Girardeau on Justification

Few have said it more clearly. Thanks to Wes for posting this. Please don’t fail to read to the last paragraph:

In discharging this instrumental office faith is entirely alone. It is followed, and in accordance with the provisions of the covenant of grace it is inevitably followed, by the other graces of the Spirit, and by good, that is, holy works; but they do not co-operate with it in the act by which Christ and his righteousness are received in order to justification. They are not concurring causes, but the certain results of justification (emphasis added- rsc).

Girardeau puts the choice squarely before us. Either good works and Spirit-wrought sanctity are the results of justification or a concurring cause. The “covenantal moralists” want them to part of faith co-operating with it in the act of justification. In this way they believe they can secure sanctity from the sinner. Like all rationalists, the do not believe that the Holy Spirit, the power of the Gospel, is a sufficient engine for producing sanctity. They must make justification, in some way, contingent upon our sanctity in order to be sure of our sanctity.

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
    Author Image

    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. This is a false dichotomy. Calvin, for example, did not consider sanctification a result of justification, but rather each of these as distinct benefits that each come directly from union with Christ, inseparable but by no means confused, and certainly not sequential.

    “as Christ cannot be divided into parts, so the two things, justification and sanctification, which we perceive to be united together in him, are inseparable. Whomsoever, therefore, God receives into his favor, he presents with the Spirit of adoption, whose agency forms them anew into his image. But if the brightness of the sun cannot be separated from its heat, are we therefore to say, that the earth is warmed by light and illumined by heat? Nothing can be more apposite to the matter in hand than this simile. The sun by its heat quickens and fertilizes the earth; by its rays enlightens and illumines it. Here is a mutual and undivided connection, and yet reason itself prohibits us from transferring the peculiar properties of the one to the other.”

    This analogy makes no sense if justification produces sanctification: does the heat produce the light or the light produce the heat?

    So, Calvin presents a third way: justification and sanctification go together inseparably, neither producing the other, and each having its own specific effect that should not be confused with the other. Thus, the Spirit-wrought sanctity of regeneration can be simultaneous with and inseparable from justification, without being either a result or a cause.

  2. And why did you cut off the quote?

    “They are not concurring causes, but the certain results of justification. In a word, faith, while not the sole cause for the act of the Spirit uniting the sinner to Christ in regeneration is also a cause, is the sole instrumental cause on man’s part of justification.”

    So, “regeneration is also a cause”–isn’t regeneration the first element of Spirit-wrought sanctity? So, there is a concurrent cause, it’s just not instrumental. The post doesn’t include Girardeau’s comments on that various causes–would regeneration be the efficient cause? Still a cause…

  3. 1. I cut off the quotation because I wanted to highlight the logical (not chronological) order of justification and sanctification.

    2. I pointed readers to the post and gave them a link. I’m not obligated to re-post everything.

    3. With all due respect I think you misunderstand G.

    He begins the para. by saying, “In discharging this instrumental office faith is entirely alone.” This is an unequivocal statement. Whatever else he says after this has to be read in the light of sentence and the foregoing.

    Then he goes on to say that “faith” is not the “sole cause for the act of the Spirit uniting the sinner to Christ in regeneration is also a cause…”

    He doesn’t say that regeneration is a a “sole cause” but “the act of the Spirit uniting the sinner to Christ” is also a cause.

    If union with Christ, in the third aspect, which Gaffin calls “existential,” or which might be called “vital,” is simul with faith and regeneration (awakening from death to life) then I can agree with G. here.

    He goes on to say, “All the excellence it [faith] possesses is derived from its relation to Christ” and “Hence, it is precisely suited to be the instrument, and the sole instrument, of justification. As all human works whatsoever are excluded from it, justification is seen to be altogether of grace.”

    4. Joshua, you seem to be confused about Calvin. This is exactly what Calvin says about the nature of faith in the act of justification. Have you read Venema’s brilliant account of Calvin on the duplex gratia. He rejects the very interpretation you are offering and he does so quite soundly.

  4. Thank you for posting this here. I don’t check Wes White’s blog often enough it seems.

    It is stimulating for me to see someone else who is saying the same things as Horton and Murray. I’ve had a hard time finding many people who tie a causal language to justification. Care to make my life easier and tell me something about Girardeau? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of him.

  5. 1. Okay.

    2. Fine, no problem.

    3. Um, no. I’m not misunderstanding him, because I haven’t claimed to understand him–I’m trying to figure out what he’s saying, but, not having his book or access to it, I’m stuck asking you and Wes White questions.

    I certainly recognize and agree that he says faith is the only instrumental cause of justification. But he then says that faith is “not the sole cause…” Does he mean of justification? That seems to be the case, since that is what the topic is, and the sentence concludes with a focus on what faith’s causal role is in justification.

    He then says that “the act of the Spirit uniting the sinner to Christ in regeneration is also a cause…” Now, you are saying that regeneration is not a cause, but “the act of the Spirit, etc.” is. So, what exactly is the import of the prepositional phrase “in regeneration”? That seems to simply be a way of defining regeneration as “the act of the Spirit uniting the sinner to Christ.” Maybe Wes could give us G.’s definition of regeneration from elsewhere in the work to clear this up.

    I’m honestly trying to figure out what G. means here. He says explicitly that faith is “not the sole cause” for something. So, something is explicitly *not* sola fide. What is it? It seems to be justification, since he doesn’t bring anything else up in that sentence, but that seems odd. He does say that “the act of the Spirit uniting the sinner to Christ” i.e., regeneration (unless the prepositional phrase “in regeneration” is doing something else-besides defining-that, as a teacher of multiple languages, I’m not clearly seeing) is “also a cause.” But a cause of what? Again, justification is the only thing he’s talking about in the immediate context, but that also seems odd.

    The way the sentence reads is that faith is the sole instrumental cause of justification, but regeneration is also a cause (of justification? But nothing is else is spoken of as being caused…), in some other way than instrumental. But what is that way?

    4. You don’t appear to understand my interpretation of Calvin. I am not saying that Calvin thinks works have anything to do with justification. They don’t, either according to me or Calvin. What I am saying is that Calvin does not think that sanctification is based on or flows out of sanctification. Rather, justification and sanctification are two distinct benefits that each flow directly out of union with Christ: justification does not come from sanctification (which is his main point against Osiander), but nor does sanctification come from justification. Yet, your interpretation of G.’s quote states that either sanctification must be a result of justification or else a cause of it. My point is that Calvin presents a legitimate tertium quid: sanctification is not a result of justification, but neither is sanctification a cause of justification. Sanctification and justification are two distinct benefits that each come directly from union with Christ. While they are never separable, neither are they ever confused: sanctification doesn’t justify (because it is always imperfect), and justification doesn’t sanctify (because it is forensic, not infused or transformative). So, it’s not A or B, result or cause, but rather C: I would say “concurring circumstance” or “concurring characteristic,” but that in no way makes sanctification a cause. Is this not a legitimate third option?

  6. Joshua,

    1. I understand G to be saying that faith is the result of regeneration and that faith is the sole instrument of justification.

    2. I think you’re reading Gaffin into Calvin. Read Venema on Calvin on the double benefit. He rejects the view you propound for good reason. See my book on Olevianus, also on the double benefit.

    For Calvin sanctity is the logical result of justification. The twin benefits are not purely parallel. There is a logical relation between them.

  7. Just so we’re clear, I’m reading “result” as roughly synonymous with “effect,” so I’m understanding you to say that “good works and Spirit-wrought sanctity are effects of justification…” Or, put in the obverse, that means justification is the cause of the good works and sanctity. So, there has to be causality one way or the other: either justification causes sanctification, or sanctification causes justification, and that’s what I’m saying is a false dichotomy: it may be that neither causes the other. If that’s not what you meant by “results,” then my responses are not as directly relevant.

  8. 1. That may be, but he still says that faith is not the sole cause because regeneration is also a cause. But it would be inane to say that faith is not the sole cause of itself, but regeneration is also a cause of faith. So, it doesn’t seem as though that sentence really says that.

    2. While I did attend the recent lecture by Gaffin out here, I held this view well before, simply on my reading of Calvin. So, I couldn’t possibly have read Gaffin into Calvin before I ever read Gaffin. I haven’t access to a good Reformed library here, and I don’t have the money right now to purchase theological books, so I’ll have to give both Venema’s and your works a miss for right now.

    For what it’s worth, the WCF by no means constrains me to the dichotomy you’re presenting. Neither the confessions nor the catechisms ever talk bout sanctification as caused by justification. Rather, one “accompanies” the other. Indeed, for justification to cause sanctification would be a category mistake, since justification is forensic and sanctification is transformative. Also, the LC talks about faith as being “wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God.” This means that something Spirit-wrought is the instrumental cause of justification. But what does the Holy Spirit work but sanctity? And thus one could describe justification as a “result” (indirectly) of “Spirit-wrought sanctity” on good confessional grounds.

  9. And I would agree that there is a “logical relation” between J and S. But there are other “logical relations” betsides cause & effect. If two things are twin effects of the same cause, that is still a “logical relation.”

  10. Joshua,

    I think Girardeau probably assumes the same view that one finds in VanMastricht and others, i.e. the Spirit operates upon a believer by regenerating him and yet that regenerated person is in sort of latent state for an indeterminate period of time. At some point in this state the regenerate person is either given faith or it is produced by the regenerating work of the Spirit.

    What interests me in Girardeau’s language is his clear insistence on the sole instrumentality of faith and that defined clearly as resting and receiving.

    I would rather say that the Spirit operates through the preaching of the Gospel (HC 65; Rom 10) by regenerating, creating faith, uniting to Christ (in the existential aspect) simul. Mike Horton deals with this in the 2nd or 3rd volume of the WJKP series.

    On getting books — you remember how to use ILL don’t you? It’s free or nearly free. As a WSC alumnus you might be able to do it via WSC. I don’t know.

    I quite disagree with you about the standards. The view of union you seem to assume (whatever its source; that’s immaterial) assumes a forensic doctrine of sanctification, by virtue of existential union, logically prior to justification, that isn’t in the standards. When the standards speak of sanctity they are speaking of progressive sanctity.

    Look at Belgic 24. That summary of the relations between sanctity as fruit and justification as source is classic and I think identical to what the Standards are saying.

    The historic view is that sanctification is nothing more or less than the fruit and evidence of justification. Christ justifies sinners, not the sanctified.

  11. I agree that G. is very clear on the sole instrumentality of faith. I was just unclear as to what he was positing there about regeneration (I’ve asked Wes White over on his blog as well). I have repeatedly said in various venues that the faith that justifies is one that is by its very nature living and thus obedience-producing, but that faith in no way justifies on the basis or by means of that living and obedient character.

    How would I get books through WSC delivered to me in Oregon? If I could, that would be great, but I’ve no idea how that would work. Usually, one has to have a local library through which one can request books, but the local college library does not offer that service to non-faculty and staff, and the public library is not connected to a network that’s going to have theological libraries.

    I’m not sure how you’re getting your characterization of my view of sanctification:

    -you say that I assume “a forensic doctrine of sanctification…”
    **I said: “for justification to cause sanctification would be a category mistake, since justification is forensic and sanctification is transformative.”
    **I also said: “justification doesn’t sanctify (because it is forensic, not infused or transformative). ”
    **So, I have clearly stated that sanctification is not forensic, yet you conclude that my position is just the opposite.

    -you say that I assume this “forensic sanctification” is “logically prior to justification…”
    **I never said anything remotely like this. My point was repeatedly that neither justification nor sanctification was a cause or effect of the other. First, “cause” is not necessarily equivalent to “logically prior.” Second, even if “cause” were equivalent to “logically prior,” what I would be saying is that neither is logically prior to the other, and, therefore, sanctification is not logically prior to justification. Again, you conclude that my view is exactly contrary to what I actually said.

    As for the Westminster Standards, they never say that sanctification is the fruit and evidence of justification. It actually says that good works “are the fruits and evidences of a true and lively faith.” Faith, however, “is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts” (CF) and “a saving grace, wrought in the heart of a sinner by the Spirit and Word of God” (LC) Faith is not justification–in fact, they are totally different kinds of things, one forensic and external, the other tranformative and internal, so you can’t simply swap out “true and lively faith” with “justification” and get the same thing.

    Furthermore, the LC does not state that “sanctification” manifests justification, but rather than it, along with justification and adoption, “manifests” union with Christ.

    Finally, sanctification is the continuation of what is begun in regeneration: “They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are *further* sanctified, really and personally…” (13.1) Sanctification is the work of the Spirit by which the elect are “renewed in their whole man after the image of God.” (LC 75) In sanctification is listed “having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts…” and justifying faith is one of those things labelled as a “saving grace.” (LC 72) The first thing that is renewed is the will, and this is done in effectual calling/regeneration (Westminster seems to conflate or combine these two), cf. WCF 10.1, WLC 67.

    So, since regeneration is logically prior to faith (and possibly, apparently, chonologically, according to your take on Girardeau), faith logically prior to justification (since the faith must be there to receive the grace of justiciation), and regeneration is the first seed of sanctification, then there is some sense in which the beginning of sanctification is logically prior to justification.

    BUT, as the standards are at great pains to say, even if these seeds and beginnings of the renewal that later blooms into final holiness precede justification, they are by no means the ground or instrument of justification. See above on justification, on which I agree with Girardeau and the WS regarding the exclusive instrumentality of faith and complete disregard of good works or internal renewal in God’s justifying verdict.

    I end with agreement: Christ justifies sinners, since regeneration is only the beginnings of sanctification, and sanctification is always incomplete in this life. Therefore, no matter how sanctified the believer is, he is always a sinner in the view of the law (James 2:10).

Comments are closed.