Maybe They Really Don’t Get It
By Dr. R. Scott Clark - Posted at The Heidelblog:
Over the years of battling the moralists (Federal Visionists, Norman Shepherd et al) I’ve not always been certain whether the moralists understand the orthodox doctrine of justification and reject it or if they think they are really teaching it. Here’s a post from one of them that gives evidence that they really don’t understand what the Westminster Divines and the Protestant Reformers before them were trying to do.
For a 1000 years the medieval church taught that we are justified progressively, gradually through Spirit-wrought sanctity AND our cooperation with the same. The medievals believed in grace, even prevenient grace (i.e., grace comes first), as does the Roman church. What they did not understand, however, was the nature of grace. In the medieval and Roman system grace is a sort of stuff that makes it possible for us to do our part.
The focus of the medieval (and Roman) doctrine of justification is the Spirit’s work in us, by which he creates condign merit, i.e., merit that meets the terms of justice, which God must recognize. In the medieval and Roman system the ground of acceptance with God is Spirit-wrought sanctity within us by grace and cooperation with grace.
So, when the Westminster assembly confessed that the ground of justification is outside of us (iustitia aliena) they was standing with Luther and Calvin and the Protestants over against the medieval church and Trent. This is exactly what is meant by the words of WCF 11.1
by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone….