Monday, March 19, 2012

A conversation on Salvation

Is sanctification part of salvation?

Following the rabbit trail that began here.

From my viewpoint, as a Lutheran, salvation (rescue) and justification (pardon) are one-in-the-same. Whereas, sanctification is the prompting of God's grace as a result of justification (our salvation). As I understand it, sanctification is not salvific (saving) but it is a God-prompted response to salvation. Continuing the conversation started elsewhere, is sanctification part of salvation?


  1. Deal me in on this conversation -- I'm following from reclaimingthemind.

  2. In response to what you're saying there... Sanctification isn't saving you from God's wrath; but if the Wesley Holiness people are right, sanctification saves you from the presence of sin. My understanding of Calvinism (as a Reformed Baptist I'm supposed to know) is that most Calvinists believe sanctification is about weakening the desires of the flesh and strengthening the desires for things of the Spirit -- so there's an element of salvation in it, even though it's not the "blessed hope".

    I'd like to hear how Lutherans view sanctification, from your confessional point of view. My previous understanding (given in the hope of correction, not as something I will defend) was that they view it as imputed (i.e. NOT a change in us as the Westminster confession indicates), but imputed both by God and by us, in that we "reckon" (impute) "ourselves dead to sin but alive unto Christ." This reckoning, along with confession and repentance, is "mortification"; it means, to the faithful, that our sinful desires are not gone, but they are "dead to us" not only in the social sense but in anticipation of their death with the transformation of our bodies at the Resurrection. Or so I understand it. And I like it, by the way.


  3. Something's wrong -- I can't subscribe to the comment feed from Google Reader. This will make it a lot harder to follow the conversation.

  4. Wm,

    As a part of Luther's theologia crucis (Theology of the Cross) the righteousness of Christ is imputed upon us, it's given externally by God. If you recall my Lutheran Ordo, the only thing humanity gets credit for is Original Sin. We call this the Sinner-Saint tension. Though justified by the universal grace of the cross (given to all; rejected by some) we remain sinners. Yet, it is that justifying grace that prompts sanctification. Both justification and sanctification are the external work of God. Once justified by the cross, we are born anew in baptism, which inducts us into the church, and begins the sanctification process. We return to that baptism and continue being sanctified in Word and Sacrament with the Eucharist, where we confess our sinfulness, and are absolved by the Spirit of Christ.

    Though we are participants in sanctification, Christ is the active participant because we are bound to sin. Thus, sanctification is part of the vocational call in response to God's grace in justification. We are not saved by sanctification. Rather, we are declared saved, forgiven, and justified amidst sanctification because of justification; all of which is the work of God in Christ.

    God chooses us, God atones for us, God justifies us, and God sanctifies us. We are recipients of these things. We cannot choose them because of our sin nature. We may reject them, but God's grace was given to all, so how that works is a mystery of God.

    Part of the reason I think Lutheranism is unpopular or obscure to some is because it's founded on grace that God is in control, which de-emphasizes piety. In turn, sanctification is not part of salvation, but the result of it.

  5. OK, I got the RSS feed to work.

    I think I like the contrast between the Theology of the Cross in contrast to the Theology of Glory.

    On the other hand, I simply don't get the Lutheran distinctive wherein grace is given to all, we are saved by grace apart from our willing or working, and yet man is free to reject. I HEAR how this is bound up in the humility described by the Theology of the Cross, but it doesn't seem humble; it seems boldly self-contradictory. Truly, I don't mean to be nasty by saying that... It's embarrassing to admit that I can't think of another way to express my lack of understanding, and be assured that I chalk it up to my own misunderstanding. The closest I can come to a guess is that grace is given to all, then some will use their bound will to reject, while others will NOT use their bound will and wind up saved. I just don't see how that helps explain anything; to me, failing to choose is a choice.

    As a Calvinist, I just don't think man's will is an active part of salvation at all (except as something that is raised from the dead); when our will is natural we ALWAYS reject. The "natural man" cannot see the things of God (so there's nothing to reject); the "spiritual man" not only sees them, but desires them (so there's no reason to reject).

    I do understand your correction of my comments on justification and sanctification. That's good sense, thank you.

    OTOH, I definitely understand why you'd emphasize that Lutheranism is founded on grace; it certainly is. Luther's writings are brilliantly persuasive on the topic. I wonder, though, whether you realize you're talking to a Calvinist right now; this is a point where Calvinist believe MORE in the "bondage of the will" than Lutherans. (OK, not _really_, but it seems that way to some.)


  6. Hew Wm, as I read the prior comments, I have to admit I might have been able to word that better. Luther and Calvin would agree, humans are not active in salvation because the bonded will can never choose God. But, because the bonded will can never choose God it may reject it. This is not a choice because it is our nature to reject God. Therefore, grace is resistible on account of the sin nature, but that is not so much choice as it is reality. Where Luther and Calvin diverge here is how election works. Grace has been given to all by the work of the cross (death and resurrection) many will be saved, some won't, and how that works is a mystery of God.