In the recent post, “But How Many Good Works are Necessary?”, Dr. Mark Jones responds to what has probably become a common retort to his insistence that good works are necessary for final salvation. Jones simply believes it is the wrong question altogether, and may even “reveal a legal spirit, not a gospel spirit, that needs mortifying.” I for one think it is a pretty obvious follow up question to being told that good works are necessary for salvation. And I don’t believe this because of “a legal spirit,” or because I am “trying to ignore something glorious” as “one who should know better”; I believe it’s a good question because it is addressed clearly in the Scripture. Yes, as a matter of fact, it is not only an acceptable question, but it has a Biblical answer.
We have dealt with various defenses of John Piper’s rejection of Salvation Sola Fide over the last several posts. We first dealt with the claim that he was really just pointing out that Justification and Sanctification are inseparable (HERE). I agree entirely. But both are benefits of union with Christ, faith alone being the instrumental cause of this union. We next looked at the claim the Piper is really just pointing out that “salvation” is a broader term than justification (HERE). I grant this as well, but justification simply is the present declaration of the future verdict, and both are based on the merits of Christ, received by faith alone. And last we responded to Dr. Mark Jones’ rejoinder that Piper is really just infelicitously employing the Reformed Scholastic distinction between Right to Salvation and Possession of Salvation (HERE). We concluded from Thomas Goodwin that the Right to Salvation includes the “whole lump,” not only justification but also final salvation. Justification does not equal Right and final salvation does not equal Possession. There is a right to the whole and a possession of the whole. And the right to the whole lump is had by faith alone.
We come now to another defense that seems to be popping up here and there, particularly via The Calvinist International. The rub seems to be that the best lights of the Reformed tradition have always acknowledged a “Double Justification,” one by faith and the other by works. The implied argument is that Piper is really just talking about these two historically allowable justifications, but modern evangelical and Reformed readers can’t see this, being unaware of the tradition and frightened by words and phrases that don’t fit the modern gloss. But this is absurd. Simply pointing out that there are different senses and uses of the concept “to justify” covers no ground toward solving this dispute. Remember, what is at issue is Piper’s claim that only justification is through faith alone whereas Final Salvation is through faith and fruits, good works being proper conditions and requirements for attaining Heaven (see HERE). So simply pointing out that we can use the word “justify” when speaking of works is irrelevant to the question of whether we are saved now and on the last day by the merits of Christ alone, received by faith alone, or by faith plus “sufficient” fruit.
In this post, I intend to move beyond the theologia/oikonomia distinction of use Class 1 and begin to piece together the developments that led to our current usage of the distinction (Classes 2 and 3), at each step assessing the orthodoxy of the claim that the Son is economically subordinate to the Father in eternity. I will focus largely on the works of Herman Witsius and John Owen due to their popular work on the Pactum Salutis and the corresponding expansion of the oikonomia beyond the use of the Fathers. Also, an important contrast between these two great theologians will prove polemically valuable to our study as they differ on the implications of their shared doctrine re: the subordination of the Son to the Father.
“Economic” Subordination of the Son? Part 2: the Pactum Salutis
We began this study by considering the revised Ligonier Statement on Christology’s inclusion of the clause, “We deny the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father in the ontological Trinity,” noting the debilitating ambiguity of the denial. There are simply too many ways that theologians define the ontological/economical distinction such that the most ardent opponents of the Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) as well as its most ardent proponents can affirm the Statement’s denial. I went on to identify three different use classes of the distinction as found most commonly among those discussing ESS:
Class 1. The “economy” as in the oikonomia employed by the Church Fathers in contrast to the theologia.
Class 2. The “economy” as in the Economic Trinity, “the activity of God and the roles of the three persons with regard to creation and redemption,” as contrasted with the Immanent Trinity, “the Trinity in itself, without regard to God’s works of creation and redemption” (via Ligionier). The former is the Trinity considered in se, as God is in His inner most life and being and the latter as He is considered ad extra in His works and operations revealed in history.
Class 3. The ESS usage of “economy,” which includes all of Class 2 Economic Trinity, but also illicitly includes the internal, interpersonal, relations of the Trinity.
(I say “use classes” because the defining edges of these groupings are admittedly rough.)