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.
I have received multiple comments over the last two weeks that prove I have not been nearly as clear as I’d hoped to be with reference to John Piper and Salvation Sola Fide. (I am a pretty rough writer, I know.) They are generally of the sort, “Piper does not teach that we are Justified by works, but by faith alone,” or “Piper says all the time that good works are simply the fruits and evidences of faith, just like we do,” or “Piper teaches that all who are Justified will in fact be saved on the Last Day—no exceptions.” What makes this so difficult is that I agree with each of these statements. I have never questioned these nor claimed that Piper thinks otherwise. Though we do disagree in some measure on the meaning of the terms, and explicitly on the implications of the concepts, I am positive that all in this discussion agree on the following very important propositions:
I concluded my most recent post with this plea: Either Defend What Piper Actually Wrote, or Stop Offering Shade. Dr. Mark Jones was kind enough to respond in his post, “Piper ‘Plagiarizing’ Thomas Goodwin?”
The content of his response was largely just pointing out (1) that not everyone in the Reformed Tradition has agreed that Adam was offered life by merit, and (2) that Thomas Goodwin wrote something on Sanctification so close to Piper, that it is possible there is plagiarism (obviously in jest). Indeed, the words are very close. The content? Not so close. I hope to show this below.
In Mark Jones’ recent post, “A Brief Wrap-Up,” we read the following:
[P]lease note that I firmly believe, with all my heart, that we are as justified as we will ever be when we first believe. We cannot ever lose our justification. When Christ returns we will enter heaven based purely on the imputed righteousness of Christ. Along the way to heaven we will do good works that God has prepared for us in advance to do. These works are not optional (Rom. 8:13), but they do not have the merit to justify us before God. They are simply the path we walk on to eternal life. I agree entirely with Zacharias Ursinus in his commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism on good works.
I also agree entirely with Ursinus (see HERE) and agree entirely with this brief summary. In fact, this was my understanding when I first read John Piper’s controverted post; I was nevertheless quite concerned by it.
This post is a continuation of “Part 3” of the series below, assessing the tradition with respect to John Piper and his defenders:
Salvation Sola Fide: Zacharias Ursinus and the Heidelberg Catechism
I our first post in this series, “Rachel Miller Contra Mundum? The 5 Solas and John Piper,” we showed from the Heidelberg Catechism and its principal (or sole) author, Zacharias Ursinus, that the instrumental cause of the whole of Salvation is faith. We read the following from the Catechism:
20: Are all men, then, saved by Christ as they have perished in Adam?
A: No; only such as by true faith are engrafted into Him, and receive all His benefits.
We discussed that these “benefits” are the two-fold grace of Justification and Regeneration/Sanctification/Glorification, the first answering to our guilt in Adam and the second to our corruption inherited in Adam. As the Catechism says, we receive both of these benefits by Union with Christ through faith. And as Ursinus comments,
“[W]e cannot look on personal holiness, or good works, as properly federal and conditional means of obtaining the possession of heaven, though we own they are necessary to make us meet for it.” ~The Marrow Men
As we continue in our series to consider John Calvin, it needs to be noted up front that, like Luther (see HERE), Calvin often puts Salvation for Justification and Justification for Salvation. And like Luther, for good reason. As we argued in Part 1 one of this series, the benefits of Justification and Regeneration/Sanctification are inseparable and are together granted by Union with Christ through the instrument of faith. Thus Calvin writes: