What Now? Examining The Doctrine Of Christian Sanctification And Good Works

As of late there seems to be a lot of conversation online over the Lutheran Doctrine of Sanctification.  Do we progress or not in sanctification?  Is the Law and Gospel paradigm incomplete?  Do we cooperate with God in sanctification?  

In order to flesh out the theology of sanctification, I have posted below several of the more popular sanctification articles on PM Notes for your edification.  Enjoy


Unknown said…
There really shouldn't be any debate on a couple of those points. Do Christians cooperate in sanctification? The Confessions answer this question unambiguously: "As soon as the Holy Spirit has begun his work of rebirth and renewal in us through the Word and the holy sacraments, it is certain that on the basis of his power we can and should be cooperating with him, though still in great weakness." SD II.65

We do cooperate, but only due to the new powers implanted in us by the Spirit, and do so in great weakness.

As for progress, there is clarity here as well: "These words say absolutely nothing about our will, nor do they say that it effects something, even in the newborn human being, of itself, but they ascribe that to the Holy Spirit, which cleanses human beings and daily makes them more upright and holier." SD II.35

Call it progressive sanctification, increasing holiness, or whatever you will, but there is no question in our Confessions that Christians do grow in holiness.
Right on Jordan.

To be honest, my concern is with the term 'progressive' sanctification. I have traditionally seen this term linked to Wesley and his pietism. Furthermore, I get concerned with how the old Adam takes and runs with this.

Within my circles of Pietism and Evangelicalism there has been a separation of justification and sanctification. This separation unfortunately leaves room for the old Adam to think he can contribute to sanctification. The old Adam is evicted from Justification and then tries to take up residence in Sanctification. Many in Evangelicalism often believe that Justification belongs to God and sanctification belongs to mankind, thus leaving the door open for the old Adam. As we both know, Justification and Sanctification both belong to God. Furthermore, we would both confess that sanctification happens as we journey through the cross, not around or apart from the cross. Thus, because sanctification is connected to the cross, we know that death is involved in justification and death is also involved in sanctification. The old Adam must find death at the cross and should have no part in justification as well as sanctification.

The great news is that in justification we are put to death and resurrected. In sanctification we are daily put to death and resurrected as well. Daily the old Adam is slayed and the resurrection of the new man comes forth. Daily our sin should be drowned and put to death and the new man should rise up, cleansed and righteous, to live forever in the presence of God.

As far as progress though? I am o.k. with the idea of progress... however, I am less comfortable seeing it as 'movement' and very uncomfortable seeing it as separated from Justification, for that steers us away from Christ. Rather, I think that we can see progress as death to the old Adam, death to sin, daily death of the old Adam in our baptism--our old Adam who by daily contrition and repentance is drowned, and daily the new man arising and emerging to live before God in righteousness.

Grace and peace my friend!
Unknown said…
I absolutely agree, and I am sympathetic with your concerns in using the term "progressive sanctification." We certainly don't want to fall into the error of Wesleyan, seeking some sort of Christian perfection. It's just that there hasn't been any other standard way of speaking of this process. Personally, I like the term "Christification."

In my Reformed background there was a very strict divide between justification and sanctification; it seemed that justification was just the beginning of the Christian life, and then sanctification took over. I've written against this approach, because justification is always central to the Christian walk. (You can see my LOGIA article on justification here: http://logia.org/blogia/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Cooper_Justification.pdf)

It's just my fear that some people have overreacted to Pietism and have neglected to teach good works at all.