James White and Progressive Justification
Live Link: Sunday 5/22/2016 @ 2pm.
Discussion of short discourse with James White on UK radio show about progressive justification.
Susan is under the weather with some back problems so we will fill in with this discussion on progressive justification. However, Susan will be calling in and joining the discussion. The script follows:
JUSTIN: Hello. Is that Paul?
PAUL: It is.
JUSTIN: Hi, Paul. It’s Justin, and we tweeted each other about you coming on to do a discussion with James White.
PAUL: Yes, we did.
JUSTIN: Are you good to do this recording?
PAUL: I am.
JUSTIN: All right. Okay. And how should I pronounce your surname, Paul?
PAUL: Doh-se, Paul Dohse, D-O-H-S-E.
JUSTIN: Like [UNINTELLIGIBLE] Dohse.
PAUL: That’s absolutely correct.
JUSTIN: Okay. Now look, I’m going to introduce you as our wild card here.
JUSTIN: Neither James [UNINTELLIGIBLE] come across what you described as the Reformation progressive justification. So you have to kind of explain it first before we can respond to it, if that makes sense. But we only got ten minutes as well, so it’s going to have to quite kind of quick back and forth between you both. Is that going to be all right with you, Paul?
PAUL: Yes, it is. I just have seven questions that I want a yes or no answer for.
JUSTIN: You just want a yes or no answer question.
PAUL: Correct. And if there’s any time left, we can have discussion on number one.
JUSTIN: Okay. Well, look [UNINTELLIGIBLE] I can imagine that James will not be able to just respond with a yes or a no, depending on the question. I’m sure there will be some clarification he wants to bring to the way you ask it probably.
JUSTIN: We may not [UNINTELLIGIBLE] question one is one thing, okay?
JUSTIN: We’ll give it a go. Okay?
PAUL: All right.
JUSTIN: All right. [UNINTELLIGIBLE], Paul. Hold on.
JUSTIN: So let’s take another caller, and today on the program, we’re getting James White to respond to a few calls. Coming in, James, again, is Director of Alpha and Omega Ministries. If they want to find your website, James, where should they go?
JAMES: AOMIN.org, A-O-M-I-N.org
JUSTIN: And they can find things there too [UNINTELLIGIBLE]
JUSTIN: [UNINTELLIGIBLE] talk about what happened on today’s program. But [UNINTELLIGIBLE] sort of our wild card [UNINTELLIGIBLE] Paul Dohse is on the line. I don’t know Paul. You don’t either. Neither of us [UNINTELLIGIBLE] his main issue with Calvinism with [UNINTELLIGIBLE] Reformation. He says [UNINTELLIGIBLE] something called progressive justification. I’m just beginning to find out what that is. Paul is on the line now and has a number of questions that he wants you to answer, James. So we’ll see where it gets you in the last ten minutes that we got with James here, Paul. And welcome on to the program. What did you want to ask James, Paul?
PAUL: I would just like seven yes or no answers to seven questions, and I understand that there could be more discussion on these questions, but I just want a yes or no answer that would be…
JUSTIN: Yes or no.
JUSTIN: James, I’m sure, will try his best, but he may want to clarify your questions, obviously, [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. But go ahead.
PAUL: Okay. Number one, did John Calvin hold to progressive justification?
JAMES: You have to define what you think that means, sir. It’s a very strange terminology. What do you think progressive justification means?
PAUL: Well, what it means is that justification isn’t a finished work in the life of the believer. Justification or salvation progresses from a beginning point to an ending point.
JAMES: Okay. Then the answer to your question is he most assuredly believed that justification is a forensic declaration by God that takes place and is a past event, and he differentiated between justification, sanctification and the entirety of salvation. So to meaningfully answer the question, you have to utilize his categories, and he does not believe in progressive justification. He believed in both conditional and progressive sanctification. And we differentiate between justification, sanctification and salvation.
PAUL: Okay. So what you’re telling me, and we must move on quickly to the second one, but what you’re telling me is that as a Calvinist, the term “progressive justification” is a little bit peculiar in your mind. They’re strange.
JAMES: Well, it goes directly against the Reformation teaching of what justification was because this argument was wrong, was that justification involved an infusion of the righteousness of God to the sacrament. The Reformers taught that justification was a forensic declaration of the part of God based upon the work of Jesus Christ that says that you are right before God. And they talk about the imputation of the righteousness of Christ and the imputation of our sins to Jesus Christ, our sin bearer.
PAUL: Right. Okay. So you’re saying that the righteousness of the believer is strictly positional but not a state of being.
JAMES: State of being in the sense of being the basis of justification?
PAUL: No, I’m not talking about the basis of justification at all. I’m talking about the substantive being of the individual believer. Is he righteous or not righteous?
JAMES: Well, that’s exactly where we do get into the differentiation between the concept of sanctification and justification [UNINTELLIGIBLE]
PAUL: Okay. So I think the rest of the questions might help us to clarify, but we only have ten minutes. So I must move on.
JAMES: Okay. Go ahead.
PAUL: Question two, in one of three classes of election–the non-elect, the called and those who persevere–did Calvin teach that the called classification are temporarily elected/illuminated and then fall away to a greater damnation as predetermined by God?
JAMES: He believed that there were certain people who received enlightenment specifically to increase their damnation, yes, but he would not say that they were a part of the elect from eternity.
PAUL: Thank you. Question number three, according to Calvin, does the present sin of the believer remove them from grace requiring a return to the same repentance that saved them which can only be found in the institutional church?
JAMES: In the institutional church…
PAUL: Or let’s say the Reformed Church.
JAMES: Well, no. Now you’re using the term “grace” almost in the Roman Catholic concept of that day, the falling from grace or being a state of grace or something along those lines. Calvin’s doctrine of sin, obviously, is that there is a need for repentance experientially in the person’s life and their relationship with God. But if you’re talking about one of the elect, that does not separate them from the life of Christ. That’s where they have to be re-justified or something like that.
PAUL: Right, and that nails it, the re-justification part of it. So that nails it. So your answer to that one is no. okay, number four, the sola fide…
JAMES: [UNINTELLIGIBLE] questions. I’m kind of intrigued as to where this is all leading, Paul. What’s, I mean, [UNINTELLIGIBLE] we’re not going to catch all your questions at all before we have to [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. What’s your ultimate point? [UNINTELLIGIBLE] Calvin was right. You think the Reformation was, you know, didn’t get it right? [UNINTELLIGIBLE]
PAUL: Well, I think fundamentally – here’s what I think, and I really wanted to end the crux of – the crux of this getting the answers to all seven questions that will help clarify, but can we quickly get a yes or no answer to the rest of the questions, and then I can answer your question?
JAMES: Well, okay. So, yeah. Okay, go ahead then.
PAUL: Okay. So where were we on? Okay, so number four, does sola fide also apply to sanctification as well as justification?
PAUL: Thank you. Number five. According to the Reformed…
PAUL: According to the Reformed doctrine of mortification and vivification, does the Christian relive their original spirit baptism throughout their lives as a result of practicing the same repentance that originally saved them?
JAMES: I don’t understand that question.
PAUL: Okay, let’s move on. Number six, does total depravity, the T in TULIP, also apply to believers? According to the Reformers, do Christians remain totally depraved?
JAMES: Not in regard to ability, no. There’s a new creation. So there’s a fundamental shift and change of spiritual life.
PAUL: Thank you. Number seven. Can a Christian do any work pleasing to God?
JAMES: Only by grace.
PAUL: So by grace, they can do…
JAMES: So yes, yes. The answer is yes because you said Christian. That means a new creature in Christ [UNINTELLIGIBLE] by the Holy Spirit of God. So yes, obviously [UNINTELLIGIBLE].
PAUL: Okay. So we can park on this a little bit with what little time we have left. So what you’re saying is that, yeah, so Christian can do a good work by grace. But when the Reformers spoke of grace, really, what they were talking about is salvation. So what you’re saying is…
JAMES: No. [UNINTELLIGIBLE] fundamental understanding of the fact that – and yes, when we talk about Reformers, [UNINTELLIGIBLE] Calvin and Luther [UNINTELLIGIBLE] differences of opinion on minor elements [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. So they’re all monergists. And it is a very common error to think the term “salvation” is meant to be taken synonymously with the elements of salvation–regeneration, sanctification, adoption–which are distinguished from one another scripturally and hence, theologically as well. [UNINTELLIGIBLE]
PAUL: Roughly, what percentage of the Reformers, and just roughly, just a general idea. You say that there’s disagreement amongst them. How many of them roughly would have believed that sanctification is purely monergistic?
JAMES: Purely monergistic…
JUSTIN: And so let’s just [UNINTELLIGIBLE] define monergistic.
JAMES: Okay. All right. Monergism is the idea there is one force acting to accomplish something. Synergism is a cooperation of forces. So I’m a biblical monergist. I believe in God, regenerates by his own power [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. So he initiates [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. He accomplishes. It’s nothing on our part exactly. [UNINTELLIGIBLE] sanctification. And of course the difference here is, are we talking about positional sanctification? We have been made holy [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. Or are we talking about the experience of being [UNINTELLIGIBLE] the image of Christ or a – not a positional but an experiential…
JUSTIN: [UNINTELLIGIBLE] ongoing.
JAMES: An ongoing thing. That’s why Paul uses the [UNINTELLIGIBLE] those who are being saved, those who are perishing [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. So they had discussions about these things. I can’t give you percentages, but the problem I’m sensing here in the questions is not using the terminologies that they did in the way they did [UNINTELLIGIBLE].
JUSTIN: Can I just get a clarification here? Because we are going to have to leave in a moment, Paul. But [UNINTELLIGIBLE] fundamental problem that you think Calvin and the other Reformers [UNINTELLIGIBLE] they didn’t really preach a – they didn’t really get the Reformation right because ultimately it’s still in your view become something about works or righteousness. Is that what you’re saying?
PAUL: I believe that Calvin and Luther taught a false gospel, and I think that…
JUSTIN: [UNINTELLIGIBLE] Reformed enough in your view? They didn’t [UNINTELLIGIBLE].
PAUL: No. No. I think they taught a type of works salvation by perpetually returning to the same gospel that saved us to keep ourselves saved, and I’ve got so many quotes from Luther that you would want on that.
JUSTIN: I’m going to have to leave it there from you, Paul, but thank you for calling in.
PAUL: You bet.
JUSTIN: Have you come across this before?
JAMES: No, not in that form.
PAUL: Wow, really?
JAMES: There are a lot of people who [UNINTELLIGIBLE]. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the questions, I realized there’s all sorts of differences about the subjects being discussed as far as most Reformed scholars and even history of Reformation, but it is important to recognize that you’ve read the Institutes [UNINTELLIGIBLE] written by Calvin, that he makes very careful distinctions, very careful thinker, in differentiating what’s called the ordo salutis, the order of salvation, differentiating sanctification and justification, and he was very clearly on what the nature of justification is. [UNINTELLIGIBLE] before God is because [UNINTELLIGIBLE] Jesus Christ. Nothing else. We don’t add to him. Everything else is a gift and grace in our lives, but it does not add to what our standing is before him.
JUSTIN: We’re going to have to leave you there. Thank you, Paul. [UNINTELLIGIBLE]
PAUL: Okay. Thanks for having me on. Thanks for having me on, Justin.
JUSTIN: Thank you, James, for [UNINTELLIGIBLE].
PAUL: All right, bye-bye. Take care.