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A Biblical-Theological Review of Michael Allen's Sanctification - Part 8: Chapter Seven - Justification

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Chapter 7: Justification and Sanctification Chapter 7 focuses on “the distinction between the justification and the sanctification that we possess in [Christ]” (170). Allen traces Calvin’s “double grace” of “reconcilation through Christ’s blamelessness” and of “sanctification by Christ’s Spirit” (171-75), and then briefly notes that the Reformed tradition’s twofold-grace language has roots in Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria (175-76). He explores this new covenant distinction in Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 36-37, and Hebrews 8. He deploys Romans 6 and 12 in particular against various Reformed challenges to the distinction between justification and sanctification. He wraps up with a fascinating application of Hebrews to the topic.
Affirmation I appreciate that Allen notes that Scriptures speaks of justification in ways other than righteousness (dikaiosune) terminology (e.g., forgiveness, pardon, reconciliation) and warns against narrowing our consideration of this topic to forensic language …

A Biblical-Theological Review of Michael Allen's Sanctification - Part 7: Chapter Six - In Christ

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Chapter 6: In Christ Allen surveys the biblical data, metaphors, and broader canonical themes which inform the doctrine of union with Christ only briefly (143-47). Calvin’s synthesis of this biblical data receives extended attention (147-55).[1] Allen then turns to the wider Reformed evaluation of union with Christ, noting particularly the idea of participation in God and giving special attention to the Westminster Confession’s treatment.Karl Barth and T. F. Torrance’s critique of Rationalistic vs Evangelical Calvinism serve as foils for his argument for a traditional understanding of particular redemption. He concludes by affirming that all blessings as well as the being of believers come through union with Christ. “In that gracious and life-giving union, ... all he has is ours: his name, his inheritance, his glory, his righteousness, and even his holiness.”

Affirmation My agreement here is both wide and deep, as befits the reality that Wesleyan-Arminianism shares a great deal of comm…

A Biblical-Theological Review of Michael Allen's Sanctification - Part 6: Chapter Five - Incarnation

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Chapter 5: Incarnation The first Adam both fell and failed, committing sins of commission and omission, and thus broke the covenant of creation. The second Adam “fulfills the two-fold need of those who have broken the covenant of works”: cleanness and holiness. He accomplishes not only “the work of purification but also the task of sacralization” (140). Allen identifies the exegetical roots of this Christological tenent in Leviticus and its fulfillment in the gospel of Matthew. The dogmatic components of Christ’s work include distinguishing the active and passive obedience of Christ which takes the form of humiliation and exaltation. Christ’s humiliation redeems nature, and His exaltation glorifies it.
Affirmation Allen’s reading of Leviticus is marvelous (118-123). He puts together cleanliness and holiness beautifully. For example, “Leviticus portrays a world whereby one must be actively set apart by consecration even after one has avoided impurity or had one’s impurities purged by a…

A Biblical-Theological Review of Michael Allen's Sanctification - Part 5: Chapter Four - Covenant

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Chapter 4: Covenant Allen surveys Rudolph Otto’s phenomenological and Mary Douglas’s cultural anthropological approaches (91-93). He tips his hat to their potential benefits but insists we must read Scripture as “instances and instruments of divine action--as the very word of God” which “bears a prescriptive force and not merely a descriptive opportunity” (93). Scripture teaches that “fellowship or communion with God is the fundamental basis and goal” and the “canon’s central episode. Jesus is Immanuel.” (94, 96). While fellowship is the telos of the gospel, covenant frames that communion. Within Reformed tradition, the “covenant of works” describes “this relational order and vocational telos of human existence before God” (100). Consequently, James Torrance’s seven critiques of federal theology are addressed at length (101-110). He concludes that the covenant of works informs our understanding of the course of creaturely holiness and sanctification in four ways: 1) Humans were create…

A Biblical-Theological Review of Michael Allen's Sanctification - Part 4: Chapter Three - Creation

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Chapter 3: Creation Chapter three begins with human creaturehood. Allen rejects Barth’s incarnational anthropology and concludes that we should “think the doctrine canonically,” and then christologically (77). Allen then takes up the implications of “imaging of God.” He critiques four standard views of the imago dei[1] as 1) limiting the divine image to “one facet of human existence” rather than seeing that “it is the totality of the human that images God” (81), and 2) wrongly regarding “similarity between humanity and God” as the primary implication of the term image (82). Rather, the imago dei underscores the Trinity’s “intrinsically self-communicating” nature and highlights a) man’s difference from and b) man's dependence upon God (82). The implications of his view of the imago dei for “thinking sanctification” are first, creation attests to “the participatory nature of creaturely holiness” (85), and second, “all creaturely holiness is communicated holiness in the same way tha…

Whoever touches her will not go unpunished (Proverbs 6:27-29)

‎ WTT Proverbs 6:27-29 הֲיַחְתֶּ֤ה אִ֓ישׁ אֵ֬שׁ בְּחֵיק֑וֹ וּ֜בְגָדָ֗יו לֹ֣א תִשָּׂרַֽפְנָה׃28 אִם־יְהַלֵּ֣ךְ אִ֭ישׁ עַל־הַגֶּחָלִ֑ים וְ֜רַגְלָ֗יו לֹ֣א תִכָּוֶֽינָה׃29 כֵּ֗ן הַ֭בָּא אֶל־אֵ֣שֶׁת רֵעֵ֑הוּ לֹ֥א יִ֜נָּקֶ֗ה כָּֽל־הַנֹּגֵ֥עַ בָּֽהּ׃
Proverbs 6:27-29 Can a man take fire in his bosom And his clothes not be burned? 28Or can a man walk on hot coals And his feet not be scorched? 29So is the one who goes in to his neighbor's wife; Whoever touches her will not go unpunished.
v. 27 Father, the agony and damage of physical burns is a sign of the agony and damage of soul that the folly of adultery brings. As v. 32 says, “he who would destroy himself does it.”
Yahweh, your perspective is that adultery is like dumping fire in the lap or walking barefoot across burning coals. I will get burned. I cannot dodge the bullet. Any appearance of “getting away with it” is illusory. You state, “he will not go unpunished” = he will not be remain blameless (HALOT), be free, exempt from punishment…

A Biblical-Theological Review of Michael Allen's Sanctification - Part 3: Chapter Two - God

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Chapter 2: God Chapter 2 critiques classic, modern, and confessional definitions of divine holiness. Classical theologians equate divine holiness with righteousness, justice, or moral purity, e.g., Aquinas, Turretin (47-48). Moderns identify holiness with “causality that legislates in the corporate life of man” (Schleiermacher), divine jealousy (von Rad), or merely narratival radical otherness (Brueggemann; 48-50). Allen even rejects the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s tethering of divine holiness to the moral sphere (52). Allen turns instead to the category of metaphysical singularity or uniqueness found in Bavinck, Vos, Barth, and Colin Gunton and seeks to extend it (50-51). His twin thesis is that divine holiness expresses “the transcendent singularity of the triune God” and that “the metaphysical facets of divine holiness shape and condition the moral aspects of the doctrine” (53). He argues that Yahweh’s holiness means He is incomparable, “set apart in a class of his own” (60), f…

A Biblical-Theological Review of Michael Allen's Sanctification - Part 2: Chapter One

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Chapter 1: Sanctification and the Gospel In Chapter One, Allen outlines and argues for his four-part approach to sanctification. He first asserts that the Bible will serve as the source of his theologizing and the judge of its legitimacy.
A Christian consideration of … sanctification seeks to do justice to ... the Holy Scriptures. Exegetical reasoning, then, serves as a barometer of any claim regarding sanctification. If an approach cannot pass muster as an exegetical reflection upon texts like 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, then it will not count as a truly Christian approach to the subject (27-28).
Second, he identifies the common inadequacies of merely exegetical doctrinal formulations:
Exegetical reasoning can easily be construed [too] narrowly, … offering literary and/or theological reflection upon those … passages … that employ the idioms of holiness and sanctification alone (28). Such an approach offers “more of an annotated lexical index of the terminology of sanctification than a f…

A Biblical-Theological Review of Michael Allen’s Sanctification - Part 1

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Michael Allen’s Sanctification(Zondervan, 2017) caught my attention this Spring, particularly his treatment of sanctification through the prism of Dogmatics. After a brief characterization of the book here, this review will address one chapter per post, offering summary, affirmation, critique, and ways to extend Allen’s material. I invite my readers' comments.
Sanctification exhibits a laudable intersection of biblical and systematic methodology. Its rich dogmatics develop around ten loci of Christian theology: God, creation, covenant, incarnation, in Christ, justification and sanctification, grace and nature, grace and responsibility, and grace and discipline. Allen ranges the theological landscape to avoid reducing sanctification to mere exemplarism or mere substitution (33). He demarcates what he regards as wrong readings of this doctrine: “neonomianism, higher life, or an addition to the apparently insufficient work of Jesus Christ,” (which one might construe as a dismissal of …