Monday, April 10, 2006

Classic Calvin on Justification

I was reading some of the Institutes today, and came across a few quotes which were keepers. Concerning Justification. Here they are (with bold highlighting of some of the classic Calvin phraseology that caught my attention)...

Osiander laughs at those men who teach that “to be justified” is a legal term; because we must actually be righteous. Also, he despises nothing more than that we are justified by free imputation. Well then, if God does not justify us by acquittal and pardon, what does Paul’s statement mean: “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing men’s trespasses against them” [2 Corinthians 5:19]? “For our sake he made him to be sin who had done no sin so that we might be the righteousness of God in him.” [verse 21 p.] First, I conclude that they are accounted righteous who are reconciled to God. Included is the means: that God justifies by pardoning, just as in another passage justification is contrasted with accusation. This antithesis clearly shows that the expression was taken from legal usage. Anyone moderately versed in the Hebrew language, provided he has a sober brain, is not ignorant of the fact that the phrase arose from this source, and drew from it its tendency and implication. Where Paul says that righteousness without works is described by David in these words, “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven” [Psalm 32:1; 31:1, Vg.; Romans 4:7], let Osiander answer me whether this be a full or half definition. Surely, Paul does not make the prophet bear witness to the doctrine that pardon of sins is part of righteousness, or merely a concomitant toward the justifying of man; on the contrary, he includes the whole of righteousness in free remission, declaring that man blessed whose sins are covered, whose iniquities God has forgiven, and whose transgressions God does not charge to his account. Thence, he judges and reckons his happiness because in this way he is righteous, not intrinsically but by imputation. [Institutes 3.11.11]

Here they have an ingenious subterfuge: even though they have not devised it themselves but have borrowed it from Origen and certain other ancient writers, it is still utterly silly. They prate that the ceremonial works of the law are excluded, not the moral works. They become so proficient by continual wrangling that they do not even grasp the first elements of logic. Do they think that the apostle was raving when he brought forward these passages to prove his opinion? “The man who does these things will live in them” [Galatians 3:12], and, “Cursed be every one who does not fulfill all things written in the book of the law” [Galatians 3:10 p.]. Unless they have gone mad they will not say that life was promised to keepers of ceremonies or the curse announced only to those who transgress the ceremonies. If these passages are to be understood of the moral law, there is no doubt that moral works are also excluded from the power of justifying. These arguments which Paul uses look to the same end: “Since through the law comes knowledge of sin” [Romans 3:20], therefore not righteousness. Because “the law works wrath” [Romans 4:15], hence not righteousness. Because the law does not make conscience certain, it cannot confer righteousness either. Because faith is imputed as righteousness, righteousness is therefore not the reward of works but is given unearned [Romans 4:4-5]. Because we are justified by faith, our boasting is cut off [Romans 3:27 p.]. “If a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But God consigned all things to sin that the promise might be given to those who believe.” [Galatians 3:21-22 p.] Let them now babble, if they dare, that these statements apply to ceremonies, not to morals. Even schoolboys would hoot at such impudence. Therefore, let us hold as certain that when the ability to justify is denied to the law, these words refer to the whole law. [Institutes 3.11.19]

I wonder what Calvin would say about Bishop Tom Wright and his views on justification...

(PS thanks to Bob Vincent whose page I copied from because my Battles edition of the Institutes was on a different computer...)

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