Turretin: The Romanists Admit A Forensic Sense To “Justify” But They Also Have A Two-Stage Justification

V. Hence arises the question with the Romanists concerning the acceptation of this word—whether it is to be taken precisely in a forensic sense in this affair; or whether it ought also to be taken in a physical and moral sense for the infusion of righteousness and justification, if it is allowable (so to speak) either by the acquisition or the increase of it. For they do not deny that the word justificatio and the verb justificare are often taken in a forensic sense, even in this matter, as Bellarmine (“De Justificatione,” 1.1 Opera [1858], 4:461–62), Tirinus (Theologiae elenchticae … controversarium fidei, Cont. 15, number 1 [1648], pp. 217–21) and Toletus (Commentarii et annotationes in epistolam … ad Romanos, Annot. 13 [1602], pp. 117–22) and not a few others. Yet they do not wish this to be the constant meaning, but that it often signifies a true production, acquisition or increase of righteousness; this is especially the case when employed about the justification of man before God. Hence they distinguish justification into “first and second.” The first is that by which the man who is unjust is made just; the second is that by which a just man is made more just. Hence Bellarmine says: “Justification undoubtedly is a certain movement from sin to righteousness, and takes its name from the terminus to which it leads, as all other similar motions, illumination, calefaction; that is true justification, where some righteousness is aquired beyond the remission of sin.” Thomas Aquinas says, “Justification taken passively implies a motion to making righteous, just as calefaction a motion to heat” (ST, I–II, Q. 113, Art. 1, p. 1144). Now although we do not deny that this word has more than one signification and is taken in different ways in the Scriptures (now properly, then improperly, as we have already said), still we maintain that it is never taken for an infusion of righteousness, but as often as the Scriptures speak professedly about our justification, it always must be explained as a forensic term.

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger, vol. 2 (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1992–1997), 16.1.5. (emphasis added)

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One comment

  1. Goes to show how the debate between the moralists and those who defend justification by grace alone, through faith alone is as old as Christianity.

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