Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Revealing Exchange

Stellman: It sounds. I’m going to move on to another quote here. But the fact that you insist that I am asking you in disguise, about the active obedience of Christ being imputed, is telling because I’m quoting the confessional language that the - - that the obedience and satisfaction of Christ are imputed to us. And you’re saying, well, that’s just code for the imputation of active obedience.

Leithart: No. I’m - - I’m saying that I agree with the Confession. I’ve said that in direct. And you’re disputing that I agree with it. And your dispute that I agree with it is based on your convictions about imputation of active obedience.

Stellman: Alright. The protestant doctrine has been too rigid in separating justification and sanctification, more rigid certainly than scripture itself. Justification and definitive sanctification are not merely simultaneous nor merely twin effects of the single event of union with Christ though I believe this is the case. Rather, they are the same act. Yes or no. Do you dis- - do you agree with Dr. Horton who says that affirming that definitive sanctification and justification are the same act is, in fact, collapsing justification and sanctification because definitive sanctification is much more related to sanctification which is what the term our Confession uses than it is to justification. Do you agree with him when he says that what you’re saying here is amounts to a collapsing of the two concepts together.

Leithart: If - - if I can add to my yes or no answer. It’s a collapsing but it’s a collapsing that I think Paul is doing.

Stellman: So, do you think Paul was, was, was a, would have been uncomfortable with our confessional language on this point?

Leithart: Paul certainly uses justify at least in Romans 6:7 in a way that we don’t.

Stellman: So, I’ll take that as a yes.

PNWP Leithart Trial Transcript, Pg. 202-203


  1. Adam, do you think that words always function in exactly the same way in Paul as they do in the Westminster Standards? I appreciate Leithart's point here; moreover, I suspect you'll have some difficulty finding a Reformed theologian who doesn't agree with Leithart on this point: there are multiple levels of discourse, and words don't necessarily mean the same thing at all levels. In short, I fail to see how this is so revealing.

  2. Here is what I find revealing about the exchange:

    1) Leithart admits to collapsing justification/sanctification.

    2) Leithart admits that he would be "uncomfortable with our confession" with regards to this point on the issue of justification.

  3. Adam, learn to be sensitive to nuance or else you'll be guilty of equivocation: Leithart is NOT admitting to collapsing justification and sanctification in that sense that our works now play a part in our justification; he is arguing that there are places in Paul's writing where the two concepts converge. Surely, anyone who wants to defend definitive sanctification, for instance, must concede that sanctification has some kind of conceptual convergence with justification. Secondly, Leithart admitted that Paul (as in the Bible) uses a word differently than the confession does; if that's his being uncomfortable with the confession, as the transcript indicates, may God multiply that discomfort among us. I fail to see how Leithart should be faulted for being a good, Reformed theologian.

  4. Perhaps I was reading a little too carefully, but it seems that Dr. Leithart was very reluctant in the cross to admit that he saw Paul as conflating justification and sanctification.

    I'll admit that it was far from the most interesting cross of the trial.


Before posting please read our Comment Policy here.

Think hard about this: the world is watching!