Rachel Miller Contra Mundum? The 5 Solas and John Piper, Part 2: “Salvation”

Faith is the instrumental cause of not only our Justification, but our complete and final Salvation.

This is what is truly precious about the doctrine of Justification: it is not just the first step from which one moves on into the rest of the benefits of saving Union with Christ. It is the declaration at the beginning of what will be at the end. Justification is the definitive, present, juridical, and authoritative pronouncement on the whole of the believers walk to Glory; that is, a pronouncement on the whole of what constitutes Salvation in its broadest sense. Justification answers our guilt in Adam, both now and at the Last Judgement. This declaration is true and unchanging from the moment of faith and Union, through the entire course of Regeneration, Sanctification, and Glorification. It pronounces the end at the beginning and all along the way. And how are we Justified—how do we receive this holistic declaration of “not guilty” and “perfectly righteous?” By faith alone. Sola Fide.

 

A quick note on our previous post, Part 1. It seems that many take exception to Ursinus’ use of the word “regeneration.” I am not suggesting we change our current use, but rather just pointing out that when we read what he has written on the subject, Regeneration is used simply to denote all that is the second benefit in the duplex gratia. It represents all that answers to our corruption received from Adam in distinction to our guilt derived from the same. And this was the common usage of the word prior to the tidier ordering and parsing of benefits that came later.  For example, Witsius writes,

For really, sanctification differs no other ways from the first regeneration and renovation, than as the continuance of an act differs from the beginning of it. (Bk. 3.8.10)

And as to the concern that Ursinus is saying faith precedes Regeneration in time, that is not at all what he is saying. Rather, the Holy Spirit is working Regeneration when He works faith in the heart. As the Catechism says,

Q.65. Since, then, we are made partakers of Christ and all His benefits by faith only, where does this faith come from?

The Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the Holy Gospel, and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.

Introduction to Part 2

IN OUR LAST POST, I promised to deal with three classes of responses to Rachel Miller’s critique of John Piper’s, “Does God Really Save us by Faith Alone?” They are,

  1. Works are necessary to salvation due to a proper understanding of the doctrine of Union with Christ.
  2. “Salvation” is a broader concept that includes more than just Justification, and works are necessary and instrumental to Sanctification and Glorification, therefore they are necessary and instrumental to the broader concept of Salvation.
  3. Piper’s teaching is in accord with the mass of 16thand 17thcentury Reformed scholarship; that is, Piper is in good company, and if we want to call him to the carpet, we must also call many other thoroughly orthodox Reformed authors to the same carpet.

Having responded to the first, we now move on to the second.  But before we do, I would like to reiterate yet again what is the manifest purpose and substance of Piper’s post. The question of the post is clear: does God really save us by faith alone? His answer is that the Five Solas do not apply to the whole of Salvation, but rather in their entirety only to Justification.  This is what he sees the Reformers to have been saying. That is, we cannot properly apply Sola Fide to “salvation” as broadly understood, for if we replace “justified” in “we are justified by means of faith alone” with “sanctified” or “finally saved,” the statement does not hold. In particular, Final Salvation will be adjudicated by “faith and fruit.”

2) “Salvation” is a Broader Concept

I disagree with Piper on a number of issues, but not here. He is saying salvation is a broader term than justification. (Dr. Raymond A. Blacketer, via Twitter)

I agree that Salvation is a broader term than just Justification. As we discussed last time, the benefits of Union with Christ are two-fold, Justification and Regeneration—the latter to be taken in its widest sense to include all that answers to our corruption of nature (illumination, the death of the old man and resurrection of the new, sanctification, and ultimately glorification); the former answering to our guilt. To be sure, the Scripture speaks of Salvation itself as having a past referent, a present referent, and a future referent. We read the following uses throughout:

Past tense:

For by grace you have been saved 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. (Eph. 2:8-10)

Present tense:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor 1:18)

Future tense:

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Rom. 5:9)

It is common in systematics to divide these tenses into differing benefits, past tense being Justification, present tense being Sanctification, and future tense being Glorification. Piper’s breakdown is a bit different in his article:

  • In justification, faith receives a finished work of Christ performed outside of us and counted as ours — imputed to us.
  • In sanctification, faith receives an ongoing power of Christ that works inside us for practical holiness.
  • In final salvation at the last judgment, faith is confirmed by the sanctifying fruit it has borne, and we are saved through that fruit and that faith. As Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:13, “God chose you as the first fruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”

It seems to me that Piper speaks comfortably in both ways, but here is pointing up the judicial or forensic aspect of Salvation relative to both the past and the future. But no matter. I presume we all agree that each of these benefits do in fact flesh out the more holistic meaning of “salvation,” beyond just justification.  But a major problem, as I see it, is that these inseparable benefits of Union with Christ by faith are often unduly disjointed.  They are treated as though one is initially justified—right with God, as Piper puts it—and then one begins the next phase on that bases, i.e., Sanctification; then at the end of the lifelong work of Sanctification, one comes to the Last Judgement, passing through to the final and consummate stage of Glorification. Particularly for Piper, the future aspect of Salvation follows a judgment based upon all of what has gone before. Thus, fruits are brought forward as confirmations of living faith in the Last Judgement such that one cannot properly say that this future aspect of Salvation is “by means of faith alone.”

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