Friday, June 22, 2007

Calvin vs. Augustine?

I don't doubt that Calvin may contradict himself somewhere (he might not be perfect), but this is a dart thrown at at least one of the doctrinal stances of some of the FV followers. I know that this is not the exegesis of Galatians that FV guys would want to work with, and I'm not sure that this is even their position, but it is the position of many of their followers, who have either been led astray, or have been confused. The following is from Calvin's Institutes:
The Sophists, who make game and sport in their corrupting of Scripture and their empty caviling, think they have a subtle evasion. For they explain “works” as meaning those which men not yet reborn do only according to the letter by the effort of their own free will, apart from Christ’s grace. But they deny that these refer to spiritual works. For, according to them, man is justified by both faith and works provided they are not his own works but the gifts of Christ and the fruit of regeneration. For they say that Paul so spoke for no other reason than to convince the Jews, who were relying upon their own strength, that they were foolish to arrogate righteousness to themselves, since the Spirit of Christ alone bestows it upon us not through any effort arising from our own nature. Still they do not observe that in the contrast between the righteousness of the law and of the gospel, which Paul elsewhere introduces, all works are excluded, whatever title may grace them [Galatians 3:11-12].


Andrew said...

When James refers to a faith that is only complete with works, I doubt he means the work Christ has done on our behalf (imputed active obedience).

It seems that if you out and out reject the FV that you are in a constant state of disclaimer: "Yes, Christ's work on my behalf spurs me on to good works, but I don't need to do those works to be saved...but if I didn't do them, I probably wouldn't be saved, but they don't save me on their own, they are just a measure of my salvation. Not that I measure my salvation by how many good works I do, but I know that if I don't see fruit of works I will be without faith, even though I can be saved and not have to do a bunch of good works..."

Sorry if I'm hijacking the blog entry.

rich said...

You hijacker, you.

As far as your first paragraph, I agree. I'm not sure I understand what you're saying in the second. Let's be clear in our terms, though. I don't have a problem saying that works are necessary for salvation. However, the component of salvation which is understood by the WCF guys as "justification" would not have our works as a necessary quality. The place of good works in the believer is for the glory of God. This is the role they play in this life and at the final judgement. I don't do them with my soteriological justification in mind. There are other aspects of salvation which might be in mind, though. Anyway, I'm not quite sure what you're getting at, so this might be a rabbit trail, so I'll stop there. Feel free to come on board again. This plane's destination is democratically decided, so I won't consider it hijacking. I need to respond over at your blog, too.

Andrew said...

Then what component of salvation requires good works? If not justification, then it would either be sanctification or glorification, wouldn't it? Or have I over-simplified the argument?

But back to my hijack...

I cringe at the line of thought that says "I don't need good works in order to be saved." But at the same time I get uncomfortable with someone saying "I need to do good works in order to be saved."

And so I am stuck in between a rock and a hard place.

rich said...


I would say that works are instrumental in sanctification. Not as a grounds of sanctification or what has been called merit, but as an instrument of sanctification. Just as the faith that justifies is a gift of God, so are these works a gift, and these works always flow from a living faith. Also, this faith is the root of sanctification, but as Peter says, "If these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.... for if you practice these qualities you will never fall." There is effort on our part involved in sanctification and perseverance. Effort is a necessary ingredient in these things, and this in a way that is not a necessary ingredient in justification (though it does necessarily flow from a faith that justifies).

As far as your second paragraph, I could be comfortable with either statement, if I knew what it meant, though I would accuse the speaker of the second statement of awkwardness of language.

rich said...

Correct that. I would not necessarily accuse the speaker of the second statement of awkwardness of language.