Thursday, May 21, 2009

Difference Between Luther(anism) and Calvin on Justification

Calvin and Luther undoubtedly shared a perspective of a forensic act of justification based on an alien righteousness imputed to believers. Yet while some try to pass off Luther and Calvin as essentially twins on the subject, some differences do remain. These differences are competently exposited by Mark Garcia in his book Life in Christ: Union with Christ and Twofold Grace in Calvin's Theology. Garcia writes:

"Unlike his Lutheran counterparts, Calvin did not ground good works in imputation or justification but in union with Christ. In contradistinction with Melanchthon, for example, Calvin argued a positive, soteric value of good works as the ordinary prerequisite for receiving eternal life. It appears that basic differences exist in their respective understandings of justifying faith: at the heart of the inseparability in Calvin's unio Christi-duplex gratia formulation is a justifying faith defined not only passively, as resting on Christ alone, but actively, as an obedient faith that, resting on Christ alone, perseveres in the pursuit of holiness" (p. 260).

Gracia goes on to note that many in the Reformed tradition (e.g. Charles Hodge) have given sway to the Lutheran view rather than following Calvin when they assert that sanctification is the logically corollary of justification. Garcia states: "Within Calvin's soteriological model, to make sanctification follow justification as an effect is to concede the theological possibility that one may be truly justified but not yet sanctified, with the result that the legal fiction charge, to which Calvin was always sensitive, would be validated" (p. 264). I think on Calvin's model that there is no split nano-second of delay between justification and sanctification as both occur in Christ.

6 comments:

Paul L. Johnston said...

AMEN for Calvin.
His thought helps me understand my fundamentalist background. It must be more Lutheran than I realized. I have struggled with the teaching that disconnects justification and sanctification from the work of Christ. Sanctification was related to the Spirit and was made either optional or at least the expectation of real change was uncertain.

Steven Coxhead said...

Yes, there is no temporal order in Calvin's view; it is more of a logical order or priority. Calvin is very much of the view that as we are united to Christ by faith, we receive at the same moment through the Spirit a double grace, namely, reconciliation and regeneration/sanctification (Institutes 3.11.1). We should also note that Calvin can even speak of the imputation of good works as righteousness on the level of regeneration (see WTJ 71 (2009): 11-14 if interested), which is quite different from the language that Luther could use.

Paul said...

And so, would Calvin have any concerns over statements 14, 15 in "The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration?"
Statement 14. We affirm that while all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are in the process of being made holy and conformed to the image of Christ, those consequences of justification are not its ground. God declares us just, remits our sins, and adopts us as his children, by his grace alone, and through faith alone, because of Christ alone, while we are still sinners (Rom. 4:5). We deny that believers must be inherently righteous by virtue of their cooperation with God’s life-transforming grace before God will declare them justified in Christ. We are justified while we are still sinners.

Statement 15. We affirm that saving faith results in sanctification, the transformation of life in growing conformity to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Sanctification means ongoing repentance, a life of turning from sin to serve Jesus Christ in grateful reliance on him as one’s Lord and Master (Gal. 5:22-25; Rom. 8:4, 13-14). We reject any view of justification which divorces it from our sanctifying union with Christ and our increasing conformity to his image through prayer, repentance, cross-bearing, and life in the Spirit.

SamWise said...

"Sanctification is thus simply the art of getting used to justification. It is not something added to justification. It is not the final defense against a justification too liberally granted. It is the justified life. It is what happens when the old being comes up against the end of its self-justifying and self-gratifying ways, however pious. It is life lived in anticipation of the resurrection."
Gerhard Forde
A Lutheran View of Sanctification

http://pastormattrichard.webs.com/Forde_Sanctifcation.pdf

Rev. J said...

I think there is serious misunderstanding,here. Luther saw union with Christ as part of justification. It was Calvin who sharply divided justification and sanctification, as justification was a purely forensic matter - utter novelty, historically speaking. Whereas, Luther saw the believer clothed in Christ but also, as Christ living from deeply within, the flesh itself accounting for nothing. In other words, Luther was wholly Pauline while Calvin focused on law in a way that degraded Luther's insights and led to false and fleshly notions of holiness by focusing on law rather than on Christ at ALL times.

Rev. J said...

I think there is serious misunderstanding,here. Luther saw union with Christ as part of justification. It was Calvin who sharply divided justification and sanctification, as justification was a purely forensic matter - utter novelty, historically speaking. Whereas, Luther saw the believer clothed in Christ but also, as Christ living from deeply within, the flesh itself accounting for nothing. In other words, Luther was wholly Pauline while Calvin focused on law in a way that degraded Luther's insights and led to false and fleshly notions of holiness by focusing on law rather than on Christ at ALL times.