Monday, January 24, 2011

Charles Hodge on Christ as the grounds of our Justification


It's been a while since I have read any Charles Hodge. I'm enjoying his book, "Justification by Faith Alone". I appreciate his clarity about the grounds of our justification-the righteousness of Christ:

We are justified by the blood of Christ; by his obedience; by his righteousness. This is involved in the whole method of salvation. Christ saves us as a priest, but a priest does not save by making those who come to him good. He does not work in them, but for them. Christ saves us by a sacrifice; but a sacrifice is effectual, not because of its subjective effect upon the offerer, but as an expiation, or satisfaction to justice. Christ is our Redeemer; he gave himself as a ransom for many. But a ransom does not infuse righteousness. It is the payment of a price. It is the satisfaction of the claims of the captor upon the captive.

16 comments:

Zach said...

All fine and good, as long as you are comfortable believing a theological novelty. It's a widely-acknowledged fact that the Reformers' notion of extrinsic, imputed justification was something new -- which no one of consequence had taught previously.

Protestant scholar McGrath writes:

The importance of this development [extrinsic justification] lies in the fact that it marks a complete break with the teaching of the church up to that point. From the time of Augustine onwards, justification had always been understood to refer to both the event of being declared righteous and the process of being made righteous. Melanchthon's concept of forensic justification diverged radically from this.

Likewise, Protestant scholar Geisler writes:

. . . [O]ne can be saved without believing that imputed righteousness (or forensic justification) is an essential part of the true gospel. Otherwise, few people were saved between the time of the apostle Paul and the Reformation, since scarcely anyone taught imputed righteousness (or forensic justification) during that period!

Now that being said, your notion of extrinsic justification could be true. I would just have a hard time buying into a concept that was never taught or believed during the first 15 centuries of the Church -- when all the greatest Christians lived, died, and went on to their rewards.

Reepicheep said...

Zach,

It is true that the formal statements concerning the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone- meaning that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us by faith, didn’t come in to formalized expression until the Reformation. Formalized expressions can take a long time to develop.

I am thankful for Romanism on one account- it’s gross system of works-righteousness and the notion of infused righteousness as the ground for some kind of justification awoke the people of God to the Word of God and the doctrine was finally hammered out clearly.

The bible teaches Justification by faith alone/ and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as the grounds for our justification from beginning to end. Galatians is a great example of why this doctrine was obscured so quickly. In fact, Galatians teaches the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and even addresses the foolishness of adding something to faith in Christ for salvation. That’s just how quickly this doctrine is obscured by our bend toward counting our works as meritorious. Of course, no institution has done a better job of formalizing such an error as the Roman Church. They were powerful in the insistence of their Galatian error for a long time, no doubt. Praise God again for the Reformation!!

You know, as I was thinking, there are lots of doctrines that weren’t taught for long time before their formalized introduction (whether in the bible or not)- Rome has the corner on spurious doctrines. I love this one from Cyprian. If you didn't have a chance to be water baptized and still want to be saved, go ahead and do this-”In Rome, if they make a pious pilgrimage to one of the Patriarchal Basilicas, namely, the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, ... or some pious exercise (e.g., the Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, the recitation of the Akathistos Hymn in honour of the Mother of God)...” Well isn’t that special? The list goes on for Popery...

Whatever the doctrine is, it must be weighed with the Word of God. Church history should be considered and is always helpful, but sometimes it’s helpfulness comes when we see the powers of misinterpretation at work.

Am I concerned there wasn’t a clear explanation of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness before the Reformation? Heck no. A person isn’t saved by a perfect explanation or understanding of doctrine. I do think they have to genuinely trust in Christ alone for their salvation, but I grant that many don’t know how to describe this reality. People have always been made right with God by the gift of faith in Christ resulting in the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. No matter how it’s explained, that’s what the bible teaches and quite frankly is the only logical way.

Since we’ve had this discussion before, there’s no need to keep this dialogue going here.

John Gertsner does a good job explaining the process of honing this doctrine through the ages. The constant RC claim the doctrine is novelty of the Reformation is bogus:

http://www.apuritansmind.com/Justification/GerstnerJohnJustificationHistory.htm

Zach said...

"I love this one from Cyprian. . ."

Given that Cyprian lived in the 3rd century, and St. Peter's Basilica wasn't completed until the 15th century, I find it hard to believe that Cyprian would have directed the faithful to visit there.

Besides, it strains credulity to imagine that this great saint would have taught an equivalency between the sacrament of baptism and a pilgrimage.

Maybe you are referring to a different Cyprian.

Woody Woodward said...

Here is a true story that has nothing to do with Justification by faith alone, but this makes me wonder how some Catholics could believe such a ridiculous superstitious tradition? I was in the Vatican in 1978, and our Roman Catholic tour guide had taken our group to St Peter’s chapel, explaining the great Pieta by Michelangelo. Behind the bullet proof glass, stood this magnificent work of art. And her comment, “You see Mother Mary holding the lifeless body of Jesus. Notice how young Mother Mary is. This is because she was sinless, so she never aged.” That was bad enough, but she went on to say this. “Every time a new Pope is Elected, these glass doors are opened and if you are lucky enough to be the first 25 through the doors, you are guaranteed a seat next to Jesus!” I held my hand up and waved it ferociously asking in a loud voice, “Excuse me mam, but where did you find that in the Bible?” She ignored my question. Also, rubbing the foot of the bronze statue of Peter? Well meaning folks, standing for hours in long lines just to rub his right foot? The foot was almost rubbed to nothing. What’s that all about?

Reepicheep said...

Doh! Sorry. You're right. I mixed my quotes (admittedly, I'm flipping through old notes :)

I was fixin to hit yo with some of Cyprian's gems (tongue in cheek) from his Baptismal Controversy stuff and his Unity of the Church stuff, but pulled back knowing this same old discussion we have (which always comes down to authority- you say the Pope, I say the Bible) won't ever end unless God intervenes.

The quote I did list was from "Incarnationis Mysterium, Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, 11/29, 1998)". The full quote, all it's glory:

"In Rome, if they make a pious pilgrimage to one of the Patriarchal Basilicas, namely, the Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican, ... or some pious exercise (e.g., the Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, the recitation of the Akathistos Hymn in honour of the Mother of God)...

The plenary indulgence of the Jubilee can also be gained through actions which express in a practical and generous way the penitential spirit which is, as it were, the heart of the Jubilee. This would include abstaining for at least one whole day from unnecessary consumption (e.g., from smoking or alcohol, or fasting or practising abstinence according to the general rules of the Church and the norms laid down by the Bishops' Conferences) and donating a proportionate sum of money to the poor; supporting by a significant contribution works of a religious or social nature (especially for the benefit of abandoned children, young people in trouble, the elderly in need, foreigners in various countries seeking better living conditions). "


I was trying to point out how "novel" doctrine is always being produced by Rome, so to say the Reformers came up with a novel idea regarding the imputation of Christ's righteousness shouldn't be the basis for your rejecting it.

But don't misunderstand, I don't think the Reformers did invent a new doctrine, just finally helped the church understand what the bible says about justification formally.

Anyways. I'd prefer to keep the discussion to Scripture since we'll not agree on how the Church Fathers do or do not help us on this issue.

Zach said...

Woody,

That tour guide sounds like a ditz and a fool, however I wonder if she meant the first 25 in line would get a seat next to the statue of Jesus (i.e., the Pieta), which would indeed be a very rare treat.

Tony,

For you to try to define the crux of the debate as your belief in the authority of Scripture versus my belief in the authority of the Pope is, frankly, disingenuous. All of us interpret Scripture through the lens of our own tradition and "magisterium." I was merely attempting to demonstrate that, on the issue before us, Catholics have a much more robust tradition backing them up.

I can certainly provide a list of Scriptures that demonstrate the infused nature of justification (Ps 103:12, Is 44:22, Jn 1:29, 1 Jn 1:7), but I particularly like Acts 22:16, which closes the loop and ties our whole conversation together:

"And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name."

You see, the reason why we know all of the Fathers believed in infused justification is that they taught, based on Scriptures like this, baptismal regeneration. The whole Biblical language of baptism -- the washing away of one's sins -- syncs up perfectly with the Biblical language regarding justification. And it flies in the face of the Reformed notion of imputed justification, wherein no sin is actually washed away, but rather God orchestrates the clever legal fiction of Luther's snow-covered dung hill.

I know you guys believe the washing away happens later, as a separate process of sanctification, but I submit that you're imposing a man-made dichotomy on the Scriptures. In this passage, Ananias is clearly not describing two separate processes.

Roger Mann said...

It's a widely-acknowledged fact that the Reformers' notion of extrinsic, imputed justification was something new -- which no one of consequence had taught previously.

It's a widely-acknowledged "fact?" You can't be serious? Surely you must mean a widely-acknowledged "opinion?" For it is at most merely the opinion of some extremely foolish and ignorant men. Let me refresh your memory a little.

"And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6)

Moses taught extrinsic, imputed righteousness by belief alone (for that's what the term chashab "accounted" plainly means) almost 3000 years before the Reformers rightly exposed the false gospel of Roman Catholicism.

"And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." (Luke 18:13-14)

Jesus taught extrinsic, imputed justification by faith alone, for He declared that this repentant sinner "went down to his house justified" by his faith in God's mercy alone -- apart from works of any kind.

"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law." (Romans 3:28)

Paul taught extrinsic, imputed justification by faith alone, for that is precisely what "apart from the works of the law" means. It means that our personal obedience to God’s moral law has absolutely nothing to do with our justification before the tribunal of God. How do I know? Because Paul goes on to clearly expound upon this very point:

"Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted [i.e., extrinsically imputed by God] for righteousness." (Romans 4:4-5)

"Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed." (Romans 4:16)

Notice that only justification by faith alone -- apart from works of any kind -- is in "accordance with grace." Why? Because grace and works are mutually exclusive in the matter of justification before God.

"For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:4)

"And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work." (Romans 11:6)

We can't have it both ways. We cannot be saved by grace and law; by faith and works. No! If we are saved by grace, then we are saved by grace through faith alone -- apart from works of any kind. For "if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work."

Continued below...

Roger Mann said...

The Apostle Paul sums the matter up well when he says:

"For by grace you have been saved [i.e., justified] through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Good works invariably follow our justification before God, as the inevitable result of our progressive sanctification. Nevertheless, we are justified by grace alone through faith alone – "not of works, lest anyone should boast."

That is the clear teaching of God's holy, inerrant, inscripurated Word! Moses, Jesus, and Paul all agree (and James 2:24 is easily explained in context). Therefore, since "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established" (2 Corinthians 13:1), that ought to settle the matter once and for all! However, in addition to this, it's not difficult to find numerous examples of early church fathers who often clearly taught the truth of justification by faith alone. A good list can be found here:

The Early Church and Justification

And, in closing, here's a helpful quote from the above author:

"It was not Martin Luther that came up with the doctrine of forensic justification, rather, it was God. And God did not take so long to communicate such wonderful truths just at the turn of the 16th century. Far before, even among the early church fathers, the doctrine of justification was as accepted as much so as in the day of Luther. It is certain that the formulations around the doctrine were not as defined and critically studied as in the time of the Reformation, or thereafter, but such a study in the time of the early church was unnecessary since justification was an accepted Christian truth. Usually heretics press the church to deal with certain issues throughout its life. In the early church many of the disputes surrounded the nature and persons of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yet even in the midst of those tumultuous debates, the doctrine of justification by faith was still taught and received as biblical, right and true. There was no need to have a debate around that which was accepted as biblical."

Roger Mann said...

. . . [O]ne can be saved without believing that imputed righteousness (or forensic justification) is an essential part of the true gospel.

Hogwash! The doctrine of imputed righteousness by faith alone simply acknowledges that Christ's perfect obedience to God's law in our stead is the sole and sufficient ground of our justification -- our own works of obedience to God's law being excluded. Anyone who understands and willfully rejects this doctrine is by definition not believing the one true gospel, and is relying upon his own works of obedience to God's law for justification to one degree or another. And those who so believe are "accursed" (Galatians 1:6-9), as Scripture plainly teaches.

"You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace." (Galatians 5:4)

"For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.'" (Galatians 3:10)

The Roman Catholic doctrine of "infused righteousness" for justification is a perfect example of this type of "different gospel, which is not another" (Galatians 1:6-7). It makes no difference if one argues that this "infused" righteousness is graciously given to us by God, for it is on the basis of the good works produced by our "free-will" cooperation with this grace by which we are finally justified under such a scheme. Rather than relying upon Christ's perfect obedience to God's law as the sole and sufficient ground of our justification, the person who rejects the doctrine of imputation ipso facto relies upon his own works of obedience to God's law for justification to one degree or another. It is a damnable doctrine that no genuine Christian will ever believe.

Reepicheep said...

Roger nails it.

Reepicheep said...

I confess to being dumbfounded as to how the verses you cited can be used in support of the notion of “infused” justification/righteousness.

Ps 103:10-12 10 He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;  as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

This text speaks of God removing our sin. We learn from the totality of Scripture regarding the atonement, the removal of sin was a legal act of God whereby he put our sin on Christ and in exchange we receive His righteousness. This text speaks of the expiation of our sins, not an infusing of righteousness.

Is 44:22 I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.

Similar to the verses from Psalm 103, this text refers to the removal of our sins by God’s grace, not by anything we have done. In fact, it is noteworthy that we are told to return to God after our sins have been blotted out. No infusion of anything here.

Continued next...

Reepicheep said...

Jn 1:29  The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Praise God- Christ the Lamb had come! The Lamb represented the sins of the people. The sins of the people were imputed to the Lamb (not infused) and the purity of the lamb was imputed to the people. This verse explicitly involves the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and the removal of our sins imputed to Christ.

1 Jn 1:5-10 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

This verse absolutely shows the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. EXPLICITLY. In verse 7 we are told our walking in the light manifests forgiven sins- note the “and the blood of Christ cleanses” not “then the blood of Christ..”. Continuing with the context we see John challenge everyone to admit they sin. If we deny we sin- we’re liars. It’s a proof thing being spoken of here. But here’s the kicker- If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This is the Repent/Believe sequence in different terms. Further, how does he cleanse us? We know by the totality of Scripture it is done by Christ taking our sins away. But wait! We still sin. Yes, that’s because we are talking about the imputation of our sin to Christ- as in a legal ruling. Justification is a declaration of righteousness based on the forensic transference of Christ’s righteousness to us. It’s not that we become morally upright upon justification, but we have righteous standing. Christ, when he took our sin, did so in a legal sense and standing before God- for the time he redeemed us on the cross under God’s wrath. Anyways, this text does not in any way teach infused righteousness.

Acts 22:12-16  “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

I don’t see how this has anything to do with infused justification/righteousness either. He says in the present tense- Paul simultaneously be baptized and call on his name. The calling on his name is the basis proof of justification- baptism is God’s ordained way of showing it. Whatever efficacy the baptism has by faith.

Sorry, but these don’t even imply some kind of infused righteousness. Rather, they don’t make sense apart from the biblical doctrine of imputed righteousness.

Zach said...

Roger,

You're hard core, brother. Listen, this is not an argument about whether we add something to Christ's work. We don't, nor could we. It's an argument about how Christ chooses to apply His all-sufficient work to us. That being said, I think questioning my Christianity and throwing around words like "damnable" -- all because we differ on the particulars of how Christ justifies us -- is out of place, both for you and your cheering section.

Allow me a brief diversion. Being a Southern boy, I've had a dismaying experience that y'all Northerners don't have to deal with as much -- removing a piece of my home's exterior siding to find that the inside of the wall is hollowed out and eaten up with termites.

Now, when I make such a discovery, I could just get a new piece of siding, nail it over the infested site, and slap some fresh paint on. But the more effective and complete remedy is to cut out the destroyed wood, kill all the termites, and insert fresh lumber.

In both cases, I am the one taking action. It's just the nature of my repairs -- and the qualitative result on the health of the wall -- that differs. The difference between imputed and infused justification is similar. In both cases, it is Christ -- and Christ alone -- who justifies. It's a question of whether He scrapes us out and fills us up . . . or merely paints us over.

By the way, note that after Christ scrapes out the muck and kills the termites, He does paint us over, too. :)

Tony,

The verses I cited describe God's justifying action as completely obliterating our sin -- not merely covering it over and leaving a note: "Will come back later to finish the job."

Roger Mann said...

Listen, this is not an argument about whether we add something to Christ's work. We don't, nor could we. It's an argument about how Christ chooses to apply His all-sufficient work to us.

Of course, that's simply not true. The Roman Catholic doctrine of justification is not a purely forensic declaration of righteousness, but a transforming activity in which the believer's obedience also plays a significant role in his justification. This corrupted doctrine of justification includes within it the lie of Satan that Christ's righteousness is not enough in itself to justify and that obedience on the part of the believer is also necessary for his full and final justification before God. So, yes, in Rome's blasphemous synergistic doctrine of justification, we do indeed "add something to Christ's work."

That being said, I think questioning my Christianity and throwing around words like "damnable" -- all because we differ on the particulars of how Christ justifies us -- is out of place, both for you and your cheering section.

I'm not "questioning" your Christianity; I'm asserting outright that if you reject the "imputed righteousness" of Christ and repudiate the doctrine of "justification by faith alone," then you do not believe the one true gospel of grace and you are not a Christian.

I'm also not "throwing around" words like "damnable" lightly. The Roman Catholic doctrine of justification on the basis of "infused righteousness" is in fact a damnable heresy! I would be lying to you if I told you otherwise. Indeed, as Dr. Robert Reymond (one of today's finest theologians) points out, it is an Antichrist doctrine through and through:

For it is indeed the invention of Antichrist when one adds anything to the great sola’s of the Reformation. The "and" in "grace and...," "Christ and...," or "faith and..." brings the apostolic curse and damnation (Galatians 1:6-9; 5:2-6; Romans 11:6). For they who would trust in the work of Christ plus their own "good works" plus the righteousness and intercessory work of Mary and the saints plus their pilgrimages and their purchases of indulgences are, according to Paul, making Christ's cross-work of no value (Galatians 5:2), alienating themselves from Christ (5:4a), falling away from grace (5:4b) abolishing the offence of the cross (5:11), trusting in a "different gospel which is no gospel at all" (1:6-7) at the peril of their souls and showing thereby that they have never been truly regenerated by the Holy Spirit (or they would know better) but are still lost in their sin. (Why Does Rome Teach What It Does About Justification and Salvation?)

Continued below...

Roger Mann said...

The difference between imputed and infused justification is similar. In both cases, it is Christ -- and Christ alone -- who justifies.

Again, that's simply not true. The Roman Catholic doctrine of "infused righteousness" is synergistic in nature, and requires a sinner's cooperation with God's grace in order to be effectual. Rather than being justified on the basis of Christ's perfect obedience to God's law as the sole and sufficient ground of our justification, Rome maintains that it is on the basis of the good works produced by our free-will cooperation with God's grace by which we are finally justified. Thus, a person who rejects the doctrine of imputation ipso facto relies upon his own works of obedience to God's law for justification to one degree or another. As I said before, it's a damnable doctrine that no genuine Christian will ever believe.

Since Roman Catholicism fatally conflates justification and sanctification, I would recommend that you read the following article by John Robbins, which clearly distinguishes and properly expounds the relationship between the two.

The Relationship between Justification and Sanctification

P.S. I know Robbins isn't one of your favorite authors, Pastor, but I'm sure you won't find anything objectionable in this article.

Woody Woodward said...

Zach, you know after reading your comment, you may be right about getting to be inside the glassed off area. I was just so flabergasted by her comments, could be I went too far in my interpretaion.