Monday, January 21, 2013

Knew Review: For Calvinism (7)

Having made it through Horton’s attempted defense of TULIP (or TUPEP), we gladly turn to the final three chapters (and a brief afterword) from his book “For Calvinism.” The first of these deals with how Calvinism relates to the Christian life. Being that Calvinism tends to put so much emphasis on regeneration and justification, it faces the charge of potentially de-emphasizing the subsequent work of sanctification. In other words, what does Calvinism have to say about the Christian life?

I found it a bit odd that Horton started by saying that Calvinism faces charges of both antinomianism and legalism. It may be true, but certainly I’ve encountered the former mindset (since I’m saved/elect, I don’t need to be holy) more often than the latter (there’s a bunch of rules we must follow) in Calvinistic circles. More oddly, though, he only spends two paragraphs responding to the antinomianism threat (though, briefly, he does say the right things: There is a moral law, but it is not the way TO life, but OF life, for Christians… “There is no justification without sanctification”).

The bulk of the chapter is about how piety works in Reformed churches. The emphasis is on the group. The group is sanctified through the sacraments, impacting individuals within the congregation (which is worth noting, since this is how I think Horton should view election as well). Piety is like a stream that flows from God to congregation to individual believer to their unbelieving neighbors. Much of this material was very helpful and corrective.

A couple of statements really caught me off-guard, in a good way. For instance, near the bottom of page 138 he said, “God’s work always calls forth an appropriate Spirit-wrought human response.” The word always is key. Would that include regeneration? Or is he only talking about sanctification here? It’s a very Arminian sounding statement, in and of itself.

Since Horton emphasizes corporate sanctification, he spends a good bit of time rebuking the anti-institutional house church movement while also rebuking the practice of non-biblical traditionalism. He also talks about the pitfalls of both the Wesleyan and Keswickian models of sanctification. He concludes that the problem with the Arminian models is that in them “the Christian life is supported by grace but dependant ultimately at every stage on our activity. Human activity is not a response to God’s work as much as it is a cooperation with God’s work that actually determines the outcome of one’s salvation—at least the level of heaven that one occupies.” Switch the order of the words “supported” and “dependant” and I’d pretty much be fine with that quote, as I think God would be.

All in all, not a bad chapter. It emphasizes the corporate nature of sanctification. It alerts us to some of the dangers of individualistic piety. And it reminds us that good Calvinists really do care about sanctification (just like good Arminians really do care about justification).

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