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A Letter on "Ontological Soteriology"

My Concern With Merit- And Works-Righteousness-Based Soteriologies: They Posit Christ As An Instrument By Which Man Gains Something More Ultimate Than Christ Himself.

  • P. Andrew Sandlin
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Dear Pastor ____:

I'll answer this once, briefly. You may post this to any of the lists you're on. I enjoyed reading your remarks on the "enthusiasm" comment of my Razormouth essay, and I do not mind the humorous satire.

I'm not sure which comment of Pastor ____ you asked about that was "last," but I think it may have been this:

Therefore, let us focus on this one question: Did Christ, by His life and death, as the wages of one Who has faithfully discharged His responsibilities, earn for us the reward promised to the righteous or is the concept of the merit of Christ to be restricted solely to His intrinsic worth (no matter how we conclude this intrinsic worth is to be measured)?

While I think this frames the issue in a way that presupposes a theological method I'd don't endorse, it does enjoy the merit [!] of raising an issue not often recognized. We tend often to see only the economical dimension of soteriology and not its ontological side, as the view above surely does.

My concern with some of the merit- and works-righteousness-based soteriologies is that they posit Christ as an instrument by which man gains something more ultimate than Christ Himself. In the pre-lapsarian phase, in this view, man really needed meritorious works-righteousness by which to gain eternal life. He (it is held) needs the same thing in the post-lapsarian era, but now our Lord is hauled in to do it for him. This seems to diminish not only the work, but also the Person, of Christ.

At the heart of Calvin's soteriology was union with, or incorporation into, Christ, not a scheme of soteriology by which sinners gain something more ultimate than Christ Himself.

I do not believe that the Bible depicts Christ as a means to a soteriological end, but as the end itself. He is not a tool to get eternal life. He *is* the life (Jn. 6:53-58). He is not an instrument to restore a meritorious righteousness. He *is* the righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). He is not a stop-gap measure recruited by the Father to put soteriological Plan B into operation. He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).

You can probably detect that my view, while super-exalting our Lord, will not be appealing to those looking for a tight, cohesive soteriology that answers all soteriological questions. I do not believe the Bible offers that sort of soteriological scheme.

I've finished a critique of Meredith Kline's frontal defense of a meritorious/works-righteousness soteriology. Maybe it will help; maybe not. Good folks disagree with me, but I still love them in the Lord.

I am grateful to all you ____ men, whose love for the Lord and the Faith I hold in the highest regard.

Yours with respect,

P. Andrew Sandlin

  • P. Andrew Sandlin

P. Andrew Sandlin is a Christian minister, theologian, and author.  He is the founder and president of the Center for Cultural Leadership in Coulterville, California.  He was formerly president of the National Reform Association and executive vice president of the Chalcedon Foundation.  He is a minister in the Fellowship of Mere Christianity.. He was formerly a pastor at Church of the Word in Painesville, Ohio (1984-1995) and Cornerstone Bible Church in Scotts Valley, California (2004-2014).

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