Saturday, May 20, 2006

Ryken, Calvinism, and Election

Philip Graham Ryken, senior minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA, said in an article “Hearts Aflame: Reformed Piety” (in Tabletalk, a magazine by Ligonier Ministries) that Christians were chosen “in Christ for the very purpose that we would be holy.” His discussion is on personal holiness, not positional holiness. He continues: “To see this, we only need to follow the logic of Paul’s opening argument in Ephesians. There the apostle praises God for choosing us in Christ ‘before the foundation of the world’ (Eph. 1:4a). But why did God give us this blessing? What was His purpose for choosing us in Christ? It was so ‘that we should be holy and blameless before him’ (Eph. 1:4b).”

Does Ephesians 1:4 contain a call to personal holiness? If so, then 1:4b is a reference to personal holiness and not positional holiness. However, contextually, positional holiness seems to be the much preferred reading. For example, while 1:4 says that His choosing leads to our holiness, 1:5 says that Him predestining us leads to our adoption … a positional concept. In fact, the whole context of 1:4-13 relates more to positional concepts than “personal” (see also our “inheritance” in 1:11).

This is not to deny Ryken’s statement that Christians are chosen to live a holy life. Ephesians 2:8-10 - especially 2:10 (which says that the purpose for our salvation was for us to do good works) – affirms Ryken’s theology, but not 1:4. Did I miss something or has this convinced Calvinist read his thoughts into Eph 1:4?


J. B. Hood said...

What you say here makes sense, but just to play devil's advocate--can we really ever in Scripture distinguish sharply and finally between positional and personal holiness?

dacroteau said...

Yes. 1 Peter 1:15-16 encourages us to "be holy," that is, live holy lives; in 1 Cor 6:11, we are said to have been (in the past ... not just based on the aorist but the context and "but") "sanctified" or as the NLT says: "you were made holy." So, if we were made holy in the past and we are told to be holy, Scripture either contradicts itself (an unnecessary conclusion) or divides between positional and personal holiness. Now, is that divide "sharp"? I'm not sure what you mean by "sharp," so I can't really answer that part of the question.