Friday, June 09, 2006

Anglican Futures (II)

More from Matt Kennedy+ at Stand Firm in Faith, this time taking issue with a piece by Fr Timothy Fountain, The Broad Church, The Orthodox, and GLBT’s; How Can the Minorities Live with the Majority, published on Brad Drell’s site.

In the second part of his critique, Matt says the following:

Fr Timothy draws a facile dichotomy between conversion and sanctification: two aspects of Christian living that are separated neither in scripture nor in tradition. As an evangelical, I believe that the process of sanctification necessarily flows out of conversion based justification. It is justification (through the conduit of faith alone) that ensures salvation, but if the process of sanctification does not ensue, if there is no change in life and habit, there is reason to suspect that conversion has not in fact occurred. As some put it: we are saved by faith alone; not by a faith that is alone. But anglo-catholics also emphasize both conversion and sanctification.
Sanctification is the process of daily conversion: your habits of thought, speech and behavior are changed as you are conformed or gradually converted by holy discipline and the grace of the sacraments to the image and likeness of Christ. The difference between anglo-catholics and evangelicals is not over whether both conversion and sanctification take place, but the ground upon which one is saved. For evangelicals, salvation is grounded on justification and justification comes by faith alone. For anglo-catholics justification (being declared righteous by God) comes at the end of the process of sanctification, not logically prior (as it does for evangelicals) so that salvation is accomplished through the grace imparted to the believer who cooperates with that grace and bears the fruit of a changed life and good works.

In either case, evangelical or anglo-catholic, there is no room for accommodating sin. At no point in the process of sanctification would an evangelical or anglo-catholic say: “this sin is okay for now.” Particularly addictive or habitual sins may take longer than others to break and some sins may plague a believer for his entire lifetime, but he is never at liberty to make peace with them. Nor is the Church.

Sins are to be exposed, fought, and mortified by the power of the cross and resurrection. That is the purpose of “a church in which people grow in holiness by regular attendance at Bible-expounding worship.”

When we fall, we get up, repent, and return to the Lord. There can be no peace with sin.

1 comment:

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Unfortunately, Kennedy has got some of his theology wrong when discussing the relationship between justification and sanctification. Neither Anglo-Catholics nor any other sort of Catholic say justification "comes at the end of a process of sacntification". Final salvation can be said to come at the end of this process, however.

The standard Western Catholic view of justification is that it is merited wholly by Christ's work on the Cross, its beginning requires penitent faith but not preceeding works, and that it includes both forgiveness and intitial sanctification. It is only the very last bit that Evangelicals deny, as they define justification and sanctification to be quite distinct, though they accept they are related and, indeed, simultaneous. In brief, they say the former deals only with "status" of guilt or innocence, the latter involves gradual change in "state", and that the change in state (sanctification) in no way causes God to justify/forgive/accept us. Catholics on the other hand say the change in state allows the reception of the forgiveness, though it does not induce or earn God's will to forgive, which was eternally prevenient and led to the grace necessary to change the state in the first place! Whew!

In other words, from God's perspective the justifying "impetus" can be said to precede sanctification. But for the human objects of this many-faceted grace, the sanctification logically (but not temporally) precedes justification. Neither waits to be accomplished till the end of salvation, but both can be said to await "perfection" till then.

It is often said that Evangelicals believe in an "imputed" justification, Catholics in an "imparted" one. But this oversimplifies. For a start, Evangelicals accept that justification leads to sanctification (imparting of moral "righteousness" within) and do not claim that God could or would accept us as righteous without the intention of making us so. So the imputing and imparting are connected at least teleologically for them. And it is not true that Catholic theology requires complete denial of an "imputational" element in justification, as a careful reading of Tridentine decrees makes clear. Indeed, the very fact that justification involves forgiveness, as all agree, means that it must involve treating somebody as if they have not done something bad which they have in fact done. Imputing innocence, that is.