Sanctification (Charles Ryrie)

As part of an ongoing discussion with an Evangelical Protestant, I was given a short reading about sanctification from “Basic Theology” by Charles Ryrie. In the discussion, I had provided Jimmy Akin’s “Justification in Catholic Teaching”, but it seems that Akin’s description of Evangelical thinking does not reflect my discussion partner’s views. (I am aware that there is variety in Protestant beliefs.)

Ryrie talks about “positional or definitive sanctification, which relates to the position every believer enjoys by virtue of being set apart as a member of God’s family through faith in Christ,” “progressive sanctification,” which is “progressive work of continuing to be set apart during the whole of our Christian lives,” and “ultimate sanctification, which we will attain in heaven when we shall be completely and eternally set apart to our God.”

Then he discusses the “agents” of sanctification - mostly the Trinity; I’m not familiar enough with the subject to catch exactly what the underlying theology is in the details - but also states that “the believer must faithfully discharge his or her responsibilities in sanctification.” He then seems to imply something along the lines of you’re saved unless you don’t act like it, in which case you aren’t really saved.

Could anyone who’s more familiar with the topic and/or Ryrie help me dig into this? I’d like to understand where the other side of the discussion is coming from.

I can only provide you the Catholic perspective:

This journal contrasts the protestant and catholic understanding of justification:

chnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/salvation.pdf

Justification By Faith
By Dr. William Marshner

Stages of Justification
Catholic and Protestant views on the respective roles of grace, faith and works cannot be compared meaningfully, unless one specifies what stage of the justificational process one is talking about. In the preparatory stage, for instance, in which prevenient graces first stir a person towards an interest in religious truth, towards repentance, and towards faith, Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists are at one in saying “sola gratia.”2 A second stage is the very transition from death to life, which is the first stage of justification proper. Here the parties are at one in saying “sola fide,” though they seem to mean different things by it. Protestants tend to mean that, at this stage, by the grace of God, man’s act of faith is the sole act required of him; Catholics mean that faith is the beginning, foundation and root of all justification, since only faith makes possible the acts of hope and charity (i.e. love-for-God) which are also required.3 However, since most Protestants have a broad notion of the act of faith, whereby it includes elements of hope and love, it is often hard to tell how far the difference on this point is real and how far it is a matter of words. Finally, however, there comes a third stage, that of actual Christian life, with its problems of growth and perseverance. The man justified by faith is called to “walk” with God, to progress in holiness. It is at this stage that the parties sharply diverge. Catholics affirm, and Protestants strenuously deny, that the born-again Christian’s good works merit for him the increase of grace and of the Christian virtues. As a result, Protestant piety has no obvious place for the self- sacrifices, fasts, and states of perfection which are prominent features of Catholic piety. At each stage, neither the apparent agreements nor the apparent disagreements can be understood without looking at certain metaphysical quarrels, the chief of which is over the very existence of what
Catholics call “grace.”

Ryrie talks about “positional or definitive sanctification, which relates to the position every believer enjoys by virtue of being set apart as a member of God’s family through faith in Christ,” “progressive sanctification,” which is “progressive work of continuing to be set apart during the whole of our Christian lives,” and “ultimate sanctification, which we will attain in heaven when we shall be completely and eternally set apart to our God.”

This is what the CC teaches on the three states of way…which may be similar (I did not go into detail on the article):
newadvent.org/cathen/14254a.htm

State or Way (Purgative, Illuminative, Unitive)

The word is also used in the classification of the degrees or stages of Christian perfection, or the advancement of souls in the supernatural life of grace during their sojourn in the world. This has reference to the practice of all the virtues, both theological and moral, and to all their acts both external and internal. It includes two elements, namely our own efforts and the grace of God assisting us. This grace is never wanting for those acts which are positively commanded or inspired by God, and the work of perfection will proceed according to the energy and fidelity with which souls correspond with its aids.

Protestantism generally separates justification from sanctification. Justification is necessary for salvation, and justification is “imputed”; were cleansed and made righteous only by means of Christs righteousness, He standing in before God in place of our sinful selves, as we only come to believe in and place our trust in Him. Sanctification, our becoming authentically holy and righteous, must be a mark of a true believer, of one who is saved, but not the means of salvation. But here Ryrie seems to conflate sanctification and justification; “positional or definitive sanctification” would seem to me to be an unnecessary qualification if one is already “positionally justified” by means of having another’s righteousness imputed to themselves, because sanctification would be already rendered unnecessary, by God, by that very act.

In Cathoicism, righteousness/justification is not merely imputed, rather the free gift of righteousness is given to man at Baptism when we’re infused with grace, His life, His righteousness or holiness; faith, hope, and love being unmerited virtues now possessed by us. Justification and sanctification are realized all at once. But unless we continue to choose to utilize this gift, following its Giver, living our lives accordingly where our justice increases even more, and grace along with it, then we’re “burying our talents”, our salvation is not being “worked out”, our justified state can be lost, especially as we fall backwards into sin.

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