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March 9, 2010


The Process of Salvation

Here is a brief simple run down of the process of salvation from a Reformed perspective that I wrote up for someone who asked. Discuss amongst yourselves.

1.Election: Before they had done anything good or bad, apart any foreseen merit or goodness inherent in them, the Father chose his people in the Son, through the Son, and for the Son in accordance with his own will and purposes.

2. Regeneration: God alone, through the Holy Spirit gives new birth to elect sinners. There is nothing sinner does to deserve, prepare for or merit regeneration in any way. Nor can he cooperate with it anymore than a baby cooperates in his conception.

3.The Call: God draws the regenerate sinner to himself—putting down the willed suppression and hatred for God that characterize the sinful nature, freeing the heart to love what is good, evoking a desire for the truth through the word of Christ, preached, read, or taught.

4. Justification: The sinner, by grace alone, comes to a right knowledge of Jesus’ person and work, he assents to the truthfulness of what he knows, and finally repents and trusts in the merits and work of Christ alone for his salvation and commits to follow Jesus as his Lord. This is “faith”. It is not blind belief in a possible outcome. It is not mere cognitive assent to various theological propositions. Faith is knowledge, assent, and surrender. All three components are necessary. This “faith” is the sole instrument through which the Father credits or imputes the righteousness of Christ to the sinner and removes the eternal consequences of his sins—punishing them justly through the substitutionary atoning sacrifice of the Son. The sinner is Justified by grace alone, through the instrument of faith alone, because of Christ alone.

5. Sanctification: And yet, justification is not the sum of salvation. At the point of justification the sinner is no longer under the sentence of hell. He has been rescued from eternal torment and is assured, on the basis of Christ’s righteousness (which he cannot damage or destroy) imputed to him, life forever with Christ beginning in the present, continuing spiritually after death, and fully at the Resurrection in the Kingdom of God. Yet sin still exercises a powerful role in his life despite his justification. When the sinner comes to justifying faith, God the Holy Spirit immediately indwells him, makes a permanent home in his heart, and begins the process of renovaton or sanctification. 

Sanctification is a cooperative process. The sinner is a new creation, his will is no longer in bondage to sin. God works in him and continues to transform the will, heart, mind, directly, but the justified sinner can truly participate in this process. He can will and do what God calls him to will and do. Of course, nothing is done through naked effort. Grace proceeds and empowers everything. And that is true with regard to the justified sinner’s cooperation as well. The grace of God provides the strength necessary to fight against sin and to live an increasingly godly life. That grace is conveyed through various means: scripture, prayer, preaching, the sacraments, the fellowship of the church and many others.

A justified sinner will necessarily bear fruits in keeping with his new nature and status. Someone who walks the sawdust trail in a fit of emotion but then returns to his former life unchanged cannot claim to be in Christ. Sanctification necessarily flows from justification. True faith necessarily leads to transformation. It will not look the same for everyone, since as CS Lewis noted, we all start off in very different places, but sanctification is a necessary result of Justification.

6. Glorification: Sanctification will not be completed during the sinner’s life. Christians will continue to fall and fail but never fall completely or fail finally. And yet because the eternal destiny of the sinner is grounded in the imputed rather than infused righteousness of Christ and because all of his sins were imputed to Christ at the moment of Justification, there is no need for purgatory to work off or bear the penalty for remaining sins after death. When a Christian dies, the “old nature” is immediately mortified and he, like Lazarus, is carried immediately to Abraham’s side, into the spiritual presence of Christ until the moment when God reunifies body and soul at the Resurrection.


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49 comments

Hi Matt+,

Very Calvinistic as one might expect.  I see election differently than Calvin.  I would say all are chosen but not everyone accepts Christ’s sacrifice and yet, Christ knows who will and who will not accept His gift of Salvation.  Second, I would focus on the Fall and personal recognition that due to sin’s power over us that we cannot save ourselves and need a savior, who is Christ the Lord.  This recognition of the fall, the reality of sin, and our need to be saved and redeemed leads one to confess and repent and through such and the Sacrament of Baptism we receive God the Holy Spirit and regeneration.  I would agree with the rest of what you have said….

I am simply not a Calvinist….therein lies our difference….but who knows.  You and Calvin may be correct…

Blessings,
Creighton+

[1] Posted by Creighton+ on 3-9-2010 at 10:44 AM · [top]

Matt - on step #3 would you conclude the call is always effectual?

[2] Posted by Festivus on 3-9-2010 at 11:02 AM · [top]

yes for the elect…Romans 8 doesn’t seem to leave any other conclusion for those who are predestined.

[3] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 3-9-2010 at 11:11 AM · [top]

A clear and concise summary of the Reformed position ...

... and of course wrong in almost every respect.

It is particularly to be remarked that the ministry and mediation of the Church is entirely missing from this scheme.  It will not do to speak of “grace alone” while entirely excluding the means of grace.

For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given who works faith, where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel.

[4] Posted by Chris Jones on 3-9-2010 at 11:34 AM · [top]

“... and of course wrong in almost every respect”

smile

Of course we will not agree. But I would ask you to reread…I do not at all exclude the various means of grace including the sacraments.

[5] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 3-9-2010 at 11:46 AM · [top]

Matt #3 - how are they different in your view? Isn’t the Reformed position that people choose God only because He has first predestined them? If God elects individuals doesn’t this means that God is predestining them? Or is your though more of a general call (i.e. national Israel) but allowing for rejection by some (Acts 13:32) but completion of the intent (Acts 13:46-48)?

[6] Posted by Festivus on 3-9-2010 at 11:54 AM · [top]

#6 - or a predestination to separation?

[7] Posted by Festivus on 3-9-2010 at 11:56 AM · [top]

Hi Festivus,

Maybe I wrote less clearly than i intended. God “calls” everyone in a general sense through natural revelation etc…but unless God acts in the sinner, the call is always suppressed and hardens the heart.

But for those God predestined, he effectually calls—he moves them so that they truly hear and truly receive the gospel. So the only ones who are effectually called are the elect.

[8] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 3-9-2010 at 11:58 AM · [top]

If we accept the notion of a Hell with a finite population, then only one of two observations regarding salvation are warranted:  Either the efficacy, or the extent, of salvation would be limited.

[9] Posted by J Eppinga on 3-9-2010 at 12:15 PM · [top]

As an objective and impartial observer, I must say that I find Matt Kennedy’s presentation without fault.

carl

[10] Posted by carl on 3-9-2010 at 12:37 PM · [top]

For the record, Calvin doesn’t traffic in an ordo salutis (order of salvation) himself and subordinates justification and sanctification as twin benefits of the unio mystica. This development in Reformed theology only appears in Beza and his successors.

The state of the question in Reformed and Presbyterian circles has likewise been to move away from an ordo salutis. Anthony Hokema (Saved by Grace, 1989) and Richard Gaffin (Resurrection and Redemption, 1987) did away with this kind of Reformed scholasticism in favor of the biblical theology of Geerhardus Vos and his Dutch successors. That has been the standard discourse in even conservative circles like the PCA and OPC for a half-generation now.

The problem with the ordo salutis as a dogmatic category is that it is both unbiblical and unnecessary to accomplish its intended goal: safeguarding the priority of divine grace in salvation. No New Testament scholar, Reformed or otherwise, would admit that Romans 8 functions as an ordo salutis in Paul’s thinking, but there’s an even greater pastoral danger. The ordo salutis was originally conceived as a logical ordo has historically (and habitually) been recast as a temporal ordo, making necessary various “morphologies of conversion” as those deployed in Puritan New England (Cf. Edmund Morgan, Visible Saints, 1963 & D. B. Hindmarsh, The Evangelical Conversion Narrative, 2008) and the “Lordship Salvation” debates of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

[11] Posted by M. J. G. Pahls on 3-9-2010 at 01:00 PM · [top]

Fr Kennedy,

I stand corrected; you do make reference to the means of grace in your section on sanctification.  But it has to said that the force of your language up to that point seems to exclude the visible means entirely.  For example, when you write that The sinner, by grace alone, comes to a right knowledge of Jesus’ person and work it is as if grace brings the person to this knowledge directly, with no need for preaching or the written word.  I am sure this is not what you mean, but the constant refrain of God alone and grace alone without any reference to the Word, the Church, her preaching, or her sacraments suggests that it all boils down to a direct encounter between the sovereign God and the individual soul.

It all comes together in this:

When the sinner comes to justifying faith [with no mention of how this occurs, suggesting the direct and unmediated action of God], God the Holy Spirit immediately [again, with no mediation] indwells him, makes a permanent home in his heart, and begins the process of renovaton or sanctification.

But the means of grace are not given to us only for sanctification, but for regeneration and justification as well.  As the Augustana says, That we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted.  Not just for sanctification, but for the receiving of justifying faith in the first place.

Your presentation is at best seriously unbalanced, because it does not set the economy of salvation in its proper ecclesial context.  Extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

[12] Posted by Chris Jones on 3-9-2010 at 01:39 PM · [top]

Hi M. J. G. Pahls,

oh dear where to begin.

“For the record, Calvin doesn’t traffic”

heh…nice and subtle…the implicit suggestion being that either I am “trafficking” something or that I am suggesting incorrectly that “Calvin trafficked” something. When, in fact, I am doing neither. I did not even mention Calvin.

“in an ordo salutis (order of salvation) himself and subordinates justification and sanctification as twin benefits of the unio mystica. This development in Reformed theology only appears in Beza and his successors.”

Thank you for

“The state of the question in Reformed and Presbyterian circles has likewise been to move away from an ordo salutis.”

Not really.

“Anthony Hokema (Saved by Grace, 1989) and Richard Gaffin (Resurrection and Redemption, 1987) did away with this kind of Reformed scholasticism in favor of the biblical theology of Geerhardus Vos and his Dutch successors. That has been the standard discourse in even conservative circles like the PCA and OPC for a half-generation now.”

Not really. RC Sproul, Piper, Sinclair Fergeson, etc…are quite clear in their continued appreciation for and affirmation of it.

But thanks for your opinion.

“The problem with the ordo salutis as a dogmatic category is that it is both unbiblical”

Not really. But thanks for your opinion.

“and unnecessary to accomplish its intended goal safeguarding the priority of divine grace in salvation.”

That is the goal as M. J. G. Pahls understands it.

“No New Testament scholar, Reformed or otherwise, would admit that Romans 8 functions as an ordo salutis in Paul’s thinking…”

“Admit”? interesting use of that word. Did I anywhere suggest that Romans 8 “functions as an ordo salutis”? No. I do think Romans 8 quite clearly establishes that those God predestines, he also calls. Those he calls, he also Justifies..etc… RC Sproul in “Chosen by God” makes the same argument.

“but there’s an even greater pastoral danger. The ordo salutis was originally conceived as a logical ordo has historically (and habitually) been recast as a temporal ordo”

yeh…sometimes people misunderstand and miscommunicate doctrine. The answer is not to stop explaining doctrine.

[13] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 3-9-2010 at 01:55 PM · [top]

Matt,

I’m not sure where you get that Sproul is representative of the state of the question on this. Most people in Reformed circles distance themselves from him and he’s certainly not a Pauline scholar at all. Rather, he usually subject to the “immediacy of grace” criticism deployed by Chris above. Ferguson is a great fellow, but likewise remains something of a holdout in this area. This is due primarily to his being a Scot and a latter-day Puritan (as was Murray before him). 

I’d go into Graafland, Bavinck, Berkouwer, Frame, Poythress, etc. for representative thinkers in current Presbyterian/Reformed thought. Heck, even Berkhof will speak of the application of grace as a “unitary process.”

[14] Posted by M. J. G. Pahls on 3-9-2010 at 02:19 PM · [top]

Matt:
From my standpoint, “1. Election” is the biggest obstacle for me in becoming totally reformed (I ended seminary far more reformed than when I started, although I confess it was the first time I seriously thought about this and many other difficult theological questions).  I’m sure you have responded to countless questions that go something like, “Can a good and perfectly just God create beings and destine them for eternal suffering?”  Before you answer, let me note one frustration I sometimes have with pastors and theologians who answer that question.  Many times, the answer goes something like, “God’s ways are not our ways, and while it may not seem just to us, if God does it, it’s just.  We simply cannot comprehend it all.”  It is true that because of my finiteness and sinful nature, I cannot understand it, no matter how hard I try. 

Still, I would love to hear someone take a good shot at the following: Show how a Calvinist view of election (specifically, God creating a human and choosing him or her for salvation while not choosing others) does not conflict with God being good and just.  Note that this does not question God’s goodness, rather it questions whether a Calvinist view of God and election is consistent with God’s goodness.

In addition, are there one or two books that you would recommend as good apologetics for the Calvinist point of view?

[15] Posted by Utah Benjamin on 3-9-2010 at 02:43 PM · [top]

Thanks, M.J.G. Pahls (#11 & 14).

I always appreciate it when you chime in here, especially as you know Reformed theology much better than I ever did (even when I was growing up as a Presbyterian myself).  Your posts are always informative and stimulating.

Rather than sticking my neck into an intra-Reformed debate (since I’m definitely NOT Reformed although I am proudly evangelical), let me inject a new note into this thread, if I may.

Let me begin by saluting Matt for not equating (as many conservatives do) salvation with justification, which is merely one aspect of salvation.  In the NT, salvation is a much broader concept than many of us realize.

My favorite illustration of that fact is a famous story that involves the great NT scholar B.F. Westcott.  Along with Hort and J.B. Lightfoot, Westcott was one of the trio of superb NT scholars that came out of Cambridge in the latter 1800s, and Westcott was Bishop of Durham when the following incident took place.

He was riding on the train one day, when a young Salvation Army worker approached him and rather timidly asked, “Pardon me, Sir.  But are you saved?”

Perhaps the bishop was having a hard day or was a little annoyed at such an impertinent question, so he gave a rather curt, but instructive reply.  +Westcott’s retort was, “My dear lass, do you mean esotheyn, sodzomai, or sothesomai?.”

At this point, she was left speechless in astonishment.  And so, he continued,  “That is, do you mean, have I been saved, am I being saved, or shall I be saved?  For you know, of course, that the NT speaks of being saved in all three tenses, don’t you?”

Well, naturally that scared her off, for no, she’d never been taught that.  But of course, the scholarly bishop was absolutely right.  That is, in Paul’s letters the verb to be saved is indeed used in all three tenses, with the future tense actually being the most common (rather than the aorist/past).

Alas, most of us only hear preachers and fellow believers using the verb as if our salvation was an already completed reality, as suggested by our frequent citing of Eph. 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved trhough faith…” (which actually uses the Greek perfect tense, i.e., a past act with continuing consequences extending into the time of the writer and hearers).

But more characteristic (especially in the undisputed Pauline letters) is actually a text like Romans 5:9-10,

“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (ESV).

I know you’re aware of that important truth, Matt, but I fear many of our SF readers may not know it.

And as for predestination, well, Art. XVII of the 39 Articles that deals with the subject is the longest, and one of the most convoluted and confusing of all the Articles.  It appears to leave room for both a Reformed and a Lutheran (or generally non-Reformed) viewpoint.

David Handy+

[16] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 3-9-2010 at 02:52 PM · [top]

Hi Chris Jones,

“But it has to said that the force of your language up to that point seems to exclude the visible means entirely.  For example, when you write that The sinner, by grace alone, comes to a right knowledge of Jesus’ person and work it is as if grace brings the person to this knowledge directly, with no need for preaching or the written word.”

I think I mentioned preaching in the previous section:

“God draws the regenerate sinner to himself—putting down the willed suppression and hatred for God that characterize the sinful nature, freeing the heart to love what is good, evoking a desire for the truth through the word of Christ, preached, read, or taught.”

Justification takes place because God gracefully opens the heart to hear the gospel as it is proclaimed. Otherwise, it would not be possible. This, normally, does not happen apart from the word but through the word.

I say normally, because I do think that in some circumstances—for example, those elect who live beyond the realm of the preaching of the church—God reveals himself directly.

“I am sure this is not what you mean, but the constant refrain of God alone and grace alone without any reference to the Word, the Church, her preaching, or her sacraments suggests that it all boils down to a direct encounter between the sovereign God and the individual soul.”

Well, I do think it does “boil down to that” but of course the Church is the means by which and through which God calls.

It all comes together in this:

“When the sinner comes to justifying faith [with no mention of how this occurs, suggesting the direct and unmediated action of God],”

No, I mentioned that in the previous section entitled “the call” see my response above.

“God the Holy Spirit immediately [again, with no mediation] indwells him, makes a permanent home in his heart, and begins the process of renovaton or sanctification. “

I do think that this is an immediate indwelling in the logical sense.

“But the means of grace are not given to us only for sanctification, but for regeneration and justification as well.”

Again, I think you are missing my inclusion of the ministry of the word in what I have written.

“As the Augustana says, That we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted.”

I think the word is the means by which God regenerates, calls, and justifies. The sacraments are

Your presentation is at best seriously unbalanced…”

well, from an anglo or roman catholic perspective that is true. But I think the anglo catholic and roman catholic perspective is “seriously unbalanced”—which is why I am not anglo catholic or roman catholic. 

“because it does not set the economy of salvation in its proper ecclesial context.”

“Extra ecclesiam nulla salus.”

And I agree. But I suppose that brings up the question of the definition of the Church. smile

[17] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 3-9-2010 at 02:55 PM · [top]

Hi M. J. G. Pahls

“I’m not sure where you get that Sproul is representative of the state of the question on this.”

Of course you’re not sure M. J. G. Pahls.

“Most people in Reformed circles distance themselves from him”

Not really.

“and he’s certainly not a Pauline scholar at all.”

Have no idea why M. J. G. Pahls thinks this is germane. Nowhere did I suggest that Sproul is a Pauline scholar. I did point out, referring to Sproul, that the argument I made from Romans 8 is not a strange or odd one but fairly commonplace in Reformed circles.

And, of course, whether Sproul is someone M. J. G. Pahls recognizes as an NT scholar has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not Sproul is correct about Romans 8.

“Rather, he usually subject to the “immediacy of grace” criticism deployed by Chris above. Ferguson is a great fellow, but likewise remains something of a holdout in this area. This is due primarily to his being a Scot and a latter-day Puritan (as was Murray before him).”

How devastating to Sproul and Ferguson to be so discounted by M. J. G. Pahls

“I’d go into Graafland, Bavinck, Berkouwer, Frame, Poythress, etc. for representative thinkers in current Presbyterian/Reformed thought.”

Thank you for your opinions.

“Hey, I h Heck, even Berkhof will speak of the application of grace as a “unitary process.”

Oh, wait, do you somehow thing that the order of salvation above somehow denies the unity of God’s act?

[18] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 3-9-2010 at 03:12 PM · [top]

David+ #16
  Thanks for your post.. you have expressed everything that has been going through my head since this was posted by Matt.
Westcott’s question is what I used to say to people who asked me the same question “Are you saved”, and after being in Holy Orders for 12 years I might say. Then in “74 during the Charismatic renewal I acknowledged that I wasn’t. I did it without all the hassle of Calvin,Luther whoever… what a difference it made to me and my ministry. Yes, it is better to keep Justification and Salvation in different boxes.
Brian+

[19] Posted by Brian on 3-9-2010 at 03:44 PM · [top]

Brian )#19),

You’re welcome.  Thanks for the testimony.

David Handy+

[20] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 3-9-2010 at 03:57 PM · [top]

Matt, Thank you for your very clear definition of Faith.  This is the hardest thing for non believers to understand.  They argue that the faith of the Christian is pretty much on the lines of dropping a penny in the wishing well.  To try and explain that faith involves reason is usually futile and leads to many smears on the monitor.

[21] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 3-9-2010 at 03:58 PM · [top]

>>Oh, wait, do you somehow thing [sic] that the order of salvation above somehow denies the unity of God’s act? <<

That seems to be the implication of the ordo as you present it above. You lay it out as a “process” with discrete actions that seem temporally or sequentially related. You also ascribe the different activities to different persons of the Blessed Trinity without reference to the Augustinian principle that each person of the Trinity shares fully in all of the divine work (in Latin, opera trinitatis ad extra indivisa sunt). Perhaps I’ve misunderstood you and, if so, please correct me.

As my previous two posts indicate, I’m merely trying to hold Calvin’s own line on this point. For Calvin (w/ St. Paul and the other folks I’ve noted), the application of salvation is locatable in the single act of uniting a person to the crucified & resurrected Jesus Christ. Rather than understanding justification, election, sanctification, and glorification as separate works to be temporally or sequentially related, it seems better (and more biblical) to contemplate them as perspectivally-related aspects of the same action.

The payoff here is two-fold. First, you get to keep the fundamental Augustinian and Calvinistic principle of the priority of divine action in salvation. On this rendering there is no possibility of our “meriting first grace” by doing what lies within (facere quod in se est). Secondly, it sets the whole discussion of the application of salvation question back where it belongs against the ecclesial and sacramental landscape of conversion and initiation. Once you set people off to discern discrete temporal and sequential actions in their religious interiority apart from the objectivity of the divine promises sealed in the sacraments of initiation, you throw them back on themselves as the source of their own assurance.

Just to clarify, none of this was an attempt to pick a fight and I’m not at all interested to engage in a meaningless controversy. After a good number of years as a pastor in a quite conservative Reformed & Presbyterian context, I’ve simply seen too many folks struggle to the point of despair embracing the simple truth of God’s electing love for them.

Peace.
Michael+

[22] Posted by M. J. G. Pahls on 3-9-2010 at 04:58 PM · [top]

“That seems to be the implication of the ordo as you present it above.”

No that is your personal perception of the ordo. It is something you have read into it on your own for your own reasons and purposes.

“You lay it out as a “process” with discrete actions”

What an odd assumption…a process cannot be part of a unified purposed act?

“that seem temporally or sequentially related. that seem temporally or sequentially related…”

“seem” being the operative word. This is the way it seems to M. J. G. Pahls. 

“You also ascribe the different activities to
different persons of the Blessed Trinity without reference to the Augustinian principle that each person of the Trinity shares fully in all of the divine work (in Latin, opera trinitatis ad extra indivisa sunt).”

So your default presumption is that when one does not explicitly and formulaically repeat that each Person in the Godhead is involved in every act of God, then he is necessarily denying or forgetting or in any way ignoring the same? Wow. I mean, I don’t know of any Christian writer—any apostolic writer for that matter—who would satisfy M. J. G. Pahls criterion.

So when Paul writes… “14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised…”(2 Cor 5:14-15)...he is to be criticized for his egregious failure to mention the role of the Father and the Spirit in the act of atonement. If only he’d had the benefit M. J. G. Pahls critique.

“As my previous two posts indicate, I’m merely trying to hold Calvin’s own line on this point.”

No your previous two points do not indicate that you are “holding Calvin’s own line” on any point at all. They do demonstrate that you are quite well practiced at creating the appearance of contradiction where none exists.

“For Calvin (w/ St. Paul and the other folks I’ve
noted), the application of salvation is locatable in the single act of uniting a person to the crucified & resurrected Jesus Christ.”

True. And nothing I’ve written is in conflict with that.

“Rather than understanding justification, election, sanctification, and glorification as separate works”

Which I have not done. I have shown that within the One work of salvation there are distinctions to be made but was quite explicit that these distinctions are part of one act of salvation.

“to be temporally or sequentially related, it seems better”

M. J. G. Pahls’ descriptions born of his own imagination and not related to what I have actually written.

“to contemplate them as erspectivally-related aspects
of the same action.”

yes.

“The payoff here is two-fold. First, you get to keep the fundamental Augustinian and Calvinistic principle of the priority of divine action in salvation. On this rendering there is no possibility of our “meriting first grace” by doing what lies within (facere quod in se est). Secondly,
it sets the whole discussion of the application of salvation question back where it belongs against the ecclesial and sacramental landscape of conversion and initiation.”

I think we are getting close to M. J. G. Pahls real issue here. 

“Once you set people off to discern discrete
temporal and sequential actions in their religious interiority apart from the objectivity of the divine promises sealed in the sacraments of initiation, you throw them back on themselves as the source of their own
assurance.”

Yep…just as I thought. Not enough Sacerdotalism for him.

“Just to clarify, none of this was an attempt to pick a fight”

heh…sure.

“and I’m not at all interested to engage in a meaningless controversy.”

Actions speak for themselves.

“After a good number of years as a pastor in a quite conservative Reformed & Presbyterian context, I’ve simply seen too many folks struggle to the point of despair
embracing the simple truth of God’s electing love for them.”

And I’ve seen too many people who do not know or even confess Jesus Christ blithely trust in the rite of initiation and in their weekly reception of the eucharist go to their graves without ever taking the gospel seriously.

[23] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 3-9-2010 at 06:00 PM · [top]

from an Anglo or Roman Catholic perspective

Odd, don’t you think, that someone would choose the language of the Augsburg Confession to express an “anglo or Roman Catholic perspective”?  But the traditional,  orthodox teaching I am expressing is hardly limited to ACs and RCs (neither of which I am, of course.)

[24] Posted by Chris Jones on 3-9-2010 at 06:18 PM · [top]

Matt,
Good stuff. My only question for you is if you have personally see the legalism that can sometimes result from placing regeneration before justification? How can I explain what I mean? Sometimes there is such a heavy emphasis on the totally radical experience of being “regenerated”, meaning that we have been rasied from the dead spiritually, given new desires, given repentance and faith, God has called us as Christ called Lazarus from the tomb etc…. that there becomes an expectation amongst the believers that if you are regenerated, you should be growing in Christ and conquering sin rather quickly. I mean, if God has Sovereignly and powerfully raised you from the dead and given you new life, you should be producing fruit. Now I am not for a minute denying the idea that those who are regenerated will have new desires and will produce fruit. Although it seems that if Justification is given priority over regeneration/sanctification, then the focus moves from being primarily about what God’s work does in me in terms of desires and fruits and moves to Christ himself in his vicarious work of imputation and propitiation.

[25] Posted by drlouis20 on 3-9-2010 at 06:54 PM · [top]

Hi Chris Jones

“Odd, don’t you think, that someone would choose the language of the Augsburg Confession to express an “anglo or Roman Catholic perspective”?”

yes it is.

” But the traditional,  orthodox teaching I am expressing is hardly limited to ACs and RCs (neither of which I am, of course.)”

Good for you.

[26] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 3-9-2010 at 07:54 PM · [top]

A succinct statement of a traditional Reformed position—but how does it preach? 

How does the Reformed ordo salutus inform the preaching of the gospel? 

The ordo salutus begins with predestination and God’s eternal election of some, not all, to eternal life in the Kingdom of Christ.  But is this the message that is taken out to the unbelieving world?  Is this the gospel as it was proclaimed to Jews and pagans in the first century and subsequently?  But where is the biblical evidence for such preaching?  Read through the Book of Acts.  Is it not in fact the case that when speaking to unbelievers the Church proclaims, not predestination, but the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?  The biblical preaching ordo salutus appears to be pretty simple: 

1) Proclamation of the cross and resurrection of Jesus, with summons to faith, repentance, and baptism:  “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). 

2) Baptism:  “So those who received this word were baptized” (Acts 2:40).

3) Life in the apostolic Church and participation in the Eucharist:  “And they held steadfastly to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). 

From what we can gather from Scripture, the language of election appears within the Church’s ongoing teaching addressed to the baptized in the formation of ecclesial identity and exhortation to sanctity and perseverance in the faith.  Look at Ephesians 1:3-10, for example.  Who are those whom God has chosen “before the foundation of the world”?  Everyone!—everyone who is reading the letter or who is hearing the letter read to them!  Ditto for Romans 8:28-39.  There is no hint in these passages that Paul is addressing only the secret elect.  He dares, rather, to publicly proclaim to his readers/hearers that they, as baptized members of the Church constituted in Christ by the Spirit, are the objects of God’s eternal predestinating act.  The Apostle’s language about predestination simply cannot be synthesized into a neat systematic ordo salutis along the lines of an Augustine or Calvin.  The biblical language functions in a different way. 

How does the ordo salutus inform the hearing of the gospel?

If the gospel is construed as a proclamation that God has divinely elected some, not all, to eternal life in the Kingdom, then the driving concern of the hearers of the gospel inevitably becomes, “Has God chosen me?”  The question is inescapable.  After all, if God has not eternally predestined me, then the gospel does not intend me, and I am lost in my sins.  For all practical purposes, preterition is reprobation. 

We are all acquainted with the various Reformed attempts to provide a workable solution to this problem.  Calvin himself provided what may be the best solution:  “Christ, then is the mirror in which we ought, and in which, without deception, we may contemplate our election.”  Yet as true and profound as this answer may be, it simply does not work within a Reformed context. It works in a Lutheran context, where belief in the universality of God’s salvific will is combined with a strong sacramental understanding of Holy Baptism; but it simply does not work in a Reformed confessional theology that affirms limited atonement and rejects baptismal regeneration.  Inevitably the Reformed tradition, in the quest to find assurance, has forced believers to turn themselves and discover evidences of their personal election.  On this please read carefully Philip Cary’s illuminating essay “Why Luther is Not Quite Protestant.”  Precisely because the classical Reformed construal of predestination has generated such massive pastoral problems, Karl Barth was compelled to reconstruct the the construal along christological lines:  Jesus Christ is the electing God and the elected man.  Predestination is in Christ.  Predestination is Christ.  Barth made predestination preachable once again.

[27] Posted by FrKimel on 3-9-2010 at 07:56 PM · [top]

Just think of it, no one saw the truth of the gospel before the 15th century.  wink

[28] Posted by revrj on 3-9-2010 at 09:26 PM · [top]

Calvin, as quoted above by Father Kimmel, seems quite Orthodox.  It is in the recapitulation of humanity in the hypostasis of the Incarnate Lord with our humanity (see the Definition of Chalcedon) that our election is secured in the very life of the Godhead.  Death is swallowed in up in Immortality by He Who Alone is Immortal (I Timothy 6:16).  All humanity is elected to participation in the Logos by the voluntary action of the Logos.  It remains to the the individual to receive that Gift, victory over death.

Nicholas Cabasilas says that baptismal “resurrection of nature” is a free gift from God, given even to children who do not express consent; but “the Kingdom, the contemplation of God, and common life with Christ belong to free will” (The Life in Christ) as cited in BYZANTINE THEOLOGY by John Meyendorff (p.163). 

What must I do to be saved?  “Believe (trust in, cling to, rely on) on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”  Paul and Silas to the Philippian jailer.

[29] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 3-9-2010 at 10:17 PM · [top]

“It is in the recapitulation of humanity in the hypostasis of the Incarnate Lord with our humanity (see the Definition of Chalcedon) that our election is secured in the very life of the Godhead.  Death is swallowed in up in Immortality by He Who Alone is Immortal (I Timothy 6:16).  All humanity is elected to participation in the Logos by the voluntary action of the Logos.  It remains to the the individual to receive that Gift, victory over death.”

Here is one of the fascinating convergences between the Eastern Orthodox tradition and Reformed thinkers like Karl Barth and Thomas F. Torrance—the grounding of election to salvation in the sacred and risen humanity of the Incarnate Word.

[30] Posted by FrKimel on 3-9-2010 at 11:08 PM · [top]

RE: “How does the Reformed ordo salutus inform the preaching of the gospel?”

I can’t speak for Matt.  But I don’t talk about *any sort of ordo salutis* [since of course, all ecclesial entities have such things] when sharing the gospel with pagans.

So that’s an irrelevant question along the lines of saying “how does the ideal of sexual purity inform the preaching of the gospel?”  I mean—if one knows that ideal, one can certainly have it as a hidden undercurrent, just as one can have *whatever one’s ordo salutis is* an a hidden undercurrent.  But it is only on special occasions that I would begin sharing the gospel with a seeker and speaking about the ordo salutis, the Virgin Birth, Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist, or any number of other interesting doctrines.  I don’t use the words regeneration, justification, sanctification, purgatory, or the immaculate conception when speaking with pagans in general about the gospel.

It’s an odd quirk of mine.  ; > )

[31] Posted by Sarah on 3-9-2010 at 11:20 PM · [top]

“RE: “How does the Reformed ordo salutus inform the preaching of the gospel?”

I can’t speak for Matt.  But I don’t talk about *any sort of ordo salutis* [since of course, all ecclesial entities have such things] when sharing the gospel with pagans.”

Exactly.

But when preaching the gospel to believers I’ve found it incredibly fruitful. It leads to, among other things: a deep abiding love for God as people realize that they do not have to earn his acceptance and thus begin to do good for love and thanksgiving rather than fear; greater assurance in the midst of falls and failures; greater sense of self worth grounded not in performance, success or attendance to moral or religious rituals…but grounded in God’s eternal agape for us; and provide a rich deep abiding hope for the eschaton.

So, in short, it preaches pretty darn well.

About the Calvin quote: Fr. Kimel…I know you are an honest person and would not purposefully intend to convey the idea that Calvin believed only in the general election of Christ. You pulled that quote and used it in such a way that could be confusing to some about what Calvin really held…namely that election is in through and for Christ and it is both a very corporate and a very personal individual election. I know you would not purposefully mislead.

[32] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 3-10-2010 at 08:33 AM · [top]

RE: “But when preaching the gospel to believers I’ve found it incredibly fruitful. It leads to, among other things: a deep abiding love for God as people realize that they do not have to earn his acceptance and thus begin to do good for love and thanksgiving rather than fear; greater assurance in the midst of falls and failures; greater sense of self worth grounded not in performance, success or attendance to moral or religious rituals…but grounded in God’s eternal agape for us; and provide a rich deep abiding hope for the eschaton.”

This has been personally true in my life.  Though I am not a *Calvinist*, the Reformed vision of salvation [including imputed versus infused righteousness] has been an immense relief and blessing for me.  It has led me to depend less on my own strength and “white-knuckled grip” and more on Jesus’s work both in the past and today, holding me close to Him.

I consider this teaching to be great for discipled believing Christians, and a real comfort, even though I believe it also to be truthful.

[33] Posted by Sarah on 3-10-2010 at 09:03 AM · [top]

But when preaching the gospel to believers I’ve found it incredibly fruitful. It leads to, among other things: a deep abiding love for God as people realize that they do not have to earn his acceptance and thus begin to do good for love and thanksgiving rather than fear; greater assurance in the midst of falls and failures; greater sense of self worth grounded not in performance, success or attendance to moral or religious rituals…but grounded in God’s eternal agape for us; and provide a rich deep abiding hope for the eschaton.

Exactly!

[34] Posted by Festivus on 3-10-2010 at 09:18 AM · [top]

Whether I am honest God alone knows; but of course I would never assert—and I don’t believe I did—that Calvin believed only in a general election in Christ.  He did, though, present the “mirror of Christ” counsel as response to the interior question and crisis of assurance (“Has God chosen me?”) brought on by his teaching on absolute predestination and reprobation.  As I said, I do not believe that the counsel ultimately works in a Calvinist setting, but it does work admirably, e.g., in a Lutheran setting, in which the proclaimed gospel itself is God’s electing act.

[35] Posted by FrKimel on 3-10-2010 at 09:18 AM · [top]

Fr. Matt,

the eternal destiny of the sinner is grounded in the imputed rather than infused righteousness of Christ.

As I read this portion of your writing, the question came to my mind, “I wonder how the Orthodox Church would understand this? Does this statement stand against their concept of Theosis? Is this question even relevant? I am enjoying this thread.

[36] Posted by Fr. Dale on 3-10-2010 at 10:48 AM · [top]

Hi Dcn Dale,

re-reading that statement, I think it would be more accurate to say: “the eternal destination of the sinner is grounded in the imputed rather than infused righteousness of Christ”

Our “destiny” is to be conformed completely and wholly to Christ.

[37] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 3-10-2010 at 10:52 AM · [top]

Fr. Matt,
I think this clarifies things for me. Thanks.

[38] Posted by Fr. Dale on 3-10-2010 at 11:20 AM · [top]

“As I read this portion of your writing, the question came to my mind, ‘I wonder how the Orthodox Church would understand this? Does this statement stand against their concept of Theosis? Is this question even relevant?’”

I’ve been immersed in Orthodox theology for the past few years, so I think I can offer a provisional answer to your question.  Like Catholicism, Orthodoxy does not—and indeed cannot—entertain a distinction between imputed and infused righteousness.  Salvation simply is participation in the divine life of the Holy Trinity.  Salvation is theosis; salvation is transfiguration by the uncreated energies of God; salvation is communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  In the words of St Gregory Palamas:

“Since the Son of God, in His ineffable love for mankind, has not only united His divine hypostasis to our nature, and taking a body with a rational soul, has appeared on earth and lived among men; but, more, than this—Oh how splendid a miracle!—He unites Himself to the human hypostases themselves, and mingling Himself with every believer by the communion of His holy Body, becomes one body with us and makes us into a temple of the whole Godhead.”

For a sympathetic Protestant discussion of theosis and justification, read One With God: Salvation as Deification and Justification by Velli-Matti Karkkainen. 

In the second half of the 16th century, Lutheran theologians engaged in correspondence with Jeremiah II, Patriarch of Constantinople.  Patriarch Jeremiah rejected the Lutheran separation of faith and works.  Needless to say, all Orthodox theologians judge the Calvinist construal of absolute predestination as heresy.

[39] Posted by FrKimel on 3-10-2010 at 12:10 PM · [top]

One of the best treatments of this topic from a Catholic perspective is Hans Urs von Balthasar’s discussion of predestination and Romans 8 in the theology of Elizabeth of the Trinity in “Two Sisters in the Spirit” (Ignatius Press), pp. 385-419.

[40] Posted by Barbara Gauthier on 3-10-2010 at 02:06 PM · [top]

#39.FrKimel and #40.Barbara Gauthier,
Thank you both for your posts also. Fr.Kimel I find all of your posts particularly insightful and helpful.
Pax, Dale Matson

[41] Posted by Fr. Dale on 3-10-2010 at 05:13 PM · [top]

Barbara (#40),

Where have you been all this time, sister?  I’ve been missing your astute, if rare, contributions here at SF.  Please don’t stay away so long in the future. 

And the pointer to Hans Urs von Balthasar is most welcome.  What a gem of a theologian!  Too bad he died before he could be made a cardinal; he was one of the giants of the 20th century, and I’m glad to know you like him too.

And Fr. Kimel,
As always, I’m delighted that you decided to enter the fray here too.  I hope you won’t disappear for so long either.

David Handy+

[42] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 3-10-2010 at 05:23 PM · [top]

Barbara, thanks for the heads-up on Balthasar’s discussion of predestination in his book on Elizabeth of the Trinity.  Google Books has the title online, with pages missing, of course; but enough material is provided to tempt me to purchase it.  Just what I need during Lent—another temptation!  smile

[43] Posted by FrKimel on 3-11-2010 at 03:38 PM · [top]

The referenced pages of the book can be read at http://books.google.com. Be sure you use IE; Firefox cannot load the text.

[44] Posted by Festivus on 3-11-2010 at 03:53 PM · [top]

#44. Festivus,
I have Firefox 3.6 and had no trouble loading the text.
Pax

[45] Posted by Fr. Dale on 3-11-2010 at 03:58 PM · [top]

carl #10,

As an objective and impartial observer, I must say that I find Matt Kennedy’s presentation without fault.

carl

Ten thousand comedians out of work and you try to be another one! My daddy used to say that you could go to Hell for lyin’ just like you could for stealin’. Now I know that a Calvinist such as yourself knows you are not going to Hell if you are Elect but you will fur sure not be first in line to Heaven if you keep up with this. grin

[46] Posted by BillB on 3-11-2010 at 04:18 PM · [top]

#45 - thanks for that tip. I know that 3.5.3 gives me issues.

[47] Posted by Festivus on 3-11-2010 at 04:43 PM · [top]

#36: Dcn Dale, you might also want to take a look at Fr Georges Florovsky’s critique of the theology of the Reformation:  “The Ascetic Ideal and the New Testament.”

[48] Posted by FrKimel on 3-12-2010 at 07:08 PM · [top]

#48. FrKimel,
Thank you for your thoughtfulness. I was just writing some reflections and extended confessions (from yesterday) preceding my ordination (God Willing) to the Priesthood tonight. I believe I am beset by guilt as much as anticipatory joy. I will followup on your recommendation. Pray for me and for our Bishop John David. Pax

[49] Posted by Fr. Dale on 3-12-2010 at 07:24 PM · [top]

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