Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Senses, Intellect and Spirit

In response to the charge that Christian theology, indeed the Christian religion, is nothing other than words about words about words, we have seen that our minds and our senses are to be used in a quite natural way in coming to understand our faith. The Christian message is in this sense not at all discontinuous from ‘the natural’, even though our natural powers are fallen. We take this for granted, I suspect, and only notice the fact when it is drawn to our attention. Our senses are fallen but not obliterated. Christianity is not gnosticism, which requires its disciples to be initiated into a special ‘language of heaven’, one that is discontinuous from the natural languages we all speak. At Pentecost those present heard in their own languages the account of the mighty works of God. Nor does it require special non-natural or supernatural access to the basic factual claims of the faith, even though, because of our fallenness, the enlightening and reviving work of he Spirit is needed to enable us to understand the significance of what we learn, and to apply it to our lives.

The senses and the Apostles

The Apostles themselves ‘saw with their eyes; they ‘looked upon and touched with their hands’, concerning the word of life, the life which was ‘made manifest and [which] we have seen and heard’. They saw, they heard, and they touched the Incarnate one of God, and these facts provided John with an argument against Gnosticism. That which their senses told them about ‘we proclaim also to you’ (I John 1. 1-3) What John and the others had seen and heard formed the basis of his declaration of the gospel and of the fellowship which all believers have with the father and his Son. The exercise of senses and intellect provided the Apostle Peter with some reason, a good reason, for thinking that he and the other apostles have not followed cleverly devised myths…….’. Why? Because ‘we were eye witnesses of his majesty, for when he received honour and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him in the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”, we ourselves heard this very voice, for we were with him on the holy mountain.’ (2 Peter. 1.16) When Paul met with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus he saw a light from heaven, and heard a voice and was then deprived of his sight. The men who were with him also heard the voice. (Acts 9 Cf. John 12.29) ) Similarly, the Saviour said to doubting Thomas: ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands, and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve. But believe’. Seeing, hearing, touching – these were all involved in learning of Christ, confirming the character of God’s revelation, and it seems that the Apostles went out of their way to stress their importance.

What did their senses tell them? First, that their faith was not a case of private or collective hallucination or delusion. They were not following myths, magical events in which the senses are tricked and deceived, but that the Saviour, being God made flesh, himself had that sort of objectivity which our senses convey to us, and the absence of which - ‘cleverly devised myths’ – the senses are also able to detect. We are tricked and puzzled by the cleverness of a magician for some time, but not for all the time. We do not actually believe that the woman has been sawn in half, or that the rabbits were all in the hat. The Saviour did not seem to be magically ‘present’ on the Mount of Transfiguration, but he was present, physically palpably present, for the one transfigured was a physical person, and the glory that surrounded him was visible to the human eye. Even the voice from heaven was not a purely interior voice of the sort we refer to when we talk of the voice of conscience, but ‘we ourselves heard this very voice’, not physically produced by means of human lungs and larynx, but nevertheless a voice objectively identifiable through hearing.

This account of identification by means of the senses is not the whole story, of course, but it is part of the story, and an essential part. Grace builds upon nature. Peter himself goes on to refer to a ‘more sure’ word of prophecy. (2 Pet. 1. 19) He recognises degrees of certainty. Their experience on the holy mountain provided some degree of certainty, God’s word, the product of the inspiring activity of the Holy Spirit, provided a surer ground of belief and hope than what they witnessed, considered as a series of events. Peter speaks of these data as if they were on a sliding scale, with the matters eye witnessed being less sure than the word of prophecy revealed to them, which is, by comparison, like a ‘a lamp shining in a dark place’.

So grace builds upon nature. Not in the sense that grace simply grows out of nature, for that would give us a wholly naturalistic religion; but in the sense that it presupposes nature and is not fundamentally at odds with it, overturning it and negating it. In particular, it presupposes the sort of objectivity that nature routinely conveys to us. The word of prophecy is ‘more sure’ when measured against the sureness and certainty of our sensory experience. It has an objectivity that goes beyond the objectivity conveyed by the reports of two or three witnesses as to what they saw and heard.


Here I pause to say a word or two about ‘presuppositionalism’. There are those who say that the purely biblical way to convey the faith to others is to presuppose, as a kind of axiom, Scripture and all that it tells us. But it seems to me that the biblical data that we have briefly considered (there are other data too, I think) point in the other direction. That we do not, and cannot presuppose Scripture, but that we first trust our senses, and then trust Scripture, as a more sure word of prophecy. We cannot, without vicious circularity, derive our epistemology from presupposing Scripture.

For a moment, consider that phrase ‘presupposing Scripture’. What is Scripture? At its most basic, it is a library of sixty-six books, in various languages, mostly Hebrew and Greek. We have it in English translation, which for the most part serves us very nicely. It is a material object, a book, which we need to distinguish from other books, with individual books, chapters and verses, whose words we need to read and understand (if the words are in our own language) or to translate (if they are in their original languages). In order to even get to the text of Scripture we need to use our senses, what we can see and touch, and to rely on these senses, as we generally rely on them in distinguishing, say, an apple from an avocado, or a peach from a pear. What entitles us to trust our senses at this point? We cannot be warranted in trusting our senses by presupposing Scripture (as the presuppositonalists aver) because we need our senses to identify and understand the words, clauses and sentences of Scripture to begin with. To rely on Scripture to warrant our use of our senses, while at the same time using our senses to understand what the Bible warrants, is viciously circular.

The disciples at the Transfiguration, and Thomas in the Upper Room, did not rely upon Jesus to verify the reliability of their senses, but they trusted their senses implicitly in the way that they trusted them when they counted the loaves and the fishes. It was by such a use of their senses and judgment that they witnessed the transfigured Christ, and the resurrected Christ.

There is no other recourse at this point than to recognise the working of learning processes the function prior to meeting Christ (in the case of the disciples) or to reading Scripture )in our case). There must therefore be an epistemology, however primitive that is distinct from and prior to Scripture, though consistent with what it teaches us about our condition as a fallen race. It is at this point that (for some) the panic seems to set in. But there is no need to panic, any epistemology which, consistent with what Scripture teaches generally about fallen human nature, warrants our uses of our senses and intellect, and the account of which is not at odds with reliance upon the sense and intellect, will do.

It is impossible to set up a ‘Scriptural epistemology’ without vicious circularity, the procedure of appealing to Scripture to justify the use of our senses etc. using our senses in making that appeal. The best we can hope for – and all we need reason to hope for – is epistemology which is not at odds with Scripture. So, for example, an epistemology which delivered to us a general scepticism with regard to the use of our senses would be at odds with Scripture, and there are of course several such epistemologies which have been appealed to in the history of Christian theology. The ‘Reformed’ epistemology of Plantinga and Wolterstorff is the latest of these, and currently prominent, but it is not the only candidate.

The grace that builds on nature

So grace builds on nature, it does not supplant it. We have already identified one way in which this happens. First, the gospel is not a trick of magic, which though the senses are involved, deceives them, but events to which the senses of those who saw and heard bore reliable witness. There are degrees of certainty. There is a more sure word of prophecy than even the Transfiguration and its divinely-prophetic commentary. The testimony of eyes and ears, may sometimes deceive us, as in tricks of magic, but it was not deceived in the case of the Transfiguration. Even here, the testimony of eyes and ears is not to be gainsaid.

So for the Apostles at least, their teaching was not words about words about words, but words which identified and described realities which they learned of with their eyes and ears and fingers. To be sure, there is more to the revelation of God’s mercy and grace in Jesus Christ than this, but there is not less. Grace builds upon nature, it does not ignore it, or destroy it. This places the Gospel in the realm of objective realities, not purely subjective teaching or a scripturalism which has a kind of Platonic, non-sensory character. (I suspect that in the case of at least some versions of 'presuppositionalism' there is a confusion between the order of being (how things are from the standpoint of the divine decree) and the order of knowing (the processes by which we come to learn of what God has decreed) - but (mercifully!) that's a topic for another occasion).

Next time, in our fourth and final post on this theme, we shall look at the objectivity of the work of the Spirit in his regenerating activities.

Theistic Compatibilism

First, some remarks on the language of ‘theistic compatibilism’. These remarks are not a direct reply to Byrne’s two arguments, but attempt to counter possible misunderstandings that his language indicates.

In Eternal God an attempt was made to separate two claims:

1. That the divine ordination and sustaining of everything down to its last detail, including every human action, is a case of soft determinism, the doctrine that determinism is compatible with human moral responsibility.


2. That divine ordaining and sustaining is consistent with soft determinism.

(1) is obviously distinct from (2), in the following way: (1) is the view that the divine ordination of human actions is an instance of a thesis (or set of theses) which is, considered historically, about the implications of the creaturely determinants of creaturely action. (2), by contrast, asserts merely the consistency of the divine ordination of everything with at least one version of soft determinism. The two differ on account of the fact that it is asserted that the connection between the divine ordination and creaturely compatibilistic systems is set up by a Creatorly determinant, not a creaturely determinant: the divine ordination is not a creaturely cause in the way that human beliefs and desires are creaturely causes. My argument in Eternal God was merely that if creaturely compatibilism is consistent with human responsibility then a fortiori such responsibility is consistent with Creatorly compatibilism. As I put it

It will be argued that if we suppose that theism is true, and that therefore God ordains and sustains everything by his creative power, then this fact does not provide an additional difficulty for theism. If non-theistic determinism is compatible with freedom then, it will be argued, theistic creation is as well. (EG146)

The point of comparison is between God’s ordaining and sustaining on the one hand, and philosophical determinism on the other, even if what God creates and sustains is an order best understood as a philosophically deterministic order. Later on in the book I referred to possible additional difficulties that allegedly attach to the idea of theistic creation and responsibility, (EG 147) and distinguished on the one hand between human freedom and determinism and human freedom and theistic creation (EG 149), and between the thesis of general determinism and that of God’s creating and sustaining activity. (EG 153) On one occasion the claim that creation is compatible with responsibility only if determinism is was explicitly denied (EG157), and arguments couched in terms of God ‘setting up’ deterministic processes were discussed. (EG 162) It was not argued that divine ordination is itself a straightforward instance of philosophical determinism, and for the purposes of my ad hominem argument against Flew which we will shortly discuss there was no need for me to develop or subscribe to some version of philosophical determinism. In arguing against Flew I needed only to employ whatever version of determinism that he subscribed to.

So in the language that was used there was a consistent attempt to distinguish between what (in more theological terminology) might be called immanent cause-effect relations, such as those between human desires and beliefs and the actions they prompt, and transcendent cause-effect relations, where God is the ordainer of all human actions, including all their immanent causal antecedents. This distinction was signalled by using different words to refer to God’s causal activity (words such as ‘create’, and ‘ordain’) from those used to refer to immanent cause-effect relations, (words such as ‘cause’ and ‘determine’). In general the phrase ‘theistic determinism’ was avoided, except occasionally when it was used in an ad hominem context (e.g. EG 157), just as claims such as ‘God determines human actions’ or that he is the ‘all-determining cause’ were avoided. Otherwise it becomes difficult to keep the distinction between (1) and (2) in mind.

In the twenty or so years following the publication of Eternal God I have occasionally had the opportunity to develop this point of view, that Creatorly causation (or ordination) has a different sense from creaturely causation. For example,

God is the source of all creaturely power, but the powers of creatures, even when efficaciously empowered by God, are really theirs, and so are distinct from his. If God efficaciously empowers me to type this essay, still the typing of this paper is my action, not God’s. The wicked men who crucified Jesus were the cause of his death, even though he was crucified by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts.2.23)

One way of expressing this difference might be as follows. While it seems clear that intramundane causation is transitive, that if (where A, B and C are events) A causes B, and B causes C, then A causes C, there is no necessary transitivity in the case of any causal aspects of features of the divine willing permission, if there are any. It is not necessarily the case that if God governs by willingly permitting some event B, and B causes C, then God causes C; rather, God may will by permitting that B causes C and so willingly permit C. God’s willing permission is thus not a straightforward case of causation, and those who seek to assimilate God’s willing permission of evil to the actions of someone manipulating a puppet, or to hypnotism, or to brainwashing or programming, have not recognized the true character of such permission.
Judging by the language that he uses in characterising my view, Byrne misses the distinction between (1) and (2). Thus he says that Helm ‘takes Flew to task for talking about an all-determining God as a manipulator of human beings, someone who reduces human beings to mere puppets and then blames them for what he forces them to do. Such language is dismissed as anthropomorphic and castigated for missing the main point that the divine causation of human acts goes through the normal patterns of desire, belief and intention that are the sources of non-compelled human agency’. (HG196.) But the actual remarks referred to at this place have to do with the character of causal determinism, and not with the character of divine ordination. So it is claimed

General determinism does not claim that the antecedent causal factors manipulate. ‘Manipulate’ is a piece of anthropomorphism. The causal factors are usually non-intentional in character, without plans and aims, but causally sufficient for the bringing about of certain intentional, voluntary actions. The question of having or not having the agent’s consent, or of going or not going against his wishes, does not arise. (EG152)

My point here is not to argue that God does not manipulate his creatures, (though in fact I do deny that) but that if he does (as Flew claims) then, on Flew’s own atheistic determinism, so do our genes manipulate our actions. It is an ad hominem argument, no more and no less. So Byrne has overestimated my willingness to assimilate standard causal determinism to God’s creative and sustaining (and providential) activity, to say that such activity is a case of such determinism. I deliberately allow for elements of disanalogy, and of apophatism, in our understanding of divine activity. After all, the book has to do with divine timelessness. The significance of this fact will be considered further, in the closing section.

Byrne’s First Counter-Argument

I turn now to Peter Byrne’s first counter-argument to my claim that (despite the point just made about apophatism) there is a significant parallel between theistic creation and sustaining on the one hand, and general determinism on the other, and that if general determinism is consistent with human responsibility so may divine sustaining be. Arguing in support of Antony Flew, Byrne claims that there are ‘customs and institutions associated with human responsibility because human beings possess characters and all that pertains thereto – patterns of belief, desire and would be very odd on this account to praise or blame the non-purposive, non-characterful causes that stretch beyond any instance of human choice and action’. (HG 196) And he goes on to claim that things are different ‘in the case of theistic determinism’.

But this counter-argument clearly rests upon an ambiguity regarding ‘responsibility’, as between ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘causal responsibility’. These phrases are not equivalent, of course. On some versions of atheistic general determinism my beliefs and desires and my character are solely the product of my genes and my environment. It is certainly true that it makes no sense to wag one’s finger at my genes, or to look disapprovingly at my early upbringing, to charge them with moral failure or to punish them because of it. As Byrne says, we do not blame the genes or diet, or the Big Bang. Nevertheless, determinists must assign causal responsibility to them; too many strawberries are responsible for my stomach ache, being high up brings about giddiness, my genetic structure is responsible for my maleness, and so on.

Byrne’s presentation of his counter-argument, with its reference to appropriateness, and customs and institutions, makes it seem as if the attribution of personal responsibility is merely a matter of human convention. But if, according to Flew’s general outlook, it is perfectly in order to hold me responsible for some voluntary action that I perform, but not to hold my genes responsible, and if this is based upon a set of human conventions, or ‘paradigm cases’ of free and voluntary action, as Flew used to argue, then why (by the same token) is there a reason to blame God but not me for my vicious actions? If in the matter of ascribing responsibility to human actions we choose to ignore the causal role that genes play, why may we not, in a similar way, choose to ignore the causal role played by God’s ordaining what I do? Flew’s and Byrne’s answer is: because God himself, unlike our genes, has motives, beliefs and intentions. But they have not shown why this is a telling difference.

Monday, December 14, 2009

'JI' - 2

In the last Taking a Line I tried to set out the case (as I see it) for Packer’s adherence to the Church of England in its present state, drawn as far as possible from his own published writings. JI believes that these arguments, on Puritanism, on mental error, and on the Enlightenment and catholicity, have considerable strength. In addition there is one further argument, a fourth argument, that we shall meet shortly. He deploys these arguments because of a prior position he takes on the permissibility of adherence to a ‘comprehensive’ church. It is only because of this commitment to comprehensiveness, now understood as including the toleration of a very wide spectrum of Christian theological opinion, even (as it seems to be in Packer’s own case) a somewhat reluctant and painful adherence to it, that the other arguments are brought in to support it. They form the centre-piece of his defence of his adherence to Anglicanism, and they are argued with great vigour and conviction.

Two of these arguments, the argument from the Enlightenment and catholicity, and the possibility of mental error, are used to strengthen the legitimacy of adherence to the Church of England as it currently stands. By contrast, the argument about the varieties of Puritan ecclesiology is an attempt to legitimise JI’s own position on Puritanism in the eyes of ‘Puritan’ ministers of a separatistic hue. But even if one accepts these arguments, as Packer does, he nevertheless thinks that the decision whether or not to ‘separate’ could go either way. Remember what he wrote (I reproduce the passage in full)

I do not maintain (I had better say this outright) that choosing to be an Anglican is a virtue, or that choosing not to be one or not to stay one is a vice. Choice, we saw, is necessary, and anyone may conclude that, rather than be Anglican, Methodist, Baptist Union or United Reformed (all which bodies are doctrinally mixed), he should join one of the smaller groups (Brethren, Pentecostals, Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches, Reformed Baptists, Free Church of Scotland, etc.) which debar from the ranks of their teachers anyone holding ‘critical’ views of Scripture or rejecting major evangelical tenets. To be sure, some think these smaller bodies purchase doctrinal purity at the price of theological stagnation, and are cultural backwaters out of touch with society around, just as some think Anglican allegiance is an unholy identification with cultural privilege, ecclesiastical worldliness and theological indifferentism. But these matters are arguable both ways, and neither estimate need be accepted. More important is respect for the other man’s deliberate decision, whether or not it coincides with your own. (Ark)

Note: the decision is a forced one; but neither view is virtuous, or vicious; the separation issue is arguable either way: separation and possible stagnation, or Anglican allegiance and the charge of indifferentism. What matters above all is that each respects the other. If the coin comes down in favour of the comprehensive Church of England rather than for the decidedly uncomprehensive Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches (say), then let it be so. Don’t bother tossing the coin again hoping for a different, more ‘principled’, outcome. There isn’t one.

There is something a bit odd about this procedure, which makes me wonder if I’ve understood Dr Packer’s position. Packer offers substantive arguments, as we have seen, for his course of action, but at the same time he holds that the opposite course of action may be equally viable, or equally virtuous.

The arguments from the Enlightenment and catholicity, and from mental error are (Packer holds) substantial. Yet according to him they yield a point of view which could easily have gone the other way. It’s as if you recognise the force of these arguments, but nevertheless toss a coin, which lands on its edge. Which way shall I knock it over? Packer’s attitude to this question seems to be one of indifference or near-indifference: you may knock it one way – the way to Anglican comprehensiveness – or you can knock it the other – the way of evangelical separatism. As if to prove this, two of JI’s heroes, Calvin and Owen, were certainly ‘catholic’ in their outlook, (though of course pre-Enlightenment), in the sense that they saw themselves standing in the line of, and inheriting the theological outlook of the ‘catholic church’, but nonetheless they were hardly the friends of comprehensiveness.

I suspect that at the root of the toleration of others implied by comprehensiveness is the contrast in outlook between a church and a sect which JI touches on in the quotation above, but does not develop. Packer’s conviction is that the Christian faith not only serves the special interests of Christians who agree together, but that it ought to serve the wider concerns of society and the state, and of other, discordant Christians. A church is concerned not only with those who loyally and conscientiously attend it, the inner circle, but also with those who are on the periphery, and with the society and culture that the church is situated in. There is need to address society and the culture, to be sure, but also to listen and learn from it. Addressing and listening keeps one on one’s toes, as well as enlivening and refreshing the mind. For such reasons the Christian Church must remain on speaking terms with the culture and with those who influence it, and as a consequence be willing to suffer and to be snubbed and misunderstood as the price of this.

Nevertheless, this procedure seems weird: to offer arguments which you regard as strong but allow them to yield only a permissive conclusion.

But maybe JI wishes to be heard as saying: ‘For my part it does not matter which way the penny falls as far as the bonds of fellowship between true Reformed evangelicals are concerned’. But that does not sound right, either. It hardly seems cricket to treat
arguments as weaker than you believe them to be in order to extend a hand to those who do not rate these arguments at all, or as highly. Does JI rate these arguments, or does he not?

Let’s have another go. Perhaps JI believes that the arguments are strong, but that their strength should not be trumpeted. He regards the position as weighty, but does not wish to present it as being as weighty as it is. That’s perhaps why he cannot say outright ‘the catholicity and Enlightenment, mental error and Puritan arguments are strong. They ground my conviction that the Church of England is the place to be, the boat to fish from. But this does not mean that I cannot do things together with my separatist friends.’ For as he mulls over this position the following thought may occur to him: 'but they might not want to do things with me'. So it is possible that for the sake of holding hands across the separatist-comprehensiveness divide JI has deliberately (or un-selfconsciously) allowed these arguments to be understated so as not unnecessarily to irritate or offend those from whom he differs on such matters. (If this is his deliberate policy, then he might by now be inclined to believe that such an exercise of forbearance has hardly been reciprocated).

This interpretation may be reinforced by observing that JI could harden or strengthen his position by another argument which he certainly finds appealing, but which in the literature that I have read he certainly does not push.

This, which earlier I referred to as the fourth argument, is a rebuttal of an argument for separation that one might called the ‘compromise by involuntary contagion’ view, held by his separatist friends, or some of them. Some separatists argue that comprehensiveness is per se corrupting because in a comprehensive church one is immediately contaminated by error and heresy. To which Packer replies ‘the “guilt by association” argument touches no one who explicitly dissociates himself from the errors concerned’.(Ark) To live in a church that tolerates a variety of views is no more a recipe for catching their contagion than to live in a society which practices toleration is necessarily to be infected by the views tolerated. One might tolerate other views under protest.

It is important to highlight a fallacy that is sometimes committed in discussions about compromise. It may be hinted at or suggested that the advocacy of compromise is itself an act of compromise. It may be. But of course it is not necessarily the case, as JI recognises. A person may advocate toleration – a classic case of compromise – from a position of principle, as say John Milton or John Stuart Mill did. So comprehensiveness may be defended as a principled position even though it might make life more difficult than otherwise. And JI certainly underlines that fact by continually opposing false teaching in the Anglican Communion, as in ‘Keep Yourselves From Idols’ and in his more recent arguments on gender and ministry. Yet though he is committed to each of these positions, the ‘under protest’ argument and the ‘not involuntarily contaminated’ argument, nevertheless they do not figure very prominently in the statement of his anti-separatist position.

So, summing up, it seems to me that JI has a number of serious arguments for adhering to the present Anglican church, but that he deliberately understates them, as well as understating his opposition to an argument for separatism. He does this (I surmise) in an effort to keep open the channels of fellowship and cooperation between himself (and those who think like him), and their separatist evangelical friends.

The view from the pew

Now I wish to consider the following question: for whom is the decision between separation and comprehensiveness a forced one? In the last post we looked particularly at what Packer has written about comprehensiveness in his pamphlet A Kind of Noah’s Ark, quoting it at length. It is noteworthy that that pamphlet is addressed to an imaginary young man, Joe, seeking advice on ordination to the Christian ministry. What Packer then offers, the substance of the argument of the pamphlet, is professional advice for such a student. For an evangelical who is called to the ministry cannot dodge the comprehensiveness question, even though which way he goes may (in Packer’s view) be a matter of judgment which might equally well go the other way.

The whole issue of separation, including the business over the Puritan Conference, was and is essentially conducted from the point of view of ministers of the gospel. And it is routinely analysed exclusively from that point of view. It is largely conducted as a clerical dispute over matters which are, understandably enough, of crucial importance to ministers and their families, but (I shall suggest) of importance to them alone. The question that must be answered by any intending minister is, in what sort of Christian church can I communicate the gospel? If questions of churchmanship and ecclesiastical allegiance matter, then answering that question has enormous consequences for the personal and family life of the minister, for his sphere of influence, and for how his understanding of the Christian gospel will develop.

But what of the ‘ordinary Christian’ who sits (with his family) in the pew or on the chairs, and who seeks to have his faith built up through the means of grace, and to serve Christ and his church locally? It is easy to see that for such people ‘separation’, as a matter of personal decision, is nothing like as important as it is for his minister. For them it is rarely if ever a forced decision. Why is this?

There is first the fact of the waning of denominational strength and distinctives. I reckon that the call to ‘Come out of your mixed denominations’, to form a new association of separatist local congregations cuts little or no ice with most ordinary Christians nowadays. For better or for worse such people are consumers of evangelical religion and retailers of it on a local scale. Primarily they look for Bible teaching and the propounding of evangelical doctrine with a contemporary application, and to receiving pastoral care from ministers who are approachable. If they read at all, they read books from a variety of authors and download pods and browse sites and listen to music from all over. The bishops of the Church of England may meet together to discuss world poverty or the ethical problems raised by trans-sexuality, or ministers meet in conclave in the Westminster Conference, furrowing their brows over the varieties of Arminianism or the evils of Finneyism. But these are of vanishingly small importance to the rank and file of evangelical Christians compared to a minister’s own character and general theological outlook and how he fulfils his ministry in their own congregation. Perhaps it ought not to be so, but it is.

There is also the fact that in a society in which Islam is increasingly prominent Christians of various hues have a tendency to become more conscious of what they have in common rather than what divides them.

If for one reason or another such people become dissatisfied with their local church, they typically move along the road, to another church that will give them what they need, or provide an outlet for their own gifts. (I once heard of a couple who had attended the ministry of Dr Lloyd-Jones. When he left Westminster Chapel they gave up going to any church and worshipped at home, no doubt listening to the Doctor’s sermons on tape. But I suspect that that was a rather extreme case then, and decades later it would be even rarer.) People who are willing to move from congregation to congregation in this way quickly get used to the fact that they may have to recite a creed, or to sing an unaccompanied metrical psalm, and that the minister may wear funny clothes. Or – moving the other way - that the pews have given way to chairs, the prayers are spoken extempore, and the communion cup is in fact numerous little cups on a portable rack. (In fact such cultural markers are also getting eroded, at least in England, as evangelical Anglican adherence to a fixed liturgy and the funny clothes becomes slacker, and as it seems that the bulk of evangelical congregations tend towards a common mean.) An informal census of current church attenders would quickly confirm this impression, I believe.

When, venturing from the confines of their own congregation, Christians go to a rally or family conference to hear Don Carson or Sinclair Ferguson, Donald Macleod or Rico Tice, the question is not whether or not these chaps practice first degree or some other degree of separation, but whether they can open up the Scriptures in a way that informs and exhilarates and changes lives. Further, the Church of England is no longer the Tory Party at prayer, nor Dissent the Whig Party. (‘Dissent’? Dissent from what? The very word has gone out of use.) Once again, the issue here is not whether these trends are desirable or inevitable, but the need to recognise them as matters of fact.

Such church or chapel goers may, in addition, realise that when they or their church supports Tear Fund or the Christian Institute or the Wycliffe Bible Translators, for example, such organisations are similarly formed on a non-denominational or interdenominational basis. In addition to the ‘compromise’ that commitment to such a basis involves, they have also to ‘compromise’ to do their work. Tear Fund has to negotiate with government agencies, local suppliers, and the like. The Christian Institute has to ‘compromise’ in forming alliances with non-Christians In order to head off a piece of proposed legislation, say legislation that would make it a crime to make fun of someone’s religion. In order to train native workers, the Wycliffe Bible Translators has on occasion to become the Summer Institute of Linguistics. And so on.

Public and professional life, indeed all aspects of life, has to involve cooperation, a willingness to accept the second best, to becoming used to not getting one’s way all of the time. In such a world, the world of compromise, the idea of the forced exclusion of someone who has a different though overlapping view from others as to what ‘Puritanism’ means seems distinctly unappealing.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Nature and Grace

We are trying to get a handle on the question, is Christian theology words about words about words, or does it pass the reference test? Does the subject-matter of theology, God, his character, ways and works, actually refer to God, or does it refer only to further words, further sentences whose grammatical subject is God, but which may not, at the end, succeed in referring to God? In this post we look at the place that nature, human nature, plays in Reformed theology’s answer to that question.

In his account of theological method, Francis Turretin, the seventeenth –century Reformed theologian, emphasises the importance of human resources or tools. Christian theology, particularly Christian Reformed Theology, does not rely upon the operation of a superhuman sixth-sense, or a special mystical afflatus, in order to gain true, saving knowledge of God. Our knowledge of God is not simply the result of of what we feel or imagine.

Rather, in a way that Turretin no doubt thought that it was vital to grasp, but which it is easy to skip over, at the very outset of his enquiry, he unfolds the place of reason in faith. Before this he had dismissed the idea that human reason is the principle and rule by which the doctrines of the Christian religion and theology ought to be measured. None the less in his view reason still has a vital role, as we shall see.

Logic, reason and the senses

To the questions, Does any judgment belong to reason in matters of faith? Or is there no use for it? Turretin proceeds not to offer a yes or no answer to the questions, but to discriminate carefully between those who give reason too great a role in religion, and those who give it too little. (At the time when Turretin wrote the issue was a tense one because of the then-current power and influence of Socinianism.) He then goes on to argue that reason is not the rule of faith. But that’s not the question that interests him. The issue is whether reason has a part to play in the ‘judgment of private discretion by which truth is distinguished form falsehood’. It plays a role in judging the truth of conclusions in all propositions, whatever their source, whether from general or special revelation. But in the case of propositions that are from general revelation only, it is used both to establish the truth of such propositions and then what follows from them. So natural reason may judge of the truth of natural matters, but it plays a subordinate though real role in determining the truth of supernatural matters.

Although the human understanding is very dark, yet there still remains in it some rays of natural light and certain first principles, the truth of which is unquestionable, such as, the whole is greater than its part, an effect supposes a cause, to be and not to be at the same time is incompatible. If this were not the case, there could be no science, nor art, nor certainty in the nature of things. These first principles are not only true in nature, but also in grace and the mysteries of faith. (I.29-30)

But even then Turretin observes several cautions. These are in order to underline the fact that reason is not the source of Christian theology but is useful for illustrating it, for comparing one thing with another, for drawing inferences, and from establishing proofs

And then Turretin asks himself and the reader two simple questions, the significance of which it is easy to overlook. The first is, in matters of faith, does the question of whether some set of propositions is self-contradictory or not matter? This has to do with reason in its narrowest and purest sense. He claims that it is possible for human reason to judge whether a statement or a set of statements is self-contradictory. Why is this important? Because if a set of statements is self-contradictory then some statements included in the set must be false; not every member of the set of statements can be true. Turretin does not posit a higher, spiritual reason, nor does he appeal to paradox to justify theological statements which are manifestly incoherent. A theological impossibility is an impossibility. Full stop. And, by implication, Turretin is telling us that it is important in theology not to indulge in such nonsense.

We can judge the importance of this simple question and the way in which it is answered by noting some remarks of Alister McGrath’s concern that theology might allow itself to be ‘imprisoned’ by logicians.

Evangelicals, of all people, cannot allow revelation to be imprisoned within the flawed limits of sinful human reason. Whatever the extent to which the human mind is noeticially compromised by sin, it is imperative that those finite and fallen minds should not be permitted to be the judges of what is and what is not divine revelation. How can theology so willingly allow itself to be imprisoned by logicians? (A Passion for Truth, The Intellectual Coherence of Evangelicalism, Inter-Varsity), 170

For theology to be imprisoned by a logician presumably means it succumbing to the demand that theological propositions follow the elementary rules of logic such as the avoidance of contradiction, and the drawing of valid inferences from its statements. This may seem rather ironic given the book’s title. Whatever the intellectual coherence of evangelicalism, according to Professor McGrath it need not possess, and perhaps must not possess, the coherence that comes from consistency. That is the way to the prison. Rather it may possess some other non-logical or a-logical coherence which McGrath does not specify nor provide any instances of. He complains that Carl Henry sought to affirm a ‘logically consistent divine revelation' (70), and used the phrase ‘logically consistent’ rather recklessly. Such an approach, McGrath reckons, ‘opens the way to making the truth of divine revelation dependent on the judgments of fallen human reason’. Readers of this section of McGrath’s book will note that there is some confusion between affirming the logical consistency of the mysteries of the faith, and showing that they have not been proved to be inconsistent, and demonstrating their consistency. Perhaps it is McGrath who is using consistency somewhat recklessly. While it may be affirmed that God is both three and one, it is not a requirement of our faith that that claim is proved to be consistent, only that claims that it is inconsistent be successfully rebutted. At any rate, there is a sharp contrast between McGrath and Turretin: each affirms the fallenness of the human mind, and the finiteness of the human mind, but while one bids farewell to logic, the other invites it in.

Secondly, Turretin asks, Is there any use of the testimony of the senses in the mysteries of faith, or ought such testimony be entirely rejected? To this he says ‘We affirm the former and deny the latter’. Reliance on the senses ought not to be rejected. The senses are needed.

Although the orthodox are unwilling that the testimony of the senses should be heard in all mysteries, they nevertheless maintain that a proper regard should be paid to their testimony when the discussion concerns sensible and corporeal things which come within the sphere of their activity.

That is, we may place reliance on them. If we could not, how would we know that we were reading the Bible and not Gulliver’s Travels? And how could we identify the marks on its pages so that we can read them? So, according to Turretin, both human reason and the senses have a distinct role to play in Christian systematic theology. (Turretin has a nice proof text: ‘Touch me and see’ , Luke 24.39)

What the point of stressing such basic matters? Turretin is simply making the point that gifts and powers that are essentially human play a role in theology, where it is appropriate for them to do so. Theology is a humane discipline. These powers are, as we might put it, natural in the sense that they are universally-distributed tools and powers. They are the resources that we rely on in making observation, and drawing conclusions, and making calculations about all matters of fact, including the matters of fact of the Christian faith. Of course, besides stressing human finiteness, and the consequent mysteriousness to us of the doctrines of our faith, Turretin also maintains that these powers and tools are universally corrupted by sin, and that for a true, spiritual understanding of the teaching of Holy Scripture, and the appropriate response of faith and obedience, the regenerating and illuminating work of the Holy Spirit are necessary, indispensable. Turretin is, when all is said and done, a Reformed theologian. (But, he is implying, in regeneration the Spirit works through human nature, the intellect, the senses, and the will.)

He is not so emphatic upon asserting the need for special revelation and supernatural grace that its operation overrides or bypassed such powers in favour of some direct, mystical, inner light. Rather Turretin attempts to hold a fine balance between nature, human nature, even the senses and the intellect of fallen human nature, and the supernaturally-acquired knowledge of God our Creator and Redeemer.

So far we see that nature plays a vital instrumental role in acquiring the knowledge of God. But it also has an important thematic place.

Human nature created and fallen

Alongside this, Turretin argues in true Reformed fashion for the two-fold knowledge of God, that of God our Creator and of God our Redeemer. However it must be stressed that there is not for him (any more than for Calvin) a one-to-one correspondence between nature and the knowledge of God the creator on the one hand, and special grace and the knowledge of God the Redeemer on the other. To know of the true God the Creator, special revelation and divine grace are every bit as much needed as they are in order to know God the redeemer in Christ. Nevertheless, there is some rudimentary and rather inchoate knowledge of God the creator available to everyone. And to know God the redeemer in Christ, human senses and the exercise of the human intellect are every bit as vital (where appropriate) as are the regenerating and illuminating agency of the Holy Spirit of Christ. In these ways grace builds upon nature, it does not destroy it.

Besides this, and in a rather more formal way than Calvin, Turretin argues for what he calls ‘natural theology’, a term which he does not use exclusively to refer only to arguments for God’s existence. (I. 6-16) He uses it interchangeably with ‘knowledge’ as in ‘natural theology or [natural] knowledge of God’. There are, in fact, two parts to such natural knowledge, one ‘partly innate, (derived from the book of conscience by means of common notions and partly acquired (drawn from the book of creatures discursively)’. (I.6) Such knowledge is derived from the natural law written upon each person’s conscience which necessarily implies some knowledge of God the lawgiver. So the acquired knowledge of God (and the scope of the term ‘natural theology’) is not confined by Turretin to cosmological proofs for the existence of God , for example, but includes those matters referred to in passages of Scripture such as Ps.19.1 Acts 14:15-7: Rom 1.19. Obviously enough such natural knowledge of God cannot be derived from Scripture, and Turretin goes on to claim that it is a matter of universal experience. (I.7), referring to Cicero to provide evidence for this universality (as well as to the reports of contemporary explorers (I.8) ) as Calvin had done before him; the universal sensus divinitatis, and the place of of religious observances throughout the world). ‘The special knowledge of true faith (by which believers please God and have access to him, of which Paul speaks) does not exclude but supposes [i.e. presupposes] the general knowledge from nature’. (I.8)

It is at such points that the Magisterial Reformers, as well as clearly referring to Romans 1 and 2, draw upon Augustine, especially his anti-Pelagian work On Nature and Grace. In the short chapter 3 (and also chapter 22) Augustine makes a series of important distinctions. The first is between two senses of ‘nature’: nature as fallen and as unfallen. ‘Man’s nature, indeed, was created at first faultless and without any sin; but that nature of man in which every one is born from Adam, now wants the Physician, because it is not sound.’ Second, he draws a distinction between the good qualities that remain in human nature despite the Fall and the evil qualities it comes to have as a result of the Fall. ‘All good qualities, no doubt, which it still possesses in its make, life, senses, intellect, it has of the Most High God, its Creator and Maker’. Here we see a possible antecedent of the later Calvinist view of common grace. But we also see that these distinctions are fundamental to the idea that nature is fallen but not obliterated, on which divine grace builds.

Augustine has a view of nature and of evil drawn in metaphysical terms, some of the language of which is in turn drawn from Platonism, though it ultimately finds warrant, for him, in the biblical account of the goodness of the creation by an all-good Creator. Existence is good, and the only proximate source of good. Evil is the absence of good, a privation, a lack or loss or defect. So it follows as a metaphysical truth for Augustine that evil can ‘exist’ only by being parasitic upon some good, and only in so far as it is a ‘withdrawal from a substance’. An evil nature or an evil agent insofar as it exists, is good, despite its evil, for its existence is given by the good Creator. So that the Fall, since it did not entail the annihilation of the ones who fell, must be thought of as the perversion of the good and not as the total annihilation of the good:

Sin is not a substance; but God is a substance, yea the height of substance and only true sustenance of the reasonable creature. The consequence of departing from Him by disobedience, and of inability, through infirmity, to receive what one ought really to rejoice in, you hear from the Psalmist, when he says: ‘My heart is smitten and withered like grass, since I have forgotten to eat my bread’.

So the coming of sin led to loss, since sin is itself a loss, infecting us with defects, disabilities and infirmities, as Augustine calls them. This is a forceful expression both of Augustine’s view of evil as basically privative and also of the organic character of human nature; the Fall, like a pathogen, eats away at human nature without annihilating it.

All this is in sharp contrast to the modern theological outlook, both conservative and liberal, which has less and less time for the Biblical doctrine of the Fall. One characteristic of modern narrative theology is that all too frequently the narrative begins not with the Adamic fall but with the Abrahamic covenant, while the original creation, the so-called covenant of nature or covenant of works, is largely ignored. This may partly be due to embarrassment over the doctrine of evolution by natural selection, which tends to shut theologians’ mouths at this point. But it also may be due to a more widespread departure from the very idea of nature as a theological resource. Similarly the biblical account of the Noahic covenant is downplayed. In it the Lord appears to covenant with himself on behalf of mankind, giving the rainbow as a covenant sign both to himself and the human race, to preserve and regulate nature for the benefit of mankind, notwithstanding their sin. In our eagerness to arrive at the covenant with Abraham we tend to push past this covenant with creation, So just as torah supplants natural law, so Abraham pushes out Noah.

Grace on nature

Grace builds upon human nature, we are arguing. Human nature is fallen and perverted, but it remains functioning human nature nonetheless. The Fall does not literally de-humanise the race. Why is this important? Because it is through the investigative resources of human nature, our reason and our senses, that we gain our basic awareness of what is objectively true and false which in turn gives us good reason to believe that we are able successfully to refer to what is distinct from us, and really there, and come to establish what is objectively true, and not a mere fable or fantasy. As we earlier quoted form Turretin, ‘If this were not the case, there could be no science, nor art, nor certainty in the nature of things’. Of course more than nature is needed, but not less than nature. We make mistakes, and are self-deceiving about what is really true, but there are also corrective mechanisms which enable us to finesse our claims about objective reality, reducing the chance of error. We know that the table is real and not a phantom, because of the judgment of our sensory experience, and the obvious ways in which the top and legs of the table resist us and support us, and ways in which we can mend and re-varnish the table, and so on. And we use these same objectivity-recognising tools, where it is pertinent to do so, for the purpose of enquiring about God and gaining knowledge of him. Yes, once again, these alone are not sufficient, but they are necessary, and if they neglect their importance then theologians can never hope to pass the successful reference test.

Imputation and the Grammar of Justification

What is grammar?

Besides the logic of the act or declaration of justification, which we looked at in the past post, there is what I shall call a grammar of justification that arises on the basis of such an act of imputation. By a ‘grammar’ here I do not merely mean a way of talking, what it makes sense to say and not to say within a particular ‘form of life’ of a vaguely Wittgensteinian sense, in the way that Lindbeck uses the term in his book The Nature of Doctrine. There is a decidedly non-realist flavour to this Lindbeckian usage. (George Lindbeck, The Nature of Doctrine 79f.)

Rather, as I shall use it, grammar is a way of talking that arises out of a recognition of particular divine realities as these are revealed to us in Scripture. These realities impose upon us a certain kind of mental discipline, a discipline regarding what it makes sense to say, even if what we are talking about are divinely-revealed mysteries that we cannot fully comprehend. And so the revealed reality of the Trinitarian character of God imposes on us the discipline of thinking of the threeness of the divine nature as not implying three Gods, three distinct divinities. To move in that way from the threeness of God to tritheism is to make a grammatical mistake, even though God’s threeness and oneness are shrouded in mystery. We simply do not do justice to the revelation if we move in the direction of tritheism, just as we do not do it justice if we talk in a modalistic way of the divine three-in-one-ness. Part of the function of a creed or a confession of faith is to spell out that grammar. (On this see Lewis Ayres, Nicaea and Its Legacy, (OUP, 2004), 14-5, 175).

Justification and Imputation

So it is with other revealed realities, especially (for us, here), the relation between the realities of imputation and justification. On the Reformed view of imputation it is only the immaculate righteousness of Jesus Christ himself, procured through the obedience and satisfaction of Christ, that is sufficient for justification.

For example, for Calvin, only a perfect righteousness will secure pardon, and such righteousness is that possessed only by God himself. ‘[T]he righteousness of which God makes us partakers is the eternal righteousness of the eternal God’. (Inst. III.11.9) Nevertheless, it is as the Mediator, as God-man, that Christ procures such righteousness for us.

Hence I infer, first, that Christ was made righteousness when he assumed the form of a servant; secondly, that he justified us by his obedience to the Father; and , accordingly that he does not perform this for us in respect of his divine nature, but according to the nature of the dispensation laid upon him. For though God alone is the fountain of righteousness, and the only way in which we are righteous is by participation with him, yet as by our unhappy revolt we are alienated from his righteousness, it is necessary to descend to this lower remedy, that Christ may justify us by the power of his death and resurrection. (Inst. III.11.8)

Believers are ‘clothed’ in this righteousness, they are ‘covered’ by it. (Inst. III.11.2, 23)

If this righteousness were not to be imputed to us, but to be imparted to us so as to become a part of our inner nature, our moral character, then it would inevitably be or become tainted, and so compromise its perfection and so lose its power to justify. (These are steps in the spelling out of the ‘grammar’). Because sanctification in this life is always imperfect, tainted, as a consequence the believer, the one justified, has to ask for pardon (based upon the objective provision of Christ’s righteousness) for the deficiencies of even his best, sanctified, efforts. We see from this that the impartation or communication that is involved in imputation cannot imply anything that would compromise or sully the character of the righteousness in question. The imputation must be understood in a way that completely guarantees and safeguards the character of the righteousness that is imputed. So justification must be wholly on the basis of imputation and not at all on the basis of impartation.

Therefore we must have this blessedness not once only, but must hold it fast during our whole lives. Moreover, the message of free reconciliation with God is not promulgated for one or two days, but is declared to be perpetual in the church (2 Cor 5:18,19). Hence believers have not even to the end of life any other righteousness than that which is there described. Christ ever remains a Mediator to reconcile the Father to us, and there is a perpetual efficacy in his death, i.e., ablution, satisfaction, expiation; in short, perfect obedience, by which all our iniquities are covered. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul says not that the beginning of salvation is of grace, but “by grace are ye saved”, “not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2: 8,9). (Inst. III.14.11)

For the righteousness of Christ (as it alone is perfect, so it alone can stand the scrutiny of God) must be summoned for us, and as a surety represent us judicially. Provided with this righteousness, we constantly obtain the remission of sins through faith. Our imperfection and impurity, covered with this purity, are not imputed but are as it were buried, so as not to come under judgment until the hour arrive when the old man being destroyed, and plainly extinguished in us, the divine goodness shall receive us into beatific peace with the new Adam, there to await the day of the Lord, on which, being clothed with incorruptible bodies, we shall be translated to the glory of the heavenly kingdom. (Inst. III.14.12)

Justification is not a mere threshold blessing; something which applies to people at their conversion and not subsequently. It is operative at all times, an, objective, perfect, judicial righteousness. It is this righteousness, complete and unassailable, that is the ground of Christian assurance. So there is a sense in which for Calvin the believer never leaves the law-court in which the judge declares us righteous for Christ’s sake. He needs that declaration always to stand, and never to be relegated into something over and done with, or requiring to be supplemented by some righteousness of his own.

This is one element to the grammar of justification. It is justification through imputation and in no other way. But there are other grammatical elements which connect up with this one and these two elements as a consequence mutually reinforce each other.

Justification is justification at the bar of Almighty God. The primary question for is not whether or not a person, being justified, is a member of the visible covenant community. That’s a secondary question, though by no means unimportant. The primary question is, how can I face God’s judgment? This is vividly seen in the structure of Calvin’s discussion. Having set forth the main elements of justification by faith, after chapter 11 of Book III, with its polemic against Augustine, Osiander and the schoolmen, the reader is stopped short by the heading of chapter 12: ‘The Necessity of Contemplating the Judgment Seat of God in Order to Be Seriously Convinced of the Doctrine of Gratuitous Justification’. Justification is not a matter merely of academic debate, one confined ‘within the precincts of the schools’, nor is it basically an ecclesiological matter, but it has to do with the ‘judgment seat of God’.

[T]he question must be: How shall we answer the heavenly Judge when he calls us to account? Let us contemplate that Judge, not as our own unaided intellect conceives of him, but as he is portrayed to us in Scripture (see especially the book of Job), with a brightness which obscures the stars, a strength which melts the mountains, an anger which shakes the earth, a wisdom which takes the wise in their own craftiness, a purity before which all things become impure, a righteousness…. which once kindled burns to the lowest hell…..if our life is brought to the standard of the written law, we are lethargic indeed if we are not filled with dread at the many maledictions which God has employed for the purpose of arousing us, and among others, the following general one: “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them”. (Deut. 27.26) (Inst. III.12.1)

So the one declaration of justification, grounded in Christ’s righteousness, must be sufficient to carry the believer to the final judgment and to vindicate him there. This at one stroke puts paid to the idea that ‘first justification’ could be something separat from 'final justification’, as far as regards our acceptance with God is concerned. Once justified, always justified. A justification that requires some kind of augmentation or supplementation, for example, the supplemenation of a faithful life, in order to secure our acceptance, makes no sense. It is ‘ungrammatical’. Given the immaculate righteousness of Christ, why would human works, however saintly, also be necessary? For however saintly, they are still tainted by sin. And given that anything the saintliest believer does is tainted, how could such tainted righteousness be an element in ‘final justification’? Since the believer’s best efforts in sanctification are themselves tainted and spoiled by his sin, even these efforts need forgiveness. This is so-called ‘double justification’. One consequence of this is that, as A.N.S. Lane puts it, ‘[F]or the Protestant being reckoned righteous through faith alone is a truth not just for the moment of conversion but for the whole Christian life’. (Justification in Catholic-Protestant Dialogue, (London , T and T Clark, 2002), 265-6) Calvin sees Paul’s answer to his own exultant question ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?’ to be the ‘unremitted continuance of God’s favour, from the time of our calling to the hour of death’. (Comm. Rom. 8.30) It can be seen from this that the two grammatical elements reinforce each other; they draw out distinct implications from the one divine reality of justification, implications that are grounded in the overall biblical witness, as when Paul and others link justification to vindication at the final judgment.

Sanctification and the grammar of justification

What of sanctification in all this? Considering this question leads us to a further, and perhaps a final element of the grammar of the Reformed doctrine of justification. On the Reformed understanding, sanctification is an inseparable concomitant of justification. The two are distinct, not merged or blended into each other, and they are inseparably connected, as two distinct gifts of God. (Inst. III.14. 19-20), even though justification has the priority. Everything depends upon the free righteousness of Christ. As we have seen, justification is sufficient for acceptance, and though sanctification is inseparably attached to justification, because of the sufficiency of justification for acceptance, sanctification cannot in any way be necessary for acceptance. God justifies the ungodly.