Kurt Vonnegut channeled via Twitter
Right. So this is a biggie theologically. Many of us seem to struggle with the difference between justification and sanctification (all of which might be included in the term salvation), or with answering the question of are we saved, really are we?
Kevin DeYoung of The Gospel Coalition, has blogged about why Christians need to put effort into our sanctification (the process by which we become more saintly). Salvation is by faith alone, but the process by which we become who we are really meant to be, DeYoung maintains, is hard work in response to Jesus’s hard work on the cross. You can read what he has to say on his blog Kevin DeYoung: Deyoung, Restless and Reformed (what a naff name). His advice is pretty good overall. Not just theoretical, but as practical as you can be on a blog post meant to get people thinking about things.
Tullian Tchivichian’s response (also on TGC) is great though. His blog, Tullian Tchivichian: on earth as it is in heaven (seeking the city that is to come)–now that’s not a naff name–gets it right when he reminds us that justification and sanctification cannot be separated, and that justification is not the first step to sanctification. Its not a sequence.
Sanctification is a grueling process. But it’s NOT the process of moving beyond the reality of our justification but rather moving deeper into the reality of our justification. If sanctification could be likened to our responsibility to swim, justification is the pool we swim in. Sanctification is the hard work of going back to the certainty of our already secured pardon in Christ and hitting the refresh button over and over.
Great words those. So what does all that have to do with the Socrates, Sartre and Sinatra?
Tullian goes on to say: “This is why when Jesus was asked in John 6:28, “What must we do to be doing the works of God?” he answered, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him who he sent.”
Interesting. That’s the work of God? And here is why:
Actively, our work is to daily battle the root of all sin: unbelief (Calvin said that Christians are in perpetual conflict with their own unbelief). Passively, our work is to receive and rest in his work for us which is a terribly painful thing because we are all seasoned “do-it-yourselfers.” As it was with Martha in Luke 10:38-42, so it is with us: we just have to be doing something. We can’t sit still. Achieving, not receiving, has become the mark of spiritual maturity. It is much harder to rest in his promise of grace than it is to make a list and try to live by it. With this in mind, Martin Luther wrote, “To be convinced in our hearts that we have forgiveness of sins and peace with God by grace alone is the hardest thing.”
Do, be. Do, be. Do, be. Catching on yet? Justified, sanctified.
But all of DeYoung’s and a lot of Tullian’s points are utterly, almost blindly individualistic in their outlook. Yes DeYoung talks about encouraging each other, exhorting and challenging each other and all that… but it’s all about you and me and not about us. So its good advice but it misses a bit of a trick.
Now if you have the time and inclination, watch the video below. It’s from the great RSA speech illustration series. It’s about late capitalism and why in reality, we are pacified, numbed and lulled into a false sense of choice and freedom. I agree with a lot of it, but I think the problems that are in the video are not caused by capitalism per-se, but radical individualism coupled with an over-obsession with self, which can sometimes be typified in Christian subculture by thinking and talking and wondering about my individual state of salvation and my individual state of sanctification. I’m not saying those are wholly bad things. But bearing in mind that the New Testament was written for a people who had much more of a collective identity I am wondering if the emphasis that DeYoung and others take on these things is blind to an overarching societal evil which is not helped by their expounding on these subjects in individualistic terms.
Here’s the video. While watching try and superimpose your concept of self, your ideals of the church and how we relate to each other in relation to sin. I know it’s not a perfect analogy but my aim is to get us to think:
What did you think of that last statement? What is our malaise and why is it there?