. If Rom 4:5 is taken in a covenantal set up such that God is "declaring legally righteous the legally unrighteous man," that's a legal fiction on it's face. The sinner has a very real legal unrighteousness that must be dealt with, and forgiving that legal unrighteousness and/or imputing an alien legal righteousness doesn't change the fact the sinner's "legal ledger" has no 'positive' righteousness to it.

Pretend I have a bank account that says -$10. If the Manager wants to say I have "good credit," something about my ledger needs to change, namely I need a positive balance. If I'm simply forgiven my debt, my (legal) balance is simply $0, not "good credit". If the Manager wants to overlook my own ledger and instead look at Christ's $100 ledger, the Manager is still ignoring the fact my own ledger is not positive. It's a legal fiction either way. God can never say "I consider you as having kept the whole law" when He knows full well I never did (legal fiction).

Nick said...

Looks like 2 of my posts got caught in the filter.

Ryan said...

Nick,

This will be the last post from me for now, as I will be on vacation starting tomorrow. Feel free to have the last word.

Recall that you have said, with regards to Galatians 3:

Nick: “For example, Galatians 3 is speaking on justification, but look how Paul phrases it in 3:2,
"Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?"
Paul could just has easily have said, "were you *justified* by works of the law or by faith?" with the same *meaning*.”

Nick: “Paul asks if they received the Spirit by works of the law or by faith. The issue of works of the law versus faith is a justification issue, and receiving the Spirit is an Adoption issue. Is Paul confusing categories, or does the Reformed side err in splitting up those categories? I say the latter.”

Given these assertions, it appears to me that you are backtracking when you state that we receive multiple blessings, since the equivalency of the blessings was the very ground upon which your original argument stood. If adoption and justification mean different things, whether or not one is grounded upon the other is irrelevant to your argument I was attempting to refute, viz. that the two blessings are interchangeable. I do not see how you can unequivocally affirm we receive multiple blessings, two of which are adoption and justification, simultaneous to your allegation that to receive the Spirit means the same thing as to be justified by faith.

Speaking of senses in which regeneration is merely incidental from the Reformed perspective is misleading if regeneration is a necessary precondition for justification. That the Reformed perspective does not agree with Rome as to the reason regeneration is a precondition for justification is not relevant to this point.

Exegesis consists of more than an isolated analysis of a single passage. Appealing to the Pauline corpus or even the canon at large to discern which of two interpretations is coherent with the rest is not “fatal to the Reformation cause.” Moreover, a correlation between an inner transformation and justification does not imply one causes the other. You should know better than to opine this fallacy.

Ryan said...

I grant that I have not established that the Reformed understanding of regeneration is biblical, but that is not the focus of this post. Even so, I suppose you disagree with it on the grounds that we argue it causes faith, since we seem to agree as to its meaning. I think 1 John 5:1 (cf. a syntactically parallel passage in 2:29), is sufficient to establish that, especially given that a motif in 1 John is to explain that which regeneration causes (e.g. 2:29, 3:9, 4:7, 5:1, 4, 18).

On the other hand, you write that you disagree with the Reformed understanding of regeneration because you think we do not find that it is connected to inner sanctification and because we don’t ground justification upon regeneration. Firstly, that we don’t ground justification on regeneration means you have a problem with our notion of justification, not regeneration per se. Secondly, I must say I am still surprised that you are so unfamiliar with the Reformed position. How could you read that link I provided and conclude we distinguish regeneration from “inner sanctification”? Regeneration is the beginning of sanctification (Ephesians 5:26, John 17:17, cf. James 1:18). Again, I must ask you from whom or what you have so-called learned Reformed theology?

Romans 8:2-13 pertains to the leading of the Holy Spirit, 8:14-17 pertains to adoption, and 8:17-25 pertains to glorification. The same people the Spirit leads are the same people the Spirit adopts (Romans 8:14). You are assuming, as in 8:29-30, that to be because the same group of people are mentioned, the same activity must be being denoted. That’s simply a fallacy. Furthermore, until you demonstrate that the Reformed understanding of the relation between regeneration and justification is not exegetically tenable – rather than simply pontificating that your “correlation implies causation” interpretation fits best – to assert that any passage which correlates the two soteric acts supports your contention that “regeneration grounds justification” is question-begging. Recall that we are still dealing with your original proof-texts, not mine. The burden of proof is not on me to establish my own position from these passages, it is yours.

The idea that Romans 8:15 is inconsistent with a strictly forensic understanding of adoption is something for which you must argue. I already noted that by belief we have been given the right (a legal term) to be called a son of God (John 1:12). Obviously, a son of God can cry “Abba, Father!” In what way does Romans 8:15 function as an argument against this position?

Again, no Protestant denies that the cleansing capacity of Christ’s [alien?] blood is involved in the double imputation by which one is declared righteous (justified). Acts 15 poses no problem to the Protestant.

Ryan said...
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Ryan said...

Philippians 3:8 is not in a different context, and it still means the same thing as I perceive it to mean in 3:10. That “knowing Christ” is mentioned in both verses would only imply that “that” functions in the same way in both passages, so I don’t know what you are getting at. I have yet to see you cite even one example of a passage in which “that” can function as “in other words,” whereas we have a cut-and-dry example of an instance in which “that” means “in order to” not three verses before. The punctuation of 3:9 is a red herring. This has to be the worst of your arguments so far. Your argument that my “claim really only can have merit if it can be demonstrated "righteousness of God" is speaking of an alien righteousness, including Christ's active obedience especially” is utterly bereft of competence. If you cannot see that the “that” in 3:8 means the same thing as what I argue it means in 3:10 – a point you have yet to acknowledge – I consider this part of our conversation to have been a waste of time. Imputed righteousness follows from rather than the teleological understanding of “that” in 3:10. I think that is the only reason you are insisting that the “that” in 3:10 must means something other than what it means throughout the rest of the context.

No, being conformed to Christ’s image is not grounded upon God’s calling, justification, or glorification. It is, like calling, justification, and glorification, grounded on predestination. So, once again, “to say that the meaning of Romans 8:30 hinges on an alleged interchangeableness between conformity to Christ’s image and justification is nonsense.”

Nick: “Unless I missed it, I don't see you comment upon my appeal to Rom 4:7 in showing justify primarily means "forgive" in that case”

You did miss it, and what you missed even provides the explicit answer to your next question, that upon which justification is based:

Nick: “Is God ever declaring righteous the unrighteous (ungodly)? No. That's a manifest abomination. Rather, the term justify here must mean "forgive," as the next verse shows.”

Me: “Romans 4:6 says righteousness is imputed. Presumably you meant to refer to 4:7-8, wherein forgiveness and imputation form the bases of the reason God is able to justify us, not a definition of justification.”

Ryan said...

I consider that your analogy between justification and venial sin to that of a disobedient child to be fatal to your understanding of justification, as a disobedient child, while not disowned, is nevertheless inherently ungodly. Even if we were to allow RC ontological presuppositions, you fall on your own sword. God cannot declare someone inherently righteous unless they are inherently righteous. Venial sins affirms a contradictory: God is declaring inherently righteous those who are not inherently righteous. And, in fact, if we discard the ontological presuppositions, the reason Jews were not immediately cut off from the Abrahamic covenant upon sinning becomes clear: because the covenant curse and requirements are borne for them by the Suzerain in whom they have faith, viz. by the sacrifices which typified the covenantal circumcision-baptism-crucifixion of Christ (Genesis 15, Mark 1, cf. Mark 10:38, Colossians 2:11).

I don’t see how your citation of Matthew 5 is relevant to the antithesis I draw between sin and godliness. Believers are rewarded in accordance to their works. What of it? Also, are you saying that one who sins is or can be inherently godly? That’s what it sounds like.

Nick: “If you mean the individual can still fall into sin, that's fine but doesn't have any bearing here since repentance and forgiveness can restore them to a clean state again.”

The point is that in the case of venial sins, you affirm believers remain [analytically] justified even prior to repentance. You claim that you don’t deny the forensic nature of justification, but unless you do, I don’t see how you can get around the fact you are implying God is declaring to be inherently righteous one who is not inherently righteous. Either you deny the forensic nature of justification or you have to say one can sin and be inherently righteous, both of which are absurd.

Nick: “If you mean the individual remains a sinner ontologically, I'd say that's a form of Manicheanism, since sin has no ontological existance.”

I didn’t mean that, since I am not the one who presupposes ontological categories, but out of curiosity, if sin can have no ontological existence, how can righteousness have an ontological existence? Both are related to one’s obedience (or lack thereof) to the law.

Ryan said...

Jesus, as second Adam, obeyed that which Adam did not: God’s commands. Adam disobeyed God, so he could not remain in paradise. [Communal] Israel disobeyed God, so Israel could not remain in paradise. Jesus obeyed God; if He has failed “to do everything written in the Book of the Law” (Galatians 3:10), he could not have qualified as Messiah, because He Himself would be under the same curse from which the Messiah was to save everyone else. As I mentioned earlier and should be a little more evident now, this is all tied to covenant theology, which, while a worthwhile and necessary topic for discussion, I choose not to discuss at this time. I have written about it on my blog (particularly, the covenant of works), if interested.

Nick: “The sinner has a very real legal unrighteousness that must be dealt with, and forgiving that legal unrighteousness and/or imputing an alien legal righteousness doesn't change the fact the sinner's "legal ledger" has no 'positive' righteousness to it.”

But then you are not dealing in terms of the covenant and federal headship anymore, but rather imposing your ontological presuppositions. When you say that the “legal fiction” charge sticks to covenantal framework, you have to deal in terms of the covenantal framework. Moreover, barring Mary perhaps, you would say that no one has kept the law, correct? On whose account, then, can they be declared righteous? If men are declared righteous because they are inherently righteous, then either they have to have kept the law (which is unbiblical) or someone else must have imbued them with righteousness such that it becomes their own, but in the latter case, I do not see how that can have come to happen apart from an alien imputation of righteousness, which is precisely what you deny.

Ryan said...

One of my comments is in the filter. It may show two posts, but if so, they should have the same content, so feel free to only post one of them.

Nick said...

Hi Ryan,

Since we've both said pretty much all we can now, I'll focus on some of the major points rather than give a full response to everything.

1) If justification is grounded upon receiving the indwelling of the Spirit of Adoption (including sanctification, forgiveness, etc), as I maintain, then Paul could say "were you justified by works of the law" or "did you receive the Spirit by works of the law" without implying a change of subject. It's just as when Paul says "justifies the ungodly" and the next verse "blessed is the man who's sins are forgiven" are talking of the same subject, with justification grounded on forgiveness. If one happened, so did the other, yet neither are independent or incidental to the other.

2) When I spoke of "fatal to the Reformed cause," I was saying if Scripture doesn't come down clearly in favor of the Reformed view and instead is merely one plausible interpretation along with the Catholic interpretation, then Sola Scriptura fails and is thus untenable and false.

3) Regarding regeneration. As you note, my main objection to the Reformed understanding is that justification is not grounded upon it, despite the fact it entails an inner sanctification. When speaking of the Reformed view of Regeneration I understand it to mean the believer is "awakened" to his sinful state and enabled to turn towards God with faith, and I take care not to conflate it ("effectual calling") with the "Sanctification" that comes post-justification when the believer's good works come into play. From the Catholic perspective, when a Reformed says regeneration entails an inner sanctification, with sanctification also following justification, creates a discrepancy of just what or how much one was "sanctified" during regeneration that's going to require any further or completion when Sanctification begins post-justification. This ties into the differences Catholics and Reformed have with anthropology.

4) As far as properly interpreting Romans 8, a lot of this ties into one's presuppositions regarding the Ordo Salutis. Typically, Reformed argue that Paul begins speaking on Justification in Rom 3-5, switches to Sanctification in Rom 6-7, and has a mix of the two in Rom 8. The Catholic view doesn't read like that, nor do we see sufficient grounds for that, and instead see Rom 6-8 as a more in depth take on Justification. Catholics deny one can have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and be led by Him and not simultaneously be Adopted. The way you parse Rom 8 is simply unwarranted exegetically, and can only be done presupposing there are different "phases" in the first place.

5) Regarding Rom 8:15 and a strictly forensic Adoption. The texts is explicitly speaking of receiving the indwelling of the Spirit of Adoption, meaning it's impossible to be Adopted without this indwelling, and further it is impossible to say "Abba Father" without this same Indwelling.

6) You said: "Acts 15 poses no problem to the Protestant." There isn't much new I can say here, only re-iterate that I believe the context is justification and 15:9 describes this in terms of inner cleansing. My thrust is that when one takes all the texts speaking on justification and does a tally, the evidence favoring a strictly forensic justification based on an alien righteousness is insufficiently represented to be justifiable.

7) As for Phil 3:8 and the term "that," I believe is not sufficient grounds to establish anything. My argument doesn't hang on the word "that." My mention of "knowing Christ" would suggest the same meaning (or intent, if you're insisting so much on "that").

8) Regarding Romans 8:29f and "conformed to His Image," the question on the table now is: what does this mean given that calling and glorification have no bearing on it? I can't think of any plausible meaning.

Nick said...

9) I'm not seeing your point on Rom 4:6-8. You say "forgiveness and imputation form the bases of the reason God is able to justify us," but I see this as creating two components where there is only one being mentioned. It is speaking fundamentally about the forgiveness of sin (as even folks like Calvin admit), without a hint of another component. While it's popular for Reformed to say there is a 'negative' and 'positive' component here, I don't believe that's true nor tenable. One is "counted righteous" precisely because what is making him unrighteous (his sin) is blotted out.

10) You are misunderstanding the venial sin issue. Justification is grounded upon the Indwelling of the Spirit, and venial sin by nature doesn't cast off the Spirit, thus venial sin doesn't undo Justification.
Your comment about the Jews not being cutoff except for certain grave sins makes no sense: in the Mosaic Covenant, no sacrifice could atone for cutting-off-sins, nor did Christ's sacrifice operate towards preventing/atoning for Mosaic cutting-off-sins.

11) You said: "out of curiosity, if sin can have no ontological existence, how can righteousness have an ontological existence?"

Sin has no ontological existence the way darkness has no ontological existence, both are merely the *absence* of something with ontological existence, namely absence of light and righteousness, respectively. Thus, man's soul/nature can never be ontologically unrighteous in the sense it's literally sinful, only unrighteous in that it lacks the positive (real) quality of righteousness.

12) You brought up how the covenant of works was tied into all this, and I strongly agree. But this is *precisely* why from the very start, especially in my debate, that I addressed the covenant issue, as well as Christ's Passive and Active Obedience, because such are necessary for forming the full and complete picture. Arguing over single words, like dikaioo, is of limited benefit.

When you say "Jesus, as second Adam, obeyed that which Adam did not," while there is truth to it, there are critical details that make all the difference in the world. For example, Jesus kept God's Commands as a Divine Person as well as with the Indwelling of the Spirit of Adoption concurrent with all this obedience. These were not things Jesus "earned". The "righteousness of God" is not something Jesus earned/merited. The Reformed framework is a form of Pelagianism, where Adam was to render this perfect obedience by natural human powers alone, something that Christologically is impossible/heretical for Christ to have done.

13) You said: "you would say that no one has kept the law, correct?"
It all depends on what you mean by "kept" and "law" here. The law Paul was primarily focused on was the Mosaic Law, and "keeping" this Law never entailed perfect sinless obedience (hence the sacrificial system), nor would sinless obedience to that Law justify. But if you're speaking of fulfilling the Law, that is living to it's ideals, Christians can and must do so as Rom 13:8-13 (and elsewhere) teaches.

You conclude with: If men are declared righteous because they are inherently righteous, then either they have to have kept the law or someone else must have imbued them with righteousness

As I note in my debate article, there are a couple of flawed assumptions going on here. First and foremost is a conflating of justification with final salvation. Paul never speaks of eternal life as something secured at justification, and in fact doesn't mention the term "eternal life" in places like Romans 3-4 or Gal 3, and it's never a righteousness of "perfectly keeping the Law."