Two Calvinists talk about holiness

Calling all Wesleyans. Here are two Calvinists — very popular ones — talking about sanctification. So, what do you hear that you can say “amen” to, and what do you hear that makes you say, “Wait a moment.”

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4 thoughts on “Two Calvinists talk about holiness

  1. Hi John!

    Let me qualify my comments by saying that I respect Piper and Keller. Oh, that we in Methodist circles would wrestle with our theology in similar ways.

    That said, I have often thought that Reformed theology fails because it wishes to say that the believer will learn to love law-keeping because regeneration must necessarily make it so. Because of their theology of perseverance, the damning realities of the law lose their weight and the focus is much more heavily focused on how much Christians should revel in keeping the law. My observation, therefore, is that the Reformed tend toward a theology that either leads to belief that we are upholding the law in its fullness (if we’re truly regenerate) or a sloppy once saved/always saved theology that looks the other way. Either way, it leads to one very important mistake. It ultimately elevates us and lowers the bar on God’s law, which often ends up leading to moralism because they need to start looking for other problems to tackle. We Wesleyans are also prone to moralism, but for reasons not connected to Wesley’s theology.

    Wesleyans would assume that the threats of the law are of just as much power after conversion, for we can ultimately choose to reject the graces we have been given. Unlike the Reformed, we never move beyond the knowledge that we still desire sin when we turn our eyes to the right and to the left, and that this war can derail our faith if we do not cling to the gospel promises of Jesus Christ. Our problem is that we do not allow the weight of Wesley’s theology to work itself out in our churches, so we create moralities that we perceive to be more easily accomplished and acceptable to our neighbors. Everyone likes a neighbor who participates in flood relief. Few people “like” a pastor who preaches strongly on the corruption of the human heart and the futility of good works as a means of self-justification. If we would just let our theology of the law play out, though, we would realize we don’t need moralisms because the law is a great equalizer. It accuses all of us all the time, and bids us to turn our attentions back to our sole hope and salvation…Jesus. When we are thusly humbled and rightly oriented, we are then prepared to truly serve our neighbors for Christ.

    With apologies to my Reformed friends, it is for this reason that I believe a Reformed theology naturally leads to self-sanctification, whereas I believe Lutheran and Wesleyan soteriology naturally leads back exclusively to Christ as both our justification AND our sanctification (though it doesn’t always work out that way). We war with the flesh, and this war means we MUST be reminded that the law’s condemning nature doesn’t change and that Christ alone redeems and sanctifies us. If we are willing to tell the truth, I think we would all confess that God’s law continues to accuse us because none have kept it by the letter, much less the spirit. Christ did, though, and as Keller says in a quote I read yesterday, this reality should compel us to sense the necessity of placing our eyes back onto faith’s proper object (Christ alone).

    Many blessings,
    Adam

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