What is the objective/subjective justification controversy all about?

October 8th, 2013 Post by

The intended points of a properly-explained objective/subjective justification teaching have always been a part of Lutheran doctrine. But these points were brought out with greater clarity and emphasis, and with the use of some new terminology, at the time of a nineteenth-century controversy between the Norwegian Synod and the Augustana Synod over the nature and character of absolution. The Augustana Synod said, basically, that absolution is an expression of a divine wish for forgiveness, but that without faith on the part of the recipient, there is no actual forgiveness being offered. The Norwegian Synod said, in contrast, that absolution is a real divine impartation of forgiveness. Forgiveness for all is objectively present in, and offered through, absolution. This is so because humanity’s forgiveness in Christ is an objective reality, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. And this objective forgiveness or justification of humanity, in Christ, is the content and power of absolution – and of the means of grace in general.

Absolution, and the means of grace in general, deliver this forgiveness to penitent sinners. When individuals believe the divine word of forgiveness, they are, by that faith, justified in the “subjective” sense. Those without faith do not receive the absolution, or benefit from it. But their absolution was objectively there for them in the Word of Christ, since the absolution of the world is there, for the world, in the Word of Christ.

No individuals as individuals are justified in the “objective” sense except for Jesus. Jesus suffered and died as the representative of all humanity, and was condemned by God the Father on behalf of all humanity. In Christ’s condemnation, all humanity was vicariously condemned. On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead – still as the representative of all humanity – and was, in his resurrection, thereby vindicated and justified by God the Father on behalf of all humanity. In Christ’s justification, all humanity was vicariously justified. This is the completed gospel that is now proclaimed, delivered, and applied to penitent sinners, in and through the means of grace; and that is received by them, individually, by faith alone.

Again, these basic points have always been the teaching of Confessional Lutheranism. The terminology and the emphasis have varied, but the essential teaching of an objective justification of Christ, in the stead of the world and on behalf of the world, has always been held. This fact is demonstrated in these assembled quotations from Luther, Gerhard, and others.

I will draw attention to the form of teaching employed by Johann Gerhard in particular, since he is quite clear in making the same essential point that the later teaching of “objective justification” also sought to make. Gerhard acknowledged the significance of the “justification” of the divine-human Christ in his resurrection, when he noted that, according to “the apostolic teaching in 1 Timothy 3:16, God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit (namely through the resurrection by God the Father), that is, he was absolved of the sins of the whole world, which he as Sponsor took upon himself, so that he might make perfect satisfaction for them to God the Father. Moreover in rising from the dead he showed by this very fact that satisfaction has been made by him for these sins, and all of the same have been expiated by the sacrifice of his death.” Gerhard said this in the context of also making the point that the later “subjective justification” teaching sought to make, noting that “Because Christ arose, we are therefore no longer in sins, since most assuredly full and perfect satisfaction has been made for them, and because in the resurrection of Christ we are absolved of our sins, so that they no longer can condemn us before the judgment bar of God. … This power of the resurrection of Christ includes not only the application of the righteousness that avails before God, but also the actual absolution from sins, and even the blessed resurrection to life, since by virtue of the resurrection of Christ we are freed from the corporal and spiritual death of sins.” These statements are from Gerhard’s Disputationes Theologicae (Jena, 1655), XX, p. 1450 (emphases added).

At its best, the current controversy over objective justification is a battle over words, freighted with much misunderstanding and confusion. At its worst, however, it may represent – in the case of some of the opponents of objective justification – a denial of the complete objectivity of the forgiveness of sins that is offered and delivered through the means of grace to penitent sinners. What absolution offers is not a potential forgiveness, to be actualized in faith. Absolution offers instead a real and accomplished forgiveness in Christ, to be received by faith. If you believe the latter, rather than the former, then you believe in objective justification.


Categories: Pastor David Jay Webber Tags:




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  1. Stef
    October 8th, 2013 at 08:34 | #1

    Ah, nice explanation – Thank you!
    I wondered what all the fuss was about :-)

  2. October 8th, 2013 at 09:22 | #2

    As I note in the post, when objective/subjective justification is “properly explained,” it is a doctrine that would be seen clearly to focus on Christ as humanity’s substitute and as humanity’s Savior, and would not fairly be perceived to imply or teach “universalism.” In a recent essay on objective/subjective justification, WELS Pastor and District President Jon Buchholz warns against careless or misleading ways of presenting this teaching, and he calls upon people in his own synod – and I suppose in all synods – to explain this doctrine always in a Christ-centered manner that preserves the distinction between law and gospel, and that emphasizes the necessity of the means of grace. That helpful essay is online here.

  3. Rev.Dave Likeness
    October 8th, 2013 at 10:07 | #3

    The late Dr.Robert Preus explained it this way:

    Objective justification is the fact that Christ
    died for the sins of the whole world.

    Subjective justification is when I personally
    believe that Christ died for me to forgive
    my sins.

  4. quasicelsus
    October 8th, 2013 at 14:36 | #4

    could anyone be so kind as to provide resources that speak to objective justification, unlimited atonement, and election? this all kinda overlaps with some curiosity i’ve been having.

  5. October 8th, 2013 at 14:53 | #5

    I guess my hesitation to the “objective justification” argument comes from hearing the accusation of “Arminianism” come up whenever it’s considered.

  6. Joel A. Dusek
    October 8th, 2013 at 16:21 | #6

    Rev. Webber,

    As you say, “the current controversy over objective justification is a battle over words, freighted with much misunderstanding and confusion”. “Atonement”, “redemption”, “universal” “objective”, “subjective”, “justification”, “universalism”, “limited”, “Huber” “Hunnius”, and various parts of the Confessions and Scripture all get thrown into the mix and it has been difficult to discern what each writer means at a particular time. My poor layman’s mind can do no justice to the studied theology presented on both sides, but I agree that much of the controversy arises from misunderstanding and talking past each other. The details of the controversy over justification are well-presented in the Lutheran blogosphere, at sites such as Intrepid Lutherans, ELDoNA, and others. And, also at the worst though from the opposite side – in the case of some proponents of universal justification – it also represents a denial of the Means of Grace and the necessity of the gift of faith.

    As a layman, I simply hold to the idea that Christ died to redeem and atone for the sins of the entire world for all time, and that Christ’s righteousness, that is the forgiveness of sins, that is justification, is only received through faith. There is one justification, achieved by Christ alone and applied by faith alone. All are redeemed but not all are justified; there is no justification apart from faith which is itself a gift of God. The objectivity of justification means that man can contribute in no way to his righteousness, and without faith created and sustained through the Means of Grace there is no justification.

    One caveat, let the reader be aware: Buchholz’s essay presents WELS’s sectarian teaching, specifically on a dual justification (objective and subjective), and a universal justification of all mankind for all time apart from faith. It is worthwhile to read, but must be examined with diligent comparison to the Scriptures and the Book of Concord. His essay is rebutted on other Lutheran websites, and the reader would be well-advised to examine these rebuttals, as well as the background of the controversy within the WELS AZ-CA District.

    Joel Dusek

  7. October 8th, 2013 at 16:35 | #7

    @Joel A. Dusek #6
    Mr. Dusek, could you please give examples of papers or websites that can show what you mean when you wrote:

    ” And, also at the worst though from the opposite side – in the case of some proponents of universal justification – it also represents a denial of the Means of Grace and the necessity of the gift of faith.”

    Thanks

  8. Joel A. Dusek
    October 8th, 2013 at 16:57 | #8

    Rev. Abrahamson,

    I believe it to be the continuation of the “universal justification” argument (I’m trying to be careful with the labels): If ALL men for ALL time have ALREADY been justified – made righteous – then there is no purpose for faith or the work of the Spirit. Granted, it is an extreme viewpoint, but is a logical extension (to whatever extent logic is worth).
    I will try to post the citations you ask for later this evening.

  9. John Rixe
  10. October 8th, 2013 at 17:57 | #10

    @Joel A. Dusek #8
    Mr. Dusek, thank you for being willing to do this.

    Also, perhaps it was a typo, but forensic justification is not “made righteous” but “declared righteous” or “declared innocent”.

    The logical extension you propose probably is done by some, but that does not make it correct logic. Nor does that fallacy invalidate forensic justification. Even in human events a criminal declared innocent by a human court does not invalidate that verdict if he rejects that verdict. The verdict stands: he might through guilt continue to demand or inflict more punishment upon himself, or he might revel in the verdict and use it as an excuse to continue in crime. But neither extreme invalidate the verdict, logical as his reasoning might be.

  11. Joel A. Dusek
    October 8th, 2013 at 19:28 | #11

    Rev. Abrahamsom,

    I’m afraid I’ll need definition to avoid misunderstanding and confusion, as Rev Webber put it.
    What is “forensic” – as opposed to any other type- of justification?
    Is this perhaps at the core of the controversy: “made righteous” vs. “declared righteous”?

    Indeed, logic may be reasonable but wrong. Rev. Webber presented an extreme position held by some – denial of objectivity in justification. I was attempting to present an equally extreme and incorrect case held by some – denial of the Spirit’s Means of creating faith. Perhaps I failed in my wording.

    God’s Peace,
    Joel

  12. October 8th, 2013 at 21:35 | #12

    @Joel A. Dusek #10

    Joel, It’s not really two justifications. The point is that the reality of the single event of justification is participation by faith. I’m sorry if this comment comes off as harsh, but I simply do not understand what is so difficult about understanding this doctrine. Absolutely no one who uses the terminology of objective/subjective justification believes in a dualism of justification, or in universalism. I have never read a theologian who uses this terminology who speaks poorly of the means of grace. What I do see is a great many people who don’t necessarily understand all the theological terminology and therefore get goated into thinking that universalism is being taught when it isn’t. Or people who think that they can crack down on bad behavior in their church by making grace conditional.

  13. October 8th, 2013 at 22:09 | #13

    Thank you Dr. Kikrease for that comment. It is right on target.

    BTW – got to smoke a few cigars with your friend Donnovan Riley at our pastors conference last week. He speaks highly of you and your encyclopedic knowledge and now I can add to that, the simple understanding of the simple and evangelical doctrine of subjective/objective justification. Like you, I cannot figure out why people want to deny this godly, Scriptural teaching.

  14. Joel A. Dusek
    October 8th, 2013 at 23:01 | #14

    Dr. Kilcrease,

    I completely agree, there is only one justification. It IS quite a simple doctrine: Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross paid for all the sins of everyone and through God-given faith in Christ all believers are justified. (I analogize justification in printing terms: to be made even. Through Christ we are made even with God, brought in line, we’re straight.)

    I am a simple layman, unschooled in the deep reaches of theological examination. Indeed, I prefer my theology simple – and my politics like a boxing match. Sadly, on this issue, within and among church bodies and people, theology and politics are intertwined. Theology becomes a prizefighter and politics its cornerman. Accusations of “divisiveness” and “heresy” are the back-alley fight fixers.

    Unfortunately, perhaps in attempts to explain that justification only comes to believers through faith created by the Means of Grace, the teaching of dual objective and subjective justifications exists. Contemporarily, this is most notable in the WELS’s “This We Believe” statement (which is presented as WELS’s confession in lieu of the Book of Concord). While theologians may not speak poorly of the Means of Grace, by creating a strict distinction between objective and subjective justification the Means are segregated from faith in Christ. This is simply unnecessary.

    God’s Peace,
    Joel

    (Still have to get to Rev Abrahamson’s request for citations on extreme cases of universal justification.)

  15. Joel A. Dusek
    October 9th, 2013 at 01:35 | #15

    Rev. Abrahamson,

    Here are a few of the more commonly cited positions which separate justification from faith, a position I reject. Since the Means of Grace are how the Spirit creates and sustains faith, rejecting faith necessarily rejects the Means, ja?
    These are WELS-centric, but since the current controversy is largely within that body, it makes sense they would be.
    Also, I got it: “forensic” = courtroom or judicial meaning. “Declared righteous” vs “made righteous” irrelevant to this discussion.

    “At the time of the resurrection of Christ, God looked down in hell and declared Judas, the people destroyed in the flood, and all the ungodly, innocent, not guilty, and forgiven of all sin and gave unto them the status of saints.” (Kokomo thesis #4, defended on and off by the WELS)
    -justification without faith in Christ

    WELS President of MLC, Mark Zarling,
    “…In Jesus, God has declared the entire world righteous and forgiven, irregardless (sic) of whether or not the world believes it.”
    http://www.wlsessays.net/files/ZarlingJustification.pdf
    - justification without faith in Christ

    WELS CA/AZ District President, Pastor Jon Buchholz 2005 Convention Essay
    “‘God has declared the entire world righteous.’ This statement is true, as we understand it to mean that God has rendered a verdict of ‘not-guilty’ toward the entire world….”
    http://www.wlsessays.net/node/390
    -justification without faith in Christ

    WELS Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Prof. Forrest L. Bivens
    “To phrase it somewhat differently, God has justified, acquitted or declared righteous the whole world of sinners. He has forgiven them…. If justification is universal, it must also be objective; sinners have been forgiven whether they believe it or not.”
    http://www.wlsessays.net/files/BivensMessage.pdf
    -justification without faith in Christ; also comfusing in that “universal” is rightly applied to atonement and “objective” is rightly applied comparing Christ’s work and Man’s works.

    “The latter is subjective justification and followings objective justification. It is a two step process for a believer to become fully justified and righteous.” – Comment on Intrepid Lutherans, not an official teaching but shows the progression of thought, justification is a two step process.

    For the record, I am not a member of any church body and will not defend or criticize on any basis but orthodox, Confessional Lutheran doctrine.

    If you’ll excuse my absence from the comments now, I’ll be preparing to take heed the words of Genesis 27:3.

    Grace and Peace,
    Joel

  16. October 9th, 2013 at 04:39 | #16

    @Joel A. Dusek #14

    “He is the payment for our sins, and not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2)

  17. October 9th, 2013 at 07:44 | #17

    @Joel A. Dusek #13

    Right, Joel, it isn’t a matter of “simple” vs. a “complex” explanation. As Pastor Webber right notes, the origin of the controversy was about what happens in absolution. The question of objective justification is whether faith is a condition of forgiveness. If we are going to speak the gospel as a promise and not as a demand (i.e., law) then we must say that God has in the risen Jesus already pronounced a word of unilateral grace. Otherwise, our preaching practice would be something like “well, you can’t do the Ten Commandments, so instead do this work, i.e. have faith.” Now the response of the anti-objective justification folks would be that faith itself is a gift, and so, if we are reconciled by a work of faith, then it is something God is working in us. But that’s Augustine and the Roman Catholic Church’s position- namely, that God works in us to met his expectations. Rather, for Lutherans, for faith to really be faith, it has to have an object that is a promise of a reality that is already there (your sins are forgiven), not demand a work that may potentially save you (if you have faith (a condition) then your sins will be forgiven).

  18. October 9th, 2013 at 08:19 | #18

    @Joel A. Dusek #14

    Hope the hunting goes well.

    I’ll start with Zarling.
    You wrote:

    WELS President of MLC, Mark Zarling,
    “…In Jesus, God has declared the entire world righteous and forgiven, irregardless (sic) of whether or not the world believes it.”
    http://www.wlsessays.net/files/ZarlingJustification.pdf
    - justification without faith in Christ

    In your summary you quote a version of the paper that is different from what you linked to. Perhaps Zarling or an editor corrected the word “regardless.” Perhaps you merely accepted the bare quote given to you from a trusted source. But the difference reflects the fact that the quotation along with the “(sic)” was not taken from a reading of the essay that you actually linked to.

    The quotation is from the second page and is taken completely out of context. Your summary is that he teaches “justification without faith in Christ.” But that misrepresents what Zarling actually wrote. The short line you quote is one line from a section describing the terminology concerning Justification. Here is where he says we must be careful in how we use these descriptions so that justification by faith through the means of grace is maintained and that we do not go into the errors of universalism or synergism.

    So that readers can know in context, please read the paper. Here is the quotation in context. The quotation is in bold italics:

    Three phrases are usually applied to the teaching that God has forgiven the sins of all men: Objective justification”, “general justification”, or “universal justification.” Most of the time these terms are interchangeable. Stoeckhardt 3 seems to prefer “general justification,” while Pieper 4 talks of “objective reconciliation.” Only Dr. S. Becker carefully delineates between objective and universal justification.

    “Universal justification” is a term denoting the doctrine that God has forgiven the sins of all men. Strictly speaking, the term “objective justification” expresses the thought that the sins of a man are forgiven by God whether he believes it or not. Objective justification is not necessarily universal, but if justification is universal it must of necessity be objective. 5

    Perhaps such a distinction is helpful if it assists us in understanding the glorious Gospel: In Jesus, God has declared the entire world righteous and forgiven, regardless of whether or not the world believes it. Such is the jewel described by objective, universal, or general justification.

    Yet Scripture goes on in revealing how God appropriates this good news to the individual. God creates faith in the heart of a sinner, faith which trusts that since I am part of the world, I also am declared righteous for Christ’s sake. This personal appropriation is some times called “subjective justification” or “individual justification.” Perhaps we can keep objective and subjective justification in perspective if we think in terms of the Creed. Objective justification is really the result of Christ’s work, and therefore belongs in the Second Article. John Schaller says, “The evangelical preacher will remember that this justification must be the main theme of all Easter sermons, and the Christian teacher in general will recognize that the doctrine of justification is basically and primarily taught in the second article of the Creed!” (emphasis original) 6 The individual’s appropriation of this truth is a gift of God the Holy Spirit working through the Means of Grace. Therefore, subjective justification would come under discussion in the Third Article.

    However, we need always to be on guard against falsely promoting two types of justification. There is only one divine diamond. Trying to separate the diamond will only shatter it. Men, with their puny languages, try to grasp the infinite mercy of God. But just because we use different terms does not mean there are different doctrines. There are three articles to the Creed, but that does not mean that there are three Gods. There is only one God, whom we call the Trinity; human language is attempting to explain the mysteries of the Almighty One. So it is with justification. Do not try to cut the diamond in two. To do so will only result in falsehood. The truth would be shattered. Objective justification apart from subjective justification leads to universalism. A subjective approach to justification apart from an objective basis would lead to synergism. We quote from President Mischke’s newsletter of June, 1982.

    A word of caution may, however, be in place. It may be well to remind ourselves not to divide “objective” and “subjective” justification as if they were two totally different things which can be treated in isolation from one another. They are rather the two sides of the same coin, and there can be no “saints” or salvation without faith. To teach otherwise would indeed be universalism.7

    Theological terms can be helpful in describing the various facets of the diamond of all doctrines—justification. Yet terminology might cause confusion or result in controversy. Rather than debate the terms, we need to grasp the Scriptural truth.

    The quotation of the fuller context demonstrates that Zarling was not denying justification through faith alone by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Means of Grace. It also shows that Zarling was fully aware of the dangers present in misrepresenting the doctrine of Justification without teaching the whole, by misunderstanding the terminology, or by misrepresenting the terminology.

    We can go through the other quotations if you want. I hope you do. I believe that a reading in context will show you that the charges listed under your quotations are without merit.

    Respectfully,
    Pr. Abrahamson

  19. Joel A. Dusek
    October 9th, 2013 at 09:51 | #19

    Pastors,

    Thank you for your responses. I must keep mine brief, then apply 1Tim 5:18 and tread grain.

    Pastor Crandall: A hearty, emphatic, and unequivocal “Yes!”. Isn’t this, though, referring to atonement, not justification?

    Dr. Kilcrease: The simple becomes complex, perhaps due to well-intentioned attempts at explanation. In an effort to keep it simple: faith, created and sustained by the Spirit through the Means of Grace, is the mechanism by which we receive forgiveness achieved by Christ’s vicarious atonement on the cross. A person is not justified but through faith in Christ, by the Grace of God. Those with faith are forgiven, those without faith are not forgiven.

    Pastor Abrahamson: Thanks for the correction. Yes, I lifted the quote from a trusted source and will be more careful in my citations. I agree that context is essential, and Rev. Zarling, and the others, and “This We Believe” all go on to explain their positions, but mix definitions while trying not to mixing definitions, and divide “objective” and “subjective” while cautioning not to divide “objective” and “subjective”! In context, I find much that is agreeable in his writing. However, his starting premise, the quoted passage, to me is unclear at best and wrong at worst in that it suggests a universal justification apart from faith.

    I’ve very much enjoyed this discussion, and thank you all for sending me to further examination of the Scriptures and Confessions.

    Grace and Peace,
    Joel

  20. October 9th, 2013 at 10:27 | #20

    @Joel A. Dusek #18

    Two points: First, the “simple” account that you give is not more or less simple than the oj/sj distinction. Part of my point on the first post was I fail to see how this is hard and how so many people (particularly in the WELS) find this so confusing.

    Secondly, your account of “atonement, then faith in atonement” leaves out a step. And that step is the unilateral promise of God the Father to forgive on the basis of Jesus’ atonement. That is what objective justification is. It is not merely universal atonement. Again, the irony about the anti-objective justification group is that they endlessly complain about the denigration of the means of grace. But then they want to make the atonement this bear fact which one has faith in, and then the result is justification They take away any mediation from atonement. They miss the step of saying that God has mediated the fruits of atonement to us through a unilateral verdict of “not guilty”. Said verdict comes to us only through the means of grace- not as an abstract general idea that there has been an atonement out there and that only if I believe in it will I get something out of it. If God does not promise those fruits to us in a concrete form, which our faith grasps, then it is meaningless because he has chosen not to share them with us.

  21. Pr. Jim Schulz
    October 9th, 2013 at 10:46 | #21

    On his web site Pr. Webber refers to a Kurt Marquart clarification on the subject. What Marquart said:

    “No one actually has forgiveness unless and until he receives it by faith.”

    http://www.angelfire.com/ny4/djw/MarquartClarification.pdf

  22. October 9th, 2013 at 11:07 | #22

    Joel A. Dusek :

    However, his starting premise, the quoted passage, to me is unclear at best and wrong at worst in that it suggests a universal justification apart from faith.

    That hits at the heart of the matter in the use of these quotes. They are read out of context, given a meaning and implication different from how the authors used them. This foreign and inaccurate meaning is attributed to the author as if it were his foundational premise. Then the author is judged based upon this wrongly attributed meaning.

    I would suggest that the difficulty you have in understanding what Zarling wrote in his own terms is not due to difficulty in his language, but may be mainly due to how strongly you hold on to a view that is wrongly attributed to him.

    I thank you for your patient consideration in this exchange.
    God’s blessings.

  23. Joel A. Dusek
    October 9th, 2013 at 11:46 | #23

    Pastor Abrahamson,

    Forgive me, but Rev. Zarling suggests the descriptions and definitions of “objective, universal, or general justification” are helpful in understanding the Gospel, which he defines as “In Jesus, God has declared the entire world righteous and forgiven, regardless of whether or not the world believes it.” Since he then delves into those descriptions and definitions, how is that statement not his foundational premise?

    These descriptions and definitions are helpful in understanding objective, universal and general justification, but these confuse the Gospel of justification by grace through faith.

    Perhaps I am reading too much into it, but it is not from a bigotry against this viewpoint. I just have yet to be convinced. I’m really not trying to be contentious.

    God’s Peace,
    Joel

  24. Joel A. Dusek
    October 9th, 2013 at 12:16 | #24

    @Dr. Jack Kilcrease #20

    Dr. Kilcrease,

    Sorry, did not mean to leave out the promise. As stated in the Formula of Concord

    http://bookofconcord.org/sd-righteousness.php#para25

    “For not everything that belongs to conversion belongs likewise to the article of justification, in and to which belong and are necessary only the grace of God, the merit of Christ, and faith, which receives this in the promise of the Gospel, whereby the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, whence we receive and have forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, sonship, and heirship of eternal life.”

    Simple.

    God’s Peace,
    Joel

  25. October 9th, 2013 at 12:36 | #25

    @Joel A. Dusek #23
    Mr Dusek,
    Thank you. I realize the difficulty in communicating through this particular medium. It is difficult to write directly about a topic and address particulars without it seeming like a rant. But please be assured I understand. Neither am I trying to be contentious. I appreciate being able to write directly without having to take out statement insurance for those who tend to read emotional extremes into posts.
    Again, thank you for your patience and for keeping to the points as you read them.
    I haven’t time for a while to respond. But I will try to get back later.
    In Christ,
    Pr. Abrahamson

  26. Joel A. Dusek
    October 9th, 2013 at 13:33 | #26

    “…statement insurance…”, I like it! Is that covered by Obamacare?
    Yes, I went there… ;-)

  27. Noye Balmer
    October 14th, 2013 at 11:53 | #27

    Greetings in Christ’s name,

    I see I’m joining the conversation a bit late…

    I have enjoyed the hearty discussion and am edified. Thank you all.

    Throwing in my 2 cents here…as if it’s needed….

    I understand (in my frail mind) that perhaps some of the confusion comes from not perceiving that God’s declaration all men to be righteous based on Christ’s obedience is a CONTINUING act. His action towards man is not limited to the Crucifixion / Resurrection event in history in the sense that His action of justification of all men – but especially those who believe – (objective & subjective) is “locked up in” that point in time. He is doing this work since the creation and perhaps arguably before but solely in and for the sake of Christ. What I mean is if we think of the event in history of Christ’s Crucifixion / Resurrection as the only point from which God makes His dual work of objective/subjective justification valid or efficacious then the further we get from that point in time (either direction) the less efficacious or valid it is for someone removed from that central singular event in history. (It is a Darwinian / Aristotelian influenced understanding of divine justification.)

    In other words God is in many ways although many are unseen quite active in the lives of men and in this world and not at all removed.

    What makes this more confusing is what was well stated by others. Often laypeople (myself included) and many pastors don’t grasp or haven’t grasped the nuances or even the fundamentals of the doctrines in discussion and their relationships to one another and then misapply them in their lives, in the lives of others, or Christendom at large. For example, God’s work of justification, His work of atonement, His work of imputation, His work of mediation, His work of sanctification and so on get put in the blender with flawed human reason and out comes a confusion margarita. Sorting it all back out is challenging and done in great weakness.

    Thankfully His Word is truth and He is at work in our lives by it to produce faith in our hearts and sanctify us and our understanding of Him and His Word and work.

    Noye Balmer

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