Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Progressive sanctification

Most of the time the Christian life is split up into two categories: justification and sanctification. It often is explained so that justification is the beginning of the Christian life wherein one is declared righteous for Christ's sake, and sanctification is now the Christian life in which we try to follow God's law and gradually get "better". Though I believe the justification/sanctification distinction to be a valid and Biblical one, I worry that this explanation has separated the Christian life from our justification.

I would like to posit that sanctification should not be seen as a process of the Christian gradually becoming better, but of God's work in raising the new justified man and destroying the old Adam. Sanctification in scripture is often described as an objective event as is justification. "But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God." (1 Corinthians 6:11) In the same way, we are described as already being participants in the resurrection. "Since then you have been raised with Christ..." (Colossians 3:1)In this way, the life of the Christian is one in which he is both totally sinner and totally righteous. According to his old nature man is still totally sinner, but according to his new nature he is totally righteous. This best explains the conflict described in Galatians 5:17, "For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want."

Notice how Paul describes his struggle with sin in Romans 7 (yes I believe this is Paul's Christian life but that will be a discussion for another time). "As it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living within me." (Romans 7:17) Paul, as a new justified regenerated man is claiming that this sin is not his own, but belonging to his sinful nature. This is why the Christian life can be described as a gradual resurrection (Romans 8:11)

This way of looking at sanctification puts a closer connection between the indicative and the imperative. It is not that the indicative is merely a background for the imperative, but the imperative is the working out of the indicative. The change in the Christian life is the eschatological reality of the resurrected justified man breaking in to the present. It is the age of the second Adam breaking in to the age of the first. As Christians, we are in a struggle with the old Adamic reality clinging to us, and the new justified man living in Christ.

Put to death the old Adam and let the eschatological reality of a man righteous in Christ shine forth.

7 comments:

Eucharisted said...

Sanctification has commonly been described as "living into your justification."

Frank Sonnek said...

The Lutheran explanation of the relationship of Justification to sanctification and to the Law are found in the Catechisms on Baptism and also in the FC art VI titled "the [Lutheran] Third use of the Law".

A far more complicated discussion of the relationship of faith to works and law to gospel can be found in art III of the Apology titled "love and the keeping of the Law".

Note that a word search of the word "sanctification" in the Confessions doesn't turn up much! It was the Lutheran systematic theologians who started leaning on this word.

Here is the Lutheran position in a nutshell:

Context: The confessions claim that Words like repentence, gospel, faith, and ... sanctification, have a narrow or proper meaning in Holy Scripture that is about the Gospel alone. Then those words also have a broader useage that includes both gospel and law.

The believer, insofar as he is regenerated, is completely holy and needs and needs no Law. This is sanctification in the "proper" or "narrow" meaning . In this sense Jutification is declared forensically, and it is also infused! (apology art VI) it is instananeous and it is complete as it will ever be. We know of this new man alone as an article of faith. There is nothing we can see and do in our bodies that can evidence this.

Why not? ALL we can see and do in our bodies is Old Adam, in our will, reason, and even our very soul (Ap II and FC I)

This old adam still clings to the believer. And so then there is the broader meaning of sanctification that is all about what WE do!

This is where the New Man cooperates with the Holy Spirit in killing the Old Adam with the Law. This looks EXACTLY like the process pagans also must use to become virtuous. And the fruit produced here is IDENTICAL to fruit of the Spirit (FC art VI).

Remember: the Law ALWAYS accuses. The Law always kills. ALWAYS.

This is where that indicative /imperative reformed thangy breaks down. it is a confusion of Law and Gospel. And it is based upon a false expectation. what?

The reformed expect the Christian life on earth to bear evidence of capital L Life in Christ.

Lutherans say that the visible part of sanctification is about the death of the Christian for the transitory good of others. Luther "life IS mortification". Life is death! But this does not mean that death is Life.

Our Life is hidden in Christ. But how?

Only faith accepts the judgement of God that ALL our righteousness, even our sanctified righeousness, is the moral equivalent of a used tampon (cf Isaiah). It does not flee this judgement by trying harder. Rather faith is terrified. True fear of God begins.

secondly only faith then can know that Life in Christ can only be by hiding ALL our righeousness in the Works of Another.

Finally faith does not look for Life in doing. Rather it looks for death of the Old Adam. Its Life it sees alone by closing it's eyes and hearing the Voice of Christ.

Bless you brother.

You are hitting on the key differences between the Lutherans and the Thomist Scholastics, and also the Neo-Scholastic Reformed.

It will be interesting to see if you can decide to agree with the Lutheran Confessions. it does not appear that you have been pointed to them as the organic basis for Lutheran Theology.

And alone it is what is in those Confessions that defines , and completely so, what is Lutheran and what is not.

The Lord's Peace be with you in your important work here and elsewhere dear brother!

My name is frank sonnek and I live in Brasil. My congregation is affiliated with the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

Jordan Cooper said...

Frank, thank you for your comments. Yes, I do agree with the Lutheran Confessions, and have read them extensively. I do not think anything I have said here contradicts what you post from the Confessions. The indicative/imperative contrast is one used through out the history of Lutheran theology. The third use of the law as defended in the Formula of Concord is an instance of the "imperative" in sanctification. The imperative does not cause sanctification, but is obeyed as a result of sanctification.

Frank Sonnek said...

"the indicative imperative contrast is one used throughout the history of Lutheran theology"

I was not aware of this. Can you point me to where this distinction is made in our Confessions?

you point to FC VI as using the Lutheran teaching of the imperative in sanctification.

Maybe I am simply not understanding what you mean by a contrast between indicative and imperative. Can you explain this to me please Jordan? thanks!

at least in the case of some over that the gospel coalition, the indicative imperative thang seems to be an attempt to claim that there is a use of the Law that does not accuse and kill believers.

Frank Sonnek said...

in art VI would you agree that they basically , following Luthers teaching on baptism, describe sanctification in terms of the new man (all gospel) and then in terms of the Old Adam (new man using the Law to kill Old Adam.)

would you also agree that art VI says that the only part of sanctification we can see and do is ALL Law extorting goodness out of our Old Adam? sanctification, as to our part in it, is all about death and mortification?

Jordan Cooper said...

I'm not sure that you understand what the difference is between indicative and imperative. First of all, it is a simple grammatical distinction. An indicative is a statement of fact or what is. An imperative is a command. So for example, Romans 5:1 would be an indicative, whereas Romans 12:1 would be an imperative.

The law does always accuse, and I would not argue otherwise. However, there are commands in scripture to live a certain way as a Christian. Luther's doctrine of vocation for example is a use of the imperative in the Christian life. This doesn't mean that we do these things perfectly. We don't, and are continually driven to Christ.

I absolutely agree with your statement that sanctification is about killing the old man. This is an example of the Lutheran imperative.

I understand your nervousness about the distinction as it has been abused by some in the more evangelical camp, or sometimes the reformed camp as well, where there are impossible expectations on the Christian to obey God's law.

Frank Sonnek said...

Actually, I think the Reformed, unlike the Lutherans, think that there is a distinction that can be empirically known, between fruits of the spirit and works of the Law. And they seek to see that to confirm their election.

our confessions (fc art VI) declare that there is NO intrinsic difference between works of the law and fruit of the Spirit since they are both the SAME goodness and mercy. The only difference is motive.

So Reformec then retreat to motive. they start (eg piper) to focus on the affections of the heart as being the difference between the works of christian and pagan.

here is their error: Those affections and faith and all are also Good Works that we can do, that are demanded by the Law and extorted out of us by the Law.

The "faith " that saves that Lutherans speak to is not that intellectual faith or emotional pushups for jesus we are indeed commanded also to do. and even pagans then too, can have this kind of faith and emotion.

So the only evidential mark of a Christian then, is that faith knows to be terrified at ALL it can see and do, even those inner faith/emotion/repentance things, and hide ALL those things in the Works of Another.

This is to literally just drop dead to sin and our own doing of any kind, especiall the spiritual kind.