Reformed Theologians on Sanctification

A few years ago I read a quite important book that helped me understand the Reformed tradition more fully. I was reared in a generic evangelical context... and when I went to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, I was introduced to Reformed theology and knew I had found a theological home. Still, I was not native to that territory. 


Later I did a Th.M. degree at Westminster Theological Seminary. My focus was on historical theology. Since I enjoyed both church history and systematic theology, this was a hybrid choice that allowed a lot of leeway for course selection. 


While my understanding of and appreciation for Reformed theology continued to grow, I also realized I was not going to be a card carrying Calvinist. I am forever shaped by that tradition, but I swim in some broader streams as well. Part of my theological journey is a constant attention to synthesizing (with integrity) multiple streams with my essential Reformed mindsets. These waters can get a little murky!


But back to the book. It was Piety and the Princeton Theologians. This volume did wonders for helping me see and appreciate the piety and holiness that was of interest to this tradition. Out of that reading, I went searching for the primary sources and found many of them quite inexpensively in second hand book stores.


So, when I found this quote from Benjamin Warfield (and Murray and Machen) in some recent reading, I perked up.



"What encouragement is greater than this?" cries Chrysostom, with his instinctive perception of the motive-springs of the human heart. "Nothing arouses a great soul to the performance of good works so much as learning that in this it is likened to God."  B.B. Warfield (quoted in Imitating God in Christ by Jason Hood)



God's work in us is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works. Nor is the relationship strictly one of co-operation as if God did His part and we did ours... God works in us and we also work. But the relationship is that because God works, we work.  John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied


Jesus as a matter of fact is a Brother to us as well as a Savior - an elder Brother whose steps we may follow. The imitation of Jesus has a fundamental place in the Christian life; it is perfectly correct to represent Him as our supreme and only example.  J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism



Just more examples of fine Reformed thinking that sees a place for the human agent to be cooperatively and dependently obeying all that Jesus commanded us to obey. Not so we might be justified or regenerated, but that we might progress in the God-ordained means of growth in holiness as Christ is re-imaged in us.


Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International