I got B.B. Warfield’s book on the deeper life movement, Perfectionism, several years ago to try to make sense of my former theological beliefs. I never thought I would be referring to it regarding the current discussion on sola fide. This debate is more than academic hair-splitting over theological terms. It is critical to how we answer the question, “What must I do to be saved?” Consequently, I am very concerned that a prominent theologian in the loosely reformed-ish camp is answering that question in this way.
John Piper (ht: Brad Mason) –
“Electing love is unconditional, regenerating love is unconditional, and all other loves are conditional. Everything after regeneration that you benefit from is conditional, including glorification, salvation, sanctification, and everything else. It’s conditional, one, on faith, and second, upon the evidences of faith in obedience.Anybody in my church can understand that. Electing love is unconditional. The act of setting that election upon a given person in regeneration or calling, has to be unconditional. What comes out of that is faith, and everything in the Bible is promised to that faith from then on. And you shouldn’t call it unconditional.” (italics mine)
Wow. How did this slip under the radar?
I’ve quoted two selections from Warfield and another from Sinclair Ferguson below. Warfield specifically addresses the teaching of Asa Mahan, the first president of Oberlin College and a promoter of what came to be called Oberlin perfectionism. Ferguson is coming from the perspective of the 18th century Marrow Controversy. I just started listening to his book, The Whole Christ, and this quote jumped out at me. As the Bible says, there is nothing new under the sun.
B.B. Warfield –
“he [Asa Mahan] is discussing the difference between perfect and imperfect faith. This he finds not in a difference in the degree of confidence the two exhibit – as if trust and distrust were mixed in them in different proportions – but in the breadth of their reference. “In consequence of ignorance of the perfect fullness of Christ’s redemption in all respects,” we may be found reposing “confidence in one, and not in every feature of Christ’s character as a Savior.” Our confidence in Him may be full confidence, from the intensive point of view, but far from full from the extensive point of view. We entrust to Him utterly what we entrust to him, but we do not entrust to Him all we ought to entrust to Him. The illustration given is precisely this: “The mind… may repose full confidence in Christ as a justifying, but not as a sanctifying Savior.” We may then receive justification and not sanctification. These two are not necessary concomitants, the inseparable co-products of the one act of faith. They are severally products of different acts of faith and are sought and enjoyed each for itself. There is indeed a wider implication behind this – that we seek by faith and receive the several benefits which Christ bestows on His people one by one, as we appeal to Him for each. And behind that lies the deeper implication still that salvation is not a unit, but may be broken up into fragments and granted piecemeal; and therefore also may be enjoyed by this or that individual only in this or that part. He that has partial faith, that is to say faith for only part of the things which are to be had in Christ, may be saved only in part, that is, may receive only part of salvation. We may be justified, for example, and not sanctified.”1
“It is of course in part a defective view of justification itself which produces these remarkable results. Corruption is the very penalty of sin from which we are freed in justification; holiness is the very reward which is granted us in justification. It is therefore absurd to suppose that sanctification can fail where justification has taken place. Sanctification is but the execution of the justifying decree. For it to fail would be for the acquitted person not to be released in accordance with his acquittal. It is equally absurd to speak of a special “sanctifying faith” adjoined to “justifying faith,”; “justifying faith” itself necessarily brings sanctification, because justification necessarily issues in sanctification – as the chains are necessarily knocked off of the limbs of the acquitted man. The Scriptures require of us not faiths but faith. Mahan, on the other hand, is very much inclined to make a hobby of the notion that we must have a special faith for every particular benefit received of Christ, “Perfect faith,” he asserts, “is a full and unshaken confidence in Christ, as in all respects, at all times, and in every condition, a full and perfect Savior, a Savior able and willing to meet every possible demand of our being.” That is true, and well said: that is in its nature the faith, which every Christian has and lives by. But must all the sides and aspects of Christ’s saving activities be explicated in our knowledge or else we do not get them? Does our enjoyment of them absolutely depend on our explication of them in our knowledge and the direction of our faith to each and every one of them separately?”2
Sinclair Ferguson –
“The separation of the benefits of the gospel from Christ, who is the gospel, is also the mother of the many varieties of “multiple stage” Christianity in which a person can enjoy some, but not necessarily all, of the discrete blessings. Thus one may experience an abstractable “second blessing”; or alternatively enjoy the blessings of salvation without obedience, having Christ as Savior but not (at least not yet) as Lord. But this, as Calvin noted, is to “rend asunder the Savior.””3