Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Legalism, Legalization, and Sanctification

[The following is a comment I posted over at Wes White's blog, Johannes Wesleyanus:  Surprised by Dope:  A Reply to All Souls].

Well said, Wes. I tend to lean more toward the libertarian side of things but then nothing you said is out of step with the whole of the Confession.

My only objection here is that I don’t believe that God will necessarily “bless” the believer who obeys the [moral] Law. After all, Christians still get sick, get divorced, and other tragic things when they might not deserve it from the perspective of their faithfulness to God, to Scripture, the Confession and the Church. Our good works are only acceptable to God after justification and then we do not do anything that is above and beyond the call of duty.  (See Article XIV, Of Works of Superogation).

Even though what you have written is on the mark, I have to agree somewhat with the author of the other article that too many church members are too proud and too judgmental. Should I quote it again?

For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7 ESV)

I’ve been around enough churches over the years to know that no one is as holy in person as they might appear from a distance. Visit your local vestry meeting sometime:)

Someone once said, “A judge is a law student who grades his own examination papers.” We tend to forget that sanctification is always relative in this life. But judging us by the standard of the first use of the law, God does not grade on a curve.

I like the way the 39 Articles put it because it is short and concise:

Article XII

Of Good Works

Albeit that good works, which are the fruits of faith and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins and endure the severity of God’s judgement, yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.

Maybe I’m a bit sensitive to this since I have been around the Wesleyan Arminian circles before. The emphasis is mostly on outward conformity to cultural standards like don’t smoke; don’t go to theater; don’t wear long hair if you are a man; etc.

It seems to me that particular Baptists and even Presbyterians have missed out on some solid theology in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer because of the rejection of a formal liturgy. The Latin term, lex orandi, lex credendi applies here. What we pray we believe. If we are not told weekly that we have no inherent power to do what is commanded, then we tend to think we’re the ones doing it. We have to be careful not to fall into the synergism trap. Compatibilism and synergism are not the same thing at all.

That’s why after every command in the Decalogue the prayer book says: Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

If the fall of Jimmy Swaggart proves anything at all it is that making resolutions and commitments and self-determinations not to sin is no guarantee that someone cannot fall into grievous sins. As proud idolaters and lawbreakers we begin to think that falling is what happens to someone else, not us. I would contend that it can and does happen because we forget that it is God Himself who sanctifies us. It is God who keeps us sanctified and keeps us to the end. Once we lose sight of that fact, legalism and pride are just around the corner.

Ashley Null, the Reformed Anglican scholar has said of Cranmer’s theology of repentance:

For Cranmer, the glory of God is to love the unworthy – that’s his fundamental theological tenet. He understood that medieval theology, despite its clear intellectual breadth and brilliance, had a distinct Achilles’ heel – its insistence that you had to be made personally worthy for salvation before God could accept you.

Cranmer believed that this emphasis on merit produced only two possible alternatives – either you had great pride that you were worthy – or you had great despair that you never could be worthy. Neither one, of course, inspired loving obedience. See Ashley Null.

I might also point out that the daily morning and evening prayer services have a biblical confession of sin that is harsh by modern standards. Most Presbyterian churches are big on damning pot smokers, town drunks, and other “sinners.” But they seem to have forgotten Scripture:

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14 ESV)

Too many folks forget that simply because we have an obligation to strive toward holiness does not mean that we ever attain an acceptable level. We in our sinfulness tend to begin to think we’re a little better than the next person. Unfortunately, that is not the case. What am I saying? Basically, even the most sanctified Christian is no better than the town drunk when measured by the first use of the law. The third use of the law is always imperfect and is never the basis for right standing before God now or at the judgment. The barely sanctified new Christian is just as saved as the 80 year old pillar of the church who has no more youthful temptations. That’s grace.

While I agree that we should discipline those who are in open sin, I disagree with the tone of the majority of the remarks in your other post. Maybe we all need to sing Amazing Grace and go through all 18 stanzas?

Sincerely yours in Christ,


WCF 16:6. Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him;1 not as though they were in this life wholly unblameable and unreprovable in God’s sight;2 but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.3


1 Eph. 1:6; 1 Pet. 2:5; Exod. 28:38; Gen. 4:4; Heb. 11:4.

2 Job 9:20; Ps. 143:2.

3 Heb. 13:20,21; 2 Cor. 8:12; Heb. 6:10; Matt. 25:21,23.

Reasonable Christian Blog Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost; Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen. 1662 Book of Common Prayer

No comments:

Support Reasonable Christian Ministries with your generous donation.