Gratuitous Justification

Here’s Lane Tipton, from the CTC 2011 Highlights show:

Is there any renovative feature at all — actual, consequential, conditional, potential — is there any renovative feature in Calvin’s doctrine of justification? Absolutely not. He is what makes the Roman Catholic tradition furious, because here you have a person who affirms a gratuitous, forensic imputation of righteousness as the sole ground for the believer’s justification, received by faith alone.

What grabbed me here is the use of the word gratuitous. I had never before made the etymological connection between gratuitous and gratia, as in sola (it makes a little more sense when you include gratuity in the mix). Usually gratuitous is taken to mean something like arbitrary or reason-less. And given that we are Totally Depraved and Unconditionally Elected, can God’s grace be described any better way?

From now on, I’m going to be looking for ways to use gratuitous when others might use gracious

This entry was posted in Calvin, Calvinism, Gospel, Horton, Law/Gospel Distinction, Mike Horton, The gospel, The Protestant Reformation. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Gratuitous Justification

  1. RubeRad says:

    Would that be considered a gratuitous image, or a meaningful graphic?

  2. Paul M. says:

    “And given that we are Totally Depraved and Unconditionally Elected, can God’s grace be described any better way?”


  3. RubeRad says:

    Thanks for sharing

  4. Paul says:

    Yeah, not reason-less or arbitrary. Unconditional election means we don’t have to meet any conditions of salvation, i.e., specifically, faith in Christ, on the basis of which God saves us (contextually, the response was to the Arminians &co. who claimed God elects us based on forseen faith in Christ). However, it does not follow from this that there being no reasons grounded *in us* that there are *no reasons at all* for why God chose Ruben instead of, say, John Smith.

  5. RubeRad says:

    Indeed, or Joseph Smith. But whatever the reasons are, we don’t have access to them, so from our perspective they are gratuitous.

    If you want, you can see this post, instead of a call to see our justification as abitrary, a call to reclaim the word ‘gratuitous’ to have something to do with gratia.

  6. Paul says:

    I agree that we don’t have access to them, and so there’s an epistemological gap there. But we should be careful to not confuse epistemology with metaphysics. Many Arminians, because they cannot see the reason for our election, conclude that there *are* no reasons. This illicitly moves from an epistemic gap to a metaphysical gap. And your post could be seen as fostering that misconception, so I always try to make that point clear when I talk about uncondition election, since it’s a cause for stumbling. Horton had to deal with this from Olson.

    I appreciate the call to retake language, but ‘gratuitous’ has become synonymous with ‘reasonless’ or ‘justificationless’ or ‘arbitrary,’ as in, say, the evidental argument from evil, which takes as a premise the existence of ‘gratuitous evils.’ So, given the state of things today, the word war might be a waste of resources. At a minimum, you’d need to distinguish between epistemic and metaphysical gratuity; and then from there the former would need to be further distinguished between divine and human epistemology.

  7. RubeRad says:

    I thought the problem with Arminians is that they think there *are* reasons for election, i.e. foreseen faith.

  8. Paul says:

    I thought that ambiguity would be a problem. I meant a problem they have with Reformed theology. They claim that on Reformed theology, unconditional election is arbitrary. Olson made this charge to Horton. So, on both views there *are* reasons for election, it’s just that the Arminian grounds them in our meeting conditions for salvation, i.e., faith in Christ, and the Calvinist grounds them somewhere else, so long as the reason does not depend on anything worthy in man.

  9. RubeRad says:

    Ah, I get it. I was very glad to see the Biola exchange show up on WHI; they are on my device now, and I’ll probably get around to them some time this week. But my prediction is that I will hear Olson with about as little patience as when I skimmed Love Wins; i.e. slim to none.

  10. Paul says:

    I don’t listen to anything Olson says anymore. There’s far, far better Arminian conversation partners out there. Olson is a hack, both theologically and philosophically. The new standard on Arminianism will be given in Thomas McCall’s forthcoming book on the subject. McCall is not an Olson fan, and will attempt to save Arminianism from going down on the S. S. S. Olson.

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