A Calvinist drools over the ORDO SALUTIS: Justification, and Salvation by works

If you are an evangelical Christian and someone asks you, “Do you believe in faith alone?, you will probably retort – if the questioner is another evangelical Christian – “What a dumb question, of course I do!” The meaning of “faith alone” is that one is justified by faith alone, not by faith plus works. That is not to say that faith is alone, for works are involved, but not as part of your justification but as part of your salvation.

[W]hen, says Craig Keener, Paul says that a person is justified by faith without works (Rom 3:28), his context makes it clear that he defines faith as something more than passive assent to a viewpoint; he defines it as a conviction that Christ is our salvation, a conviction on which one actively stakes one’s life (Rom 1:5). James declares that one cannot be justified by faith without works (James 2:14)—because he uses the word “faith” to mean mere assent that something is true (2:19), he demands that such assent be actively demonstrated by obedience to show that it is genuine (2:18). In other words, James and Paul use the word “faith” differently, but do not contradict one another on the level of meaning. If we ignore context and merely connect different verses on the basis of similar wording, we will come up with contradictions in the Bible that the original writers would never have imagined. (“Biblical Interpretation” by Craig Keener).

The prevalent Protestant view is that works are the fruits and signs of justification obtained. It matters much what kind of good works you do once you believe. (See Faith and Jerks: The Bible out of context is a con; that’s why James White is not going to hell).

So far so good: most evangelicals believe in (justification by) faith alone (sola fide), but not a faith that is alone, that is, good works are the compulsory fruit of faith.

I was surfing on the couch very tired after a battle with a rabbi during my nightly soul sleep when my wife said, “Don’t you want to go upstairs for a snooze?” I was just about to do so when I came across Michael Patton’s “Do Calvinists really believe in salvation by faith alone.” At first blush, it seems that this question is basically the same as “Do Calvinists believe in faith alone?” in the sense that works for a Calvinist is not part of justification by faith alone, but only the fruit of justification (by faith alone). But Patton like any good Calvinist theologian, or predestined prestidigitator (presto, voilà!), has a trick up his sleeve. Patton doesn’t disappoint. Patton’s point is that justification is only part of salvation where the latter comprises regeneration, faith, works, and glorification. So if a Calvinist believes in regeneration as well as faith, he does so as part of his salvation, not as part of his justification. So. no, Calvinists do not believe in salvation by fait alone.

The dispute between Calvinists and Arminians arises in the logical progression of regeneration and faith. When Calvinism is contrasted with Arminianism, what first comes to mind is God’s role and man’s role in coming to faith. The Calvinist says that man plays no cooperative or contributive role in coming to faith, while the Arminian says that man cooperates with God in that man turns his heart to God, that is, exercises his will to come to faith. In Calvinism, God first regenerates the sinner and then gives the sinner the gift of faith, while in Arminianism, regeneration follows the sinner’s acceptance of God’s offer of salvation. Faith, for the Arminian is something the believer does, not something God gives, as Calvinism understands it. A key text in his regard is:

It is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

This” must refer to at least the immediate antecedent, “faith.” For the Arminian, there’s no way out of it, grammatically at least. Furthermore, if faith, is not your own doing, it must be God’s doing, and that is exactly what “gift” means. The Arminian will retort that because the Holy Spirit is a gentleman (Noel Coward?) he will not force this gift on to you. Does that mean that we must also give God permission to work in us? No, “for we are his workmanship” makes nonsense of that. The Arminian will then say to the Calvinist, and this is the point of Patton’s question, “you don’t believe in faith alone ’cause you believe in faith, ok not plus works, but in faith plus regeneration. The Arminian is confusing the ingredient of justification (which is by faith alone) with the cake of salvation, which consists of other ingredients such as works and glorification.

Read Patton – what a find! His graphics of the contrast between the Reformed Calvinistic, Arminian and Roman Catholic ordo salutis will make you drool.

Time for your nap, darling.”

8 thoughts on “A Calvinist drools over the ORDO SALUTIS: Justification, and Salvation by works

  1. For someone who only confides in Scriptures you are discussing a lottt about writers and words that are not part of the Canonical Scriptures. Isn’t it a bit funny? And also there is no arriving anywhere…How nice to know that after centuries thousands years of discussions we got some good solid dogma in my church 🙂

    But in saying this I am not humble and considerate and a bit of everything nice…but it is true, at least for me…:-)

    • Maria, the scriptures are, for me, primary. What I am doing here is something called theology – using my loaf to try and understand the scriptures – of which there is a truckload in the NT itself (wrestling with the OT).

      Perhaps Roman Catholics are not familiar with the ORDO SALUTIS, the linchpin text of “salvation.” Here it is:

      Romans 8:29-30
      For those he did foreknow [foreloved YAWN], he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

      I yawned because Calvinists get tired – but of course must continue – explaining that it is not God foreknowing WHAT (a person is going to do about deciding to open the door of his reprobate heart to Jesus) but WHO, as in Amos 3:2, God, speaking to Israel says,“You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”

      “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you,” (Jeremiah 1:5).

      “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers’ “ (Matt. 7:22,23).

      I Corinthians 8:3, “But if one loves God, one is known by him.”

      II Timothy 2:19, “the Lord knows those who are His.”

      The Lord knows ABOUT all men (what they will think and do) but He only knows those “who love Him, who are called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28) – those whom the Father gave to the Son before the world began.

      John 17:6-9
      I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. 7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. 8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me. 9 I pray for them: I PRAY NOT FOR THE WORLD but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.

      Maria, you say, “And also there is no arriving anywhere…How nice to know that after centuries thousands years of discussions we got some good solid dogma in my church.”

      The end of the ORDO SALUTIS (order of salvation) is all about arriving, described as “them he also glorified.”

      How does your “good solid dogma” compare?

  2. “the new perspective on Paul” http://dawningrealm.org/papers/faith.pdf
    How could I have missed that what you were doing is called theology therefore interpretation therefore not as you call the simple “ reading of the Scripture”  and anyway how do you simple read without judgment? And who is doing it better? And why your way is supposed to be better than mine? And what are your conclusions…are there conclusion? and which context are you following? Are you considering the whole? Do you know the historical context of the words? To say ‘cool’ today would not compare to say ‘cool’ yesterday and so on 
    Speaking about theology have you heard about : “the new perspective on Paul”?:
    “In 1963 the Lutheran theologian Krister Stendahl published a paper arguing that the typical Lutheran view of the Apostle Paul’s theology did not fit with statements in Paul’s writings, and in fact was based more on mistaken assumptions about Paul’s beliefs than careful interpretation of his writings.[1] In 1977 E. P. Sanders published Paul and Palestinian Judaism.[2] In this work he performed an extensive study of Jewish literature and an analysis of Paul’s writings in which he argued that the traditional Lutheran understanding of the theology of Judaism and Paul were fundamentally incorrect. Sanders continued to publish books and articles in this field, and was soon joined by the scholar James D. G. Dunn. In 1982 Dunn labelled the movement “The New Perspective on Paul”.[3]{ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Perspective_on_Paul

    Click to access faith.pdf

    And by the way as a Catholic I could easily be not aware about anything…I don’t presume to know anything but also I could not be possibly be charged of bankrupting, with my personal assumption and ego, any respectful meaning and not extorted meaning of the Sacred Word of God.

    • I have given my understanding of a few scriptures. Instead of appealing to these “New Perspectives on Paul,” it would be nice to learn how your “simple reading” (which should include its prerequisites such as context, linguistic and other kinds of knowledge) understands the texts under your microscope.

      Also, seeing that you have contrasted my understanding with the “New perspective on Paul,” can you be more specific and show where this contrast lies.

  3. My simple reading? Where did you get this assumption that I was going to give you a ‘simple reading’? I am not a man like you of “only Scriptures”…did you forget already? 🙂
    And the topic is complex and I should consider opening up a blog with my personal understanding on this kind of topics but I don’t have the linguistic ability and perhaps the mental ability and perhaps the motivation and perhaps the desire to do so…then mister you are by yourself on this and on the rest too 😉 I come here, and as a philosopher said, I hit the horse with my spear because it could go to slumber sleep in assumptions.
    IN consideration on how you are faring with the theological reading I brought you…well even if you go on Roshpina you would read in the comments that for example Sanders sounds Catholic and you for sure don’t…then where do you want to start with the differences? 🙂 I would consider only the similarities if I were you at this point…If there are any left.

    actually I see myself more as a fly here…than the horseman… in not inducing a good vacant sleep…if you agree.

  4. Justification is salvation. The Holy Spirit plus works is Sanctification. With justification you are a new spiritual baby. Sanctification is about your beating heart

  5. “This” must refer to at least the immediate antecedent, “faith.” For the Arminian, there’s no way out of it, grammatically at least.”

    False. The Greek syntax clearly demonstrates that the antecedent of “this” is not faith. And this is what happens when you do your exegesis based on the English text and not the Greek.

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