Romans 8.29–30 and the Question of the Ordo Salutis

in Journal of Reformed Theology
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‭This essay addresses recent criticisms of the doctrine of the ordo salutis (order of salvation) in early modern Reformed theology by (1) surveying recent criticisms, (2) explaining early modern Reformed expressions of the ordo salutis, particularly as they employ the concept of the sorites, a Greco-Roman form of rhetorical argument found in the apostle Paul’s letters, but especially Rom 8.29–30, (3) arguing for the validity and correctness of the early modern exegesis and exposition of Rom 8.29–30, (4) exploring the systematic-theological implications of Paul’s use of a sorites in Rom 8.29–30.‬




‭Heiko A. Oberman, The Dawn of the Reformation: Essays in late Medieval and Early Reformation Thought (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 280. Cf. The Confession of Faith and Catechisms: The Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as adopted by the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (Willow Grove: The Committee on Christian Education of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 2005), I.v, x.‬


‭Cf. Michael Bush, “Calvin and the Reformanda Sayings,” in Calvinus sacrarum literarum interpres: Papers of the International Congress on Calvin Research, ed. Herman Selderhuis (Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 2008), 285–299.


‭N.T. Wright, “New Perspectives on Paul,” in Justification in Perspective: Historical Developments and Contemporary Challenges, ed. Bruce L. McCormack (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 255.


‭Wright, “New Perspectives,” 256.


‭T.F. Torrance, Scottish Theology: From John Knox to John McLeod Campbell (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996), 129; cf. R. Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain, “In Defense of Proof-Texting,” JETS 54/3 (2001): 589–606.‬


‭Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology: New Combined Edition (1932–1938; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 415–416.


‭See, e.g., J.V. Fesko, “Vos and Berkhof on Union with Christ and Justification,” CTJ 47/1 (2012): 50–71.‬


‭Cf. Richard A. Muller, Calvin and the Reformed Tradition: Studies on the Work of Christ and the Order of Salvation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012), 163–167.


‭Berkouwer, Faith and Justification, 31–32.


‭William B. Evans, Imputation and Impartation: Union with Christ in American Reformed Theology (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2008), 265; cf. Muller, Calvin and the Reformed Tradition, 281.‬


‭Barth, Reformed Confessions, 150; cf. similar criticism in Torrance, Scottish Theology, 128–129.‬


‭Barth, Reformed Confessions, 151–152; cf. Richard Gaffin, who argues that the ordo is not present in the Westminster Confession (Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., “Union with Christ: Some Biblical and Theological Reflections,” in Always Reforming: Explorations in Systematic Theology, ed. A.T.B. McGowan [Leicester: InterVarsity Press, 2006], 282–287).‬


‭Barth, Reformed Confessions, 151. Ironically, Muller notes how in Calvin’s 1536 catechism there is a causal ordering of the various benefits of redemption, reflective of the chief concerns of what would develop in the ordo salutis (Muller, Calvin and the Reformed Tradition, 205).‬


‭Barth, Reformed Confessions, 151.


‭Heinrich Bullinger, In divinum Iesu Christi domini nostri evangelium secundum Ioannem (Zurich: Apud Frosch, 1543), IV.viii (p. 103); Pietro Martire Vermigli, In primum librum Mosis, qui vulgo Genesis dicitur (1569; Zurich: Excudebat Christophorus Froschouerus, 1579), 31–32; Hieronymi Zanchii, De tribus Elohim, aeterno Patre, Filio, et Spiritu Sancto, uno eodemque Iehova (Neustadt an der Weinstrasse: Typis Matthaei Harnisii, 1589), IV.iii.4 (p. 85); Augustin Marlorat, A Catholike and Ecclesiasticall Exposition of the Holy Gospell after S. John, trans. Thomas Timme Minister (London: Thomas Marshe, 1575), 559.‬


‭William Barclay, An apology for the true Christian divinity, as the same is held forth, and preached by the people, called, in scorn, Quakers (Aberdeen: John Forbes, 1678), 145.


‭Heinrich Heppe, Geschicte des Pietismus und der Mystik in der Reformirten Kirche (Leiden: Brill, 1879), 24–26; also see Richard A. Muller, Christ and the Decree: Christology and Predestination in Reformed Theology from Calvin to Perkins (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986), 131–132.‬


‭Theodore Beza, Summa totius Christianismi, sive descriptio et distributio causarum salutis electorum, & exitii reproborum, ex sacris literis collecta (Geneva: Iohannis Crispini, 1570), §VII; idem, A Brief Declaration of the Chiefe Poyntes of Christian Religion Set Forth in a Table (London: n. d.). Cf. Muller, “Use and Abuse,” 52–53. Note, the old English translation has been compared and amended based on the Latin original.‬


‭Berkouwer, Faith and Justification, 31–32; Weber, Foundations for Dogmatics, 2.337; Richard B. Gaffin, Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul’s Soteriology (1978; Phillipsburg: P & R, 1987), 137.‬


‭William Whitaker, An answere to the ten reasons of Edmund Campian (London: Felix Kyngston, 1606), 234; Caspar Olevianus, In epistolam D. Pauli apostolic ad Romanos notae, ex Gasparis Oleviani (Geneva: Eustathius Vignon, 1579), 373; Richard Turnbull, An exposition upon the canonicall epistle of Saint James (London: John Windet, 1606), 122; John Downame, The Christian Warfare (London: William Stansby, 1634), 158; idem, The Summe of Sacred Divinitie (London: William Barret, n. d.), 299–300, 453; William Pemble, Vindiciae fidei, or a treatise of justification by faith (Oxford: John Adams, Edw. And John Forrest, 1659), 154; Richard Sibbes, A Breathing After God (London: R.M., 1639), 148; George Walker, Socinianisme in the fundamentall point of justification discovered, and confuted (London: John Bartlet, 1641), 346; Thomas Edwards, The third part of Gangraena. Or, A new and higher discovery of the errors, heresies, blasphemies, and insolent proceedings of the sectaries of these times; with some animadversions by way of confutation upon many of the errors and heresies named (London: Ralph Smith, 1646), 13; Edward Leigh, A treatise of divinity consisting of three bookes (London: William Lee, 1646), 5; Franciscus Gomarus, Selectorum evangelii Iohannis locorum illustratio, in Opera theologica omnia (Amsterdam: Joannis Janssonii, 1644), 442; John Arrowsmith, Armilla catechetica. A chain of principles; or, An orderly concatenation of theological aphorismes and exercitations (Cambridge: Printed by John Field, 1659), 321; Samuel Annesley, The morning exercises at Cripplegate, volume v (1652.; London: Thomas Tegg, 1844), 270, 349, 532; Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 vols., ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger (Phillipsburg: P & R, 2002–2007), XVI.i.1, ix.4; XVII.i.11; idem, Institutio Theologiae Elencticae, 3 vols. (Edinburgh: John D. Lowe, 1847); Melchior Leydekker, Melchioris Leydeckeri S.S. Theol. Doctoris & Professoris de veritate religionis reformatae seu evangelicae (Utrecht: Typis Rudolphi à Zyll, 1688), 579; Leonard Rijssen, Compendium theologiae didactico-elencticae (Amsterdam: Apud Georgium Gallet, 1695), 146, 159.‬


‭George Downame, “An Appendix to the Treatise of the certainty of Salvation,” in The Covenant of Grace: or An Exposition Upon Luke 1.73, 74, 75 (London: Ralph Smith, 1647), 281–282.


‭William Lawne, An Abridgement of the Institution of Christian religion written by M. John Calvin (Edinburgh: Thomas Vaultrollier, 1585), III.xviii.1 (p. 213). See also, Downame, The Christian warfare, (p. 98); Lucas Trelcatius, A Briefe Institution Of the Common Places of Sacred Divinity (London: Francis Burton, 1610), II.ix (p. 267).‬


‭Muller, Calvin and the Reformed Tradition, 168; cf. Conrad Pellican, In omnes apostolicas epistolas, Pauli, Petri, Iacobi, Ioannis, et Iudae (Zurich: Froschauer, 1539), 97; John Calvin, Romans and Thessalonians (1960; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 180–181; Heinrich Bullinger, In sanctissimam Pauli ad Romanos epistolam (Zurich: Froschauer, 1533), comm. Rom. 8.29–30 (p. 112); Wolfgang Musculus, In epistolam D. Apostoli Pauli ad Romanos commtarii (Basel: Sebastian Henricpetri, 1600), 143–145.‬


‭John Downame, et al., Annotations Upon all the Books of the Old and New Testament (London: Evan Tyler, 1657), comm. Rom. 8:1–4.‬


‭Johannes Piscator, Analysis logica epistolae Pauli ad Romanos; un cum scholiis et observationibus locorum doctrinae (Herborn: Christophori Corvini, 1595), 169: “Aurea illa catena, id est, gradatione & sorite.” In another context, the same phrase, “sorite & gradatione” is used to denote a series of necessary causes (Franciscus Gomarus, Analysis & Explicatio Epistolae ad Romanos, in Opera theological omnia [Amsterdam: Joannis Janssonii, 1644], 65). In the same Romans context from which Gomarus’ definition of sorites appears, Vermigli explains Romans 10:17 in the same manner: “This is called a sorites argument, from what is piled together, that which is gathered from the causes of the effects” (Appellatur hoc argumenti genus Sorites, a coacervando: causae quippe aggregantur effectis) (Peter Martyr Vermigli, In epistolam S. Pauli apostolis ad Rom. D. Petri Martyris Vermilii Florentini [Basel: Petrum Pernam, 1560], 1039).‬


‭Giovanni Diodati, Pious and learned Annotations upon the Holy Bible (London: Nicholas Fuzzell, 1651), comm. Rom. 8:29–30; cf. Downame, et al., Annotations, preface.‬


‭Edward Leigh, A Systeme or Body of Divinity (London: William Lee, 1654), VII.i (p. 486).‬


‭Samuel Rutherford, A Survey of the Spiritual Antichrist (London: Andrew Crooke, 1648), II.lxxiii (p. 155). Note, pagination in section II of Rutherford’s work restarts.‬


‭Ussher, Body of Divinity, 202.


‭A. Katherine Grieb, The Story of Romans: A Narrative Defense of God’s Righteousness (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002), 80.


‭Joseph Fitzmeyer, Romans (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 526; cf. F. Blass and A. Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans. Robert W. Funk (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973), §§493.3.‬


‭Greib, Story of Romans, 80; Brendan Byrne, Romans (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1996), 268.‬


‭Roy A. Sorensen, “Sorites Arguments,” in A Companion to Metaphysics, ed. Jaegwon Kim and Ernest Sosa (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995), 462.


‭Fischel, “Use of Sorites,” 145.


‭Michael Patrick O’Connor, “The Pseudo-Sorites in Hebrew Verse,” in Perspectives on Language and Text: Essays and Poems in Honor of Francis I. Andersen’s Sixtieth Birthday, ed. Edgar W. Conrad, Edward G. Newing (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1987), 240.


‭Cf. R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (1945; Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1961), 660–661. Note, there are other sorites in Scripture including 2Pet. 1:5–7; Psalm 133:2–3a; Matt. 1:1–17 (cf. Fischel, “Uses of Sorites,” passim; David Tsumura, “Sorites in Psalm 133:2–3a,” Biblica 61/3 [1980]: 416–417; O’Connor, “Pseudo-Sorites,” passim).‬


‭Fischel, “Use of Sorites,” 132; also Luke Timothy Johnson, Reading Romans: A Literary and Theological Commentary (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1997), 80.‬


‭Constantine R. Campbell, Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 83–84; Stanley E. Porter, Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, with Reference to Tense and Mood (New York: Peter Lang, 1993), 211–238, esp. 237.‬


‭Moo, Romans, 531.


‭Moo, Romans, 533.


‭Moo, Romans, 536; cf. Murray, Romans, 321.‬


‭See, e.g., Anthony Maxey, Certaine Sermons Preached Before the Kings Maiestie, and else where, by that Reverend Divine Anthony Maxey (London: Clement Knight, 1619), 3; Muller, Calvin and the Reformed Tradition, 194.‬


‭Cf. Mark Garcia, Life in Christ: Union with Christ and Twofold Grace in Calvin’s Theology (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2008), 61ff., 104–105, 26–61, 264, 267 n. 24.‬


‭Fischel, “Use of Sorites,” 151.


‭See, e.g., C. John Collins, “Echoes of Aristotle in Romans 2.14–15: Or, Maybe Abimelech Was Not So Bad After All,” Journal of Markets & Morality 13/1 (2010): 123–173.‬


‭M. Piñon, O.P., Fundamental Logic (1973; Quezon City: Rex Printing Company, 1995), 84–85; Muller, Calvin and the Reformed Tradition, 240–241.‬


‭Dunn, Romans, 485.


‭John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 84.


‭Murray, Redemption, 79–80.


‭Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “Wrighting the Wrongs of the Reformation? The State of the Union with Christ in St. Paul and Protestant Soteriology,” in Jesus, Paul and the People of God: A Theological Dialogue with N.T. Wright, ed. Nicholas Perrin and Richard B. Hays (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 235–258; Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, One with God: Salvation as Deification and Justification (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2004), 87–115.‬


‭Murray, Redemption, 121.


‭See John Webster, “Theologies of Retrieval,” in The Oxford Handbook of Systematic Theology, ed. John Webster, Kathryn Tanner, and Iain Torrance (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 583–599.


‭G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy: The Romance of Faith (1959; New York: Doubleday, 1990), 48.


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