Archive | April, 2007

Titus 2:11 in Context

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people (Ἐπεφάνη γὰρ ἡ χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ σωτήριος πᾶσιν ἀνθρώποις)” (Tit 2:11). This text is a favorite of Arminians and pseudo-Reformed men like Donald G. Bloesch, who asserts, “The Calvinist position, especially as transmitted through Reformed orthodoxy, stands in palpable conflict with the New Testament witness.1 Titus 2:11 assures us that ‘the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men.’”2

I don’t think a contextually sensitive reading of this passage will support such a naïve statement. While the context may not decisively rule out the interpretation Bloesch takes, several factors point in the direction of the following interpretation and demonstrate the gross misrepresentation of Bloesch’s statement.

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  1. In this discussion we need to bear in mind that Calvin’s position and that of later Calvinism are not identical. See Clifford, Atonement and Justification, pp. 69–110.
  2. Donald G. Bloesch, Jesus Christ: Savior & Lord (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997), 168.

A Faith That Is Never Alone

A Faith That Is Never Alone: A Response to the Faculty of Westminster Seminary California, edited by P. Andrew Sandlin and published by Kerygma Press, is due out sometime this fall. It is a response to Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry: Essays by the Faculty of Westminster Seminary California, edited by R. Scott Clark and published by P&R.

Here are the planned chapters and contributors:

CHAPTER 1—John H. Armstrong: “Preaching the Faith That Is Never Alone”

CHAPTER 2—Norman Shepherd: “Faith and Faithfulness”

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Daily Justification?

In anticipation of part two of “When Was Abraham Justified?” and particularly the explication of what exactly Genesis 15:6 means if it does not designate the point at which Abraham was converted and justified, I’d like to bring up the related issue of the frequency of forensic justification before God. Most evangelicals today speak of justification as a one-time act that takes place at the moment when saving faith is first exercised. This declaration is unique, unalterable, and unrepeatable.1

I was surprised a year or two ago to find out that Luther and Calvin didn’t see it quite that way, or at least didn’t always express it that way. Rather, they acknowledged the necessity of thinking of justification as an ongoing and continual experience and perhaps a repeated occurrence. This is to be carefully distinguished from a process whereby the justified individual becomes progressively more justified than he was before, increasing in his righteous status. Luther and Calvin both affirm that the believing sinner is just as forensically righteous when he first believes as he ever will be. The real issue is whether justification should be considered a one-time, unrepeatable act whereby God imputes Christ’s righteousness once and for all to the believer’s account or whether it should be connected to faith as often as it is exercised so that the believer may be said to be justified repeatedly.2

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  1. Surely justification by works, about which James speaks, and future justification should also be brought into the discussion at this point, but I must resist heading in that direction—at least for now.
  2. At the heart of this question are the meanings of and relationship between justification and imputation, which take shape in these two main issues: (1) whether justification is a declaration of righteousness to be distinguished from imputation or whether imputation is a subset of justification (or perhaps whether they are identical), and (2) whether imputation is best viewed as an accounting term of crediting (which would suggest one-time and unrepeatable) or whether it carries the idea of reckoning or considering (which would lend itself to repeated occurrences.

When Was Abraham Justified? | Part 1

AbrahamWhen was Abraham justified? This might seem like a rather elementary question with an obvious answer: Abraham was justified when he believed the Lord and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness, which is recorded in Genesis 15:6. Certainly Paul’s use of this text in defense of justification by faith apart from works in Romans 4 and Galatians 3 confirms that Genesis 15:6 was the precise point of Abraham’s justification, doesn’t it? This is probably what most people assume. This is what I thought—prior to giving it some careful consideration.

I’m now convinced that Abraham was already justified prior to the events recorded at the beginning of Genesis 15. In this post I’d like to give some arguments in favor of this position, and in the next post I will answer objections and respond to potential problems.

As I see it, the main issue hinges on one central point:

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