Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What does it mean to "put on" Christ?

Though Protestants have often tried to argue that the 'clothing analogies' in Scripture correspond to the notion of "Imputation" (having our unrighteousness covered by the imputed righteousness of Christ), upon careful examination they actually far better align with the Catholic view of salvation.

The first thing to understand when talking about the Catholic view of salvation is that there is a distinction between Nature and Grace. Protestants generally either deny this or don't have the philosophical foundation to really know what it is, but in Catholic tradition the distinction is as plain as day.

The ream of Nature is that which pertains to man as a creature, with his human abilities corresponding to the way God designed human nature to operate. Man can think, breathe, eat, see, imagine, love, etc, all according to his natural powers which his human nature makes possible for himself. Man's nature does not enable him to fly, run at high speeds, see in the dark, etc. Though these are possible within the created realm (e.g. some animals can fly, run fast, see in the dark), they don't belong to man as a natural human ability. More on this in a bit.

The realm of Grace is that which pertains to the uncreated order of existence, namely the Divine. These are things which, by definition, rise above and beyond the natural realm, into the super-natural realm. (The term "super" literally means "above and beyond".) Since God is a super-natural being, and man is a created, finite being, there is obviously an infinite gap between Creator and creature. Grace is what 'bridges' that gap (to the extent it is possible) by equipping man with super-natural gifts that enable man to now interact on a super-natural level with God.

While man can naturally love, naturally believe, naturally hope, etc, these natural actions don't transcend the created order. As an example, a pagan can believe in God and love God, but this is a mere natural-level human faith and human love. These are not sinful actions, but rather they, by definition, fall short of the super-natural Intimacy that God desires. God desires the intimacy with us on a deep level like the intimacy husband and wife share, but without grace the intimacy level will fall very short of deep intimacy, such as that of loving food and 'having faith' that a bridge wont collapse when you're on it.

Back to the comment that man cannot fly, run at high speeds, and see in the dark, etc, there are tools that can enable man to do this. An airplane enables man to fly, a car enables man to run at high speeds, a flashlight lets man see in the dark. These natural 'accessories' change how man lives. Similarly, grace is a super-natural 'accessory' that enables man to change the way he lives. Grace equips man with the super-natural level of believing and loving, rising (literally) infinitely above the natural level of believing and loving. And as with the human examples of plane, car, and flashlight, preserving man's natural integrity, Grace also isn't destroying or removing human nature, but rather 'elevating' it's performance to new, unimaginable heights.

Now when examining the 'clothing analogies' in Scripture, keep the Nature and Grace distinction in mind, for it's the lens by which these analogies make the most sense. 

The Greek word endyo, which simply means "to clothe" (or "put on"), is used in both a literal and metaphorical way throughout Scripture. Paul frequently uses the term in his Epistles, so I will look at the analogies he employs when using the word: 
Rom 13:12 So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. ... 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Gal 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Eph 4: 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness

Eph 6: 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. ... 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness

Col 3: 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience... 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

1 Thess 5:8
But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
While it might be tempting to read texts that speak of "putting on Christ" as having "Christ's Righteousness Imputed," this interpretation immediately falls flat when the texts in question are consulted. For example, putting on armor suggests equipping someone, building on their nature; not imputing armor to them even though they're actually unarmed. Same thing with putting on love, kindness, humility, meekness, etc. These are inward dispositions, not something external that is imputed. The context in which these virtues are stated clearly indicate they are special to the Christian alone, which corresponds to grace building on nature. And the notion of putting on "the new self" also doesn't fit with an external imputation, since the point is that the Christian is a new creation, a radical inward change has happened. This is why each time "put on the new self" is mentioned, the context is that of "renewal of minds" and "created after the likeness of God".

Thus, the "putting on Christ" most certainly corresponds to having Christ indwell in your heart (Jn 14:23), as Paul says: "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Eph 3:17). And Galatians 3:27 is especially clutch in this regard, for it says that it is the Baptized who have "put on Christ," which is a huge contradiction to "putting on Christ" by faith alone. In Paul's mind, Baptism is understood to be transformative (e.g. Col 2:12; Rom 6:6).

The Protestant is really trapped on various fronts here. And if they say "putting on Christ" isn't a matter of justification, then there goes any hope of pinning it to the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness.

Two texts that show this "putting on" can only refer to the grace-building-on-nature paradigm are the following: Luke 24:49, which speaks of the Apostles being "clothed with power from on high," speaking of the Holy Spirit actually coming upon them and transforming them at Pentecost. And 1 Corinthians 15:53, where Paul says mortality must "put on immortality," referring to the fact our resurrected bodies will still be our human bodies but graced with a special grace that prevents us from experiencing pain and death. There is no "imputing" going on here.

The Bible also talks about the white robes of the saints in Heaven (Rev 6:10-11; 7:14). The description given shows that this signifies a pure soul, not some external covering. In Our Lord's parable of the wedding garment in Matthew 22:10-13, tradition has interpreted this "wedding garment" as being in a state of grace, being worthy to enter Heaven. This signifies a personal holiness, not a legal imputed holiness of another that ignores the inward heart of the wedding guest. The parable of the Prodigal Son takes on the same analogy when the father order the servants to clothe the returned son with a new expensive robe, signifying a restored status. 

Lastly, I will look at a passage that Protestants frequently point to, Zechariah 3: 
3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by. 6 And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua, 7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.
In this analogy, Joshua is lacking clean garments to be able to stand before God and needs God to give him clean ones. Given that the Catholic clothing paradigm is already well established and the Protestant clothing Imputation paradigm isn't, the Catholic paradigm should be given preference here.

In this analogy, Catholics would view the pure vestments as Grace that 'builds on' Joshua's nakedness (human nature). It's not that Joshua's nakedness is an evil thing in itself, but rather it is bad because in the context of appearing in God's house one must be properly dressed. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest had to put on special robes (not just regular clothing) to enter the Holiest place (Lev 16:23), which surely signifies that we cannot enter Heaven under normal circumstances. 

The advantage of the Catholic view with this analogy is basically this: Catholics don't need to separate Justification and Sanctification the way Protestants do. Protestants say the inner sanctification of a person is different from the outer righteousness of a person, so in this analogy even though Joshua appears outwardly righteous, inwardly he is still unsanctified. In other words, in the Protestant view Joshua is legally entitled to enter God's house because he is wearing the proper clothing, but his heart is not necessarily clean. Obviously, it's absurd to say a person is legally entitled to enter Heaven even though inwardly their heart is polluted by lusts. In the Catholic view, Justification is based upon Sanctification, so the cleaning of the filth on Joshua and the clean robe signifies that he isn't just clean outwardly, but inwardly as well.

When all is said and done, the clothing analogies really support the Catholic view far better than the Protestant view. And even if the Protestant really pushed examples like Zechariah 3 or Issac seeing Jacob dressed in the fancy clothes of Esau (Gen 27:15), at most the Protestant could hope for is a draw (which doesn't help the Reformation). More importantly though, the Protestant view certainly has no merit with Paul's clothing analogies, nor is Imputation supported anywhere in Scripture to even give it a place at the possible-interpretations-table. So the Catholic can be very confident that the clothing analogies are indeed fashionably Catholic.

UPDATE: Someone in the comment box pointed out another great point from Revelation 3:4-5,
Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
He pointed out that this "defiling garments" cannot refer to man's nature, because all men are born sinners. And equally this cannot be Christ's Imputed Perfect Righteousness, since this cannot be defiled by definition. So this garment can only refer to being clothed with grace and defiling this through grave sin.


James Jordan said...

Putting on Christ is just a metaphor for start doing right. Put off the old man -- stop doing those bad things -- and put on Christ -- start doing what's right. It has nothing to do with Protestant imputation nor with Catholic mysticism either one.

Anonymous said...

James, since Paul is--as you have made very clear to us--a "Gnostic," shouldn't we interpret him through a Gnostic lens?

James Jordan said...

So what's your Gnostic interpretation of putting on Christ then?

Anonymous said...

Why not the "Catholic mysticism" one? ;)

James Jordan said...

I'll grant you that Paulcion probably meant something like that. But he's Paulcion, so who cares?

Paulcion = Paul + Marcion ,since Marcion is the real author of the Paulina.

Daniel said...


Accepting the chronology that says 1 Clement was written around 97ADish and the chronology that says Marcion of Sinope was born around 85 ADish, and given that 1 Clement alludes to or quotes Romans ( Romans 1:32, Romans 12:5, and Romans 9:5. )...

So that makes Marcion not only forging Romans, but doing so when he was 13.

Same for the Didache (c. 100 AD), where it quotes Ephesians 6:5-6.

Hold on there's more...

Polycarp quotes from Galatians. Galatians is a big deal right, because that's where you all misinterpret Tertullian's claim that Marcion "found" Galatians to mean that the work was unknown until Marcion penned the work in Paul's name? What Tertullian is doing is teasing Marcion, and it's a jab against him. I'll explain by analogy.

It would be as if you, as a Protestant said 'Aha! Nick, even your Church teaches that only God forgives sins!'

And Nick says, 'Well I see James finally discoverd paragraph 1441 of the Catechism!'

That doesn't mean Nick is claiming that you, James Jordan, forged the Cathechism of the Catholic Church.

But on with my argument:

So Polycarp quotes from Galatians at least thrice. That's significant because Polycarp's scribe for his epistle to Philippians is Crescens, the Bishop of Galatia.

Crescens personally knew Paul (2 Tim 4:10).

Galatians was written at least in part by Paul's own hand (6:11).

Crescens could vouch for the letter's Pauline authorship based on that.

Game. Set. Match.

James Jordan said...

The standard chronology is based on Ireneaus' attempt to make the heretics all later. Justin Martyr writing about 140-150 says of Marcion that he is STILL teaching and STILL alive. Clearly some surprise is expressed on both counts, which makes the standard chronology from Irenaeus of Marcion beginning his preaching career in 140 AD into absolute nonsense. PEr Justin, Marcion did not BEGIN in 140, but was WINDING DOWN in 140-150.

James Jordan said...

"Galatians was written at least in part by Paul's own hand (6:11)."

Actually most scholars now consider this kind of statement in a text as proof of its inauthenticity. Forgers commonly make statements like that to trick lazy credulous people, and it works too. Here you are arguing that simply because there's a sentence that says "Look I wrote this in my own hand" that this proves the letter is authentic. Man those forgers sure knew how to trick those who were born yesterday.

Daniel said...

Makes. No. Sense.

If your theory is true, then Crescens would immediately recognize the Pauline epistles as a forgery and wouldn't use them.

Unless he was in on it. At which case we would have Crescens being besties with Marcion on the one hand and Polycarp on the other, when Polycarp considered Marcion the "firstborn of Satan."

Very improbable.

And still you are stuck with the chronology of the didache and 1 Clement. I find it hard to accept any timeline that places the Didache after the Gospel of John, surely you agree with this???

So if the Didache is before John died, then that still makes Marcion forging the Pauline Epistles before he hits puberty.

It's a stupid theory.

James Jordan said...

"So Polycarp quotes from Galatians at least thrice. That's significant because Polycarp's scribe for his epistle to Philippians is Crescens, the Bishop of Galatia."

I don't believe in the historical existence of these fictional characters. Most of these guys are just made up later on.

Nick said...


On what basis can you go around inventing your own canon of Scripture? It's sheer Marcionism and Protestantism, as much as you denounce it yourself.

For a religious system to have credibility, it needs historical roots, and it seems your position has none. I don't see how your approach to Divine Revelation is any different than an independent preacher who opens his own church store.

The Early Church Fathers are rejected and now Paul's Epistles are rejected. Where does it stop? I'm surprised you're not selectively cutting out other parts of the New Testament and even denying Christ's Divinity and the Trinity.

A rule of thumb, if you're going to embrace a religion, make sure someone passed the deposit of faith onto you and that you didn't invent it yourself.

James Jordan said...

THe Pauline epistles were written by Marcion; they are Marcionism, and Marcionism is Protestantism and vice versa, and Catholicism is infected with its fair share of it by accepting the Pauline epistles.

James Jordan said...

"A rule of thumb, if you're going to embrace a religion, make sure someone passed the deposit of faith onto you and that you didn't invent it yourself."

Tell that to Paul who didn't care what Jesus actually said or what the real apostles said. Tell that to Paul who never existed but is a paper apostle invented by Marcion.

Daniel said...

Are Eusebius and Socrates Scholasticus fictional too?

The irony of Marcion telling us about using wine during the Eucharistic liturgy while yet not using wine at his 'eucharistic liturgy'...

Or is that blurb by Irenaeus about him being the father of the Encratites not real either?

Perhaps, now that I think of it, *I'm* not real. Please mention that theory to your mental health professional at the next opportunity. I'm sure they will keep you very safe under their care. They might even let you out of your cage to blog occasionally.

James Jordan said...

I doubt that any mental health official would disagree with me that the early 'orthodox' personalities who are used in the following way don't exist:

a heresiologist trots out a great writer of only a century ago, or a few decades ago, and yet can't quote anything they wrote. he can tell us a great deal about how great they were but quotes nothing.

then later heresiologists all of the sudden have quotes from these fictional guys that earlier heresiologists couldn't quote.

Hymeneus said...

Another interesting passage is the greeting to the Church of Sardis.

"Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels."
(Revelation 3:4-5)

I say its interesting becaus it speaks about defiling your garments. The garment does not refer to the state of the natural man because it says some have not soiled their garments, whereas St. Paul says all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. If, on the other hand, the garment is Christ's alien righteousness, how can it be defiled? Once more the Protestant reading does not fit.

James Jordan said...

"Once more the Protestant reading does not fit."

But you can bet they have a boneheaded answer for it nonetheless.

Nick said...


Awesome find!

Hymeneus said...

Thanks, Nick.

James, I have consulted some Protestant commentaries and they don't try to connect these verses with forensic justification at all (for obvious reasons). I'm not sure if any serious Protestant commentators use these kinds of clothing analogies as prooftexts for forensic justification, but I have heard men off the street who will, and this is a handy passage to make them reconsider their position, or more likely just ignore it and suddey change the subject to something unrelated like purgatory.

Sevoguy said...

"Protestant" is not a dirty word. The goal as Catholics, is always enlightenment and teaching the fullness of truth. Let's remember they are separated brethren. They will eventually travel down that Road to Emmaus, Jesus will call their names and he will open up the scriptures to them. Then Jesus will invite them to the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, sit them down and break bread with them. It's then they will recognize the truth. God is faithful.

I have a theory: Salvation history has been leading us (this present generation) up to this present time and calling those who love him to himself. We have Catholic, Orthodox and 40,000 Protestant denominations, not to mention several denominations that do teach a different gospel without the truth. God, in his infinite wisdom broke the church apart several times in history (1054 A.D., 1517 A.D.) which is now leading to a robust inquiry by those of us who seek God and the truth. I believe it's all part of Gods plan to prepare the faithful for the Parosia.

We all are seeking this truth; more now then ever before. Today, many protestants are learning about Catholicism and vice versa. ITS all good. I tell me protestant friends that I can't believe how anyone can read John 6:31-6:71 and not want to run to a Catholic Church and approach the Eucharist on their hands and knees.

God Bless You in the One Body of Christ. I cry out Abba Father.