January 19, 2012

White Horse Inn blog "Making Necessary Distinctions - the Call to Discernment"


NOTE 3-14-2016

I have since come to realize that there are definitely problems with soft antinomianism going on in the church today. I wrote the original post here while still not seeing that problem. There certainly is a problem with hammering the law too heavily as well. But that isn't what I'm seeing in my circles at the moment.

Original post follows:

The White Horse Inn blog has a great entry by Michael Horton on Making Necessary Distinctions
A superb article.

In particular I found this "distinction" of "passive vs active" far more Scriptural and helpful  than "passive vs cooperative" or "monergistic vs synergistic." I find this is a much better way to explain it. "Passive vs active" rather than "passive vs cooperative."

Faith receives Christ for everything: not only for salvation from judgment, but for the fruit of good works. However, in justification faith is passive: receiving, resting, clinging to Christ alone for an imputed righteousness even while we are still ungodly. This same faith, in sanctification, is active in good works. Having received everything in Christ, faith goes to work in love and service to our neighbors. There is no justification by works. However, there is no genuine faith (and therefore justification) that fails to bear the fruit of good works. Faith is passive with respect to God (receiving rather than giving), but active toward our neighbors (giving without demanding anything in return).

Related to this, then, is the distinction between faith and works. In determining the basis for our relationship with God, faith and works are completely opposed. However, the justified are free finally for the first time to pursue good works out of love for God and neighbor. Fear is no longer in the driver’s seat, so love can flourish. The proper order is the Word (specifically the gospel), then faith (created by the Spirit through the gospel), then love (which expresses itself in good works).

With this distinction between passive and active righteousness in mind, we can distinguish without separating justification and sanctification. Both gifts are given in union with Christ. At no point is either something that we attain by cooperating with God. He gives it all, in Christ, through faith alone. Even in sanctification, we are passive receivers of God’s grace in Christ, mediated through his Word and sacraments. However, in sanctification we are also active in good works. Faith expresses itself in love.

read more at White Horse Inn blog