Thursday, March 12, 2015

My Journey, Part 13.3: Faith Alone?

This is part 13.3 of my rebooted series on my journey from Evangelicalism to Eastern Orthodoxy. The full series can be found here:

1Back to the beginning
2Cracks appear
3Questions multiply
4Questioning the "gospel"
5The big question
6A better hermeneutic
7Explorations in epistemology
7.5Excursus on oversystematization
8Back to the gospel
9The new direction
10Ecclesiological foundations
11.1Sola scriptura
11.2The insufficiency of Scripture
11.25Addenda on sola scriptura
11.3Holy Tradition
12Bridging the cracks
13.1Orthodoxy and Genesis 1–3
13.2A Better Atonement (Against Penal Substitution)
13.3Faith Alone?
13.4The Colour and the Shape of the Gospel
14Worshipping with the Church
15Mary, Saints, Baptism, and Other Odds/Ends
16Looking Back, Coming Home

The next contrast I would like to draw between evangelical and Orthodox visions of the gospel concerns the doctrine of justification by faith alone and the application of salvation to human beings. The theology, that is, exemplified in statements like these from the Westminster Confession:
Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ's sake alone; not by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God. Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and his righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet is it not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love. (XIII.1,2)
Good works are only such as God hath commanded in his holy Word, and not such as, without the warrant thereof, are devised by men out of blind zeal, or upon any pretense of good intention. These good works, done in obedience to God's commandments, are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith: and by them believers manifest their thankfulness, strengthen their assurance, edify their brethren, adorn the profession of the gospel, stop the mouths of the adversaries, and glorify God, whose workmanship they are, created in Christ Jesus thereunto, that, having their fruit unto holiness, they may have the end, eternal life. Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ. And that they may be enabled thereunto, besides the graces they have already received, there is required an actual influence of the same Holy Spirit to work in them to will and to do of his good pleasure; yet are they not hereupon to grow negligent, as if they were not bound to perform any duty unless upon a special motion of the Spirit; but they ought to be diligent in stirring up the grace of God that is in them. (XVIII.1-3)
I feel fairly justified (no pun intended) in asserting that while penal substitutionary atonement is considered the default behind-the-scenes theology of how the gospel basically works, justification by faith alone is virtually considered to be what the gospel really, basically is, particularly in its more classical formulations. It was the key revelation of Luther's "evangelical experience" that touched off the Reformation. It is enshrined in one of the five solae of Protestant theology. It is the sine qua non of the "raw gospel", the article by which the church stands or falls, the last thing you can take out before you stop having a condensed statement of the gospel and start having no gospel at all.

During my journey into doubt about this gospel, I began questioning four dichotomies I saw in the gospel of justification by faith alone—overly stark distinctions made, things separated that I felt belonged together, concepts set in tension that I saw as complementary. These problems were most identifiable with Martin Luther's theology, but I saw echoes of them throughout much of Protestantism, not least in the Reformed theology with which I am more familiar. I will refer to them by the following pairings: Law/Gospel, Nature/Grace, Faith/Works, and Justification/Sanctification. I have already written of the tendency of distinctions like these to foster negative definitions of the "gospel". When I began to explore Orthodox theology, it confirmed these suspicions. Given that a good deal of my problems with living the "Christian life" within evangelicalism arose from these questions, this was a powerful witness to me for the Orthodox faith.

Aside: you may have been noticing in this and the last few posts that, except for the Old Testament sacrificial system and a few aspects of the Atonement, I haven't been making much of a positive biblical case for my points. This is partially a methodological change due to my shift from relying on the Bible alone as the final authority for matters of faith and practice to viewing it as existing within Holy Tradition.  But more precisely, it is because of my realization that the Bible is not self-interpreting (hence the need for tradition), and that many disagreements among Christians over what Scripture "says" are actually disagreements on the best way to interpret it. Much like conversations of apologetics between theists and skeptics, citing Scripture as evidence in these discussions may not be helpful since people holding different positions simply interpret it in different ways so as to agree with their convictions. Hence my greater reliance on theological, philosophical, and historical arguments for the following points, with Scripture (interpreted according to Orthodox tradition, and hence in a way that Reformed evangelicals may disagree with) in more of a supporting role.

Speaking of historical arguments, Jaroslav Pelikan mentions in his history of Christian doctrine the difficulty the Reformers had finding patristic evidence for justification by faith alone (though they believed it was implicit from Augustinian anthropology and orthodox Trinitarian theology):
[Luther and Melanchthon's] distinctive account of the means of appropriating redemption, the doctrine of justification by faith, was, at least in the form it took in the theology of the Reformers, a doctrine for which it proved to be extremely difficult to document a continuous history in the ancient church, despite the claim that there was proof for it not only in the Scriptures but also in the church fathers, or, at any rate, that there were 'traces [vestigia]' of it. Not only this particular answer to the question of justification, but even the very question of justification itself, was anything but a commonplace in patristic thought, Eastern or Western. (4.157)
Without further ado, on to the Law/Gospel tension.


How can we see the bad news of the gospel as clearly and "bad-ly" as possible so the good news seems all the better to us?
How does the revelation of Jesus Christ transform the whole of reality for us, 
including the Old Testament?

In classical Protestant theology, the "law" (in the broader, more ambiguous sense I pointed out last time) is considered to have three uses: to partially restrain sin and maintain some kind of civic order; to condemn sin, show us our guilt, and drive us to seek grace through Christ; and as a guide by which Christians may righteously live out their life of repentance. Lutheran theology tends to place the most weight on the second use, while Reformed theology pays more attention to the third as well. It is the second use, and by extension the more Lutheran flavor of evangelicalism, that I will be specifically critiquing here, though the same kind of teaching tends to appear in Reformed evangelicalism in attenuated form. It is the tendency to make the law the "bad news" which is contrasted with and answered by the "good news" of the gospel. Pelikan writes extensively about Luther's theology in this regard. First, to remove any doubt that Luther was exemplary of the distorted view of God's justice I described last time (emphasis added):
In the language of the Bible, God's justice against sin was called 'the wrath of God,' or as Luther called it, 'the wrath of his severity.' The wrath of God was an even graver consequence of sin than was the corruption of sin itself, bringing with it as it did the curse of God and the punishment of death. Nowhere in the Bible did Luther find the doctrine of the wrath of God more profoundly stated than in Psalm 90, traditionally ascribed to Moses, who was here 'Moses at his most Mosaic, that is, a stern minister of death, God's wrath, and sin,' and who in this psalm expressed 'all that can possibly be said about man's tragic condition.' Since God was eternal and omnipotent, his fury or wrath toward self-satisfied sinners is also immeasurable and infinite.' (4.132)
To Luther, the law was the proclamation of this justice/wrath, meant to accuse and terrify the conscience by revealing sin and the awful wrath of God in order to drive the sinner toward repentance (in other words, to allow them to have their own "evangelical experience" as Luther did).
it was the function of divine law to declare what was right in the sight of God and thus to reveal the wrath of God against sin. Far from bringing confidence and assurance, the law brought only accusation and terror to the conscience, 'the terrible and indescribable wrath of God,' for the law was 'the word that denounces sin.' The law was indeed an illumination, but 'a light that illumines and shows, not the grace of God, or righteousness and life, but the wrath of God, sin, death, our damnation in the sight of God, and hell.' (4.133-134)
The law of God, which was one of the 'enemies' over whom Christ the victor prevailed, was as well a divine demand that man had the obligation to fulfill but could not obey. (4.163)
Luther's strong emphasis on the second use of the law is evident, as is his relative demotion of the third use:
Luther could go so far as to declare that 'the law was not put in our hands for us to fulfill it, but was put in the hands of Christ, who was to come, for him to fulfill it.' (4.163)
As is well-known, in his hermeneutic approach Luther saw Scripture in terms of a sharp distinction between law and gospel (which was not exactly the same as Marcion's division between the testaments, since elements of both law and gospel could be found in each testament):
In its strict sense as the good news of salvation through the victory of Christ, the gospel stood in the sharpest possible contrast to the law. Out of that contrast Luther shaped one of the most pervasive themes of his theology of the cross. 'The truth of the gospel is this,' he said, 'that our righteousness comes by faith alone, without the works of the law,' and therefore the only 'real theologian' was one 'who knows well how to distinguish the gospel from the law.' 'The knowledge of this topic, the distinction between the law and the gospel,' he went on, 'is necessary to the highest degree, for it contains a summary of all Christian doctrine.' Everyone was to learn to make this distinction 'not only in words, but in feeling and in experience.' (4.168)
Moses and Christ thus served as contrasting figures representing these two divine dispensations:
The use of Moses and Christ to represent the law and the gospel had a precedent in the New Testament itself, where 'grace and truth' were the line of demarcation between what had come through Moses and what had come through Christ. (Jhn 1:17) The law, as the word of Moses directed to the outer life of men, was able to instruct and sanctify only the flesh, whereas the gospel, as the word of Christ directed to the inner life of men, was able to instruct and sanctify the spirit. It was the special ministry of Moses to proclaim the wrath of God in the law, and the death that was the consequence of man's disobedience. Thus Luther portrayed Christ as speaking to Moses: 'I will not preach as you, Moses, are obliged to preach. For you must proclaim the law. ... Therefore your preaching produces only wretched people; it shows them their sins, on account of which they cannot keep the law.' (4.168)
For, as Melanchthon's Apology of the Augsburg Confession summarized the Lutheran distinction, 'all Scripture should be divided into these two chief doctrines, the law and the promises.' It was the intention and function of the law, the Apology went on to declare, to be 'the word that convicts of sin. For the law works wrath, it only accuses, it only terrifies consciences.' This it did because no one could live up to its demands: not only a completely upright and moral life, but an upright heart, a motivation for life that loved God above all things and loved the neighbor perfectly. Hence it was in a tone of irony that both the Old and the New Testament said of the works of the law that 'he who does them shall live by them,' since no one could. To the argument of Erasmus that the presence of so many commands in both the Old and the New Testament implied an ability to obey them, Luther retorted: 'Reason thinks that man is mocked by an impossible commandment, whereas I maintain that by this means man is admonished and awakened to see his own impotence.' Once the penitent sinner had been awakened this way by the proclamation of the law to recognize his true condition before God, the law had performed its task and must yield to the promise of the gospel, which the sinner accepted by faith alone, without any merit or reliance on the works of the law. The forgiven sinner 'died to the law,' was no longer bound by it, no longer owed it obedience, and did not even know it any longer. To be justified by faith alone meant to live by the gospel alone. (4.170-171)
These quotes should be sufficient to illustrate the law/gospel dichotomy I'm referring to. I've already explained my difficulties with this take on the law in post 5. First, I wondered why we don't let the "law" (whose primary job, according to Luther, is to show us our sin, full us with guilt and terror and the wrath of God, and drive us to repentance) convict us of breaking the Sabbath, or eating pork. They're in there, after all! (Exo 20:8-11, Lev 11:7) This is indicative of the fact that the "law", in Lutheran theology, is not, in fact, exactly coextensive with the Mosaic law; in terms of its actual demands, it seems more like the natural law or law of conscience (see Rom 2:14-15), though it is still spoken of as being given by Moses. The distinctive Jewishness of the Mosaic law is largely ignored, and it is instead thought of as a demand on all mankind that brings a curse (ultimately, death) onto the whole human race. So Pelikan:
Although both the law and the gospel had come by the revelation of God, there was this difference between them: the gospel could be known only through such revelation, while the law of Moses was, at least in principle, coextensive with the law of nature and was valid only insofar as it was the same as the law of nature. (4.170)
Second, as I realized years ago, the Lutheran understanding of the law only works on an individual level; when applied historically, it leads to absurdity. In the quotes above Luther calls the law as bringing "only accusation and terror to the conscience," as "one of the 'enemies' over whom Christ the victor prevailed," a foil for the good news of the gospel, able to sanctify only the exterior (and by implication, inevitably producing Pharisees, Luk 11:39), a "stern [ministry] of death, God's wrath, and sin", whose promises of life through obedience were given only in irony because they were impossible. And then God leaves his "chosen" people with it as the foundation for their civil and religious life for thousands of years and calls it a gift! Hence my struggle with seeing the law (which, I cannot remind you enough, was supposedly given by God as a good thing) either as the problem from which the gospel saves us, or a deliberately ineffective solution to it. Luther's view of the law reduces the historical narrative of the gospel (as opposed to the personal narrative of individual salvation) to a farce.

But especially (again as I described in post 5), I struggled with doubts arising from the seeming incompatibility between Paul and the Old Testament, between commands to seek righteousness from obeying the law (Lev 18:5, Deu 6:25), assurances that it is possible (Deu 30:11-14), and Paul's writing that it was impossible and not even intended all along. As I journaled:
Why does God seem to command people to seek life through [the law] if it was never intended? ... God never wanted Pharisees—He never intended for anyone to actually try to be justified by obeying the law. So how do you explain His commanding them to obey it all so they would live? I picture Him saying it with a wink—'By the way, this is all impossible, but just play along.' If God never intended anyone to be saved by the law, why was He so emphatic about obeying it so you might live? Lev 18:5, Deu 6:25... And this after the establishment in Abraham of justification by faith—what were they supposed to think? 'Wait, so if we disobey the law, does that nullify our righteousness by faith?' (2012-12-13) 
It almost seems like God did expect the Israelites to be justified by law. Was the whole system of law a big joke, delivered with a wink, with Christ the punchline that God expected the Israelites to 'get'? 'You will be declared righteous by obeying the whole law (only you can't, this way doesn't work, you just have to believe like Abraham)' (2013-1-12)
(From the 4.170-171 quote above, it seems that Luther's answer would be an unhesitant "Yes")
If God never intended for people to seek salvation through the law, why did He tell them to and say they could do it? [Deu 30:11-14] If Abraham had already established the precedent of salvation by faith, why was the law then given at all? (2013-1-20)
Now I see more clearly that was was really incompatible was not Paul and the law, but the Lutheran readings of Paul and the law which viewed the law as an (impossible) way to "earn" righteousness and salvation before God, as more of an enemy of man than a gift, and the gospel as freedom from the law's condemnation. Again, in the Reformed tradition with which I am more familiar, this is not the whole picture of the law, but it is definitely part of it. And I no longer believe it should be.

The contrasting Orthodox teaching on law and gospel may be a little underwhelming, because Orthodoxy makes much less of a big deal of it than Protestantism does, dependent as it is on Luther's theology. Much of the difference is a result of the eastern view of God's justice, as I explained last time. Apart from the Anselmian understanding of God's justice as the need to avenge his honor or punish sin, the law no longer looks like an enemy we are saved from; it certainly does still reveal sin and our inability to live up to it righteously, but its function is not so one-dimensionally negative, simply to terrify and condemn. Much like God's justice (which is of course closely associated with it), the law has a positive role to play in salvation (restraining sin, helping Israel to enjoy God's grace, making known his will and promises) as well as a negative one. And even in its negative usage, because Orthodoxy sees death as a consequence of sin rather than a penalty, it is easy to see that the law is not the real problem, but rather only points it out. As Fr. Stephen Freeman often says, we do not have a "legal problem" with sin; the problem of sin is not that it brings us under legal guilt or condemnation according to the law, but that it separates us from the Author of life and being, causing us to die. The law points out the problem; it does not create it.

Also and significantly, Orthodox theology distinguishes between the different kinds of "law" in Paul's theology. My study Bible lists at least six in Romans alone: the Mosaic law (2:12-14), natural law (2:14-15), the "laws" (or principles) or works and faith (3:27), the law of sin (Rom 7:25, 8:2), and the law of the Spirit. (8:2) This means that the Mosaic law with its "curse" (Gal 3:10) is distinguishable from natural law (which is what is incumbent on all mankind); thus the idea of death as the "curse" of the law from which Christ saves us is undone, and sin is seen not to be equivalent to Pelagianism or being "of works of the law". (The New Perspective on Paul, which I wrote about in post 8, reminds us that "works of the law" are not simply any moral effort, and is more inclined to view the Babylonian captivity and continued alienation of Israel from God and his promises as the "curse" of Gal 3:10,13) And by dissociating the Mosaic law from Paul's "law of works" or "law of sin and death", Luther's negative portrayal of the law is softened and balanced considerably. My study Bible summarizes on the Mosaic law:
The Law is good, but cannot be kept. It is revelation from God, but not an end in itself. The purpose of the Mosaic Law is (a) to reveal the difference between good and evil; (b) to make the world accountable to God (Rom 3:19); (c) to manifest sin (3:20); and (d) to be a schoolmaster to lead us to Christ (Gal 3:24). Though it is not opposed to the grace of God, the Law cannot save us or make us righteous.
So the law is by no means sufficient on its own to bring anyone to life, but this does not entail the Lutheran conclusion that it is bad and harmful, a "stern ministry of sin and death", or an enemy from which the gospel saves us. To impugn the law like this is to blaspheme against its giver.


How can we proclaim clearly and consistently that it is God, not man, who accomplishes the work of salvation?
What can we learn of our own union with God from the union of Christ's natures?

This teaching is at the root of the episode of doubt I had during Summer Project, as described in post #2. It is the tendency of expositions of the gospel according to evangelicalism to set our agency and God's agency, or human nature and divine grace, in opposition to each other, e.g. in the Westminster Confession's statement, "Their ability to do good works is not at all of themselves, but wholly from the Spirit of Christ." Examples of this kind of human agency-degrading rhetoric are incredibly common. The theological term for it is monergism, from the Greek meaning "one work" (namely, God's). This page lists numerous statements expressing monergistic theology, of which I will quote a few examples:
I say that man, before he is renewed into the new creation of the Spirit's kingdom, does and endeavours nothing to prepare himself for that new creation and kingdom, and when he is re-created has does and endeavors nothing towards his perseverance in that kingdom; but the Spirit alone works both blessings in us, regenerating us, and preserving us when regenerate, without ourselves... - Martin Luther
The first part of a good work is the will, the second is vigorous effort in the doing of it. God is the author of both. It is, therefore, robbery from God to arrogate anything to ourselves, either in the will or the act. - John Calvin
To say that we are able by our own efforts to think good thoughts or give God spiritual obedience before we are spiritually regenerate is to overthrow the gospel and the faith of the universal church in all ages. - John Owen
There is no true believing or trusting to the report of the gospel, but what is the effect of the working of a divine power on the soul for that end. - Thomas Boston
There can be but one will the master in our salvation, but that shall never be the will of man, but of God; therefore man must be saved by grace. - John Bunyan
What God requires of us he himself works in us, or it is not done. He that commands faith, holiness, and love, creates them by the power of his grace ... - Matthew Henry
Faith is a fruit of the Spirit, and not the cause of a spiritual experience. - Jonathan Edwards
It is not your hold of Christ that saves, but his hold of you! - C.H. Spurgeon
Faith, repentance, and holiness are no less the free gifts of God than eternal life. - Augustus Toplady
Sanctification is not a work of nature, but a work of grace. It is a transformation of character effected not by moral influences, but supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. - Charles Hodge
We can do nothing, it is all of God... If God had not quickened us we should still be dead. A dead man cannot give himself life. God quickened us, and because God has put new life into us we are alive in Christ Jesus, and in the realm of the Spirit. - D.M. Lloyd-Jones
Infants do not induce, or cooperate in, their own procreation and birth; no more can those who are 'dead in trespapasses and sins' prompt the quickening operation of God's Spirit within them. - J.I. Packer
Faith is the evidence of new birth, not the cause of it. - John Piper
Regeneration, however it is described, is a divine activity in us, in which we are not the actors but the recipients. - Sinclair Ferguson
God's grace in Christ is not merely necessary but is the sole efficient cause of salvation... We deny that salvation is in any sense a human work. Human methods, techniques or strategies by themselves cannot accomplish this transformation. Faith is not produced by our unregenerated human nature. - Cambridge Declaration
Hopefully this selection of quotes is sufficient to show you the basic pattern. As they indicate, monergism is applied with special force and focus to regeneration, the moment of salvation when God transforms the sinner's heart, creates faith and love for him where there was previously sin and unbelief, and is said to be "born again" in the John 3 sense. Of the evangelical tendency to focus on the "moment of salvation' I will say more next post. For now, the following quotes help tie monergistic teaching in with regeneration (meaning, literally, "new birth"): we are made anew and given faith entirely by the work of God operating through the Holy Spirit.
It is entirely the work of grace and a benefit conferred by it that our heart is changed from a stony one to one of flesh, that our will is made new, and that we, created anew in heart and mind, at length will what we ought to will. - John Calvin
Conversion is not a repairing of the old building, but it takes all down, and erects a new structure... The sincere Christian is quite a new fabric, from the foundation to the top-stone. He is a new man, a new creature; all things are become new. Conversion is a deep work, a heart work. It makes a new man in a new world. It extends to the whole man, to the mind, to the members, to the motions of the whole life. - Joseph Alleine
A man's conversion is nothing, his believing is nothing, his profession is nothing unless he is made to be a new creature in Christ Jesus... If our faith has not brought with it the Holy Spirit, if, indeed, it is not the fruit of the Spirit...then our faith is presumption, and our profession is a lie. - C.H. Spurgeon
More specifically, the thrust of monergism is not whether God's grace is necessary for regeneration, but whether it is sufficient for salvation; in other words, whether we cooperate with grace in some way while still relying on it, or whether God's grace is what saves us apart from any action, work, or response on our part. Our faith, in other words, is an effect, not a cause, of regeneration. This quote from Reformed apologist James White illustrates the point:
The [Roman Catholic] Council of Trent anathematizes anyone who says you can be saved without the grace of God. The Reformers, however, never claimed Rome believed you can be saved apart from grace. That wasn't the debate. The debate of the Reformation was never, ever about the necessity of grace, it was always about the sufficiency of grace. That remains the issue today in so many contexts.
But monergism is also applied to life after regeneration. Just as the Christian life starts entirely by grace, so it is said to continue entirely by grace. To be actively avoided is the arch-heresy of Pelagianism, or "works-righteousness", of substituting yourself for Jesus as your functional savior. It is the lie that our salvation, our relationship with God, is in any way dependent on us rather than on his grace, that after he has purchased our righteousness we still have to earn it with our own effort. As Paul asks the Galatians, "Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?" (3:3) Keeping one's life centered on God and his all-sufficient grace is a constant struggle for the Christian.

Of the concept of a moral economy in which righteousness and salvation can be "purchased" and "earned" I have already said enough. Instead I would like to address monergism's distinction between nature and grace, or between human agency and divine agency, between what we do and what God does. I am no longer able to accept this dichotomy since I have found it to be impossible to live consistently, as I have described in posts #2 and 8. You simply can't step aside and let God's grace replace (or cause) your actions, your choices, your initiative. It doesn't consistently make sense to "let go and let God", as they say. You have to be doing something. "Actively" believing in God's grace and expecting him to do the rest without doing something yourself is no way to live the Christian life (at the same time, believing itself becomes a "work" that we are responsible for doing). How do you just "believe" or "trust" apart from concrete action, anyway? I expect many Reformed Christians would agree—so why do they continue to make statements of monergism that leave no real place for human agency?

I suspect the reason is that monergism conflates total dependence on God for the beginning and continuation of salvation with the irrelevance or uselessness of human agency. In other words, salvation is "all about" God and what he does/has done, rather than about what we do, and it necessarily involves despairing of your own efforts and "giving it up to God", letting him "take over" for us and do what we cannot do ourselves. According to monergism, if salvation depends entirely on God, it cannot therefore involve us except as passive recipients and objects of grace. In terms of the Nature/Grace duality, what we are unable to do by nature because our nature is sinful, God has done and does entirely by his grace.

I would disagree with this. I do not believe that if salvation depends on God's grace, it cannot also depend on our participation.  While there is abundant biblical support for saying that human cooperation/free will is not sufficient for anyone to be saved, saying that it is not necessary for salvation takes you into dangerous territory. Most basically, this is because the Nature/Grace dichotomy is simply bunk. As created beings, everything we are is of grace. There is no corner of our nature where God's grace is absent; speaking of our acting "on our own" in the way monergists do, as the opposite of stepping back and letting grace take over, simply doesn't make sense. We exist at all because of God's creative grace. We enjoy free will because of God's grace, because he created us in his image, as beings reflecting (imperfectly) his own total freedom. The exercise of our freedom is (or can be, at least), simultaneously, the working of God's grace in us (because he made us this way) and the willing and acting of a free, personal being other than God. (See Phil 2:12-13 for a clear description of this dynamic) His grace already, invisibly pervades our lives even if we don't know him. God made us to love and enjoy him freely, willingly, personally, as creatures made in his image and reflecting the divine freedom, and so it is to be expected that he would save us in a way consistent with this.  The essence of the Pelagian heresy is not found in actively exercising our human will towards salvation, but in doing so in a way that rejects faith and excludes trust in the necessary grace of God.

N.T. Wright, in his book Justification, makes the point that monergism, especially as it pertains to the Christian life after regeneration, implies a distrust or marginalization of the Holy Spirit and his indwelling in us. The working of the Spirit does not exclude human effort but purifies and redeems it, making possible true synergism (God and man working together in salvation). Wright says it better:
But the point about the holy spirit, at least within Paul's theology, is that when the spirit comes the result is human freedom rather than human slavery. When God works within a community, or an individual, the result is that 'they will and work for his good pleasure' (Philippians 2:13). (164)
the more the spirit is at work the more the human will is stirred up to think things through, to take free decisions, to develop chosen and hard-won habits of life and to put to death the sinful, and often apparently not freely chosen, habits of death.  (164)
True freedom is the gift of the spirit, the result of grace; but, precisely because it is freedom for as well as freedom from, it isn't simply a matter of being forced now to be good, against our wills and without our co-operation (what damage to genuine pastoral theology has been done by making a bogey-word out of the Pauline term synergism, 'working together with God'), but a matter of being released from slavery precisely into responsibility, into being able at last to choose, to exercise moral muscle, knowing both that one is doing it oneself and that the spirit is at work within, that God himself is doing that which I too am doing. If we don't believe that, we don't believe in the spirit, and we don't believe Paul's teaching. Virtue is what happens ... when the spirit enables the Christian freedom to choose, freely to develop, freely to be shaped, freely to become that which is pleasing to God. (164)
from one point of view the spirit is at work, producing these fruits (Galatians 5:22f), and from another point of view the person concerned is making the free choices, the increasingly free (because increasingly less constrained by the sinful habits of mind and body) decisions to live a genuinely, fully human life which brings pleasure--of course it does!—to the God in whose image we human beings were made. (167)
Humans become genuinely human, genuinely free, when the spirit is at work within them so that they choose to act, and choose to become people who more and more naturally act (that is the point of 'virtue' as long as we realize it is now 'second nature', not primary), in ways which reflect God's image, which give him pleasure, which bring glory to his name, which do what the law had in mind all along. That is the life that leads to the final verdict, 'Well done, good and faithful servant!' The danger with a doctrine which says 'you can't do anything and you mustn't try' is that it ends up with the servant who, knowing his master to be strict, hid his money in the ground. (168)
Orthodoxy has given me even more reason to reject monergism. Robin Phillips, writing of his journey from Calvinism to Orthodoxy, goes further than I did and actually calls it a heresy. His summary:
If all Calvinism were to be encapsulated by a single term it would be the word Monergism. The term comes from the Greek mono meaning “one,” and erg meaning “work,” and describes the notion that salvation is affected by only one agent, namely God. As R.C. Sproul explains it, “A monergistic work is a work produced singly, by one person… A synergistic work is one that involves cooperation between two or more persons or things.” While there is certainly a sense in which the Bible teaches that God is the only agent effecting salvation, Monergism goes wrong in denying that human beings are able to co-operate in the process of regeneration and salvation.
After acknowledging the good points of monergism (that it takes God's sovereignty, the fact that grace removes any ground for boasting, and that all the good we do is God working in us seriously), Phillips clarifies that "Where Monergism needs to be critiqued is when it takes these truths and formalizes them into a tight system, drawing further extrapolations which end up excluding important Biblical teaching about the role of human co-operation in the salvation process."

The center of Phillips' critique of monergism is that it "essentially sets up the relationship between God and man (as well as grace and nature) like two transactions in a zero-sum game." In other words, it views the accomplishment of salvation like a pie, and assigning any of that pie to man means taking some of it away from God, which is unacceptable. Ascribing any freedom, responsibility, or role in salvation to man means taking away from God's sovereignty and freedom. In monergism God's very divinity is thought to be based on his being the only free agent in the universe, especially as pertains to salvation. It is precisely this kind of zero-sum thinking as pertains to God and man that Phillips (and I, and the Orthodox Church) finds unacceptable. Contrasting with this is St. Maximos the Confessor, who believed (with the Orthodox consensus) that because humans are made in the image of God, they possess the same kind of self-determining freedom as God, constrained but not eliminated by our finitude and bondage to sin.

Phillips came to reject monergism because of "how it tinctured various practical areas of the Christian life." It leads to the conclusion (which I still struggle with) that prayer can't actually change things, since then it would be a 'work' and make God less than fully sovereign. "The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects" (Jas 5:16) indeed. Monergism inhibits pastoral ministry by creating an expectation of God acting independently of any human instrumentality; all we can do is preach the gospel to them (why do even this?) and let God do the rest. The grace-nature dichotomy which led Reformed worship to do-emphasize visual aids to worship to avoid distracting from God is also in tension with the worship of the early church which (as I will get into in two more posts) was "intensely material", involving icons, relics, incense, etc.

Phillips also asks the question: is God responsible for things he accomplishes through secondary means? If not (as is commonly believed by monergists), "then we are left with a system in which we can take the credit for most of the acts God performs in this world, since God accomplishes most things through means." But if so, how is God not then responsible for acts of sin and evil?

But while these are plenty of reasons to reject monergism as a false teaching, it is in a follow-up article that Phillips presents his reasons for actually considering monergism a heresy  (which, in Orthodoxy, does not simply mean any false teaching but one that contradicts a dogma/essential teaching of the Church). It goes back to the sixth ecumenical council (680-681) which condemned as heresy the teachings of monothelitism (Christ had only one, divine will, and no human will) and monoenergism (Christ is animated by only one 'energy', whatever that means). Both of these were thought to imply monophysitism (the previously-condemned heresy that Christ has only one, divine nature and is not fully human) The council affirmed that Christ has two natures, two wills, and two energies (human and divine), which always work together synergistically in the same way that we are called to cooperate our human wills with God's divine will. Vladimir Lossky interestingly explains a little more of this mystery and how divine will differs from human will:
The two wills proper to the two natures [of Christ] are different, but He who wills is one, though He wills in conformity with each of the two natures. The volition also has one object, because the two wills are united, the human will being freely subject to the divine will. However, this liberty is not our free will—γνωμη, that faculty of choice which belongs to the person. In fact, the divine person of the Word had no need to choose or decide by deliberation. Choice is a limitation, characteristic of our debased liberty; if the humanity of Christ could will in a human way, His divine person did not choose, it did not exercise free will as do human persons. (The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, 147)
You may be sensing where this is going. Monergism, much like the similarly-named monoenergism and monothelitism, is driven by zero-sum thinking regarding human and divine agency, the assumption that more freedom and responsibility for man means less for God, and God must have it all. In support of this, Phillips asks: in Calvinism, was Christ's human will sovereignly predestined to obey the Father, or was it exempt from the predestination of the rest of the human race? This question puts Calvinism in a bind. If Christ's human will was not predestined, then this sets a powerful precedent for truly synergistic cooperation between the human and divine wills. If it can be true for Christ (who is supposed to typify what humanity is made to be), why is it so unthinkable for other humans? But it if was predestined, then besides the confusing idea of Christ predestining himself, his human will seems to be reduced to a passive tool of the divine will—the key tenet of monothelitism.

In other words, monergism is a heresy because its key points about the relation between the human will and the divine will, when applied consistently to Christ's wills, result in heresy. Whatever you say about us and God, you should be able to say about Christ's human and divine natures. Once the analogy between Christ's two natures and our relations with God (an important belief of Orthodox Christology) is accepted, we see that synergism is implicit in the Christological canons of the ecumenical councils. This is why Orthodox synergism does not accept the zero-sum conception of human and divine agency, or nature and grace, but affirms that the work of salvation, just like Jesus himself, is 100% divine and 100% human. While salvation undoubtedly depends entirely on God, it also depends on us, on our active and free (albeit grace-enabled) cooperation with his working; God does not simply "help those who help themselves", but he also does not save apart from their active participation. Lossky interestingly describes this as God condescending to our liberty, which is a very interesting way to think about free will:
With a certain excusable inexactitude, one could say that God in His providence condescends to the liberty of men. He acts as a result of this liberty, co-ordinating his actions with the acts of created beings, in order to govern the fallen universe by accomplishing His will without doing violence to the liberty of creatures. (139)


How are works indispensable to salvation without contributing to it or effecting it in any way?
Faith and works both justify, both are important to our salvation, and they should not be separated.

We come to an important point of divergence between Orthodoxy and evangelicalism. The faith/works distinction is very important to the evangelical gospel, and that of most Protestants. Reformation theology is very clear that the work of salvation is not dependent on our works (deeds, actions) in any way, but on our faith in Jesus Christ. (And this faith is still not what is effectual in accomplishing salvation; it is only the condition for receiving what is completely the work of God) Again, this distinction is correlated with (though far from particular to) Luther's theology, or more specifically his realization of how God in his justice could deal with us not according to our works (which are never sufficient to merit salvation) but according to Christ's righteousness, imputed to us by faith. Pelikan describes this insight:
Believing that [the justice of God in Rom 1:17] referred to 'the active justice of God,' which dispensed rewards and punishments, both temporal and eternal, in accordance with what the sinner deserved, Luther perceived such a 'gospel' to be a condemnation, not a consolation: 'Did God have to heap misery upon misery by the gospel, and by the gospel threaten us with his justice and wrath?' He found an answer to his question in a 'new definition of justice,' when he concluded that the justice of God revealed in the gospel was 'passive justice,' with which God invested the sinner through faith in Christ. (4.138)
Protestant soteriology, then, has as one of its axioms the distinction between faith and works: salvation, justification, regeneration, and all the promises of the gospel are not dependent on anything we work, earn, do, or merit, but only on our faith, which is itself not meritorious but simply allows us to receive God's grace (unmerited favor). Justification is by faith alone, as distinctly opposed to works (or some kind of faith-works mixture, which is what the Reformers accused the Catholic Church of peddling). John Piper, in his book the Future of Justification, emphasizes that the change in the divine disposition (justification) is secured by "the death and righteousness of Christ, counted as ours through faith alone. ... The one and only instrument through which God preserves our union with Christ is faith in Christ—the purely receiving act of the soul." (184) Making salvation in any way dependent on works is dangerous: "If we make the mistake of thinking that our works of love (the fruit of God's Spirit) secure or increase God's commitment to be completely for us, now and in the last judgment, we compromise the very reason that these works of love exist, namely, to display the infinite worth of Christ and his work as our all-sufficient obedience and all-sufficient righteousness." (185)

Of course, this faith-works distinction is presented with somewhat of an awkward challenge in interpreting James 2:24, presented here in context (emphasis added):
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. 18 But some one will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. 20 Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, 23 and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"; and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead. (Jas 2:14-26)
If justification is by faith alone, what can James mean here? Again there is Protestant consensus: works do not in any way secure or accomplish salvation, but they do confirm it. The faith that allows us to truly receive justification, if it is authentic, should produce good works (or "fruit", in the biblical terminology; see Mat 3:8, 12:33; John 15). Again (it cannot be emphasized enough) these good works do not save us, but they should be expected to follow after the faith that does save us. This article explains three ways in which deeds relate to salvation: we are justified by Christ's deeds and the righteousness therein, we are invited to "work out our salvation" (Phil 2:12) and actively live by the Spirit (Rom 8:13, Gal 6:7-8) after we have been saved, and we will be rewarded for our good works at the last judgment. Works are not the ground of salvation, but they do have a place in it. In James' terminology, our faith is "completed by works" (2:22).

In short, the relationship between faith and works in Protestant theology is strictly one-directional: only faith saves us, and this faith gives rise to works, so salvation does not depend in any way on works. This is the intent of the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Section three of this article contains a short summary of the Orthodox view on the Protestant faith/works distinction. The second paragraph is highly descriptive:
It is futile to rehash here the centuries of debate between Protestants and Roman Catholics on this issue. Let it suffice to say that for Orthodox, the debate over grace and works is something that has never found a foothold. It is an entirely Western argument, founded upon false concepts of grace and free will as largely espoused by St. Augustine. While acknowledging that the Church did synodally uphold the Blessed Hierarch's defense against Pelagianism, his views on grace and free will that were later to fuel theological debates in the West remained foreign to the ethos of Orthodoxy. They are not supported by the patristic consensus.
It goes on to critique the Protestant handling of James by pointing out the obvious fact that is skirted around: the only time in the Bible when the words "faith" and "alone" appear together is in James 2:24, where James specifically denies that faith alone justifies. In light of this, it is amazing that justification by faith alone has become such a cornerstone of Protestant soteriology. James does not say anything about faith and works justifying differently, or works being the confirmation of faith which alone justifies; he simply says they both justify. In light of this, 2:22 is read as a succinct description of synergism, like Phil 2:12-13. In the eastern reading, it is much easier to see James and Paul as being in agreement without forcing James to fit into a mold set by Paul, which is what I believe Luther did (he famously called it the "epistle of straw" and expressed the wish that it be removed from the canon). Roland Bainton, in his biography of Luther, describes his reading as "a Pauline construction upon James. The conclusion was a hierarchy of values within the New Testament. First Luther would place the Gospel of John, then the Pauline epistles and First Peter, after them the three other Gospels, and in a subordinate place Hebrews. James, Jude, and Revelation." (Here I Stand 259-261) In other words, the traditional Protestant reading of James amounts to an eisegesis of (Luther's interpretation of) Paul's theology into James' words.

The distinction and asymmetrical relationship between faith and works characteristic of Reformation theology is not a part of Orthodox theology. Apart from a juridical understanding of justification and zero-sum thinking about divine vs. human agency, it doesn't make sense to claim that works (with none of the meritorious connotations they have accrued in the west, but simply meaning "active, willing participation in the work of God") confirm our salvation without contributing to it. There is no worry that this will lead to works becoming a means to "earn" salvation because authentic salvation is not something it makes sense to "earn" like a wage. In Orthodoxy, salvation is not simply a one-time verdict of justification and monergistic act of regeneration (the temporal priority and singularity of justification is important for making it prior to and independent from works) but is more holistic, continuing throughout and even after life, so the believer can say with equal honesty, "I have been saved," "I am being saved," and "I will be saved." "Faith" and "works" are not opposing principles, nor is faith a substitute for works, but they are the two sides of how we respond to and cooperate with God's grace as part of our new life in Christ. (The New Perspective on Paul echoes this point, and also reminds us that "works" is not an abbreviation for "works of the law')

I should mention that I am acquainted with the kind of dead works which Luther and other Reformation theologians so endlessly warn against. Sometimes I am tempted to reassure myself (or claim to others) that I am doing "all right" spiritually because I read my Bible and pray every morning, or because I give away a good portion of my income to charity and missions, or because I am fasting from meat for Great Lent. This would be to turn my works (good as they are) into a crown of laurels and rest on them, thinking that they in any way excuse me from continuing to battle for holiness. To do so would indeed be sin. Where I differ from Luther is that I do not think that this impulse is the basis of all sin or the ultimate heresy lurking behind every theological bush, or that my works can earn "merit" that counts toward my salvation in some kind of cosmic juridical economy of salvation. I believe it makes sense to focus more on the positive, Spirit-breathed role of works as the dynamic counterpart to faith after conversion than on the dangers of false works and self-righteousness, both because this puts the emphasis on what we are saved to rather than on what we are saved from and because it helps avoid the confusion I went through over what exactly one is supposed to "do" vs. allow God to do after becoming a Christian.


How can we encourage believers to live out their salvation without making God's promise of justification by faith alone seem dependent on works?
How do the promises of God come together in the mystery of deification?

The last dichotomy relating to the gospel I'd like to emphasize is that between justification and sanctification. In typical Protestant usage, justification refers to "the establishment (or re-establishment) of the right relation between God and man" (Pelikan 4.147) by way of the forgiveness (non-imputation) of our sin and the positive imputation of Christ's righteousness to us. This theme, and the fact that it came gratuitously on the basis of faith, apart from any merit or effort on our part, was considered by Luther (and classical Protestantism) as the very heart of the gospel, the article by which the church stands or falls, as seen in passages like Psa 32:1-2, Rom 4:4-8 (which quotes it), or 2 Cor 5:19: "in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them". Calvin defines justification with his usual precision:
A man is said to be justified in the sight of God when in the judgment of God he is deemed righteous, and is accepted on account of his righteousness; for as iniquity is abominable to God, so neither can the sinner find grace in his sight, so far as he is and so long as he is regarded as a sinner. ... Thus we simply interpret justification, as the acceptance with which God receives us into his favor as if we were righteous; and we say that this justification consists in the forgiveness of sins and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. (3.11.2)
Thus the lifeblood of the reformers' gospel was an essentially forensic exchange: our sin and its curse are imputed to Christ, and his perfect, alien righteousness is imputed to us apart from anything we could do to earn it. Though most clearly taught by Paul in Romans and Galatians, according to Luther, the doctrine of justification was the central teaching of the Scriptures, "the very voice of the gospel". (4.148) In the miraculous exchange of imputation, "God reckons imperfect righteousness as perfect righteousness and sin as not sin, even though it really is sin" (4.149), which makes true life and the enjoyment of God's rich mercy possible. One more Pelikan quote illustrating the centrality of forgiveness/justification to the gospel (which is not, of course, said to be only the message of justification, essential though it is):
A coworker expressed Luther's teaching when he defined the gospel as 'the knowledge of the grace and mercy of God through Christ,' a message that announced 'the forgiveness of all sins and the inheritance of eternal life' through Christ, who was the 'mercy seat' of God. Another coworker put it more simply still: 'The gospel is a promise'; for 'the gospel teaches that Christ, the Son of God, has been given for us and is our righteousness before God. And one of Luther's own definitions read: 'The gospel is a discourse about Christ, that he is the Son of God and became man for us, that he died and was raised, that he has been established as Lord over all things.' (4.167)
All of this is thus to be kept distinct (but not separate) from the doctrine of sanctification, which encompasses the believer's continuing life in Christ, growth in holiness, and conformity to his image after the verdict of justification. Sanctification is still understood as the work of God, wholly dependent on his grace and power, but (depending on your Protestant tradition) also somehow involving the cooperation of the Christian. Once saved/justified entirely by grace, the believer is enabled by the Spirit to cooperate with God and "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12). Again, for anyone who is in Christ and has already been justified, salvation is secure and does not depend in any way on works; it is more accurate to say that sanctification makes our already-accomplished salvation manifest is allows us to enjoy it and its manifold blessings.

I have already done most of the legwork, in this post and the last, to say everything I need to about justification: its overly forensic definition and concept of imputation, how and why these things are viewed differently in the Orthodox Church, and its overcentralization to the gospel. To recap, God's justice, wrath or law, is not an enemy we are saved from but rather sin, death, and the devil; God is always unconditionally ready and willing to forgive without fear of compromising the "cosmic moral order"; there is no concept of merit as in the west that allows imputation to make sense; God is not at enmity with us and in need of reconciliation to us but rather the other way around; God's justice is more properly "satisfied" by the destruction of sin than by its punishment; and the resurrection is as important to justification as the crucifixion. As well, justification is held to be one dimension of salvation rather than nearly synonymous with the whole thing, a continuing rather than instantaneous reality, and it includes cleansing from sin as well as forgiveness.

For the moment I will focus on how all of these things affect the role of sanctification. Its very presence in Protestant vocabulary as a distinct concept is telling; as justification is ushered to the very "heart of the gospel", sanctification is correspondingly, necessarily marginalized, even if it is still affirmed as real and important. In my opinion there is simply no way to continue to speak of and approach justification in the way the early reformers did without making sanctification ancillary to salvation. You "get saved" by justification, then "confirm" or "manifest" your (already effectual and accomplished) salvation through sanctification. The latter simply seems (or seemed to me, at least) like an advance on the Christlike perfection that is already guaranteed you in heaven through justification. It is like the icing on the cake of salvation.

In post 4, I mentioned an analogy of the gospel as a bridge spanning from Death to Life and my observation: "The whole focus of evangelicalism is the bridge—how wonderful it is that it's there, and getting other people to cross it." (2012-10-14) The crossing of the bridge in this analogy corresponds to justification, and the problem is that so much attention is paid to getting across that bridge (and leading others to do the same) that relatively little thought is given to what to do once you're on the other side. Crossing the bridge, being justified, is the really important thing; everything after that is a sort of bonus. I have long found this depiction of the gospel unsatisfying, as I wondered in November 2011. What is the point of crossing the  bridge, of establishing a relationship with God? What happens next? Does the "raw gospel" end there? As I will cover more next time, the elevation of justification over sanctification means the prizing of the beginning moment of salvation over its continuing dimension. But if we are saved to eternal life (John 3:16) and not just an amazing conversion experience, there has to be a lot more to it than this.

As I mentioned last time, in Orthodox soteriology there is no analogue to Luther's justification-sanctification dichotomy and its various denominational flavors. Far from being nearly synonymous with it, justification is only one (comparatively minor) part of the rich tapestry of the gospel of salvation. As Eric Jobe explains, justification in Orthodoxy significantly differs from its Protestant usage in that it pertains to entering and maintaining a right relationship with God; it pertains not only to the beginning of salvation but its continuation. (That article also helpfully describes the relation between faith and works) Conversely, as Jobe says in his second article on the atonement the Orthodox liturgy of chrismation involves the pronunciation to the baptized, "Thou art justified. Thou art illumined. Thou art sanctified. Thou art washed"—treating both justification and sanctification as instantaneous events occurring at the moment of salvation. In Orthodox though there is little or no distinction drawn between being declared (or "recognized as") righteous and becoming righteous; they come together as one organic whole. There is no room for the towering, dogmatic view of justification promulgated by the Reformers; no single aspect of salvation should be ascribed this much importance and centrality. To do so is to throw the gospel dangerously out of balance.

This journal article by Ross Aden, a Lutheran theologian, helpfully compares Lutheran and Orthodox views on justification and sanctification. He observes firsthand the effects of the dichotomies I have been pointing out: "The Orthodox think of one continuous process, whereas the Lutherans distinguish the initial act of justification and regeneration from the process of sanctification." (90) Why, Aden goes on to ask, do Lutherans tend to contrast justification and sanctification (or describe the relation between them as strictly one-way)? He proposes that this impulse comes from fear of confusing (here come the other dichotomies) "works with faith, law with gospel, or sanctification with justification, and [making] all the promises of God concerning forgiveness of sin and everlasting life unintelligible and uncertain"—the pastoral concern to assure the troubled conscience and keep it from anxiety over whether it has done enough to be justified. "If what sinners are and do is not distinguished from what Christ is and does for them, then something besides the work of Christ might be assumed to be a condition of that divine sentence. And then the sense of the unconditional character of salvation would be lost and sinners would become anxious." (91)

He draws from Gerard Forde, another Lutheran theologian, in blaming the forensic metaphor of justification for this gap between redemption and ethics (as Schweitzer described it). Traditional Lutheranism and traditional Catholicism, representing the two sides of the Reformation, are in agreement on this matter; they are both "controlled by the fundamental metaphor of the divine law court, a metaphor which fails at the critical point because it cannot answer the very question of how the work of Christ changes the sinner." (92) In my own words, the anxiety of the guilty conscience that can never do enough to satisfy the righteousness/justice of God (to which Luther's doctrine of justification by faith alone is the solution) is an artifact of the distorted view of God's justice that I described last time which envisions it as his severity and wrath against sin, his inward-oriented demand for perfection and punishment of imperfection which punishes the guilty with death and must be "satisfied" by a meritorious blood sacrifice. Once this caricature is discarded and replaced with a biblical-patristic understanding of God's justice, justification is seen not to be the very heart of the gospel, and the need for all the traditional Lutheran dichotomies vanishes.

Aden goes on to describe the Orthodox alternative and the possibilities it presents as a soteriology free from the legal metaphor for salvation. The Christian east and west basically agree on the nature of salvation as communion with God, but differ on the obstacles to this communion that must be removed: sin and guilt (both our own and inherited) and the demands of divine justice vs. mortality and human corruption/weakness. In Orthodoxy there is also a more developed doctrine of what we are saved to, namely intimate communion with God through theosis. "Thus the Orthodox hope of salvation in its broadest sense is more than hope of a divine sentence of 'not guilty' or even of a beatific vision; it is 'human participation in the being of God ... a total sharing in the Triune life.' In such a perspective, no division can exist between justification and sanctification." (96) In summary:
This way of understanding the saving action of God is relational, not mechanical, that is dynamic, not static. What Lutherans have divided into justification and sanctification, Orthodoxy sees as two aspects of the single process of human transformation into union with the divine life. This growth in grace is initiated by the person and work of Christ; applied in baptism; nourished by the deifying grace of the Holy Spirit in Word, sacrament, and the disciplines of the spiritual life; expressed in love; and finally completed in the full realization of the goal for which humans were created: attainment of the likeness of God through personal intercommunion with Him. (99)
This, to me, is what it really means to distinguish between, but not separate, justification and sanctification.


The Lutheran pattern of soteriology with its need to draw up all of these sharp distinctions which I have been critiquing is based on the same misguided assumptions about God's justice which I addressed last time; PSA and its presuppositions constitute the thread which, when pulled out, begins to unravel the rest of the classical Protestant formulation of the gospel. The Law/Gospel dichotomy is unnecessary because the curse of the law and God's wrath are not truly the enemies the gospel saves us from; God is not the author of death and his justice does not need to be "satisfied" by punishment of sin in order to forgive. The Nature/Grace and Faith/Works dichotomies are dependent on a juridical understanding of justification as a legal verdict or change in the divine disposition that has to be "earned" by merit gained from obeying the law, combined with the concern that none of this merit come from us. The Justification/Sanctification dichotomy is likewise unnecessary because the point of justification is not simply, as Luther thought, to ease the anxious conscience plagued by fears of never measuring up to God's impossible standard of perfection; the problem is our own sin and estrangement from the author of life, not our failure to measure up to a standard of demanding, inward-oriented justice and the threat of subsequent punishment. In the Orthodox vision of the gospel, the well-worn but ultimately unworkable Reformation distinctions between faith and works, between "justification by faith alone" and "works-righteousness", are no longer necessary. There is no more risk of slipping into what I have previously called "the negative gospel", a gospel better-defined by what it is not than by what it is. (Though for converts like me, the danger of defining the gospel as the negation of its Protestant incarnation is real)

Orthodoxy offers a fleshed-out vision of the gospel that is more rigorously incarnational and Trinitarian. This manifests in its synergistic relation of faith and works which avoids the zero-sum thinking of monothelitism and its modern reiteration, monergism. What is true of the relation between Christ's natures is true of us and God in the application of salvation to mankind. Lossky succinctly relates the personal and incarnational aspects of the gospel: "What man ought to have attained by raising himself up to God, God achieved by descending to man." (136) Likewise, bringing justification and sanctification together also demonstrates closer cooperation between the Trinity: the Father justifying, the Son vivifying, the Spirit sanctifying, all as part of one (not two) great work of salvation. In Orthodox theology I see a much more holistic, less disjointed development of the gospel, which is one of the strongest reasons I feel drawn to it.

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