Why do people give Baxter a Hard Time on Justification?

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davejonescue

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After reading some of Baxters "Of Justification," I really dont understand why people give him a hard time on the issue? As it has been noted, most of his works on justification were a response to the rampant Antinomianism he witnessed during his life, and we see the same "nominal" Christianity today. But as I investigate more of the Puritans writings as a whole, Baxter hardly seems to be the odd ball, as many, if not most Puritans would correlate active obedience as a necessity for future salvation. For instance, here is a quote from Richard Greenham:

"Beside the Apostle saith, Eph. 5:6, Col. 3:6, speaking of fornicators, covetous men, adulterers, idolaters, and wantons, Let no man deceive you with vain words: for, for such things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. This is spoken to God's children, that they should not mock at the menaces and judgments of God: for if they will not obey, the judgments of God undoubtedly will fall; but if they will tremble at God's word, they shall be children of obedience, and not be subject to this wrath of God." - "Godly Meditations on the 119th Psalm," verse 118.

Even Wikipedia quotes R.C Sproul as saying this about Sola Fide:
"The relationship of faith and good works is one that may be distinguished but never separated ... if good works do not follow from our profession of faith, it is a clear indication that we do not possess justifying faith. The Reformed formula is, "We are justified by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone."

This seems to be the exact same thing as Baxter is saying. Instead of trying to grip Sola Fide so tight that it makes it seem that all we need to do is "have faith," Baxter illustrates that a faith that produces good works, i.e. obedience, is actually part of the justification process because a faith absent of good works is no faith at all. I think this is where the separation of Jesus as being Savior, and Jesus being Lord stems from. That is most of the world have no problem being saved, but many have a problem being ruled. Though I havent read Baxters "Of Justification" in full detial, it does seem the premise of his position is that of James, that is, if faith without works is dead, then it must mean that Sola Fide includes obedience.

Why then is is all-right to chalk up a person as non-elect if they profess yet bear no fruit, but be harsh towards people who say justification is more than simple belief?
 
I'm also curious to hear more about this. Particularly as some trusted scholars of the Puritans seem to love Baxter while others denounce him as a wolf.
 
I generally here the criticism that he was a hypothetical universalist. Personally, I find many of his writings help. Like the Reformed Pastor, his directory, and his pastoral tone in letters addressing unbelievers.
 
There is a difference between evidence on one side and grounds/instrumentality on the other. That might be one reason.
Would you say it is incorrect to say that good works/holiness are a God-produced means of bringing us to glory? I don't know where one would group "means" in the distinction you're making, though I certainly wouldn't say works are the ground of our salvation.
 
There is a difference between evidence on one side and grounds/instrumentality on the other. That might be one reason.
But if the lack of evidence then makes the faith of no effect, wouldnt that make the instrument in which proves it genuine pivotal? This seems to be what Baxter was combating, the thought that one can have saving faith apart from good works.
 
Would you say it is incorrect to say that good works/holiness are a God-produced means of bringing us to glory? I don't know where one would group "means" in the distinction you're making, though I certainly wouldn't say works are the ground of our salvation.

I get what you are saying, but "means" is kind of a vague term. In terms of causality and justification, we speak in terms of

Instrumental cause: Faith alone
Final Cause: Glory of God
Subalternate Final Cause: Works
Grounds: Righteousness of Christ
 
Baxter wrote things on justification that are essentially the same as what Federal Visionists say, as for example:

Our full justification, and our everlasting salvation have the same conditions on our part. But sincere obedience is without all doubt, a condition of our salvation: therefore also of our justification.​
More here.
 
Baxter wrote things on justification that are essentially the same as what Federal Visionists say, as for example:

Our full justification, and our everlasting salvation have the same conditions on our part. But sincere obedience is without all doubt, a condition of our salvation: therefore also of our justification.​
More here.
But if we look at the Puritans writings as a whole, many if not most of them would hold this view. They didnt believe salvation could be wrought within an unobedient life.
 
But if we look at the Puritans writings as a whole, many if not most of them would hold this view.

When I read Owen on justification, and when I read Rich Lusk, I don't get the impression they have the same view. Lusk told me in person in 2005-2006 that imputation was a legal fiction.

When I read Wilson on justification, I have no idea what he is saying. Basically yes and no at the same time.
 
How good do my works need to be? How many do I need to do?
I believe he answers this in his "Christian Directory." - Against Being too Scrupulous - The Daily Genevan

He then provides a remedy, obedience that pursues pleasing God while always resting in our free justification in Christ:
“Your remedy here, is not by casting away all care of pleasing God, or fear of sinning, or by debauching conscience; but by a cheerful and quiet obedience to God, so far as you know his will, and an upright willingness and endeavour to understand it better; and a thankful receiving the gospel pardon for your failings and infirmities.

Be faithful in your obedience; but live still upon Christ, and think not of reaching to any such obedience, as shall set you above the need of his merits, and a daily pardon of your sins. Do the best you can to know the will of God and do it: but when you know the essentials of religion, and obey sincerely, let no remaining wants deprive you of the comfort of that so great a mercy, as proves your right to life eternal. In your seeking further for more knowledge and obedience, let your care be such as tendeth to your profiting, and furthering you to your end, and as doth not hinder your joy and thanks for what you have received: but that which destroyeth your joy and thankfulness, and doth but perplex you, and not further you in your way, is but hurtful scrupulosity, and to be laid by.

When you are right in the main, thank God for that, and be further solicitous so far as to help you on, but not to hinder you. If you send your servant on your message, you had rather he went on his way as well as he can, than stand scrupling every step whether he should set the right or left foot forward; and whether he should step so far, or so far at a time, &c.

Hindering scruples please not God.”

There is an attitude of Jesus as Lord, and that obedience is part of genuine Christianity. Neither Baxter, nor James tries to play mind games leading into a fear to attempt holiness. On the contrary, there is a whole system in which people believe that they are Christians by simple belief, apart from fruit. I wonder where that idea stems from?
 
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After reading some of Baxters "Of Justification," I really dont understand why people give him a hard time on the issue? As it has been noted, most of his works on justification were a response to the rampant Antinomianism he witnessed during his life, and we see the same "nominal" Christianity today. But as I investigate more of the Puritans writings as a whole, Baxter hardly seems to be the odd ball, as many, if not most Puritans would correlate active obedience as a necessity for future salvation. For instance, here is a quote from Richard Greenham:

"Beside the Apostle saith, Eph. 5:6, Col. 3:6, speaking of fornicators, covetous men, adulterers, idolaters, and wantons, Let no man deceive you with vain words: for, for such things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. This is spoken to God's children, that they should not mock at the menaces and judgments of God: for if they will not obey, the judgments of God undoubtedly will fall; but if they will tremble at God's word, they shall be children of obedience, and not be subject to this wrath of God." - "Godly Meditations on the 119th Psalm," verse 118.

Even Wikipedia quotes R.C Sproul as saying this about Sola Fide:
"The relationship of faith and good works is one that may be distinguished but never separated ... if good works do not follow from our profession of faith, it is a clear indication that we do not possess justifying faith. The Reformed formula is, "We are justified by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone."

This seems to be the exact same thing as Baxter is saying. Instead of trying to grip Sola Fide so tight that it makes it seem that all we need to do is "have faith," Baxter illustrates that a faith that produces good works, i.e. obedience, is actually part of the justification process because a faith absent of good works is no faith at all. I think this is where the separation of Jesus as being Savior, and Jesus being Lord stems from. That is most of the world have no problem being saved, but many have a problem being ruled. Though I havent read Baxters "Of Justification" in full detial, it does seem the premise of his position is that of James, that is, if faith without works is dead, then it must mean that Sola Fide includes obedience.

Why then is is all-right to chalk up a person as non-elect if they profess yet bear no fruit, but be harsh towards people who say justification is more than simple belief?
Baxter's views on justification were what came to be known as neonomianism. Perhaps the best way to get a handle on neonomianism is to study out the Marrow Controversy in Scotland, which was largely conditioned by the neonomianism of the moderate party in the Church of Scotland.
 
Baxter wrote things on justification that are essentially the same as what Federal Visionists say, as for example:

Our full justification, and our everlasting salvation have the same conditions on our part. But sincere obedience is without all doubt, a condition of our salvation: therefore also of our justification.​
More here.
Not that I am by any means philosophically knowledgeable, but could part of the problem here be that Baxter is mixing up categories? To say that works or holiness are a "condition" of our salvation-- which we would all agree on in the proper sense that they are not optional-- is not the same as saying it is a grounds of our justification, and yet in the excerpt linked he seems to be making that leap. Maybe I'm grasping here...
 
Not that I am by any means philosophically knowledgeable, but could part of the problem here be that Baxter is mixing up categories? To say that works or holiness are a "condition" of our salvation-- which we would all agree on in the proper sense that they are not optional-- is not the same as saying it is a grounds of our justification, and yet in the excerpt linked he seems to be making that leap. Maybe I'm grasping here...
But if they are not optional, why do we try and pretend they are? That is what I am not getting? The Bible says "without holiness, no one will see the Lord." Jesus says Matt. 7:23, and John says 1 Joh. 3:4.
 
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I believe he answers this in his "Christian Directory." - Against Being too Scrupulous - The Daily Genevan

He then provides a remedy, obedience that pursues pleasing God while always resting in our free justification in Christ:
“Your remedy here, is not by casting away all care of pleasing God, or fear of sinning, or by debauching conscience; but by a cheerful and quiet obedience to God, so far as you know his will, and an upright willingness and endeavour to understand it better; and a thankful receiving the gospel pardon for your failings and infirmities.

Be faithful in your obedience; but live still upon Christ, and think not of reaching to any such obedience, as shall set you above the need of his merits, and a daily pardon of your sins. Do the best you can to know the will of God and do it: but when you know the essentials of religion, and obey sincerely, let no remaining wants deprive you of the comfort of that so great a mercy, as proves your right to life eternal. In your seeking further for more knowledge and obedience, let your care be such as tendeth to your profiting, and furthering you to your end, and as doth not hinder your joy and thanks for what you have received: but that which destroyeth your joy and thankfulness, and doth but perplex you, and not further you in your way, is but hurtful scrupulosity, and to be laid by.

When you are right in the main, thank God for that, and be further solicitous so far as to help you on, but not to hinder you. If you send your servant on your message, you had rather he went on his way as well as he can, than stand scrupling every step whether he should set the right or left foot forward; and whether he should step so far, or so far at a time, &c.

Hindering scruples please not God.”

There is an attitude of Jesus as Lord, and that obedience is part of genuine Christianity. Neither Baxter, nor James tries to play mind games leading into a fear to attempt holiness. On the contrary, there is a whole system in which people believe that they are Christians by simple belief, apart from fruit. I wonder where that idea stems from?

This sounds a lot like Gabriel Biel's "Do your best and God will do the rest."
 
This sounds a lot like Gabriel Biel's "Do your best and God will do the rest."
Maybe, but it also seems some peoples view of Sola Fide is just believe and do nothing....you be aight. Probably why crosses are the most popular piece of jewelry in America. Even the rappers wear em'.

I have to read more of his works on Justification though to get the whole idea of his thought. Baxter, at least now, just seems to be spelling out what we all already hold to but say differently. One says "no fruit, no belief," the other says "belief and fruit." Seems like the same thing.
 
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Maybe, but it also seems some peoples view of Sola Fide is just believe and do nothing....you be aight. Probably why crosses are the most popular piece of jewelry in America. Even the rappers wear em'.

Gabriel Biel was a late-medieval Pelagian. You came very close just then to endorsing Pelagianism.
 
Gabriel Biel was a late-medieval Pelagian. You came very close just then to endorsing Pelagianism.
Lol, I didnt endorse anything. You made the comment, not I. Just because that is your opinion, doesnt make it so. I think the consensus of endorsement of Baxters "A Christian Directory" probably outweighs your criticism(s) of it.
 
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Lol, I didnt endorse anything. You made the comment, not I. Just because that is your opinion, doesnt make it so.

My opinion on Biel is standard Medieval scholarship. Biel's famous claim:

Facere quod in se est, Deus non denegat gratiam

Sounds just like the above quote
 
Not that I am by any means philosophically knowledgeable, but could part of the problem here be that Baxter is mixing up categories? To say that works or holiness are a "condition" of our salvation-- which we would all agree on in the proper sense that they are not optional-- is not the same as saying it is a grounds of our justification, and yet in the excerpt linked he seems to be making that leap. Maybe I'm grasping here...

I too have but a limited grasp of philosophical formulations and terminology. But in context it seems to this layman that "condition" and "grounds" convey essentially the same thing. Baxter seems to say as much in his Proposition XII.

Though Christ hath satisfied the Law, yet is it not his Will, that any Man should be justified or saved thereby, who hath not some Ground in himself of personal and particular Right and Claim thereto; nor that any should be justified by the Blood only as shed or offered, except it be also as received and applied. So that no Man, by the mere Satisfaction made, is freed from the Law or Curse of the first violated Covenant absolutely, but conditionally only.
For a fuller treatment, here is a refutation of Baxter's view by a contemporaneous minister.
 
I too have but a limited grasp of philosophical formulations and terminology. But in context it seems to this layman that "condition" and "grounds" convey essentially the same thing. Baxter seems to say as much in his Proposition XII.

Though Christ hath satisfied the Law, yet is it not his Will, that any Man should be justified or saved thereby, who hath not some Ground in himself of personal and particular Right and Claim thereto; nor that any should be justified by the Blood only as shed or offered, except it be also as received and applied. So that no Man, by the mere Satisfaction made, is freed from the Law or Curse of the first violated Covenant absolutely, but conditionally only.
For a fuller treatment, here is a refutation of Baxter's view by a contemporaneous minister.
Yes, this is what I was trying to say as well-- he seems to be using "condition" as if it is synonymous with "grounds" when it needn't be.

Thank you for sharing these links, they are helpful.
 
After reading some of Baxters "Of Justification," I really dont understand why people give him a hard time on the issue? As it has been noted, most of his works on justification were a response to the rampant Antinomianism he witnessed during his life, and we see the same "nominal" Christianity today. But as I investigate more of the Puritans writings as a whole, Baxter hardly seems to be the odd ball, as many, if not most Puritans would correlate active obedience as a necessity for future salvation. For instance, here is a quote from Richard Greenham:

"Beside the Apostle saith, Eph. 5:6, Col. 3:6, speaking of fornicators, covetous men, adulterers, idolaters, and wantons, Let no man deceive you with vain words: for, for such things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. This is spoken to God's children, that they should not mock at the menaces and judgments of God: for if they will not obey, the judgments of God undoubtedly will fall; but if they will tremble at God's word, they shall be children of obedience, and not be subject to this wrath of God." - "Godly Meditations on the 119th Psalm," verse 118.

Even Wikipedia quotes R.C Sproul as saying this about Sola Fide:
"The relationship of faith and good works is one that may be distinguished but never separated ... if good works do not follow from our profession of faith, it is a clear indication that we do not possess justifying faith. The Reformed formula is, "We are justified by faith alone but not by a faith that is alone."

This seems to be the exact same thing as Baxter is saying. Instead of trying to grip Sola Fide so tight that it makes it seem that all we need to do is "have faith," Baxter illustrates that a faith that produces good works, i.e. obedience, is actually part of the justification process because a faith absent of good works is no faith at all. I think this is where the separation of Jesus as being Savior, and Jesus being Lord stems from. That is most of the world have no problem being saved, but many have a problem being ruled. Though I havent read Baxters "Of Justification" in full detial, it does seem the premise of his position is that of James, that is, if faith without works is dead, then it must mean that Sola Fide includes obedience.

Why then is is all-right to chalk up a person as non-elect if they profess yet bear no fruit, but be harsh towards people who say justification is more than simple belief?
The unorthodoxy of Baxter on the matter consists in his insistence that justification only contains the forgiveness of prior sins, and that subsequent ones must be washed away with penance.
This is the teaching of Augustine and Roman Catholicism, and it is contrary to the Reformed understanding.
Note that Baxter himself admitted his views on justification did not line up with the Westminster Standards.
 
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