Thursday, May 29, 2014

The sanctification debate

I'm going to briefly comment on this post:
It's striking that Scott Clark has decided to side very publicly with Tullian Tchividjian on the sanctification debate. To my knowledge, Tullian's prominent critics hadn't linked his position to WSC. Ironically, Clark is now playing right into Frame's indictment of "the Escondido theology."

Some orthodox Reformed pastors are being charged with antinomianism because they allegedly over emphasize grace—how sinners who face eternal condemnation apart from the free favor merited for them by the perfect, whole obedience of Christ can over emphaize grace I am uncertain but that is the charge. Further, it is charged that some of these advocates of free grace downplay the moral, logical necessity of sanctification and good works as a consequence of Christ’s free justification of sinners. 
Clark doesn't quote any critics who say Tchividjian and his ilk "overemphasize grace." It's revealing that Clark frames the issue in the same way antinomians (i.e. the Evangelical Grace Society) frame the issue. They allege that making good works (or sanctification) a condition of salvation compromises salvation by grace.
That, however, reflects, a truncated view of grace. They are defining grace in purely external terms. Justification. What Christ did for us on the cross. 
That denies the internal aspect of grace: spiritual renewal. 
In Calvinism, salvation by grace covers both the external dimensions of salvation (e.g. justification; Christ's imputed merit) and the internal dimensions of salvation (e.g. monergistic regeneration, sanctification, preservation). 
Reformed critics of antinomianism are by no means overemphasizing grace. To the contrary, antinomians are underemphasizing grace by reducing grace to what God does to and for us in contrast to what God does in us and with us. 
Put another way, if you lack good works, you lack grace. If you lack sanctity, you lack the grace of sanctification. That's not law v. grace. Rather, that's a graceless state. 
With those caveats out of the way, one feature of the response by some to the renewed emphasis on grace is the assertion that though we are justified by grace alone, through faith alone we are saved partly through works. 
i) It would be more accurate to say we are justified by faith alone and we are saved by grace alone. Moreover, there's a cause/effect relation. Justification is contingent on faith, faith is contingent on regeneration, regeneration is contingent on grace. 
ii) Are the critics of Tchividjian actually saying we are "saved partly through works"? Do they use that phrase? Or is that Clark's summary attribution?
It would be more accurately to say we are saved party through the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration and sanctification. Because sanctification has a cooperative aspect, the Holy Spirit prompts born-again Christians to use the means of grace. 
It's not that we're saved partly through works. Rather, good works are the fruit of a spiritual root. If you lack the fruit, you lack the root. 
The difficulty is that some Reformed folk are not satisfied with making Spirit-wrought sanctity, which produces obedience that comes to expression in good works, a logically necessary fruit of justification and the evidence of their regeneration, justification, union with Christ,  adoption etc.
It's unclear what Clark means by saying good works are a logically necessary fruit of justification. Justification is not a cause of sanctification. Justification is categorically different. Justification is a forensic status. Sanctification is the fruit of regeneration. A necessary extension of regeneration.
Perhaps Clark means you can't have justification without good works. True. Justification and sanctification are a package deal. The God who justifies the elect, sanctifies the elect.
But, of course, the logic is reversible. If you can't have sanctification without justification, you can't have justification without sanctification. 


  1. I suspect what Clark is trying to say in the last quotation (and I don't agree with this) is that, in his view, some Reformed folks are erring by not only saying that salvation of necessity produces the fruit of good works, but are somehow making this into a command- you must produce fruit to be saved, be sanctified. But I think that just rests on an equivocal sentence.

  2. When talking about this topic, it might be a good idea to bring some scripture into it, no?

    I just saw a vid by Kevin Swanson where he claimed that a Christian is saved through faith and works. Of course, he said "sanctification" but the beginning of the video framed sanctification as works. He tried to use 2 Thess 2:13 to buttress this claims, but that seems to be to be a misreading of what Paul wrote.

    What ever happened to sola fide? Doesn't Paul address objections pretty well in Romans?