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Friday, September 10, 2021

Justification of the Ungodly - a Reformed admission

I came across a wonderful admission from a Reformed article online [1] of something I've been saying for a while regarding the problematic situation of the Reformed reading of "justifies the ungodly" (Rom 4:5) that I'd like to share. The article is short, but I trimmed it down at spots to capture the most important points:
One of the most striking and comforting expressions in the Scriptures is that God justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5). Nonetheless, this statement creates a theological conundrum of sorts and has led in part some Reformed theologians, including puritans, to at least suggest if not advocate a subtle form of justification before faith. So what then is the problem?

Placing regeneration and faith before justification, as the Reformed do, appears to be incompatible with the fact that God justifies the ungodly. For how can a regenerated, holy sinner who exercises sincere faith and repentance be viewed as ungodly? Yet, placing regeneration after justification has its own problems, chiefly, how can a sinner dead in sins turn to Christ in true faith and repentance?

The Reformed officially teach that before a person can even believe, the Holy Spirit must first come and cause a radical transformation inside that person, taking them from spiritual death to spiritual life (Eph 2:5), born again (Jn 3:5), giving them a new heart (Rom 2:29), making them a new creation (2 Cor 5:17), and enabling them to exercise the gift of faith. This is called "Regeneration" or "Effectual Calling" in classical Reformed language. Only after Regeneration can they then believe in the Gospel and then get Justified. But this raises the question, how can someone so powerfully transformed inside by the Holy Spirit still remain "ungodly" in any reasonable sense? To remain "ungodly" would suggest that sin is more powerful than grace, which cannot be. So the Reformed must now explain how there can be an "ungodly" in the first place when it comes to the believer getting Justified.

John Owen suggests a partial justification in heaven before faith could cut the Gordian knot of the justification of the ungodly (Works, 10:470). According to this scheme, justification is a process that begins before faith with the sinner being absolved from guilt and punishment, and ends in the conscience by faith whereupon the believer receives “a complete soul-freeing discharge” (Works, 10:471). Louis Berkhof argued for something similar. Broadly speaking, active justification is God’s declaration as judge and passive justification is the communication of God’s declaration by the Holy Spirit to the sinner so that the sinner knows that he is justified. The former takes place in heaven and the latter in the sinner’s heart or conscience. The surprising move that Berkhof made is that he placed active justification of a particular sinner logically before faith (Systematic Theology, 517). Berkhof went even further than Owen by asserting without hesitation that the sinner is logically justified before he believes.

In order to get around the conundrum of 'God justifies the Regenerate ungodly', these two major Reformed theologians basically claim that Regeneration hasn't happened yet within that person. So in this view, God is in fact justifying the unregenerate ungodly, and thus no conundrum. In this view, God justifies a person in heaven long before they come to faith, and when the right time comes in that person's life, then the Holy Spirit regenerates that person and gives them the gift of faith so that they can recognize what God has already done for them. Thus, in that view, 'getting justified by faith' means they simply now 'feel justified in their heart'. But the Bible and Christians have always understood faith as what causes or leads to Justification, forgiveness of sins, etc, so the argument by Owen and Berkhof seems like a blatant contradiction of Scripture, and the article goes onto admit this.

Justification occurs logically after a sinner believes. Herman Witsius is surely correct that justification “is of faith, and by faith, as Paul every where teacheth; and consequently [Justification] is the effect and fruit of faith, the result of regeneration". Justification may also be used with reference to regeneration. Witsius, for example, is willing to admit that justification may be used in this way.

Since faith logically precedes justification, Owen’s absolution in heaven and Berkhof’s use of the active/passive distinction are unacceptable
. How then should we understand the Pauline statement that God justifies the ungodly? Anthony Burgess said that the common answer among divines is that “he that was ungodly, is, being justified, made godly also, though that godliness doe not justify him”. Besides this common response, Burgess adds a second one that is found among some divines. The term “ungodly” refers to a believing sinner: “that ungodly there is meant of such, who are so in their nature considered, having not an absolute righteousness, yet at the same time believers, even as Abraham was…So then, the subject of justification is a sinner, yet a believer.”

Since it is not feasible to say Justification comes first, the second "solution" the article proposes is to say that "Justify" as used by Paul includes Regeneration within its definition. In other words, for God to Justify a person implies that God has also regenerated them, and thus "Justify" can effectively mean "to declare righteous and make righteous". This is apparently the predominant view that Anthony Burgess says the Westminster Assembly held to when writing the Westminster Confession of Faith. But if that's the case, then what of the Catholic claim that Justification involves an inward transformation? It seems that the Reformed want to condemn this idea when a Catholic says it, but affirm it when the Catholic isn't looking. Funny how Protestants say the Bible only uses the Greek word "justify" to mean "declare righteous" yet when it comes to texts like Romans 4:5, suddenly a large number of Reformed theologians say it means "God declares righteous and makes righteous the ungodly". That's both astonishing and disingenuous theology if you ask me. That said, there is a third view presented in this article in that same quote, which Burgess says is the minority Reformed view, where "justifies the ungodly" means the person is still ungodly but has a minimal amount of regeneration to simply allow them to believe. In modern times, this third view is the predominant view. But it doesn't really get around the original issue, which is that Regenerate and Ungodly cannot co-exist.

This third view is forced to downplay Regeneration and turn it into this flimsy thing, whereby the Holy Spirit comes and barely does anything to a person. Such a thought is not only insulting to the radically transforming power of the Holy Spirit, but it also contradicts the Reformed texts which they say teach Regeneration. For example, the Reformed teach that Ephesians 2:5 is about Regeneration when Paul says: "even when we were dead in our trespasses, God made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved" How can we minimize or downplay this language to think Paul is merely saying a person is merely enabled to believe and thus remain ungodly? Paul clearly says the person went from spiritual death to spiritual life akin to the Resurrection and that this signifies "by grace you have been saved". That's a far cry from merely being able to believe. So the third view is also an unacceptable solution.

The puritans used Jesus’ healing miracles to further explain their answer. Jesus told John the Baptist’s disciples to tell John that the lame walk and the deaf hear (Matt. 11:5). But as Rutherford pointed out, “no man dreamed that the lame as lame remaining lame, does leap, and the dumb remaining dumb sing”. In other words, to say that the lame walk means that the person who was lame now walks. Similarly, to say that God justifies the ungodly is to say that God justifies a person who was ungodly, but who now is a regenerated believer.

The justification of the ungodly is by no means an unsolvable puzzle. You don’t have to sacrifice a Reformed understanding of the order of salvation in order to make sense of it. God indeed justifies the ungodly, even as he makes the blind see, the lame walk and the deaf hear.
The article basically settles on the "Justification means/includes Regeneration" view, which might get them out of the conundrum but leaves the Reformed tradition condemned because it basically says this same view is grave heresy when the Catholic Church teaches this. It is amusing that this article concludes by saying the Puritan tradition used to love to talk about Justification by pointing to Jesus' healing miracles, where divine power came and transformed the person from within. It really makes you wonder why there is even a need for Imputation if God is healing the person to make them whole again. It really makes you wonder why the Reformed don't see the hypocrisy in condemning Catholicism for teaching this view of Justification but then turning around and affirming this view for the Reformed side.
 
This article was excellent for its admissions of what Reformed theologians teach. It showed major figures like Owen and Berkhof had very severe problems with their teaching, and thus should be discredited somewhat. It showed that the historic majority view is that Justification includes Regeneration, and thus lose credibility when opposing Catholicism. And it showed that the historic minority (which in modern times is the majority) view finds itself affirming the initial contradiction of saying a Regenerate can be simultaneously Ungodly, and the modern types just pretend not to see it or intentionally dodge it. It's crazy to think that this is the best the top Reformed thinkers today are capable of.

[1] https://www.reformation21.org/blog/justification-of-the-ungodly

The Westminster Assembly gathering to write
up the famous Westminster Confession of Faith.
Over half these men believed Justification meant
both to declare righteous and to make righteous.






12 comments:

Talmid said...

That a lot of puritans believed on that view is just suprising, i did not knew that there was this much diversity there.

And while this should be not possible, for these guys are supposed to read St. Augustine, i think that reformed condemnation of catholicism on justification could in part be by ignorance. From the comments that i saw from reformed folks, they tend to not really know very well what catholics actually believe.

To give a example, read this anathema of the Concil of Trent:

"If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema."

Pretty straightfoward, right? The regenerated can mantain and increase his received merit by doing good works, that is quite obvious. Can you believe that a reformed guy i saw online once was thinking that this Trent quote teaches that one can be saved by works? Yea.

Of course, not knowing the other side at all is just embarrassing, but seeing the quality of criticism that come from these guys, it is not suprising that you never see they comparing these smart puritans with us.

Nick said...

Actually, you make a very good point. A few years ago I wrote about "Protestants most embarrassing strawman" where I discuss the recurring Protestant error where they think Justification for a Catholic means each good work makes the Catholic increase in Justification by 1%, so that after they do 100 good works they become fully justified, and if they sin it wipes out their progress. In this strawman view, Justification is never actually attained by a Catholic, he's just on a "works treadmill". I've seen such strawman comments going back to John Calvin.

Anonymous said...

Since it is not feasible to say Justification comes first, the second "solution" the article proposes is to say that "Justify" as used by Paul includes Regeneration within its definition. In other words, for God to Justify a person implies that God has also regenerated them, and thus "Justify" can effectively mean "to declare righteous and make righteous".

This is the opposite of what the article or Anthony Burgess said. The article never said that justification includes regeneration or “to declare righteous and make righteous”. What Anthony and the article said is that regeneration precedes justification, and this is a correct ordo salutis. While regeneration happens before justification, it is not the ground of justification. The only ground of justification for the sinner is Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice on the Cross. The change in our sinful nature in regeneration and our moral changes in sanctification did not pay for our sin nor did it procure the reversal of our guilt and condemnation. Only Christ’s righteousness did that. Anthony said this clearly:

“he that was ungodly, is, being justified, made godly also, though that godliness doe not justifie him”

Burgess further explains that meritorious cause is Christ’s sacrifice alone and the instrumental cause, faith alone though not withstanding the that the sinner experienced regeneration prior to justification and later on sanctification.

“When it is said, that Christ dyed, and rose again for sinners, you must know, that this is the meritorious cause of our pardon and salvation; but, besides this cause, there are other causes instrumentall, that go to the whole work of Justification: Therefore some Divines, as they speak of a conversion passive and active, so also of a justification active and passive; and passive they call, when not onely the meritorious cause, but the instrument applying is also present, then the per∣son is justified. Now these speak of Christs death as an universall meritorious cause, without any application of Christs death un∣to this or that soule: Therefore still you must carry this along with you, that, to that grand mercy of justification, something is requisite as the efficient, viz. the grace of God; something as me∣ritorious, viz. Christs suffering; something as instrumentall, viz. faith; and one is as necessary as the other.”

Thus, there is no reason to reject the ordo salutis. The sinner is changed in regeneration but without justification (which is the application of the meritorious cause), the sinner remains ungodly / unjustified.

So, I take it that you did not read the article fully or carefully to make this mistake?

Nick said...

I didn't misunderstand when I wrote that, rather I pointed out the hypocrisy and academic dishonesty of it. When a Protestant needs a word or phrase to mean something to salvage their theology, suddenly that word is allowed to mean what they want. But when a Catholic says a word means something similar, suddenly the Catholic side isn't being faithful to the Scriptures. That's a blatant double standard. And it's worse when Sola Scriptura is supposed to make the important things obvious but then we find you making scholarly distinctions that the average person wouldn't ever see.

The Protestant side is completely making up out of thin air such qualifications as "though that godliness doesn't justify" in order to invent their own rules and thus protect their theology. It reminds me of Colossians 2:13 where Paul says "And you who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses". Protestants will confidently assert that Paul is sharply distinguishing Regeneration and Justification here, despite the blatantly obvious fact Paul speaks as if these two are one and the same, intertwined, etc. The double standard is so obvious that the modern majority view doesn't follow Burgess.

I notice how you completely ignored the last paragraphs of the article which "explain" this Burgess view in terms of Jesus HEALING the sick. "God indeed justifies the ungodly, even as he makes the blind see, the lame walk and the deaf hear." If a Catholic were to talk like this, you Protestants would confidently walk into the room with your Biblical Greek Textbook and insist that "justify" is a mere declaration. Then when you're back at the pub amongst yourselves, you begin to bend the rules of Greek grammar in order to have satisfactory explanations for things like Romans 4:5.

Anonymous said...

I always wonder why is it that when a mistake is pointed out, that the first reaction is denial and ad hominem attacks. You claimed that the article and Burgess argued that,

"the second "solution" the article proposes is to say that "Justify" as used by Paul includes Regeneration within its definition. In other words, for God to Justify a person implies that God has also regenerated them, and thus "Justify" can effectively mean "to declare righteous and make righteous".

This is not true and the complete opposite of what both said. The article and Burgess never hints that "justify" includes or is the same as "regeneration". Instead, the argument that the author made is that regeneration can precede justification, which does not contradict the phrase "justifies the ungodly" in Rom. 4:5.

Why? Although the Spirit's work in Regeneration changes the sinful nature, allowing him to believe the gospel, but that change did not pay for sin nor did it procure the reversal of the sinner's guilt and condemnation. Only the the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ did that. Justification is the application of Christ's sacrifice to the regenerated person in view of his union with him, by faith. Therefore, the change in the sinner's nature (from deadness to sin to spiritual life) unless accompanied by justification (i.e. the application of Christ's meritorious work for and in behalf of the sinner), the person remains unjustified or ungodly. But, God's redemptive work, although having a logical order, is a monolithic work in which no regenerated person remains unjustified.

You argued that this kind of systematic theology is "completely making up out of thin air". Well then, can you point me to any Scriptural data which assert that regeneration is the ground of justification? Are we justified because of the change in our sinful nature? If so, if God can justify us based on the change in our natures, why is there a need of Christ's propitiatory sacrifice in behalf of the sinner? Why can't he just impart life to us and on that basis, justify us?

About Colossians 2:13, which Protestant (major Reformed Theologian) both in the past and present argues for the differentiation of regeneration and justification using this verse? I will be surprised if you can provide one. However, I am happy to be corrected. If you can't provide a single source, is this one of your mistakes again?

Nick said...

You said "the article and Burgess never hints that justify includes or is the same as regeneration".

The article says:

(1) Quote: "Justification may also be used with reference to regeneration."

(2) Quote: "How should we understand the Pauline statement that God justifies the ungodly? Anthony Burgess said that the common answer among divines is that “he that was ungodly, is, being justified, made godly also"

(3) Quote: "Similarly, to say that God justifies the ungodly is to say that God justifies a person who was ungodly, but who now is a regenerated believer."

>>The phrase "Justifies the ungodly" IN SOME REAL SENSE includes Regeneration either immediately before, immediately after, or during, the declaring righteous.

You said:
//Although the Spirit's work in Regeneration changes the sinful nature, allowing him to believe the gospel, but that change did not pay for sin nor did it procure the reversal of the sinner's guilt and condemnation. Only the the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ did that. Justification is the application of Christ's sacrifice to the regenerated person in view of his union with him, by faith.//

I am well aware of this Reformed distinction. My point is that the Reformed have somehow invented or derived this sharp distinction APART FROM any clear Biblical texts. The Reformed side WANTS justification to be thus narrowly defined. The Reformed side WANTS to inject "Imputation of Christ's Righteousness" into the text. But the Reformed side doesn't have a Biblical basis to do this. And guess what happens when we ask for some verses to prove the Reformed side? They point us to Romans 4:5, which is totally circular logic since the historic Reformed majority view is that Regeneration is occurring or assumed/implied within the phrase "Justifies the ungodly". But then why is Paul even talking about the "ungodly" if they were/are regenerated PRIOR TO Justification? The circular logic continues.

Why the empty hand of faith if the person is regenerated and thus capable of righteous deeds? Abraham believed in God and his faith was seen as righteous behavior by God. That's simple logic if Abraham is Regenerate prior to exercising faith.

Why wasn't Abraham's faith itself regarded as righteous action? Protestants say because he was ungodly. But why was he ungodly if he was Regenerated? Crickets.

Nick said...

Part 2 of 2



You said:
//Can you point me to any Scriptural data which assert that regeneration is the ground of justification?//

I would first point to Ephesians 2:5 which says we are made spiritually alive and Paul defines this as "by grace you have been saved". But you know what the Reformed Greek Scholar says about this? He says the word "saved" here absolutely means Regeneration and nothing more. Then one/two sentences later when Paul says in Eph 2:8 "by grace you have been saved," the Reformed Greek Scholar says he's absolutely sure the term "saved" here means Justification. Wow, such wizardry. Such magic. How did they know this sharp distinction among the SAME PHRASE IN THE SAME CONTEXT? They know because they need it to be different in order to validate their preconceived notions. Period. But the honest, genuine, follower of Scripture, aka the Catholic, can humbly say "it's most reasonable that 2:5 and 2:8 are the same thing". If that's the case, then being made spiritually alive is caught up with being Justified. It's not up to me to dig into the terms and make any sharp distinctions. But what we can say at bare minimum is that there's no real need for the Active Obedience of Christ in this situation if forgiveness (both guilt and inward stain) is enough to restore a person to adopted sonship with God. It's basically the same for Col 2:13.

I don't need to find any Reformed differentiating in Colossians 2:13 because I've read many of their writings and many discussions and (1) they intentionally almost never quote the verse, both because of the made alive issue and the mention of Baptism, and (2) their writings only quote texts like Romans 4 and Ephesians 2 and Phil 3 and 2 Cor 5:21 while largely ignoring the context and parallel passages. The real question is can you find any big name Reformed theologian who quotes Colossians 2:13 within the context of discussing Justification? If we're being honest, we must admit it's not a passage we typically see Protestants bring up as a proof text for Faith Alone, Justification, Imputation, etc.

Anonymous said...

In the first and second admonition, I gave you the benefit of the doubt that you might have just unintentionally misread the article. But, this third admonition is an appeal to stop lying because it is not a Christian virtue.

You have given three quotes that are taken out of context:

First, you quoted "Justification may also be used with reference to regeneration." However, you ignored the context. The author in fact explained that Witsius' use of "justification at regeneration" is referring to "a declaration or acknowledgment of the sinner's right to absolution/justification". Witsius also clarified that Scripture "did not use justification in this sense." Here is the full context:

This use of justification at regeneration by Witsius, however, is different from Owen’s absolution in heaven or Berkhof’s use of active justification. The latter two refer to a partial or whole act of absolution/justification while Witsius only means a declaration or acknowledgment of the sinner’s right to absolution/justification. There is quite a difference between declaring someone is justified and declaring someone has to the right to be justified by virtue of Christ’s satisfaction. Moreover, Witsius is adamant that Scripture does not use the word justification in this sense and that the actual justification of a particular sinner takes place at the moment of faith.

The second quote is also intentionally deceiving by dropping the last phrase. I have explained Anthony Burgess position and even provided his actual stance on justification in the previous response. The actual quote in the article is:

Anthony Burgess said that the common answer among divines is that “he that was ungodly, is, being justified, made godly also, though that godliness doe not justifie him”

The third quote completely missed the point. I have to wonder, why you think this quote mattered. The article argues for regeneration preceding justification. Of course, the one who is justified is now a regenerated believer. The explanation provided in the previous response detailed why this is not incompatible with the order of salvation.

The article never hints that "justification" (the one referred to in the ordo salutis, not the broader usage that Witsius utilised) includes regeneration. The continued assertion that the article did so is tantamount to intentional lying. In the name of Christ whom you claim to serve, you should stop this.

Anonymous said...

You asked: Protestants say because he was ungodly. But why was he ungodly if he was Regenerated?

I have answered this. The implied argument that somehow, it has not been answered is a lie. Here is the response from my last post:

Although the Spirit's work in Regeneration changes the sinful nature, allowing him to believe the gospel, but that change did not pay for sin nor did it procure the reversal of the sinner's guilt and condemnation. Only the the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ did that. Justification is the application of Christ's sacrifice to the regenerated person in view of his union with him, by faith. Therefore, the change in the sinner's nature (from spiritual deadness to spiritual life) unless accompanied by justification (i.e., the application of Christ's meritorious work in behalf of the sinner), the person remains unjustified or ungodly. But, God's redemptive work, although having a logical order, is a monolithic work in which no regenerated person remains unjustified.

Again, please quote and identify the "Reformed Greek Scholar" who made such blunder on the meaning of sesosmenoi in Ephesians 2:8. Name the book or article because at this point, you showed no ability to comprehend Reformed Theology. To support this assertion, you are reading an article you are critiquing but completely missed the point. You are reading things out-of-context and providing butchered quotes which are apparent in your last response. Why would I trust you in your understanding of this "Reformed Greek Scholar" if this person actually exists.

Finally, in your last response you claimed that in Colossians 2:13, "Protestants will confidently assert that Paul is sharply distinguishing Regeneration and Justification here, despite the blatantly obvious fact Paul speaks as if these two are one and the same, intertwined, etc.. When challenged to quote which Protestant theologian? Quote one. Your response: I don't need to find any Reformed differentiating in Colossians 2:13. Well, that is disingenuous and dangerously self-deceiving.

Good luck to whoever is reading your blogs!

Nick said...

We must be talking past one another, and if that's the case then no progress can be made. I think you might have cognitive dissonance on this matter. The thesis of the Reformation21 Article, as well as the proposed solutions, are all perfectly coherent to me. I believe I have accurately articulated the substance of the proposed solutions. I can try to explain myself once more though.

The second proposed solution of "Justification may also be used with reference to regeneration" can be understood by the analogy of driving to the store. If I say "I drove to the store," that implies within the term "drove" that I first got into the car, then put on my seat belt, then turned on the engine, etc, before I actually drove. In this way, when God is said to "justify the ungodly" it is a *shorthand* way of saying "God first called, then regenerated, then enabled belief, then imputed Christ's righteousness - to the person who just moments prior to these was a lost sinner". That's how I understand Ramsey's second solution. That's how I understand Burgess to be speaking of the majority view. And I can say this with a clear conscience because it is a perfectly coherent claim being made by Ramsey.

I honestly cannot tell if you understand Ramsey's second solution as I have understood and articulated it.

Nick said...

For the record, here are some Reformed who are oblivious to the Regenerate Ungodly dilemma:

--Dr John Fesko says HERE:
//Abraham’s righteousness was not native to him; in fact, Paul says he was “ungodly.” So how did God consider him righteous? Because Abraham laid hold of Christ’s righteousness by faith. God therefore imputed Christ’s righteousness to Abraham. . . . This scriptural teaching stands in stark contrast to the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, which teaches that God justifies sinners on the basis of inherent, rather than imputed, righteousness. In other words, a person must actually be holy in order to receive the verdict of righteous before the divine bar. Yet, such an opinion conflicts with Paul’s testimony that God justifies the “ungodly” (Rom. 4:5).//

Notice the logic is plain: Abraham was ungodly and thus needed an alien righteousness imputed. It is because of the "ungodly" term that Imputation is born. But if Abraham is Regenerate prior to Faith and thus prior to Justification, then it is blatantly erroneous to think Abraham had no inherent righteousness or good deeds available to show God "before the divine bar". This is because Regeneration makes a person go from ungodly to godly.


--DA Carson "The Vindication of Imputation" (online) says:
//More importantly, it does not bear in mind Paul’s own
powerful conclusion: it is the wicked person to whom the Lord imputes righteousness. In the context, that label is applied to Abraham no less than to anyone else. In Paul’s understanding, then, God’s imputation of Abraham’s faith to Abraham as righteousness cannot be grounded in the assumption that that faith is itself intrinsically righteous. If God is counting faith to Abraham as righteousness, he is counting him righteous — not because Abraham is righteous in some inherent way (How can he be? He is asebes / ungodly), but simply because Abraham trusts God and his gracious promise.//

Notice again, the obliviousness to the fact Regeneration has taken place prior to Abraham's believing and being Justified. They speak as if Abraham is ungodly in such a way that Regeneration hasn't affected Abraham. But if they realize that Regeneration has affected Abraham, then they can no longer speak of Abraham as having no inherent righteousness. Because if Abraham does have inherent goodness due to Regeneration, then there's no logical need to presume Imputation.


--Charles Hodge essay on Justification (online):
//As this righteousness is not our own, as we are sinners, ungodly, without works, it must be the righteousness of another, even of Him who is our righteousness.//

Note here why the righteousness must be outside of us: because we are sinners, ungodly. But if Regeneration has taken place, then this objection fails or is at least undermined.


This is the typical way of speaking you will find when you Google the issue of Romans 4:5 as it relates to imputation, sola fide, etc. All this talk falls flat if these folks kept in mind Regeneration has taken place in the person of Rom 4:5.

Nick said...

I have re-read the article carefully again and I see that I misunderstood the middle two paragraphs, so Anonymous was right about that. However, it seems those two paragraphs are largely irrelevant to the point of the article and don't affect what I am saying.

When the article says "Justification may also be used with reference to regeneration" it goes on to equivocate in my opinion. As was pointed out by Anon above, this paragraph is talking about "declaring someone has to the right to be justified," which is completely irrelevant to the thesis of the article, a waste of space, so I really don't know why Patrick Ramsey even mentioned it. That said, the article immediately after is absolutely is absolutely using Justification with reference to Regeneration in some manner, and I believe Anon is desperately trying to dodge this.

Quote: How then should we understand the Pauline statement [FROM ROMANS 4:5] that God JUSTIFIES THE UNGODLY? Anthony Burgess said that the common answer among divines is that “he that was ungodly, is, being justified, made godly also, though that godliness doe not justifie him”

It is absolutely certain that Burgess is including being made godly, undoubtedly referring to Regeneration, within the Romans 4:5 phrase. Anon wants to hand wave by saying "but being made godly doesn't justify"! So what? That qualification is pure ad hoc. The point remains there is a being made godly "also" alongside this "being justified" when exegeting Romans 4:5.

Quote: Samuel Rutherford provided the same answer to this problem. He wrote, “We grant, the Lord doth not justifie an ungodly man, as an ungodly man, and as voyd of faith for by order of nature, he is first a believer, and in Christ, and then he is justified..."

The Lord does NOT justify an ungodly man. But rather he is first regenerated, then a believer, then justified. This means Romans 4:5 is shorthand for multiple things in the ordo salutis taking place, not a literal/mere declaring of a wicked man to be righteous (as the modern Reformed suggest).

Quote: "Witsius followed suit as he said that “in this sense God is said to justify the ungodly, Rom. iv. 5.; him who is so [ungodly] in himself, and actually continues [ungodly] such till he is born again [regenerated], when that faith is freely bestowed on him for which he is immediately justified”

Here's a great example where Anonymous wants to hand wave away the real issue. Here Witsius is discussing Romans 4:5 and is saying the ungodliness is gone when the person is born again, i.e. regenerated, then the faith comes, then justification comes. I read this as "God justifies the ungodly" to mean "God first makes him born again, then he believes, then immediately is justified by that faith".

Quote: "Similarly, to say that God justifies the ungodly is to say that God justifies a person who was ungodly, but who now is a regenerated believer."

Anonymous wants desperately to avoid the exegesis of Romans 4:5, yet time and again the article explains it as more than a mere declaration over a wicked person, but rather explains it as "God justifies the one who was originally ungodly but is *now* a regenerate believer".

What is really at stake here? Abraham being regenerate and thus fully renewed within his soul was thus not ungodly leading up to his Justification in Genesis 15:6, but being thus Born Again he believed God's Promise and his faith was regarded by God as proof of inward righteousness, because regeneration made him such. The Reformed would want you distracted from this and seek some need for God to look OUTSIDE of Abraham for some alien righteousness in order to invent the need for Imputation. But if there's no need to look outside of Abraham, since he's made a Godly Man prior to believing, then Imputation is undermined.