Excellent Article On the Current Issues Surrounding Sanctification and Justification

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Backwoods Presbyterian, Aug 13, 2011.

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  1. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

  2. dudley

    dudley Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Thank you Ben. I will read the article tonight. I am very interetsed in the topic of Sannctification, Justification and the Nature of the Gospel.
  3. Zach

    Zach Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks for sharing that Rev. Glaser. Sanctification is a difficult topic (in more ways than one) and this was really helpful for me, especially since I have been wanting to see more fruit and sanctification in my walk with Christ and have often looked for that "silver bullet" the blog post talks about. Thanks again for sharing.
  4. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Thanks for the heads up, Benjamin.

    This article is the best recent presentation I have seen of the Biblical teaching on this issue and the current controversy in Reformed and Calvinistic circles over it. As I noted previously, there is a visceral reaction against the idea of any kind of Biblical imperative, even though the Scriptures are filled with them. This pattern is perhaps most clearly seen in Paul's epistles. The mention of post-fundamentalism may be spot on. I too have wondered how many people who are attracted to this teaching have come from legalistic Pentecostal or Fundamentalist backgrounds. Similarly, it's not uncommon to encounter folks who have been under some kind of unbiblical overbearing "shepherding" who overreact into rejecting basically any pastoral shepherding at all.

    Perhaps most interesting and indeed, troubling, is the fact that some of the "Gospel-driven" types will link approvingly to the kind of posts that are criticized in this article and will then turn around the next day and tout J.C. Ryle's Holiness, which basically teaches the polar opposite! One wonders the thought behind promoting both and evidently not seeing the contradiction. Confusion and overreaction to false teaching is at the root, I think. The other day I saw a woman quote Horatius Bonar's God's Way of Holiness in an attempt to rebut criticism of "Gospel-driven" views of sanctification. This was despite the fact that Bonar, like Ryle, has a strong emphasis on striving. Maybe the fact that Bonar clearly taught justification by grace alone by faith alone through Christ alone leads to an assumption by those who don't read closely that he must also agree with those who appear to teach nothing but the indicatives.
  5. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

  6. Rufus

    Rufus Puritan Board Junior

    I found this not long after I read the sanctification chapter of Holiness by J.C. Ryle. It's an interesting topic and I'm looking forward to seeing everybody's input on the issue.
  7. jfschultz

    jfschultz Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks for the link. Dr. Thomas mentioned this during class this weekend at RTS Memphis, but I had trouble finding it.
  8. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    That's all well and good, Rev Glaser, but what about a good article on what happened to the Pittsburgh Pirates this year...
  9. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    Jerry Meals happened. The Atlanta Braves, as usual, destroyed our season.
  10. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    View attachment 2204
  11. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    It was good article over all but I thought he distracted from the main point of criticism with point 2 where he highlighted this:
    I agree with him that one of the dire problems in our Churches is that people "feel" justified but have never understood the Gospel. Nevertheless, if some are preaching too much indicative and not enough imperative then it doesn't really solve the problem of the unconverted soul to simply change the "balance" of the conversation to more imperative. It's an odd criticism, in other words, because he seems to be arguing that in our day we need a greater balance of imperative in order to correct the emphasis on cheap grace that is so common.

    But this is a problem of conversion and fundamental presentation of the gospel and not a "balance" issue. One needs to fully preach the threat of the Law and our deadness in sins and trespasses and then the power, death, and resurrection of Christ on the other as the Word presents it. I assume he wasn't trying to say otherwise but this section left the impression that there was too much indicative going on and, consequently, people needed more imperative.

    What followed in his article about the definitive nature of sanctification was what I believe he should have stuck with as it was very good. I really do try to listen to the WHI and cast it in the best possible light (and there's much that I thoroughly enjoy) but Mike's recent interview with Tullian was disappointing. I cannot recall the specific statements that made me wince but it always seems to drive back to reflecting on what Christ has done rather than taking any stock as to how Christ is progressing us in the area of sanctification. It's ironic because there's an acknowledgement that our wills need to be the ones to change. It's not Christ that is yelling at his wife too much. It's me. I'm then given an imperative(!) by the proponents of this view that I need to think more about Christ's finished work. There's also an implied (and often explicit) criticism that any internal reflection or heaing what the Law would tell me to do is driving me to legalism.

    Owen's work on Sin and Temptation is much more rich and nuanced than anything I ever hear on the WHI. They get great grades in my book for clarity on what Christ accomplished but when it comes to sanctification they're good at criticizing what they don't like but very poor at positively defining what definitive sanctification looks like in a believer's life.

    I found myself floundering in battles with indwelling sin until I read Owen's work a few years ago. Unless we study the nature of sin and temptation we are left defenseless in the battle. The exhortations to simply think about what Christ has done leaves our own failings and predilections left unstudied. We don't ever reflect upon what situations led to the "high noon" of our temptation that we might avoid them or steel our minds (in Christ) against them. I simply don't see a serious interaction with the nuts and bolts of definitive sanctification other than giving it a short treatment on the WHI and then returning to railing against those who get it completely wrong rather than establishing a positive case for how the whole of Scripture treats it.

    The more I have studied on the area of sanctification, I agree with the author that our consideration of our union with Christ is instrumental in our growth in Christ. When you exhort a young man about his sin being conquered on the Cross of Christ and his life being raised together with Him, that's powerful stuff. It's existential. It gets into the marrow of everyday living. Simply telling him that Christ never looked at p0rnography and neglecting to tell him that sin as power was put to death on the Cross is leaving out critical Truth about the Gospel. Failing to tell the young man that Christ rose again with an indestructible life and that we, in union with Him, will obey is leaving out crticial Truth about the Gospel.

    It's not simply about what Christ has done (glory be to God that He did) but it's also the glory that we, who are in union with Him, are dead to sin and alive to righteousness. We walk into the battle armed against an enemy that no longer enslaves us.
  12. Philip

    Philip Puritan Board Graduate

    To my ears, at least, the two positions presented are not mutually exclusive. I agree with the criticisms of Tchividjan's position, which is why I think DeYoung's is a helpful balance (and vice versa).
  13. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

  14. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    Whether or not I have understood Reformed people such as Horton and TT, what I have gotten from them is that there is no naked law. When an unbeliever encounters the gospel, he does so only through the guiding hand of the law; conversely, a believer encounters the law only through the message of the gospel. That is, every time I encounter the law's demands, I am to undergo a threefold movement: 1) recognition of the fullness of the law and my damnable failure to keep it; 2) trust in the finished work of Christ, who fulfills and obliterates the law's condemnation; 3) grateful imitation of my Savior in the power of the Spirit.

    I think we need to go through all 3 in our personal lives and in our teaching and preaching. Since the article mentioned post-fundamentalism, I'll note that in fundamentalism, there are mostly naked imperatives. After a person "gets saved," justification (or adoption, or union) never plays any further role. Sanctification is just, "This is what God says, so do it." For many fundamentalists or disaffected ex-fundamentalists, hearing that sanctification is vitally connected to what God has done for us in the gospel is overwhelmingly good news. The contrast is quite stark.

    Back to Reformed people, such as WHI and TT. They can't really not be preaching the imperatives at all, can they? I mean, do they just skip Eph. 4-6? I haven't heard enough of them to know, I guess, but I have a hard time believing they simply omit all the commands in the Bible.
  15. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    Wow. It's just one game. And it's not like they were guaranteed to win the game either without that call (the game would have still been tied). You've got to shake that off and go out and win the next day. If they can't let go of one game in the middle of a 162 game, that says a lot (a bad call in a short playoff series is a different matter).

    The fact that Neil Walker has about 3 hits since the All-Star break might have more to do with it. He's killing my fantasy team right now...
  16. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    By the way thanks for Charlie Morton.
  17. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    The Braves have been good at this lately. What they gave up for Texiera a few years ago helped put the Rangers in the World Series.
  18. yoyoceramic

    yoyoceramic Puritan Board Freshman

    The exposition on Romans 6 was very helpful. While both sides are acknowledging the normative truth of the believer's union with Christ, it seems that one camp places the emphasis on how this union flows into my sanctification as I understand it (the union) better, while the other camp emphasizes how the union must be practically applied to life through exertion.

    If Christ struggled in the garden to obey the will of the Father, do we have any grounds to expect not to struggle? I think not. Being united with Christ, we know that we will overcome that which is contrary to the will of God even if it requires us to sweat drops of blood.
  19. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

  20. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    From the article:

    I think the article is right in pointing out the influence of the Sonship movement. But it makes the all-too-common mistake of associating it with a lack of interest in Christian obedience. If it emphasizes grace it must be antinomian, right? Wrong.

    I was around for the start of the Sonship movement and knew Jack Miller. I've been involved, off and on, in adapting Sonship materials for use with kids. I can say with much certainty that when it comes to fighting sin in one's life the Sonship teaching is among the most challenging and convicting stuff I've ever been exposed to, right up there with many of the Puritans. Sonship is not just about having been declared a son, but also about diligently living as befits a son. Mostly, it's about never separating one from the other. Sonship people tend to be sin-aware and constantly repentant even as they are Christ-aware and constantly joyful. The fact that they battle sin in their lives with their eyes trained on Christ and on the justification, union and sonship he has won for them is a good thing, not a fault. It's called faith.

    Surely many take the message of radical grace and turn it into an excuse to not take obedience seriously, just as others take God's law and turn it into legalism. But the solution is not to de-emphasize either, nor to strike a "balance." The answer is to teach both full barrel and unflinchingly.
  21. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor


    You are right that it's a problem with conversion. That was what was so frustrating with Tullian's post on perfectionism that Randy (puritancovenanter) posted about a few months ago. At least some of the people described therein appeared to be unconverted, yet he appears to blame the problems they had on perfectionistic views of sanctification (not justification) and then says that Christians are "free to fail" etc. At best, it is very confusing because it seems to indicate that the examples (which were from Steve Brown) are Christians, which possibly goes a step further than Brown did. If someone's idea about how one goes to heaven is genuinely perfectionistic, legalistic or moralistic (i.e. simply being a good person) then it is a conversion issue and is not merely a problem with Christians just beating themselves up.

    In fairness, I think it does need to be noted that Tchividjian and WHI appear to be primarily speaking to professing believers at large rather than to a largely Reformed audience. In itself, that's commendable and necessary. (I think that sometimes my posts contain too much jargon and inside baseball so as to be largely unintelligible to the uninitiated.) But speaking to a wider audience doesn't excuse being confusing, even if you're not aiming to go through the confessions or systematics texts line by line. As you note, the problem seems to be doctrinal and not merely a case of not communicating clearly enough.

    What seems to be missed at times is what role imperatives might play in conversion, in conjunction with indicatives. I'm not sure that a formulaic law before grace method a la Ray Comfort is required in every case. But I think an argument can be made that this balance (for lack of a better term) especially with regard to the injunctions we see in the NT, could be helpful. If a man doesn't look the way a Christian is described in the Bible, maybe he's not converted! I know that some have been converted by the means of emphasizing those imperatives. On the other hand, we can't conform to that solely by our own power and we need to emphasize that in our teaching.

    Related to this is the idea of "dead orthodoxy," which Dr. Clark and others have emphatically claimed cannot exist. I agree up to the point that those who can make mental assent to the Gospel yet appear dead evidently haven't reckoned with the whole counsel of God. But there are those who appear to be heavily influenced by WHI, etc. who, as you note, "feel" justified. The biblical message is not "do this and live" but "live and do this" but some reject even the latter as being legalistic and "performance based."

    But false professors are a problem in most every church, regardless of the message preached. Some who can practically recite the Westminster Standards (or some similar orthodox confession) from memory, including the proper emphasis on effort, may yet be unregenerate. And all of us are likely confused and/or lacking understanding on any number of issues.

    ---------- Post added at 01:37 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:25 PM ----------

    I can't speak for others, but teaching both full barrel and unflinchingly is what I mean by balance. Do some conceive the mention of balance to mean something else? We get out of balance and fail to do justice to the whole counsel of God when we fail to do teach both unflinchingly.

    ---------- Post added at 01:39 PM ---------- Previous post was at 01:37 PM ----------

    FYI, two more posts appeared on the Ref. 21 site today, a rejoinder by Sean Michael Lucas and a post by Richard Phillips:

    A Rejoinder on Sanctification and the Gospel - Reformation21 Blog

    Seven Assertions Regarding Justification and Sanctification - Reformation21 Blog
  22. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Exactly. As I've looked at the unfolding discussion, it seems that it could be reduced to a debate as to which imbalance is more appropriate to commit in our times. But the answer is that it is not appropriate to be imbalanced in either direction. There will be individuals or congregations that may need to hear about one more than the other in order for the total commitment to both truths to be brought out; but it would seem best that every minister, at least, be prepared to apply indicatives or imperatives as appropriate in each distinct situation.
  23. Myshkin

    Myshkin Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree with what CharlieJ, Jack, and Ruben posted above and what Joshua highlighted from the WLC. I personally don't see the WSC/WHInn denying that portion of the WLC, but in fact I consistently read them promoting it.

    This is not meant to be provocative or to step on toes, I genuinely would like to ask in all seriousness:
    To what degree or percentage do those of the WSC/WHInn "school" have to mention the law as part of sanctification in order for their critics to believe that they are serious about sanctification and the third use of the law? For their critics to believe that they are not anti-imperatives? What would suffice for a proper amount of talk regarding law/imperatives in sanctification? I read their materials almost daily, and the law is strongly promoted in them. So I get really confused with some of these claims that they are against imperatives in the christian life. I would even say, that it wasn't until I was exposed to their emphasis on the gospel that I then became serious about the law. Until then, my focus on the law was exposed for what it really was: my attempt to please God outside of his gospel and/or my attempt to turn sanctification into an obedience that "keeps me in" justification.

    To date, the WSC/WHInn "school" has in some form or another, been accused of being or connected to in some degree, the following:
    antinomian, "Sonship", Keswick, Lutheran, Dispensationalist, revisionist. In my experience, those who make these claims have either been FV proponents, Theonomists, ex-dispensationalist baptists, neo-kuyperians, those who elevate biblical theology over systematic theology, those who look at the confessions and the Reformed faith progressively rather than traditionally, those who pit Calvin against the Calvinists, and those who seem to think union with Christ is the material principle of the reformation.

    Is there anyone who does not fall into any of these categories that agrees with their critique of the WSC/WHInn "school"?

    It is really confusing to me when WSC/WHInn is considered "Lutheran" on these issues by their critics, yet on the other hand I read where Lutherans think WSC/WHInn types confuse law and gospel/justifcation and sanctification. It is especially confusing when the position I hold (the "WSC" position), I learned from prominent Reformed non-WSC types (Berkhof comes to mind) before I had ever even heard of M. Kline or those associated with WSC/WHInn. It seems to me that so much of this debate comes down to one's view of John Murray. He seems to be the fountainhead of where the Reformed have diverged on all of these issues. That's my guess anyways.

    I guess I (simplistically?) look at it this way: the more I hear of law to the neglect of the gospel, the more I lose sight of the gospel and the law seems to only be functioning for me in its second use. But ironically the more I hear of the gospel the more I desire and attempt to obey the law as its third use. It seems to me that those who emphasize/focus on the gospel yet also entirely avoid the law, are not guilty of over emphasizing the gospel to the neglect of the law, but rather are probably not regenerate. For the regenerate are motivated (by the gospel and the HS in connection with the law) to serve in gratitude the Lord who saved them. A focus on the gospel, for me, actually brings the law more front and center. Yet a focus on the law ironically leads to my neglect of both gospel and law; the law becomes replaced by my own new laws and the gospel becomes assumed/taken for granted, thus leading to cheap grace and "sinning it up". I believe that legalism and antinomianism are not two opposite sides of a horse we should not fall off of, but rather they are strange bedfellows that go hand in hand even though they are distinct in substance. That is to say, legalism and antinomianism are not cured by swinging back to some golden mean middle on a spectrum; rather when one denies God's law (antinomianism) one also is simultaneously setting up their own law (legalism). I grew up in both types of churches, and WSC/WhInn teaching has helped me out of both modes of thought. When they are criticized for flirting with or promoting anti-law tendencies, I do not recognize the caricature, for in my experience it has been the opposite.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2011
  24. Marrow Man

    Marrow Man Drunk with Powder

    From Phillips' (no relation) article, this is helpful:

  25. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor

    I seem to remember hearing more than one WHI commentator claiming that unless you are accused of being antinomian, you are "probably not" preaching the Gospel.
    Just as all stereotypes are not untrue, so much "misunderstanding" of positions originates in the hyperbole or imprecision of the original speakers. I agree with Ruben's (et. al.) post above regarding the need for a balanced presentation of truth. However, I tire of hearing folks (e.g., WHI, FV, theonomists, WSCal, Driscoll, Klineans, anti-Klineans, neo-kuyperians, Piperites, Tea Party, Move-on, Ron Paulistas, whatever) complain that they are being "misrepresented" and "misunderstood." If we were a bit more careful in our statements of our positions, we might not need to spend so much time correcting the misreadings of them by others.
  26. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Yeah, it depends on what you mean by "balance." It just seems to me that some preachers are concerned not to make God's law seem too demanding, nor the gospel sound too amazingly free to sinners, lest people get the wrong idea. That's a bad approach.
  27. Zach

    Zach Puritan Board Junior

    Are there any resources you would recommend to someone who wants greater understanding of our Union with Christ, particularly as it pertains to sanctification? I'm thinking of reading On the Mortification of Sin in the Believer, but any other recommended resources would be appreciated.
  28. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Yes, many people experience this, which is why being gospel-centered is critically important to sanctification, even if it's not a "magic bullet," nothing-else-allowed thing.

    Right. This is what I mean by not taking a "strike a balance" approach. There is no balance between "Obey God!" and "Christ has canceled your debt!" Neither can truly grow in a believer's life without the other increasing also, and both are opposed to an unbelieving, self-directed life.
  29. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    I don't know if this was their source (it would be mildly ironic, if so), but didn't Lloyd-Jones say something along those lines? Pointing out that it was an accusation made against Paul himself, if I remember correctly.
  30. GulfCoast Presbyterian

    GulfCoast Presbyterian Puritan Board Junior


    I have not looked at the WLC in forever. Am I correct that the "Moral law" is the 10 commandments, and not the general "mosiac law?" I will look for myself this evening.

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