Justification as Fire Insurance?

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queenknitter

Puritan Board Freshman
This is a spin-off of KimG's saving-v-sanctifying grace thread. And I admit to creating a rather provocative title. :detective:

I was just reading Berkhof's section which surveys the views of justification. Here's what he says:

THE DOCTRINE AFTER THE REFORMATION. The doctrine of justification was the great material principle of the Reformation. With respect to the nature of justification the Reformers corrected the error of confounding justification with sanctification by stressing its legal character and representing it as an act of God's free grace, whereby He pardons our sins and accepts us as righteous in His sight, but does not change us inwardly. As far as the ground of justification is concerned, they rejected the idea of Rome that this lies, at least in part, in the inherent righteousness of the regenerate and in good works, and substituted for it the doctrine that it is found only in the imputed righteousness of the Redeemer. And in connection with the means of justification they emphasized the fact that man is justified freely by that faith which receives and rests in Christ only for salvation. Moreover, they rejected the doctrine of a progressive justification, and held that it was instantaneous and complete, and did not depend for its completion on some further satisfaction for sin. They were opposed by the Socinians, who held that sinners obtain pardon and acceptance with God, through His mercy, on the ground of their own repentance and reformation. The Arminians do not all agree on the subject, but in general it may be said that they limit the scope of justification, so as to include only the forgiveness of sins on the basis of the passive obedience of Christ, and to exclude the adoption of the sinner in favor by God or the basis of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. The sinner is accounted righteous only on the basis of his faith or his life of obedience. The Neonomians in England were in general agreement with them on this point. For Schleiermacher and Ritsehl justification meant little more than the sinner's becoming conscious of his mistake in thinking that God was angry with him. And in modern liberal theology we again meet with the idea that God justifies the sinner by the moral improvement of his life (512-513).

Okay. Maybe I'm over-simplifying this. But it seems to me, in general, all the non-Reformed positions are the same -- adding conditions or subjectivity or tentativeness to justification. Is that an accurate understanding of Berkhof?

So here's my real question. In the Arminian understanding of justification, it really just is your "ticket" into Heaven, right? If I'm understanding Berkhof, he's saying that this Arminian (and Neonomian) idea ignores/forgets Christ's active obedience, yes? Can you all explain that active/passive thing to me more?

See -- here's the deal. I think the theological misstep that BJU fundamentalists are making is not necessarily at the sanctification "step" but before that (so to speak). I think they are taking the guts out of justification too. They dismiss Galatians as applying to them because they think they can "check off" justification by faith alone on their orthodox list (and Paul was only talking about justification in Galatians, they claim), but they can't really do that either.

Maybe you all can see more clearly through all that than I am. Thots?

C
 

ColdSilverMoon

Puritan Board Senior
Well, "classical" Arminianism would hold the same view of justification that we do, except they would apply it to everyone. That is, we are justified by Christ's death and resurrection, and we come into that justification through faith. Where they differ is they would argue that everyone is justified, we just need faith to receive the gift of justification, and that faith is our decision to make through God's "common grace." Like Berkhof says in that paragraph, not all Arminians are the same, so undoubtedly plenty, maybe the majority, believe that we are counted righteous on the basis of our faith. But traditional Arminianism would hold to justification as accomplished purely by Christ, more or less the same as the Confession.
 

moral necessity

Puritan Board Junior
This is a spin-off of KimG's saving-v-sanctifying grace thread. And I admit to creating a rather provocative title. :detective:

I was just reading Berkhof's section which surveys the views of justification. Here's what he says:

The Arminians do not all agree on the subject, but in general it may be said that they limit the scope of justification, so as to include only the forgiveness of sins on the basis of the passive obedience of Christ, and to exclude the adoption of the sinner in favor by God or the basis of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. The sinner is accounted righteous only on the basis of his faith or his life of obedience.

So here's my real question. In the Arminian understanding of justification, it really just is your "ticket" into Heaven, right? If I'm understanding Berkhof, he's saying that this Arminian (and Neonomian) idea ignores/forgets Christ's active obedience, yes? Can you all explain that active/passive thing to me more?

C

I understand Berkhof to be saying something different. I think he means that the Arminians base our justification on the fact that we place faith in the work of Christ, rather than us being justified because Christ imputed his righteousness to us. To them, we are justified because we do something with Christ, rather than Christ doing something with us.

Blessings!
 

queenknitter

Puritan Board Freshman
Like Berkhof says in that paragraph, not all Arminians are the same

Hmmm. . . . Yeah, I am willing to lay bets that the crowd I'm speaking about can be described as accepting/focusing on (don't know the right verb) Christ's passive obedience and ignoring/forgetting His active obedience. :gpl: Not sure yet, but I think that's what's up. I need to find more texts to prove it.

Anyway, thank you, gentlemen!!

C
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Okay. Maybe I'm over-simplifying this. But it seems to me, in general, all the non-Reformed positions are the same -- adding conditions or subjectivity or tentativeness to justification. Is that an accurate understanding of Berkhof?
As I believe the Reformed understanding of the nature of justification stabs at the nature of the Gospel, I believe that all non-Reformed understandings of it end up missing the target and, in general, undermine or destroy the Gospel either explicitly or implicitly. In the case of a recent thread with Kim G we recall that the Galatians were not condemned for how they began in their understanding of the Gospel but how they progressed in it. Some systems (like the Roman Catholics) are very explicit from the beginning that justification is a progressive act. Others operate under a "bait and switch" where they begin with the promise of salvation on condition of faith and then really demonstrate that they didn't intend to communicate that promise from the beginning.

So here's my real question. In the Arminian understanding of justification, it really just is your "ticket" into Heaven, right? If I'm understanding Berkhof, he's saying that this Arminian (and Neonomian) idea ignores/forgets Christ's active obedience, yes? Can you all explain that active/passive thing to me more?

Generally, passive obedience is considered Christ's sacrificial death for sin where He was offered as a perfect, once-for-all sacrifice. Christ's active obedience is considered Christ's life of total obedience to the Law of God where He accomplished all righteousness and truly was the Righteous One. It is difficult to separate the two precisely in His death as He actively offered Himself as both Priest and Sacrifice on the Cross.

I would agree with Berkhof hits the nail on the head here. If we believe that our justification procures only the forgiveness of our sins then, in essence, it is up to us to cooperate with grace (or frustrate it) and our work proves to God that we're serious about remaining within the status of the salvation He offered to us and we accepted at first. After all, an Arminian believes it was I who chose Christ and God grants me forgiveness but, because it was I, I also possess the ability to improve upon my righteousness.

When we understand that Christ accomplished all righteousness in what He suffered for us to put away sin as well as how He obeyed the Law perfectly then we understand that justification represents not only the putting away of our sin but that we are counted as accomplishing righteousness. We are declared righteous not only because we have been forgiven our sins but we are declared to have accomplished obedience to the Law of God.

A commonality then between Arminians and Neonomians emerges here. I recommend you purchase Issue 3 of The Confessional Presbyterian and read the article where Baxter's view of faith was compared with the Reformed understanding. There are some striking similarities to neo-nomians today in the Federal Vision camp.

In essence, our ultimate justification has to await our perfection in faith. It is not enough to cling to the Cross in a simple, evangelical faith born from above but the individual must have improved upon such a faith all his life and the quality of the faith itself becomes a basis for salvation - the fact that we had enough faith to perform works that would ensue.

Also, you see in many Arminians some notion that it is our faith itself that is the grounds for justification. That God accounts to our faith some quality that removes sin and is the accomplishment of righteousness. The Gospel, however, sees our faith as laying hold of Christ and His righteousness. Faith is merely an instrument to lay hold of the ground of our Justification - Christ Himself.

I feel like I'm getting entangled into a really complex answer that I didn't intend but there are so many defects to consider. I think, fundamentally, what non-Reformed views of Justification miss is the nature of union with Christ and how definitive it is that God has elected us and united us to Christ and all His benefits. One need only read Hebrews 9-10 to see how impossible it is that Christ's sacrifice could not perfect those for whom it was intended. The moment you add human activity to that atoning work then you are denying the perfection of Christ's sacrifice and accounting it incomplete without something that man adds to it.

See -- here's the deal. I think the theological misstep that BJU fundamentalists are making is not necessarily at the sanctification "step" but before that (so to speak). I think they are taking the guts out of justification too. They dismiss Galatians as applying to them because they think they can "check off" justification by faith alone on their orthodox list (and Paul was only talking about justification in Galatians, they claim), but they can't really do that either.
Yes, the Arminian understanding of the Gospel is no Gospel at all. From start to finish the view destroys the Gospel. I pity those who suffer under it for I've seen, time and again, Brothers and Sisters struggling with assurance that only the Gospel can provide and ministers of such Churches withhold it for a scheme that will get you in by faith but then keep you in by works and by the sincerity of your dedication. I was happy that, at the end of my teaching at my recent Church, we no longer had re-dedications. At its core, it is no different than the Sacrament of Penance.
 

Ivan

Pastor
Yes, the Arminian understanding of the Gospel is no Gospel at all. From start to finish the view destroys the Gospel. I pity those who suffer under it for I've seen, time and again, Brothers and Sisters struggling with assurance that only the Gospel can provide and ministers of such Churches withhold it for a scheme that will get you in by faith but then keep you in by works and by the sincerity of your dedication. I was happy that, at the end of my teaching at my recent Church, we no longer had re-dedications. At its core, it is no different than the Sacrament of Penance.

I admit that I have heard of Southern Baptist churches having this misunderstanding of the Gospel. I even remember a few "rededications" in the church I was a member of as a teenager. It may even be the norm in some SBC churches, I don't know. I'm not as involved in the larger activities of the local, state or national institutions of the SBC. I am reasonably sure that our seminaries (and certainly Southern) do not teach the aforementioned type of Arminianism. In fact, all the time that I have preached in Southern Baptist churches and pastored in them, I have never called for a "rededication". I believe I was remedied of that kind of thing from the teaching of my college pastor, who taught me the doctrines of grace.

As to other Arminianites, I know that although they say salvation is by grace, they do "destroy the Gospel", as you say, Rich. My greatest concern for those who are under their teaching. I'm concerned that they may not be Christians at all. That is fearful.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I thought the altar call was pretty standard at many SBC Churches? Either way, without a clear Gospel, men are left believing the default view that God helps those who help themselves.

I am fearful as well Ivan. I believe, according to Hebrews, that all of us who have heard the Gospel regularly are required to approach it in faith. It is shameful that far too many under-shepherds direct men away from what their faith should be and back into themselves and, consequently, I believe there are a great number of unregenerate Pastors and Church members who have never been properly taught what the Gospel is.

In a world that hates the Gospel it is a constant battle. I've encountered first hand that men will oppose you when you try to restore the Gospel to men and women but there is no choice but to give battle.
 
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