Saturday, February 16, 2013

Evangelical Justification: My Initial Thoughts

This was a very good exercise to help gather my thoughts and figure out what it is I want to hone in on as I study the rest of the church. I think it really has to do with the relationship of justification and sanctification. Is justification instantaneous? What do we do with passages like 1 Peter 1:9 that speak about salvation being at the end of a believers life? Or the beautiful imagery that Paul uses of running the race to obtain the prize? 

I also would like to understand how do works play into the mix? Is there such a stark division between faith and works? A common mantra seems to be by faith, apart from works, and I completely understand why the Reformers ended up there, but what do we do with James? Is he truly only talking about justification before men leading to this crazy idea of Calvin’s of double justification? 

In no way do I believe one can earn their salvation, I just wonder if such sharp distinctions should be made between faith and action. This seems to be the cry of the Reformed, but I then see gaping holes in how they try and relate works back into the Christian’s walk. For the implication of this is that the believers own actions seem to have no effect whatsoever on anything. A believer is always pleasing God, even if he is sinning, because when God sees him, he sees Christ, not the person. A believers own actions are completely arbitrary, which seems to go against Scripture in so many places. A good example would be the believers in Corinth who were taking the Lord ’s Supper in an unworthy manner. God didn’t just look at them and see Christ, he saw their sin, was very much displeased, and was making them sick and even killing them. 

Now it does seem that there have been allowances for this in Protestant theology. What I would be referring to is “progressive sanctification” which is distinct from “positional sanctification.” So while believers are obviously still growing and stumbling, that relates to their progressive sanctification and not their justified position before God. So while a believer is completely righteous in God’s sight, in His other sight, believers are growing in their maturity. I am not sure if Protestants would go as far to say that a believer can displease God regardless of which sanctification they are referring to. 

Anyways, it is this that I am not so sure about. Can we really buy such a distinction? It obviously doesn’t make sense logically, but I understand that God’s ways are sometimes paradoxical. However, because I don’t see this distinction between these two lenses of God with which He views us clearly in Scripture, I do view it with suspicion. 

It is precisely this that I will be keeping in the back of my mind as I read Scripture and consult the history of the Church. Is this new since the Reformation, or something the church has always held to? If not, what are their answers? And the question that matters most, do other systems better line up with Scripture?  

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